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?

 

The forgetfulness of places

Can you remember your parents remarking, when you were a young pup, that your town was developing so fast  they could hardly recognize their regular stomping grounds as they were driving around, year after year? When we lived in Southern California, my mother used to say that off and on — we could even describe it as “all the time.” After we moved over here from unlovely Long Beach, occasionally she’d remark on the extirpation of the orange groves and the cotton fields as the booming Phoenix area Californicated at a breakneck pace.

I wonder if this sense that everything familiar is disappearing or being unrecognizably altered is a function of age, or if it’s objectively true.

Probably a little of both, hm?

This morning I had to present myself down at the dentist’s office at 9 a.m. sharp, for a routine cleaning and to discuss the endodontical adventures. Once again, there was hardly any traffic at what should have been the height of rush hour. Dr. D’s office is on the sixth floor of a mid-town high-rise, a district best described as damned toney. His offices look out onto a spectacular view of north Phoenix that goes on and on and eye-bogglingly on, halfway to freaking Las Vegas. I flew into the parking garage at about 10 minutes to 9:00…the place was empty. I mean seriously: the entire ground floor was vacant. I grabbed a crip space, leaving five empty. Otherwise, I think there were less than half-a-dozen cars on on that floor.

That was weird.

Upstairs, his sidekick told me they’d had to close their office for two months. I didn’t ask for details, but I gathered from her and a little later from him that the state came in and shut down dental offices everywhere. Can you imagine being forced to close your business, from which you earn your livelihood and with which you pay at least three full-time employees? Holeee ess aitch ai!

All being found well — or at least, better than anyone expected — I escaped unharmed and went on about my business. Without the Really Old Folks in tow, I’d forgotten to put up my Official Mickey Mouse Club Crip Space Hanger (I don’t use it unless I’m chauffeuring the old people around). But luckily no one cared: the crip spaces were empty and no ticket was in evidence.

So: two moments of small mercies in the space of 40 minutes.

Whilst driving downtown, I had that uncanny “not in Kansas anymore” sensation: that the city has changed just enough in the six or eight months since I last covered that route that the place seems kinda out of whack.

It was like driving through canyons of shadows. All the way down Seventh Street, one of the two main drags that flank the central corridor, the cityscape looked familiar…but also NOT familiar. Enough has changed that nothing is quite the same. Strip shopping and tired gas stations have been replaced with shiny new rabbit-warren apartments. Easy-to-navigate intersections are now festooned with complicated left-turn lights, no turn signals, time-of-day turn lanes, on and on. New high-rises block the view of the South Mountains. Run-down shopping centers have been resuscitated as office developments. Yet many of the same old businesses and buildings are still crumbling away beside the roadways.

You look down the road and you see what you see…but you also see shadows: shadows of what used to be there. Weirdly, it’s like looking at two photo transparencies overlaid on each other.

Having escaped from the dentist, I decided to go by the fancy new Sprouts at 7th Avenue and Osborn, my old stomping grounds. This store occupies the space of a defunct Basha’s grocery store, one of a historic chain of markets that used to hold forth across the state. I used to shop there all the time when we lived in the historic Encanto District. Not a great store, but close to home and good enough for day-to-day needs. Catty-corner across what is now a large, busy intersection is a Safeway, which has survived the present wave of gentrification.

Grab what I need, shoot through the check-out line, and sashay out the door, headed back to the car, when I see a poster.

A fifteen-year-old girl has disappeared from the corner of 7th and Osborn: large reward on offer. Her photo shows a pretty young thing. Now, you may be sure, a dead young thing, dissolving away somewhere out on the desert.

Holy sh!t…a fifteen-year-old nabbed. I don’t know why I’m so shocked by this: it wasn’t safe when we lived there. I used to walk up to this store now and again. And yes, men harassed me unless I had the German shepherd with me. Occasionally a guy would stop and try to get me to climb in his truck. No way, then or now, would I let a fifteen-year-old girl walk around there, even though that busy corner has several attractions designed to call young people: a corner pizza parlor, a fitness studio, the Sprouts, a popular Mexican restaurant, the Safeway… True, the corner is much, much nicer, much modernized over when we lived there…it doesn’t look unsafe. Back in the day, you knew it was unsafe, just as here in the ’Hood you know Conduit of Blight and Gangbanger’s Way are unsafe.

We had friends of the liberated female persuasion who believed that women should refuse to be daunted by the risks inherent to living in a large, low-rent city, or by harassment from every passing male who didn’t realize you carried a pistol in your purse. Women, they insisted, have a right to live in this society and a right to move around without being harassed, and so we should all go on about our business as though we do have that right and expect it to be honored.

Right. Like you can’t be dead right, hm?