Kage Baker had a deep and abiding love of plumbers.
She was a landlady’s daughter, and lived in the Hollywood Hills for the first 40 years of her life. You develop a real appreciation of plumbers in those circumstances; they are some of the best actual heroes you are likely to meet. The guys who keep the pipes clear (and literally fastened to the hillsides) are agents of the gods.
Then there were the years of doing Faire. We had to do most of our own ad hoc plumbing there, and in fact still do – but it was real plumbers who taught us how to lay pipe, fasten pipe joints together, adjust pressure, and plumb in the all-important beer lines.
Gods like Dougie (the model for The Brick in Empress of Mars), and Bobbie McGowan (who once politely refused my “Catholic whiskey” when I offered him a dram of Jameson’s); sweet clever lads like Wayne who cut vital washers out of leather, and gentlemen like Norman who donated their boot tops to the cause. Brilliant ladies like Becky, who never goes anywhere without some irreplaceable spigot part concealed about her person … my boys and girls have plumbed entire bars armed with Swiss Army knives and a spare can of Blue Goo, and only ended up in the emergency room once (sorry, Steve!).
Also, we always preferred houses with character to squeaky-efficient modern dwellings; Kage and I had to deal with lots of plumbing disasters over the years. When you live in an unimproved oak grove, or in a beach town where the water table is three inches down and rises and falls with the tide, some very odd things can happen. Decorating your house with props from 500 years of historical recreation can be a might risky, too – we once accidentally smashed a toilet with a semi-sacred conch shell.
All this left Kage with an almost religious faith in plumbers. It was only reinforced yet further by her fondness for the paranormal crew of Ghost Hunters on television – Jason and Grant are RotoRooter plumbers in real life, and she always felt that gave them impeccable gravitas. She was more inclined to believe guys who said they found a lingering ghostly presence, if they could also identify the funny wheeze in the pipes.
It’s why the Dark Lord Gard spends so much time on the plumbing in his fortress, too. Plumbers are gods even to demon lords, if they want the baths to work …
Here where I dwell with my family on the edge of Griffith Park, the houses are old. The neighborhood was initially plumbed between the two World Wars, connected to the antique clay pipes that are now eroding and undermining the elder sections of Los Angeles. Bits of our pipes have been dying over the last two or three years – and this morning, it was the ancient connector between our house line and the municipal main in the street: 10 feet of hand-smoothed clay laid down 80 years ago. And if not for our friendly plumbers at Rescue Rooter, we would now be neatly and horribly severed from the 21st century in the worst possible way.
We still need to replace bits of the line, and it’s gonna be expensive and time consuming. But not as bad as arranging for a privy rental and a twice-weekly sump sucker truck, and re-accustoming the household to venturing outside amid the skunks and raccoons for nocturnal bladder relief. I, at least, am getting too old for that kind of adventure.
So who’s the god of plumbing? My thanks go up to him today!