Ink Soup: RANDY THE BUILDER
by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
SEATTLE, Wash. -- We have been somehow adopted by a carpenter, a young f= ellow whose family origin, Texas, and last name, Walker, testify to his kin= ship to the current occupant of the White House. Since his father is somet= hing or other in local Democratic politics, the connection is not a thing t= hey willingly talk about, though, to his credit, he is not ashamed of it.
But Randy is a great comfort to a couple of elderly recent immigrantsto = this part of the world.
Early in the morning of the day after the recent = earthquake, he was on the phone saying the first thing he'd thought about w= as the dangerouspost-and-beam structure of the garage beneath our house. "= That goes, andyou're gone," he said, with a rhetorical force that I would r= ather haveappreciated in fiction than in my actual life.
He was here later in the day to pour concrete around the feet of thepost= s and to attach T-bars to the juncture of post and beam. He alsobolted the= house to the foundation, patched cracks in the rear wall ofthe two firepla= ces, inspected the chimney, and did numerous other thingsof which I am prob= ably unaware.
The deck behind the house had actually shifted slightly on one of theupr= ight posts, and the others needed the same sort of reinforcement asthose in= the garage. He found a crack in the foundation on the northside, and a cr= ack in the concrete blocks in the furnace room--thosebehind the fireplace.
He later went over to Magnolia and did much the same sort of job, atmy= expense, on my daughter's house.
Don't misunderstand. I pay him well for these attentions, and Randyis t= he first to acknowledge that the earthquake was a bonanza forcarpenters, bu= t that is hardly the point. I would have to pay someone,and it is unspeaka= bly comforting to pay someone whose relationship withyou is a true symbiosi= s, not only economical but also emotional. Who isthe shark and who the pil= ot fish I do not know, nor do I care. Somehowit works, and we are all the = better.
Randy told my daughter that work at my place is actually an expen= siveproposition for him: he lingers it out (and thus loses money) for thesi= mple reason that he likes to talk to me.
Sorry, reader. You'll have to w= ait until you're in your eighth decade to appreciate the crushing weight of= such a compliment.
A young fellow finds you unboring: that is the geezer's equivalent of = several Pulitzers.
He finds even my teaching Russian to my fellow church membersintriguing.= Randy had to learn a little Russian himself during anepisode in his caree= r when he worked on a fishing vessel with Russianmates. He even went ashor= e to tread Russian soil--Vladivostok.
And he recently brought along a younger brother, Tyler, who washelping h= im install a second handrail on the stair. Tyler is interestedin writing. = I am, at least in the mind of Tyler's big brother, a writer. From time to= time, I regard myself as a writer.
Barter as a means of economic activity is far from dead in this remote o= utpost of the Republic. If, in return for his patching a punctured downspo= ut, I can teach Tyler never to put off writing the great American novel wit= h the local palliative of writing a weekly newspaper column, I shall not ha= ve lived in vain.
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Compar= ative Literature at Princeton University.