The Pipes, the Pipes Are Calling


I live in the neighborhood of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Where he once lived. In a building on the list of National Register of Historic Places. It is said Zelda and Scott were living here when their daughter was born. As a matter of fact, I think there were progeny of Scott who were over this week to fix a plumbing problem in the building. You can look it up. McQuillan Brothers Plumbing. They do good work. There is a book written that described James McQuillan’s daughter Alice as being “plumb crazy” in August 1914 over an older man, Frank Dun. It seemed like a congenital problem for some plumbers.

A plumbing problem.  I had one in my bathroom for the last 6 months.  About the time I started writing a blog.  I mean really writing.  I had put off calling a plumber.  I could avoid a bailout, caused by an overflow, just by playing with the water shut-off valve.  

The human plumbing problem.  The good news was that it did not involve incontinence or any part of my body.  Turning it on.  Turning it off.  The spiritual plumbing problem and regulating the shut-off valve.  I just had to regulate the water getting to the top of the tank.  The water in the tank affected the water in the bowl.  And the water in the bowl got flushed with all the other waste.  It seemed pretty simple.  Especially in the age where there are stories on Joe the Plumber each week of this financial crisis. 

“How many miles of water pipes? Then maintaining them. Year after year. Why did they ever build so many?

The why question of a 5-year-old . . . never really satisfactorily answered.

“Why do I have to take a nap? Why do I have to go to bed?”

“So yeah, why exactly do people need to sleep so much? And why do I love it so much? Why do I feel so invigorated on the weekend? So yeah, why are you_____?

The question to the 15-year old: what were you thinking? Why did you do that?Do you know why?

Why did you go out with him? A question to the 28-year old: Why did you ever marry him? Do you ever find out the answer?

The question of a 40-year old in times of economic distress: Why did we ever have so many kids?

A plumbing problem? The world was just there. Each morning, to my numbness. After some toothpaste. It took some coffee to get excited about it again. In the morning. Or after a shower to get excited again. In the morning.  Or a hymn. Or just a prayer. The spiritual plumbing connected us, just as McQuillan Brothers Plumbing had this week to all the neighbors.

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2 comments so far

  1. paperlessworld on

    As for Frank Dunn — NOT married to a relative to the maternal side of the F. Scott Fitzgerald family — he died in prison on February 26, 1958.

    “On the afternoon of Tuesday, April 24, Officers Charges Ziegler and Frank X. Kort tried to stop a speeding vehicle which had been ignoring whatever was then the signal to pull over for the police. As a result, to assist them, Officer George Connery was able to stop their vehicle at Oak Street and University Avenues. While Connery arrested the driver, the policeman got into the suspect’s vehicle and had them drive to the East Side station to post bail. That was the last time he was ever seen alive.

    “The suspects, their car and Officer Connery disappeared. When the car and its occupants had been stopped thirty minutes prior for speeding, the driver had given his name as Howard Lux. Lux posted $25 bail and was released. His car later was discovered to have been a stolen vehicle. After several hours went by, neither Officer Connery nor his prisoners hadn’t arrived at the East Side Station. The assumption, however, was that Connery had allowed the men to drive to St. Paul to get bail money. Until Officer Connery’s wife called the station later that afternoon, there had been no reason to be alarmed. By this time, Officer Connery was to be off duty; he never arrived home.

    “A search was started for the missing officer. The stolen vehicle was found that evening in St. Paul behind the Rex Theater at 501 Mississippi Street. There was blood on the rear seat; there was blood too on the crank of the machine outside the vehicle. Officials feared the worst.
    On April 26, a suspect was arrested in Omaha, identified as Frank J. McCool, also known as Frank H. Curtis. In his possession was a 32-20 policeman’s Colt revolver. The numbers were filed off, but several numbers matched that of Officer Connery’s missing gun. Curtis was discovered to have been the one that killed Officer Connery.

    “On May 5, Connery’s body was found in a wooded lot near Fridley, Minnesota. He died from a skull fracture, but also suffered a gunshot wound to the leg. With his body was a notebook in which Connery had written a description of his captors, a farewell letter to his wife and another note to his children. On May 11, the driver of the car was arrested in San Francisco, identified as Joe Redenbaugh, alias G.C. Loucks and Howard Lux. He was wanted for bank robbery in Nebraska and was found to have committed the murder of Alice Dunn in St. Paul two days after the Connery kidnapping. He was hired by Alice’s husband, Frank Dunn, to commit her murder. He later admitted that Frank Dunn had agreed to pay him $4,000 for the job. When Officer Connery stopped them, they had no money, and were there to commit the Dunn murder in a few days, so they killed Connery. He stated that McCool held Connery at gunpoint and they drove to the remote area in Anoka County where Connery was beaten to death. The same day he gave his confession, Redenbaugh pled guilty to Connery’s murder and was sentenced to life in Stillwater State Prison. On August 30, 1918, he pleaded guilty to third degree murder for his role in the Dunn murder. He was sentenced to 7-30 years. On May 9, 1962, at the age of 64 and having served 45 years, Rednebaugh was released from prison. McCool pleaded not guilty to the Connery murder, but was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

    “Frank Dunn was also convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He died there February 26, 1958.”

  2. paperlessworld on

    It was Johnny Carson who noted that humor is a stage of denial, connected to human mortality. In the end life is serious.

    Did you know the story of a heroine named Mollie McQuillan. She was the mother of a guy named F. Scott Fitzgerald. There were three busloads of people who descended upon Saint Paul yesterday, in search for the interior space of Scott, in what is the tragic story of her son, leaving – in what happened after going, to F. Scott.

    For a mother named Mollie McQuillan, her son – named after the writer of what became the National Anthem – lived a tragic life.

    Compare, on This Side of Paradise, mother and wife, in one version of ‘Women’s liberation,’ in the days of a living Women’s Suffrage. His wife had a child and she did not want to be a mother. So he had been forced to hire nannies. He had come from this family that started Visitation Convent in St. Paul. For all practical purposes, Fitzgerald had left the Church, in another shattered relationship. Mostly, because of his wife, because of his wife’s ambition to be a dancer rather than a mother, and/or because of his wife’s health.

    The Crack Up. The lessons, forgotten. I happened to live in the place where Scott and Zelda were living at the time Zelda gave birth to their daughter. Soon they were kicked out of this then hotel – now converted to condominiums – for excessive drinking, in times of Prohibition.

    There was this overall theme in the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald, for the people alive then, in The Lost Generation, connected to a “not wanting to be” like I see in the Millennium Generation, now. Like after a plague, there are all of these moment of Scott asking for “seconds.” In his own words, he had this addiction to sex along with Zelda’s. Before they married. This was one addiction shared before their other addictions to come. After marriage, she became pregnant, speaking of Zelda’s own interior space.

    Love, but never wanting to be a mother. Lost. Giving up a home, though never owning one. Giving up Saint Paul. The discovery too late that you did not want to have children. There is all of this leaving versus ‘going’ versus comebacks, and now schizophrenia. Scott Fitzgerald never came back to Saint Paul after 1922, when he was twenty-six.

    This was The Lost Generation [in need of more – bigger, stronger, faster]. The Draft. By Woodrow Wilson. But Fitzgerald enlisted. There was this affect on liberty, in this land. It was in the army when and where he met Zelda. Before being sent to Long Island. Love, post-war. Asked to prove himself in the world.

    Soldiers, with a forced return, in order to just live. Trauma and recovery. Trust. The secrets. The spirit of the Land. Schizophrenia was affecting how she thought, and pretty soon who you were. Even at the age of 28, Zelda thought she wanted to become a professional dancer. Her husband paid for nannies and paid for her dance training. He was still giving everything for Zelda, in 1928. Even after Zelda’s affair with Edouard S. Jozan, three years earlier.

    The times can change a land. Schizophrenics can feel as if they have lost touch, and take their lovers with them. At the age of 44, Fitzgerald died in the home of his mistress, Sheila Graham while Zelda was alive. Graham lived a life as groupie, after suffering such tragic loss in her own life – who better to cover Hollywood?

    After she gave everything for him. Mollie McQuillan, for her son. It was the money of Mollie McQuillan that supported Zelda in the end.

    The burial. The split personality. Exhumed. Francis Scott Key. The attachment. Or not? The Irishman who wanted to be British? The Orangeman who wanted to be buried in a Catholic Cemetery in Maryland, the first and only state that once had allowed Catholics.

    Looking into the lives of the rich. “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” The unsaid statement. The elegant and graceful manner of his writing. About the rich and the powerful, and their interior life.

    The object of his desire. Why was he along with his spouse banned from the family plot? The Schizophrenia in the family history, pretending to be who they never were. And their interior life? He had died in the home of his mistress.

    “You are not Irish. You are not noble enough.” And he really had not been.

    Treason! He was requesting burial, in the end, in a land that separated Church from State, in a family plot for those who had lived Catholic in the ways of practice. No different than a National Cemetery open to all members of the armed forces, his family sought burial next to the parents of F. Scott. In a Catholic Cemetery located in Maryland, well before the age of Modernity had crept into the Roman Catholic Church. The answer was NO.

    Yes,humor is a stage of denial, connected to human mortality.

    The Lost Generation, for better or for worse. Four years younger, Sheila Graham was his constant companions while Fitzgerald was still married to his wife Zelda, who was institutionalized in an asylum. Later, Graham claimed she was “a woman who loved Scott Fitzgerald for better or worse until he died.” Outside of any vows. She found the body in the living room of her West Hollywood apartment, when Fitzgerald had a heart attack in 1940. At the age of forty, he had taken up with Graham for his last three and a half years. Like Prohibiton, the law and the commandments did not apply to him? And like after a plague, in another story about people who did not really belong there, asking for “seconds” – like a second chance.

    Thirty-five years later, after Vatican II, describing the three-and-a half decades in the transfer of cemeteries in Rockville, Maryland, as ‘The Longest Irish Wake,’ at most a hundred plus this one wag were present to witness a re-burial, after Zelda and F Scott had been exhumed — approved by local State officials as well as the office of the archbishop [who himself had been delivered by a physician arriving by boat in a great flood which had lifted the family’s house off its foundation] — from the Protestant cemetery across town, if that cemetery had any denomination at all. One grave-digger described that day the visible green plaid wool of a funeral suit, inside a crackup or split of the exhumed wood coffin.

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