Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

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.

Author: funny

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2 Comments

  1. I find myself in the same exact predicament as you and it is ruining my life at the moment. Like you, I bought a run down house in an architecturally significant neighborhood (older houses) and I absolutely love this place. It’s just the best house. However, the city in its ‘wisdom’ has built a new homeless shelter as part of a pilot program to integrate people with substance abuse/mental illness into the surrounding neighborhoods. So far, I’ve had drug addicts riffling through our trash bins and trying to siphon gas out of my truck. Everyone is waiting for the burglaries to start. I had planned to stay here until The End but I can always tell when a neighborhood is going south and, like you, have been chased from a variety of former homes because of anti social developments in the neighborhoods. I have lived in this house the longest of all and it’s perfect. However, Prop 47 has certainly done us no favors and California is looking less and less inviting. Now looking to leave the State, just trying to figure out the why/when/how/where and …. is this situation going to happen YET AGAIN ELSEWHERE? Perhaps the best solution is to rent for a while and bank the house sale money but there comes a time in life when ya just don’t want to do that anymore. The hubs has a serious health condition and I have an auto immune condition so, yeah, a bit of depression going on over here.

    • Argh! Soo…the question is this: is EVERY city in America going this way?

      The only areas I can see in Phoenix that aren’t doing this kind of thing — inflicting the destitute and the drug-addicted on the middle class — are in affluent districts that are way outside my price range. Complicating matters: as you implicitly point out, as we get older we DO need to be within striking distance of decent medical care. This lets out rural towns, pretty much.

      If you’re in California, you might want to consider Arizona. Or Idaho — some of my friends have moved to Boise. In Arizona, there’s a large town/small city called Prescott. It’s up on the Rim, so the summers are tolerable with a minimum amount of air conditioning — you actually could get away with a few window units. It snows a little in the winter, but not much. And it’s a lovely, surprisingly sophisticated town. It has a major regional health center that consistently shows up among the top-rated hospitals in Arizona. Real estate prices here are low compared to California’s, so you probably could afford a house that would please you.

      Also in Arizona: in the Phoenix area there are the Sun Cities. If you buy in one of the first tracts that Del Webb built out, you can get grandfathered into an area where no school tax is charged, so the property taxes are very low. Insurance is also very low. These tracts, which originally were out in the boondocks, are now surrounded by new suburbs, meaning all the shopping your little heart can desire is nearby — including Costco, a mall with upscale stores on the order of Brighton, and lots of typical California chain stores.

      In the Tucson area, there’s a district called the Oro Valley, over on the east side of town. It’s nestled up against the mountains, so is nice and scenic. Developments include retirement as well as regular tracts. The UofA medical center consistently ranks among the top three hospitals in the state, so presumably you’ll come across a decent doctor in those precincts, too. Tucson has a vibrant cultural life, thanks to the University of Arizona.

      Honestly, I can’t imagine how we as ordinary middle-class Americans can avoid the drug-fueled blight that has spread across our cities. Moving away from it is easier said than done… Maybe buy 100 acres in the middle of nowhere and put your off-the-grid Tiny House smack in the center of it?