Coffee heat rising

Another lovely day in Arizona…

So along about 3 or 4 a.m. I happened to remark to a correspondent that the day was shaping up to be a Day from Hell…

Chortle! One should never say things like that. God finds those one-liners too, too funny.

Well, wait though: Her practical jokesterism at least did not extend to conkering out the car. That’s good, no?

Dawn cracked, and I decided to try to find out what could be done about the propane bottle that developed a weird leak after the barbecue cleaning dude reattached it to the system. This was about as fruitful as you might imagine any bureaucratic exercise to be. After jumping through a long and pointless series of phone hoops, I gave up with the city. Called Gerardo, who said he would don his Superman cape and fly over this afternoon. This was another exercise in futility, but as it develops, it’s prob’ly just as well that he didn’t. In fact…very, verrreeee good that he didn’t surface late this afternoon….

But we get ahead of ourself…

First, I go on about my business: traipsing half-way to Timbuktu to visit WonderDermatologist. She agrees that the Thing disfiguring my left-hand finger-flicking finger is yet another precancer and must go. Now.

Does she wonder how I am going to drive with this crucial navigation instrument disabled? Probably just as well that she doesn’t. She practically runs her nitrogen squirt bottle out of juice. This is good. I’m invited to visit her again in two weeks, when we’ll assess how today’s antics worked, and out the door I streak.

Decide to venture across from the 101 on Gangbanger’s Way,  a thoroughfare that runs faster and more smoothly than Main Drag South, which at this time of year is more crowded than Gangbanger’s. Fly low up the freeway, fly low across the city…through the lovely slums that grace the central west side, ahhh yes eventually arriving at the war zone that is the intersection of Gangbanger’s and Conduit of Blight Blvd.

This journey is one endless reminder of Southern California and all that I used to hate about it. The smog. The traffic. The ticky-tacky. The instant-slum tracts. The tired and dreary strip malls. The crowded roads, sun glaring off acres of asphalt. The panhandling derelicts. The exhausted workers navigating the streets on foot. Lordy, but Phoenix is SUCH an ugly city! Just like Long Beach: an ugly place to live.

You know, I do love my neighborhood. It’s a pretty little enclave, gentrifying like mad now that young parents have learned they can put their kids in the Madison schools from here. (Madison is the only decent centrally located public school district.) But driving in from the northwest on Gangbanger’s Way is just deeply depressing…and it gets creepier and creepier as the months pass.. From about 43rd Avenue all the way over to about 23rd Avenue is plain old slum, dirty depressing dangerous and scary. Some of the houses facing Gangbanger’s around 23rd are OK, holding their own; then, eastward-bound, they give way to commercial properties, some of them abandoned.

The city is about to extend the accursed lightrail up to MetroCenter, which is now dead, a ghost mall. Why? It escapes comprehension. The highest and best use of that property would be to turn it into a social service center for the homeless, but the city has big (hallucinatory) plans to revive it as offices and medical centers. Har har harrrrr!!!!!!! So this boondoggle will be yet another fantastical waste of taxpayer money, and the train will continue to transport drug addicts and homeless into our neighborhood.

Catholic Social Services has built a charity home for pore folks on Main Drag South at Conduit of Blight, and an even bigger project has gone up on Main Drag about a half-mile west of that. Alas, while this kind of housing is indeed much needed, projects good neighbors do not make…

So…every now and again I think about whether I should move while I still have the physical strength to do so. And if so, where???? If the church never re-coalesces, there’s really no reason to stay in North Central. Or in Phoenix at all. But where on earth to go???

  • Sun City is a definite NO.
  • Arcadia I cannot afford.
  • Biltmore I cannot afford.
  • The Southern-California style ticky-tacky tracts of the far east and west valley: no, thanks.
  • Payson: eek! no Costco!
  • The south of France I cannot afford.
  • But why not Fountain Hills? Like Sun City, it’s quiet as the tomb, and it’s close to my doctors’ office and close to the kind of shopping I enjoy. Nice view of the mountains, and a straight shot up to Payson, where KJG and Mr. Firefighter hold forth!
  • Oro Valley outside of Tucson is supposed to be very nice, and it’s convenient to Tucson. It is part of Tucson these days, actually.
  • Prescott: a possibility, but further from friends and established huntin’ grounds than I’d like.
  • And of course Patagonia, venue of some lovely country houses just up the road from the border with Mexico…

Depressed after this fine tour of my hometown, I crawl back in the sack for a little nap, hoping to catch up the sleep that ended around 3 this morning.

Soon enough, Ruby jumps to attention. DAWG ON POINT!!!!! 

Something is going wheeeeeeeeeeeee….

What? Rattie’s in the hall? I hear a squeal, and it ain’t the Song, Song of the Rat. No indeed. It’s the serenade of a vehicle that needs a brake job.

WTF? Climb out of the sack, stumble to the front windows, peer out and lo! A cop SUV is idling in the street in front. Two of the biggest rhinoceroses you have EVER seen charge into the front yard (Holy doggerel! Where’s my pistol?). Call the hound to heel…and watch the show.

These vast lumbering critters roust some poor, scrawny little bum out from under the shade trees in front, where he’s been trying to sleep in the gravel.

Yes. That’s on the gravel. Like, little sharp pieces of granite.

Understand: it’s 108 degrees out there. He must weigh all of 130 pounds, he’s filthy, his hair is matted, he doesn’t even have a backpack in tow. They start to rough him up. Amazingly, he manages to slip out of the grip of the guy who’s grabbed him and he takes off down the street. The cops give half-hearted chase but quickly stand down. Doesn’t seem to enter their minds that he could easily hop over the wall into the backyard, just like Matthew the Garage Invader did. Now moderately well armed myself, I watch them give up and drive off. Then I patrol the front and back yards and the alley.

Poor little sh!thead. What do you suppose brings a man to such a pass?

Gerardo did not show up. Good thing! Otherwise he and his suspiciously unilingual cousins would have landed in the middle of this…uhm…manhunt. {sigh} Could be they drove by and saw the game in progress, so decided to move along.

Welp, our visitor having failed to steal today’s Amazon delivery, we also move along: Unwrap the package of tinfoil pie tart pans and combobulate the much-vaunted RAT REPELLANT DEVICES!

The scheme is to punch a hole in a pie tin, run it up the metal rod that holds the bird feeder (endlessly attractive to Rattie), and secure it in place over the existing DYI rat baffle, made of a plastic doodad that has proven too small to discourage our little pal. Fiddle with this briefly, and dayum. I think it’s gonna work. If it doesn’t, at least we had some fun trying it.

The resulting gadgets look weirdly like little flying saucers, come to light on the bird feeders’ hangers. Got them attached fairly firmly (if hilariously) but gave them just enough play to wiggle a bit, should a four-legged critter decide to climb on top of the UFO. Unless Rattie is acrobatic enough to jump down and backward in one motion (from a platform that wiggles), I don’t THINK she can hop from the contraption to the lower end of the hanger. If she can, by golly, she’s earned her share of those bird seeds!

Seriously, I think if she tries to proceed past the tinfoil barrier, she’ll most likely fall on the ground. This will cause an annoyed Rattie but should do no damage to much of anything else.

Cop helicopter shows up a little before 7 p.m. and frantically buzzes the street just to the north, right where my old house resides. They used to materialize every goddamn Friday and Saturday night at 11 p.m. sharp. This is a little early for them…maybe our scrawny guy showed up at someone else’s motel. 😀 Now, shading a little after 7:30, they’ve roared off somewhere else and it’s quiet out there again.

So it goes. That is what we Arizonans call “one helluva day.”

To top it off, WordPress crashed as I was finishing this post, so that helluva day is no longer today but vaguely yesterday. Wouldn’tcha know?

 

Lockdown Learning: Hacks from the Covid Confinement

So here we still are: the Body Politick getting mighty restless after a good two months’ of confinement to our homes. This has turned into one helluva journey. But from my point of view, a number of things have presented themselves as valuable clues for the future project of Aging in Place.

Because of course that’s what I intend to do, with a little luck: stay in my home until I croak over from old age. Being stuck in your house because you dare not venture out into a contagion is much the same, in many ways, as being stuck because you can’t or should not drive or because you’ve gone too lame to hike around supermarkets and big-box stores.

Here are some little discoveries that have come about from the great Covid Confinement Event, discoveries that can be applied now or in the future:

  • When I’m not darting off to the grocery store or the vet or the church or the Walmart or the Costco whenever the whim so moves me, gasoline consumption drops to almost nil. Literally. After two months, that car sitting in the garage still has half a tank of gas in it. And it wasn’t full when the quarantine fiasco started.
  • The insurance companies having registered this, my insurer dropped my auto premiums by 15 percent.
  • Savings on gasoline (to say nothing of savings on car insurance) would easily cover the cost of several Instacart or Amazon deliveries each month.
  • For the nonce, the cleaning lady could go. Or at least be cut from every two weeks to once a month. Much as I’m…well..Not Fond of housecleaning, I’m having no problem keeping up with it. And it’s kind of pleasant not to have a visitor show up and bang around for four or five hours every couple of weeks. The house would be fine if WonderCleaningLady surfaced just once a month, and I would save 50% on that onerous bill. In the age-in-place department though: obviously as I get older I’d have to increase the frequency of the cleaning visits. But that time, apparently, has not yet arrived.
  • Having groceries delivered may actually save on grocery bills, because sending someone out with a list eliminates impulse buys.
  • Instacart runners know little about selecting certain kinds of groceries, especially produce and ingredients for cooking from scratch. Ordering groceries through Instacart is, to put it mildly, a learning experience.
  • Therefore the Ager-in-Place will need to visit markets in person about once a month, even if it means using Uber or Lyft to get there.
  • Amazon vendors gouge spectacularly when given any excuse to do so.
  • Mormons are scary-smart during a national emergency. And they don’t stint on the generosity.
  • Ways to exercise need to be found and engaged. Sitting and playing with a computer all day leaves you with your joints frozen up. 😀
  • You could save a w-h-o-o-l-e lotta money on groceries and probably eat healthier by making every second day a Veggie Day. That is, eat meat one day, and the next day have all vegetarian meals. This will extend your supply of meat during the present crisis. But if you made it a regular habit, now and evermore, it also would cut your grocery bills and much reduce your cholesterol levels.

So there are some life-lessons one could apply to daily existence, now and evermore. How many will stick remains to be seen. But I intend to adapt at least some of them to Life After Covid, willy-nilly.

The Strange Benefits of “Lockdown”

So we’re told that the “lockdown” of America’s population — basically urging everyone to stay in their homes, to shut down businesses, to stay at least six feet away from other people (preferably more), to stay away from church services, movie houses, athletic events, restaurants, and whatnot — has apparently begun to work. The coronavirus wildfire is beginning to cool. But we won’t be safe, not a chance, until a vaccine is produced. And when will that be?

“Given the current severity of the crisis, there are efforts to fast-track a vaccine for COVID-19 in as little as 12 to 18 months,” Dr. Abe Malkin, the founder and medical director of Concierge MD in Los Angeles told Business Insider.

A year to a year and a half? As little as? Seriously?

Our honored leader, dumb as a post as usual, craves to reopen the economy ASAP even though at the moment our country has the highest covid-19 death toll of any in the world: 20,000 of our people killed. This ill-advised desire of his is hardly surprising given that we’re headed into a depression the likes of which we haven’t seen since 1929 and that he campaigned on promises of invigorating the economy.

Meanwhile, those who understand economics warn that we’re skateboarding down the tubes at accelerating rates. “The pain will deepen,” opine the august editors of The Economist, “as defaults cascade through domestic payment chains.” Far as I can see, they’ve got that dead right. Recovery from this fiasco in the short term will be miraculous; in the long term it will require fortitude, patience, and — hang onto your hat — intelligent leadership.

If this thing goes on much longer, we could find that the measures we’re taking to save lives could alter the fabric of our society: change the ways we do things permanently.

On the other hand, not all is angst. Let us consider the strange benefits of “lockdown.”

It has given Mr. Trump a royal opportunity to display what a bumbling clown he is. Maybe his performance will move voters off the dime to get him out of office.

There’s almost no traffic! Even at 7 or 8 a.m., I can get across Feeder Street N/W without risking my life. The horrid Conduit of Blight Blvd. is relatively quiet and clear. Driving on a freeway is not the usual nightmare.

I haven’t bought gasoline in a month! And the car’s gas tank is still three-quarters full!

My auto insurer is refunding 15% of this year’s car insurance premium! Hafta say, it had crossed my mind to quietly resent having to pay to insure the tank for the weeks and possibly months that I’m not driving it. Since the cost of insuring that damn Venza is in the vicinity of $750, a 15% refund will go a ways toward next year’s tax & insurance budget.

With people home all the time, the neighborhood is safer: fewer burglaries, fewer car break-ins, less harassment of women.

Delivery services are growing. Getting someone else to bring your groceries to you instead of having to do battle with traffic and crowds is kinda nice. Walmart, Sprouts, Albertson’s, Safeway, Basha’s (a local grocery chain), Fry’s (Kroger), CVS, Walgreen’s, and Home Depot will deliver whatever your heart desires, right to your door. Right now I could order 20 pounds of (much-needed) birdseed from Walmart for a tiny fraction of what the same stuff goes for on Amazon.

Restaurants are turning themselves into grocery stores. In addition to selling cooked meals to go, many are selling grocery items. One proprietor here will sell you a margarita to go, too, with your upscale gourmet “Mexican” meal.

My son has been working at home for the past three weeks. He says his employer, a large nationwide insurance company, has closed and locked its large building in the East Valley. He’s afraid they won’t re-open it. Whether that means he thinks they’ll move their operation to some other city, laying off all their Phoenix workers, or whether he suspects they simply will ask everyone on their staff to telecommute has yet to be articulated. But…

Why not have all office workers work from home all the time? Companies wouldn’t have to rent expensive office buildings — these could be converted into homeless housing or retail space. Or  torn down to provide some green space. All a company would need is a meeting room to bring staff together once a month or so, and private space for one-on-one meetings.

Meanwhile, my neighbor across the street, a high school teacher and English-as-a-second-language specialist, appeared to be relaxing on his front porch the other day, talking into his laptop’s microphone. In response to a quizzical glance, he announced “I’m teaching!

Yep. I’ve done that. Created the Great Desert University’s first online course in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. It surely has its advantages over standing in front of a roomful of students for 90 minutes to three hours.

Why not put schools online all the time? Where schools exist to provide free lunches and baby-sitting services, why not frankly make them child-care centers? For single parents and couples who both have to work, existing school buildings could be converted into baby-sitting facilities with computer hookups to have the kids do their schoolwork online. Is it really necessary to congregate kids in prison-like facilities to teach them?

When I was teaching at the university’s westside campus — a commuter campus smack in the middle of a district where you really don’t  wanna put your kids in a public school — I was surprised to discover that a bunch of otherwise perfectly sane adult students were homeschooling their kids. Nooo, amazingly, they were NOT religious nuts or end-of-the-worlders. These were people who had tried the public schools in that part of town and found them beyond wanting. And because most were working-class folks, few of them were earning so much that one partner’s salary would be sorely missed. Several classmates explained that after doing the math, they realized that if one parent stayed home to supervise their kids’ homeschooling, it actually cost the family budget nothing — and indeed in some cases they came out ahead. This was because if one parent, usually the mother, stayed home, they didn’t have to pay for office clothing, for gasoline to commute, for higher auto insurance to cover commutes to two jobs, for lunches out, for day care, for summer child care, and so on. Not only that, but these people were convinced their children were getting better education — and having taught the products of Arizona’s public schools after they reach our universities and community colleges, I’d say they had somethin’ there. Not one but several of them reported that their kids could get through a whole day’s classroom instruction in two hours, sitting at the dining room table. They said that if they sat their kids down shortly after breakfast, the kids would go through the lessons, do the homework, and finish by noon.

They would then spend the afternoon in field trips, learning projects, music lessons, or other creative activities. Kids had no problem passing the standardized tests and no problem with the SATs.

Think o’ that… As for socialization, the public schools here are required to let home-schooled kids join in extra-curricular activities, so many of these kids were on track teams, baseball teams, band, debate clubs, even football teams. In addition, the Phoenix area has large kids’ soccer and baseball leagues, so there are plenty of PE-like things for home-schoolers to join.

I’m tellin’ you…if this lock-down maneuver goes on for very long, a whole lotta parents are going to figure that out. Why would you put your kid in a prison-like school where they’re going to bring home a disease, a pack of cigarettes, or a baggie of weed…when you could teach them better at home?

If that happens, school districts will (one hopes) respond by providing extensive online instruction. And then maybe all teachers will be able to hold forth from the comfort of their front patios.

And speaking of change in the offing…

Sheltering in place is about the same as aging in place. This fiasco is giving me a chance to see what will be involved in staying in my house when I’m too old to go out and bat around the homicidal streets of Phoenix, and to figure out how to make it happen, while I’m still “young” enough and clear-headed enough to figure anything out.

Being forced to figure out how to get damn near everything delivered is good preparation for the Aging in Place Scheme. If all the places that are doing home deliveries now continue to do so into the future — and they probably will, because most of them are contracting out the service — it would be relatively easy to stay in your home (assuming no crippling disability) well into your dotage. All these delivery services essentially co-opt the largest part of one’s need to drive.

For other purposes — entertainment, for example, or church, or clothes shopping — Uber or else catching rides with younger friends will do the job.

What’s good about social distancing and self-isolation in your parts?

Here Comes the Sun…

Into the third day of a passing storm. It’s supposed to clear tomorrow…today the sun peeked through for several hours, but then the sky clabbered up again and more rain fell with abandon.

Think (hope!) the bronchitis may be starting to clear up. too. In the morning it feels almost like an ordinary cold. But of course, that’s after I’ve been sequestered inside a closed-up bedroom with two hot steamers running for 10 or 12 hours.

In fact, this morning it seemed improved enough to assay a doggy walk. For day after day, poor little Ruby has been trapped in the house by the rain and by the Human’s ailment. Alas, by the time we got to the outskirts of Upper Richistan, the threat of more rain had escalated to a promise. So we had to cut our expedition short and hurry home — just reached the front door when more rain began to pour down.

Thought we’d try again as the weather cleared but then decided I’d druther go back to bed. Plus as I was peering out the front door to check on the downpour status, I spotted a shady pair trotting past the house, transparently stealing and garbage scavenging, almost surely homeless (read “drug addicts” in these parts). On the way home we saw another sketchy fellow going through a garbage bin in the alley behind Josie’s house. In the rain. Uh huh: N.G.

Back at the Funny Farm: yesterday’s extra CPR Call Blocker coding seemed to have had an effect. The number of nuisance calls dropped to two. I thought I’d found the key to blocking nuisance calls from “Name Unavailable,” but another got through. Called CPR’s excellent customer service; the guy there says blocking “Name Unavailable” doesn’t block “Unavailable” calls, each of which has to be separately, manually blocked. Now I’m thinking the only way to deal with this constant harassment is to tell everyone who needs to reach me that the only way to get in touch is by email, and then unplug the phones. Or cancel the service.

As the day passes, the apparent improvement in the epizoõtic backtracks, and by mid-afternoon it again feels like I can’t draw enough air into the lungs to sustain life. So it was back to bed in the confines of the closed bedroom filled with steam.

This is the kind of sh!t that makes you doubt the entire premise of “Aging in Place.” Really? I’m on the far end of being able to drive around the city when I don’t feel well. What is gonna happen when I’m 80 and I come down with this kind of crud? Or something worse? How will I get food? How will I care for myself? Will I die on the floor with no one to notice till my skeleton has been cleaned by the ants?

I see My Beloved Employer, the Great Desert University, whose administrators are always on the lookout for a way to generate another million bucks, are building an old-folkerie for self-styled intellectuals, to house the aged on the campus. Lots of stuff to do. And you even get to go to classes on the campus!

Whoop de doo.

Well, so let’s look at that with the least jaundiced eye we can manage.

Okay. In theory it looks like a good idea. A lot of stuff is going on at the campus. You would be surrounded by young adults, and if you were ambitious enough and influential enough, you might even be able to engineer some activities that would allow you to interact with the critters. Usually a healthy enterprise, this.

However…truth to tell, Tempe is Chez Pitz. Despite the presence of the university, it’s a bedroom community that doesn’t even faintly appeal to me as a place to live. “Old” is the New N*, particularly among the Millennial set: your chance of engaging with the (mostly commuter) students on the Great Desert University campus is almost nil.

Lovely Tempe

However-ever, one would be to some degree — nay, to a large degree — insulated from the overall Southern California-style ticky-tacky of the East Valley suburban lifestyle.

But.

Yes. But. You would be housed in a multi-story apartment building: a rabbit warren.  No yard. No privacy to speak of. No distance between you and your fellow inmates. And not just any apartment building, but a storage bin for old folks.

What would I do with my little dog in a place like that?

Well. You know exactly what I would have to do with my little dog: find some other home for her. And I would never be able to get a dog again.

Sorry. but a goldfish a substitute for a dog does not make. Life is not life without the companionship of a dog. That is fact.

Thus, quite possibly, a life proctored by protectors who will be there to call 911 if you fall and you can’t get up may not be a life at all.

Tomorrow the weather in lovely uptown Phoenix is expected to be “sunny along with a few clouds.” Let’s hope that’s true. And let’s hope it applies to Life, the Universe, and All That…

How to Age in Place…

As you know, my dear friends from church have moved into the Beatitudes, one of those old-folkeries presently dubbed “life-care communities,” where you take up residence in an apartment, eat in the institution’s chow line, get first dibs on space in the nursing home should you need it, and are generally watched and entertained 24/7. Sorta like a prison for old people. Or a rabbit warren.

It looks like Nirvana – just think! Never have to change your own sheets again! Never have to mow another lawn! Never have to wrangle a repairman to fix the plumbing! Never have to cook another meal! Wooohoooo!

Yeah. Freedom’s just another word for….

Not that I don’t understand where Mrs. Friend was coming from in deciding that they would make this move: they’re both in their mid-90s, Mr. F has fallen three times, he has glaucoma that soon will render him pretty much blind, and he has serious heart problems. She has a bad hip and is now too old to get it replaced, meaning she’s in pain all the time. And they had a bat-sh!t crazy neighbor who was bound and determined that they would not use the common walkway between their houses to roll out the weekly trash pickup. Even though most of the exterior work was covered by the HOA and most of the housekeeping was done by a cleaning lady, taking care of the house was getting to be a bit much.

But…hmmmmm….

Yesterday we all went out for lunch with Connie the Long-Haul Trucker. Mr. F ordered a bowl of chili, apparently something he orders with some frequency at the Institute. Along it comes. When he sees it, he remarks, “This bowl contains three times as much chili as we get at the Bistro” — which is what the old-folkerie calls one of its three chow lines. We eat and yak and carry on. Some time later, we’re about to settle up for the lunch, and he remarks again, “I got a lot more chili, and the quality is far better than the Bistro’s. And the meal was cheaper than what we’re paying.”

Mr. F is not a whiny guy…he’s a retired nuclear engineer with a lot of common sense. I’ll tell you, I was unimpressed with the quality of the Bistro’s food, myself. They had me over for breakfast…not my favorite restaurant meal, since I can’t eat eggs and I don’t care for cereal and I detest pancakes with sweet gooey gunk slopped over them. So I order an alleged “Belgian waffle.” Out comes a little waffle-shaped thing, about four or five inches in diameter, no powdered sugar on it. Looks like one of those things that you take out of a box and pop into a toaster.

I asked for extra butter (because lots of butter is the only way to gag down pancakes and waffles made from a mix, if you dislike syrup), and they brought me four or five tiny individually wrapped packets. The waffle thing wasn’t hot enough to melt the butter — would’ve done better to have ordered a couple pieces of toast. But more to the point: on the way out I realized my mouth was puckered-up parched, so salty was this fake waffle.

Ugh. Four years of bad student union food at the University of Arizona was enough for me. I sure don’t want to spend my dotage eating that junk.

This is the trouble with institutional life: it’s not life.

For three to seven grand a month, they could provide you with decent food. REALLY decent food. And more to the point, what the hell are they doing, serving up packaged foodoid that is so oversalted it leaves your mouth puckered up half the day to freaking old folks, most of whom presumably have cardiac issues?

So….

Yesterday afternoon I started calculating how on earth I can stay in my house until I croak over… Checking out a price comparison, it seems to me that even if you have to hire a 24-hour caregiver, it may be cheaper to stay in your home than to move into a storage bin for the elderly.

One person told me the Friends are paying 7 grand a month to stay in the cramped two-bedroom apartment they’ve landed in. The house wasn’t large, but it was one helluva lot more comfortable than four small rooms and a kitchenette. Actually three rooms: the dining and living rooms are separated by a sort of partition that doesn’t quite make them separate spaces.

The Beatitudes works hard to keep its rates off the Internet. One site says the place charges 5 grand a month…but that’s for a studio or one-bedroom apartment. For one person. So $7,000 for the two of them in a two-bedroom suite is probably about right.

Even hiring someone to come in and take care of them 24/7 in their house would not have cost $7,000/month. Even if it did, they’d still be in their home.

The Institute gave them each one of those electronic dog tags to wear around the neck, to summon help if they fall or have a heart attack. But forgodsake! You can get those for free at Amazon. The best of them, which summon the EMTs or police as needed and come with a lockbox for emergency workers to retrieve the house keys, have a subscription rate that’s only about $20 or $30 a month…again, a far cry from 7 grand.

That’s 7 grand a month plus all the return on the sale of your house: they had to pay ALL that they netted on the house sale to buy into the place. They got about 360 thou, from what I can tell.

Uhm…let’s think on that….

I figure that if, like me, you have nursing home insurance (one reason to buy into the place is that you’re guaranteed a bed in the nursing home, when the time comes), all of your living expenses and all the services they’re getting would run you around $2292 to $2323 a month if you stayed in your home:

They didn’t have a pool at their house…nor did they care to use one. So knock $240 a month off those totals for a person who lives pool-free.

As for transportation: they’ve kept the car, even though driving has become a challenge for them. But let’s say you used taxis or Uber to get around. Everything they needed was very close to where they lived. If they were like me, they could keep the driving junkets to one every two or three days.

Take the cost of your vehicle (about 28 grand. paid in cash) and prorate it plus the taxes, insurance, and routine care over 12 or 15 years: you get a monthly cost of $797 to $836. With that bracing calculation in mind (it doesn’t even include gas!), judicious use of taxicabs would be significantly cheaper. Let us say that on the low end they actually are paying $5,000/month to live in the warehouse. Five grand would buy you one helluva lot of taxi rides!

If a typical taxi trip cost you $50, that would be a hundred rides per month! If you went out twice a day (!!), the junketing would run you $3,000/month, significantly less than the rent at the old-folkerie; if you even went out once a day (which would be about three times more often, on average, than I drive anywhere), at $50 a trip it would cost you $1500 a month. While that’s more than owning and driving your own car, it’s a far cry from living in that place, where the transportation is a shuttle-style jitney ride to the doctor’s office or a grocery store. A-n-n-d…$827 a month to own and operate your own car — which doesn’t include gasoline) — is not that much less than $1500 a month for chauffeured rides…I spend about $60 a month on gasoline, which would bring the total to around $887 a month. And I think that’s pretty conservative. It assumes you paid for the car in cash — if you didn’t, your monthly cost would be a great deal more than the proposed taxi rides.

With grocery stores and Amazon now delivering orders, including whole ready-too-cook meals of fresh food, I think you could stay in your home and live better — and no less safely — for a lot less than it would cost to institutionalize yourself.

Got a thought? Am I nuts?

One Don’t-Wanna DONE!

Admitted: I’ve let the Don’t-Wanna tasks pile up. You know: those little nagging chores that need to be done but can be put off. And put off. And put off some more…

The present case in point: a mound of Mexican primrose that has grown in the backyard for several years. Some there are who regard this plant as invasive, but in my experience it stays where you put it. Assuming, of course, that you put it in a flowerbed, not broadcast seeds over a hillside… 😀

Well, the primrose around the pool is very happy, but over the past year some kind of bug got into the backyard mound.  Because gardening is a laissez-faire proposition here at the Funny Farm, I never got around to doing battle with the critters. Think I sprayed them a couple times with dilute Dawn detergent — an effective insecticide, but you have to get it on the little beasts. And because the mound is kind of out of sight from the back porch and the pool area, it’s been out of mind, too.

Result: as spring is sproinging, those plants are nothing but sticks. Green sticks, promising a possible resurrection. But sticks. Meanwhile, the pool is alive with beautiful pink flowers, and some are even growing in the crevices between the flagstones. So it doesn’t look like the mound is going to come back this year.

So this morning being unduly cool, I trotted out there and pulled up or broke off all the denuded sticks. Presumably it will soon grow back — it’s hard to kill this stuff. And when it does revive, I’ll have to remember to mist it with Dawn every week or two.

A-n-n-n-n-d…what else remains to be done, having been put off interminably through all the tolerably cool winter months?

  • Trim back the plants along the east and west ends of the pool, which now block passage to all but the most intrepid of sherpas.
  • Pull out the primrose that’s gone a bit wild in its adopted home between the flagstones
  • Replace the now very agèd chard (it’s lasted a good four years!!) with new grown-from-seed babes
  • Clean out the flowerbed around the olive in front. That’ll take half a day.
  • Pull out dead plants in pots on west side; replant or else haul the pots away. Figure out why they’re not getting watered adequately.
  • Put Luis up to removing the overgrown Texas ranger in front. Get him to thin the trees.
  • Fertilize and deep-water the roses
  • Treat paloverde, Texas ebony, and desert willow with borer killer

None of these is very difficult. And in fact, despite a year of neglect and the rainiest winter on recent record, there just isn’t all that much that needs to be done.

This house is absurdly easy to take care of. But of course…I planned it that way.

It’s such a pretty little house now, I really don’t want to move: bum invasion, Conduit of Blight, Gangbanger’s Way, and outsized property taxes notwithstanding.

My friends who moved to the Beatitudes retirement home sicced that place’s marketing department on me. This morning a woman from their sales office called and asked if I wouldn’t like to take the grand tour and listen to her pitch.

Well. Sure. I’m willing to do that. They’re building a whole sub-campus of patio homes that look to me one helluva lot better than an apartment in a vertical hive. So yeah: I’m curious.

But…the fact still remains: I don’t wanna move out of here.

What I really would like is to live here until I die. Which is not at all out of the question, given how minimalist the maintenance tasks are. All that would be needed to keep me here into my full dotage will be a competent cleaning lady and a good yard dude. A decent handyman would be nice, too. And no matter how many people I have to hire to keep this place up and myself in food and clean clothes, the cost would be nothing compared to the cost of living in one of those old-folkeries.

And despite the Bum Express delivering drug-addicted derelicts to our front doorsteps, the fact is that this is one of the few even vaguely affordable in-town neighborhoods — if you think of $350,000+++ as “affordable.” Young people have discovered it. And they’re gentrifying in swarms. Just on Ruby’s short doggy-walk circuit, four houses are being renovated, big-time. One fix-&-flipper just sold for $729,000 — an outrageous amount that represented a shameless rip-off of an elderly single man, that’s true: but there it is. It still goes on the record as what these houses are “worth.” Even though that price is ridiculous, it nevertheless will push our values inexorably upward.

At this point, I could afford to move to Prescott, a sweet and scenic little burg where property values are inflated by incoming Californians. If my son didn’t live here, I probably would. But as long as he’s in these parts, I expect I will be, too.