Thursday, February 19, 2009

Notes from the 'hood.

Just three blocks from Dada's, the underside of a freeway overpass with its
graciously sixteen
columned contemporary architecture beckons all with its plea:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
(Probably a reference to the stop lights just outside its entrance. ~Dada)

My mother-in-law dropped by the Dada's yesterday afternoon. As usual, we had a pleasant visit. But more and more the pleasant visits are of unpleasant things. Like yesterday's.

M-I-L had just come from the grocery store. She remarked on the increasing prices. I responded how more and more I notice each time there, some item's shelf space is empty. Completely out of stock. Like eggs. And I wonder if people are just making more omelets.

And then I brought up a story I'd heard earlier in the day of a person who went to pick up her prescription only to learn the drugstore had none.

"And it won't help to go to the other drugstore," the pharmacist warned, "because they're out too!"

"Imagine, some drugs are a matter of life and death for some people. What if this is a trend that worsens?" Mrs. Dada pondered. "Yeah," was all I could think to respond.

I then brought up another story I'd heard of an out-of-work woman who'd lost her home and was living out of her car. That is, until a police officer spotted her expired plates of several months. She had no insurance either. She watched, pleading, crying, as her car was towed away, leaving her with a few plastic bags containing her sole possessions at her feet in the middle of a strip mall parking lot.

It was then mother-in-law told of her housekeeper's husband and several other co-workers who got the axe at work. His job of 15 years was cut after a new office manager was hired to make budget cuts. Then my M-I-L related the story of a very distraught neighbor who will be moving soon. Her house is in foreclosure. She doesn't know where she will be living.

At this point, I thought it might be nice to escape the conversation for a few minutes. I volunteered to run M-I-L's car up to the corner 7-11's Fina pumps and fill her gas tank. At 84, she doesn't pump anymore. As I drew the $1.95 a gallon gas, my glance over at the fellow next to me doing the same collided with his for the third time, so I decided to say, "Beautiful car you have there!" It was a Bright Red, 2009 Nissan Z® Coupe 370Z™ roadster.

"Thanks," but I get a little tired of making the payments," he said. When I got home, I checked the price tag on his car: between 30 and 38 thousand dollars depending on the model (and excluding tax, title and license). I wondered if he'd be able to hang on to it in the months ahead.

Photo from September, 2007 of raw land next to the 7-11 and freeway overpass. The yellow
sign announcing a "shopping center coming soon" has since kept its promise. The vacant lot
has been replaced by a vacant strip mall. Its only tenants: a liquor store, a Cricket cellular
phone storefront, and a Chinese restaurant promising for the past 6-7 months that it will be
"Opening Soon." (Note: Dada's yearnings for pork fried rice and chicken chow mein have long
long since passed.)

I decided to stop at the liquor store in the new vacant strip mall. As one of only two tenants there, its owner must feel a little lonely at times, so Dada makes it a point to stop by regularly to shore up his spirits. Having discovered it as a source of a good India Pale Ale (by Widmer's), I'm doing my part to keep the guy in business, but I can't do it alone!

This day the store held a surprise. That's because when I opened the door to enter I ran into another door, a heavy metal security screen door that hadn't been there before. I used the door that almost bloodied my nose as a source of conversation. And I was surprised to learn what the owner told me. Having had one booze run toward the end of '08, seems January '09 saw several runs on the store. And not just for beer. I wondered if the 7-11 just next door has seen a decrease in beer runs, because Sun Valley Liquors offers heavier more condensed stuff, making it easier to steal more.

I also wondered if maybe the increased hits in January weren't just folks keeping their New Year's resolutions to drink more free liquor. The owner said he'd wanted to install a door that he could lock from the inside by pushing a button under the counter, but was told by the fire department those doors are against code. When I got home, I railed to Mrs. Dada, "Why can't you lock yourself in your own liquor store if you want to?" Mrs. Dada responded, "....Lock yourself in with guys stealing from you?" She had a good point.

I also wondered that these guys, who only want booze now, might want money by the summer, as the owner told me of the Stop N Go a mile down the road: Open 24 hours per day, they've started locking their doors at 10:00 each night so you must "knock" if you need bread, cokes or smokes because of all the beer runs they've been experiencing. But that's probably because of their prime "location, location, location," i.e., they're at the intersection of two major highways -- aka escape routes.

Oh well, things could be worse. This could be Juarez. Juarez where Tuesday's drug war victims numbered 10, including the Juarez police director and three of his fellow officers who were gunned down in broad daylight, a body that was found smoldering in the central part of the city and, for the second time in two days, the bodies (or was it heads? ~ Dada forgets) of two decapitated men discovered in a city park, making wise the advice that before you take your kids to the park to play you should know a lot of "heads" hang out there.



xandtrek said...

Pretty depressing. After a depressing day in class where I can't get my students to care about anything -- they just can not see how anything relates to them. I don't think they'll get it until they are living in a box. I'm only teaching them about civil rights, and they are bored to tears, and it's not related to that highly-paid job they think they'll get soon. They'll just keep getting those government loans so they can get a substandard education so they can be treated like crap because they don't know anything and don't care. OK I'm ranting now -- this is why I can't blog -- I just get frustrated and angry. Can I go to bed and dream of better things now?

enigma4ever said...

hard times...we all more pale ale...sigh...we are all poor and huddled now....


Dada said...

xandtrek: Oooh, sounds like an interesting mob (I mean group, oops) of students this semester. (Sounds like you could really use a [spring] break!)

Well, as the nation falls into disrepair, despair, chaos and total anarchy, maybe those students will become useful citizens (after their cell phone and iPod batteries run down, that is), if -- IF -- we can get them to accept the real collapse of the Empire as a kind of simulation of a video game??!! Just a thought.

Dada said...

enigma: Thanks for reminding me of the desperate need I have for a book on native desert psychotropic fauna for when there is no longer IPA's available.

And maybe that will make huddling with the "wretched refuse, homeless, tempest-tossed" victims of the Empire's demise (to include myself, of course) almost an interesting -- if not totally pleasant -- experience?

xandtrek said...

Let's just feed our kids Soma and send them off to made-up wars.

Fran said...

Wow! I read a trio of stories here locally- one construction worker lost his job, he got $460 a week in unemployment benefits.
He was called for a job- 2 weeks of work- which is the total amount of work he had for all of 2008- but those 2 weeks reconfigured his 6 month average, so his new weekly benefit amount was now $200 a week for the rest of the year.

He and another person with a different story had to go on food stamps for the first time in their lives.

Predatory lenders got elders to sign off on ARM mortgages emphasizing the low rate for NOW & not really talking about the sky high rate later. Soon as it adjusts, people on fixed incomes are SOL because they have no payment flexibility.
I wish the new mortgage bailout would ban both ARM & variable rate home loans.
Take them off the table - with the strict ratio of income to amount allowed for housing mortgage costs, that will effectively pull the plug on the predatory lenders who would have people living under bridges in order to make their commission.
Bottom line in the world of finance-- if it sounds too good to be true, chances are it really is.

Cages to keep us in & or bad guys out... probably a wave of the future.

The bush bankruptcy is a legend we will live with for decades. Ugh!

D.K. Raed said...

Great observations, Dada.

Here is what I noticed was missing from our local grocery shelves: SPAM!!! Not that I was looking to buy any, but I couldn't help but notice the big empty space where it normally is. Things are pretty rough when people resort to eating SPAM. yuck.

As for locking those doors, I always locked the front doors of our biz. A few customers complained that they had to ring the bell, but after I pointed out to them that we were not open to the public, they were happy to be included in the select group that was allowed inside. I locked them because 1) we had too many things disappear from the front office when hucksters were allowed free access, and 2) our dogs were part of our office staff on most days & they were very protective of the territory. But I do think code requires a biz open to the public to keep their doors unlocked. If you could ensure your liquor store that your purchases could make it worth his while, he might consider going "private" ...

ps, how nice that you gas up the MiL's car for her! It's thoughtful little things like that that make me wish I had a good son-in-law (of course that is technically impossible so I better maintain my "pumping" skills).

Dada said...

My apologies. I wrote responses to both you, Fran and Deke, here yesterday. But as sometimes happens, I apparently got distracted before uploading them. Hence, I note this morning they were lost.

Without much inspiration to try to recreate what I've already said here yesterday but lost, please accept my abbreviated responses:

Fran: Thanks for the fine example of the unemployment benefit (punishment?) for a person just following the system. I used this fine example, not once but twice, in conversations yesterday on many things economic.

Deke: If I ever ate Spam, it was as a very young child before I grew a memory. Or, it was so damn bad, I've blocked it out. But my family never imbibed that I know of. Maybe that's because they had had their fill BEFORE I was born?

Re the liquor store: He does have a drive-up window. I might suggest he post a sign "Doors locked after X:00" please us drive thru window."

It's little things like that that COULD save a person's life. Thanks.

Border Explorer said...

Great post! UNLOCKED: Dada's Secret IPA Source! That'll save me a bunch of aimless riding around on $1.99/gal gasoline. ;-)