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Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, Justin wrote Iceland, a blog about his band’s American tour. Justin isn’t on tour anymore, but Iceland continues, twice a week, on City Desk.
“Lo! Come hither and hearken to my testimony!” exclaimed the termite inspector. We huddled in my basement among drumsets and broken synthesizers. “Do you see the labyrinthine tunnels chewed into this deteriorating staircase? This is termite handiwork!”
“Who are these termites?” I queried. “Are these termites like the ones that plague the city of New Orleans?”
“How lucky are we not to live in the termite nightmare that is the Big Easy!” the termite inspector exclaimed. He tore at his thin white hair and rolled his eyes to heaven. “Oh, do not speak to me of New Orelans!”
“Tell me,” I begged. “‘Twas it Hurricane Katrina or termites that destroyed the House of the Rising Sun?”
“The damnable termites of New Orleans live and breed in wood, Cajun-style!” shouted the termite inspector. “They will leave your home in ruins! Do not doubt that the District’s termites will bore into wood they find pleasing, destroying staircases with tunnels lined with spit! However, these Mid-Atlantic termites live in the earth and return to the earth after entering your home and munching on arboreal delights. A simple chemical treatment will eliminate them.”
“I am impressed with your knowledge of the termite realm,” I remarked. “How termites must live in fear of you!”
“You’re absolutely goddamn right!” exclaimed the termite inspector. He looked around the basement at the drumsets and broken synthesizers. “Are you a musician?”
“I prefer the term ‘visionary artist,'” I replied.
“I used to live with a musician,” the termite inspector said. “Sleep all day, up all night! This man kept the worst hours of any man in the world!”
“Those of us pursuing visions live in a realm beyond time,” I explained. The termite inspector ignored me and stared at the walls.
“These walls are made of plaster,” the termite inspector said. “Termites have eaten the wooden stairs, but they dare not eat these fine plaster walls!” The termite inspector blinked back tears.
“I see that you are moved by this glorious plaster,” I observed.
“Oh plaster, fine plaster!” the termite inspector exclaimed. “At the turn of the century, American artisans routinely constructed such plaster walls as these. Now, drywall is favored for its low cost and can be installed by Spanish-speaking persons.”The termite inspector glared at me. “I hope my remark about Spanish-speaking persons does not offend you,” he said.
“No, ” I lied. How easily a racist remark can ruin an informative exchange about building materials! I thought. I really should rebuke this inspector for his “Kramer” moment. Instead, I reached at and touched the plaster walls that held up my home. Though I had lived in my home for eight years, I had never noticed this plaster before.