I come from the “temporary” school of basement planning. This comes to mind after the weekend flooding that ravaged so many homes, including mine, though in a minor, I’m really not complaining, way.

My father, otherwise a fine man, taught me the art of putting things, many things, most things, “just temporarily” in the basement. “Dan,” he’d say, “just run these boxes (of cancelled checks, socks in need of darning, Readers Digest Condensed Books, Carnation Condensed Milk, chipped dishes, chipped beef) down to the cellar. Just temporarily.”

And as I found a clear spot on the floor, on the ping pong table, stuffed under the steps with the dresser with no handles, I’d imagine that newly demoted box of crap floating. And sooner or later there it would be, bobbing in the fetid water waiting for its ultimate disposal, hauled sopping to the alley. Do you have any idea how heavy a water-logged box of condensed books is? Do you have any idea why Readers Digest would condense books in the first place?

In those days – and those days would be the 1960s – Oak Park basements flooded even during draughts. It is just what basements did back then. You didn’t recreate in them. You didn’t carpet them. You didn’t put the extra TV down there because you still had the first TV the family ever bought in the living room and it was probably, in its wood cabinet, the nicest piece of furniture in the room. The cellar was for canned goods that would never be eaten, for doing endless laundry, for blowing fuses and for “checking.”

The sun would go behind a cloud and my mom would say, “Dan, go check the basement.” And, damn, if there wasn’t two inches of water.

Oak Park “fixed” the flooding problem with a massive public works effort in the ’60s. It was spectacular if you were 12. All the streets got dug up, endlessly. And absolutely enormous holes were dug on some streets. At Harrison and Lombard it was like “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” There was a hole 30-feet deep and 30-feet across. The men would climb in and out all day, and we’d stand at the rim and stare at the great muckiness of it all. It smelled of some delicious combination of sewer gas and clay and sweaty men. We’d visit daily on our way to Barrie to play ball or to Pan’s to buy a gallon of milk for dinner. Then we’d go home and bail out the basement.

Concierge services: Perhaps you’re looking for something fun to do this evening. Ready to pull those rubber gloves off your pruned up fingers, set down the bleach and rest your weary back from hauling those clothes you really were about to sort and give to Goodwill out to the trash?

Well, in last week’s paper I screwed up. So this is my way of making amends so Lynn Kirsch of Open Door Repertory doesn’t kill me. Open Door’s fundraiser – three great local bands, appetizers from Wishbone, fun at FitzGeralds, all for $25 – is actually tonight. It wasn’t last week! It is tonight from 7 p.m. to 10:30.

Open Door is raising money to operate their new theater which will open at Harrison Street and Ridgeland once the EPA says the dirt under their building is clean enough. If it isn’t one thing it’s another.

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...