Emilio DeGrazia

by Emilio DeGrazia


My nose usually tells me when it’s time to call the plumber again. That’s also the time I figure it’s another one of my vacation times. I usually find some good excuse to vacate myself from the house before the plumber arrives.

I’ve seen enough go down the drain, and enough is too much for me.

Now and then I’m a good enough husband to rinse the dishes before the dishwasher machine does the final dirty work to get them nice and clean. When I’m rinsing I see the water piling up in the sink — brownish, yellowish, greenish, with orts and bits of this and that grease taking their good old time going away into those pipes somewhere in the basement below. When I hear that final sucking sound the drain makes and I’m left with a scum ring around the kitchen sink, I sometimes feel like I’ve just lost my mind, with everything gone down into some memory hole. When I get the cleanser out to scrub the scum off the insides of the sink I turn the faucet on full blast to get rid of the scummy cleanser too.

I just want it all gone. Good riddance to it all, especially all the gunk trying to stick to my mind as it goes down that drain.

If I’m stuck at home when the plumbers arrive, I’ve got no questions for them. I’m not interested in them sharing what they know about drains and pipes getting plugged up with stuff that has nowhere to go. It would be like how I feel when I watch the news on TV. I figure there’s a reason all those drains and pipes are tucked away in basements or buried deep underground. Out of sight, out of mind. We pay plumbers to look into these things so we can keep doing what we do.

I think of myself as a proud Minnesotan. Decades ago when I considered moving here I looked at a map to see where Minnesota was. I’d seen too much of city life — Detroit was one of them — how cities put the backsides of their downtowns to rivers and ditches. I saw gunk flowing into those rivers and ditches from sewers and pipes. I smelled it too, and that smell wasn’t coming from me, far as I can tell. I wouldn’t dare swim in it. With all that backside stuff flowing downstream I thought I’d move on up in the world. 

So here I am.

But I had to compromise. Winona is in southern Minnesota, and there’s a lot of Twin cities backside stuff coming our way. I figured there would be tons of cows here too, with nobody picking up what they left behind. But I came here anyway. I figured I could do a lot worse.

Sometimes I don’t smell what’s really in the air right here. It’s like being hard of hearing. Foul stuff comes and goes like more bad news, and you get so used to it it’s not really there. But now and then I walk by a sewer or ditch and get a brain full of stink. I tell myself it’s obvious some people don’t flush enough down the drain. They just walk away from what they leave behind.

That’s when vacation time thoughts kick in. You just have to get away from it all, let some plumber take care of the flushing problems and plugged pipes. 

Everybody used to say, “Go west, young man!” Lots of open land out there, lots of amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties. Find a nice place out there in that nice big land and get away from it all. But now there’s all this talk about droughts and fires, and worse, out there in that Wild West, and the water in those Great Plains ain’t so great. So now my thoughts keep going north out of sight. Land of sky blue waters, 10,000 lakes, way up there. Fresh water, fresh fish, fresh air, fresh start to every day. Stink stuff doesn’t flow upstream in those sky blue water lakes up there. And Canada is so cold and lonely it would be unnatural for sludge, grease, oil, chemicals, smoke and runoff from farms, mines and factories to come my way. 

Up there there’s probably no need for plumbers trying to explain why things keep going south.