Your Utility Bill When It Comes to Desert Living.

The desert, being a biome that I had yet to set foot in during my four decades of breath, I had some obvious concerns. Chief amongst those concerns was how dead our finances were going to be when those first utility bills came rolling in.

Don’t wave this off: I am the patriarch of a family of five. Three females and two males. On top of that, females tend to be in the bathroom/shower more than men and they leave lights on when they exit a room even though they don’t plan on returning to the very same room. Fight Me.

Preamble.

Once upon a time, I was fired from my job. The timing could not have been worse. I was the sole source of income. The wife was nearly finished with nursing school and on top of that, we had just welcomed our third and final child into our family.

Naturally, that negative catalyst had thrust a lot of things into perspective. Specifically, where our money was going. The first item to be examined was our utility bills. At that time we were living in a small apartment on the south side of Cleveland. Since we were apartment-livers, the only utilities that we were legally responsible for were the heating and electric bills.

The heating bill was never an issue. Since day one, I had always made a point of putting in the storm windows, laying down insulation tape, and putting plastic over the windows when the weather started getting cold. On top of that, we heated the rooms that we were occupying the most and turned that shit down (or off) when we all went to bed. This is common sense stuff when your global neighbor is Canada.

The electric bill was trickier to manage.

Thankfully, prior to my termination, I had all ready started making aims to shrink that bill. I had all ready swapped out all of the lightbulbs that were in the fixtures prior to moving in with energy efficient bulbs. (If you need a time stamp on these actions, energy efficient bulbs were a relatively new thing. Point of fact? They were fucking expensive back in the day).

On top of that, I had started over-paying the electric bill to a “whole dollar”. What I mean by that is that I treated the electric bill like a “leaky” savings account: you pay over the amount that the bill is for and then that excess that you paid gets applied to your next bill. (It’s “leaky” because it always needs to have a deposit…).

After I got shit-canned, I landed on that utility bill with both feet. I didn’t worry about “emergency relief” or anything like that. I took a walk through the apartment and took note of every damn electrical item that was plugged in, but not being used. There were multiple items in multiple outlets throughout.

After noting that, I had reasoned that those things were costing us money (that we desperately needed) even though they weren’t being used. And in coming to that conclusion, I put everything that needed to be plugged in on power strips and old surge protectors that could be turned off with the flick of a switch.

Within two billing cycles, I had knocked a $95 utility bill down to $15 and it stayed in that neck of the woods until we moved out.

Present Day

11 years later and on the opposite side of the country, my family and I are living in an apartment once more.

What it came down to was convenience, amenities, and utilities. We found a place down the street from where my wife needed to work, the apartment complex that we are living in came with washers & dryers with their units (which saved us from the purchase and logistical hell of having to secure those things) and as a part of the leasing agreement, the rental company offered us a flat rate on the water bill.

FLASHBACK!

After my wife had finished nursing school, we had managed to get back on our feet and rent our first house. When you rent a house, not only do you have to pay rent in order to live there, but you also have to pay ALL of the utilities.

That first winter was rough.

We relocated to Cleveland Heights. Cleveland winters aren’t anything to thumb your nose at. Our house was old, had high ceilings, and wood floors throughout.

On top of that the windows sucked ass. Point of fact: they were they were the original windows that the house was built with. AS IN, turn of the century style, the kind where you had to attach the storm window to the house from the outside.

After I plugged all of the holes that I could, I had other things to focus on and didn’t pay as much mind as I should have to “heat regulation”.

Our first heating bill was north of $600. After the shit was done curdling in my lower intestines, I put our heating bill on a budget plan that our gas company offered ($140 a month with the option to get off of that plan during the warmer months) and breathed a little easier.

The water bill to this day, can go fuck a goat.

The following information may be dated and it may vary depending on where you are at in the world. With that said, when you’re renting a home or owning your own home, there are two parts to your water bill:

  1. The actual amount of water used.
  2. Your “home’s use” of the city sewer.

You always pay the first part. The Second Part is paid on a basis that it is determined by the city within which you live.

Every other water bill was like the city of Cleveland Heights was trying to flick us in the ear, but we would turn our head at the last moment and we’d get flicked in the eye instead.

BACK TO THE FUTURE!

As of this writing, my family and I have been apartment living for the past 6 months. There have been a fair amount of challenges for sure. But when you consider that we pay a flat rate for water, we didn’t have to by a washer or a dryer, and our electric provider (Salt River Project) gives it’s users discounted rates if said users abstain from using major appliances between the hours of 3pm to 6pm (or 4pm to 7pm, user’s choice) a little discomfort has been worth it.

SAY WHAT??

It’s ok: I didn’t put much faith in it either regardless of my concerns.

During our first month in our new home, there was a lot of unpacking and downsizing that needed to be followed through on. As such, I couldn’t focus on keeping the margin of error lower on our electric bill. On top of that, we had just come from a part of the world that shares the same global parallel as the state of Tennessee (Japan). Our first summer in the desert was brutal. What resulted at the end of that first month was an electric bill north of $400.

It wasn’t unexpected. The AC was on constantly, ceiling fans were on high, and computational device usage was at an all time high because it was too fucking hot to kick the kids outside.

After I had finished separating the wheat from the chaff as far as our personal belongings were concerned, I turned my attention to our power usage. Bulbs were swapped, power strips were installed and a damn good reason better be had if I caught you running an appliance between the hours of 3pm to 6pm.

In the End

Honestly, if you’ve never lived in the desert before, how can you not wonder how utility bills work out here? Managing finances will always be an on-going process with respect to utilities regardless of the persons involved.  However, since our first month in the desert, that $400 electric bill has barely been out of the low $100’s. Years of experience and small changes will always yield big payoffs, eventually.

The Sum(mer) of its parts

This is part one of a series of articles that I have completed for AltOhio. In it, I detail the things that you could do in Cleveland at that time. A copy of the original article, as well as the rest of the series, can be found in the included links. 


Summer time is upon us! We have finally been granted a reprieve from the days when we are hermetically sealed in our homes in an effort to not freeze our asses off. The thirst to be outside and to be inhaling fresh air by the bucketful is thick in our throats. As a father of three children, this is a feeling that I know all too well. This summer, like all summers in Cleveland, promises not to disappoint. But there’s something that I have noticed especially since I have gotten older; certain parts of the city (and the surrounding area) get compartmentalized. One area is favored over the other for whatever reasons. What makes this worse is that the older a person gets, the harder it is to appreciate the city as a whole.

Over the next couple of months, I will be highlighting some of the more interesting happenings going on throughout the Cleveland-area as well as including a few polite reminders of why this part of Ohio should be appreciated as a whole.

Marc’s Great American Rib Cook-Off 

It would not be May in Cleveland if there were no Great American Rib Cook-off. Spread out over the course of Memorial Day Weekend, the Rib Cook-off is that one event in Cleveland that officially heralds the arrival of summer. There are ribs and there is live music (specifically from likes of Buddy Guy, Rick Springfield and Brett Michaels). It doesn’t get any more “summer” than that! Starting Friday May 24 at 12pm and ending Monday (Memorial Day) May 27, Marc’s Great American Rib Cook-Off promises to be an event that is suitable for the whole family. Something to ponder while you sate yourself on the fatted calf? “The flats are actually where Cleveland began. They served as the landing site for Moses Cleaveland and his survey party when they traveled from Connecticut in 1796 (Grabski, 2005).

Cleveland’s Theatre District

No one ever said that you had to spend your entire summer outside. There’s going to be one of those nights (or possibly, days) when the thespian urge strikes. Why not make a trip down Euclid Avenue to see what all of the fuss is about?

Starting May 1 at Playhouse Square is the fan-favorite Guys & Dolls. Based on a story by Damon Runyon with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, Guys & Dolls is a “musical fable” of Broadway that is set in mid-20th century New York and is about “gambling men and the strongwilled women who love them”. Hailed as an American classic, Guys & Dolls is a musical comedy that is sure to entertain.

As an historical aside, it should be noted that given Cleveland’s layout, Euclid Avenue was the only logical choice to serve as the location of the city’s theatre district. Back in the day, there were 5 theaters that started this new theater district: the Allen Theater, the Ohio Theater, The State Theater, the Palace Theater and 2 Loews Theaters (Becker, 2004).

For further information (or if Guys and Dolls isn’t your thing) visit playhousesquare.org Around the same time that the theater district had begun to assemble, the first indoor shopping mall in the United States had opened. The Arcade officially opened its doors to Cleveland’s residents in 1890 (Becker, 2004).

Also on Euclid Avenue this summer is the One Nation Under a Groove Gala. This funk and soul music revue will be performed by Cleveland School of the Arts (CSA) students. The school itself is a specialty arts school that focuses on music, theater, dance, creative writing & visual arts. The gala will honor David LaRue, CEO of Forest City Enterprises Inc. Mr. LaRue is the former President of the FCSA Board of Trustees and has been instrumental in achieving the goal of a new school building for CSA.

The gala will be held on Friday, May 3, 2013 from 6:30 – 10:30 pm at the House of Blues, 308 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44114. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.clevelandschoolofthearts.org or by calling 216.421.7690.

Cleveland Metropark Zoo

When in doubt, my default source of amusement and merriment has always been the zoo. It’s a very little known fact that Cleveland Zoo actually began on the East Side. Originally, Jeptha Wade (one of the founding members of Western Union Telegraph) donated land to the city for the establishment of Wade Park. Because of residential development and the addition of other animals, the zoo was gradually moved to (the then) Brookside Park, where it currently resides (Van Tassel, Grabowski, 1987).

From now until Halloween, Discount Drug Mart is sponsoring Photo Safari. This is the zoo’s annual photo contest that is open to all amateur photographers. All photos must be taken between April 1 and Halloween of this year.

Also happening is the Wild Ride at the Zoo. This is an after-hours event that will give visitors the opportunity to skip the tried and true Tram ride to the top of the hill and elsewhere in favor of riding their bikes!

Don’t have a bike or the means to get your bike there? No problem! The Bike Rack has you covered! Call (216) 771-7120 to reserve your bike seat! The number of bikes available for rent will be limited.

Tickets for Wild Ride are available online or at the zoo box office.

For further information visit clemetzoo.com

References

Becker, Thea Gallo. (2004). Images of America: Cleveland 1796-1929. Great Britain Arcadia Home Music Lifestyle Columns The AltOhio Story Collective Sports Page Good About Us Advertise With Us Publishing.

Grabski, Matthew Lee. (2005). Images of America: Cleveland’s Flats. Arcadia Publishing: Great Britain.

Van Tassel, David D (Ed.). Grabowski, John J. (Ed.). (1987). The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.


This is part one of a series of articles that I have completed for AltOhio. In it, I detail the things that you could do in Cleveland at that time. A copy of the original article, as well as the rest of the series, can be found in the included links. 

Tremont Arts Festival

This was my first article for AltOhio. In it, I wrote up the annual Tremont Arts Festival and delved into the history of Tremont (a neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio). A copy of the original article can be found here. 


On Saturday September 17th and Sunday, September 18th, Tremont will be hosting their 13th annual arts and cultural festival at Lincoln Park. The park is located at 1208 Starkweather Avenue. Saturday the Festival starts at 11am and ends at 6pm. Sunday the festivities begin at 12pm and end at 5pm.

According to the Tremont West Development Corporation web site, “The mission of the Festival is to celebrate the cultural and artistic diversity of Tremont and Greater Cleveland by encouraging the artistic and cultural endeavors of its visual and performing artists”. What you can expect is food, music, dance and poetry performances, art your children can participate in as well as art that you can purchase.

On the surface, it may seem that the goal of this festival is to raise money solely through merchandising. This is not the case.

After speaking with Festival Manager Scott Rosenstein I learned about the beginnings and overall intent of this festival. In September of 1999, Rosenstein, along with several other residents, (notably Jean Brandt, founder of the Brandt Gallery, Tremont’s longest running art gallery) started this grass roots promotion of area artists. When questioned about the popularity of the festival over the past 13 years, Rosenstein feels that he is subjectively pious. Folks really look forward to it and Artists reactions to it have been favorable. Many of them have participated multiple times. This is with good reason, too.

It is standard procedure for the artists to submit a survey regarding their experience in the festival. Over the past two years, well more than half of the artists have had positive experiences with the park layout, the amount of sales they have made and the level of help they have received from the event staff.

Speaking as a former resident, I have often wondered what it was that attracted artists to Tremont. Initially, I thought that it was the churches. It’s the first thing that even a casual observer would notice. There are a lot of churches in this neighborhood. It doesn’t even matter which direction you from. I-71, I-90, I-490… All of them have a church within view.

According to “Cleveland on Foot” by Patience Hoskins, there are 25 multi-denominational churches within 1 square mile of this neighborhood. After speaking with Mr. Rosenstein as well as doing some research of my own, I have come to the conclusion that it is the combination of the religious presence of the area as well as the history of Tremont.

Take the site of this weekends festival, Lincoln Park, for example. In 1850, Mrs. Thirsa Pelton originally bought the site with the intention of opening a girl’s school. Unfortunately, she died before the school could be built. As a result, her heirs surrounded the park with a fence and locked the gates.

In response to this action, Tremont residents repeatedly tore the fence down because they felt that this was an area that should be open to the public. Bitter litigation ensued further resulting in the city’s purchase of the park.

The residents celebrated the opening of Pelton Park on July 4, 1880 with a barbecue and additional festivities. It wasn’t until 1896 that the park was renamed Lincoln Park. The history of this community runs deeper than most people, locals included, seem to realize. 

The original settlers of the neighborhood we now know as Tremont hailed from New England. These people were economically better off than most and they were in search of an area outside of downtown Cleveland to build their homes. They settled in Tremont in 1818.

In 1851, these same settlers, through a remarkably nebulous set of circumstances, decided that the area known as present-day Tremont would be the future site of Cleveland University.

Initially, classes began in an off-site location due to the fact that the future of the school depended on said proposed site. It was the intent that this area was to be named University Heights. Hence, the names of the streets like Literary, Professor, College, etc. After a full year of operation resulting in the awarding of 8 degrees, attendance declined rapidly during the fall of 1852.

By 1853, the idea of Cleveland’s first university was abandoned. Supposedly this was the result of a personality clash between members of the board of trustees. 8 years later, the Civil War started. While it’s fairly obvious where the war occurred very few people realize that Cleveland was the site of one of the largest Civil War camps.

In July of 1862, Camp Cleveland was organized and located in the area that is presently known as W. 5th, W. 7th, Railway Avenue and Marquardt Ave. For three years, the camp housed visiting units, confederate prisoners, and served as the training ground for 15,230 officers. The camp closed shortly after the end of the war in August of 1865.

Facts like these seem to be easily kicked to the side when it comes to the rejuvenation of a local area. While it is good on many levels that this sort of rejuvenation happens, people become more concerned about the trend that a local area produces as opposed to the history of that area. There really is no happy balance between the two.

Personally, I think it has to do with the fact that a lot of us had to suffer some very terrible history teachers throughout our formal education. We’ve been conditioned on some level to think that history is boring.

History isn’t boring. It, like everything else in life, is what you make of it. Tremont is a testament to this. With its flourishing restaurant scene, the economical growth that has been stimulated by shopping area known as Steelyard Commons, and its budding art scene, Tremont is well on its way to being a hotbed of Culture in Cleveland.


This was my first article for AltOhio. In it, I wrote up the annual Tremont Arts Festival and delved into the history of Tremont (a neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio). A copy of the original article can be found here. 

The Paramedic

Once upon a time, I was contracted by a private individual to create a piece of flash fiction based on a prompt that they provided. This is that story. A copy of the original can be found here. 


“It was such a simple thing,” the thought disintegrated before it had a chance to take root.

As a paramedic, Ed had seen amazing things and helped a countless number of people. When the call came in Ed didn’t think anything of it. It was a routine car accident and he was familiar with the intersection where it happened. There was one fatality, 2 survivors, and a handful of witnesses. Another day at the office.

As the ambulance sped along, Ed remembered the things his wife had wanted him to get from the grocer’s after his shift. “Borax, milk… Fuck, there was something else,” he grimaced.

The ambulance arrived with little interference from the public. Sometimes people can’t be bothered to get out of the way. The irony wasn’t lost on Ed: some yahoo thinking that their life was more important than the one he was trying to save.

As Ed and his team exited the ambulance, they were briefed by one of the police officers that arrived at the scene first.

“Victim was a __ ___ ___. Witnesses reported that the victim blew through the intersection and t-boned the survivors.”

One of the survivors sat on the curb outside of their now boomeranged shaped car while they watched the other survivor be attended to by the members of Ed’s team. Ed and the officer continued to make their way to the Victim. They stopped in front of the Victim’s car.

The Officer continued while both he and Ed stared at the spider-webbed sea and accordion-ed steel of the car in front of them.

“Checked the car for any controlled substances. Only thing we found was the Vic’s cell phone on the floor of the passenger’s side.”

Ed looked down at the phone in the officer’s gloved hand.

“Such a simple thing…” Ed thought. The Victim had typed the word “I” in the reply field. Ed finished the text for her. “… Love you.” The Officer pushed ‘send’.


Once upon a time, I was contracted by a private individual to create a piece of flash fiction based on a prompt that they provided. This is that story. A copy of the original can be found here. 

The Best Sandwich in Cleveland You’ve Never Heard Of

This post This story originally appeared on Parachute (an online magazine owned by MapQuest). A copy of the original article can be found here. 


Part of the allure of travel is trying out new things to eat. It’s only natural. You are an explorer that is out of their normal element in search of adventure. This is not to say that this task is without its challenges. Finding delicious local food, when you are not a local, can be quite a task.

In the event that your travels take you to the greater Cleveland Ohio area, I implore you to make the pilgrimage to Alesci’s Italian Deli in South Euclid and get yourself a Grinder. Your mouth will thank you.

It should be known that for the first 34 years of my life, I lived in Cleveland. While I may currently be residing in the South, I am a Cleveland-er. Once you have that mark on you, it will never come off. Go ahead and click the link above: you’re not going to find any mention of this masterpiece on their website.

That’s how good this sandwich is. Locals know about it. Locals love it. Do they want to keep it to themselves? Who’s to say? To put it into perspective for you: when my father was alive, he had made a point of introducing his children to the wonders of Alesci’s and their sandwiches (specifically the Grinder). For locals, including myself, this is more than a sandwich: it’s a heritage.

With respect to the Grinder itself, I’m not going to tell you what’s in it. Sure, that’s kind of mean and probably doesn’t help pique your interests but to be honest, I don’t know what’s in it. When I lived in that part of town as an adult, I’d never concern myself with the ‘whys’ and ‘where-fores’ of said sandwich. My only concern was getting one and getting it in my face-hole ASAP.

If you were to do a quick search of what a Grinder is, you will see that there are almost too many ways to make one and that they vary by regionality. How Alesci’s came upon the correct ingredients, in the correct order, most likely, has been lost to time. Alesci’s Grinder is a simple, flavorful, sandwich. Paired with your favorite beverage and you have one hell of a meal that you won’t soon forget.


This post This story originally appeared on Parachute (an online magazine owned by MapQuest). A copy of the original article can be found here.

A Letter to Tempe, Arizona

Dear Tempe,

As cities go, I don’t understand you at all.

As previously mentioned, my family and I have been residing in your confines since the summer of 2019. The only reason for this is the fact that you are centrally located to my wife’s place of employment. While some people might consider that a luxury, we found this to be a necessity given that most of this part of Arizona is covered with smog due to the amount of people who drive everywhere because they’re delicate flowers who can’t handle the heat. We can’t handle to heat either. But we also don’t want to make the environment any worse than it all ready is.

IMG_1160.png

If I had to guess, I would say that the air was “unhealthy” because of all of the driving and the running of air conditioning units at all hours of the day. And yes, I am one of those who is a part of the “sensitive group”. Short of all of that, Tempe you do have your interesting points:

  1. Tempe was founded in 1871 by Charles Trumbull Hayden. Supposedly, Hayden surveyed the area after being stuck their due to impassable flood waters on the Salt River. During his survey, he saw the potential in the area and staked his claim. The city was named after the Vale of Tempe in Greece. The Vale of Tempe being a valley in Greece located between Olympus and Ossa.
  2. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, Tempe had a rather beefy music scene. Groups of note being the Meat Puppets and the Gin Blossoms. Fun fact? The Tempe Library has a modest display documenting their cities musical history. Funner Fact? The Tempe Library is DOPE! Their children’s section is 18,816 SQUARE FEET. Proof that if you want a better world, you need to educate the children.
  3. Tempe is also the home of Arizona State University. The University, oddly enough was founded almost 30 years before Arizona was declared a state. Should you find yourself in Tempe you’ll notice “A” Mountain. It’s not really a mountain by scientific standards. It’s more of a butte. Regardless, it’s within the realm of the University and is also rubbing noses with the former home of the Hayden Mill. Yup: the same Hayden who founded Tempe was also a businessman.

Regardless of those bright sides, in terms of a city knowing what it is, Tempe, you are full of contradictions.

Yes, your library is fantastic. But the grade schools and high schools have garbage ratings. (For the record, the school ratings are bad enough that my kid’s have been home schooled for our desert year).

Your parks and green spaces are nice (for the 3 months out of the year that you can enjoy them) but the parks also seem to be magnets for people behaving poorly. Point of fact?  So far, I have borne witness to: a transient man, of sound body, relieving himself on a tree in full view of myself and ten other people (This was in spite of the fact that there was a bathroom within walking distance.), another transient person sleeping in a pedestrian tunnel (whom I almost ran over with my bicycle), and a mental handicapped man stretching out in front of his wheel chair, helicoptering his willy, while his caregiver half-heartedly played frisbee golf and alternately kept an eye on me (probably because he was waiting for me to say something).

On top of that, the relatively high taxes pay for your expansion and maintenance. But the same maintenance and expansion has been been raising the ambient summertime temperature by way of heat retention within the building materials that the very same cities have been using. And this rise in temperature has given birth to a rise in the man-made pollutants being put into the air that we breathe because all of the locals drive everywhere.

That’s fucked up.

Tempe, I’m for societal advancement and making things better but how your residents have been cultivating and maintaining you is completely masturbatory. Every improvement and advancement made has yield two steps in the opposite direction. I can only hope that the definition of the word enough will eventually be understood and achieved and you’ll figure out who you are.

 

My Best,

The Rank Spoon

 

This bird, you cannot change.

I’ve never been a fan of birds. I understand that everything and everyone fulfills some purpose when we consider things like ecology and the food chain. But when it comes to birds, short of sustenance, transmitting disease, and having a reason to take your car to the wash, they’re a nuisance more than anything else.

I blame my mother.

In the Beginning

Sometime during the late 80’s or early 90’s, my mother started to keep birds as pets. I don’t recall the species she’s had over the decades. I know that parakeets have held court in her life at various points, but that’s about it.

For a short while, one of my chores was to care for her birds. I don’t think that she had some nefarious parent card that she was playing. Like “Wouldn’t it be ironic if I made my spawn take care of the pet that only I care about?” as she steepled her fingers a la Mr. Burns. I genuinely think that she was trying to work some responsibility into me.

And for a short while, I enjoyed it. I have always gotten a satisfaction from cleaning. There’s a mindful mindlessness to the act of cleaning as a whole. More so when it came to her bird’s cage. Filling the food and water with fresh stock, finding new faces in the newspaper for the littler fuckers to shit on, knowing that I can walk away when I was done, and the birds, well, couldn’t.

I don’t remember how I got out of doing this chore. Maybe I started doing a shitty job on purpose, like most kids do? Regardless, since those sepia-toned days of yore, I have determined that the only birds for me are my wife (because she is the prettiest bird) and chicken (because it is the tastiest).

If you’re known for carrying disease, being loud at inopportune times, and randomly shitting, you don’t have a place in my life. (My children, if they read this, should take note).

Overseas Facts.

One time when we were still living in Japan, my wife and I determined that we needed a getaway. So we booked a hotel and stayed in a traditional Japanese room (tatami mats, futons, legless chairs, the whole spiel…) Because why not? Right? How often do you really get to walk a mile in someone else’s getas?

When we went to explore the surrounding neighborhood, we started to notice that there were heavy, lined nets bunched up by all of the trash receptacles that we would walk by. We could have inspected them a bit deeper than in passing but we didn’t want to confirm that we were weirdo gaijin’s who had a trash fetish.

For the life of us, we couldn’t figure out what the purpose of all of those nets were. Until the next day, when we were cutting through the park.

One of the locals had thrown a speck of some grain-based product. That’s what you’re looking at, below.

Once the speck had hit the ground, that motley bunch had apparated from their bird-y dimension and had laid waste to said sustenance. Take note of the pigeon in the bottom, right. Looks like he was making towards my toes, right? Well, he was. We didn’t stick around to see what happened next.

What is not pictured are all of the crows that were higher up in the trees.

You’d be surprised by the number of crows you’d find in central Japan. My family and I certainly were. After the jet-lag wore off and we were able to explore our immediate surrounding we were pleasantly surprised to see that we were in the middle of farmland. Naturally, all of the tumblers clicked into place and we were able to unlock the why of all of the crows. Know what else you’d be surprised about? During the summer months in Japan, the sun is all ready in the sky at 4am. Know who else knows wakes up with the sun? The fucking crows.

That’s right: The nets are “trash nets” for the waste that won’t fit in the bins because the avian population in central Japan is so gangsta that they will fly off with your shit.

Lesson learned? Don’t fuck with the birds in Japan unless you want to become the Rennfield, to their Dracula.

How Our Desert Year Started

Shortly after the wife and I got our housing in Tempe squared away, we were both pleasantly surprised to learn that children of a certain age can ride the transit system for free provided that they have to proper transportation identification. We were further delighted to find out that the Tempe Transit Center was roughly two miles from our home.

It went downhill from there for me.

Should you be new to the Tempe area, consider yourself warned: there is nowhere to park on the transit center property. On top of that, it’s not clearly marked. You’ll see the bus turnaround and the accompanying silver building. But you will not see the closet where the TC office actually is. (For the record, it’s next to the Bike Cellar).

After the wife and I had ground our teeth down to the nubs trying to suss out if Google Maps was punking us, we parked at one of the many metered parking spots that are parallel to the TC and began the Bataan Death March of shepherding our children through Downtown Tempe lunch hour traffic. Keep in mind that this was the middle of July as well. The temperature was “Screw You” hot. 

As we had begun to draw close to the TC, we had walked by the aforementioned bus shelters. Distracted by the heat and the chatter of my family, I took passing note of all of the birds hanging out, still and stifled from the heat. They looked dead and that gave my cold heart pleasure.

When I redirected my attention to my mission, one of said birds took note of me by scoring a direct hit down the length of my left forearm. Fun fact? When a bird that is heated by the desert sun shits on you, said shit is unnervingly hot.

Since then, I make a strategic point of noting where birds are in relation to my person should I find myself in a state of ambulation.

Present Day

Sometime after I was baptized by the spirit of Tempe, I had decided to be nice and get my wife an adult beverage from the neighborhood QT. It was in the early evening so it was relatively ok to walk outside.  As I crested the sidewalk and stepped foot on QT property, I saw something I didn’t think that I would see that day.

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Yes, someone who is not me, ripped the wings off of a pigeon.

Before fingers start wagging in my direction in an attempt to paint me as a sociopath with mommy issues, I’d like to share with you the one thing that Tempe has plenty of: bums.

They are everywhere.

Point of fact? It seems to be an Arizona thing. My family and I noticed a fair amount of pan handlers, and people who would openly talk about where they were going to squat that night, in Sedona of all places. Regardless, Tempe, close to the Scottsdale border seems to have the highest concentration of transients. Especially in “high summer”. I wouldn’t be surprised if some nimble fingered gypsy got desperate enough to trap a pigeon for their daily meal.

For what it’s worth, I did make an effort to locate a carcass. It was for naught. Regardless of my opinion on birds all together, you can’t not feel a slight pang of pity for the pigeon. In all likelihood, whoever did this had some sort of mental illness that they have been carrying with them for some time. It’s a common theme amongst most homeless people. For all I know, it could have been some dickhead showing off in front of their friends. That said, they probably didn’t kill the little fucker first. We can only hope that I am not right.

I know I felt a pang of pity. The pity pang lasted 5 seconds before I realized that my wife was waiting for me. Like I said, we all serve a purpose.