Coffee heat rising

Why Didn’t I Think of That Before…

Ever have one of those why didn’t I think of that before moments, borne out of some altogether irrelevant little challenge? It’s like looking at something askance and spotting a detail you’ve been missing every time you stare straight at the thing.

This morning I set out to soak the vines that grow in mounds along the Funny Farm’s back wall, by way of cutting the likelihood — however slim (or not) — of a fire starting in the dry stuff under it when the local yokels take to the alley to set off their illegal fireworks. My twitly neighbors, as you’ll recall, have dumped so much trash out there that Gerardo figured he couldn’t get it all in his (very large) trailer.

And our legislators, who by tradition indulge in stupidity that far surpasses mere twitliness have set things up like this:

Confused about the difference between firearms and fireworks, they eliminated all laws and regulations limiting the possession and use of DIY fireworks, except the kind that rocket up in the air and create giant shows.

When several cities stepped into the breach and banned certain types of especially dangerous fireworks within their city limits, our idiot legislators passed another law stating that cities and towns may not tell retailers that they cannot sell these devices, whether or not they’re illegal to use within the city.

Thus, bang-bang enthusiasts run down to the local Albertson’s (ours has set up a tent in its parking lot for the sale of such toys) and stock up on fireworks of all kinds, including the ones that are illegal here in lovely uptown Phoenix.

The enthusiasts, of course, know that if they’re caught shooting off a locally illegal firework, they’ll be cited.

So, by way of avoiding a citation, they sneak into the alleys to set off their most dangerous toys.

And of course, when you have oleanders or vines along your back lot line, or when someone has dumped a lot of dry trash in your alley, what you then have is a fire hazard. Wow! More than you might imagine: 18,500 fires per year, including 1300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 16,900 outside and other fires.

Personally, I would prefer not to see my home or yard be included in this year’s $43 million of related property damage.

By way of minimizing that hazard, my plan is to get those damn cat’s-claw vines soaking wet, so that by dark this evening they’ll be too soggy to catch fire.

The prospect of dragging the hose and a sprinkler across the pool and up and down 100 feet of back wall on a 113-degree day does not appeal.


But as I get started along about dawn, it occurs to me that one could take the soaker hose that runs along the base of the plants and lay it over the crown of the hedge. Then turn the timer to run as long as it will go — two hours — and let water drip down over the tops of the plants. This would obviate some hose-drag. At least it would allow me to escape having to haul the hose over and through the pool and physically tie the sprinkler to the top of the wall.

So I start to do that: disentangle the thing from the plants’ stems and lay it over the top of the vines. This looks like it’ll work, except…

Yeah. Except…the hose is so old that it crumbles as I handle it!


I manage to pinch off the broken end and get it to run well enough to see how this scheme will work. And yeah. It sure as hell will work. It delivers a load of water to those vines and it dribbles down into the insides of the vine cover. This means the most flammable parts of those vines get really wet. And they get wet with ONE hose-bib turn, not eight or ten hose-drags.

Not only is this working exceptionally well, it now occurs to me that it would be pretty easy to set this up as a permanent thing: instead of running the soaker hose along the ground…duh!!! Run it over the tops of the vines, where water will flow down over the plants and drip onto the ground where rain would normally drip: to the root area where the vines need to get water.

Those vines are looking a bit peakèd these days, partly because the 15-year-old drip system is failing in places, and partly because you can drip-irrigate until you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t get some rain, drip irrigation does not suffice to keep something like that alive forever.

And we haven’t had rain in years.

So…why not add some fake rain?


One short length of regular hose: on hand
Double-outlet hose bib: on hand
One 100-foot or two 50-foot lengths of soaker hose: HD is open today
One hose timer: on hand

Well, hell. Who’d’ve thunk it? Or more to the point, why didn’t I think of it before this?????

So whenever I get around to it, I’m gonna run up to the Depot and pick up the proposed soaker hose.

This is going to be great. It will make watering those damn vines one whole lot easier. Right now it’s a hassle, because I have to climb under eye-poking shrubbery to connect the backyard hose to the soaker that runs around the back of the pool, and that doesn’t reach all the way along the back wall, so a hose-drag is required to reach the whole “hedge” of vines. It’s such a PITA I tend to put it off until it doesn’t get done at all. With the drippers working poorly or not at all, that means the vines are dying back because, lacking any rain, they don’t get enough water.

And with the two-hole hose bib, I can run the short, unused length of hose sitting in the storage shelves over to the soaker hose connection and just leave it there permanently: never have to connect, disconnect, and drag the hose again!

It seems so obvious. Why didn’t I think of this before?

Another day, another year

Lordie, it’s 2009.

Who would have expected such a thing? When I was a little kid back in the Cretaceous period, I used to wonder if I would still be alive in the year 2000, when I would (after all) have reached the decrepit old age of 55. I felt a little surprised when I made it that far.

To have doddered on almost ten years beyond that has something of the unreal about it.

Now I enter the age that my mother was when she died, murdered by the tobacco pushers and further victimized by incompetent and uncaring doctors. Ever since her death, I have wondered, just like that little kid back in the ’50s, if I would outlive her or if I would go at the same age. Irrational, no doubt: but apparently so many people think along those weirdly magical lines that some actually do die—or contrive to die—at the same age or under the same circumstances as a deceased loved one.

The days in which we ritually celebrate the passing of another year—especially birthdays and New Year’s Eve—feel vaguely unpleasant to me. More than vaguely: distinctly. I enjoy living and don’t like being reminded of how few years remain. Nor do I like being reminded of how many years of my life and hers my mother missed—an entire lifetime of years: my son’s. These things do not make me feel like celebrating. To the contrary.

catrinas2Hallowe’en—la dia de los muertos—when the dead and death itself are celebrated, seems less sad and far less depressing to me. It springs from a deeper impulse, a more thoughtful and meaningful way of celebrating the passage of time and life than drinking, dancing, and setting off fireworks because another year of our existence has gone down.

Speaking of fireworks, someone in the neighborhood has a great fondness for them. They set them off at the drop of every hat, and an excuse like the Fourth of July or New Year’s Day brings on an hour-long frenzy of whistling, squealing, banging, and flashing. Fireworks are illegal in Arizona. That means the folks are smuggling them across the border. I think Pretty Daughter‘s middle-school-aged children are among the celebrants, and that makes me cringe. As you get older, you get more cautious—or possibly you get old because you are the cautious type. A kid in my junior high school in San Francisco was blinded when he set off a cherry bomb in a tin can. Ever since then I’ve imagined that people who let their children play with fireworks are working hard to improve the gene pool.

Well, in the gene department I have a shot at living to old age. Though my mother and both her parents died young, my father lived to 84 despite lifelong smoking and drinking habits; my great-grandmother and great-aunt, Christian Scientists who neither smoked nor drank, both made it to 94. I’m no teetotaller, and it’s clear now that my openness tovisiting doctors isn’t a lot safer today than it was in the 1800s when Christian Science’s aversion for the crude medical practice of the time made sterling sense. But one can hope.

There are several things we all can do to help ensure we live out the years allotted to us:
Eat well
Exercise daily
Drink minimally
Drive carefully
Never smoke
Keep active mentally and socially

Coincidentally, most of these are frugal habits, too. Think of that: frugality adds years to your life!
Live long and prosper.