east greenwich

Christmas lessons from a wise man

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As published in The Providence Sunday Journal, December 16, 2018. Above, Charlie Brown and Linus appear in a scene from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” [AP, File/1965 United Feature Syndicate Inc.]

I knew teaching Sunday school the week before Christmas was going to be a challenge.  With Santa’s arrival looming, it was unlikely the second graders in my class at St. Luke’s Church in East Greenwich would stay still. So I threw out the lesson book and cued up “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on the video player. I didn’t think my diversion from the syllabus was sacrilege; after all, at the heart of the animated classic is a recitation of the Nativity story.

But that memorable scene almost didn’t make it to the screen.

Based on the acclaimed “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” offered charming social commentary and a hip jazz soundtrack when it first aired in 1965. The made-for-TV special opens with the forever-beleaguered title character out of sorts again, this time due to the commercialism that pervades the Yuletide season. Even directing a neighborhood Christmas play can’t shake Charlie Brown from his doldrums.

Finally, exasperated during a rehearsal, he cries out, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” At which point, his friend Linus walks to center stage and, alone in a spotlight, recites the story of Jesus’s birth from the Gospel of Luke: “… For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord …”

The show’s producer, Lee Mendelson, and director, Bill Melendez, both advised against including the New Testament reading. Melendez told Schulz, “We can’t do this; it’s too religious.” But the “Peanuts” creator, a practicing Christian, was adamant. “Bill, if we don’t do it, who will?” he said. The scene was retained, and it is impossible to imagine the story without it.

It wouldn’t be the last time Schulz’s work courted controversy. Three years later, amid exploding racial tensions in cities across the United States, the cartoonist added Franklin, an African-American character, to the “Peanuts” gang. It was the first time a minority character appeared in a mainstream comic strip. When editors complained about certain strips featuring Franklin, Larry Rutman, the president of the company that syndicated “Peanuts,” requested changes. Years later, Schulz recounted his response: “Well, Larry, let’s put it this way: Either you print it just the way I draw it or I quit. How’s that?” The strips ran, unmodified.

Beyond Linus’s biblical reading, there were other concerns with “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Mendelson worried that the pacing was too slow and bemoaned the absence of a laugh track, which Schulz had vetoed. Melendez was embarrassed by the simple animation. Network executives said the music and voices were wrong and, in true Charlie Brown fashion, anticipated absolute failure.

But Schulz and the American public proved them wrong. More than 15 million households tuned in, which was nearly half of all people watching TV that Sunday evening. The special elicited glowing reviews, including Lawrence Laurent’s quip in The Washington Post that “Good old Charlie Brown, a natural born loser … finally turned up a winner.”

Years later, the response from my second-grade church school class was equally triumphant. In subsequent Advent seasons, watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” became an annual event for all of the Sunday school classes at St. Luke’s, as well as for some adult “kids.” Everyone would be still when, in the final scene, Linus relinquishes his ever-present blue security blanket to wrap the trunk of Charlie Brown’s sparse, needle-shedding Christmas tree. “I never thought it was such a bad little tree,” he says. “Maybe it just needs a little love.”

Whether one is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, or anything else, Linus’s words in that final scene speak to a yearning that is fundamental to us all.

As the credits for “A Charlie Brown Christmas” rolled, the kids at St. Luke’s always clapped. I’d like to think that Charles Schulz, once a Sunday school teacher himself, would have been pleased.

 

On fences, children, and letting go

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As published in the Providence Sunday Journal, September 20, 2015.

Twenty years ago, when my wife, Deb, and I had a fence put up around the perimeter of our backyard in East Greenwich, a line from Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” came to me:

“Good fences make good neighbors.

But our fence was less about neighbors than about children. We had two boys, ages 4 and 2, and a new baby was on the way. With our house smack-dab in the middle of town, half a block from busy Main Street, we needed to make sure our kids didn’t wander off.

Good fences make good barricades.

Our lot sits on a hill, and the backyard slopes precipitously. That didn’t seem to concern the burly, good-natured guys who did the installation. They navigated the tricky terrain masterfully and, after two days, the cedar fence gathered our boys in a fragrant embrace.

Over the ensuing years, within the fence’s confines, our children ran through sprinklers and built snow forts; chased our dog and tried to dig to China; tossed Wiffle balls and played manhunt.

At the same time, northeasters slammed the fence’s flat boards and squirrels gnawed on the arbor above the gate. When frost heaves left four or five sections askew, I had to call the installers back to re-set the posts.

As our kids grew older, the backyard gave way to the front door in their daily comings and goings. Out they bounded to music lessons, basketball games, drama rehearsals, or to just hang with friends. Somehow, seemingly overnight, the fence’s containment services were no longer needed.

Good thing.

The first break came when Hurricane Irene whipped through Rhode Island in 2011. I watched from my kitchen window as one of the fence’s back sections listed awkwardly, a wooden sail in the storm.

I rushed down with clothesline rope to tether the flailing section back to its post. Irene scoffed at me with a whoosh of wind and rain. Afraid the next gust would hurtle the rack of wood onto a neighbor’s car, I laid the section flat on the ground, hefted six cobblestones onto it, and prayed.

The cobblestones (or my prayers) did the job. But after the storm, the fence wobbled badly on either side of the missing section. The entire back run needed to be replaced, the fence guys told me; most of the posts and crosspieces were rotted. When I heard the price — and thought of pending college tuition payments — I asked the guys to simply take the battered back run away.

Miraculously, the fence’s side runs held on — until Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Two sections on the northern edge of the yard fell, and those that remained upright were now more vulnerable than ever. Storms no longer needed a name to pose a threat. The mere mention of heavy winds had me peering outside with trepidation.

One blustery Saturday morning, I looked out my kitchen window and, again, noticed a gap in the fence — this time, a section was breaking ranks on the southern property line. I grabbed my drill and headed out to the yard. I pulled the straying section back in line with its post-mate; a fifty-cent brace from Benny’s would reunite them.

But when I leaned into my churning drill, it pushed right through the mushy wood. The brace and the screw fell to the ground, and the fence resumed its tilting.

As I searched for the screw in the leaves below, I thought of my children. My older son was in Los Angeles, chasing pop music dreams. His brother was on a train to New York, trying to kick-start his own path in the recording industry. And my daughter was asleep upstairs, perhaps dreaming of a college campus far away from the backyard of her childhood. In less than a year, she would leave, too.

A different line from Frost’s poem spoke to me now:

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down.”

I abandoned my mending and went back inside.

Living With The Ghosts Next Door

 

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As published in the Providence Journal on August 17, 2014.

The house next door was empty and for sale, but two ghosts still lived there: my father and my good friend, Dick. Each had once owned the historic colonial, which stands near the corner of Peirce and Dedford Streets in East Greenwich.

My father bought the house in the early 1970s after he and my mother separated. One Saturday, he picked me up in Providence to go stay with him overnight. I was 12 years old.

My dad could be distant, and not just because he no longer lived with us. As we drove south on Route 95 that day, Elton John played on the radio. My father sang along and drifted away — “Rocket man burnin’ out his fuse up here alone … ” But then he came back to me. Did I like the song? Who was I listening to these days? I loved talking with my dad about music or books or sports.

I also loved the notes he wrote to me. In letters and birthday wishes, my father’s remoteness vanished. His words were affectionate and knowing. And his penmanship was perfect.

His house on Peirce Street didn’t feel like home — it was dark and smelled old — but I was glad to be there. My dad and I went over to the basketball court at Academy Field to shoot some hoops. And when we returned to the house, he put George Carlin’s “Class Clown” on the record player.

I choked back my laughter when “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” came on. Those were words I couldn’t say anywhere. But my dad balanced a keen wit with a deep appreciation of the well-timed profanity. As he made sandwiches for us in the kitchen, he howled at Carlin’s famous bit — and, liberated by his laughter, so did I.

My father didn’t live in the Peirce Street house for long. It was just one of his many dwellings after he and my mother split, an odyssey that took him to Warwick, Providence and, finally, Centredale. But I never forgot that East Greenwich neighborhood. In 1994, when my wife and I decided to search for a bigger house for our growing family, we found one on Peirce Street — right next to my dad’s old place.

My father had died the previous year. I wondered who owned the colonial now. And then I met Dick. He had been living there for almost two decades.

Dick had a strong voice and quick smile. Like my dad, he lived alone, smoked cigarettes, loved sports, and could elevate cursing to performance poetry. When Dick launched into a diatribe about overpaid pro athletes or brazen politicians — “Can you believe these [bleeping] guys!” — I heard my father. For me, still feeling the loss, Dick was a [bleeping] godsend.

Everyone knew Dick as the Mayor of Peirce Street, yelling at cars that ran the stop sign, and chiding the town’s work crews.

But our family also knew him as the kind neighbor who placed the newspaper at our doorstep before we woke up; the belated Santa who arrived on Christmas morning with presents for our kids; the die-hard Patriots fan who took our young sons, along with his grandson, to a preseason practice at Bryant College. (“The boys watched Bledsoe,” Dick told us later. “I watched the cheerleaders.”)

As my younger son grew up, he was filled with questions. One night before bed, he asked me if I missed my dad. I told him yes, but that I felt my father was alive every time I spoke about him.

“Maybe that’s what heaven is,” I added.

With a 5-year-old’s matter-of-factness, my son set me straight: “You don’t really go to heaven,” he said. “You’re buried. Heaven’s where you go in your head.”

So much for sweet dreams.

One day, Dick knocked on our door. He was bouncing on the balls of his feet. “C’mon,” he said, “I’m stripping wallpaper and need to show you something.” I followed him next door, and we made our way to a downstairs bedroom.

Wet, torn wallpaper littered the floor. “Look what I found,” Dick said, pointing at one of the newly revealed walls. On gray horsehair plaster, I saw the familiar, soothing curves of my father’s handwriting. Years ago, when he owned the house, he had tagged the wall with his signature — Donald E. Walsh.

Later, I told my son the signature was a little piece of heaven, brought to me by an angel. He may not have believed me that time either.

But if there is such a place as heaven, and I am lucky enough to go there, I won’t be surprised if my dad and Dick are on the same bench, sharing a smoke and a laugh, and waiting for me.

 

 

 

Please Pass The Bread – And The Gravy

 

 

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As published in the Providence Journal on July 16, 2014.

My wife and I had only known each other for several weeks when she asked me a serious question: “Do you eat bread with every meal?”

My astonishment foreshadowed the mash-up of backgrounds that our eventual marriage would bring. “Don’t you?” I said.

Deb was raised in Canton, Conn., up in the hills northwest of Hartford. Lots of pine trees and farms and country roads — a great place to grow up. But the nearest Italian bakery was at least 30 minutes away.

I was raised in Providence. There were bakeries everywhere, and Italian bread was a staple at our supper table. When I learned the Lord’s Prayer at catechism, “give us this day our daily bread” made perfect sense to me.

Up on Federal Hill, where I worked at my grandfather’s baby clothes store, my aunts would send me to Scialo’s for bread. Papa had his own preferences. Driving home from the Hill to Elmhurst, he sometimes stopped his copper ’75 Olds Cutlass at Amore’s Bakery on Valley Street, or at a neighborhood market, where there might be a loaf of Crugnale’s. And on Sunday afternoons, with her gravy simmering on the stove, my mother would ask me to run up to La Salle Bakery for bread. As I bounded out the door, I’d hear the familiar refrain: “Don’t eat it all on the way back!”

I’d walk the eight blocks home, fresh loaf tucked under my arm like a football, further proof of Pavlov’s theory. I couldn’t resist tearing off the heel of the bread and biting into its flaky, crunching crust. When I got home, I’d tear another piece off and dip it into my mom’s burbling gravy before she could shoo me away.

“Gravy” was another point of courtship conversation for Deb and me. “You mean sauce, right?” she asked. “No, I mean gravy,” I replied.

My mother was a Pantalone, and on Sundays, she made “the gravy.” All my aunts made gravy, too. But I understood Deb’s puzzlement. As I moved beyond the Providence enclave of my upbringing — teeming with first- and second-generation Italian Americans — my use of the term gravy for tomato sauce had produced similar confusion in others. In college, a friend asked, “You put brown gravy on your pasta?”

A quick Google search shows that the gravy-versus-sauce debate is spirited and ongoing. This much seems clear: gravy, as my mom and aunts knew it, is a meat-based tomato sauce, cooked slowly for hours. The term is peculiar to Italian Americans in the northeastern United States. And, yes, it is red, with a hint of brown from the meat and a depth of cooked-tomato color that can make store-bought red sauces look like cheap ketchup.

The word “pasta,” which Deb used, revealed another instance where our vocabularies forked. It was always “macaroni” to me — any of the tubes or shells or twisting ribbons that, coated lightly with my mother’s gravy, made up the first course of Sunday dinner or Wednesday supper. I can hear my mom’s voice across the decades: “Have some more ’ronis.”

During our first trips to the market together, Deb laughed when she found me pondering the options in the pasta aisle (by then, pasta had entered my lexicon). I insisted that the different shapes had different tastes or, at the very least, different textures when cooked.

If nothing else, pasta presented a feast of melodic words and delicious etymologies: “farfalle” meant butterflies; “rotelle” translated as little wheels; “mostaccioli” were little mustaches (it is the staple macaroni in our house today); “cavatappi” meant corkscrews; “orecchiette” were little ears (though we called them pope’s hats because they resembled the pontiff’s zucchetto or skullcap).

After college, most of which I spent living on the East Side, I moved back to Federal Hill and rented an apartment near Holy Ghost Church. Next door stood a small bakery. Each morning, I’d awake to the smell of bread baking in the ovens. Heaven.

Fast-forward 31 years to last winter, when a sign appeared in the window of a vacant store on Main Street in East Greenwich: “Coming Soon: Palmieri’s Bakery.” I looked closely at the logo: “Federal Hill Tradition. Established 1898.” I couldn’t believe it: the legendary Providence bakery was opening a new location right around the corner from my house.

On the Sunday after Palmieri’s opened, I hustled down to Main Street and bought my first loaf. Walking home, I resisted the urge to tear off a chunk. But that didn’t last long. With the first bite, I was a kid again.

Back in my kitchen, I smiled as my daughter dipped her bread, with a communicant’s care, into my simmering gravy.

 

Why Punctuation Matters

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By East Greenwich Cove, a missing apostrophe turns a well-known idiom into a declarative sentence – not the quahaugger’s intent, most likely.

2013 In Review

WordPress.com has prepared a cool 2013 annual report for my blog. Check it out, and thanks for all your views this past year. Best wishes for 2014!

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,800 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

What I Forgot On A Weekend To Remember

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We needed a wheelchair if my mother was going to make it to the show. My daughter Juliana was performing in the East Greenwich High School production of Fiddler On The Roof, cast as Golde. My mom knew the role better than any of us and said, with a grandmother’s certainty, that Julie was perfect for the part.

My mom was less sure of whether she’d be able to attend. Two weeks before the play, a virus had slowed her down – an unwelcome add-on to the macular degeneration and COPD that she normally deals with. But when I called her on the Wednesday before Julie’s Saturday matinee, her voice was strong and her spirits high. She was coming to the play.

So we needed a wheelchair. There was no way my mom could make the trek from the drop-off circle at the high school to the auditorium. And forget about any stairs. My brother Rob mentioned that there was a wheelchair in the coat alcove at St. Luke’s, our church. Sure enough, there was and when I called the office, they said we could borrow it. I told my mom the good news – we were all set for Saturday. Julie was thrilled. Not only were her grandparents from Connecticut coming in for the show; now Nonnie would be there, too.

On Saturday, I went over to St. Luke’s to retrieve the chair. But when I looked in the coat alcove, it wasn’t there. I checked the other coat closet. Nothing. I looked in the office, the entrance foyer, the back of the church, the auditorium – no luck. I needed to pick up my mom in half an hour.

And then an angel appeared: Ken MacDonald was working with the youth group, making pizzas in the dining room as part of a mission trip fundraiser. Turns out he had a wheelchair at home that his father-in-law had used for years. He’d be right back with it. Thank God! Thank Ken! When he returned with the chair, I folded it up and slid it into the trunk of my car.

The show was outstanding and, thanks to the wheelchair, my mom was right there in the front row to take it all in. When Julie sang “Do You Love Me?” in the second act, my mom fished a tissue out of her bag. I felt my eyes sting, too.

After the show, I drove my car around to the high school entrance and ran inside to get my mom. I wheeled her out to the car, helped her get in, jumped in myself, and sped away.

*        *        *

Growing up, my best friend’s phone number was 331-5495…

My son Peter was born at 8:39 p.m. on the first day of spring in 1991…

In 1973, my Kennedy Rec basketball team beat CLCF in the quarterfinals of the 5th Annual Serran Basketball Tournament in Providence by a score of 30-26…

Such minutia fills my brain, available for immediate retrieval: the birth dates of cousins, the song sequences of pop albums, the amount I paid monthly for my student loans ($67.93)….

I remember that Walt Frazier scored 36 points in the Knicks’ 113-99 victory over the Lakers in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals.

And then I hear my brother: “You know the middle names of kids we grew up with, but you can’t remember where you left your gloves or keys.”

*      *     *

Or the wheelchair, for that matter.

I returned to the high school on Saturday night to see the final performance of the play. As I was leaving, I saw a wheelchair at the curb by the road. Funny, I thought – that looks just like the chair I borrowed from Ken. What a coincidence.

The following day, I stopped by my office on Main Street to grab two boxes filled with files. I threw them in my trunk and brought them home. An hour later, my son Evan needed a ride to the train station to head back to Boston. No problem, I said. Just toss your bags in the trunk. At the station, I popped the trunk hood and helped him get the bags out.

As I drove back home down Route 95, I thought of the wheelchair and how I needed to return it to Ken. And then it occurred to me: how did the boxes fit in the trunk with the wheelchair in there? How did Evan’s bags fit? Oh, no – where the hell was the wheelchair?

I thought again of that forlorn wheelchair at the curb outside the high school the night before – the one that looked exactly like the one I had borrowed from Ken. I hit the accelerator.

*        *        *

I have raced down Avenger Drive to get to teacher conferences and talent shows and basketball games…

I have raced down Avenger Drive to tell a friend his in-laws’ house was flooded…

And now the wheelchair had me racing down Avenger Drive again. Would it still be there? No way. John, you’re such an idiot…

But when I barreled over the speed bump, I saw the chair: an orphan on the grass between the road and the parking lot, a good seventy-five yards from where I had left it. I wished the chair could speak so I could learn of its travels in the last twenty-four hours. I imagined teenagers popping wheelies or hurtling down Avenger Drive…

As I folded the wheelchair and humped it back into my trunk, I was thankful – for the love and presence of grandparents, for the sweetness of young voices, for the wheelchair itself, found and lost and found again.

It was a weekend I’ll never forget.

With renewed thanks to Ken and Susan MacDonald.

Gravy Or Sauce? Stirring The Debate

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Sunday is gravy day. Not the brown gravy that you ladle on turkey or pool in a mound of mashed potatoes. I’m talking about red gravy – OK, sauce – burbling on the stove and filling the house with the promise of Sunday dinner.

Is it gravy or sauce? There was no question when I was growing up. My mother was a Pantalone. On Sundays, she made the gravy. My friends’ moms made gravy, too. But as my life took me beyond the Providence neighborhood of my upbringing – filled with first- and second-generation Italo-Americans – my use of the term gravy for tomato sauce brought puzzled looks. You put brown gravy on your pasta?

A quick Google search shows that the gravy-versus-sauce debate is spirited and ongoing. This much seems clear: gravy is usually a meat-based tomato sauce, cooked slowly for hours. (When the sauce has no meat, it’s a marinara, which comes from the Italian alla marinara, meaning “sailor style”.) A deeper search reveals that use of the term gravy to describe tomato sauce is peculiar to Italian Americans in the northeast United States.

On Sunday mornings, I walk across Peirce Street to St. Luke’s for the 10:00 service. The rhythms of the liturgy are familiar and comforting. Shortly after 11:00, I return home and head to the kitchen to begin a second weekly ritual.

I pour a bit of oil in the bottom of the pan. I add the diced onion, followed by sweet Italian sausage and, if I have it, steak or pork. I brown the meat and then pour in the crushed tomatoes and a small can of sauce. I add Italian seasoning, a bay leaf, ground pepper, a pinch of sugar or maybe a carrot to counter the acidity of the tomatoes. I stir, I cover, I simmer, and I wait…

Soon, the gravy’s heavenly aroma wafts through the house, connecting me to my mother’s kitchen, my grandmother’s kitchen, to the kitchens of Italian ancestors I never knew.

Why We Love Oxymorons

Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. –Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman loved oxymorons – figures of speech that combine contradictory terms – and so do I. The word derives from the Greek oxys “sharp” + moros “foolish.” Oxymoron itself is an oxymoron. Those clever Greeks.

Literary gurus describe oxymorons as compact paradoxes. Paradox is from the Greek para “contrary to” + doxa “opinion.” According to dictionary.com, a paradox is “a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.” Yes, I did just take a big sip of coffee. But enough English 101. Simply put, paradoxes are insightful and fun:

“I can resist anything, except temptation.” –Oscar Wilde

“No one goes to that restaurant any more – it’s always too crowded.” –Yogi Berra

“You’d be surprised how much it costs to look this cheap.” –Dolly Parton

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” –Mark Twain

“I am a deeply superficial person.” –Andy Warhol

“The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” –Groucho Marx

“I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” –Bob Dylan

Some phrases that weren’t intended as oxymorons are seen as such in the eyes of a satiric world: congressional action, Microsoft Works, airline food.

And for any parents who have hosted a sleepover for a daughter and her friends, there is this oxymoron: slumber party.

In our house, we call it a wakeover.

In Glad Company: The Chimney Sweep Comes To The Brick House



The bug guy sprayed for ants in the basement, but he couldn’t do anything about the boiler not venting. That was a job for the oil guy, he said. So we called the oil guy who said, yup, there was a venting problem alright, but it wasn’t a job for him. We needed a chimney sweep. So we called LaBrosse Chimney, whose tag line is “Chimney Wise: Your Educated Chimney Professionals.” The next day, they were at our office, schooling us.

Our building is the Micah Whitmarsh House, better known as The Brick House. Built in 1767, it appears on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest brick building in East Greenwich. Before my brother and I purchased The Brick House as the new home for our ad agency, we had an engineer inspect the building to make sure it was structurally sound. Silly us. The engineer marveled at the support columns in the basement hewn from cedar limbs. “This building was standing long before you guys got here,” he said. “And it will be standing long after you’re gone.”

Still, 245 years don’t pass without signs of age. According to Ernie of LaBrosse Chimney, mortar had crumbled to the point where it was obstructing the flue. And the mortar dust had company – birds, mice, squirrels, and other critters had found their final resting pace at The Brick House. If we didn’t fix the chimney soon, we might join them.

Ernie detailed the chemistry behind the crumbling mortar. He described the tortuous path of our choked chimney flue. He expounded on building codes and brick densities and boiler fire forensics. Clearly, he was the right man for the job. Then Ernie said he was bringing his jackhammer. All visions of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins vanished.

The LaBrosse truck arrived at 7:30 on a Saturday morning – this was not a during-office-hours job. After hammering through the bricked-in fireplace in one of the first floor offices, Ernie cried out, “Look at this!” We ran into the room and found him holding up a petrified bird. “There’s all kinds of great stuff in here,” he said with an archaeologist’s glee. Minutes later, he yelled out again: “WOW, I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS!” What had he found? Gold doubloons? The Holy Grail? Micah Whitmarsh himself? No, just the biggest build-up of soot and mortar crumbs he had ever seen.

Ernie and Dan filled bucket after bucket with the debris and trudged outside to their truck. With a long rope, they hoisted wood and bricks and screen to the roof. They snaked a gleaming stainless steel liner down our chimney and attached it to our boiler. After disposing of the petrified bird, they patched the fireplace in the first floor office. By 3:00, the job was done.

The name of the liner is the EverGuard® Forever Flex™. It comes with a Forever Warranty™, which suggests the liner will help vent the heating system at The Brick House for a long, long time.

Long after we’re gone, of course.

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