Studio of Edwin & Marcia Ward

Friday, February 18, 2011


Not Just Another Hose Job

You should understand this, if you will, confession: there have been men in my life who suffered no indignity without comeuppance, without the benefit of recompense. Not exactly revenge. At the least, one might say, full circle; at the worst, due process. For purposes of this telling, let’s call it karma.

What follows is an incident that sheds light on this notion of What’s So Good About Men, Anyway? as it relates to not so subtle pay back.

Larry Lake and I are just leaving Max Montier’s Madison Street crib just off of and south of Colfax Avenue. From my South Pearl Street abode in Wash Park, we had driven over in Larry’s short, (short, that’s beatnik for car as the shortest way from point A to point B is in a car), Larry’s short being a third-world class beater, a phoenix-out-of-ashes - one car out of two - 78 Toyota, something he’d spent nine months assemblage-ing from the remains of two junk yard specials: different Toyotas of the same vintage, make and model. In Larry’s amalgamation, some fenders are maroon, some grey; some windows are tinted, some not.

As was July, this first week of August is proving to be a scorcher. The late afternoon temperature is three times my age, just four shy of three digits. (For the mathematically impaired: it’s ninety-six degrees and I’m thirty-two; the year is 1980.) Assuredly, it’s a wasteful, foolish and fruitless time to water a lawn, given evaporation and the inability of grass to absorb water when the heat’s at its zenith; nonetheless, Max’s downstairs neighbor - about whom I know nothing: not the neighbor’s sex or age or occupation - he or she has imprudently turned on a lawn sprinkler, full blast. It showers an area some fifty feet in diameter with most of the water missing its intended target, a weary square of burned out, dog-pissed-on bluegrass that abuts the west face of the old Congress Park mansion. As it turns out, even though the plumbing that carries it is more than a century old, the water is forceful and it mostly puddles on the non-porous asphalt and cement areas on the periphery of its extreme range. That hardly any water lands on the grass speaks to the notion that rain clouds can cloak silver linings, for when Larry and I step outside the front door of Max’s apartment building and off the porch, we are pleasantly cooled by the sprinkler-ed water, an unexpected nicety considering the hot ultraviolet nature of the afternoon weather, illumed as we are by the not-a-cloud-in-the-sky three PM sunlight.

Now, what water isn’t wetting us, the sidewalk and Madison Street seems to be showering onto
Larry’s Toyota, something I note without concern or alarm, for I have not, as has Larry, remembered that we left the car windows open when we went inside. And now Larry’s little pride and joy - he called his short, Japanenstein - after Frankenstein - his auto assemblage, his labor of love is soaked, drenched outside and in by the carelessness of Max’s neighbor. As I’ve said: ninety percent of the sprayed water falls everywhere wasteful.

So what does a man like Larry do when confronted with the inattentiveness of others? He gets their attention.

Larry jogs thru the artificial rain to his short, climbs in and cranks closed the open windows. After a moment’s thought and a flash of inspiration, he emerges from Japanenstein with a retractable utility knife, the hardware store variety that carries replacement blades within the body of the implement. He also gets a swim towel out of the trunk which he hands me. After lighting a smoke and taking the longest of drags - Larry’s a chain smoker who is rumored to smoke in his sleep - Larry eyes the situation intently, scanning the scene like a platoon sergeant approaching the perimeter of “safe and secure.” He studies the lay of the urban landscape and the facade of this Denver Square’s west face to the world. A window, bottom northwest, is open. Loud indulgent irreverent rock and roll guitar spills out of the window like steam roiling from an active volcano. It is still raining water everywhere but on the lawn, and the sprinkler remains unattended. Given the volume of water that gluts the east side gutter all the way from Japanenstein to Colfax Avenue, I figure the water must have been showering most of the time that Larry and I were inside visiting Max, some forty-five minutes or so, as poetic repartee over beers is rarely brief. The cloth seats of Japanenstein are gonna be soaking wet, but not as wet as Larry’s gonna make the target of his anger.

Larry takes a moment - for the theater and practicality of it - to change the blade of his knife. He uses his thumbnail to un-spiral the screw holding the knife together, and then he holds the old blade between his thumb and index finger. He raises it up to the sun to examine the ware of its usage, before replacing the dull steel with a virgin-sharp blade. After reassembling the knife and lighting yet another filtered Camel off the lit end of his last filtered Camel, Larry calmly suggests that I get into Japanenstein, which is running smoothly and quietly, as, apparently, Larry had keyed the ignition when he’d climbed in to roll up the passenger side windows.

I sit shotgun, a towel between my blue jeans and the wet seat, and look out the window. I crank up the radio’s jazz, a honking Freddy Hubbard solo, lending an East Coast soundtrack to the unfolding scene. In the theater of my mind, I mimic a film director and tell myself “Action” as I blink to get the camera of my memory rolling.

Larry picks up the hose about half way between the offending sprinkler and the outside faucet and quickly and adeptly makes two hoses out of one with the blade of his knife. Water ceases to shower the air at the sprinkler end as it all flows now out of the end of the shortened hose in Larry’s hand. Across the lawn to the open window he saunters and then Larry commences to water the first floor apartment - like one would flood flowers - by hanging the hose in thru the open window. He also pulls the leaded glass window down to clamp the hose in place before returning to Japanenstein. We head north and then west on Colfax Avenue, the boulevard of mansions, into the Denver dog day High Plains afternoon towards Happy Hour and the Satire Lounge where we will water our thirsts without wasting water.

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