Will I go to Hell if I Leave a Steaming Pile of Shit on My Neighbor’s Doorstep?

I don’t “like people.” I’m not a “people person.” It has been said that I am April Ludgate in the flesh. If you didn’t watch Parks and Recreation, then perhaps you remember the part Ally Sheedy played in The Breakfast Club. It’s also been about 25 years since I’ve lived in an apartment so I forgot about the dynamics. And because of dogs and aging backs, I thought a first-floor situation made sense.

So we have this neighbor directly above us. He appears to have an outdoor job and it’s summer in Tucson so he gets up at around 4:10 to 4:15 am every morning. It literally sounds like he’s up there doing CrossFit. The floor joists squeak like he’s about to land in my lap. He’s always dropping things on the floor and slamming drawers. It’s obnoxious as hell. He finally leaves at around 5:15. One morning, my thought process included two options: I was either poking a hole in the ceiling while making my point or taking my boy for an early-morning jaunt.

Since realizing I don’t have to be chained to a cubicle in order to work, my schedule has become super manageable. I work onsite for a client for a few hours in the middle of the day. This gives me the flexibility to work with the bf on our own projects and not be dominated by the clock. I can make this ass-crack-of-dawn thing work. Trying to be positive here!

I was immediately struck by how different the neighborhood felt in the early morning hours. The air smelled different to Sherman and he showed extreme interest in objects he typically ignores. That particular morning, a convenience store about a mile down the road was taped off with officers gathering evidence in the parking lot. The red and blue lights looked so pretty in the barely pre-dawn light…not at all jarring as in full darkness. Another mile or so into our route, a fire truck and ambulance with lights on hit the sirens as soon as they exited the neighborhood.

CrossFit Neighbor’s wakeup time is just a few minutes early for my comfort zone. Like, I can see but not well enough to guide Sherman around broken glass with confidence but the temperature is glorious. June is the worst month of the year in Tucson. So even when we had a week of 117-degree highs, we could do three miles and not die. Some mornings, we were lucky enough to pass by the park and golf course just after the sprinklers ran and the wind was just right so we got that extra cool breeze.

That first morning especially, I wished I had my phone to capture the images but in this neighborhood, I don’t carry anything of value. There are increasing numbers of homeless sleeping along our route and in the park we pass by. The storm drains and washes are extremely unsafe during monsoon season so folks move to higher ground until things dry out again. One morning, we passed by a man asleep on the sidewalk. Having just been rudely awakened by CrossFit Neighbor, I tried to get by him as quietly as possible. As we came back around on our way home, he said “good morning” to Sherman. I’ll take that guy over people who make a wide arc around dogs every day of the week and twice on Tuesday.

I’ve been noticing an awful lot of real life lately. There was a woman sitting on the side of a road heading toward the Tucson Mountains with her back against a guard rail the Monday after we lost Lulu. No shoes, knees up, head in hands. For a moment, I considered stopping but my frame of mind was likely just as bad considering what had transpired the day before.

The very next morning, closer to the mountains, I glanced at a pickup parked on the shoulder with the hood up and the driver making a call. When I drove by again that afternoon, the truck was still there with its hood up but the driver was gone. The following morning, I was passed by a Pima County Sheriff Department truck with a dog kennel on the back… lights on and hauling ass. The deputy stopped behind that parked pickup with the hood up, joining another PCSD vehicle. The addition of the K9 unit made me worry the driver never reached his destination.

Similar things have undoubtedly been going on around me all along and I’ve just been blissfully oblivious. I wonder why I’m noticing them now. Has the volume increased exponentially or has my perspective changed?

That first morning, Sherman and I returned home before the sun had fully risen. CrossFit Neighbor had already left for work. Flipping the script, I was able to lie down and go back to sleep.

Thanks for the wake-up call, asshole. Hope you enjoyed your day.

Lulu Belle Plott, Dies at 12

Lulu Belle Plott, beloved hound about town, died in her mother’s arms at a hospital in Tucson, Arizona on May 16, 2021. According to the emergency veterinarian, the cause was unknown. She was 12.

“Honey Lulu” was skilled at telling time, a lover of rolling in snow, lap warmer, runner, explorer, hard booper, sushi eater, reluctant parade walker, serial bone thief, mesquite pod addict, rabbit hunter, rope puller, face licker, and all around drama queen.

Although socially awkward, she had a lot to say. Ms. Plott had strong pupinions about plain Greek yogurt, sky booms, and memory foam pillows.

She lived by a simple motto: “Life is best slept between two pillows or two humans.”

Lulu Plott was born in Texas in 2009. She moved to Kansas with her family soon after and was abandoned as a young pup. She suffered homelessness and food insecurity prior to being adopted by a concerned neighbor.

Despite her troubled beginnings, Ms. Plott was a well-traveled hound.

She moved to Arizona in 2012 and quickly adapted to desert life. After living in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico for more than a year, Ms. Plott recently returned to the famous retirement community of Tucson, Arizona. She also made trips to California, Nevada, Utah, and Idaho.

Lulu graduated from Obedience School at the Dodge City Kennel Club in Dodge City, Kansas in 2010. She was a member of the Gourmet Feces of the Week Club, Hole Digger Society of America, and Arizona Gecko Hunters Club, and was a loyal fan of Paw and Order. 

After retiring from her career as a hall monitor, she volunteered as a running partner, food taste tester, and emotional support dog.

Ms. Plott is survived by her pawrents, Ann and Andrew as well as her brother, Sherman, of the home; grandpawrents in Dodge City, Kansas; cousins in Arizona, Kansas, and Nebraska. She was preceded in death by brothers Rommel and Patton; cousins Lola Sophia Maria Theresa, Leonard Suzanne, Louie, Enzo Romeo, and Esther May.

There will be no public visitation, as cremation has taken place. The family suggests donations to support veterinarians in crisis.

Returning to the US: Back in the Dirty T

I arrived in Rexburg, Idaho at the end of January without a winter coat. That’s how my year was going. Then I learned there wasn’t really a place for the dogs: No securely fenced area for them to go off-leash and they weren’t even supposed to be in the house. It was beyond cold outside and them sleeping in an outbuilding alone in a strange place just wasn’t going to happen so we were able to negotiate main floor privileges. The bedrooms were all upstairs so we ended up on a sofa sleeper. Sherman was pupset and refused to poop.

Sherman also failed to understand why he wasn’t allowed to chase deer through pastures.

We were there just over three (very long) weeks and pretty much every day was exactly like that: The housing picture, the jobs picture, the weather picture…all bleak. I had forgotten about rural Idaho’s paved country roads being really shitty for walking dogs.

Lulu also didn’t enjoy the lack of freedom but at least she could scratch her back.

Literally every single thing I needed to do was a fucking struggle: Laundry, dishes, bathing, heat, you name it.  If you know me, you can imagine my mood. Due to reasons I still don’t fully understand, we ended up in a goddamned RV in the middle of winter with two big dogs and basically frozen everything.

The dogs were afraid of the sounds associated with de-winterization. They took refuge on my lap.

Ice Station Zebra was clearly not a viable solution for any of us. It was important that we experience it firsthand to know that area, while beautiful, isn’t the right spot. We both wanted to be in the warm sunshine so we made plans to head back to Arizona. Finding suitable housing close to human and canine recreation spots was super simple. The extreme difference in level of difficulty just reinforced my opinion that this was the right move. I couldn’t get loaded up fast enough.

The morning we (finally) left Idaho, I was dragged to the ground *hard* by my dogs bolting out of the RV to fight an obese chocolate lab. Because rural people still do not believe in confining their dogs. Thanks a lot, dicks. It wouldn’t be a road trip without a mechanical delay so we spent an extra night in Green River, Utah waiting for a new serpentine belt and roller for the truck. Under normal circumstances, I would have wanted to stop near Moab for some hiking but I was seriously so done with all of this shit that we just powered through the rest of the drive.

We arrived in Tucson late on February 24, making it a 40-day trip covering more than 3,000 miles. Both dogs immediately pooped in the bark park and suddenly all was right with the world once again.

Click the links below to see how we got to this point.

Returning to the US: Who Doesn’t Love a 1,000 Mile Detour?

Returning to the US: Motocross Heaven and the Tow of Shame

Returning to the US: He Literally Thought I Was Dead

Returning to the US: Sherman, I Just Really Need You to Poop

Returning to the US: Leaving Todos Santos

Returning to the US: First the Why

Even I Have Limits

Feedback can be painful to receive but it’s important to both accept it and refuse to be paralyzed by it. I’m pretty self-aware and I definitely know my limitations. Recently, I have heard from people who think I should continue sharing my struggles with anxiety and other life stuff despite my preference of writing about dogs, food, and fashion. I have been told the way I write about things which truly suck really resonates with people. Well I am GenX af so there’s that.

I attended I Dream in Widescreen at the Fox Tucson Theatre Saturday night and went in expecting some cute short films made by college students that would probably require lots of whiskey to enjoy. The films were terrific and they were far from cute. The subject matter was quite heavy and there were a couple that really punched me in the gut. If I had known in advance, I would have gone into the theatre completely sober. Drunk me was unprepared for being confronted with the lowest point of my life.

I started a Google Doc at the end of the event to blog about that day but my phone refused to cooperate with my drunk fingers. At the time, I didn’t want to forget whatever sentences my mind found brilliant in that moment. Spoiler alert: Those sentences were not brilliant and I will not be sharing them here. I’m not even sure if I will be sharing them with my therapist.

The day in question is obviously one I will never forget but it rarely crosses my mind. My grandmother always said (completely unironically) that there’s no use crying over spilt milk and she was right. But then I read a more in-depth piece about the price people pay for surface acting and it makes sense that sometimes the shit just comes right out. My liver, hardest hit.

I’m not one to allow feelings to ruin a perfectly good buzz so I did what any grown-up would do; I went into the restroom, fixed my makeup, and got on with my night like a fucking boss.

Fat Bastard Stole My Mojo

I’ve lost my mojo. A coworker just lost his wife. I’m drinking and sleeping too much; Contemplating the meaning of life.

Southern Arizona is an interesting place to live for myriad reasons but today I’m just thinking about demographics and the cycle of life. I moved here to live with an ex and really didn’t give much thought to anything other than the heat and the proximity to the international border.

The median age in my home zip code was 35.6 years as of 2014 compared to 72.6 years where I work…and I only have a ten-minute commute! Arizona’s population growth has made national news lately. Part of it is due to businesses fleeing states with higher taxes and part of it is due to people retiring in warmer climates.

The thing is, people die. Where I work, we watch people decline. Sometimes, we have to call Adult Protective Services because we see people wearing the same clothes several days in a row and notice new damage to their vehicles. I joke about how people in this area drive but it’s super dangerous. Some have mental health issues. Some have memory issues. Some have substance abuse issues. Some have medication issues. Some are full-time caregivers and are completely overwhelmed. Some are dealing with all of the above in addition to the garden variety issues associated with just getting old already.

Many employers are focusing on benefits which appeal to Millennials, such as student loan forgiveness. Our employees’ average age is over 55 so I’m just sitting here trying to help people who are on Medicare fill gaps in their coverage with voluntary benefits. I receive questions from people regarding their maximum monthly income while collecting Social Security. The younger Boomers are just trying to max out their 401(k)s before they transition to full retirement. They’re probably the last generation who can reasonably expect a full retirement. Thanks for ruining it for the rest of us!

Anyway, this is a community in which there are very few natives. I’ve been here seven years and am considered a long-time resident. The roots are shallow and you can’t just be friends with people from family connections or college. It takes actual work, which is asking a lot when the weather is absolute crap and people keep dying. One might be motivated to check off some bucket list items because life is too short and all of that. I’m more likely to dust off a timeworn paperback of Poe’s greatest works and just wallow in it.

How Old is Too Old?

I may just be a bit too old for the Tucson nightlife. I’m definitely too old for the cold which descended upon us last week and forced me to wear boots and a sweater to dinner. I had a couple Warsteiner Pilsners before I left the house because I was really feeling my German roots and was super excited to have some authentic German food.

Ten55 Brewing and Sausage House looks great inside with the brick and the benches. There were quite a few hipster beards wrapped in flannel, though, so my GenX avocado toast avoidance alarm bells were sounding. The Pork Schnitzel Sliders were good, if a bit dry, but I love purple cabbage and the dijonnaise saved the day. It’s really awkward to eat there with a group and have to order at the bar. It’s also awkward for your friend who chose to drink water to schlep on over to the water bar. Like, say what now? My main issue was I was craving bierocks and they are not to be found in Tucson so I was just going to be disappointed. It really wasn’t the food’s fault.

So then I ordered shots containing Pop Rocks in some alleyway bar behind Johnny Gibson’s Downtown Market. I was like, “Where am I and what am I drinking?” I don’t remember seeing a sign and sort of questioned whether it was a licensed establishment for a sec. That area kind of has a flea market feel to it with the outdoor seating and heaters. Turns out it was HighWire Lounge and I am definitely not in their target demographic. I would tell you more about the shots, which I think they call Molecular, but I can’t be sure because they can’t be bothered to complete their website.

We then proceeded to Batch Cafe & Bar, which is a bit more grown-up. I had The Stud doughnut with bourbon caramel Bavarian creme, dark chocolate, and chopped bacon. It went perfectly with a couple ounces of Jameson neat. Honestly, I didn’t notice any bourbon in the creme but that is likely because it wasn’t our first stop. I could do some serious diet damage in that place. We sat outside so we could critique the surprising number of drivers who attempted to parallel park in front of Empire Pizza on Congress. Is your pizza so damned important that you feel the need to hold up downtown traffic on a Saturday night? How rude. To be fair, though, we gave the successful parkers generous rounds of applause, which I’m sure they appreciated.

I’m still very confused about the next place. The Owls Club has a terrific drink menu but the seating is extremely limited so we left. Old people need to sit while doing the drinking. In retrospect, I’m not certain I could have remained on one of those wooden pews long enough to finish a drink. My back hurts just thinking about it.

We spent a while searching for some of the murals on my map but it seems they have been painted over at some point. Here’s a metal bird instead.

We finally made our way to Scott & Co, which is connected to 47 Scott. It was completely packed and their cocktail menu is quite extensive so I had a Kölsch-style beer and called it good. I just wasn’t in a place mentally to study for an exam at that point. This is one of those places that you need to revisit when the weather is warmer and college is not in session. I want to try all of the ancient cocktails. Someone carry me.

Oath of Allegiance

This past Friday, I had the honor of shaking hands with 98 people from more than 20 countries and welcoming them as citizens of the United States of America. One of the activities of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is attending naturalization ceremonies and welcoming new citizens with American Flag lapel pins.

I signed up at our last chapter meeting and didn’t realize until the night before that also meant I had volunteered for a public speaking engagement. Say what now? Oh yes…DAR is listed on the program and gives a brief address at each ceremony. Good to know! On the way to town, I was told I could personalize the address to include some information about my patriot. I always hated pop quizzes! I agreed to deliver the afternoon address so I could at least see how it all works first.

When we arrived at the U.S. District Court in Tucson, Security asked straight away if we were the “DAR ladies.” Tell me, was it the red, white, and blue attire that gave it away? We were seated at a table right at the front of the courtroom across from the USCIS officers, one of whom makes the motion to the court for admission of candidates for naturalization.

A gentleman from the State Department provided information about obtaining passports and registering to vote and the judge in each ceremony really spent quite a lot of time stressing the importance of voting. He also talked about the uniqueness of the American experience and how this is the only country in which one becomes an American at the precise moment they become a citizen, regardless of their previous nationality. He said he could obtain German citizenship but never be considered a German (and so on) but that is not the case here.

Wouldn’t you know the afternoon ceremony was packed with so many friends and family they were not all allowed in the courtroom. It really helped my speech jitters to have 48 new citizens plus about 100 supporters, a federal judge, and the other government employees just trying to get through their Friday listening to me talk about our ancestors taking up arms for the cause of freedom. I can never talk about patriot stuff without getting choked up and it’s even worse when I talk about family patriot stuff. Nevertheless, I mostly got through it without my voice breaking and have never been so grateful to take a seat and shut my mouth.

After the Oath of Allegiance, a brand-new citizen volunteered at each ceremony to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. I thought I was in the tear-clear until the video of “God Bless the U.S.A.” started playing. Why was that courtroom so dusty anyway? It’s a health hazard! Speaking of tears, each new citizen and each of their friends and family had the opportunity to speak about their experiences and their reasons for pursuing citizenship. They all had extremely moving stories but the teenage girl who sobbed into the microphone about how hard her mom worked to provide for her family so they could have better lives was nearly my undoing.

After the new citizens received their certificates, they came to our table to receive their pins. We shook their hands, congratulated them, and even took photos of one gentleman with his certificate and flag with his phone. You would never know from being inside that courtroom that we are a nation divided. I checked my text messages after we left the building and saw a national emergency had been declared. There is too much hyperbole and not enough focus on fixing our broken immigration system so that we can have less of what happens at our borders every day and more of what I experienced in that courtroom.

This is something every American citizen should experience at least once. We tend to take our way of life for granted and maybe even think it’s not so great when we watch the news. Forget what the clickbait peddlers are selling to you. I saw for myself 98 people who have endured all manner of hardships to become one of us. As we were walking to the parking garage after the second ceremony, I asked my counterpart how many of these one has to attend in order to make it through without crying and she said she imagines it’s quite a few.

Breaking My Own Rules

What do a hidden mural, a steak coma, and a play about omelets have in common? They’re all part of my latest harebrained scheme.

I don’t typically do the after dark things when I have to work the next day (because I’m obviously 80) but I made an exception to see Something Rotten! at Centennial Hall as part of the Broadway in Tucson 2018/2019 Season.

Whenever I have to do something all the way in Tucson (because it’s so FAR), I always check the proximity to the Trident Grill locations and Sunday was no exception. The original Trident is right next to the UA campus and I was craving steak and Founders Porter. Imagine my dismay when I was told they no longer serve the Founders Porter and I had to make do with Guinness. The horror!

Where does this bionic asparagus grow?!?

I can’t be mad, though, because I needed that steak. It was cooked exactly as I requested (medium rare) and although I completely demolished it, I really needed a nap by the time I was finished.

We then set out to find this particular mural for the photo op. Unfortunately, we were in a hurry to get to the play on time and we couldn’t find it. The sun was setting, there were college students everywhere, and we couldn’t find the damned mural. The backup plan was basic af but couldn’t be helped. I couldn’t stop laughing at the absurdity of it and look like a complete goober in even the best pic. There are nearly 1,000 murals in Tucson and I need photos with all of them. You know, to prove I occasionally leave my house. It’s a different proof of life concept without the Polaroid of the day’s newspaper.

Lame, lame, lame…maybe a little shame in my game.

We got to Centennial Hall just in time and the play was a riot. I had to dig deep in my memory to get some of the Shakespeare jokes but Thomas Nostradamus was hilarious. I don’t normally like musicals but I needed all of the singing and the dancing to keep my ass awake. Thank God for the lady with the crazy laugh at all the quiet moments. This woman seriously had the most Marty McFly laugh I have ever heard in real life and I would invite her to parties just to hear it.

What does any of this have to do with omelets? Nostradamus foretold the most popular Shakespeare play of all time and confused Hamlet with Omelet. Or vice versa. You know what I mean. So there were literally people dancing around on stage wearing egg and then omelet costumes. It’s funnier than that, what with all of the Shakespeare references and sexual innuendo, and I’m glad I broke my Sunday night rule to see it.

As we were driving down Broadway, we passed The Screening Room and I saw on the marquee they’re showing Two Women Drinking Wine and Talking About Murder. My friend and I agreed that one might have been more our speed but such is life. You can still catch it tonight! I won’t be there, however. Two work nights in a row is outside the realm of possibilities.

Another Tucson Saturday Night

You just never know what you’ll find when you’re out and about in the Tucson area. This past Saturday, I walked far too many steps in extremely uncomfortable heels but it was so worth it.

I’ve loved DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails since I moved here in 2012. The menu changes frequently but I can always count on a Cuban Sunset to get me started. The habañero infused vodka garnished with cilantro is my everything. I would order pitchers of these things if they would let me.

I started with the calamari because I’m that person who has to order the same thing every single time. I would have taken a photo but I destroyed the entire plate before it even crossed my mind. This is the best calamari I have ever had and I think the candied ginger deserves most of the praise. But the green chile vinaigrette is also money. It’s just a tiny bit crispy and doesn’t have the rubber tire bounce-back effect. If you’ve ever made the mistake of eating calamari at a Chinese buffet, you know what I mean.

I sat down thinking I would be having lamb because that’s the usual drill. Instead, I chose Duck Wanders Into Tucson Autumn and loved everything about it. My friend said she read recent reviews that said it wasn’t that great but I don’t know what those people were thinking. Honestly, every part of this dish belonged there and it was superb.

Apologies for cutting off the plate. I was trying to avoid being “that person”.

I’m not quite sure what to say about dessert because I may have been a bit tipsy. I ordered the Dark Chocolate Jalapeño Ice Cream Sundae (because I always do) and it seemed like they changed it on me. I didn’t pick up any jalapeño flavor this time but that could have been because of the Cuban Sunsets. It was delicious either way.

I ate the entire thing.

Afterward, I had to huddle next to a giant fire pit to stay warm while waiting for my friend’s husband to retrieve us. The parking in downtown Tucson can be slightly ridiculous and I’m not exactly known for wearing sensible shoes.

Not even close to my best pic but that little girl’s photo bomb made my night.

It was still early when we were heading home so we decided to stop at a casino south of Tucson for another drink. Lord have mercy. I don’t even want to name names because it is a hot mess. I’m not a fan of gambling and I have worked in the gaming industry so… The interior reminds me of a 1990s shopping mall and the HVAC was just swirling smoke around so everything (including my Ralph Lauren dress) smelled like it rolled out of an ashtray. Let’s just say my pearls were a little over the top for this establishment.

My friend and I hit the restroom on our way to the bar and while we were in there, some woman came in and yelled out to her friend, “What are you doing in there, taking a shit?” After that, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the watered down concoction masquerading as whiskey or the intensely interesting people watching. What. An. Experience.

I didn’t move to Arizona for this BS!

This is Day 2 of the Southern Arizona Snowpocalypse. Send help. Chocolate. Whiskey. Anything.

Seriously, though…we’re not dealing with this well. I woke up to snow yesterday morning and was slightly amused because I don’t think my sweet Sherman had ever seen snow before. I bought my current house nearly five years ago and this is the first time I can recall seeing snow stick to the ground here. I have artificial turf in my backyard so there wasn’t any mud and the dogs didn’t seem to even be interested in it. The problem is it’s been cold as fuck.

For scale: Anything under 80 degrees is chilly and anything under 65 degrees is cold. 100 degrees in the shade ain’t shit.

I literally opened the sliding door just long enough to take a photo and then got right back under the electric blanket. That’s pretty much where I stayed all of New Year’s Day with my dogs rotating their naps on my lap.

Sherman wasn’t sure what to do with it so he took a nap on my lap instead.

What made the cold (and snow) worse was the lack of sunshine. I normally have a view of the Santa Rita mountains from my house but they disappeared for an entire day. Everything was gray but I was slightly encouraged by how quickly it melted. Oops…I looked out the window before bed and it was freaking snowing again.

This morning, Ft. Huachuca shut down due to ice and snow. We seriously cannot deal with it. There are accidents all over the roads because Arizona is the place where the worst drivers in the world congregate. Arizona drivers lose their shit on a good day. They certainly do not comprehend the scraping of the windows or the “lights on for safety” routine.

We have another hard freeze warning for tonight. In southern Arizona, that means you better cover your drip system pipes and leave a faucet dripping in the house overnight. They don’t winterize shit out here. If you’ve only lived in places with sane building codes and practices, you have no idea how bonkers it is. In the summer, I can’t shower after 11:00 am because the water coming out of the *cold* faucet is hot enough to boil the skin right off my body. They put the pipes in the attic, y’all. The ATTIC. No wonder pipes freeze even when it’s above 20 degrees. In Kansas, I didn’t worry about protecting the plumbing until temps were in the negatives.

So basically, the entire southern half of the state is depressed as hell. We need our sun back and we need it now. Temps are supposed to be back in the 70s next week and until that happens, Old Man Winter can fuck right off. The only thing keeping me going is the knowledge I’ll be back in the open-toed stilettos come February. Thank God for small miracles.

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