1. So here's what happened with the boiler. Several weeks ago, I woke up to a faint beeping and thought, "No wonder we have so much trouble getting up! The alarm is getting quieter and quieter." But it wasn't the alarm, so Darwin and I started scouting through the house, trying to find the source of the beeping. Turns out it was the fire alarm in the basement, which was full of smoke. Our basement is laid out like a labyrinth, so we had to wind our way around through the thickening smoke to find the source of the fire. And there was the boiler, not belching forth flames, but clearly ablaze inside. Darwin had the fire extinguisher, and was going to spray the thing, while I stood behind the wall in case of explosion, and begged, "Hon, don't spray that. Hon, move away. Darwin, come on, let's go upstairs. Hon, I'm going to call the fire department. Get away from the boiler, please." Reason prevailed, and I made my first 911 call ever.
2. In which we learned that everyone had to vacate the house. That meant waking up five sleepy children and my mom, just out of the hospital, and shuffling out to sit in the icy van while the firemen (whose sirens I heard while still on the phone with the 911 dispatcher) checked everything out. They had one of those nifty heat sensing guns which informed us that the center of the burning boiler was a cool 600 degrees. The fireman let Darwin try it. "See? You just aim it at something to get a read. Here, try it on the chief."
"Oh, sure," says Darwin. "There's an icy blue spot right in the center of his chest."
The chief rolls his eyes. "Somehow everyone who tries it knows that gag."
"Every office has the same jokes."
3. So now we're running space heaters, and living shut up in the back of the house like distressed nobility. The kitchen and breakfast room (where we do schoolwork) can close off, and so can the library. We heat two bedrooms, and they stay tolerable. Lots of blankets work well, but getting up in the morning is more difficult than usual.
4. We are not the 1%, nor yet the 5%, but we do pretty comfortably. However, having to rustle up umpteen thousand dollars for a new boiler is trying to anyone short of Donald Trump's economic level. We're at the awkward point right now where the money for the boiler has been procured and forked over, but we're not yet receiving the benefit of forking out an amount of money that would have more than paid off my remaining college loans. So it's cold and we're in debt, and I'm not only reluctant to go stock up on sweaters at Lands' End, I'm reluctant to go stock up at Goodwill. Darwin thinks I'm overreacting a bit -- it's not like we're going to starve -- but we have had to make a strategic realignment of spending priorities. Like that twelve-seater van we were hoping to trade up to next year? Um, no.
5. Living in an old house is fun! We tried to run a heater to the dining room last night, but the outlets in the dining room are unimproved, so we plugged the heater in in the hall. The result was that we blew the breaker (not just the fuse, no) -- the breaker on which resided the hall outlet that the library heater is plugged into. (We can't plug the heater in in the library for fear of frying the computer circuit.) So we're running an extension cord from the kitchen to the library, but people keep tripping over the cord and unplugging it.
6. Our house is a cool 4000 sq. ft., and right now all seven of us habit an area that's about the size of a two-bedroom apartment. We can, of course, walk through the frigid core of the house (48 degrees this morning, according to the thermostat in the dining room), but the warmish space is smallish. One gains a new appreciation for the pioneers, or anyone who lived before the advent of consistent heating. The one bathroom we're all using upstairs has a ceramic wall heater, but lately I've been loathe to subject any of the children to the rigors of the chilly bath.
7. But hey! The new boiler should arrive Monday, and then the guys just have to remove the old one and get the new one regulated. Darwin nearly had a fit on the phone the other day, when the manufacturer asked if it were important that they ship the boiler before they closed for a two-week inventory period. Alway something, friends! Always something.
8. Everyone is invited up to pat our boiler once it's up and running. Why should we keep such riches to ourselves? Heat for all!
Interview With Artist Jack Baumgartner, Part II
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