I must have been 3 or 4 when it happened. I still have a memory of the event that seems to have imprinted on my life. My parents were away, maybe for their first trip since I was born, my grandmother was staying with us and that was great – but I was so eager to see my mom and dad.
The casement windows were higher than my sightline, so I climbed up on a chair to catch a glimpse of their impending arrival. The seat wasn’t quite enough of a boost and I raised myself to the arm, balancing on its narrow edge, and leaned over the radiator toward the now attainable view – a bird’s-eye perspective of the main entrance to our apartment building. I would be able to witness their grand return.
As the chair tipped, my face hit the sharp edge of the cast-iron radiator, blood gushed from my cheekbone. I still wear the scar as well as the memory. This was my first intimate knowledge of radiators.
As an adult and about eight years after buying our house, we decided to switch from a hot air system to hot water. We went with baseboard radiators – something I couldn’t fall on, maybe. I assisted, as much as I was able, with the installation, all the while uncertain about my choice and still harboring a strong attachment to the old cast-iron maidens; hey, we were blood brothers. Our heating contractor was chosen because of his enlightened attitudes, and this led him to hiring me later as his helper on other heating jobs. For three years, I worked on every type of heating system devised – some by geniuses, some by charlatans. There were many cast-iron radiators that we would either install or de-install. My sense was that the smarter people stayed with the old stuff.
Currently, I am in the process of changing residences. Once again, the new house will be altered from a heated-air system to hot water. And now I am caught in a personal journey into radiator hell in the Underworld of craigslist. It seems to be my destiny.
The first circle of suffering is the one where people question your sanity about going in the opposite direction from the flow. I think we are just talking about American flow here, because in Europe (where they have been heating long before we were born), Canada and Australia – central heating still means hot water. Despite that, America is yanking out water systems like there is no tomorrow – and maybe there isn’t. But I was, miraculously somehow, able to make it out of Limbo alive and with my imperative intact. Although some may argue that this decision included the second circle, Lust, because they think that my sense of reason is impaired by going this route and pursuing radiators.
Another circle of suffering is the Dante-imagined cold slush of Gluttony; my goal is to avoid that sort of chilly hell – in my old age, especially. Hell is supposed to be plenty warm, as I intend to be with my radiant units.
Within craigslist, I relentlessly search the listings for radiators: this is where Greed, Heresy, Anger, Fraud and, potentially, Violence come into play all at once in varying amounts. You know what I’m talking about.
My quest is in progress. Possibly nine of the fourteen radiators needed have been located. If I can pull this off, it will be the best kind of placeness yet – the one that keeps me warm as climate change makes comfort more challenging, and my own circulation slows to an eventual stop. And, mostly, it will be a scaling of Purgatory, and a kind of closure to my life with radiators – scar and all.