Friday, August 28, 2009
This post dedicated to all the faithful fans and curious customers of MisterE Books...
I became a bookseller by default 20 years ago. See, I had always argued (initially placating my first wife almost 50 years ago) that I could always resell the books and records I was regularly ekeing out the funds to buy. But for decades, married or unmarried, I kept buying.
Then, back home again after the two-year world adventure in the mid-Eighties (recounted in many previous blog posts), when I couldn't find a solid writing job or generate enough freelance income, I unexpectedly had the chance to work in a bookstore--and soon had the opportunity to buy it. No need to revisit all that subsequent history, except to observe that I suddenly had to disconnect my gotta-have-it collector mentality and learn to part with stuff old and new.
One aspect of that was my membership in The Folio Society, England's premier source of elegant, literate, specially produced books. I had joined to buy what I wanted for myself, but then had to change my thinking to focus on what good'uns I could get at a cheap enough price to resell thereafter through the new and wonderful MisterE Books (a definite trick on the dollar front given Folio's often deluxe prices).
Now every late summer I have to decide once more if I'm staying in the Society, which requires buying four new selections that I must also hope to resell. Over the years I've accumulated 20 or 30 volumes that are collectable first printings of Folio's beautifully illustrated editions but which have failed to find a buyer, at least at the (barebones-profit) price I'm asking.
So what to do? The latest catalog arrived a day or two back, and was then buttressed by email, and as usual there are at least four new editions that are calling out to me: LeCarre's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Kerouac's On the Road, Chatwin's classic The Songlines, Watson's fascinating story of The Double Helix, maybe Peter Hopkirk's India/Afghan history of colonial incursions, The Great Game... But who am I kidding? Really there are up to a dozen worth owning/selling--new editions of Lord of the Flies, The Age of Innocence, William Trevor stories, gardening books by Vita Sackville-West, Xenophon's The Persian Expedition, a special Folio poetry anthology, a history of Robin Hood, and more.
The trick this year in particular is the, er, unreadable commercial marketplace. Books continue to sell, including collector editions, as dedicated readers continue to read even in this time of Grim Regression. (In contrast, sales of LP records on eBay are way down.) But the Folio volumes cost enough that they continue to pile up, however slowly.
I had just about decided to skip renewing this time around, but then I got a $60 order just this morning, someone wanting a Bill Bryson book. If Bryson can sell, well, what about my great unread copies of Ackroyd's biography of William Blake, Joyce's Dubliner stories, O'Brian's Master and Commander, Ford Maddox Ford's near-forgotten classic The Good Soldier, plus Anne of Green Gables, The Pink Fairy Book, Shakespeare's First Folio, beautiful box sets of Durrell's Alexandria Quartet and A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell, not to mention the really expensive deluxe limited editions of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary and Grahame's Wind in the Willows? Surely someone will want those too.
If I sell just two more good ones, I'll have made enough to buy some brilliant four from this year's new offerings. And so what if they stick around for a year or three? As I said 40 years ago, "I can always resell them."
Saturday, August 22, 2009
I've developed a tremor in my right arm, and it seems to mark the onset of Parkinson's Disease. But please don't sound the death knell just yet. As Mark Twain didn't quite say, "The reports of my imminent demise have been faintly exaggerated." I expect to hang on for some years yet.
But there's no escaping increased intimations of mortality. One manifestation has me pondering the enhanced late works of certain jazz musicians, who "knew" they were dying and chose to go out in a rush, cramming in all the playing (or composing) possible, creating right to the uncertain end--among them, Billy Strayhorn, Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Art Pepper and, maybe, John Coltrane. The white guys' untimely deaths were likely catalyzed by earlier drug addiction, while Trane and Strays developed killer cancers. (Getz too, but between smack and smokes and pills, he was already living on borrowed time from early on.)
So how did each man face his unmaking?
Before I examine that, let's look at some alternative situations. Most musicians just go on about their business, getting older, maybe less innovative but still in the game, right up to the moment of their departure. Some of them are longlived and wonderfully creative, like Benny Carter, Ray Brown, Gil Evans, Max Roach, John Lewis, Duke (and some are stubbornly still at it like Dave Brubeck and Hank Jones). Others' deaths come suddenly and unexpectedly--Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Eric Dolphy--severing that unique creative flow precipitously; even junk-riddled Chet Baker had some years ahead of him (maybe) were it not for that high window in Amsterdam.
Old age and bad health remove some gradually (Satch, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Dexter Gordon, Miles and Mingus), and others drift away on their own--Monk, Red Garland, Ella--choosing to retire from the fray for whatever reason. Still, there are the few who know they are dying too early, and who insist on playing, recording, writing, travelling, making plans for the future, ignoring that lurking, leering grim reaper for as long as possible.
Consider Billy Strayhorn, then a youngish man in his fifties. Once diagnosed with cancer, Strays chose to keep composing and arranging, continuing to produce material for Ellington and the orchestra, even dictating new music straight from his hospital bed as he weakened. Some of those tunes were brilliant instant classics, "U.M.M.G." and "Blood Count" among them. (And perhaps there were one or two others that Duke didn't get to which finally appeared a few years ago on the series of CDs by that Dutch Jazz Orchestra dedicated to recording unknown Strayhorn.) Ellington's great album And His Mother Called Him Bill was a fitting tribute to the unceasing courage and creativity of dying-too-young Billy, who truly did have "Something to Live For."
One of the numbers that Stan Getz made his own as he was slowly checking out was Strayhorn's harrowing "Blood Count." Like the junkie musicians of the Fifties who cut extra sessions to gather cash more quickly for their habits, one senses that Stan over his last few years (one album says "enjoying a respite from declining health and in the throes of personal transformation") decided to record as often as someone would pay him: some Concord sessions, Herb Alpert with a couple of albums for A&M, several miraculous dates for international Verve; quartets captured live and wonderful tenor/piano duets with late mainstay Kenny Barron, performances autumnal but not early. Recorded at Copenhagen's Cafe Montmartre, the CDs titled Anniversary, Serenity, and the two-disc People Time are albums alternately prickly and placid that enlightened listeners at the time and deservedly continue to be spun, constituting a multi-part epitaph to ol' blue-eyed, multi-personae Stan ("A great bunch of guys," drolly remarked Zoot Sims).
As Doug Ramsey wrote recently at his Rifftides blog, Getz never phoned in a solo. But sometimes, as in these late albums, he transcended his own ineradicable greatness. The amazing cri de coeur that marked his best playing is heard everywhere.
Much more controversial were (actually they still are) the late albums of pianist Bill Evans. Introversion, sensitivity, heart-rending ballads, a thin ravaged body curled over the keyboard... those are the images that usually attend Evans. But not his late trio sessions, multiple-CD sets recorded live at the Village Vanguard and the Keystone and elsewhere. Bill smites the keys and pounds out chords and races through the arrangements, his mind leaping ahead of his fingers at times, the rhythm section hustling hard to keep pace. It seems he knew his days were numbered and he took every performance opportunity to "say" as much as he could in a shortened stretch of time, even as the numbers sprawled out at length. (Methadone in his madness? The false, compelling shimmer of cocaine?)
Evans' attendant muse/lover/nurse for his final year or two was a young woman named Laurie, so there must be some sort of irony in the fact that it was another Laurie who supported, organized, and drove cleaned-up saxman Art Pepper in his late, post-junk, post-jail career. Not that he needed that much of a push; "pent-up" is definitely the adjective for ex-prisoner Art, whose emotional, intense music literally exploded out over his final half-decade comeback. Quartets, bigger groups, strings, prescient duets with pianist George Cables, even raging solo tracks: Pepper played them all. And this onetime master of the short and pithy solo, from his Stan Kenton days through the long years of addiction, suddenly was ranging inside, outside, and all over performance stages from Japan to the Vanguard, his alto statements much impelled by the sound, and fury, of ascendant John Coltrane. So many faltered at the feet of Trane... but Pepper somehow burned on through, in the process becoming the dominant alto on the late-Seventies jazz scene. And then he too was dead.
Coltrane, of course, was always a special exemplar, uniquely and incessantly pursuing the ultimate tenor solo, whether it required hundreds of 32nd notes, dozens of shifting chords, or a couple of hours of overblowing. But rather than a madman he was a spiritual leader and gentle, if driven, explorer--a saint of the sax. Yet as his liver and inner light struggled more, perhaps all unknowing he simply played all the harder and longer, determined to get... there... wherever "there" was. The Live in Seattle album, stellar excursions, "interplanetary" duets with Rashied Ali, and late bootlegged concerts together reveal a musician poised on the edge and ready to leap off. With nowhere else to go, he did.
Ah well, excuse the overwriting. Trying to grasp and explicate a talent like Coltrane's is maybe like grappling with Stephen Hawkings' explanations of the universe--perfectly lucid but still unfathomable. Was it Samuel Johnson who remarked that "The prospect of being hanged concentrates the mind wonderfully"? Death does have a way of taking charge whether you are a great musician reaching for the unknown or a straggling, trying-to-catch-up fan. (Maybe it's pertinent that Coltrane admired Getz and once said, "We'd all sound like that if we could.")
As one late, exhausted bass sax player was heard to gasp, "Time to rest my case."
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Turks and Greeks have warred with each other for millenia... Many battles were fought and lands occupied back and forth, but WWI finally brought an end to the Turkish Ottoman Empire's clear domination of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Believing that the Allies would provide support, a large Greek army invaded Western Turkey in 1922, but Kemal Ataturk (soon to be dictator/president and so-called "father" of modern Turkey) and his forces drove them back, along with hundreds of thousands of fleeing resident Greeks who'd lived there in relative peace prior to the incursion, the two rich cultures having intermingled significantly. But thousands of Turkish Greeks were massacred--though not on the scale of the (still denied today) genocidal killing of Armenians in Eastern Turkey some years earlier. The surviving Greeks fled to the region stretching from Athens back to the sea, which was soon housing maybe a million refugees as a result of the ethnic/religious settlement treaty which decreed that Orthodox Greeks had to vacate Turkey while Muslims and/or Turks had to leave Greek territory.
And that series of brutal actions is memorialized, right at the epicenter, in the Turkish port of Izmir (likely more familiar in its original Greek name Smyrna) where a grand harborside statue poses Ataturk heroically atop his horse, pointing west, driving all Greeks before him.
In the summer of 1956, on the day we Leimbachers arrived in Izmir/Smyrna scheduled to live there for two years, the U.S. military officer who met my family as welcoming chaffeur made us kids avert our eyes as we drove by one sunny wall where (I was told later) the bodies of two dead Greeks were hanging!
Yet, as we came to learn, in the usual complex way of Asia Minor and the old Mediterranean Near East (think Lebanon), Greeks and Turks continued to live in some places side by side, albeit uncomfortably, even while their national governments refused to talk to each other and the divided island of Cypress remained a smoldering powderkeg. Izmir was the home of SEATO (NATO in Southeast Europe and Asia Minor), and I recall at least one Greek army officer assigned there. Although the number of resident Greeks left in Western Turkey--along the Aegean coast so close to the Greek Islands--must have been small, some Greek influences remained in the food and architecture and clothing and, the point of this story, even the Smyrnaic music.
Originally the tunes played by those Greeks living in Constantinople (Istanbul) and southward before WWI sounded quite oriental, played on violin and accordion and lute-like stringed instruments--the lengthy instrumental intros (taximi) and keening songs sometimes accompanying tsifteteli dancing (familiar oriental belly-dancing, seen for example in the James Bond movie From Russia with Love). This elegant soundtrack for the cafes and coffeehouses--a music of sadness and erotic longing and lamentations for lost homelands (often sung in Turkish)--was considered (looking back later, anyway) as being in "the Smyrna style," and it was carried west through the islands to mainland Greece by those displaced residents. Some referred to it as rembetika (the "mb" combination without much "m"), an unknown word evidently of Turkish origin.
But there the style of the rembetis musicians collided with rougher music already being played in tavernas and underground drug dens (known as tekedhes)-- and from the 1920's on, a remarkable rocking, grumbled, quasi-blues music developed, a rowdier rembetika that held sway in the hashish hangouts and jails and underworld dives to be found from Western Turkey on up the coast and around as far as Salonika and back down into Athens and, especially, in the grubby port of Piraeus.
For nearly 40 years then (until government censorship interfered), thousands of 78s were recorded and released, in cities from Istanbul to Athens and on to New York, celebrating the rembetika sound and lifestyle--featuring lyrics immortalizing thieves and prostitutes, fat policemen and emaciated prisoners, knife-toting men (petty criminals known as mangas) and grieving women, alcohol abuse and drug dependence, and all performed on Eastern Mediterranean instruments as typical as the baglama (tiny lute), santour zither, and bouzouki (the dominant instrument after the mid-Thirties) and as rare as the stringed saz and oud, with the performances usually incorporating jazzy improvised passages.
A haunting example of the rarer, earlier rembetika is "The Song of Exile," recorded in the mid-Thirties by yearning emigre Efstratios Payioumidzis--or the strikingly beautiful instrumental titled "Halkias's Minore." But the tougher mangas style filled disc after disc after disc. One landmark underworld song was "The Junkie's Complaint," written and sung in 1934 by the already-dying young man known as Artemis:
From the time I started to smoke the dose
The world has turned its back on me, I don't know what to do.
Wherever I stay, wherever I go, people bother me
And I can't keep my soul together--it cries out for a fix.
From sniffing it up I went on to the needle
And my body slowly began to melt.
Nothing was left for me to do in this world
Because the drugs have led me to die in the steets.
But ordinarily such griping was subdued, even comical, and the commentary subtler, as the manges reveled in their doper lives; this merry piece (by Batis) namechecks some of the major musicians lazily smoking a water-pipe:
Secretly, in a boat I went
And came out at Drakou's cave,
I saw three men who were all quite high
Stretched out on the sand.
It was Batis and Artemis
And Stratos the Lazy One:
Hey, you Strato! Yes, you Strato,
Fix us a fine narghile.
So old Batis can smoke
Who's been a dervish for years
And Artemis too
Who brings us stuff wherever he goes.
He sends us hashish from Constantinople
And all of us get high;
And fine Persian tobacco.
The mangas smoke it in peace.
A song by Tsitsanis strikes the more typical balance:
Such youth and goodness
The black earth will eat.
That's why I enjoy my life now
And come what may.
I live it up in the tavernas
And so get rid of sorrow.
In this false world
We're just passers-by.
Before we know it we've lived our life
And hurried through it.
I put everything behind me
And now I live the Bohemian life.
When I've got it I spend it
And keep nothing in reserve.
Even in Izmir in the Fifties I could still hear some of those exotic sounds drifting from open windows and coffeehouse doorways, and I can remember stopping in the street to listen. But I never thought much about any of it... and the family moved on, and I forgot about the strange music... until 20 years had passed, and a mail-order import-records company I was buying LPs from (DownHome Music) began carrying records straight from Greece documenting the rembetika era and underworld mangas style, much like the reissue labels dedicated to American blues of the Twenties and Thirties. The catalog descriptions were tantalizing, and I ordered a half dozen albums and a small book (Road to Rembetika by Gail Holst) and began learning about these "songs of love, sorrow & hashish"--and even revisiting a few forgotten memories.
Soon I could recognize the rembetis masters--female vocalists Sotiria Bellou, Roza Askenazi, and Rita Abadzi (the music's Billie Holiday figures), basso-voiced bouzouki powerhouse Markos Vamvakaris (think Howlin' Wolf), other bouzouki and baglama whizzes such as Stratos (Payioumidzis), Yiorgos Batis, and Vassilis Tsitsanis--all three mentioned above. But there were scores more who remained mysterious names only; and the flurry of U.S. interest that had briefly opened a door for me and others proved sadly short-lived, over by 1980 or so.
The revival waxed and waned back in Greece too, and it wasn't until computers and the Internet significantly shrank the world and knocked down old cultural barriers that rembetika resurfaced beyond Europe. Lo and behold, suddenly one could find CDs galore, and most importantly a four-CD box from JSP Records. Released in 2006, Rembetika: Greek Music from the Underground proved so successful that a second box set was issued this year. Both are available cheaply through Amazon's sub-sellers, so anyone with the slightest curiosity can easily test the waters now... revisit the tekedhes, so to speak.
But it will always bother me that in the mid-Fifties I was living right at the center of the Smyrna style and the historical beginnings of rembetika, but--an ignorant young teen--wasted that rare opportunity to experience some major research in ethnomusicology, not to mention exotic and downright daring fun.
Oh well, light up that narghile and press Play.
Friday, August 7, 2009
I'm probably not smart enough to articulate this adequately, but here goes...
Is it possible for a musician to be "too intelligent"? I've been thinking about this idly as a result of reading a lengthy interview that Marc Myers conducted with Jazz pianist Denny Zeitlin.
We know that creativity in the arts often emerges propelled by depression or anger, tragedy or pain, rather than casual joy or the simple desire to paint or write or compose. One can be a brilliant and prolific writer--John Updike, for example--and yet have very little actually to "say." Think of Art Tatum, florid and fancy and almost without peer as a piano technician. Yet most listeners discover that a little Tatum goes a long way. (Bad joke: "Yeah, that's Art... Tatum or leave 'im.") Oscar Peterson has his detractors along similar lines too, whereas Thelonious ("The Onliest") Monk, spare and angular and erratic--his artfully wrought style less striding than hop-skip-and-jumping--for most Jazz fans has scaled Mt. Olympus.
That's not due to the silly American veneration of artists who quit the field early, or retreat into madness, or die too young, whether Keats or Elvis, Jackson Pollack or Clifford Brown. Instead, it's partly that in music and other forms of art, we regularly value simplicity over complexity. We want straightforward presentations--the joy of Fats Waller or Louis Armstrong rather than the willed pretensions of Keith Jarrett or Wynton Marsalis; Ray Charles rather than Adam Makowicz, and Aaron Copland instead of Eliot Carter--maybe even Berg without Schoenberg. In literature, The Sun Also Rises trumps The Man without Qualities, and Huckleberry Finn beats out Finnegans Wake. (International literary phenomenon Roberto Bolano and red-hot thriller writer Stieg Larsson are praised and newly dead authors currently offering savage excess in place of emotional substance.)
From a different direction, think of the history-of-art embrace of Picasso and Matisse and Miro and their pals; they were masters at paring things down to a few basics, yet retaining enough content to avoid the trap of, say, Abstract Expressionism--all those studies of shape and color, painterly action and contentless form, now rapidly fading in the esteem of critics and historians and ordinary artlovers.
But I meant to be talking music...
Denny Zeitlin is a working psychiatrist in the Bay Area, with an active practice for 40 years now. He is also a polished pianist of nimble mind and nimbler fingers whose early albums are currently being reissued and reexamined (almost to the extent of the emperor being refitted), and his playing still soars or rambles or fractures in various directions--floating like a butterfly, stinging like a... well, not wasp; maybe a hornet. But he definitely remains a thinking pianist, his intellect seemingly engaged even during his elegant freeform solos.
I have admired Zeitlin's playing since I first heard and bought Carnival and Live at the Trident back in the late Sixties. But neither of those LPs nor any of the few I've listened to over the years since (whether acoustic or synthesized) have ever compelled me to joy or tears or wonder. He is just too smart and trained and complex--too intelligent, I would suggest--to be simple. It's not that his playing must be barren of style, but maybe that the connections on offer, the "content" (if that's what it is), needs to be less abstract and more emotional.
All this is flagrantly subjective, of course. The essential thing for me is that while I like Zeitlin, I don't--maybe can not--love his work, the way I do almost anything by his far-from-simple peer Bill Evans, or the venerable Monk, or Red Garland (another who dropped out too early), or long-lived master Hank Jones.
I believe that Zeitlin knows too much, thinks too much, wants to be unique too much, doesn't just let up on the intellect enough, relax into the flow, and simply play.
But I'm no musician, just a lone listener reporting on my own reactions, and I might have second thoughts (or at least more informed ones) if I attended Zeitlin's well-traveled lecture on "Unlocking the Creative Impulse: The Psychology of Improvisation"--even though the idea of a psychiatrist psychoanalyzing Jazz improvisation gets my back up right away.
Anyway, I hope someone else refutes much or all that I've written here. Convince me with your reasoned response.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
From late 1971 to late 1972, I was between regular jobs, trying to make enough as a freelance writer to support a wife and two young kids. I wrote short films, edited a newsletter for an architecture firm, did some minor "stringing" for Newsweek and The New York Times, and hustled other now-forgotten work.
Actually that NYTimes Sunday Magazine piece could have been important. I was hired to provide an article and support information about the soon-to-come North Cascades Wilderness area--exploring hiking trails, visiting remote towns, trying to sound knowledgeable about the flora and fauna and geology of the whole wilderness region between Darrington, a logging community in the Cascades foothills of Western Washington, and tiny Steheken, at the head of Lake Chelan on the eastern side of those rugged, jagged-peak mountains.
But the editor who'd commissioned me quit or was let go, and the new boss didn't want to devote so much space to the whole story, so I got paid for my piece, which was then mostly cut from the newspaper's coverage. I was disappointed of course, but I kept hustling, and a few months later I received a phone call that led to a rather more extraordinary and challenging job...
Major engineering firm CH2M-Hill hired Roger Hagan, a guy I knew from documentary filmmaking, to produce a one-off issue of a tabloid newspaper aimed at selling the concept of "tertiary water treatment" for the Potomac River region around Washington, D.C. (the core sponsor was the County Council of suburban Montgomery County, Maryland)--and Roger subcontracted the whole job to me. I was to research the project at CH2M headquarters and back in D.C., then write and edit and generally invent the whole newspaper, and then finally oversee the printing and distribution of 100,000 copies of it too, in time for the fall election with river clean-up on the ballot. (All of which also meant that I had to move East for a few weeks once the initial discussions and conceptualizing were done.)
CH2M agreed to my idea of a Rolling Stone-styled issue that would look like some sort of established pop culture newspaper. (Rolling Stone was only three years old but already a major publishing success.) Borrowing a serendipitous word from John Fogerty's popular Creedence band, our paper was to be called Clearwater, with the defining subtitle "A Review of the Wastewater Crisis--Montgomery County--November, 1972." But, really, as I quickly learned, the project involved other nearby counties in Virginia and even West Virginia, not to mention the nation's capital, all of which contributed wastewater to Potomac tributaries.
I won't try to summarize the presentation we eventually assembled except to say that the river's water was filthy, people were worried sick (actually getting sick too), and scientists were arguing that tertiary treatment could clean the water sufficiently to make it safe enough to drink. But there were two main barriers to the success of that idea: advanced wastewater treatment cost a whole lot of money--the process required wastewater collection, a vast treatment facility, several giant holding tanks, retrieval of cleaned-up solid waste, and more--and the taxpaying citizenry had to be persuaded of the efficacy of reusing, maybe even drinking, water that started out pretty much as sewage!
CH2M provided some experts, and I sought out others, to contribute essays and explanatory pieces. I hired a cartoonist friend named Ray Collins to provide editorial cartoons, conferred with Roger's choice for art director, found a D.C. area photographer and printing plant, and we all went to work.
A few weeks passed, during which time I wrote background historical and connecting pieces and polished or edited the expert submissions as they arrived. I was staying at a hotel in Arlington, across from the Georgetown area, and my stay happened to coincide with the location shooting for that ghastly green-bile film The Exorcist. I got to know a few of the crew members down in the hotel bar, and watched some of the daily shooting. But mostly my focus was on wastewater...
... and soon I had the material needed to assemble for approval (in Montgomery County government offices and back in Seattle) the one and only issue of Clearwater--24 pages of information and humor and, we all hoped, a convincing argument. I hauled the final approved mock-ups east again, to the chosen print shop; and the presses rolled... and rolled... and rolled... while I stood by anxiously.
But all went well, and the papers were bundled up, and a trucker distributor and I hauled our stacks around the region to stores and restaurants and free-newspaper vending machines. This must have been in mid-October, well in advance of the election date, but I don't remember now: my part ended at that point, and I flew back to Seattle, still wondering how the voting would go, but also needing to move on to some new job (it might even have been me joining the creative group handling advertising for Rainier Beer, a job that quickly occupied me for a dozen years).
A few weeks later I heard that the public initiative had failed--not enough people voted in favor of our expensive and radical idea. But as the years went by, more and more citizens of the area around Washington, D.C., did come to accept the need for a major clean-up of the Potomac, and a decade or so later, the work began that eventually produced a river suitable for public use again.
And in this world of global warming, and shrinking supplies of water, governments and canny citizens alike now understand that water is a very precious and increasingly scarce resource--and that tertiary treatment of wastewater can indeed produce one potable source. Clearwater was just a couple of decades ahead of the curve.
UPDATE: I need to be careful what I wish for--or even write about! We live in a spring-fed house on an island in Puget Sound, and suddenly yesterday our supply of water slowed to a trickle. So now we'll be trying to backflush sand and air out of the system, to restore the gravity-feed source a half-mile away. But what if our spring is drying up completely? Yikes!