Coffee heat rising

Driving to Drink…

Arrrghhhh!!!!! I’ve been on the wagon — totally, since the middle of July — a good four months, with no particular cravings or sense of desperation. But I hafta tellya…nothing will drive you to drink faster than 15 miles behind the steering wheel in the lovely City of Phoenix. Add a junket through Costco to that and you might as well buy a giant $40 supply of Maker’s Mark. That, presumably, is why Costco is able to sell the stuff by the flat.

To start with, wherever you’re going in Phoenix, you can’t get there from here. Every damn road is blocked, narrowed, closed, detoured, or hosting a fender-bender. So for any given twenty-minute drive, the smart driver allots thirty and preferably forty minutes.

To end with, you get to share these constricted, limited roads with every moron on the planet! And one of Newton’s Laws of Physics states, clear as day:

If there’s a moron, he’ll get in front of you.

True fact.

This particular natural law extends to the interior of Costco, where patrons flock like leaderless sheep: meandering, pondering, ruminating as they block the aisles so everyone behind them has to detour into another aisle where, lost and confused, they stand pondering and ruminating on the question of where on earth whatever they want might be stocked.

The place was mobbed…and this was around 1 p.m. on a Thursday. Presumably the hordes combined early Thanksgiving shoppers with hoarders — we’re told people are snatching all the toilet paper and paper towels off the shelves again.

Brother!! If that’s the case, I’m feeling pretty pleased about my earlier hoard-fest: the garage, freezer, and pantry cabinets are now stuffed with paper goods, cleansers, flour, and staple foods, enough to last for several months. IMHO, if you didn’t grab as much as you could stock in after the dust settled from the last frenzy, you must be crazy. Clearly, as we can see from our politics and from our antics in the stores, a large portion of Americans have gone off the deep end.

At any rate, back in the Department of Driving: went to try to get some of Costco’s generously marked-down gasoline…and found every gas pump jammed with wannabe customers extending in lines halfway to Yuma. Decided to opt that: there’s enough gas to last for awhile.

It’s mighty early to be filling up for a Thanksgiving weekend in the Rim Country. My guess is, that’s not the cause of the gas-pump traffic jam.

Costco closed its store here in mid-central Phoenix, the decrepit shopping center that it occupied having grown…well…beyond decrepit. That shopping center, ChrisTown, faces on Conduit of Blight Blvd…and when we say “blight,” we’re not kidding. What used to be a middle-income area has slipped to alarmingly lower-income, with drug-dealing gangs holding forth to the west, all along Camelback Road between Conduit of Blight and the I-17 freeway. The store served the ritzy North Central district, the Encanto and Palmcroft areas, and the less affluent strip of historic housing extending north from Encanto all the way up to Sunnyslope. Except for the lawyers & doctors of North Central and Encanto/Palmcroft, the largest part of this demographic was not in the market for a lot of Costco’s fancier products. And you could tell this if you shopped in that store and one or two others — Costco targets its demographic, and many of the chain’s commonly stocked items — such as blue cheese in blocks, for example — never did appear in the ChrisTown store.

So, with that store closed, those of us who like to buy gas at Costco have as our closest choice the store up north on the I-17…and that would explain the mobs at the gas pumps. After this, I’ll have to spring for a few bucks extra for a fill-up at the rapacious QT station up the way, or drive out to the Paradise Valley store when the car needs gas.

So I didn’t get gas while I was visiting the Costco, one of two frustrations of a frustrating trip. The other: that store shares a large parking lot with a Sportsman’s Warehouse. Some years ago I bought a pair of Teva sandals there, which are great walking sandals. The other day the peripheral neuropathy was flaring so badly I couldn’t continue the doggy walk — to get home, I’d had to take off the aging Sanitas (Dansko-style clogs) and go barefoot for a third of a mile. Those clogs are pretty well shot, sooo…out of curiosity, the next day I tried wearing those Tevas for the doggy walk. And damned if they didn’t make it possible to get around the entire mile of the short-course doggy trail!

They’re red. Nice, but gaudy. Realizing that henceforth these will be the New Old-Lady Shoes, I decided to buy a new pair, preferably in black.

Shoot in to Sportsman’s Warehouse, collar the first clerk I see in the shoe department, point to my clod-hopping hiking sandals, and say “I need a new pair of these.”

She says, “We ran out of them.”

Ducky. I drove halfway to Timbuktu to get a pair of shoes that they’re not carrying. And that Amazon reviewers say do not fit the way they used to — so unless you’re nuts, you’d better try them on before buying. Shee-UT!

Back in the car, I decided to cruise down the hated freeway instead of returning home by the surface streets, which had taken me to Costco by the scenic route, via the credit union, where I’d needed to deposit a couple of Medigap checks.

The damn freeway is also jammed, and as soon as I merge into the hectic traffic I spot a sign flashing the message that the off-ramp before mine is closed, screwuyouverymuch.

So that meant at least half the drivers who intended to use that off-ramp would be jamming their way onto mine. Goodie!

And so it went. Managed to get off without killing anyone or getting killed, but it was a challenge. The city is extending its accursed lightrail line along that road — Gangbanger’s Way — taking the train to a now-closed, defunct shopping mall (brilliant idea, eh?). So they’re starting to dig up the pavement, meaning that getting across there without the extra load of traffic is a PITA under the best of circumstances…to say nothing of exiting with the troops who intended to get off at the previous exit. By the time you get back in the house, the thought that floats through your mind is damn, but i need a drink!

Phoenix: No matter where you’re going, you can’t get there from here.

Shopping in the Age of Covid

Dunno whether it’s old age, the effects of the present ailment, or what: these days a Costco junket with a side trip to Home Depot is demoralizing and exhausting. Made what I expected to be a quick trip to Costco to pick up the new reading glasses, figuring also to grab a few items on the accruing Costco List.

First though, I had to wait for Gerardo & Crew to show up to prune several large trees than grew amok over the summer, and so… Before I could get out the door for the shopping project, one of my two clotheslines broke when I hung up a freshly laundered bedsheet. Can’t complain about that: it’s been ten years since I installed them, and I do use them once or twice a week. But dayum! So now I needed to buy some new clothesline rope.

Costco wasn’t even very crowded. But…a-a-a-z-z-z usual the store abounded with nitwits who get in front of you, trundle along in the center of the aisle so you can’t get around them, and take their sweet time. One lady was saved from a looming homicide by the extreme cuteness and charm of the two kids she had with her…otherwise, the world would be short one road-hog by now…

Been needing to buy a new set of sheets for quite some time. Mine are still fine, but they’re getting old…and it was one of those sheets that got thrown on the ground when the clothesline snapped, thereby reminding me that I really should splurge for an extra set. Just in case.

Seventy bucks for a set of Costco’s not-quite-fanciest 100% cotton queen-size sheets!

Even more for the sweaty uncomfortable synthetic blend sheets: eighty bucks for one brand and ninety for another. Jeez, guys…rayon’s not actually made of gold…

Anyway, that about doubled the cost of that junket.

Of course, Costco does not carry small items like clothesline rope. (You expected a bear?) So to get that, I had to stop at Home Depot on the way home.

The place was almost empty. How they stay open escapes me. Personally, I’ve come to truly hate shopping there. If I can order it through Amazon, I will. But I really didn’t want to wait a day or three to do the laundry, so decided to zip in and grab a skein of the stuff.

Every time I go in there, I’m reminded of how much I hate hate hate computer checkout stands. HD has now pretty much eliminated all their human checkout clerks, except for one hapless lady in the garden department. To get the clothesline rope, you have to hike all the way to aisle 18 — which is damn near to the fencing departmenttrudge up aisle 18 halfway to the back of the store, search up and down till you find the stuff shelved down near the floor, then turn around and hike all the way back to the garden department to find a living, breathing check-out clerk.

Really. There’s a Target and a Dollar Store just down the road from Costco. I should have gone into one of those places to get the damn clothesline. Or done what I originally thought to do: Order. It. From. Amazon!!!

Further annoyance awaited: As part of my covid-avoidance strategy, I wash every damn piece of produce in Dawn detergent and wipe down every damn plastic bottle & package with disinfectant before bringing it in the kitchen.

This is what we had to do when we lived in Arabia, on the shore of the Persian Gulf. And every time I repeat this “new”routine, I think my poor mother! What must she have thought when she first learned she would be spending the next ten years with this kinda routine? Then I think, Goddamnit, we’re living in a frikkin’ Third-World country today. When we came back to the states in the late 1950s, no American ever dreamt of submerging every bit of produce in skin-searing detergent before you could put it away. Or, as my mother had to do once or twice every week of the ten years we spent overseas, dipping every piece in Clorox. Because, whoop-de-doo, we were a First-World country!

But moving on.

Finally ensconced in the house with the garage door shut behind me, I felt dirty…like a dusting of viruses no doubt had settled upon my clothes as I trudged through those vast, warehousey stores. So decided to throw what I had on into the washer, along with the rest of the colored clothes. This added a load of laundry to be hung up to dry (on the rack in the garage) to the tasks of cleansing the day’s purchases and cooking dinner.

In short order, Ruby comes tearing out through the garage and shoots out the side door in a screaming frenzy: ARF ARF GRRRRROWWWWLLL ARF ARF ARF GRRRRR ARFETY ARF ARRRRFFF! Some alien force is operating in the alley!!!!!

Cripes. Now there I yam in my lady BVDs, having just shucked off my jeans, shirt, & socks and thrown them in the wash. Chase the dog to the back fence, sneak up, peer over the wall… Two guys are out there digging up one of the fire-hydrant-size Cox gadgets that sits in the alley.

Poor fellas. They have a couple of shovels that they’re pounding away with. That dirt out there has been packed down with a steam-roller. It’s about the consistency of concrete. Periodically they (or someone) knocks the Internet connection off line…so it’s anyone’s guess whether this grutch will go online today.

{sigh} Really should get up and stretch a length of that clothesline out there. But that will entail dragging the ladder around from the far side of the house, through the swimming-pool gate, and then dragging it back. To say nothing of climbing on it. The hapless sheet has gone through the dryer and is now put away. The new sheets can wait for another day for their first laundering. It’s four in the afternoon… Feels like it’s about 9 p.m., and I sure wish it were because what I’d like right now is to go back to bed and sleep straight through to the usual wake-up hour, 3 ayem.

Shopping without Shopping…

So this morning I determined to put my life on the line and make a Costco run, after dropping off a client’s check at the credit union. This would normally be routine around here: the CU is right on the way to the Costco on the I-17, and so two errands are easily run in one trip. And that Costco is better stocked than the down-at-the-heels store closer to the ‘Hood — a store slated to be closed permanently in a couple months.

On reflection, though… Why?

Seriously: covid figures are going batshit here. At this point, Arizona is as bad off as New York was at the height of its contagion, and our whole state probably doesn’t have as many people as NYC does. Why risk my health and very possibly my life by charging into the germ-laden atmosphere of a wholesale big-box store? Is that or is that not freakin’ kee-razy?

Well, yes, that is pretty lunatic.

So the decision was made: hold the check until the next one shows up, and hold the suicidal shopping jaunt — indefinitely. Instead, order up the coveted items through Instacart.

There are some drawbacks to Instacart, the main one being that because relatively few Americans make a habit of eating whole foods, most of Instacart’s runners have NO clue how to select fresh produce. Nor do they recognize a decent variety of cheese — to them, all cheese is Kraft rubber cheese, and that is what they will grab off the shelf if you ask for cheddar. Even if you ask for a specific brand! 😀

Costco has self-righteously announced that it will not sell alcoholic beverages of any kind through delivery services. So that means if you need to restock the wine, you have to make a SEPARATE order to some other store. So now I’m waiting for someone to show up from Costco and someone to show up from Total Wine. This, IMHO, is mildly annoying. Not a big deal, but…annoying. Time-wasting. Tip-wasting: now I have to tip two runners instead of the one who was really all that was necessary.

Also problematic is that when it comes to Costco, Instacart sends its staff to the one closest to the delivery address. Well. Our Costco, which will close permanently in another month, is located in a slum. Just the other day a woman was killed in the park there by a drive-by shooter. It’s not a place you would willingly go, if there were an easy alternative. And, like any other sensibly run retail enterprise, Costco markets to the local demographics. So a number of things that are available at Costco stores in more middle-class and up-scale locales are not offered at our Costco. Chunk blue cheese, for example. Apparently the only thing pore folks know to do with blue cheese is crumble it up and sprinkle it over a salad. Hence, the only blue cheese you can get there comes in crumbles packed into a plastic container.

But all in all, my sense is that Instacart has more benefits than drawbacks. Videlicet:

Most obviously, it saves you time and gasoline wasted traipsing around the city. I haven’t bought gasoline since the first of April, largely because I’m not traipsing to stores every day or two.

In the Time of Plague, it puts a layer between you and the Infected, reducing the chance that you will catch the dread disease.

As you get older and can no longer navigate insane traffic and acre-sized stores, Instacart makes it possible for you to stay in your home rather than having to move to a life-care community.

On the other hand…

The Instacart lady just arrived. Instead of the deli-packaged black olives I’d ordered, she bought a bottle of icky green factory olives. The salt I’d ordered, which I thought was coarse-ground, is actually fine-ground and so cannot be used in my salt grinder.

That latter is not her fault: she picked up the item I pointed to online…I failed to realize it wasn’t coarse-ground.

Therein lies another drawback: miscommunication.

Soooo…oh goodie gumdrops! Now I get to sit around and wait for the delivery from Total Wine. Then climb in my car, traipse to Costco, stand in line at the return desk, and try to extract a refund for these useless items.

Directly obviating the specific reason for paying extra for Instacart delivery: to avoid exposure to the covid virus.

The Wine Stash gambit

Okay, tell me what you think of this.

It may be crazy. Hevvin only knows, I am crazy. But what heaven really does know, I personally know not. Soo…tell me if this sounds sane to you, or like yet another variety of madness.

I like a glass (or two) of wine with dinner. Indeed, I like that so much that I ain’t a-doin’ without it.

However, Costco, where I usually supply my stash, has decreed that delivery services such as the beloved Instacart may no longer purchase alcoholic beverages for delivery to customers. I was able to snag a couple bottles and a box of KiltLifter (presently the preferred brew) from Total Wine, but frankly, having to order this, that and the other product from this, that, and the other retailer is what we call a damn nuisance.

It occurs to me that if I’d had a decently stocked wine cellar (or stash, since this house has no cellar… 🙂 ), the bar services would present much less of a problem.

It being never too late to start…here’s my plan:

1. From Total Wine, I order up one box (12 bottles, I believe) of my favorite cheap red and one box of my favorite cheap white.

Note that at this point I now have a lifetime supply of booze. Two crates of wine would, if never replenished, last me a good three or four months.

2. Each time I consume a bottle of this priceless hoard, I order or (one day, I hope, purchase in person) a new bottle, only in a finer vintage than the $8 specials I favor.

3. Keep drinking the cheap stuff, unless guests are here. After a period, all of the plonk will be consumed, and it will all be replaced better wines!

Et voilà! A stash of fancy wines!

My life is improved. The wine industry is supported. And when the next catastrophe hits, I will never feel deprived.

Is that or is that not a brilliant scheme? And what positive changes has the covid bug brought about in your life?

Not in Kansas Anymore…

Argh. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore, that’s for sure!

As a side note to today’s craziness..do you  like to bake bread? If so, try to get your hands on some of this stuff.

This is the Italian flour the Instacart lady showed up with a few days back, instead of the regular white unbleached Pillsbury-type stuff normal people use. Never heard of it, but since actual white flour is now a collector’s item, yesterday I decided to “stretch” my remaining flour with some of the Italianate stuff.

So, my breadmaker holds 5 cups of flour. I put in 2 cups of the Anna Nappy stuff and 3 cups of regular flour and then proceeded as usual. I like to have the breadmaker knead the dough; let it rise in the breadmaker’s container; then turn it out into a couple of loaves, let them rise on the counter, and pop them into an oven. (Tastes better than cooking in the breadmaker, for unknown reasons…)

Well. This combo made, bar none, THE most delicious white bread I’ve ever concocted! 

Dunno what it would do if you tried making the bread with nothing but the fancy Italian stuff, but a slightly less than 50/50 mix was awesome.

Speaking of food scarcity…M’hijito decided to opt the Costco junket this afternoon. Becaaauuuse: they won’t let you in there without a face mask, and he doesn’t have one.

Jayzus…. So I ordered up a few items via Instacart.

Costco has at least 50 varieties of cheap….ahem… delicious wines in the $8 to $12 range. Online? You can access two of them. Yeah. Neither of them anything you’d care to have. So I ordered one mediocre bottle of cheap red, and I guess when that’s gone — about a week from now — I’ll have to send another pup to Total Wine or AJ’s to get a couple of decent vintages.

And are they gouging on the prices!!!! One bag of Ruby’s favorite chicken jerky doggie treats? $24.39. Yeah. No kidding. For 3 pounds. If my ’rithmatic serves, that’s eight bucks a pound!!!!!

Plus tax.

Mygawd. You could buy a damn chicken and turn it into jerky on your grill, for a whole lot less than that.

{sigh} So I guess I’ll have to make my son a face mask. On the other hand, one of the women in the ’Hood has been making and selling them: $6 apiece. That might be preferable to cutting up a good scarf or pillowcase for the purpose.

****time passes…passes…passes****

Eventually, an Instacart guy showed up from the first Costco run of the day. (A real cutie, we might add! Born a mere 50 years too late…) He couldn’t find the brand of cheddar cheese I buy ALL the time there, and tried to claim he’d asked someone for it. This, after I explained in the special instructions where to find it. That’s hopeless BS, because the stuff is a standard there — has been for years.

So…after giving them several chances, I’d say Instacart is NOT going to do the trick as a stand-by in one’s dotage. Their contract help just doesn’t understand enough about food or about shopping to come up with the most ordinary boring stuff that you buy all the time.

Exactly how you would work the age-in-place scheme if you couldn’t get to the store and dodder around in it…escapes me. It might be that you could hire a college kid to make grocery runs for you. In that case, you’d have to do some serious training, because Americans apparently know next to nothing about real food. Evidently all anyone eats anymore is processed junk. So…how do you help them to recognize real food and, in the case of produce or fresh, raw meat, to discern whether it’s any good????

****

Thought I was kidding about the food dehydrater? Hmmm…not sooo much. The top of the line for these gadgets at Amazon sells for what three (count’em, 3) bags of doggie treats go for at Costco. Cheaper ones range from $40 to $60. Forhevvinsake, it would pay for itself in doggy treats alone in about three months…plus you’d know what was in the stuff.

The lady who makes the face masks says she’ll put a couple of them in her mailbox. So I’ll drive one down to my son, which will elicit a crabby response but at least he’ll have one. And so will I. I’ve been too lazy to make the things (plus I think it’s pointless, since they do nothing to protect you from getting the bug and probably do rather little to protect anyone else). Anyway, at least we’ll each be able to disguise ourselves as righteous, when called upon to do so.

heee heee hee HEEE! On that note, that idiot Trump is in town, entertaining his constituency of morons and sheeple. I just checked news.google.com and found THIS bit of hilarity.

Nope. Not in Kansas any more…

First Instacart Experiment: FAIL!

LOL! Well, ordering up stuff from Costco via Instacart did not start out on the most auspicious foot of all possible feet. 😀

So I jump through the hoops to sign up to Instacart. Once you establish yourself as an official human with an official charge card, you can navigate over to the store of your choice — they seem to be doing deliveries from every market in the city.

Once in the virtual store, I order up a few things that I need — not many, because this is a test run.

Among the discoveries:

  • Steaks are now way outside my price range. Check that off the list, right away.
  • They do not display “Coastal” cheddar cheese, which is the brand I favor. I order another brand.
  • Neither do they display blue cheese in chunks. Apparently most of their customers think of blue cheese as something that exists only in crumbles.
  • They’re out of flour, like every other retailer in town.
  • They do not carry cucumbers (but we knew that…).
  • But they do have a particularly wonderful brand of smoked salmon.

Whatever. I order up a bunch of stuff, including a package of apples, since the trees are almost out of oranges. When the orange season ends, I go back to eating an apple with breakfast.

Amazingly, their delivery arrives at 11:22 a.m. Yes: I ordered around 9 a.m. and they showed up over here before noon.

Also amazingly, apparently ringing a doorbell is not part of the delivery person’s job description. She dropped the delivery on the front porch and, since I don’t have a smart phone and can’t get texts, she e-mailed me.

Forty-five minutes later, I notice this e-mail. It is 102 degrees out there. Cripes.

So I fly to the door and drag the stuff into the garage, where I wash down every plastic-sealed goddamn package in detergent water before hacking it open with a pair of scissors.

Fortunately the cheese was not melted. That’s because, like most US-made mass-produced “cheeses,” it’s not cheese. So now I have a gigantic brick of tasteless orange stuff. Yuck!

This is not unexpected. However, here’s the jaw-dropper:

Costco sells its apples in plastic clamshell boxes. One of these boxes holds 12 apples.

What I got was a plastic bag that appears to have come with something that required measured dispensing — not a grocery store bag, but made of the same flimsy, environmentally polluting flyaway plastic. And, in there were nine apples.

I didn’t register this until I’d washed them and brought them in the house. And boy, was I annoyed.

So now I email Instacart to complain about this — after I’d already clicked 5 Stars in response to the lightning-fast delivery, even though I was also a little annoyed that the delivery lady couldn’t be bothered to ring the doorbell.

Forthwith I get back an annoying form letter. This morning a letter from a human arrived, saying they’re giving me a $5.49 refund.

Okay. So…that’s not too bad. This afternoon I’m going to order a few things from AJ’s, my favorite overpriced retailer.

So far, perusing the offerings…

  • Yes, they do have flour. King Arthur, no less!
  • Wine prices are prohibitive: they’re trying to get $15 for a bottle of Oyster Bay Sauvignon blanc. That’s an $8 wine.
  • On the other hand…some Bogle wines are only slightly inflated: around twelve bucks. That’s still too high for cheap wine…I can get my son to buy that for me.
  • They do not offer the chunks of blue cheese online…only crumbles.
  • They do have a couple of their good loaves of bread, which will spare me from having to bake it.
  • Apparently you can NOT buy fresh meat from AJ’s through Instacart. Fortunately, I still have plenty in the Costco lifetime supply.

However… If you order through Amazon, you can get blue cheese in a solid piece (assuming you don’t mind paying $15 a pound for it). Apparently Amazon doesn’t deliver wine.

However, Instacart does deliver from Total Wines. I haven’t looked yet to see what the charges are there. The best nearby place that I’ve found for cheap table wine is, incredibly enough, Walmart’s Neighborhood Market. That’s where I found the amazing Oyster Bay wine to start with. They also carry several other drinkable brands.

At any rate: this afternoon we’re at Instacart Experiment #2: I just clicked “send.” We shall see….