Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Home for Boys: Tricky Plumbing


A rhetorical question: What is it about boys and plumbing? It's not a question I will answer, except to sympathize with mothers of boys who have hit-and-miss aim or an aversion to flushing. You know what I'm talking about; I know what you're going through. But really, this post is not about those sort of plumbing issues. What I've remembered is something else. Namely, the fact that when I was in college I lived in Rhinebeck, New York (off campus), on Montgomery Street. My landlord was a veterinarian, and the apartment I rented was in a light blue house across the street. The house, I recall now, was at one time a home for boys. I never did learn what that meant exactly. Were they orphan boys? Was it a sort of reform house, where discipline cases were sent? What I did learn was that my living room was at one time the shower room. This explained the defunct spigots (Is that what they were? I confess I do not know my plumbing terminology) that you could see around the perimeter of the room, exposed where there were small square notches cut out of the hardwood floor. These never posed a problem. They were inactive, nothing leaked or clogged or anything. I did like to think about the room, though, the way it must've been: steamy and full of strapping, towel-snapping, naked young men. I didn't think of boys, of course; not little ones. I imagined teenagers, which was normal, since I myself was still one. A former boys' shower room was an amusing place for a college girl to entertain friends, I can tell you. The not-so-entertaining thing in the apartment was also related to plumbing—it was the day that I came back from a weekend's trip to visit my parents one summer and found my bathroom ceiling on the floor. A plaster mess covered the black and white tile; filled the very 1950s-looking pink bathtub; lay strewn in the sink. I don't know what caused it. There didn't seem to be water anywhere, or none that I recall. No active leak. It just looked like someone had tossed a grenade in my bathroom. Exaggeration, sure—but not much. To the veterinarian's credit, it all got fixed in short order. Maybe that same day, or the next. Nothing else eventful ever happened in that apartment; not in terms of the structure itself. Neighbors were quiet, too (except in the house next door, where the pot-bellied guy in the wife-beater shirt yelled at his kids a lot). No issues. It was just a nice place to live for four years, a unique place with history. Perhaps, of all the places I've lived, the place with the most charm . . . though not of the kind you'd experience if you were living in it when it was, still, a home for boys with tricky plumbing (modifier left intentionally ambiguous)!

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