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Cold Iron consists of random bits of irreverence, surliness, and contumely; sometimes it's even funny. Reading it is entirely optional.

...the iron monger and rusticater himself

Cool Iron

"Never hit someone over the head with a hot iron. Wait until it cools so you don't burn them."

...the source of my ideas


November 1, 2016


We hear a lot these days (though perhaps not enough) about our infrastructure, about our roads and bridges and parks and public facilities and how they are – in some cases dangerously – in disrepair. Not a lot of room for argument there, although it gets frustrating trying to get that truth through to our legislators so that these problems might actually be addressed.

In our household here we’ve had some infrastructure problems of a more personal nature that have, in fact, been addressed, enough so that I’m inclined to label this past mid-year as the Summer of Breakdowns. Spoiler alert: nearly all of what follows has happened to you at one time or another.

It began in late July when Gayle hit me with the ominous words: “The washer isn’t working.” Intrepid mechanic that I am, I went down to the laundry room and confirmed that, indeed, the washer wasn’t working. This is where you get into one of those awful decision matrices.

Not long before we’d had the dryer repaired for a little over a hundred dollars (the item is called a thermal fuse). The question that came up was, how much more money did we want to put into these fifteen-year old machines? Turns out, not a lot, even though a repair is always cheaper than a purchase. But, again, they were old, and the prospect of further repairs being needed was strong. What did the smart money say?

The smart money found us down at Sears where we bought a new Whirlpool washer and dryer. Delivery was made as promised, the installation done, the old machines hauled away (our front porch not being big enough to store them there). That very night Gayle went down to do a wash and, shortly after, hit me with the ominous words: “The washer isn’t working.” Mechanical genius that I am, I went down to the laundry room and I fixed it! Seems the installer had forgotten to plug it in.

A short time later my troubleshooting Gayle once again interrupted a peaceful evening with, “There’s water in the basement.” Even though we’d had some recent rains, our basement is dry so those words were indeed puzzling. A plumber was called and, together, he and I stood there scratching our heads and wondered if it was the water heater or perhaps the chimney cap had blown off and water was leaking in from the bottom of the chimney. I said I’d dry the area and watch it for a couple of days, a move that revealed (the chimney cap being firmly in place) that the water heater was leaking. Enter a new water heater, expertly installed (by the plumber – I don’t do anything beyond minimal plumbing), that worked like a charm, only a few days of adjusting the temperature needed to get the hot water where we wanted it.

A few days after that, and finally free of Gayle’s ominous warnings, I began mowing the lawn one Sunday afternoon when I had one of those oh crap moments. The clutch cable had broken which caused me to finish the lawn by pushing our previously self-propelled mower – not impossible, just a much sweatier task.

Once again, decision time. I’d never much cared for the mower and had already had it repaired twice, so I decided it was time to get a new one. That, of course, brings up the prospect of endless internet research and searching for sales and bargains and do you want self-propelled or not and side-discharge or bagging or mulching or all three and electric start or not and, well, sometimes you just get tired of due diligence so I went down to my local lawn equipment store and fell in love with a Toro (only men can do this, I think), bargained the price down a bit, and made the purchase. Problem solved.

Nothing says personal infrastructure as much as your teeth. I’ve had lots of dental work done over the years, with most of it allowing me to keep most of my teeth, but when I recently developed a slight throb in a lower front tooth I found myself longing for a “Honey, I think there’s a problem with …” instead. Throbs are not good. They result in the mumbling of nasty words and deep sighs of frustration. They also tend to lead to root canals or extractions and hefty dental bills.

Nevertheless, I decided to bite the bullet (but not too hard – it hurt) and, thus, made my way for a first-time visit with a new dentist (my long-time dentitian having just retired). A quick X-ray revealed an abscess and the need for a root canal. Onward, then, to the endodontist, a cool dude who’d treated me before and, thus, neither one of us strangers to each other. Following another X-ray, he diagnosed a broken tooth, with the best treatment being removal of the tooth. So much for the joy of not needing a root canal.

Unfortunately, that naughty tooth was one side of a bridge holding a fake tooth over an emptiness where a tooth had been pulled quite a while ago. Get rid of that tooth, then, and the bridge and the fake tooth have to go, leaving, then, two empty spaces. Even though I don’t consider myself terribly vain, the prospect of looking like gap-toothed Grandpa Frump from up in the hills was not appealing.

During a visit to the periodontist we decide on an implant procedure. It will be expensive, time-consuming, and only minimally painful. But it will – if the karma is right, if the stars are right, if it’s finally time for a period of average – mark the end of this string of breakdowns.

Or so one hopes. On the other hand, our old coffee maker is starting to look a bit weary.

G.K.Wuori © 2016
Photoillustration by the author

Selected Works

I think this book would appeal to anyone who likes a dark crime story set in a rural, somewhat remote part of Maine in a time when the radicalism of the nineteen-seventies was sweeping the country.
Ellen DeLay, an upstanding citizen of Quillifarkeag, Maine, suddenly and unpredictably leaves her happy, twenty-five year marriage for a lonely cabin deep in the Maine woods, where she makes a living dressing hunters' kill - bears, moose, deer. It seems an idyllic life, punctuated only now and then by rifle fire as she shoots into the air to scare off cheeky teens who come to taunt "the crazy woman."
A small-town lawyer in the middle of a gruesome murder case finds salvation in the world of a homeless woman and her daughter.
A young woman's morning walk through her small town finds her immersed in a small tragedy, an indifferent government, and the "science gone mad" of her best friend's husband. Quirky, goofy, nutty - yes, but a gentle look as well at some of the values that keep us from falling off the planet
A hint of generally true autobiography, this piece is part of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill's "How I Became A Writer" series.
Quillifarkeag is a state of mind, one marked by innocence and regret, by guile and sympathy. The people there will let you into their lives - but not very far. Go too far inside and things start to echo, people get close. Honesty becomes negotiable. Bare all and someone might still say, "Were you naked or nude?" It's an important distinction. In a small place like Quilli the naked truth is hurtful. The nude truth is not so bad.

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