We fired up the heating system today. Adam the Master Plumber gave the boiler its annual check-up, and the news could have been better. "How old is that boiler?" he asked.
Well, I sputtered, it's the new boiler. It's, um...about 20 years old.
Actually, it's 22 years old...and showing its age, with corrosion, rust, and heat loss around the flue. This is a new boiler, as featured today on the Brownstoner.com sub-blog chronicling the lavish renovation of a neighbor's home on nearby Albemarle Road. It looks remarkably like our new, I mean old, Burnham boiler, except ours looks like crap and has fewer safety features and less energy efficiency.
Oh, and of course, ours sits in front of the Crazy Stable Museum of Heating Technology: an ancient "pancake boiler" original to the house, which began as a coal-burning monstrosity, then switched to a diet of oil, and finally was converted to gas. Removing it would have required, not the modest loan we acquired, but a Superfund cleanup grant. I refuse to photograph it. Ever.
But someone else photographed theirs, as plumber porn on a pro site called "Plumbing Zone." You think I'm kidding? Comments on this 116-year-old, which looks just like ours (except ours looks like crap, etc.) include:
"That thing rocks."
and, I swear:
"Beautiful ! That old **** gives me a boner."
Gazing into our boiler room, however, aroused in me a different sensation: sheer dread. Somehow I always imagined that boiler would last forever, but nothing lasts forever. We just celebrated (okay, ignored) our 24th anniversary in the Crazy Stable. And as the Child starts edging toward college, and we toward some sort of retirement, it feels as if this house and we have begun to head down the other side of the mountain. We are getting old to strap on our armor and slay, once more, the Balrog in its lair, where it devours tuition and vacation money like popcorn.
Throwing stuff out helps me when I slide into despair, so I rooted around in the "Tool Room" closet and got rid of some junk. There, I spied a handsome old box that had belonged to our late and much-missed Uncle Don. I had thought it was empty.
But it wasn't. Opening it, I was overwhelmed by nostalgia for the oily, mothbally smell of his vast workshed out in the country. Inside lay his Dremel tool, its bits in a film box (Don was a photographer as well as a fix-it genius). And this note, in Don's jaunty post-stroke syntax:
"Here is a gift that will offer you a way to fix things by grinding objects into perfection."
Thanks, Uncle Don!