by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
April 25, 2001
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.