Culture vulture

The floodgates of hell.

The floodgates of hell.

Photo By I. Daphne St. Brie

Tilers and plumbers and floors, oh my!
There are few sights less welcome to Culture Vulture than that of a broad stream of soapy grey water running out from under a kitchen cabinet door. There is no simple and trouble-free explanation for such a phenomenon, and even if the source is relatively minor—a loose pipe connection, say—there is still an inevitable period of cleanup and repair.

The scenario becomes even less desirable if one opens the cabinet in question and upon investigation with a flashlight discovers that none of the pipe joints or faucet connections have sprung a leak, but that the wall at the back of the cabinet is gushing like a mountain spring. To encounter such a sight as the inhabitant of a 60-year-old house is to know that dire circumstances have come upon one. Your life has been disrupted in a very fundamental way: One of the most vital forces in the American home has been taken away from you with the corrosion of one old drainpipe. Your house now contains for all practical purposes everything but the kitchen sink.

There is much to be learned from any disaster, including small domestic disasters in which no one is injured. For instance, Culture Vulture has learned in the past month or so that with a little improvisational engineering and spinal fortitude a 10-gallon garbage pail can serve the purpose of a kitchen drainpipe. As a corollary we have learned that dishwater made with biodegradable soap has no discernible negative effect on backyard vegetation. We have learned also that communing with one’s ancestors while engaged in the primitive art of carrying water has charms that wear thin after the first three weeks or so.

Further, we have learned while excavating the wall in which our broken pipe resides that the builders of houses in the later 1940s used exquisite craftsmanship, very fine lumber and an extraordinary number of nails to create domiciles that would resist all acts of destruction, be they elemental or human in origin. As a corollary to that, we have learned that it is possible to admire craftsmanship and good materials while simultaneously cursing the type of engineering that would place a corrodible pipe inside a nearly unbreachable wall.

Exploring our inconvenience even more deeply, we have discovered that several determined friends and family members can demolish an entire kitchen in about 12 hours of hard labor. (Many thanks and eternal gratitude to Chris, Cindy, Eliza, Charles and Frank.) As an added bonus Culture Vulture has learned that the lovely I. Daphne St. Brie can swing a sledgehammer with giddy enthusiasm and devastating effect on wallboard, tile countertops and wooden cabinetry; her bravura performance at countertop demolition drew cheers even as it lifted goggle-protected eyebrows.

In summation: Having your kitchen plumbing blow out totally sucks. Be thankful for friends and family who aren’t afraid of hard, dirty work. If you see a tall, gorgeous redhead hoisting a sledgehammer with a devilish grin spread across her face, step back and don protective eyewear, because you’re most likely going to need it.