Coffee heat rising

Slow-Motion Suicide?

Every now and again, I think about my mother. And I wonder.

Did she kill herself on purpose?

Like today’s political conservatives who disbelieve and reject what the CDC says about covid-19, she and her cohort disregarded what a government agency said about tobacco smoking. Stupidity, ignorance, cant…whatever you want to call it…the effect was the same. Science meant nothing to her. Facts meant nothing to her. The obvious meant nothing to her. She would do as she pleased and would hear not a word to the contrary from Big Brother.


My father, who went to sea until a few years before she developed the cancer that would kill her, apparently wasn’t paying attention. Evidently it never registered: the only conscious moments she spent without a cigarette in her hand were when she was in the shower and when she was stuffing food into her face.

Otherwise…first thing in the morning she lit up a cigarette, before she lifted her head from the pillow, and the last thing she did before she turned off the nightstand light was to smash out the cigarette she was smoking to see off the day. She puffed away until food was on the table, and the instant she put her fork down after a meal, she lit up another cigarette. Once she was at my house for 40 minutes…by the time she left, the seven-inch-wide ashtray on the coffee table was full to overflowing with butts smoked all the way down to the filter.

Even though he smoked, too, how could he not have noticed how extreme her habit was?

But he didn’t. Oddly enough.


You only just now noticed? How could you have missed it? Did you, seriously, never pay any attention to her? Maybe that’s why she spent most of her adult life committing slow-motion suicide?

Á la recherche des mops perdus…

One of the disturbing things that happens to you as you enter your dotage is that everyday tools, objects you use in your plain old domestic life, disappear from the market. Case in point: the ordinary, boring, indispensable wet mop.

Last time the Luz the Wondrous Cleaning Lady visited, she remarked that our mop is…well, a “late” mop.

  • Shot.
  • Kaput.
  • Done for.

Suspecting that a Walmart in a working-class neighborhood would be likely to carry the sturdiest and the worthiest of mops on the market, I dropped by our nearby Walmart supermarket and picked up a new mop head. Proudly presented that to her.


It had a round fitting. Ours has a long flat fitting.

Mops come in two designs. Who knew?

So this morning I went in search of a correctly designed mop head.

Started at the Lazy Broad’s Supermarket: Amazon.

Mop heads? We ain’t got no steenkin’ mop heads!

Well, they do. But none of them were in the desired style to fit our existing mop handle thingie.

Uhmmm… Ohhhkayyyy…none o’ that, then. How about a whole new mop in the desired style?

Noooooo…. Not so much. Look up “wet mop” and you get a plethora (ain’t that a grand word?) of round things that look like dustmops.

AMAZON doesn’t have ordinary boring kitchen floor MOPS???????

Well, evidently  not. Not so’s I could find, anyhow.

Finally I stumbled upon one (count it: 1) classic janitor’s-style wet mop. Hang onto your hat, now…

The price was FIFTY BUCKS!

For a frikkin’ MOP!

I personally don’t care for machines. They’re heavy, they’re a nuisance with their damn cords trailing around under your feet and their pesty water vats, and they’re pointlessly expensive. Okay, not as pointlessly expensive as fifty dollah for a wet mop. But still…

Now, I could get down on hands and knees and scrub the damn kitchen floor with microfiber rags and Simple Green. But there’s not a chance in Hell that I’m gonna ask the Cleaning Lady from Heaven to do any such thing!

Off to the Target on 19th Avenue, in the moribund Chris-Town shopping center at 19th and Camelback.

The beloved Costco and the Penney’s in that historic shopping center closed their doors some months ago. Result: the whole damn place has withered. It appears that the Target is about the only establishment still open there. That and a spectacularly tacky Walmart. And it is not what you would call “heavily trafficked.”

Finally I locate the cleaning gear, and in amongst it find the mops: $22 for a stick with a wad of strings on the end.

Holy shee-ut.





Think of that.

The mop is now acquired. However, it does appear that this is the last mop we’re gonna own. Next floor-cleaning device, I guess, is going to have to be something that plugs into an electric socket.

And we wonder why we have global warming?

Happy {sigh} Hallowe’en…

Hallowe’en is hands-down my favorite holiday. I just love seeing all the cute kids (and teenagers…and grownups) decked out in their costumes and handing out candy from our post in the neighbor’s driveway. Which makes this covid-plagued holiday…well…just depressing.

My neighbors, one of whom has a potentially life-threatening case of chronic asthma, agreed with me that we should refrain from participating. Given that I have a bizarre vulnerability to respiratory infections — a good case of the flu can lay me out for two months — I’m unhappily going along with this. Soooo… Instead of partying by the sidewalk, we’re all hunkered down inside our houses with the front blinds shut and the lights in the front of the houses shut off.


To forestall a doggy frenzy, I took Ruby the Corgi for a short walk. A big block party is going on down the street. (Who, us? We don’t need no steenkin’ virus protection!), and the usual hordes of cuties and crazy teenagers are milling around. We crossed the street whenever we saw another gaggle coming along, but…I hope we didn’t stroll through any clouds of viruses. The principal mode of contagion is respiratory: picking up the virus on the air. (sigh) So I risked my life, just by walking the dog around the block this evening.

But oh, my! WHAT a beautiful evening it is. Venus floats in the western sky, the deep azure west deepening to black as your gaze moves toward the zenith. All the cuties are charging around, just too adorable to be believed. Grown-ups lurk on their front yards in lawn chairs. And…

Yeah: …and all their germs are floating in the air.

Have I exposed myself to the disease by walking the dog when mobs of kids and teenagers and parents were roiling around?

Probably not. Says the CDC: “The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is through exposure to respiratory fluids carrying infectious virus.”


However. that august source continues, “The risk for infection decreases with increasing distance from the source and increasing time after exhalation. . . . Although infections through inhalation at distances greater than six feet from an infectious source are less likely than at closer distances, the phenomenon has been repeatedly documented under certain preventable circumstances.10-21 These transmission events have involved the presence of an infectious person exhaling virus indoors for an extended time (more than 15 minutes and in some cases hours) leading to virus concentrations in the air space sufficient to transmit infections to people more than 6 feet away, and in some cases to people who have passed through that space soon after the infectious person left.”


  • Nope: never got within six feet of any passers-by or sidewalk candy-hawkers.
  • Nope: definitely not around anyone for more than 15 minutes…or even for anything like as long as 15 minutes.
  • Nope: absolutely not indoors with anyone.

Looks unlikely that the dog and I exposed ourselves tonight.

Ah…paranoia in the time of pestilence…

New Adventures in Real Estate

So time and Tony’s nursing-home schemes trundle on.

Since my last post, I determined that I’d better move out of here while the movin’s still good. Encountered a handsome young real estate agent () and spent most of yesterday gallivanting around the North Central part of the city looking at houses on the market.

And we did find a really nice place…not far from here! Just below Main Drag South. About the same size as the Funny Farm. Freshly renovated. Nice neighborhood. Convenient to all that which this house is convenient unto.

O’course, that nearby location means even if I keep my name out of the public record, Tony can easily follow me home if he spots me — as sooner or later he will — and then he will know where to harass me.

Oh well. The place is so appealing and so perfect, I was willing to take that chance.

So we wanted to invite M’hijito to come and see it before I arrive at a final decision to make an offer.

When I called him last night, he threw a baroque sh!tf!t. He does NOT think I should move out of this house, nor does he seem to believe that Tony represents any real threat.

Funny. The judge he threatened sure as Hell did.

Ohhhh welll…

The kid actually proposed to take over control of my financial affairs. O’course, he’d have to prove I’m incompetent, which he can’t. Especially since I can easily trot out the court transcript that records Tony threatening the judge. But an attentat like that would, you may be sure, permanently blight the mother-son relationship. Such as it is.

About 80% of the reasoning for selling this place and moving away from the Nursing Home Empire is to preserve the capital presently invested in real estate here in the ‘Hood. The Funny Farm is fully paid off, and just now is worth something over over half a million dollars. That is a bit under half my total net worth. So this house represents a large part of the estate he will inherit from me.

Well. If he doesn’t give a damn whether it loses value as it’s surrounded by commercial enterprises, why should I? And why should I go to the endless trouble and probably even more endless work entailed in transferring funds and moving house, just to preserve an asset that will go to him one way or another, whether it’s worth what it’s worth now or not?

Et honi soit qui mal y pense…


Real Estate, Landlords, and the ‘Hood: Update

Good grief! It’s been awhile since I’ve been here at FaM! In the interim, the real estate search project has continued. Tony the Romanian Landlord has made excellent progress on his project to convert our former neighbor’s home into a nursing institution. And I’ve learned a bunch of things.

I’ve been quietly and not-so-quietly looking for someplace else to live. Someplace not Sun City, not Payson, not Tucson, not Boise, and on and interminably on. Which is to say, someplace else to live in Phoenix, preferably in the zip codes that make up the “North Central” district.

Real estate is radically hot here just now. Any house that’s even faintly desirable moves within three days of appearing on the market. So it seems, at least. That is literally true in many cases, and in others, kinda metaphorically so. Nothing stays on the market for long.

And the prices simply defy belief! We are in California territory, folks. I thought I paid too much for this house when I bought it for #$232,000. It’s now worth at least $550,000!

Redfin thinks our beloved old house in Encanto is now worth $1,146,500. It was a gorgeous place, now gussied up with “more money than taste” embellishments.

My son’s charming but tiny little house? $480,208.

Can you imagine? It’s hard to conceive how young people can even dream of buying a freestanding house. And apparently they don’t: apartment blocks are springing up all over the city.

Oh well. In the interim, what else has happened?

Among other things, I learned that the quiet, elderly couple who live across the street from me are yet more of Tony’s relatives!


They are Pretty Daughter’s in-laws! Her husband’s parents.

“Were” is, at least partially, the operative term. The old man died, and the elderly woman has been living there alone. My guess is that as soon as Tony finishes the nursing home two doors down, the first tenant will be Mom. Then he’ll glom her house and turn it into a nursing home, too.

Meanwhile, my eccentric next-door neighbor, who occupies the house between the Funny Farm and Other Daughter’s place, drained her swimming pool. She also had some masons lay two rows of large cinderblocks atop her back wall, so no one can look over her six-foot (now about ten-foot) wall into the yard.

When you drain a pool here, you often end up with a shallow puddle of water in the bottom of the deep end. This pond then merrily breeds mosquitoes. The damn thing is way across her yard from my side fence, so I can’t tell whether any such breeding ground is there. But her pool is right up against Other Daughter’s fence.

And lo! A few days ago Other Daughter reported that she came down with encephalitis! And she damn near died. Apparently at one point the doctors thought she was going to die. Then, when she came back around, they thought she would never walk again — she couldn’t move her legs!

Eventually she did recover control over her legs and is now walking briskly around the ‘Hood, as has been her wont forever.

The type of encephalitis that holds forth here is called Western Equine Encephalitis. A-a-a-n-d…it’s carried by mosquitos!

Whaddaya know?

I haven’t seen her long enough to catch her and clue her to the possible connection between this terrible illness and our neighbor’s mosquito-breeding bit. But if I’m right, she needs to tell her dad about that. If anyone can put the eefus on that, it’s Tony.

Otherwise, though, I have two big containers of mosquito bits. If Other Daughter could ascertain whether water is standing on the bottom of that pool, we could throw a fistful of that stuff over the wall, and that would take care of the problem.

But problem it is: if O.D. could catch a horrific ailment from bugs growing in a neglected pool, then so can other folks in the neighborhood. Including me. And Ruby. And all those old folks in Tony’s planned institutes.

That poor young woman! Can you imagine? What an ordeal!

Meanwhile, life goes on, for the rest of us as well as for O.D. The weather is beyond gorgeous. And I most decidedly do not want to move out of my house.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve driven from pillar to post, searching for some replacement for the Funny Farm. There’s precious little out there. Certainly precious little in the price range I can afford. There are some cute places here and there…but the cost is in the many hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the desired neighborhoods, affordable places are close to fine thoroughfares like Conduit of Blight Blvd., which emanates a deafening roar 24/7. Or they’re 900 square feet. Or they require tens of thousands of dollars worth of repair and upgrades.

Meanwhile, I become more and more aware that I like my house — nay, I love my house, and I do not want to move out of it. Within the next week or two, it’ll be too late to peddle it to some unwary buyer, because Tony will have his latest nursing home in business. And you know, maybe the correct attitude is, to quote our Late-Unlamented First Lady,

I don’t care.

Do you?

Those Eastern Europeans! Maybe they’ve got somethin’ there!



Real Estate Window-Shopping

Tony the Romanian Landlord, my bosom enemy, has bought the house catty-corner across the street that recently went on the market when the long-time owners decided to retire to the high country.

Tony, after a hostile encounter some years ago, hates me with all his flinty heart. And he’s a nasty fellow. Some of the neighbors around him think he is Romanian Mafia. I don’t…I think he’s just a guy who’s trying to get ahead and is doing so by the rough customs of his native land. But that notwithstanding, during our last encounter he threatened a judge and scared my lawyers so badly they urged me not even to go home, but to rent someplace far, far away, spend the night there, and sell my house right now.

I declined.

He himself has never tried anything, but his mentally ill ex-son-in-law did, presumably to get in good with Dear Old Dad. After my German shepherd took out after him, he ended up sitting in the middle of his driveway weeping. Poor li’l guy.

That the old man has got his hands on a house this close to the Funny Farm is a concern. When my neighbor right behind me sold so she could move into an old-folkerie, she told her realtor (who happened to be her cousin) NOT to sell to Tony. Well….the instant the For Sale sign went up, he showed up at the door. And he was, she reported, absolutely enraged when the realtor refused to do business with him.

But he did get his hands on this latest sale, across the street. I don’t know what he intends to put in there — he cranks his money with a chain of nursing homes, all installed in formerly private homes in residential neighborhoods. But you can be sure it ain’t good.

The previous owners took excellent care of the house, and when they put it on the market, it was gorgeous. Freshly painted. Beautiful flooring. Nice yard. Nice pool.

Tony’s boys have been in there for weeks pulling the house apart. They’ve deconstructed the interior and have been inside building stuff: presumably dormitory-style cells to accommodate whatever fine folk Tony intends to put in there.

So the question arises: Should I sell now and get out of here while I can? If he does what I think he will — install some highly undesirable institution in there — because Arizona law requires sellers to disclose any potentially negative issues, I won’t be able to sell this place for what it’s worth: about five and a half hundred thousand. Much less than that, and I won’t be able to buy a comparable house in a reasonably safe neighborhood…real estate values have run amok here. And of course, the way to frost his cookies would be to move just as he’s finishing up his repurposing construction and before he can move in a crew of clients.

This question has been nagging at the back of my mind for some time. Lately I’ve explored several neighborhoods in what is called the “North Central” district, searching for a place comparable to mine. By and large, these are scarce: North Central is a tony area occupied largely by affluent business executives, lawyers, and doctors. I live on the fringe of North Central, just below a violent and alarming slum called Sunnyslope. A canal and a main drag known to FaM readers as “Gangbanger’s Way” delineates my middle-class neighborhood from that more wild and woolly part of town. But…the wildness and the wooliness depress the property values in our tract. Get deeper into North Central, and I can’t begin to afford to buy.

While I was over on the far northwest side of town yesterday, arranging to ship the ailing MacBook off to the Apple factory, I had to drive through a part of the Valley called Arrowhead Ranch. This is a large Southern-California style tract development, most of it on the high end. I would call it upper-middle class, by and large; however, a few years ago the Republic reported that the Arrowhead area has the largest number of millionaires per-capita in the Valley.

Apparently most of these are owners of service businesses — carpet-cleaning, air-conditioning, pool building and repair, & the like — who live over there because it’s relatively close to their establishments. It’s the only upper-middle-class area between the I-17 and Waddell…which is a LONG way west.

When Arrowhead was first built out, I wasn’t impressed. But as I drove home over surface streets that took me through the increasingly dire slum just to the north of the ’Hood, I thought that place looks better by the day….

The houses are stick & styrofoam, which to my mind is the hallmark of cheap construction (literally: a strong man can put his fist through an exterior wall…that’s how the burglars got into a friend’s home out there). But if you can get past that…some of these places are pretty nice. This one, for example, is comparable in size to my house, only in the late 20th-century plaster-&-styrofoam style. Personally, I hate those glass-top stoves…and they’re apparently in most of the houses out there. I saw ONE gas stove during 45 minutes or an hour of browsing this morning. I’d about concluded that they just don’t have gas service in Arrowhead….but there one was. Presumably a younger crowd of homeowners means a preponderance of people who don’t cook at home, or who think cooking has to do with microwaving.

It is a LONG way from the church — a good 40 minutes or more, depending on traffic. So that activity would go away. More to the point, it’s just as far from my son’s house…meaning I would see him even more rarely than I do now.

This place is a thousand square feet larger than mine, almost.  Kinda cute. But it’s north of the Loop 101 freeway, which is…kinda weird. The dust-catching “plant shelves” (trans.: we are too cheap to build the walls all the way up to the ridiculously elevated ceiling) are a turn-off, as are the factory-made kitchen cabinets that don’t go up to the ceiling, either.

And this one:  Hmmm…. Same bland, cheap architecture…right on an artificial lake (read: mosquito-breeding pond). And no wall between you and the scenic view. Meaning no privacy in your backyard. No skinny-dipping: you’d have to lash yourself up in an elastic strait-jacket every time you wanted to go swimming.

This is not a bad little shack, in the price range. Once again, only a hot plate for a stove. Backyard scenically opens onto the golf course.

Know what happens when your house sits next to a golf course? I looked at one of these fabulous golf-course abodes at Arrowhead some years ago, before I bought my present house. People whack golf balls off-target and they fly into your house’s walls. That plaster can’t withstand the pounding, so it’s soon pitted with golf-ball sized divots. Notice the screens on the windows in back…no doubt there as much to keep the glass intact as to provide “shade.” Backyard is dreary…looks like it’s never been landscaped — notice the neighbor’s yard is pretty lush. Suggests the place was used as a rental for a goodly period, or that the outgoing owner let everything die. Hmmm…


Then there’s this. Another fine golf ball target. What on earth do you suppose IS the appeal of all those plant shelves? Just imagine having to keep it clean! And that bathroom, where they ran amok with the Mexican tile: eeeeeek!

The demented high ceilings: you, too, can pay APS to air-condition the stratosphere!

These places make our early 1970s houses look good by comparison. Our design is more intelligent. No stupid plant shelves. No stratosphere-high ceilings. Gas service, so you can have a real stove if you want one. Only drawback is the proximity to the slums on the west side of Conduit of Blight and to the north of Gangbanger’s Way, and consequently the crime level and the ever-present stoned-out transients. But that can be dealt with by a good, loud dog.

Mr. WonderAccountant is about to retire. Their son and his young wife took up residence in the West Valley, and they’ve been urging the WA’s to move out there: just now they live right across the street from the Funny Farm. WonderAccountant herself does NOT want to go. She likes it here. But…if they do one day move, you can be sure Tony will glom that place, too. About the only way I could keep him out of it would be to buy it myself and rent it, or sell it to someone of my choice. I actually could… Even without selling my own house, I could probably buy that place with cash.

But I’d sure druther not….

Don’t know what the jerk is doing to the place across the street, but after weeks of daily banging around, his crew are STILL deconstructing and reconstructing over there. Presumably they will make it a drug rehab half-way house or an institution for raving lunatics. If I’m going to move away from whatever gem he’s installing over there, I do need to get on the stick…get sold and moved before he puts a public nuisance in there that will make it impossible to sell this place for the going rate….which of course I would need to clear in order to get into someplace comparable somewhere else.

Hadn’t considered Arrowhead before…but now it’s definitely on the radar. Encanto — where DXH and I first lived, in an absolutely gorgeous 1929 house — has the same issues as the ’Hood does: crime and bums. But look at this little cutie.  That is right around the corner from where we lived, literally: we were at 326 on the next street south of Encanto. The Encanto area and its adjacent, ritzier Palmcroft district are just flat overrun with derelicts, burglars, and wannabe rapists. Hence the bars on all the doors in this little house. Probably all the windows are alarmed — or not: actually, those old-fashioned crank windows with the steel frames are hard to break into.

Eight and a quarter for THIS????? What ARE they smoking?

Whoa!!! Lookit this! Dayum! Right on the fringe of Darkest North Central! It’s a little too close to Glendale, a large and noisy thoroughfare. But it’s in a pretty tony area….the price is a little alarmingly low for that part of town. Wonder what’s wrong with it? All you can tell from these images is that it needs to have the backyard landscaped. I could easily do without my swimming pool…and look at all the space for one’s German shepherd to run around back there. Hm.

I’m afraid the racket from Glendale would be unacceptable, though.

Another one down in that area. It’s a cute little house. Pretty much in the middle of the neighborhood — relatively quiet, one presumes. Floors need to be redone: that could be an expensive proposition. The bamboo patio is a little weird — presumably the jungle is for privacy, since the thing is in the front. And personally, I really don’t like electrical lines spanning the pool. They may not be legal: today the code says you can’t build a pool beneath electric lines.

Uh oh! Just remembered I need to go to the store….and eeek! It’s almost noon. Thank the heavens for Instacart!

Whaddaya think, dear readers? Hold the fort? Or take the path of least resistance and move, before Tony installs whatever malign disaster he’s working on?