Coffee heat rising

Life in the Department of Looney Tunes…

Phoenix: what a place!

This morning I had to traipse to the dermatologist’s, a 40-minute trek, each way. About half of this journey traverses a seven-lane surface street called Northern Avenue. The odd lane in these big main drags is a center lane restricted to left turns. You can use them to turn left ad lib across oncoming lanes just about anywhere in the middle of any block, but at the major intersections they’re (obviously) controlled by the traffic light. There, you pull out partway into the intersection on the green. Poised in the void between 12 lanes of intersecting vehicles, you stand till the light turns yellow, at which point you floor it and  FLY across the oncoming traffic as though your life depended on it. Which it does. If you can’t cut some oncoming driver off safely or slink in behind him as he shoots past in the opposite direction, you wait till the light turns red and then cruise across three lanes of restless and annoyed drivers. (All Arizona drivers are, by nature, restless and annoyed. Many have certain other features, such as drunk, stoned, crazy, stupid, and whatnot.)

So I’m cruising westerly, westerly, ever westerly when, at 27th Avenue, I come across a nice wrecky-poo in the westbound left-turn lane. A moron has miscalculated and driven out in front of a cross-bound vehicle. Speed limit on these streets is 40 mph, which means everyone is driving 50 mph. Not surprisingly, the moron’s truck has been creamed. The front end is crumpled tinfoil. A cop is trying to restore order. Passersby are gawking. An ambulance approaches.

My coconspirators and I manage to sneak through the green light before another emergency vehicle arrives and while the cop is distracted with trying to deal with the smashed vehicles’ occupants.

Back up to speed, we approach 35th Avenue — this is the next intersection on down the road! From a distance, we can see flashing lights and…and…yes!!! ANOTHER wrecky-poo!

This one defies belief.

As we approach the intersection, we find a good-sized pickup — Silverado or F250 size — in the left-turn lane. A moron has rear-ended this vehicle, apparently at speed. IN THE FREAKING LEFT-TURN LANE! Moron’s car is unrecognizable. But he’s managed to smash into the truck so hard that he’s pretty well bashed in the truck’s bed and its rear wheel wells, and…get this… A wheel on the moron’s vehicle has sprung loose intact from the car and it has rolled down the road and underneath the rear end of the truck, where it is now wedged, standing upright.


This also appears to have happened just a few moments ago. A couple of befuddled-looking cops are on the scene starting to wrangle some stunned-looking participants. We who are passing drivers push on, before these cops can think to hold up the traffic, and we all escape intact.

Ahhhh…. Just imagine how stoned or drunk you would have to be to believe the center two-way left-turn lane is another ordinary traffic lane, so that you’re cruising along at 40 to 50 mph in it. And accordingly, because you figure everyone else is doing the same, you don’t happen to notice that the guy in front of you is stopped. With his left-turn signal flashing.

What a place, indeed!


And so it was off into the rising sun…

With a printout of a candidate glass lampshade from the Lamps Plus manager, along about midmorning I set out for Phoenix Lamps, a venerable shop that has occupied the same hole-in-the-wall on east Indian School Road for years. Nay, decades.

This is not a place to which I would normally avail myself, because years ago — yea verily, decades ago — their staff was unforgivably rude to me. Never have I returned, and never did I intend to return. But the Hinkley’s lady and the Lamps Plus lady assured me that the joint has changed hands, and the new proprietors were capable of behaving themselves as if they cared whether customers ever came back.

Welp…they’re right. Staff there were visibly human, and they managed to be very nice to me, despite the crankiness of my quest.

Traffic, though? Not so much. I dawdled until around 11 a.m. before dragging unhappily out the door. That was a mistake. Traffic in all directions, on all routes was just effing fierce. What are all these clowns doing out on the roads in the middle of the effing morning?

Phoenix Lamps is parking-lot challenged. They have only a cramped space behind their strip-mall slot for customers to stash their cars. No doubt under ordinary circumstances, this would have been fine. Today, though, was not an ordinary circumstances day.

The store was busy — several parties perusing every item in the store. This would explain why the slot I hogged was the only parking spot left behind the place. But despite the demands on his time and attention, the guy I met up with was very kind and very knowledgeable.

Upon inspecting the wounded Restoration Hardware lamp, he agreed that the proposed replacement glass thing suggested by the Lamps Plus manager was probably the best bet. That notwithstanding, he hauled out a gigantic Sears-Catalogue of the lamp industry and searched. And came up with the same choice. But, he allowed, this thing was not a-gonna fit in the RH lamp: it probably would be too short and too loose. However, his crew could fix that: they could build up the base for the thing and adjust it so the proposed shade would sit there with an adequate degree of stability.

So, he suggested, I should order this thing online, bring it and the crippled lamp in to the shop, and they would make it all work.

Holy mackerel. If the gods aren’t snickering, they surely are smiling.

From there, it was off to the Trader Joe in Town and Country (20th Street & Camelback)…after a lengthy wait until the disabled lady who kindly blocked the entrance and exit to the Phoenix Lamps parking lot with her van reached a point where she felt inclined to move the thing. Staff were not inclined to demand that she get off the dime, so this took awhile. Didn’t bother me — I had nothing else to do — but some customers were a shade miffed. That notwithstanding, staff steadfastly demurred to the lady in the walker.


Town & Country hosts the snootiest and the snobbiest of the Biltmore nouveau-riche set, and by the time I got there — the lunch hour — the twits were out in force. Parking-lot challenged? Lemme tellya… Fortunately, I prefer to walk a ways (exercise, ya know) and I am…well…assertive. No. Of course I’m not aggressive. Who, me? 😉 I manage to shove the mini-SUV into a spot and hike in to the annoying Trader Joe’s.

Really. Was there some reason I didn’t go to Sprouts, where low-brow types like myself belong? Oh, yeah: the insufficient parking lot. Ohhh well…

The place was simply mobbed. Riots of shoppers, fighting kicking and biting to get at the desired products. Some poor lady was there who had a toddler that…well, the child had simply effing had enough of this bullshit and, trapped in a shopping cart’s kiddie seat, was SHRIEKING HER FRAZZLED LITTLE HEAD OFF.

Poor baby.

Poor mom.

Poor Trader Joe’s shoppers.

I grab the stuff I need, one item I don’t need, and learn that no, of COURSE no self-respecting TJ’s carries anything so déclassé as chocolate chips. Pay. Out the door. Back across the hectic parking lot. Into the car.

And there have to do to-the-death battle with the young, the rich, and the overprivileged just to get out of the fucking parking space.

No joke. Between the parking space and the lot’s exit, three different privileged goddamn wretches deliberately cut me off.

God, but I hate rich people.

Having been a rich person for a significant slab of my life, I can say that. F*ck you all, Rich Wretches!….

Westward on Camelback toward the poor folks’ district. Stop off at Total Wine to pick up a bottle of Everclear, which is damn-near pure ethanol.

Don’t drink this stuff, please. It’s grain alcohol and very much of it will make you plenty sick, if it doesn’t kill you. What it kills even more effectively, though, is microbes. Back a few months ago, I learned (purely by serendipity) that it’s about the most efficient killer of MRSA bugs that you, I, or our doctors can get ahold of. I want some more of it, to use as an antiseptic.

The plonk acquired with surprisingly little hassle, it’s back on the road, headed for AJ’s. My GOD the traffic! Bumper to angry bumper to frustrated bumper to lunatic bumper.

Because I stay off the roads during the rush hours and the lunch hour, I haven’t seen mobs of cars like that in years. And hope not to see them again, unless some taxicab or Uber driver is doing battle with them.

Finally crawl into the AJ’s parking lot. Park a good hike away from the door. This, too, is a purveyor of goods favored by the Rich and the Rude, so navigating their parking lot when it’s full is…well…an adventure. Grab a few goodies and lunch, fly out the door…and find myself once again jousting with The Entitled. One sh!thead cuts me off at the exit, so I veer around him to the other exit and get onto the road before the SOB can. Mwa ha ha!

Driving in Phoenix: a competitive sport.

On Central, too — northward into an upscale residential district — the road was just packed. Managed to veer over to 7th Avenue, which for reasons incomprehensible was much neglected, and shoot up north to the ‘Hood, relatively unmolested.

Finally, home!

Yea verily, back at the Funny Farm. Lampshade thing ordered. Chow scarfed down. A third of a bottle of white wine swilled. And now…enough, already! The dog and I are falling into the sack for a nap.

Morons, Money, and Ay-Mazement

One of the excellent Chinese scholars for whom I’ve been privileged to work decided to try to pay through Western Union, which required, I expect, some extra hassle on that end. PayPal, as you may recall, dropped the ball colorfully some time back, forcing me to close my credit union account and reopen it with a different account number. The decision to quit using PayPal effectively closes down my business with clients in Asia, since there aren’t a lot of easy ways to transfer money internationally from the mainland. However, we did learn that Western Union does business there, so we decided to try it.

This experiment took place several weeks ago, right before I started to get sick with the current enervating epizoötic. When the client asked me to go over to a Western Union office to see if the money came through, I searched out a site that seemed not too alien — a Walgreen’s at Seventh Street and Camelback.

Western Union is popular here, because Latin American immigrants can use it conveniently to send remittances to family back home. It seems there’s a Western Union kiosk on every corner. So I go in there — at some risk to life and limb, since 7th and Camelback is one of the craziest intersections in a city full of crazed drivers — and am directed to a free-standing computer into which one is supposed to enter data and somehow extract money. How is unclear. I ask the clerk who supposedly knows how to work the thing: looking into her eyes is like gazing into a deep and motionless void.

Moving on, I reckon I’ll ponder through this conundrum later.

Now I come down with a bacterial infection followed by a viral bronchitis picked up from the Mayo’s ER, leading to a month of incapacitating illness. I haven’t been able to drag out of bed long enough to fix a decent meal, much less traipse around the city and do battle with a new-to-me system.

Client asks me to puhleeze find out whether payment has come through, a lot of time having passed with no word from me. I try to beg off. This whinge buys a day or two of delay. Finally I am importuned to get off my duff and go try to figure this out.

Having almost died trying to get into that Walgreen’s parking lot (and having no great craving to try again with Ms. EmptySpace), I call an office supply and FedEx store that The Copyeditor’s Desk often does business with and ask them if they by chance have Western Union.

“No,” says my guy. “But in my experience, every Fry’s grocery store in the city does.”

Oh yeah? Fry’s, you say? Well, hot damn. There’s a Fry’s supermarket right around the corner from M’hijito’s house…and just down the road from Costco, whereunto I also need to repair. Look it up online, and yep: that Fry’s does have Western Union.

Drive on down there, make my way across the rather menacing parking lot (at least this store does kindly have some fairly prominent security guards lurking around), surface at the customer service desk, and…migawd! Find a clerk with a measurable IQ! And the contraption is behind the desk, where the customers are neither expected nor allowed to put their sticky little paws on it.

This excellent young women sits down before the machine and shortly disgorges something over $400, which she forks over without even asking for a transaction fee.

Hallelujah, brothers and sisters! This, I realize, is enough to pay the cleaning lady for about five visits, obviating my having to make a cash run on AJ’s or the credit union for two or three months. If I were good, I would of course stash the cash in the corporate checking account. But I’m not good, and I no longer have to be good, because WonderAccountant and I converted the S-corp to a sole proprietorship, meaning (in effect) that the money is mine, mine, ALL MINE! All I need to do is file the receipt and an explanatory note with this year’s tax papers and hide the stash in the safe, where it will await the services of the Cleaning Lady from Heaven.

And best of all, I’ve met a human being with a measurable IQ.

The journey did not start out that way. Cruising down Main Drag East, out of the ‘Hood toward the precincts occupied by the Fry’s Market in question, I pass a fool cruising up the sidewalk on roller skates, a stupid grin on his face and a dog running beside him on a leash. The dog stands knee-high to the man — who himself is a good six feet tall. They are flying along within about two feet of a five-lane thoroughfare. Most of us drive 40 to 50 mph on said road, which is heavily trafficked. As I shot past this apparition, I counted eight cars around me. Nary a one of us could have stopped to avoid hitting him if he had stumbled into the street or if the dog had decided to shoot across the road after a cat or another dog.

So. Moron #1.

Of many. Every single goddamn moron in the city has to get in front of me. Heading south, a tow-truck flatbed does a Y-turn across all the lanes of north- and south-bound traffic to deliver his load of broken-down cars to a repair shop. Northbound, a city transit shuttle hogs the fast lane, and noooo, he’s not getting ready to turn left. He’s just having fun holding up traffic.

At any rate, having found a Western Union site with an employee who evinces actual competence overrides the annoyance factor entailed in having encountered three morons between here and there.

Now it’s on to Costco.

Yesterday when I visited the Costco up north, which has a fairly safe parking lot, I picked up a  bag of coffee. So sick was I that I didn’t even see the thing: just grabbed it and ran. When I went to stash the loot in the car, I finally noticed that it was a bag of Starbuck’s beans, not the San Francisco Bay brand I usually buy. Feeling slightly better today — and having to venture near the mid-town Costco anyway — I decide to brave the parking lot where the lunatic tried to kidnap my neighbor’s baby out of her car, there to return the Starbuck’s and get the preferred product. It’s early, so parking’s not a problem to speak of. And the place is not even very crowded yet.

Well, wouldn’tcha know it: As usual, Costco has ferreted out the product that I like and, naturally, gotten rid of it! No offense…you may think Starbuck’s coffee is just grand, but that, alas, would be be because as a red-blooded American you’re readily hornswaggled by advertising. It’s terrible, low-grade plonk dressed up in a corporate emperor’s new clothes. Try San Francisco Bay brand if you’d like to see what I mean. Or maybe not: if you do, you’ll never be able to swallow SB again…

Costco was charging a lot less than Amazon’s vendors demand, which made it eminently affordable. But no…I’m not paying $20 to have a bag of coffee beans dropped off at my front door for the porch pirates to steal.

So this made for yet another trip, over to AJ’s to buy a bag of their over-priced, locally roasted, just OK coffee.

By now I’m getting tired and light-headed, and again having trouble drawing enough air into the lungs to sustain life. Onward.

Into the ‘Hood, where I spot one of our pet bums plodding along the sidewalk by the park: a really filthy, scary-looking guy with his face and head shrouded under a hoodie. He approaches an athletic, sportily dressed young woman jogging toward him on the sidewalk and tries to panhandle her. I pull over, wait, and watch, figuring I may have to drive over there and pick her up. No: she repels him easily. She strides off. I wait. He does not turn to follow her. A small miracle.

Home at last. Let the dog out, start to fix lunch. A cop helicopter roars over and circles Upper Richistan a few times. Then he shoots across the street just to the north of the Funny Farm and takes off northerly along Conduit of Blight. Delightful.

Discretion being the better part, I decided to stir-fry some scallops in garlic over a stove burner rather than, as planned, grill a piece of steak outside for the mid-day feast. This made for a nice meal…and a nice mess to clean up. Ohhh well. The cleaning lady will earn her pay on Monday. 😉

Sooo…still sick but slightly better. I estimate another four weeks before the cough stops. Probably longer to get completely back to normal. Yea verily, quite possibly not until it gets hot again: that would put full recovery in May.



Ella’s Story, Chapter 17…

…is online! Became distracted with a tsunami of ditz today, so only just got around to posting this week’s installment of Ella’s Story. Check it out over at P&S Press.

Since I’m now persona non grata at Facebook, about the only places to announce the ongoing publication of Ella, If You Asked, and Complete Writer are here and on Twitter. I have no idea who follows me on Twitter, if anyone. But today I managed to compile a halfway decent mailing list from FaM, P&S Press, the Mac’s Contacts list, plus a couple of organizations I belong to. MailChimp, ever annoying, refuses to disgorge a download of its (lengthy!) list in a Mac-compatible form. So unless I want to sit here and copy/paste/copy/paste/copy/paste/copy/paste/ line after line after line, yea verily unto the end of the universe, I guess most of that data is lost.

Decided to abandon MailChimp some time ago, mostly because its page layout formats, while potentially kewl, are clunky and ditzy to work with. And it’s not at all clear what the result looks like when it arrives in the victim’s…uhm, the correspondent’s in-box. I think it would be better to send out informal e-mails from a Gmail account to announce weekly installments and to make up for the loss of whatever marketing potential Facebook had.

Part of the plan is to develop a site at Medium to hold these emanations and possibly also those of select fellow scribblers. And maybe some artwork from artiste friends. This idea is still pretty inchoate: first I need to establish a site there, learn how to operate it, and figure out the possibilities. Ideally, I’ll move the serializations to Medium and leave teasers at P&S Press.

Naturally, too, I’ll plug this stuff at LinkedIn.

This was an expensive day in the Funny Farm environs.

M’hijito called from Costco to say he had just dropped some staggering amount of money on four new tires for his vehicle. One of the original-equipment tires was leaking. He said he was indulging in some shopping therapy there in Impulse Buy Hell, thereby running up the tab a little higher. Invited me to dinner, but since I’d already eaten, I put him off till tomorrow. {sigh}

Meanwhile, at Chuck’s this morning, the boys discovered the fine battery Bell Road Toyota (is that actually “Hell’s Road Toyota”?) installed in the vehicle they’d sold me has been leaking for awhile. Long enough to completely corrode away one of the battery terminals. They were amazed that the car would start at all.

Haven’t had any problem with it…but was mighty glad they found it, because it is NO fun to be stuck on Phoenix’s fuckin’ homicidal roads in 110-degree heat.

They put in a brand of battery they believe to be higher quality and longer-lasting than most. Made by Interstate. It has a five-year warranty, which in these parts means it will last three, maybe four years. Pete said one of their customers had an Interstate battery that survived a brain-boggling eight years.

One can hope. By then I’ll be in the nursing home. Or six feet under, with any luck.

At any rate, the battery, the oil change, and the general prophylactic farting around came to $258.

Which, considering that I’m running out of cash and my checking account will hit Empty well before the end of 2018, is a bit brain-banging. God. I hope the cheap tires those bastards put on the thing last until 2019. Guess I’ll have to do my best to stay off the roads.

The roads. The damnable roads.

It took half an hour to make the 10-minute drive down to Chuck’s, as described in this morning’s whinge. A guy almost hit me as I was turning onto Conduit of Blight. Since there was plenty of room, he either sped up in an attempt to scare me (this is typical Phoenix driver behavior) or was driving a lot faster than he appeared to be going. Pretty sure it was the latter — truly, there was more than enough room for me to turn into the lane: he was a good three blocks down the road.

Then we got stuck at the damn high school. We stood in line there for over ten minutes while kids wandered across the road at the light that holds up traffic when a pedestrian pushes the button, and at the exit to the drop-off lane where scores and scores and scores of parents bring their kids.

This is the only decent public high school remaining in North Central. In response to a great deal of voter restiveness and to the demise of federally enforced racial integration, the district now allows parents to choose to put their kids in schools outside their districts. But if your kids go to an out-of-district school, you have to drive them there — school buses, obviously do not apply in that case. So that means drop-off and pick-up at this particular high-school are as hectic as at a private school: scores of cars pulling up in front to let the kids out and then shoving their way back onto the road.

You wonder why Phoenix drivers’ tempers are so short?


Correct position behind steering wheel for driving on Phoenix roads.