~ I want everyone to

~ I want everyone to know about Bach’s Cafe on Agricola Street, just off North. It’s my new favourite hangout and I’m hoping they’ll get enough business to stick around. Bach’s is run by a very sweet Korean couple who will make you a chicken pita the size of a friggin’ football.

The cool thing about the cafe is that they have a large audiophile stereo system–shelves upon shelves of vintage tube equipment, plus a couple of enormous Altec movie theatre speakers. You know they’re serious when they list the sound system specs and the music collection right on the menu.

How can you not get into “a place who loves polar bears.”

So I was having lunch at Bach’s today, and Larue pointed out an article in the Daily News. The fire department is urging people not to thaw out their frozen pipes with blowtorches. Apparently a building in Dartmouth burned to the ground last night after someone tried to use a torch on the pipes.

This article was of interest to me, as Bloomfield House has been without water for five days now. At least we’re not the only ones with frozen pipes. However, burning the house down to thaw out the pipes seems a bit drastic.

Yes, it is starting to get a little tiresome being without running water. Taking a shower, brushing my teeth, flushing the toilet–I can’t wait to be able to do these things again. It will be a long time before I take such activities for granted. Fortunately we got an oil delivery on Saturday, so the house is nice and warm.

~ The other night, I just had to go. Not much you can do about it, really… when you gotta go, you gotta go. Mark Black kindly offered to help me out with melting some snow on the stove for flushing purposes. I came downstairs and Mark said, “Larue phoned and I told her you were in the bathroom and she said she’d phone back.”

“You told a girl I was in the bathroom,” I said. “Thanks a lot.” We joked about that, and then I said, “Anytime Larue phones, I will drop everything to take the call.” Ha ha.

I had a big snow pan going on the stove, melting slowly into slush. Mark put a glass bowl full of snow on one of the burners.

“Are you sure that bowl’s safe for stovetops?” I said.

“It’s fine,” said Mark. “It’s Durex, I checked out the bottom of the bowl. It’s got a little flame symbol on it. It’s fine.”

I looked at the bowl dubiously. “Okay,” I said. Steam was curling up from around the edges of the red-hot burner.

I went to stick a potato masher into the snow to speed the melting process, and the bowl exploded. Shards of glass scattered around the kitchen. I yelled out and stumbled back as a litre of adrenaline dumped into my system.

I had to go sit down while Mark cleaned up the broken glass. It felt like ten years had been taken off my life. I was lucky that a piece of flying glass didn’t take my eye out.

Isn’t Durex a condom brand? ‘Cuz those things break like motherfuckers.

The current score: Mark Black 2, Bloomfield House glass objects 0.

~ I got home from Bach’s this afternoon and no one was here. When I went upstairs I discovered a big messy dump in the toilet. Apparently someone hadn’t felt like going to the trouble of thawing the snow to flush it. (Not to throw around random accusations or anything, but I have my suspicions.)

I was grumpy. Can we not at least maintain some veneer of civilization around here, people?

So I set about thawing some snow in a giant pan on the stovetop.

I don’t know how the act of melting snow can be simultaneously so boring and so fascinating. Even with the burner at maximum heat, it still seems to take a while. But it’s mildly engaging to watch the whole transition from fluffy snow to packy snow to slush to water with slush in it to water.

In previous years we used to make snow cones with fresh snow and cherry syrup. This year, unfortunately, any Bloomfield House snow cones are liable to be Benson & Hedges flavour. We’ll be passing on that tradition this winter, thanks.

While I was thus occupied, Mike the superintendent knocked on the back door. “Did you call Jim about the frozen pipes?” he said. “There’s no need to call Jim about that. That’s what I’m here for, so you don’t need to pester the landlord about stuff. Don’t call Jim for stuff, call me. Unless you run out of oil or smash a window. Then you’re on your own.”

Mike went down into the basement and came up a couple minutes later to talk about the pipes. “Keep that heater going there, under the kitchen sink,” he said. “I’ve got the heat going on the pipes downstairs, so maybe it’ll thaw out.”

“You’ve got another heater going downstairs?” I said.

“I’ve got the propane torch onto it right now,” he said. “Just letting it run for a while.”

“So you’ve left a propane torch running in the basement,” I said. “Isn’t that a little dangerous?”

“I’ve just got it pointed right at the pipes,” he said. “I’m giving ‘er a few minutes to heat the pipes up.”

I scratched my head. “Well,” I said. “Keep an eye on the cat, he goes down there to use the litter box.”

I looked at Mike.

He said “Well,” and then he went back downstairs.

Great, I was thinking, our house is going to burn down. I started making a mental list of stuff I’d try to rescue after Mike caught the house on fire with his propane torch.

Vickers the cat. Laptop and video camera. Guitar. Maybe try to get a couple of vintage analog synths out the door. Everything else, the hell with it.

Mike came back up a few minutes later to twist the taps on the kitchen sink. “Still nothing? Nope,” he said. “It’s weird, it doesn’t make sense. All the pipes down there seem to be at room temperature.”

“The problem’s probably under the street,” I said, stirring melted snow on the stove. “I’m think I’m just going to phone the water commission.” Actually, I had already phoned the water commission.

Mike went back down to the basement again. He came tearing back up the stairs seconds later in a mad panic.

“Give me water!” he said. “Philip, quick, give me some water!”

Here we go, I thought. I gave him the bucket of water I’d been thawing for the flush, and he dashed back down the stairs.

I followed with the big pan from the stove. The basement was full of smoke. It stank of propane down there. The front corner of the house was on fire.

Mike threw all the water on it and managed to douse the flames. I coughed and tried to wave the smoke away from my face.

We stood there for a minute as smoke and steam hissed up around us. “You’ll probably need to go open a couple doors,” said Mike.

At this juncture, I chose to keep my thoughts to myself.

I went upstairs. The house was full of smoke, all the way up to the top floor. I went around and opened all the doors and windows to air the place out.

I returned to the basement. Mike was squatting in front of the pipe. “Did you open the doors, the front door and the back door?” he said.

“Yes,” I said. Black scorch marks ran up the basement walls. I suddenly felt morose. “Any damage?”

“Doesn’t look like it,” said Mike. “I guess that’s one lesson I learned, don’t even leave it unattended for two seconds, heh heh heh.”

I hung around until Mike left. He was making me a little nervous. Then I went around closing doors and windows. It occurred to me that the house had been full of smoke, and the smoke detectors hadn’t gone off.

I went to go check on the smoke detectors. They were missing. Where did they go?

I checked the kitchen drawers. No luck. What happened to our smoke detectors? Someone must have taken them down when they burned a meal and not bothered to put them back up. Smart.

Lately, I have been feeling like a lonely island of common sense.

Still, I suppose it’s a good thing that someone left their poop in the toilet. Otherwise, I might not have been thawing snow, and there would have been no water on hand to put out the fire with. And so on.

The headline will read: BLOOMFIELD HOUSE SAVED BY POOP.

By the way, isn’t it ironic that Mike came up the stairs shouting “give me water”? Wasn’t getting water the whole point in the first place?

This episode has done nothing to lessen my feelings of impending apocalypse.

~ All the water I’d been planning to flush the toilet with had been used to put out the fire. I sighed and went outside to get another bucket of snow.