Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Arizona-versary

Today is my Arizona anniversary, the "Arizona-versary" of the title.  Nineteen years ago today, I completed my journey to Phoenix and officially took up residence in Arizona.

I still remember that day, July 31st, 1993.  It was a Saturday, and I woke up in a Palm Springs motel with my two cats at the time, and left early for the 4-hour drive east to Phoenix.

It was a warm morning, and the sun already felt hot as it began its climb up from behind the distant mountains.  As I left the Coachella valley for the open desert the landscape spread out in all directions, a seemingly-endless vista of burnt, sun-blasted earth in innumerable shades of black, brown, gray and beige, dotted with short, squat, desiccated shrubs and tall, stark saguaro cacti, stuck with their arms held up to the sun, as if begging for mercy that would only come in the rare years when we would have a wet, rainy springtime.  Off in the distance I could sometimes see a lone hawk or eagle, doing pirouettes in the sky as it expertly rode the updrafts and currents, spinning higher and higher in the empty azure firmament, searching for a bit of sustenance in this harsh, unyielding and unforgiving world.

The land flattened out into a broad plain as I approached the California-Arizona border and the Colorado river valley.  My entry to my new home state was marked only with a large sign on the side of the road, bidding me Welcome to Arizona and showing a cactus wren sitting in a saguaro blossom.  Almost on cue, the craggy mountains and rough, rocky hills started up again, and would remain constant fixtures for the rest of the ride.  Interstate 10 took me through Quartzite, a quirky, haphazard and confused jumble of a desert town, where double-wide trailers, recreational vehicles, and restaurants with early-bird dinner specials hold sway.  Quartzite is one of those surreal deep-desert outposts, teetering on the edge of reality, where you could come and blend into the desert and no one would ever hear from you again.  I was to learn that Arizona is full of such places - places where humans could turn into ghosts, and vice versa.

Two hours later I arrived in Phoenix and got the keys to my new apartment.  I brought the cats in and let them out of their carriers to explore their new home, and moved in the clothing and furnishings I was able to cram into my car.  The bulk of my furniture was still on the moving van, in transit from Burlingame, CA, and would not arrive for another 5 days.  I slept on an air mattress and sat on blankets and towels.  In spite of the forced austerity, it felt like home, and the cats and I were happy.

The next day, Sunday August 1st 1993, was HOT.  The high temperature was 117 degrees, something I had not even dreamed of, let alone experienced.  I walked around a little bit in the morning when it wasn't that bad, but very soon a stifling, claustrophobic stillness enveloped everything, and even the buzzing of the cicadas in the palo verde trees became quieter.  I retreated to my bedroom and laid on the air mattress, listening to the faint cooing of the native doves outside.

As I start my 20th year of living here, I think about the fact that I have spent nearly a third of my entire life in Phoenix.  Arizona is a very beautiful, diverse state, and about the only thing we are missing is the beach and the waterfront, although for the braver of those among us, Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco) in Mexico has the oceanfront.  You can find mountains and cool fragrant pine forests in the north, rolling mountains and ski resorts in the east, the funkiness and rustic charm of Tucson in the south and Nogales on the Mexican border, and the bizarre surrealism of the western deserts, where the land cannot make up its mind whether it wants to be Arizona or California and keeps switching back and forth.

We have the astonishing national treasure of the Grand Canyon, truly a wonder of the world, and the turquoise-and-red-rock spiritual theme park that is Sedona.  There is also Meteor Crater, a gigantic, mile-wide hole in the ground about 40 miles east of Flagstaff, blasted out by a huge iron-nickel meteor about 75,000 years ago.  It is an amazing site and worth seeing.  It's even more amazing if you see if outside the window of a jetliner:
So many interesting things to see and do, so many charming little places to visit, like Jerome, Flagstaff and Tubac.  But there is a downside to living here, and that revolves around the political climate here.

Unfortunately Arizona is a place of extreme bigotry and intolerance.  There is prejudice everywhere, against Mexican immigrants, against Native Americans, against women, against gay people, against people who practice non-Christian religions or don't believe at all.  As is shamefully typical among extreme conservatives, if you are not a white, Anglo-Saxon, heterosexual male, you are looked down on as being different and therefore, somehow flawed.

The state government on all levels is a total joke, rife with corrupt, hate-filled idiots and bigots who are re-elected time after time again by an electorate too stupid or uninterested to care.  This is an election year, and the local television stations show political ads over and over again ad nauseum, mostly pertaining to a senate race between a pudgy ginger asshole named Wil Cardon and a slimy-slick snake-oil salesman aptly named Jeff Flake. Both are falling over each other trying to lay claim to the title of Most Conservative candidate, they each accuse the other of doing the bidding of the Antichrist himself, Barack Obama.  In a lot of places dragging the president's name through the muck of a penny-ante pissing contest like that would be regarded as extremely vulgar and classless, but here in Arizona, nothing could be more normal or acceptable.  Or expected.

Old habits die hard here in AZ, and that innate conservatism is reflected in the voting booth.  Back in 2010 I was a poll worker for the midterm elections and was assisting an elderly woman in voting.  She was confined to a wheelchair and just getting around was a huge effort, but she proudly told me she was in her early 90s and has voted in every single election.  I thought that was wonderful until I watched her fill in her ballot, and she just went down the list of candidates and voted for whoever was a Republican.  She had no idea who she was voting for; she could be voting for Adolf Hitler or Charles Manson, but she only needed to know they were Republican.  I can't help thinking that blind, knee-jerk voting like that was the last thing the Founding Fathers intended when they created this democracy.

With clueless, indiscriminate voters like that, it is no wonder that when you're elected to public office here and you're a Republican, you've got a job for life and don't have to do another single thing again if you don't want to. This predictable, party-line voting means the dumbest, most bigoted and most loathsome assholes in the state become Republicans and get sent to the state legislature and to Congress to push their extreme-right agendas.  The state legislature in particular is overloaded with fat old Nazi sympathizers and hate-filled fundamentalist Christians.  It's a little disturbing that if you're a fundamentalist Christian, man or woman, and you're only 30 years old, you look old and mean and crotchety like you're in your 80s.  Hatefulness of that magnitude makes you old and ugly before your time.

There's an old adage that goes something along the lines of, if you know someone who is crazy, quirky, nonconformist and a little off-center and they mysteriously disappear, eventually they will turn up in San Francisco.  Likewise, if you know someone who's bigoted, intolerant, mean-spirited, uneducated and filled with bile and they too disappear, they will eventually turn up in Arizona.  And probably in the state legislature.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Things Not To Do

It seems the more you work in animal welfare and rescue, the more love and admiration you have for animals and the more loathing and disgust you develop for human beings.

Humans are constantly trying to outdo themselves when it comes to idiotic, mindless and cruel behavior, and are continually resetting the bar for stupidity in the world.  Just when you think you've seen the absolute worst when it comes to ignorance and thoughtless behavior, someone does something which takes your breath away in its stunning depravity.

It is astonishing to me how many profoundly stupid people there are in the world - stupidity matched only by cowardice and the propensity for constant lying.  I can't understand how these brain-dead dimwits even make it through the world for a single day.  You'd think social darwinism would take over and the really stupid people in this world would gradually become extinct, but somehow, they keep reproducing and spreading their caustic, damaged genes far and wide.  Thus will the earth end - not in a blinding nuclear detonation or a disease pandemic or collision with an asteroid, but by the ignorant and stupid taking over the world and turning it into a gigantic cesspit.  For a preview of this, one needs only to examine the U.S. House of Representatives and the Republican party, where the truly bigoted, ignorant, racist and uneducated have taken over.

Sadly, so many of these mentally deficient tools decide it's their right to have children and pets.  Having children when you're not intellectually equipped to care for a goldfish is certainly one great failing of evolution.  Maybe it's a throwback to medieval times when you needed lots of people being generated to fight wars and work as slaves and replace those lost to disease.  Maybe you needed people as cannon fodder back in the 1400s with the Black Plague and all, but they are no longer needed in a world of dwindling resources and exploding population.

Having pets when you're an idiot is even more sad, since the animals have no way to stand up for themselves and are always the victims of the evilness and mendacity of their owners. Without exception, it's the animals who suffer for the ignorance of their worthless, irresponsible owners, who create horrific messes for other people to clean up and then just walk away like nothing happened.

Here are a couple of things not to do, because when I take over the world - and trust me, that will happen someday - actions such as these will be dealt with in the harshest possible manner.  The world is forewarned.

1)  If you go to a pet store and the dimwitted, pimply-faced, minimum-wage clerk sells you two rabbits and swears they are the same gender, you should not be surprised when one day you wake up and find a litter of baby rabbits.  This is definitely the fault of the idiot store clerk, but when you call us up and say you have two or three litters of babies you need us to take, then you get to have the word STUPID branded into your forehead.  After the first litter, anyone with more than two working brain cells would have separated the rabbits and gotten the male neutered, to prevent any future litters.  If you don't, then you're the cause of the problem, not the solution.

2)  I realize it's asking way too much, but at least try to have a tiny amount of courage and integrity and say you don't want to keep your rabbits any more, rather than make stupid-shit excuses that your wife and son have developed allergies to the rabbits AFTER FOUR YEARS.  "Allergies" is the most ridiculously over-used excuse by dickheads who find it inconvenient to care for their pets any more.  People think they can just play the "allergy" card and everything is okay.  Little do they know that claiming "allergy" after having an animal for four years is just like wearing a big sign around their fat neck saying, "I AM AN IDIOTIC LYING COWARD!"

3) Don't send me an email that says your son has a rabbit but he doesn't want it anymore and a teacher at his school said she would take it and give it a good home, but your stupid retarded kid "forgot" to give the rabbit to the teacher and now school is out for the summer and you need someone to take the rabbit.  If the rabbit potentially had a good home lined up but lost it because your godforsaken dope of a kid was too busy failing at every single thing he does in life, then keep the rabbit and get rid of your pinheaded little bastard.  It will work out much better in the long run.

4)  When you surrender your rabbit because you are "too busy" or "allergic" or you don't want to pay veterinary bills or you're too damned lazy to provide even basic care or blah blah blah, don't come to me with tears in your eyes and tell me you love the bunny so much and it hurts you so to have to give him up.  NEWS FLASH: No one has a gun to your head, and giving up your animal is YOUR CHOICE.  If you weren't such a miserable, lousy excuse for a human being you'd understand that having any kind of animal requires work and care and a pet is a lifetime commitment.  If you're too lazy to do the work or too stupid to understand the commitment, DON'T GET THE ANIMAL in the first place!  How fucking hard is that to understand?  Don't tell me you love your rabbit because the two-inch-long toenails and the fact that it's obese tells me otherwise.  And above all don't come to me looking for sympathy or a shoulder to cry on because I'm not the least bit interested in making you feel any better about yourself or your heartless, selfish decisions.  Just keep in mind that it's taking every bit of self-control I have to not kick all of your teeth out of your head.

5)  Don't get testy and irate with me when you call up and say you found an injured rabbit on your front step and won't I just drop everything I'm doing and drive all the way out to West Bumfuck, Arizona and do something with it?  I gave you a reasonable option to get the rabbit the care and medical attention it needs at no cost to you, but you didn't find it acceptable because it requires a little bit of "effort" on your part. You're a disgusting pig if you expect someone to drive all the way out to your filthy toilet of a home in some remote desert landfill and take the problem off your hands while you sit on your fat bloated ass watching "The Price Is Right."

You're probably thinking, "Whoa, Steve-o, bitter much?"  Ya think?  Do I sound like I'm way over being fed up with the unending parade of assholes and dirtbags that come my way and the horrific, ignorant and selfish things they do to perfectly wonderful, innocent animals?  Do I sound like I'm completely done with having meth-addicted scumbags lie to my face in a vain attempt deflect any responsibility for their heinous actions?  Do I sound like it's getting significantly harder each and every day to even pretend to put up with the tsunami of trailer-trash, low-class human detritus that infects this planet like a virulent cancer?  The only thing that keeps me going is that all the bad stuff is counterbalanced to some extent by the truly good, unselfish and caring people you meet, fighting the good fight along with you, mourning the innocents who have lived short, brutal lives filled with agony and fear, and cherishing every triumph like it was a precious jewel.

The more you work in animal welfare and rescue, the more you hate and detest human beings, and the more you believe in angels.

Friday, July 13, 2012

My Day In Hell

It's time to gather the kiddies and the old people and the pets around the computer monitor, and settle in for a tale of nearly unparalleled awfulness and tribulation.  Yesterday was probably one of the worst days I've ever had to get through, and I'm still reeling from the head-spinning shock.  I'll keep the ugly details down to a minimum, since there is so much to slog through, but for now, suffice to say that day was a constant, dizzying stream of the truly wonderful and the truly awful.  So pour yourself a big ol' glass of battery acid, because it was definitely "one of those days."

Actually things started to get weird the previous day, Wednesday.  It started with an abandoned rabbit call at a run-down apartment building in north Phoenix.  It seems that some tenants moved out in the middle of the night and left their two rabbits to fend for themselves on a second-floor patio.  I'm not going to start on the kind of vile human detritus that would do that to a couple of rabbits they had as pets.  I guess for some people it's impossible to form an emotional bond with anything, and that is probably the worst punishment anyone could endure, living life without love and caring for anything other than your own worthless piece-of-shit existence.  Anyway, the people who called had no idea what to do and had no means of transporting them to the Humane Society, where they could be cared for.  So I said I would run a taxi service and take them.  The two bunnies were youngsters, one black and the other black and white, and were extremely friendly and sweet.  How someone could turn their backs on them and walk away without any concern for their welfare is so far beyond my comprehension I have no words.

After that was done, I got a call from one of our foster caregivers, Nancy, who was fostering Tilly and her four babies for Brambley Hedge.  It seems her home's air conditioning went out, something you definitely DON'T WANT to happen in Phoenix in July, and I had to get Tilly and her brood out.  I went to pick them up, and I also took in her 8-week-old kitten she is fostering.  The kitten is black with gold and green eyes, and just a bundle of limitless energy and play.  Little Krazy Kat thinks my pet doves are really fascinatng and particular my dove Lily, who has free range in the house.  Kitteh thinks Lily is the Best Thing Ever.  I haven't had a kitten in my house for a very long time and I had almost forgotten how much fun they can be.  Except when they wake up at 4am and won't stop meowing.  More on that later.

Late that evening around 11pm, when I was getting ready for bed, a monsoon storm kicked in outside and the rain started coming down and the wind started howling.  Monsoon storms can be violent and unpredictable, and this one was a doozy, with loud, crashing thunder and extreme lightning.  I was watching it out the front window when an enormous blast of lightning struck.  The entire sky turned a brilliant, emerald green for a split second, something I had never seen before, and it hit near a utility pole on the other side of my back fence, causing a power transformer to blow up.  There was a really loud explosion, and the entire block was plunged into blackness.  Losing all power is also something that you NEVER EVER want to deal with in the middle of summer.  When that happened, the first words out of my mouth were, "I am SO screwed."  I had no idea how true that would be.

So here I am in the sweltering darkness, unable to do much of anything.  I did go around and made sure the rabbits and the kitten were secured, and just had to wait it out.  I called the local electric company and they gave a restoration estimate of 3am.  It was too hot to stay in bed, so I tried laying on the ceramic tile floor in my bedroom.  It was the only way to stay cool, but sleep was impossible.  Around 1am the houses across the street got power back, but my side of the street is on a separate electrical grid, and we stayed in darkness.  Turns out, getting power back early wouldn't have made a bit of difference.

Three A.M. came around with no change, so I called the electric company and now they said 5am restoration.  Great, I thought, but really there was no choice.  I couldn't sleep and was starting to get headaches, backaches and leg cramps.  Bitch whine moan, I know, but you try sleeping on a hard floor for five hours and see how you feel.

Around 4am Kitteh woke up and did not know where she was, and started a constant meowing which continued until 7am.  I was starting to think I had died and gone to hell at some point.  Morning also brought a realization that my recycling bin, which I had placed out by the street for Thursday collection, had been knocked over and my trash had been blown up and down the whole street.

It began to get light outside and this long, horrendous night was coming to an end, but not before I noticed that the strong winds had ripped one of my garage doors nearly entirely off.  While I was fixing that, power was finally restored at 7:15am, and I thought I might be home free. But when I turned on the air conditioning - nothing.  It wouldn't start, almost like it had no power.  I ran back and forth desperately from the side of the house where the A/C unit was to my back patio where the circuit breakers were and could find nothing wrong.  I began to panic since I had over 20 rabbits in my house and the temperature was only going to go up from that point, and without a doubt my worst nightmare is having lots of bunnies in the house and no air conditioning.

I checked my land line phone and it too, was dead, no dial tone, just silence.  I thought well, due to the violent storm maybe there was a phone outage.  My cell phone still worked and I ended up calling BHRR friend and supporter Galen Boal, who runs an air conditioning repair business, and he very graciously came over at 8am and fixed my A/C and got it running.  He said he did it for the bunnies and would take no payment.  I can't express how thankful I am to Galen for his willingness to help and the donation of his time and expertise to keep the bunnies (and me) comfortable and cool.

So, with the A/C blasting lovely cool air throughout the house, I thought well, I may be out of the woods NOW.  Oh, that would hardly be the case...

I went to my desktop computer and turned it on to log in and check email, and the flat screen monitor would not turn on.  After a bit of checking I determine the power supply transformer was dead.  How odd, I thought.  So I went to my laptop but could not get to the Internet.  After a lot more checking I discovered that my wireless network and my broadband router were both fried.  Kaput.  Screwed.  I realized another of my nightmares had come true - a power surge.

When the lightning hit last night, it created a massive electromagnetic field for a split second.  Most of my electronic equipment runs on some sort of transformer, and since transformers are mostly big coils of copper wire, a current burst was induced and stuff got fried.  In fact that's what was wrong with my air conditioning, a 24-volt transformer in the main unit got toasted.  Luckily it was easily replaced, but my other equipment was out of luck.  Also luckily my HDTV, refrigerator and other big-ticket electronics were surge-protected, but I still lost a lot of electrical components, and I am still finding things that were destroyed by the surge.  Even the dimmer switch on the overhead light above my kitchen table was ruined.  A dimmer switch?  Really?

In the midst of all this I still had to pick up a bunny coming to our shelter from the Humane Society of Yuma at 11am.  A little gray Holland Lop, it had been kept in a cage with another, unneutered male rabbit who attacked and beat up the smaller rabbit without mercy.  Their idiot owner finally wised up and separated them, and dumped the smaller injured bunny off at the Humane Society, and from there to us.  Poor little guy, named Giblet, has numerous scars and bite marks all over his head and body, and some big lumpy scar tissue around his eye, but somehow, almost magically, Giblet is still very sweet, friendly and trusting.  It never fails to amaze me how resilient and accepting rabbits are to even the most horrendous, painful treatments.  His photo is below.

Later that afternoon my trusty laptop computer decided it was a good day to die, and did just that.  I got a dreaded Blue Screen of Death and then it would not boot up.  This laptop was at least 5 years old and pretty much had my life on it.  Luckily I did a major data backup last week when it was starting to act up, but I didn't expect it to die.  I think the hard drive is shot.  I definitely have gotten my money's worth from that computer, using it nearly every day for hours and hours, but still, I am going to lose so much stuff in terms of pictures and documents, it is so not fair.  It's in the repair shop right now and may there's something that can be done to save it, but I am not optimistic.  Damn.

By early evening I had just about had it.  I was running on adrenaline from no sleep the night before, and it was like being wired on speed.  I literally could not stop moving, my brain was stuck on overdrive and I had no appetite, even though I had not eaten at all that day.  I pushed myself to get the rabbits their salads and dinner, took a shower and crawled into bed, grateful that this singularly awful, horrible day was finally over.

This day really sucked but somehow, in the grand scheme of things, it could have been much worse.  All my rabbits were fine, I was okay other than being completely exhausted mentally and physically, and no one lost their life or got injured.  But still, so many bad, depressing, costly and unnecessary things happened and I lost so much from the power surge, it really is going to take time and a lot of money to get back to somewhere near where things used to be.  There's something about the beginning of July being the time that some really bad things happen to me.  Last year on July 6th was my automobile accident where my car was totaled, this year it was the Storm from Hell and the horrific aftermath.  Sometimes life really sucks, but as with everything, you find a way to get through it.