Tag Archives: craigslist

Infernal Inferno: Thermal Thoughts

fateI 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.

hot radiator

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The Community of craig

I am not a networker. I don’t Facebook. (Yes, it is a verb.) I do not tweet. I do write a blog, though. And, lately, I have become a frequent traveler on the now-infamous craigslist. I used to browse the job offerings there but, currently, I find that the “for sale” classified section is far more satisfying. You can browse or you can search, whatever your predilection. There is something for everyone on the list.

It is not a new concept of merchandising, but rather its delivery system is, having a  similarity of style to Amazon’s retail selling, which went online in the mid-nineties, too. Craigslist began in 1995 as a local community service for the San Francisco Bay area before expanding to other cities about five years later. Although it is many things to many people, craigslist, according to founder and developer (and namesake) Craig Newmark, “craigslist works because it gives people a voice, a sense of community trust and even intimacy. Other factors he cites are consistency of down-to-earth values, customer service and simplicity.”


Despite all the usual human tendencies to push limits or to be completely self-serving, and even, sometimes, malicious – here we won’t bother to discuss the spammers – there is a kind of public internet policing that maintains a general level of decorum and civility that rises to the surface in the community of craig. Sure, it is not without its scandals and tests of appropriateness, but, basically, it works. And yes, it has hurt the print medium, whose classifieds format it has mimicked. That is its strength and its weakness. In both versions, paper or electronic, messages are sent out in a bottle in the hope that someone – the right person – finds them.

What I have found is that craigslist is an important medium for bringing people together – in my case, as a purchaser of other peoples’ discards. This is an early form of reuse and recycling. Look at the alternative: A merchant opens a storefront or sets up a booth to sell wares – how many customers could potentially stop and purchase something from a store in a day, or a month? (Don’t think Apple.) And how would that item find the right buyer? With the old inked classified ads, the odds improved if the readership was large – but how many of that pool of readers really desired that one particular item for sale? And, since ads were sold by the line, how many listed items could one afford to pay for with the possibility of no payback? In the online listings, the audience comes and searches for the very item that they can’t live without. The seller just needs to get all those pesky keywords in a row. It doesn’t get any easier. One doesn’t even have to build a better mousetrap, or build anything at all – just search terms.

I have had a handful of interactions with the public on craigslist and, knock wood, they have been positive. There is a placeness found in a good communication and outcome – both parties pleased with the transaction. It starts with a lot of preliminary emailing, sort of feeling-out the seller while he/she feels out you, the buyer. Once a meeting of minds is achieved, a comfort level reached, there is a designated place of commerce similar to going into a store or a flea market booth. Only, many times, it is at the seller’s home. I feel odd invading someone’s privacy after finding the item I want in such a public forum. Some of the sellers are fine with it, others are visibly nervous. But in the end, if the sale works out to everyone’s satisfaction, it is a triumph of basic human endeavor – a gain/gain situation. A real person-to-person exchange in the 21st century marketplace, despite the technical medium that brought them together. Maybe craigslist is a catalyst of placeness. And you know it is a cultural phenomenon when “Weird Al” Yankovic writes a song about it.

I hope I am never disillusioned about craigslist. There is nothing fancy about it; in fact, its interface is still very like the early look of web style. There is no glitzy packaging, no annoying ads popping out in your face, no images except for the one or two that are necessary for describing the piece of merchandise … but you have to choose to look at it. The format is simple, basic even. What is there is electronically delivered, but human-powered, and the outcome is entirely in human hands. It is but a stage for acting ourselves in the new world order.

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