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And Hatcher Runs Through It



A Continuing Web Diary


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Tuesday November 25, 2003 - And Hatcher Runs Through It

We continue moving one load per day from storage. We have a camping trip scheduled with other family members for Thanksgiving weekend and our storage unit lease has been extended to expire on December 8. This has been a stressful segment of our lives -- living in both Memphis and Phoenix without a place that is our own, and moving our worldly belongings so many times. The back and forth of daily shopping and living out of storage has provided the only routine in our lives. Since returning to Phoenix this has meant running between North Cave Creek Road and 21st Avenue/Peoria, and Hatcher Avenue runs through it like a thread tying the loose ends of our lives together, until they are mended6.

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Monday November 24, 2003 - Misfire

According to Qwest and Cox, no phone or cable service is available on 11th Way; yet neighbors all around us have service. I question half a dozen different companies and leave messages at other organizations too small to have a receptionist. I flag down a cable guy who happens by, and he assures me that all he has to do is add us to the Cox database. Why? There's been cable service here before.

Late in the afternoon I'm explaining these problems to my soul mate and realize I've been providing the wrong street number; 11th Way would put it on the far side of the mountain to our west, on an incline of about 60o. Go figure. . .

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Sunday November 23, 2003 - The Last Move

We're moving into the house this weekend, and it feels good! A U-Haul truck is rented, and we clean out our apartment by the end of the day, Saturday. Extra trips from deep storage retrieve the larger household items, leaving but a dozen or so trips to be made with our own vehicles; these can be accomplished one load per day over the next couple of weeks.

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Monday November 17, 2003 - Disclosures

We closed on our house today. The title company has found that an Affidavit of Affixture was issued in 1998, rendering it a fixed residence and therefore FHA financeable. This development adds six to ten thousand dollars to its value.

Electricity and gas were also turned on today -- A 17-year old gas bill was discovered in our past dating from one of our previous lives, in the amount of $73.25. How this is possible, I do not know; but it has never come up through a previous house purchase and credit checks for four automobile purchases. We pay it. The Mogwai - August, 2003

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Tuesday November 15, 2003 - Scott Simon Essay On Blogs

NPR: All Things Considered - Plato once said, "The under-examined life is not worth living." Scott Simon concludes, "The over-examined life is not worth reading."

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Tuesday November 11, 2003 - One More Time

It's Shawnefu's turn in the limelight. Much as we would like to hole up and turn inward on ourselves after the last ten days, today is her birthday and we must attend a party in her honor. Despite our exhaustion, it is a fun party. Always in the best of humor, this cuddly little mogwai 5 dances for us in her Halloween outfit and fancy new birthday clothes. What a show out!

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Monday November 10, 2003 - Home At Last

Palomino Motel, Tucumcari NM - A Brighter Day

We get up at 7:15 am, pick up breakfast at McDonalds, and are on the road by 9:30. Panela is again making much noise about everyones' snoring -- carrying on about how we snorted and growled in a trio all night and how she got no sleep. After a dark, dreary, cold Sunday, Monday feels like we're back in the southwest -- bright, sunshine, much warmer and dryer. There is also much wind, as usual, across New Mexico.

Gas is back up to $1.59 in NM after low $1.30's in AR, OK, TX. There is much smoke to the south about 50 miles west of Tucumcari, blowing over low mountains and, barely, the interstate, but we never discover its source.

We breeze past the Bandera Volcano lava flows east of Grants, NM, and into Phoenix after dark. First delivering Panela and Shyre, we arrive home at our postage-stamp apartment around 8:00 pm.

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Sunday November 9, 2003 - Like Londontown

Things to take pictures of today or on some future trip:

Scattered pumping oil wells west of Henrietta.
Fall colors in eastern Oklahoma.
Antelope herds in eastern Texas and western Oklahoma.
Toad Suck Park sign in Conway, Arkansas.
The Leaning Watertower in Fog - November 9, 2003 (Click through for 2nd shot)

Up late the night before, we're on the road at about 12:30 pm. We spot a good-sized herd of deer shortly after getting underway, but run into extreme haze, which gets worse as the afternoon wears on. By 2:30 visibility is down to about a mile. A lot of cars are driving with their lights on, and the haze is looking like it may contain a lot of smoke. Could this be from the California fires? It gets increasingly worse as the afternoon wears on, and I eventually abandon most of my plans for photographs. Fog Near Alanreed - November 9, 2003

4:30 pm -- Dense fog a few miles east of Alanreed, TX. It mists up the windshield until we have to use the wipers to see the short distances beyond, and collects on the hood of the vehicle in big drops which, once they reach critical mass, roll up the hood and disappear via the wiper well into the engine compartment. It has lightened up some by the time we reach Groom and the leaning water tower, varying between a couple hundred feet and a quarter mile.

The fog finally lifts about 20 miles east of Amarillo, TX.

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Saturday November 8, 2003 - Carrying On

We sleep late and host many more visitors. Junior has managed to replace his alternator before we get up. He and I go out to Dixie Queen for breakfast sandwiches. He orders a chicken sandwich off their menu and I order four of their egg and bacon sandwiches to bring back to various individuals. They don't serve those here, the attendant tells us; just at other locations. I tell her we'll go to one of the other locations. She says they stop serving them at 10:30 am, so I give up on it and order 4 hamburgers instead. Then she asks me to repeat the order. I do. She says they don't have chicken sandwiches, either, so we change it to a fifth hamburger. We should have gone to the Dixie Queen on Park Avenue. Not one of us got what we wanted to eat; what the hell is it with us and restaurants?

We proceed with our packing between visitors and breakfast, and finally manage to leave for our return to Phoenix at 5:00 pm, arriving for the night at Henrietta, OK around 11:40 pm. We stay at the Le Baron Motel for the 3rd time, spiders be damned!

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Friday November 7, 2003 - At Peace

To a southwesterner, it is a beautiful day in Memphis -- chilly and drizzling much of the day. The funeral is very well orchestrated and just the right tone. My soul mate is pleased, and everyone else seems to appreciate the way it turns out as well. Per Dink's insistence we are picked up by two limousines and delivered to the church, then to the cemetery where we wait until the grave is closed before being returned to the house, about mid-afternoon.

We rest up a bit, change clothes, and then drive over to Germantown and Dink's house. We arrive to the beginning of a funeral celebration like I have never experienced before. Albert's alternator goes out, causing him to be delayed by an hour or two; but that doesn't dampen his spirits. Three times as many people show up for the party as attended the funeral, each bringing enough liquor for three or four people. There is food, music, booze, food, dancing, booze, food, conversation, booze, and a lively card game of Spades which seems to be a variation of Pitch. There are three Shawnefu-aged little girls in attendance, all of whom become fast friends. All in all, three or four generations take part, and they all fell to playing the game of catch-as-catch-can, till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots4.

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Thursday November 6, 2003 - No Rest For The Wicked

There is no rest for the wicked, and we are apparently among the wickedest, for we awaken to the sound of visitors in the living room. Fortunately, someone was up. Visitors continue coming most of the day.

When the visitations finally subside, we head out for supper at a nearby IHOP. Somehow, the wrong food is ordered, and wronger food cooked and delivered. Some plates are not delivered until half an hour after others. I have to start over to keep from getting mayonnaise on my hamburger, and it takes close to an hour. The young inexperienced waitress is trying very hard and we feel sorry for her. We conclude that this IHOP was a Denny's until this morning, a notion that the maitre d’ doesn't refute when we bring up the idea.

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Wednesday November 5, 2003 - Obituary (The Commercial Appeal)

Myrtle Mae Williams

Myrtle Mae Williams - April 24, 1925 to October 30, 2003

Myrtle Williams, 78, of Memphis, retired postal clerk, died Thursday at her home. R. S. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home has charge. She was a longstanding member of St. Andrews AME Church, and the first African-American secretary to the mayor. She leaves a daughter, Yvette of Phoenix; two sons, Albert and Fred III; and a friend who cared for her, La'Shundra, all of Memphis; nine grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

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Wednesday November 5, 2003 - A Sign Of Better Times To Come

My soul mate calls the graveyard and church to set the time of the funeral on Friday (12:00 pm) and the wake on Thursday (6:00 - 8:00 pm). Then she goes out and brings me back two breakfast sandwiches from Dixie Queen while I do the dishes. We go by the church to make final arrangements, and then order flowers at a flower shop up on Union Avenue. We come home as exhausted as we did yesterday even though the whole thing takes little over an hour.

Lynncare comes by and picks up the oxygen equipment. I call Tyco, the burglar alarm company and terminate the service.

My soul mate tries to get a doctor appointment to get her prescriptions renewed, but the doctor is busy until Tuesday, too late.

More stuff to do:

Call Mortuary
Call Friends
Cancel Commercial Appeal subscription
Give Mom's prescriptions to some overseas charity organization

We never get most of these things done, but we do get the house picked up a great deal. Junior and Friden arrive for the afternoon. Another lady, a church friend of La'Sunder's stops by for a visit. Like everybody else that stops, she appears to be on an emotional high. It’s the ethnic way in the south -- Mom has gone on to a better place, and a celebration is in order. She says they're going to party on Friday night after the funeral, and will be cooking and having a few drinks. She seems to mean business about it.

More discussions with everybody about what steps need to be done to accomplish switchover of house and utilities to Junior with adequate protection of the others. In the end, protection is thrown to the wind in favor of his assuming most of the utility bills.

Things are slowing down now. Later Friden regales us with stories of his experiences on the highways of the South and in police work. It helps us laugh again for the first time in a few days. It is what we needed. Shyre connects with him to a particular extent. She is really enjoying finding out stuff about the family that is from outside the "approved" track.

End of day:  We go out for Pizza and beer about 5:30 pm at Exline’s. It is more of what we needed; our senses of humor actually return. It does the right kind of job on us. After we return home Shyre spends an hour on the back porch staring into the darkness. A meteor courses the sky directly in front of her and turns to bright green before disappearing from view. She takes it as a sign. She feels better and comes back inside in an up mood. Things may finally be getting better.

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Tuesday November 4, 2003 - Picking Up the Pieces

We went to the graveyard and funeral home today. Each took a lot of time, especially the funeral home. The wrong funeral home was initially called to pick up Mom's body, and as a result, the prepaid burial arrangement only covered $589 instead of the whole amount. Funerals are way more expensive than you can reason they'll be. We're fortunate to have found an adequate death benefit attached to her pension plan; most people aren't.

We spend a lot of time going through paperwork at the house, but nothing new comes of it. We can't seem to shake the feeling that we're sticking our noses into someone else's private affairs, and that makes us somewhat more reluctant in our endeavors. We also spend a lot of time looking at old pictures.

We discuss turning the house over to Junior, my soul mate's youngest brother. Everyone wants to do that, so it's a no-brainer.

While others are making more important decisions, I call Lynncare and ask them to pick up the special medical equipment Mom has been using.

It's a shame how tragedy is sometimes the only thing that brings people together. Family members are enjoying each other's companionship, hanging around way too late until they're hungry and exhausted. Hunger or not, it seems nobody in this family eats except us. After they leave we recuperate for a short time in front of the TV and give it up at midnight.

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Monday November 3, 2003 - Take Me, Lord!

We're supposedly up at 7:00 am and on the way by 8:15 (Did somebody cheat here?).

My soul mate is driving again today; a bright, warm day. Treeless plains, no more. They disappeared sometime after dark last night. This morning we have slight hilliness interspersed with flat land, but it is at least 50% covered by trees. The rest is grassland, tall and thick. Gorgeous country. Pastures and farmed areas are separated by stands of trees. There is a lot of water, but it's still fairly dry and controllable compared with Tennessee. Autumn colors everywhere.

We notice gas in Oklahoma is consistently in the $1.30's. This morning we saw regular unleaded at $1.329/gal.

I write a couple of checks and update my checkbook with the gas and motel debits that have accumulated.

Rest stop mid-morning. One of those places with automatic flushing. I never thought of it until now, but what do you do when it needs a second flush? I tried everything, including sitting back down on it for a few moments, but nada. 'Nuff said.

12:40 pm -- We pass into Arkansas. Two motorcyclists shoot onto the interstate from the right. They remain just ahead of us for several miles. One of them is acting up, repeatedly taking it up on the rear wheel and holding it there with the front wheel high off the road.

Rest and gas stop mid-afternoon at Ed's really fancy Truck Stop in Sallisaw, AR. When you reach for a towel in the restroom, the dispenser automatically feeds out a new sheet before you get a chance to actually touch it. Now I've seen everything! Take me, Lord; there's nothing left!

We arrive Memphis at about 6:00 pm. Dink is at the house sitting alone. He hasn't been awaiting our arrival, just sitting and communing about the loss of his mother. We understand he's been doing a lot of this lately. We all visit way too late and get to bed late.

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Sunday November 2, 2003 - The Truth Shall Set Her Free

We make do for the night in a single room with two queen beds. Panela normally doesn't sleep much during the night, according to her. We went to bed with the TV on. No wonder! But eventually even I went to sleep anyway. This morning she says it was the other three adults keeping her awake -- her mother, Shyre and I all snoring. So if she normally doesn't sleep much, what's the problem?

The Plains of Texas - November, 2003

We get out of Albuquerque fairly late, around 12:00 to 1:00 pm. The weather is excellent all day, but surprisingly chilly outside. It's a bit windy in Texas, as usual, but we are rewarded by sighting several large herds of antelope along the way. There are no rest areas on this segment of I-40 -- only picnic areas. Someone ought to toilet train Texans so they'd use toilets like everybody else.

Shawnefu slept much of the day again. So did Panela and Shyre.

We finally reach Oklahoma and Central Standard Time, arriving in Oklahoma City around 9:30 pm, 8:30 Phoenix time. We pick up chicken for supper and a bottle of milk for Shawnefu.

The notation on the half-pint milk bottle says, "Sell by Nov 12, 2003." I just don't get it. It would appear that as long as the merchant doesn't get stuck with outdated food it doesn't make any difference how spoiled it gets before the unsuspecting consumer drinks it. Howcum it doesn't say, "Use by Nov 12, 2003", which would make a lot more sense?

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Saturday November 1, 2003 - A Gorgeous Little Brown Doll

It's another cloudy day; smoggier yet due to the California fires.

We leave for Memphis and Mom's funeral at 1:00 pm, cramming Shyre and Panela (names / innocent) into the vehicle with us. My soul mate is driving.

Shawnefu is with us. She's a very happy almost-three year old. This gorgeous little brown doll sleeps much of the first day, and when she's awake she makes up her own games which are mostly cerebral and always include smiles and her own version of kidding. She's been imitating her mother's gestures since before she could sit up by herself, and now it is one of her kinds of humor.

Rest stops at Sunset Point, Flagstaff, and about ten miles out of Winslow. It gets dark about 5:30 pm. We have rain, sprinkling and mist off and on all the way to Gallup, NM.

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Friday October 31, 2003 - Lyin' and Carryin' On

Smoke from California fires is polluting Phoenix air for the fourth day; worse than ever.

My soul mate remembers something mom told her before we left Memphis. She doesn't want a church funeral; "just have it at the mortuary," she said; "I don't want to have all that lyin' and carryin’ on. . ."

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Thursday October 30, 2003 - The Anvil Drops

10:00 pm -- My soul mate receives a telephone call from Memphis: La’Sunder, Dink, Friden, and Junior (names have been changed to protect the innocent). Mom has passed away of a stroke. She has been in poor health, but it isn't what we expected at all.

My soul mate's brothers have already tried making the arrangements, but are stymied by all of the paperwork being in her name. Nothing can be done without her presence, and this is particularly frustrating to family members in Memphis.

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Wednesday October 29, 2003 - The Omen

My soul mate returns from work, indicating that she has been upset all day and doesn't know why. This isn't at all like her. Characteristically, she has no down moments.

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Tuesday October 14, 2003 - Welcome Back To Phoenix

I leave the house for an interview in a freshly cleaned suit, drive to the interview, park and walk into the building. I look down, and there is so much dust on my pant legs and shoes that I can't tell what color they are.

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Monday September 18, 2003 - Back to Earth

That we continue putting out more money each month than we're taking in is keeping the pressure on us to find something suitable as expediently as possible. We've spent a lot of time recently looking at houses in town that are priced below $70,000. For this amount we've discovered that we can trade quality for space -- resulting in a fixer-upper of very poor quality located in a bad rental area, or we can trade space for quality -- resulting in a very old, very small house. The largest of this latter group that we have seen is a 750 square foot two-bedroom, one bathroom house built in the thirties or forties, that is in the inner city. While we enjoyed the inner city in Memphis, we have no such leanings concerning Phoenix.

My intuitive soul mate comes up with an unlikely-looking advertisement that she says we should investigate:

Cave Creek / Sweetwater lease purchase, $65,000; $550/mo, City view.

We call, expressing low interest upon finding out that it is a trailer. But what's that? 1,100+ square feet? Well, it wouldn't hurt us to look at it; we always said that we'd do whatever we had to do in order to be free of house payments.

This property is on a street lined with trailers or houses that grew from trailers. Most have been greatly expanded and continue to be kept up, fed by retirees or working individuals who simply want no fancier house. The property is nestled on the gentle slope of a mountain between a number other close mountains. Houses all around, particularly on the slope above, are larger and reflect the investment of large amounts of money. The neighborhood has a few kids, all of which look healthy and happy. As a whole, yards are quite clean; and some reflect a hobby of gardening.

The original trailer is barely recognizable in this house, which features full wooden siding and a new full-shingled roof. And it has three bedrooms, 2.2 bathrooms, a large living room, a dining room, a separate room for washer and dryer, and two outbuildings. In addition, the electrical and water systems have recently been replaced with copper wire and pipes, and it has slab a mounted central refrigeration/heat pump. Even doors, sinks, and cabinetry are modern and spritely decorative. We dicker the price down $1000, and buy it. Finally, our goal is within reach.

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Thursday September 18, 2003 - Looking for Property

We've spent a number of days reviewing available property, should we be able to buy rural land and build a small house on it. Some of the more interesting deals:

Red Sky Ranch, St. Johns60 Acres / $24,900
Red Sky Ranch, St. Johns, Cabin40 Acres / $44,900
Carrizo Ranch, St. Johns40 Acres /   $9,800 & Up
Northeast Arizona, Ranch, water40 Acres /   $7,800
Snowflake, Nicely Wooded40 Acres / $19,800
Show Lo, White Mountains   5 Acres / $10,000
Northern AZ, Trees, Access36 Acres / $23,763
Williams, borders state land36 Acres / $24,900
Wagon Bow Ranch, Northwest AZ        40 Acres / $27,800

There is some nice property available in Arizona for low dollar amounts, but the commutes would be entirely prohibitive. Such a decision will have to be put off until we're both done working.

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Thursday September 3, 2003 @ 3:35 pm - The Ugly American

I went by Best Buy today to pick up a computer cable. A dark, roughly ten year-old Mercedes backed into me in the parking lot and then refused to give his name and/or insurance information. I pointed out the cracked paint on the plastic bumper housing of my Del Sol.

"I don't see any damage," he said flatly.

He appeared to be in his sixties. His Arizona license number: 109-LAD.

Two Best Buy employees who saw it happen volunteered themselves as witnesses and I took down their information; but the paint was only cracked, and I do not plan on attempting to do anything about it.

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Saturday August 30, 2003 - Catching Up

We visited some of our grandchildren today and took presents to the kids in lieu of the birthdays we missed this summer. Their mother was under the weather; I hope she feels better soon.

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Wednesday August 27, 2003 - Finally Routine, Almost. . .

The phone installer came this morning. He stayed just long enough to reschedule for Thursday morning. How nice of him to come by. . .

I visited my mom in the afternoon; it was a good visit and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. I picked up ice on way home3, and we resolved to solve the problem permanently by moving our own refrigerator from storage.

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Tuesday August 26, 2003 - That's Why The Utilities Are Paid

The maintenance man is quite competent, but is endowed with an over-supply of testosterone. He's highly impressed with his responsibility for a 600-apartment complex, which he explains allows little time for the puny repairs we have requested. His first response concerning the shower leak is, "That's why the utilities are paid." But in the end he fixes everything the landlord has agreed to and more while still managing to treat his assistant like a doormat. When he leaves, our postage-stamp apartment is beginning to work better, and it takes us an hour to get the arrogance out of the air.

On this second night in our apartment the TV is as worthwhile as it was last night. There is a cell phone-throwing contest. It's really exciting, and the prize is a new cell phone. What's the point?

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Sunday August 24, 2003 - It's a Pretty Apartment, But. . .

The kitchen cabinets are hung with the bottom shelf at eye level so that a six-foot person requires a stool to reach the second shelf. The kitchen cabinet doors interfere with the ceiling fan. There is a gap in the refrigerator door gasket; but this doesn't matter because the under-whelming device is not powerful enough to make ice anyway.

The bedroom door won't close or open completely and blocks access to one side of the bed. The closet clothes bar is hung so that hangers protrude from the closet and obstruct door closing.

The brand-new shower valve leaks cold water continuously, while hot water will not pass through it at all. The bathroom floor stays wet from the dripping shower, which is loud enough to hear from anywhere in the apartment. The lavatory is brand-new but is missing the mechanical stopper mechanism. Towel racks and TP holder are nonexistent, the interrupter is wired through the light switch, and the lavatory space is so tight that you actually have to take a step backward before turning around.

The washing machine in the freestanding laundry shed is wired to the microwave and toaster outlet circuit in the kitchen, so that the fifteen-amp breaker blows every time you use any two of the three appliances.

The front door hits an air duct and won't open completely. It features double deadbolt locks and a security door, while the rear has a single cheap lock in an all glass door, which can be opened with a table knife.

One short wall on the rear side of the living room is twisted about 20 degrees from parallel to the others.

The parking slab is six inches above ground level, with no ramp.

All in all, the apartment is small enough that you have to step outside the front door in order to change your mind2.

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Saturday August 23, 2003 - Day of the Deep Sockets

Deep Sockets - August 23, 2003

Moving in is exhausting, and our moods are black. We spend the day driving between deep storage and our postage-stamp apartment, and by the end of the day are pretty much poised to begin life in Phoenix.

The house is a pretty stucco Mexican motif with ceramic floor tile and fancy front door moldings. It has a ceiling fan in every room, refrigeration, and a generally smart look. The countertops feature ceramic tile in the kitchen and bathroom, there is a brand-new kitchen sink, and there are new smoke alarms in every room.

Late in the day we learn we share the laundry facility. Aweshit! The lady next door brings out her wash and leaves it in both washer and dryer for 14 hours, then pulls lint from the lint trap and dumps it on the floor of the laundry room. Aw, well; that's not half as weird as their habit of using no lights during nighttime hours.

Late in the evening we auto-program the TV for the first time. Yup, it's Phoenix alright. The first thing on the screen is an advertisement featuring Beavis and Butthead.

Deep sockets? It's how our eyes felt after another day of moving, and the fact that we found three of them on the street at different intersections during the move.

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Friday August 22, 2003 - Getting On With It

My soul mate makes me a wonderful breakfast, a low fat egg sandwich, for the second day in a row of home cooked breakfast. What a treat after several weeks of power outage and cross-country travel! Over breakfast we decide we need to move fast on the freestanding postage-stamp apartment we saw the first day. We contact the landlord, put down our deposit and first month's rent, which will run from the 23rd to the 23rd, and pick up a key.

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Wednesday August 20, 2003 - Apartment Hunting

We're so sore it's hard to get around this morning. Today we start looking for a place to live for a few months until we can find a house to buy. We make a lot of calls and go see a number of the more promising places.

Our first drive-by is a corner house converted to a triplex. The front yard is completely unkempt and there is no sign of life in any of the units. We follow the address around back to find a tiny apartment off a private solid concrete triangular patio. The thermometer hanging askew on one wall says 143 in the shade. We think it may not be registering all of the heat. Two dirty double glass doors provide the entryway to a tiny apartment strewn with the leftovers of havoc and all manner of garbage. The place could be cute in another lifetime, but it would be back breaking work to make a kennel out of it. As we return to the car a neighbor stares at us from his up-scale yard next door, apparently trying to determine whether we're there to rip him off or to further degrade the value of his real estate. I explain that we just wanted to confirm our reasons for passing on this one. He offers us a tip that there is a very nice place around the corner and across the street. Recovering from our misfire, we realize that he has directed us to the one we had originally been seeking when we arrived.

Jay:  This unit is a freestanding one-bedroom house. It looks completely new inside, but is very small. It would be motel living of a sort, but it has refrigeration. The grounds are kept up and quite spiffy looking. He wants $675.00 for it, no lease, complete with appliances and utilities. The first thing we notice when we're let in is that it's cute and clean inside. The second thing we notice is that the ceiling fan in the kitchen is mounted so that two different cabinet doors hit the blades when opened, overlapping by over six inches. He says he never noticed that before, but he'll be happy to install a garbage disposal in the sink -- he has a couple of extra.

Moving on, we check out an apartment on 13th Place and Campbell. It's a two strip complex with dirt grounds enclosed within a security wall, crawling with scrawny stark faced, hollow-cheeked children. We peer through the dirty window into a living room covered by a large brown stain that looks like it might have once been a carpet. I get a macabre vision of the last people who lived there, their feet dissolving in the mass of bacteria on the floor until they are barely able to extricate themselves, waddling on oozing stubs. Parking is just off the street with no protection from predators and no visibility from the apartments. We feel sorry for the kids and parents who have to live there, but we don't.

Next, we make an appointment and check out a small two-bedroom house off Indian School Road and 11th Avenue. We beat the realtor to the house and wait about ten minutes. Just as he drives up, our cell phone rings. It's a response to another rental we called about, and I take down the information. While I'm writing it down the realtor is pacing up and down. He seems to be huffing and puffing harder by the minute. Although the whole delay is less than two minutes I become afraid that the gentleman is going to burst a capillary if I don't get off the phone.

Free of the call, I apologize for the two-minute delay. He says it's no problem, but clearly he isn't buying it; he's too important a businessman to tolerate such conduct. We proceed with the house inspection. It's a tiny two bedroom built in the forties. It looks usable despite a general run-down appearance. I can hear it crying out for a little paint and other general TLC; but otherwise have to somewhat grudgingly admit it appears basically sound -- nothing caving in, and no apparent leaks. I do get the general feeling, though, that the carpet may ooze up and bite me on the ankle. Among the sparse kitchen amenities is a refrigerator. It looks serviceable on the outside, but when I open it a heavy burst of pungent fermentation hits the nostrils. The interior features a thriving mix of colorful molds, perhaps abundant enough to harvest. I remark that it smells as if someone is distilling booze in the refrigerator, and our host responds with a disinterested, "Yeah, whatever." As if that resolves him of slumlord responsibility. We thank him and depart. We're not buying it either.

We call about another house. It's a two bedroom, 1 bath, with wooden floors, a freestanding shop, a den, trees, and is fenced. Pets are OK. $630.00. The first thing he asks is how soon we want to occupy. I tell him immediately. He says OK, because he's had a couple of people waste 15 minutes of his time asking a bunch of questions and then ask him to hold it until the end of October. He says yes, he'll rent it with a reduced lease, but no less than 8 months, because the deciduous trees loose their leaves in the wintertime and late April is the earliest that he could show it with leaves on the trees. So he always leases it May 1 thru April 30, a year. He offers no explanation why he's trying to rent it in August.

I ask if we can come and see it. He says he won't be back in the area to show it for a couple of days, and will give us a credit application when we come see it to see if we can qualify. I explain we'd like to drive by and look at it from the outside before that and would like to know what part of town it's in if he would give us the address. He says he won't do that, because if the neighbor kids see us looking in the windows then they'll think it's OK for them to look in the windows, too. Something's wrong; he obviously isn't really wanting to rent the place, like maybe he can tell over the phone that we have a mixed-race marriage. We tell him that our six-month lease offer is firm, thank him for his interest, and hang up.

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Tuesday August 19, 2003 - The Perfect Storm

We wake up late again, to a gentle morning thunderstorm. Thunder echoing off South Mountain, or something. Every thunderclap has a blowpipe component to the end of it.


It's very weird, but quite musical and very gentle sounding. I wake up convinced I've heard the sound somewhere in my distant past, maybe once or twice in my life, but this was every thunderclap.

I call Penske about gasoline options. He says they charge $4.00 a gallon, which could be a bargain this week because one customer told him he paid $5.00 a gallon yesterday. He says he spent 2 hours looking for gas himself. Great.

Lynn goes with us this morning to help unload. It's a much cooler day, maximum 95o according to the radio. We finish unloading by 3:25 pm then eat lunch at Del Taco again. Yep, it's like Taco Bell, only Mexican food.

We manage to gas up the truck at $2.069 at Safeway's 24 hour discount station at 16th Street and Southern. We consider ourselves lucky; it seems to be the lowest possible price that guarantees a continuous supply. What suckers those people were, paying $3.999!

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Monday August 18, 2003 - Other Woes

We sleep late in Yapper's spare bedroom and get up to deja vu all over again, getting to the unloading of the truck into storage from 2:00 to 8:30 pm. It's horribly hot; we work fifteen minutes and rest for ten, perspiring like stuck hogs. We manage to get the truck unloaded to the halfway point and leave exhausted, picking up a late supper at Del Taco.

We can't pull the 25-foot Penske truck through the narrow vehicle order lane, so we park and get out to go inside. The door is locked. Ok, we walk around the building and follow a car through the vehicle lane. The attendant refuses to take our order because we're on foot. He thinks we're kooks or something, but why that would make our money no good, we can't imagine. Gimmie a break! We patiently explain our predicament to him -- three times. Del Taco provides more authentic Mexican taste than Taco Bell and as such is run by more authentic Mexican nationals who no habla Engles so well. Eventually, he tells us to walk around to the front and he will let us inside to order. Why don't we believe him? With no other choice we do this, but the door remains locked and we eventually turn away in disgust.

As we're crossing the parking lot, however, he calls to us from the door. Turns out he means well, and ultimately we are stuffing our stomachs from the security of the truck cab. Ahhhh, now sleep.

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Sunday August 17, 2003 - Welcome to Phoenix

Phoenix, Arizona - August, 2003

Tooling into town off the interstate, we got a rude awakening last night on the way to Yapper's house. Gas stations with marquee prices of $3.599 to $3.999 per gallon. And cars lined up at these in long, long lines1 as if it was going to be their last gallon. What the hell??? After prices in the low $1.30's along I-40 across Arkansas and Oklahoma? Even Flagstaff and the reservation had lower prices at $1.699. After going our last two weeks in Memphis without electricity, we have to come all the way to Phoenix for this?

We found a few stations with prices as low as $1.879 to $2.299, the lowest regular seen in town, but they were all out. Yapper told us there was a pipeline broken between Tucson and Phoenix requiring gas to be hauled into the Phoenix area by truck. The news media reports it had always leaked a little, but now it had to be shut down. We get a mental image of leaks squirting out of it like a watering can.

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L. Fox



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1Drivers waiting up to half an hour with engines and refrigeration running, just like during the gas crunch in the 70's. Go figure. . .

2. . .and in time we come to realize that the very cute Mexican tile on the kitchen cabinet surfaces is installed so as to guarantee that anything put down within five inches of the edge will slowly slip off and drop on the floor.

3UglyAmerican: 08/27/2003.

4The Great Panjandrum.  Thank you, Samuel Foote!

5Yeah, but just wait ten years until she turns into a gremlin. . .

6Paraphrased from the movie monolog, A River Runs Through It.



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