Musin’s and Thinkin’s – January 2010

Musin’s and Thinkin’s – January 2010

Jack Pendarvis
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There is nothing I enjoy more while soaking in a hot bath of Epsom salts and red wine vinegar than contemplating a humble household item and imbuing it with dignity and almost cosmic profundity thanks to my interesting thoughts.

The hard part is deciding which object to think about. To that end, I usually call the neighbors over. They crowd into my little bathroom and shout suggestions at me.

“Razor blades!”

“A bar of soap!”


“Shower curtain rod!”

“Mr. T as a librarian!”

“I believe I heard ‘faucet,’” I recently replied. Everyone claimed not to have said “faucet,” but I knew what I heard.

“Who can say how a faucet really works?” I extemporized. “I like to imagine that there is a pipe leading directly into a big lake, and perhaps a form of suction is employed, but I guess we will never know.”

“We know exactly how a faucet works,” claimed one rabble-rouser, who happened to be costumed in the uniform of an ordinary plumber.

Get out!” I screamed, and I must admit that some blood came out of my mouth due to a recurrence of typhoid coupled with the unforeseen vehemence of my commanding rasp, which, it must be said, served its purpose of clearing the room and giving me ample time to contemplate and reckon with the fanciful notions that capered in my head thanks to my disdain for book learning and my healthy regard for the reliability of good old-fashioned common sense.

For you see, what our hasty handyman had failed to consider is that very same age-old conflict. Book learning can tell us but a limited number of things:

(1) How a faucet works.

(2) Birth and death dates of Buckminster Fuller.

(3) Gestation period of an elephant.

(4) Names for different parts of a shoelace that you never realized have names.

(5) Some presidents.

(6 ) What the panopticon is.

(7) Math.

(8) Valentino died of a ruptured ulcer.

(9) Fire is hot.

(10) The aardwolf, a fascinating animal.

All of these things are useless. We depend upon another part of our brain for commonsensical facts, such as “I love the great taste of pudding,” and “Plato probably never cut his toenails.”

So there I reclined, realizing things with my common sense, such as “If I ran the faucet long enough, a fish would come out.”

Did I giggle at the lively thought of a friendly fish, there amidst the lonesome porcelain, someone at last to whom I might confess my most troubling impulses? I’ll never tell! But I did lie there until the bath turned cold, as is my custom, and until I caught pneumonia, as is my custom.

My regular physician, Dr. M______, treated me with a number of hot mustard plasters and rare poultices, and my protracted illness gave us time to indulge in our usual lofty discussions, revealing the crusty good humor with which we grudgingly accept one another’s differing views on life.

“Listen to what I read in a book!” exclaimed Dr. M_______. “In French Guiana they raise crops ‘such as rice, maize, sugar, coffee, cacao, vanilla, pepper and other spices.’ So I am informed by the Columbia Standard Illustrated World Atlas from 1942, which belonged to my fatheras a schoolboy.”

“All that is well and good, my old friend,” I wheezed. “But what if I told you that the chief exports of the planet Venus were moonbeams, chocolate bars, and love?”

“That would be the most delightful news it has ever been my pleasure to hear in all my years in the medical profession,” replied Dr. M______, his cheeks suddenly aglow.

“Well then, what if I told you that this wonderful news comes not from any book, but through my capacity for common sense?”

“Sir, you amaze me,” said Dr. M_______. “I renounce my calling!” He emptied his black bag on the floor and did a merry dance, smashing his vaunted vials and syringes into so much festive glitter under the heels of his practical boots.

I rewarded him a feeble thumbs-up, and with that I lay back against my deathbed and softly expired. It was the best day ever.

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