Coffee heat rising

Duck and Cover! HOLY mackerel!!

LOL! (okay okay, you have to be a fully jaded resident of the ‘Hood to think this is funny…baaaad human!) Remember how I wondered, in a recent post, how long it would take the young military family who just moved into my old house, up near the intersection of Gangbanger’s Way and Conduit of Blight, to discover that a cop helicopter parks over the house every Friday and Saturday night at 11 p.m. sharp? Welp…yesterday we got Parked Helicopter with a vengeance — and not even a Friday, not even the middle of the night. 😀

Along about 7 in the morning, we got the old familiar WAP WAP WAP WAP WAP…but louder than normal. Meaning closer than normal: the guy was hovering over a house one street to the north and three lots to the west of the Funny Farm. WTF?

Check the neighborhood Facebook page, where gossip has it that a cop was killed in the slum apartments to the west of us, facing on Blight, and they’re trying to catch the perp. Or noooo, it was a K9 cop that was shot and killed. Or…whatEVER…somethin’s comin’ down….

Hm. Fetch the pistol. Consider whether ’tis better to lock all the doors and hunker down or to throw the dog in the car and head out to Sun City. Blight is shut down tight…I’d have to go around Robin Hood’s Barn to get west to drive to SC. My son, you may be sure, would not be pleased to see his muther and her dog show up in his driveway at seven in the morning.

An hour or three later, the story  finally hit the local PlayNooz. They killed the perp, but the dog, contrary to earlier reports, was not dispatched to its maker.

Over to Faux Gnus, to see what they have to say about it. Believe it or not, Fox is the only decent broadcast news station in the county. Hmmm… This report has the dog shot, too. The apartments are not the weary piles directly to the west of us, but an even tireder complex just north of Gangbanger’s Way. This garden spot adjoins the trailer park where we nearly bought a mobile home for SDXB’s mom, Tootsie…but (fortunately…wisely) thought better of it.

Those folks who moved into my old house, much closer to that bucolic intersection…bet they’re just beginning to get the idea of why I moved away from there. Won’t be long before they start to wonder why the hell they didn’t just move into base housing for the duration of Dad’s assignment.

Yarnell’s a-callin’… One thing you can say about Yarnell: even if they have a police department (highly unlikely), it can’t afford a helicopter.

No helicopters over this one…

And the Evening Not to Be Outdone by the Day…

So I come rolling in to the ‘Hood from choir along about 9:30 p.m. and see, buzzing over the southwestern precincts, a low-flying and very angry-looking cop helicopter. He’s in hot pursuit of someone, apparently fleeing down Conduit of Blight Boulevard. But he’s not alone. To the north and also to the west, another cop copter is hovering over my old house, scanning the intersection of Conduit of Blight and Gangbanger’s Way.

By the time I get the car stashed in the garage and the pooch out in the side yard to pee, the dragonfly to the south is circling Conduit of Blight and Main Drag South, and the one to the north is over the crummy apartments and the senior-citizen trailer park above Gangbanger’s. Wring out the dog to the lovely serenade of buzzing helicopter engines, fly back inside, and lock the doors.

🙂

Welcome home!

It’s never boring around this place.

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.”

Yipes!

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?

What WERE we thinking?

So I’m sitting here thinking about the ’Hood, about whether I should stay here, whether I should move. It really isn’t very safe. Over the past couple of weeks it’s been one damnfool thing after another:

  • Drunk driver swerves off Main Drag South up Feeder Street N/S, crashes across a resident’s front yard, and ends up rolled in the park.
  • Sh!theads recorded on Ring cameras serially raiding neighbors’ cars.
  • Sh!theads retrieve garage door opener from a car an idiot resident left parked overnight in their driveway, open garage door, rifle cars and contents of garage.
  • “. . .white Subaru WRX sedan with loud exhaust and no rear bumper racing up and down Neighborhoood Ln . . . . must have been going 50 mph zooming up and down the street a couple times. He nearly hit my six year old son.” (FB Nextdoor page)
  • “. . . 3 very loud bangs (like 5 mins ago)? Sounded like gun shots to me.” (Ibid.)
  • “Today a horrible thing happen to me outside of Target on 19ave and Bethanyhome a women tried to kidnap my girls! As I was walking out with Mila in the target cart and Ella in her car seat inside the target cart a women talking very loudly in the parking lot said oh she has beautiful eyes… I looked at the women about to say oh thank you but she shrugged at me and said oh I’m sorry so I assumed she was talking on her Bluetooth and not to us. as I start getting closer to the Jeep she comes up behind me and my mom and says that’s my daughter she has my eyes! In that moment I couldn’t believe what this crazy bitch was saying and she kept repeating it and getting louder and then I hear her say Travis! Hurry up the baby is right here come get the baby!!! In my mind I was freaking the duck out I grabbed Mila and told my mom stay right here with ella I’m gonna put Mila in the car. I strapped Mila in and locked the door just Incase that women tried and opened it. I came around and told my mom we need to go now! As I’m getting the car seat out the cart this crazy women is still yelling that’s my baby god is going to strike you dead! I turned to put Ella in the Jeep and she grabs me by the hair and pulled the car seat and all I remember is my mom pushed her and I frantically started hitting her in the face! This women ATTEMPTED to take my child!!!!! I was yelling at her I will KILL you!!!! As all this was happing people are coming out their cars recording me with their fuxking phone instead of helping! Like are you fuxking serious my kids are in danger and all you idiots are just there recording me!!! Only one person tried to help me and asked if I was ok! I had no problem beating that women up but the only thing I could think of was who is this Travis she’s calling for??? What if he comes and hits us and takes my girls!!!! I finally got all of us in the Jeep and god knows I could careless if I ran her over! She took off but I did call the police and they arrested this crazy bitch!!!! She will be charged with assault and attempted kidnapping! Please please don’t ever ever look away not for one second! I was gonna do everything in my power to prevent her from even touching my babies.” (Ibid)  (She’s talking about the Costco shopping center that serves the North Central district…the one where we’re told the company will close the store when the lease runs out…)
  • “Be on the lookout for a grey car (possible Chevy Malibu) with a busted out back window. The driver stole lawn equipment about 30 minutes ago from our landscaper’s trailer. My husband opened the garage door and the guy took off, but had already loaded several things in the car. So bold in broad daylight and heavy traffic! And terribly frustrating for someone who works hard for a living.” (lbid)
  • ” I came home from work tonight (5:15 pm) and discovered my truck had been ransacked today. Definitely today since it was fine when I left for work this morning. They stole a couple of small items, pepper spray and a multi-tool.” (lbid)
  • “Person walking our neighborhood checking mailboxes and then got in this vehicle. [Photo of nondescript pickup posted.] Keep an eye out! Non emergency called with description.” (lbid)
  • Number of drug rehab outfits in our zip code: 7. Number in next zip code directly to the east: 0 (AHCCCS, Annual Report: Substance Use Treatment Programs, State Fiscal Year 2018)

Claro que this area isn’t very safe, even though it’s hot with the young gentrifying set. If I were to unload this house and net, say, $325,000 on it, I could afford to buy in a number of much less drug-ridden, crime-ridden venues:

  • Sun City
  • Fountain Hills
  • Oro Valley (a Tucson suburb)
  • The vast tracts of elbow-to-elbow ticky-tacky north of the 101
  • Yarnell, by damn!

Trouble is, big-city headaches aside, I like my house. I like my yard, I like my pool, I like my neighbors. And for what I could get on a sale of the house, I could not buy anything comparable, anywhere.

Adding another layer of complexity to the issue: I’ve been here and done this before. The first house DXH and I bought was a beautiful old place in the historic Willo district of mid-town Phoenix. Like my present neighborhood, this area suddenly became a favorite of the young, the affluent, and the upwardly mobile. We all flocked in there, bought the pretty old 1920s and ’30s houses, madly fixed them up, inflated their value, and created a HOT gentrified district. To give you an idea: that house, which we bought for $33,000 and sold about 15 years later for $130,000, was recently on the market for one million dollars.

The Willo area and its adjacent, more upscale Palmcroft district were indeed dangerous, especially to a woman who didn’t happen to have a German shepherd or a man watching over her 24/7. Like the ’Hood, the area was overrun with homeless drug addicts and (in those days) alcoholics. Per capita drug use in our zip code was the highest in the city. How dangerous was it?

Well, let’s see…

  • In the first week we lived there, we were awakened in the wee hours by cops swarming around our yard, glaring flashlights and spotlights shining in our bedroom window.

“Should I call the cops?” I asked Hubby, reaching for the bedside phone.

“No,” said he, “I think it is the cops.”

Yea verily, they were soon at the front door, demanding to search the house. Their crew was pursuing a cat burglar/rapist who was on the run from one of the neighbors’ houses. This fella’s MO was to slip into a darkened house, make himself to home for awhile, then pounce the sleeping residents, tie up the man, and rape the woman in front of him. Poor fella had been caught in the middle of a midnight snack by an awakened occupant, and he ran off before he got to the main act.

After the excitement subsided, we went back to bed.

Right at dawn, we heard a strange noise: S-c-c-r-a-a-a-a-p-e rumble rumble rumble…THUMP whack whack whackety whack WHACK!

Yucca gloriosa ‘Variegata’ in dry garden with Euphorbia myrsinites, Lavandula and Gaillardia

Turned out the perp had indeed run into our backyard, as the cops suspected. But when he got there he found an old, rotten wooden ladder that DXH had propped up against the back side of the house (the walls were about 20 feet high) in a failed effort to figure out how to turn the rooftop heater on. He’d left it there for the service guy he planned to call the next day…and forgot about it. When the poor schmuck tried to climb down, a rung broke under his weight and he fell all the way down to the ground, narrowly missing a Spanish dagger agave.

  • Then there was the time I was sitting on the floor typing a seminar paper in front of the TV set, while DXH was at a firm meeting. It was well after dark — he usually didn’t get home until after 10 p.m. I keep hearing this “rustle-rustle-rustle” sound from the service porch, which I think is the cats (we had several) scratching around in their sandbox. I reach a stopping point in the research paper I’m typing and get up to see what the cats are doing out there. When I walk into the laundry room, I see the latch on the side door wiggling up and down.

Holy shit.

This was before there were wireless phone extensions, and LONG before cell phones. It was also before we inherited the neighbor’s German shepherd. I run through the house to front door, fling it open to the screened front courtyard, and scream FIRE!  FIRE! FIRE! CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT! HELP! F-I-I-R-E!!!!!!

This brings out the neighbors, who no matter how reluctant they may be to rescue you from an assault will cheerfully come out to watch your house burn down. It also spooks the would-be rapist — a couple of the neighbors watch him jump on his bike and take off down the alley.

That was interesting.

  • And the time my friend Retha and I were hanging out at another neighbor’s house. Those folks were out of town, and they’d asked me to keep an eye on the place and said we could use their pool as desired. So Retha and I were loafing at the pool.

We heard a lot of sirens down the street, cops carrying on. But we didn’t think anything about it. Police activity was commonplace, and with a fire station around the corner, sirens roared around all the time.

Yes. We didn’t think anything of it until the evening news came on. That was when we learned that the elderly lady who lived at the end of the street had come home from the beauty parlor, parked her car in her garage, strolled inside, and encountered a hopped-up burglar. He attacked her, grabbed an axe from inside the garage, and chopped her to death!

Lovely.

Retha and her husband Ron moved out of the neighborhood shortly after that. Huh. Wonder why?

  • Then there was the night that DXH and I came home late one evening. He crashed in bed and fell straight to sleep, which meant I couldn’t get to sleep, because he would snore so exuberantly that if I didn’t get to sleep before him, I wasn’t going to get to sleep. Sooo…I got up and went into the living room to sleep — in the altogether — on the sofa.

By this time we had inherited the neighbors’ German shepherd, who, thank God, came to us when those two divorced and moved away.

So I’m sleeping there, not very well, when I wake up and see a flashlight flickering around in the kitchen.

Here’s what goes through a young mother’s mind when she is awakened at three in the morning:

ooooohhh! The power must have gone out and John must have gotten up to get the baby a bottle.

I hear the Greta, the German shepherd — now quite aged and half deaf — go “boof?” from outside the bedroom door, off a hall on the other side of the house from the kitchen.

Still imagining the flashlight wielder in the kitchen is my husband, I go “John?”

When Greta hears my voice, she EXPLODES! She ROARS into the kitchen and goes after the poor schmuck whose flashlight beam is now soaring around as he frantically seeks a way out. The dog is between him and the door he came in, and she is about to send him back to his Maker. Instants before this re-introduction, he finds the side door (the one the would-be rapist had tried to enter, some years previously), yanks it open, flies out through it, and slams it shut in the dog’s face.

Still completely ignorant, I walk into the kitchen and find my husband standing there.

“Who was that man?” he asked.

“What man?”

Yeah. Well. I came rather too close to finding out, hm?

Still, we persisted in living in that house, living in that highly questionable neighborhood. Like the present ’Hood, Encanto was bordered on the south by a decrepit area (since much gentrified) and by slums on the west side, extending westward ever westward. The ’Hood, today, is bounded on the north side and on the west side by meth slums. The west side of Phoenix is, shall we say, low-income all the way out to Sun City, mile on mile on mile of seedy development that was cheaply built when new and is falling apart today. Falling apart, and crime-infested.

Retha and her husband Ron moved out. The divorcing friends across the street moved out. The neighbors with the pool moved out. Property values continued to increase. So did the crime rate. It was unsafe to let our son play outside unless the neighbor’s housekeeper was there with her employer’s little boy and would stand out there watching them every instant. We could, of course, not put him in the local public school — all of the lawyers’ and doctors’ kids in the area went to expensive private schools.

Finally, we threw in the towel and moved, too. I think what persuaded us was the transient who walked into a dirty-shirt law office on McDowell, the main drag just to the south of us, and caught the office’s legal secretary in the act of fixing coffee before her employers came in. God told him she was the Devil, so he murdered her on the spot.

  • Not very long after we moved out one of our former neighbors called to chat and reported that something had happened at Retha and Ron’s former house — right next door to the home of one of the women who used to babysit our son. The new residents were an affluent young professional couple. He traveled for work a lot, and was often out of town.

Ron and Retha had installed an elaborate burglar alarm system in that house, which was a large and sprawling place. The only window that was not alarmed was one of those tiny little bathroom windows, the kind of thing that slides open about 18 inches, just enough to allow air to ventilate the room after a shower.

The guy had been watching the wife for months, and he’d been studying the house. He knew where all the alarmed doors and windows were, and he had observed that this window was not alarmed. He also knew when her husband was out of town.

So one evening he entered the house through this window. Surprised the woman, captured her, and spent the entire night raping and beating her. How she survived, I do not know, and nor do I know what possessed him to leave without killing her. Maybe he thought he had killed her.

I really disliked our new neighborhood. It was full of snobs who wouldn’t have anything to do with White Trash like me, and the houses were 1950s look-alike ranchers, pretty boring by and large. What friends I had were all at the university, which was even further from North Central than from Encanto. For me, it was an unhappy place to live. But at least it felt safer.

Probably because by then we not only had the German shepherd, we had another big dog, too.

But really, the question is what possessed us to stay in Encanto as long as we did? We did love the house, which was spectacularly beautiful. We did have nice neighbors, though the older ones were dying off and the ones our age were moving away. It was close to DXH’s office and relatively close to the university. But…resident drug-addicted bums sleeping in your yard and any car you forgot to lock? Rapists? Ax murderers? What WERE we thinking????

So…{sigh}. Today I find myself in the same predicament: Great neighbors. Central location. Lovely home. Beautiful yard. And…constant cop flyovers, wackshit incidents every week, none of the inner-city medical facilities are adequate to the kind of emergency I’m likely to experience, and…hey! Listen to that! Here comes a siren wailing up Conduit of Blight Blvd, even as we scribble…

Among the several discouraging issues…

  • First, it’s an expensive godawful hassle to move. I really don’t wanna do that again.
  • I don’t know how much longer I’ll live, but I figure not more than another ten to fifteen years. Do I really want to make myself crazy moving to some other house for that brief a period? Can I really not hold out, pistol in hand, for a few more years?
  • Newer housing is just flat not as desirable as houses built on lots with some elbow room between the neighbors and with walls made of WALLS, not plasterboard and styrofoam.
  • The “safer” middle-class areas, while priced about the same as this part of the ’Hood, are mile on mile on endless look-alike mile of ticky-tacky. You may want to live in a house that looks just like your neighbor’s and your next neighbor’s and your next neighbor’s, but I sure as hell don’t.

So…what am I thinking? What on earth to do?

I dunno. What we have here are a lot of small to medium-size plusses and one HUGE negative (in the form of nearby crime- and drug-ridden slums). Or, we could say, a huge negative in the form of a society that does nothing to deal with its exploding problem of mentally ill drug addicts…possibly because no one has found any consistently successful way to do that.

Far as I can see, there are two potential solutions:

  • One is to stay here and hope for the best. I have a noisy little dog and I am armed to the teeth. And it’s never too late, I suppose, to adopt another German shepherd.
  • The other is to move.

Neither of those strikes me as ideal.

When in doubt, I suppose…don’t.

Stay? Or Move While You Can? The Old Lady’s Dilemma

Had a 1 p.m. appointment with the skin doc yesterday, to get another sun-induced precancerous lesion removed. Normally I drive 9 miles north on the I-17 to the Loop 101, which will carry me 21.3 miles west and south to Indian School Road. From there it’s only a couple miles to the doctor’s office. (Think of that: 30 miles to find a decent doctor’s office! In the fifth-largest city in the nation!)

Well, stupidly when I go to turn off the surface street onto the 17, I go south instead of north (focusing what remains of my mind on getting to Indian School, eh?) Rather than get off the freeway a mile or two down the road, turn around, and drive back up to the 101, I decide to just drive down to Indian School and then proceed west the 10 miles across the surface street to 103rd Avenue. Said route is shorter, but more hectic.

Garden spot, west…

Surprisingly, this works exceptionally well! Everyone else is on the freeways wrestling with gawdawful traffic, and Indian School, now an eight-lane thoroughfare, is basically empty. I fly low through the westside blight and, to my astonishment, arrive at the doctor’s office a half-hour early. It’s only taken about 30 minutes, in spite of driving almost half the way on a surface street. This is a drive that can easily absorb almost an hour. On the effing freeways.

Huh. That was innaresting. So when I get out, I decide that instead of taking on the nasty freeway, I’ll drive all the way across the city on Indian School to Conduit of Blight Boulevard, and thence northward to the ’hood. Unless I get in a wreck, it’s unlikely the Venza will crap out in the (dangerous!) slums this route traverses. And anyway, being stuck in among lovely Maryvale’s title loan companies, marijuana dispensaries, warehouses, and corroding trailer parks surely would be no worse than being stuck by the side of the Interstate.

So I start driving driving driving, and once again I literally fly across the city. Hit every light green, and only one or two morons get in front of me or threaten to side-swipe me.

Now I arrive at Conduit of Blight.

You, too, can live in a fine shack like this…

SDXB and I used to live right down the road from this intersection. He, I, his mother, and his daughter & grand-daughter occupied four dwellings in a pretty, retro (read “agèd”) garden apartment complex that had been condominiumized. It actually was a very pleasant place to live, with irrigated lawns and huge, mature shade trees. Right behind it, to the east, stood a 1950s middle-class neighborhood that was in the process of gentrifying — it was sandwiched between our complex and the Phoenix College campus, and being just north of the VERY hot Encanto district was a target of the young and the upwardly mobile.

When I started to think about buying a house, I looked at a place in that neighborhood. It was very charming, and I almost bought it. SDXB talked me out of it, because it had an enclosed addition, and they’d kind of jury-rigged the air-conditioning ductwork into it. He thought the system would not cool or heat it efficiently, the power bills would be astronomical, and the room would never be especially usable.

Well. HOLY mackerel, did that man save my petootie!

I get to Conduit of Blight and start to drive north…and that whole area is a freakin’ slum! My god, what a wreck. The bank branch where Tootsie (his mom) used to do business: gone. The Greek/Italian restaurant where the local cops would hang out when they were off-duty: closed, and replaced by some bizarre…shady-looking…something. Stores where we used to shop: replaced with schlock, or empty and boarded up. Formerly solid middle-class to lower-middle-class housing: rotting away.

When I call this road “Conduit of Blight” on Funny about Money, I ain’t kiddin’.

Move to Phoenix and live next to this lovely train!

Drivin’ drivin’ drivin’… Arrive at the intersection where you turn east to get into the Costco parking lot. That area, which houses low-rise office buildings (three or four stories): blighted. No wonder Costco plans to close that store when the lease runs out! The office building where my son’s pediatrician used to practice: taken over by some kind of low-end social service thing, billing itself as a “school” but clearly…ghetto.

Not until you get almost to the southern border of the ’Hood do you start to pass beyond clear and present blight, and even then the apartments on the west side of Conduit of Blight are…well…shall we say, “low-end.” They’re Section 8 housing, a vast tract of alarming seediness.

SDXB may have been right to have moved to Sun City when he did. Amazingly enough, that was 16 years ago(!!!). I moved further into the ’hood at the same time he moved out to Sun City, getting myself as far from the obnoxious light-rail project (which runs up CofB Blvd, carrying the blight with it along with the drug addicts) as it was possible to move and still be in the marginally affordable part of the neighborhood. If you call $350,000 houses affordable…

I guess they do, nowadays.

What. A. Mess!!!

Which brings us back to the now-perennial question: Much as I love my house and love my neighbors and like living in a centrally located district, how wise is it to stay here into my dotage? In just another five years or so, moving house will be so difficult for me (given my age) that it may be impossible. And if this area goes to blight…one would not want to have to live in anything like the sh!t I drove through to get up here from mid-town.

The ’Hood has much in common with the historic Encanto District, which gentrified in our generation and which has remained gentrified — our house, for which we paid $33,000, recently sold for a million bucks. It’s a VERY hot area, because it’s centrally located (how do I hate driving on the homicidal streets of Phoenix? Imagine having to make a 30-mile commute to work through that stuff every goddamn day of your life! And back home: 60 miles a day!!) and because local people think older construction is better built than the new stick-and-styrofoam ticky-tacky. Lots are larger — my lot is about a quarter of an acre — and structures are built of block. Not necessarily a good thing, but people imagine it is. Which is what matters, I guess. And they think these 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s houses are — ohhhh! — “mid-century modern!”

Home, sweet (former) home

Well, we thought those old 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s houses were quaint as could be, too…so it seems to me that what we have here in the ’Hood is exactly the same thing. Encanto was surrounded by blight. The fanciest section — Palmcroft — was bordered by slum on the West, and the rest of the district had tired, run-down tracts to the south and east, with commercial stuff to the north. Not bad commercial stuff, but still…

You couldn’t put your child in the public schools there, because middle-class kids by and large don’t know how to use a knife or a club. One of our neighbors tried it and found their son, at the end of first grade, unable to read at all — the teacher had been reading their little kiddie books aloud in class and sending the kids to “read” them to their parents as homework…and this kid had simply memorized the teacher’s performance! One day they realized he couldn’t read street signs and billboards, and so asked him to read some other kiddie book. That’s when they discovered he couldn’t parse out a word! 😀

Ah, Arizona.

Same is true here: you’d be batsh!t crazy to put your kid in the public school that serves this area. Now, however, the city has capitulated and allows people to send their kids to any public school they choose, and so that gives young parents the option to live in a centrally located area without having to earn a king’s ransom to put the kids in private school.

If the ’Hood stays Encantoized — that is, if the present wave of gentrification sticks — it should be safe enough to stay in my home up to the end. But if it doesn’t? Holy sh!t. Moving out of here 10, 15, or 20 years from now — even if it’s possible for me to do so at all — would be quite a challenge.

So I agonize: whether to stay here, where I like it, or whether to get out now while I still can. We’re pushing the point where “still can” will no longer be operative.

Well, speaking of agonizing, gotta get up and work on the yard. And so, away!