— From EF —

It isn’t often that the prelude to catastrophe goes “plink, plink,” and it isn’t always a blessing that my hearing is still unnervingly acute, but there you go. I had been doing an improvisation with our water heater for more than a year, addressing the pinhole leaks in the copper supply pipes with fiendish overlapping wraps of stretchy pvc tape.

The alert was the “Plink, plink,” so I was attuned to this. A couple of days ago, I was back by the utility room and heard the dread sound, but it seemed to come from closer to the floor than usual. Oh God. I found standing water on the floor under the water heater. I keep grubby old towels for times like these, so I stuffed them underneath and went to the gym. When I got back, the towels were sopping, and when I removed them to spin in the washer, the plinks were markedly faster. The goddamned water-heater tank had become a sieve.

Plumber? I don’t know from local plumbers, so I consulted our local BB’s listings and called the first one. I was politely told that the average installation for a new tank was $500, which made me freak. Soon I discovered that this was the norm. I went on line to price water heaters, and it was quickly obvious that we were going to sink a grand into this. Plink, plink, gush. I called the first plumber back.

Meantime, I began a cycle of what was to become the pattern of the rest of the day: take two towels, stuff them into the lake, heave them up into the washer, spin them, take two more towels, repeat, etc. I felt like an oil rig — up, grab, down, heave, repeat.

The plumber arrived, and he was a winner. The tank was toast, so I got my instructions for getting the needed stuff bought and set the schedule for next morning. Tiring of the wet-towel heave, I shut off the water and drained the pipes. Next day, he returned with the new tank, I watched the guy working and learned a lot, everything got installed, and I wrote a big check.

Coping with an absence of running water for 24 hours was further education.  We’ve been habitual campers for a long time and know how to make a 3-gallon jug last, but I found some refinements. A great many of the world’s population have to manage the same.

So here’s the bottom line. I admire the skills of the guy who did the work and appreciate his steel-cable forearms. The heater cost a lot, but it has new features that I am happy with. I had to blow off gym for a day but chugged out muscular effort that more than compensated. I have always felt a spine-deep thrill when I put the hot washcloth to my face in the morning, and now I emit a glow of gratitude.

— From the Fool —

I was watching the news, thinking, Why are we doing this? What do we need? Seems like we need something, or need to get rid of something, but it better be quick. Or else we just better turn off the news.

But maybe what we need is new words. If we can describe stuff, it seems like we’re in charge. Like, I can describe my friend Joe’s big fat dog, but it can’t describe me, so I get the burger & fries and it gets the dog dish. Once, a cup of coffee cost a dime, now it’s two, three bucks, but words for the news haven’t kept up with inflation. Or with firepower.

We’ve got disaster and slaughter and genocide, but those are pretty much worn out. Cataclysm, holocaust — ditto. Crank it up to catastrophe, apocalypse, Armageddon —that’s getting closer. But soon they’ll be reporting the Daily Apocalypse, and it’s one more word in the rag bin.

So I thought maybe juice it up with creativity. It’s hard to turn on creativity without getting too creative, so I thought let’s see what we can do with what we’ve got. I came up with catastrophocalypse and apocastrophe.

They’re hard to spell but they’re punchy, I think. I thought maybe I could copyright’em and license them out like Mickey Mouse or The Incredible Hulk. It’d have to be a really big disaster, like a million dead or a billion dollars’ damage or a celebrity shoplifting cat food.

But I told this to my friend Marge, who being a bartender is good with words, and she wasn’t impressed. “No money in that,” she said. “Long words make people feel dumb.” She told me to get it down to five letters and I might be onto something.

Pzysm. Krgsp. Brxxk. Blasm. Fuzuk. Splat.

Or maybe the news will get better.

— From CB —

By virtue of daily skimming The New York Times, Google News, and a ton of citations from liberal sources, not to mention some wingnuts of various calibers, I consider myself reasonably well-informed. You qualify for that status, perhaps, when you realize you know more than you really want to know. Though granted, you can achieve that in about five minutes, any day.

Ages ago, as a student at Northwestern, I’d ride the El into Chicago to see a movie, and in places it would pass apartment houses, sometimes past windows that seemed no more than ten feet away.

Besides musing on what it would be to live with that incessant roar, I felt that sometime I might see people through uncurtained windows doing something more intimate than eating supper. I imagined a Hitchcockian scenario where an innocent drama student would catch a transient glimpse of a rape, a murder, a picturesque suicide. What would I do?

Now I know the answer. I would have done the same as what I do now in the face of the daily atrocities, viewed eighteen inches away on my window to the world. Nothing at all. Except, of course, occasional chat with mate or friends. I might sign a petition, write a Facebook post, and the more bizarre incidents might work their way into one of my stories. Of course I go regularly to the voting booth, with pretty much the same attitude as I go to the men’s room.

Having Sunday coffee, I watched a man with a tiny dog approach another man‘s huge, peaceful pooch. “Let me introduce you,” he said to the dogs, and put his chihuahua down before the stranger. They sniffed noses a moment, and then the chihuahua began barking ferociously, chasing the baffled beast around, under, between, behind their masters’ legs. The first-strike doctrine, I suppose.

Perhaps I should start barking at the news, and it would cower back into the sewer it gushed out of.

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© Bishop & Fuller 2015

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