Writer’s World Episode #143: Go With the Flow

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“Karci.” Author Image.

The faucet installation took me four hours or so and that included removing the sink from the wall (a pedestal sink) so as to make the drain removal and reinstallation easier. It’s a trick I recall learning from a youtube video. And remarkably, my PVC drain plumbing didn’t require any rework and it didn’t leak. Most remarkable, however, is the gift of proper water flow! Part of it had to do with deposits in the gate valves downstairs and the faucet shutoffs that, once I opened and closed them, broke at least some of the material free which promptly jammed up the works even worse. Additionally, I think the flow restrictors present within the design of the modern aerator – the EPA required water saving mandates – not only encourage and collect deposits (precipitates) but also collect grit and grains of sand or what have you that shake themselves loose within your pipes. They all combine perniciously to literally block the water. Remove the restrictors (in this example the silicone O-ring resides within the restrictor component) and bingo! – mini Niagara.

Of note, what you see below is not the aerator – you know, that little screen that serves to shape the water flow into something uniform and otherwise respectable? No. It’s indeed merely a flow restrictor. The gray-colored aerator portion may be reinserted into the faucet to do its job.

“Remove This.” Author image.

This Pfister “Karci” in brushed nickel is the same model I installed downstairs last year and another thing I like besides its smart appearance, functionality and spot-resist finish is its neato pop-up or push-to-seal drain – I tell customers at the home improvement that once you experience getting rid of that pesky stopper assembly with its control rod and clips and ball seal – ugh – you will never go back. They look nicer in the sink basin, too. Oh, and no damn disgusting plumber’s putty, the legacy of which, as I just experienced in replacing the Kohler unit that I had in place before, is a sludgy, filthy, grimy and otherwise hideous mess.

Frustratingly but not surprisingly, however, as soon as I’d finished the install and ran the faucet full blast for a time the damn drain plugged up – completely blocked! So, I let the water fill up the sink until it poured into the overflow (so as to further clear the overflow chamber that was harboring spurious plumber’s putty I couldn’t reach) and then worked on snaking the damn thing. This stopper design must be unscrewed for removal while I’ve noticed some others in the store utilize silicone o-rings as seals – you just yank the thing out. Anyway, after some “convincing” I was able to get the snake deep into the plumbing, past the trap, past the wall coupling and into the extension that leads to the stack pipe. I’ve probably got enough snake to reach the stack pipe itself and frankly I think that’s where most of my shower and sink drain clogs have occurred. Solidified soaps and toothpaste and nameless other personal care products gradually build up and commingle in unholy ways with hair, yuck, it’s a nasty reality in drain maintenance. But I’m convinced that more flow helps drains remain clear – water possesses abrasive qualities and significant mechanical inertia. Slow flow only begets slower flow.

“Pop-up Drain.” Author image.

***

What’s the point? Of writing, that is. I’m asking myself this the past few days. Witty, intellectual, engaging. These are the kind words that a reader, L.S., shared with me regarding Time Crime. Such a description is probably exactly the best that I could hope for with TC1 and it establishes a tribe of at least one. And one is a considerable distance beyond zero. However, in terms of commerce, as the zero sales days wind themselves out again into weeks and statistical obscurity undermines my efforts at professionalizing my writing, I have to keep questioning whether what I’m doing makes any sense beyond having satisfied a one-off fantasy, common to so many of us, of having published a book.

I hope you keep writing. Thanks L.S. Words indeed fail to express my gratitude. I hope I keep writing, too. We require so very little, I’m living proof, yet skirting so closely beside the brink of categorical obscurity for a year nevertheless begins to seem, in a word, foolhardy. One feels a fool for banging away at something that seems doomed to occupy an absurdly tiny niche and that costs so much money to produce. A thing that fails to pay its own way cannot be regarded in professional terms as anything but indeed a failure. Subsidizing a thing has its merits. Bollingen Foundation, when it existed (it seems like something out of a dream), did something to support scholars and art-crafters, early on publishing J. Campbell, for example (which is how I came to know of it), but only by way of the incomprehensible resources of the Mellon fortune.

Aside: For further reading on the Bollingen Foundation, I highly recommend William McGuire’s Bollingen: An Adventure in Collecting the Past (1982):

https://smile.amazon.com/Bollingen-Adventure-Collecting-Updated-General/dp/0691099510/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=bollingen+foundation&qid=1612984311&s=books&sr=1-3

Incomprehensible resources? Today, when we are told that Jeff Bezos is worth in excess of a trillion dollars, the Mellon riches perhaps seem relatively modest. Nevertheless, they have been in place for 175 years or so. According to a 2014 article in Forbes, the Mellon fortune stood at $12B, ranking the family as the 19th mostly wealthiest at the time, richer than the Rockefellers and Kennedys combined. Nowadays? Who cares? There is always somebody richer. Meanwhile, I assume the Mellons are doing fine.

Paul Mellon’s grandfather, Judge Thomas Mellon, “was an Irish immigrant whose life could best be characterized in his own words: ‘The normal condition of man is hard work, self-denial, acquisition and accumulation; and as soon as his descendants are freed from the necessity of such exertion they begin to degenerate sooner or later in both body and mind.‘”1 The article asks, “How did the Mellons come to acquire such wealth?”

In what could be called the height of the building of [the] Mellon empire, Andrew Mellon, Paul’s father, controlled major percentages of a number of industries: Gulf Oil, the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa), Carborundum (garbage disposals, refrigeration, air-conditioning, among others), Koppers (tar, asphalt, piston rings, railroad ties, coke ovens and blast furnaces), and the National Bank & Trust Co. (which became Mellon National Bank). These were the Mellon’s “five gems,” the largest fortune ever passed from a father to a son.

https://www.learningtogive.org/resources/mellon-paul

It somehow helps keep me focused and grounded to remind myself how things are, which is to say how fundamentally different things are than what they appear outside the engine room, as it were, of this world. America isn’t all the wealth in the world, to be sure, but if you examine just the Mellons you get a good picture, I’d venture to suggest, of where the world’s money comes from (give or take a particular technology or raw natural resource) and how few people have historically been in possession of most of it. Poke around on the web and you find that it’s generally agreed that 1% of the world’s wealthiest people own half of the world’s wealth. And as I said, you must regard within the context of history, which is to say that this is nothing new.

Meanwhile, if today’s population is 7.8B it stands that 78M folks own half of everything that is. Seventy-eight million people sounds like a lot of people. It isn’t. It may indeed be a lot of books, if they all bought a copy of TC1, for example, but people? The continents are practically bursting with ’em. And your salary or your hourly wage isn’t anything in comparison to the $100M each (if we employ an average and if my math is correct) these folks take in.

“The normal condition of man is hard work, self-denial, acquisition and accumulation; and as soon as his descendants are freed from the necessity of such exertion they begin to degenerate sooner or later in both body and mind.”2 So said Judge Thomas Mellon. Subsequently, the Mellons deemed primarily responsible for propagating the family fortune were caricatured by a biographer, William Hoffman in 1974:

Old Judge Mellon, grasping, bigoted, narrow-minded. Andrew, shrewd, unprincipled, powerful. Paul, cultured, lazy, hedonistic.

Ibid.

Meanwhile, if you believe that this country is a democracy where each person has an equal voice and vote, well, I don’t believe any of us really believe that. Our situation is best described as it has always been best described, namely, that of living within an oligarchy. Politics and the media are not free but rather owned and directed, mostly behind the scenes of course, by the wealthy folks who own the constituent parts. This isn’t a new thing. Read your history. Or your mythology.

Who cares? What’s my point? Only that one’s perspective is enlarged when we consider both how things ought to be and how things are, together. And then understanding that the two shall never, by way of human nature, get much beyond our play-of-opposites predicament. What to do? Simply get on with what you’re good at. Play to your talents and do your best to transform them into strengths. Be who you are. You might inherit untold wealth. You may never earn a dime. Meanwhile, you’ve been born with talents and nothing else, in the end, matters. Money certainly isn’t everything. I used to make two and a half times more per hour than I do now. And I paid for those earnings in all manner of unsightly ways.

Yes, money makes the world go round but I would suggest that if you can earn enough to live beyond what Kundalini yoga refers to as the first three chakras, namely, survival, security and sex, so that you have time and space physically and psychologically to address an expanded humanity – that of your heart – you’ve won something precious. So be it.

Authors, then. We don’t make money and never will, statistically, at least. Which returns me, within the context of my own humble existence, to the initial idea: what’s the point? Well, it’s nothing more or less than to make my contribution. And if I get lucky I’ll have the experience of being more or less properly alive along the way. I read somewhere that Paul Mellon himself said something to the effect that every man seeks to attach himself to something eternal. There you have your reference to mythos, I’d say.

From the latest issue of Locus:

The business of publishing can wear you down, over time. I have watched a good many of my peers publish a book or two and disappear from the genre or from writing all together. I’ve seen debuts who got massive advances struggle to finish a third book that underperforms, and who never come back from it. Others are not waylaid so much by disappointment and disaster as from the simple revelation that writing a novel or two was plenty enough, and they have no interest in a writing career and of the trappings of it. Conversely, I’ve seen writing peers I thought were middling achieve phenomenal success and fame….

As I have learned, it is not the technically most skilled writers who stay in this game. It is the most persistent, who have nurtured and lucked into strong support systems, who carry with them a grimly hopeful anticipation of the future.

Kameron Hurley, “How to Survive a Decade in Publishing,” Locus: The Magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field, Issue 721, Vol. 86, No. 2, February 2021, 23. https://subscribers.locusmag.com/content/buy-february-2021

If you write, take heart. If you no longer write and nevertheless read this, likewise take heart. Which is to say, follow your heart. Even if it means that you experience your place in this world as something more tenuous, fleeting and ultimately humble than you ever thought it could be. Your talents are what they are and I can tell you that running away from them merely delays the inevitable. Think of it as your duty, in personal mythological terms, to express them, come what may.

What would your seventeen-year-old self say if you met yourself now? I can’t recall where and when (long ago) I heard this question posed but it has stuck with me. It’s a good one, at least for us dreamers, I think. Mine would be understatedly approving. Here’s a novel and I’m editing the next one. No riches? No fame? No best seller? No film adaptation? Nope. Not yet, anyway. But we’d value the novel and the wholehearted effort required and it would perhaps define the continuity of our shared perspective and expectation; our stance, the core of our otherwise unwavering faith in what could be, in the best of things and our place within the Mystery of it all.


1. https://www.learningtogive.org/resources/mellon-paul

2. Ibid.