Coffee heat rising

Life in the ‘Hood: Never a Dull Moment

Just got in the door from a lovely, quiet evening doggy walk, along about 9:30 when along comes the roar of a cop copter. They’re buzzing the corner where SDXB used to live and the street where I used to live — about three houses up the way from the present Funny Farm.

At least, so it appears: but folks commenting on the neighborhood Facebook page say the scene of activity seems to be up on Gangbanger’s Way. Whatever: evidently they’re chasing somebody.

Tiresome. There’s always some damnfool thing going on around here. Of course, that’s what we call Life in the Big City. Okay, I get that. But sometimes I wonder if it’s not time to move away from the Big City. KJG and Mr. KJG have moved to Payson. It’s nice and quiet and foresty up there.

And…it snows in the winter.

Never snows in Sun City, of course. But I don’t suppose this latest frolic inclines me to covet living in a ghetto for old folks.

Rarely snows in Fountain Hills. But it’s as far away from everything in my life as Sun City is. Not as far as Payson, though. But too far to drive into town is…when you come right down to it…too far to drive into town. Doesn’t much matter how much too far.

Bunch of brilliant neighbors — teenagers, probably — are partying in the street up on the next road to the north. “Who, us? IQ points? We don’t need no steenking IQ!”


Stay or Fly: The Busted Paw, the Peeper, and the Doc

Sooo… After the little jig I did yesterday to deflect the turkey who was transparently casing my house, I had to cancel out of choir. This provided the opportunity to move the 2:00 p.m. appointment at the urgent care unit next door to the neighborhood Albertson’s forward to noon. This turned out to be a good thing for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that I diddled away two hours there. If I’d gone in at two, that caper would have consumed the entire afternoon.

They decided the pained paw probably has no fracture in any of the complicated set of bones that make up a human hand. But nevertheless, they sent the X-rays to a radiologist for assessment, later in the week. So that was mildly reassuring.

So I ended up chatting at length with a PA, these groups’ answer to an MD. What a doll! He fessed up that he was 53 — dayum! Born 20 years too late. He was an Indian gent — India Indian, I mean. Two daughters, wife, nice career. And even warier than I am of Life in the Big American City. I mentioned to him that when I fell I was walking Ruby the Corgi, and in passing remarked that I used to have German shepherds but at my age feel I’m past the time in life that I can effectively handle a large, high-drive dog.

Now get this: the clinic is right on Conduit of Blight, the border between the ‘Hood and a meth-ridden slum. And he says — apparently PC is not a Thing in New Delhi — that given some of the people he’s seen in that practice, he strongly recommended that I get another German shepherd, for my safety. But not just any German shepherd. “Spend the money, raid your life savings, to get a fully trained German shepherd.”


I said, “Well, it’ll have to wait until the corgi passes on, another five to seven years.”

He said, “No, don’t wait. If you have a trained German shepherd (by that, he clearly meant protection training), you will get another ten years of independent living. Otherwise, you won’t be safe and you’ll have to move on before then.”

Holy mackerel!

That was quite the exchange, because…well…we’re talkin’ about a guy who deals all the time, day in and day out, with the denizens of Meth Central. He remarked, too, that social problems in this country have become exponentially worse. And no amount of education or social service seems to be helping. He had, he said, seen young men with master’s degrees in fields like business and science, “melting away” (his phrase) as drug addicts.

Well. However. He is not a guy who deals with German shepherds all the time. In my experience with them (about 20 years’ worth), a good GerShep does not need protection training or any other kind of training other than basic obedience work to do the job for you. This fella, for example, would no doubt prove himself useful in an emergency…

The problem with a Gershep, provided you know what you’re doing and you’re lucky in your choice of companion, is not training but expense. These are very costly dogs to care for throughout a nine- to twelve-year lifetime. They can develop some spectacularly pricey ailments, not the least of them pannus, osteoarthritis, dysplasia of several varieties, thyroid failure…and on and on. So, in retirement the problem is not so much the dog’s strength and need to have you be incontrovertibly Alpha; it’s that you can’t afford the health risks when you’re living on Social Security.

At any rate, such speculation does nothing to address the issue of a sh!thead casing my house, just as we come up on the High Burgling Season that is Christmas gift-exchange time.

The plan: I happen to have an old stereo sitting in the family room. Believe it or not, the thing still works. So the strategy is to turn it to an NPR yakathon, turn up the volume, crack the solid-core door into the garage open, and lock up the dog in the back bedroom. That way, anyone who approaches the front of the house will hear the blabbity-blabbity through the tinfoil garage door. We are told this strategy — leave a radio or TV set on — is pretty effective against prowlers, because they can’t be sure no one is in the house.

Ruby sleeps in her nest under the toilet all the time I’m gone. If I just close the bedroom door, she won’t be able to race outside through the garage and head for Yuma when I come home. The radio will be plainly audible through the garage to anyone who approaches the front of the house, and of course it blats right through the glass doors and windows in back. Its racket doesn’t carry through that solid-core door; hence, I’ll need to crack it open a bit.

HOW, you may ask reasonably, did I instantly size up our passer-by as a would-be burglar?

By his dogs.

His dogs were  behaving as though they wanted to be nowhere near the guy. While he was ogling my house from in front of WonderAccount’s place, they were hunkered on the ground behind him, as far away as they could get at the end of their leashes.

That is not normal doggy-walk behavior. Dogs do not huddle behind you when you take them on a doggy-walk. They drag you down the street.

Plus…after innumerable daily doggywalks of my own, I know all the dogs in our neighborhood. His are not among them. By extension, I know most of the neighbors by sight…never saw this dude before.

The dogs’ strange behavior drew attention to the guy’s strange behavior. And the guy’s strange behavior was…strange.

But THEN…heh heh heh!

When I pretended to drive out but in fact circumambulated the block and showed up back in the driveway about 40 seconds later and found him ACROSS THE STREET AND LURKING NEXT TO MY HOUSE on the east side, where he was studying the front entrance and the front patio, well…he did himself in with that stunt.

Seriously: it could not have taken more than 40 seconds to get back to my driveway. The next street north was empty — nary a soul out in front — so I gave that six-banger a mighty hit of gasoline and JETTED up the road. I would be surprised if it took much more than 30 seconds for me to re-coalesce in front of the Funny Farm. And lo! there he was, upping the ante on the casing job.

German shepherd. Hm. Pit bull, maybe?


So, as you’ll recall, according to my Universal Theory of Phoenix Transportation, at any given time one in 10 people on the roads is a certifiable moron. Tonight I qualified as number 10!

Headed homeward with Ruby the Corgi, my back hurt, so I was in a hurry to reach the Funny Farm. At Feeder Street NS, some cars were headed in our direction. We could get across if we rushed. It was dark. But there was a speed bump between us and the oncoming vehicles, which, even if they were traveling faster than I thought, would slow them down enough for us to make the other side before they reached us.

So we’re flying across the street and we leap for the sidewalk and trip…kerWHACK!

Goddammit. I fell flat on my face.

MAN, did that hurt.

But amazingly, nothing seems to have broken, not even the now picturesquely scraped nose. I’m sure that by tomorrow morning I’ll look like I was in a boxing match. A lump has already raised up on my chin, plus another on a knee. And my glasses are hopelessly scratched: that’ll be a $300 fix. I met several nice neighbors…

And…here’s the weird thing: the kink in the back disappeared!

Sidewalk as chiropractor…

This may complicate life a bit. Tomorrow I have to drive from pillar to post: first to pick up the vacuum and then down to the credit union to argue about whether they can accept a wire transfer via their routing number, contrary to what their manager seems to have told me. Then back here to index another slab of a client’s book. Then of course I imagined I would clean out another closet…that idea probably no doubt will be going by the wayside. Tuesday (oh shit, there’s another gunshot…down at Main Drag South. Ahhh, the lovely sounds of the city… 😀 ) it’s off to Costco with my old croneys. Wednesday, meet with a new client halfway across the city. Thursday…don’t recall. Friday: SDXB. Saturday: SDXB thinks we’re driving to Castle Hot Springs. By then, with all that gallivanting, I won’t have had a chance of getting far in indexing project #1. And #2 will still be waiting.

{sigh} One thing you had to say about San Francisco along about 19-and-aught-59: they didn’t have damn cop helicopters roaring overhead every time some perp hiccupped.

Nor did the perps do a lot of hiccuping. Not everybody and his little brother was addicted to drugs. It was actually relatively safe: I used to ride the bus, transfer to the streetcar, and walk to school, every day, at the nubile age of 12 or 13. And I was allowed to roam all over the place with my best friend, two little tomboys fishing in Lake Merced and sneaking into the Olympic Club’s golf course and climbing onto the roofs of the local apartment houses. Today “helicopter parents” won’t let their kids out of their sight…for good reason, as we’ve seen here in the ’hood.

Think of that. From Utopia to Dystopia in just 60 years.

Wining Time

Time to sit down and swill a nice glass of Kirkland’s best.

The days swirl past like water flowing down the drain. And at this age…well, that’s a pretty apt metaphor. It’s been a very busy few hundred hours of late, some of them fun and some of them not so much.

Today started out pretty fun: A special choir session in the morning, in which we got some extra-special coaching from our professional musicians, met some new choir members, and had ourselves sorted out by timbre and reseated here, there and yon.

Even though one must yodel all by oneself, in public before an audience that does include the aforementioned professional musicians, I always get a kick out this process. It usually results in a set of new seating companions, which is cool because it allows me to get to know more choir members…otherwise, being the recluse that I am, I would cling to the few friends I’ve made and never get to know anyone else. So this is good. One of my favorite Chamber Choir singers is now seated to my right, a lovely singer with a wonderful, effervescent personality who seems, unlike moi, to be afraid of nothing and no one. To the left, a quiet woman who has been around for awhile but whom I’ve never had (or made…) an opportunity to come to know. AND we’re right down in front, meaning no climbing up and down and balancing on bleacher-like things. It’ll be a little harder to see the director from the new vantage point — and that is something I rely on simply because I’m just not that experienced, as singers go. But I think as long as we’re standing, it’ll be OK.

Yesterday was a bitch, as it developed.

Last night we finally moved the current wave of copy back to our journal editor. But not without a fiasco of the first water.

Working on revamping the Plain & Simple Press website and not making much headway, I’m figuring it’s about time to knock off and go do the day’s required fucking blood pressure test. This is the best time of day, when the numbers are at their lowest ebb…and that is a desideratum, because we wish to keep Cardiodoc at bay. I’ve not yet taken a pill, but it’s about time because part of the gaming of the system entails dropping one of these minuscule doses, waiting about an hour, and then running the hated gadget. This results — well, unless the ambient temperature is in the low 60s, as it can be — in a fine set of numbers in the mid- to low 110s.

Impressive. Very impressive. If that doesn’t get the guy off my neck, nothing will. 😀

Just as I’m thinking Get up, lady, and drop a pill, in comes a message from The Kid: where is Essay 4?

Essay 4? It’s on DropBox, in the Essay 4 folder. Of course (just unwittingly typed that “of curse”). Where we put it several days ago, and happy we were, indeed, to see the end of that fine document.

You understand: some of these authors are using their gilded efforts for P&T (promotion and tenure reviews). In its current incarnation, the journal seems to be absent anyone who even vaguely resembles a peer reviewer, nor does the copy seem to have benefited from the advice of an editor who is, shall we say, gifted with a jaundiced eye. The new editor appears to be inexperienced with wrangling creatives or unwilling to ride herd on the livestock. Articles are difficult to read primarily because they’re far from ready to go to press.

That is about the mildest I can get on this subject. And yes. I do remember my mother inveighing about “if you can’t say anything nice…” You can’t.

No, says The Kid. It is not on DropBox. Where is it?

Where, indeed? WhereTF? I search DropBox: and I know that is where I stored it because I no longer stash this stuff on my local disk. DropBox has a back-up/restore function, and supposedly Time Machine is also backing up DropBox.

She’s right. It’s gone. I search “All Documents” on my MacBook.

Not there.


I fly to the big computer, fire up Time Machine, and search directories going back a week.

Not there.

By now, I am seriously freaking out.

I break into DropBox’s website, parse my way through the nightmarish techno-instructions, and search DB’s back-ups.

Not there.

Holy CRAP! This file, which was utter diabolical torture to read, is flat-out fucking GONE.

I email The Kid and tell her I’ll have to plow through the whole.god.AWFUL.thirty.god.DAMNED.pages again, which will take another full (agonizing) day.

So I go to open the hideous unedited original in Wyrd. Of course, when you open Word it proposes to “Open Recent.”

Hmmm….  No sign of the missing files in “Open Recent.” But what do we have at the bottom of the “Recent” list but a MORE tag….ah, yes.

Click on that. Select “this week.” Wait for some unholy number of files to register in Wyrd’s memory.

And lo!

There the little bastards are!



The things are stored in a folder — that would be a “directory” for grown-ups who use Microsoft Windows — with a title that is a long, arcane number: D123455432211 or some damfool thing. Both of them: the clean edited copy and the marked-up copy.

WTF is D123455432211????

Not caring much until I can contrive to open the things and then save up to DropBox, I stash the files, open them, and confirm that yes, they are the edited and clean versions. These, I mail to The Kid and to myself, by way of ensuring that they will not get “disappeared” again.

Whatever a D123455432211 is, I’ve never seen anything like it. Search the Internet. Whatever terms I dreamed up, at this moment I do not recall…but something that I typed into Google called up the answer. As it develops, when someone sends you a MacMail attachment and you open the damn thing, MacMail will save it into a “Downloads” folder. It does not prompt you to save the file where you want it to go. It just quietly saves in some un-findable location where Apple wants it to go. To make it even more un-findable, MacMail will designate this folder with a zillion-character numeric title.

By the time our author’s fine piece of literature has resurfaced, I am simply beside myself with rage, frustration, and horror.

Not only have I neglected to run the damn blood pressure machine, by now I’m about 5 hours late in taking the hated anti-hypertension pill. Along about 11 p.m. I gulp down the drug and test the BP. Really, it’s not that high: in the 130s. One figure is in the dramatically high 130s; the rest are in the middle range. The last time I flew into a state of Extreme High Dudgeon, the gauge reached 165/105, presumably in the bust a blood-vein category.

Unfortunately, in the brave new world of the American Heart Association, anything above 129 is now regarded as “high blood pressure.”

Questionable though I suspect that to be, nevertheless Cardiodoc takes it as received wisdom from Rome. So sticking those numbers in the record is contraindicated.

This evening they’re back down into the 110s. Those, we keep.

I hate computers.

That notwithstanding, I’ve spent a fair amount of today rebuilding the Plain & Simple Press site so that I can offer content from two completed books and one work in progress for free to readers.

This required a refresher course in rudimentary coding. Needed to figure out how to build an internal link in a web page. You understand: once, back in the dark ages, I knew how to do this. That was when my mind was young and elastic. Today: phbphphbhphphbbbt! I do not want to know it and so I have forgotten all that arcana.

Okay. I now know how to do it. Again. Probably will not remember until tomorrow. But for the nonce, code that can be self-plagiarized is installed in one of the new pages under construction.

I should take the dogs for a walk, it being not even 8 p.m. Exercise is needed for dogs and for human. But…

One is given pause.

An admired friend of mine, one of the most elegant European women I have ever met, lives within walking distance, in a tiny development of patio homes that fronts right on Central Avenue. This is within easy walking distance of the Funny Farm.

She reports that a couple nights ago someone came to her door about 9:00 p.m., rousting her from whatever she was doing and alerting her German shepherd. Fortunately she has a steel security door.

When she opened her front door, she found a guy on the other side of that security door foaming obscenities at the mouth and waving a gun around. He was in some kind of rage, he was trying to get in, and he threatened to shoot her.

She being a woman of some self-possession kept her cool, closed the door on him, and called the cops. He was gone by the time the gendarmes showed up. But as you can imagine, she was somewhat alarmed.

She speculated that he was a transient, as he was dirty and probably high on the usual drug of choice in our parts — meth.

Mmm hmm.

Well, I walk these dogs at night all the time, partly because in the summer it’s the only time they can walk on the hot pavement and partly because I’m busy from dawn to well after dusk. I never see anyone — sketchy or otherwise — wandering around after dark here. The bums are sleeping in the alleys, and the residents are nailed to their TV sets.

But just now I think…maybe not.

If there’s some drug-addled animal out there waving his gun around and threatening elderly women, I really do not want to meet him at night. Not in the daytime, either, but especially not at night. My gun is heavy and I do not even know where my father’s holster is stashed. Nor do I especially fancy the prospect of keeping two wackshit dogs under control while I try to defend myself against a wackshit human.

And so, to pour another glass of wine.



Strange Day in FunnyFarmville

{sigh} It’s only 5 p.m. but the sun has gotta be over some yardarm somewhere. Maybe here, for all I know, because really, who knows what “over the yardarm” really means? High noon, I’d say.

So I’m having a bourbon and water while the curried fried rice simmers, and I yam NOT doing any more work!

Flew back in the house a couple of hours after my afternoon deconstructed itself. A pile of requests & orders from Honored Client are in hand. He wants Plain & Simple Press to do the heavy lifting involved in publishing his memoir, intended for family and friends. And that’s good: it’s quite a lovely book…he’s had a wonderful life. Like my father, he’s devoted his life to work that’s taken him all over the world. If my father had written a memoir like this and left it to the family, I would be beside myself with joy. What a wonderful thing to give his kids. And his friends.

It’s also of historic interest — the guy has been at the front lines of some major early 21st-century changes, internationally, and he has known huge 20th-century figures. So these books of his are of value in more ways than one.

So of course I’m delighted to have the privilege of helping him, even in a small way, to publish this latest book.

Walked in the door from this afternoon’s meeting. Sat down and turned on the computer and just then heard a deep-throated truck’s HONK outside. Looked up from the keyboard to see a fire department truck go by, one marked “Hazardous Waste Disposal.”


Naturally, I arise and take a stroll up Feeder Street NS, looking up and down the alleys and neighborhood streets. No sign of the guys in space suits. Oh well.

But it IS gorgeous outside. The rain has died down and in the late afternoon the chilly air has finally warmed enough that one no longer needs a jacket. Dogs have been cooped up with the human for days. Stroll back in the house and lash up my furry friends for a Doggy Walk.

Painfully bored with our usual one-mile route, I decide to head up toward Conduit of Blight (which has been slightly de-blighted with the effort to make the light-rail boondoggle look respectable), where another set of turns and twists will generate a different mile-long walk.

We go across Secondary Feeder St. EW and come up on Conduit of Blight Blvd. There, a half-block to the south, we come across a bum (ahem, sorry: “homeless person”) going through a bunch of objects he’s made off with (ahem, sorry: “collected”) in his shopping cart. These appear to be CDs or possibly DVDs. Unclear whether he’s scavenged them from the garbage or stolen them — it’s even odds, one way or the other.

As we slip past him, we hear some guy on the other side of the decorative wall the city has built to gussy up Conduit of Blight, sitting on the ground next to the bus stop. (“Oh, god,” I think, “Why didn’t I get another German shepherd instead of the Short Stuff?”) He’s very stoned and he’s rambling on in a loud whiny moan about God only knows what. A woman who looks like she wishes she could figure out what to do for him is standing over him. She is saying nothing but looks confounded.

First I think, “You poor soul.” Then I think, un-Christianly, “Stay the f*** away from me!” Mother Theresa, I will never be.

So I continue down the road thinking I am a bad person, for if I were a good person I would try to do something for the suffering poor in this godforsaken city of the radically rich and the penniless. But I do not.

Seconds later, a Mrs. GotRocks shoots out of the parking lot of the fenced Montessori school. She doesn’t even slow her SUV when she crosses the sidewalk. She cannot see around the shrubbery decorating the school’s entrance, and so she does not see me and the dogs about to step in front of her. Literally — not an exaggeration — if we’d gotten there two seconds earlier she would have run us down.

We proceed, then turn back into the ’hood at the southernmost street of low-rent homes — i.e., the development I live in.

There we pass the yard where the turquoise fake grass carpeting the residents installed in the frontyard is now very, very tired, indeed. One of my neighbors wondered why the newcomers are so nosy and so vocal about minor issues such as trash in the alley and decrepitude in the front yard. Many of the Old Guard don’t understand, really, that a house is the same as money in the bank, and that when you — or your idiot neighbors — let a property deteriorate, you’re throwing money down the toilet.

It’s a cultural thing, hm?

We pass the home of the couple who have the boy who suffers some frightful crippling ailment. The father watches over his son like a kind of guardian angel. I believe he is a man who is made of steel and gold, probably the best of all possible men. But it appears the boy is not their only problem child.

From a distance we can hear another kid shrieking and screaming, fully launched into a major tantrum. The mom is moving around the open garage, trying and succeeding at appearing calm and level-headed. With an iron grip on her sanity, she issues a few motherly orders. The brat is having none of it.

The kid jumps into the car, locks the door, and LAYS ON THE HORN!

Heh heh heh… I’m sorry, it’s not funny. And it certainly was not funny for the long-suffering mom, who that point just about loses it.

After a fair amount of hollering on the part of all concerned, the kid lays off the horn. But…only because she’s figured out how to turn on the anti-theft system, causing the car to go, merrily, HONK…HONK…HONK…HONK…HONK…HONK…HONK…HONK…HONK…

Hah haaaaaah! If it was my kid, I’d have whaled her little tail until she couldn’t walk, to say nothing of climb into the SUV’s driver’s seat and fiddle with the controls. But of course that would be child abuse (nevermind the wee perpetrator’s grown-up abuse), and the mom, being a creature of a more enlightened generation, manages to restrain herself.

Bless you, sister…

Moving on, we pass the home of one of our newer neighbors, a police officer and his beautiful young family. We are thrilled to have these young people here. The only flaw in the blue sky is that Dad is on the outs with the neighbor, apparently because of a misunderstanding of Brobdinagian proportions. Dad, having no insight into the history of what the local moving companies like to do to folks who move into our ’hood, believes the old dude next door is responsible for a series of  post-move-in break-ins. Little does he know. But what can one say? And how can one best serve youth, eh?

But we are glad — nay, proud — to have a police officer here, the second one to move into our precincts. The next time their brothers chase some armed and violent sh!theads into our neighborhood, we can be assured that the Force will be with us.

So it goes. Here in the Naked City, one woman’s beautiful afternoon is another man or woman’s Day from Hell.


So this is retirement?

With retirement like this, who needs work?

I read student papers till 11:30 last night (the result of having loafed half the day before, if reading page proofs can be called loafing); leapt up at 6:00 a.m.; shot across the city with La Maya to an estate sale (nice stuff: too expensive); shot home, delivering edited page proofs to a publisher on the way; worked till class met; collected another mound of papers to add to the mound from the other class (yet to be read); shot back out to Scottsdale to a business reception; flew back; fed the dog; took the dog for a walk, wherein we witnessed the immediate aftermath of a three-fatality wreck (teenagers from the tenements across 19th Avenue); trudged home; sat down to write a few lines of copy I’d said I’d do on a volunteer basis for the choir director; listened to the clock tick while trying to figure out what to say (it ain’t easy to praise God when you’ve just seen the end of three kids); heard the Mac boing at the arrival of a new e-mail message bearing not one, not two, not three, but twelve new documents from a client…

Oh, God. At this rate, I’m not going to live through retirement!