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Aug 2 / Vick Mickunas

I love my plumber

Ours is a world of contradictions. How did we become encircled by all these oxymorons? Look at Congress. OK, bad example.

I’m always thrilled when I get good customer service. It happened recently. I have been working with the same plumber for years. He does good work and he rarely screws up. When he does, he makes it right.

My well pump failed and he replaced it. Actually, his son did the install while my plumber supervised. They left. The pump worked fine. Then after all those heavy spring rains it stopped working. I turned off the power and looked inside the well to determine what had gone wrong. The well was flooded. The pump was underwater. That’s why I have a sump pump in the well, so that water can be removed and the well pump will continue to function.

I thought, oh no, now the sump pump had failed. Then I noticed the problem: when they installed the well pump they neglected to plug the sump pump back in. The well flooded and my well pump stopped working because the plumber’s son spaced out on that one small detail.

So I called my plumber and explained the situation as nicely as I could. Of course he insisted that he had checked and there was no way they had forgotten to plug the sump pump back in.

He said he would come out but I would have to pay for the service call, etc. So he did. I was nice. He was polite. He looked at the well and he could tell that it was their screw up. He got the well pump working again. He pointed out that the sump pump was also plugged in. Then he said: “you got 20 dollars?”

That was the cost for the part he replaced on the pump. Twenty bucks. No service charge. No labor charge. No excuses.

I love my plumber!

Jul 13 / Vick Mickunas

WYSO needs our help

Well, it happened again. Lightning struck the WYSO tower during that terrible electrical storm the other night. They are still assessing the damage and it is severe. WYSO can use your financial support now more than ever. You can make a donation at the website:

I remember about 15 years ago when the tower took a similar hit. We were off the air for a week. I had an interview scheduled with Pat Conroy right after the signal melted down. He came out to the studio to talk about his novel “Beach Music.” He had a very nervous publicist with him. She came in the lobby and said she had been trying to tune us in and wasn’t able to pick up the station. I thought she was going to have a breakdown when I explained that we were down for the count.

Pat Conroy was totally cool with it. No worries. We taped an interview to play later. That was my first time meeting Pat. What a gentleman. What a cool cat. What a genius writer!

Make a pledge to WYSO. Help the station during this difficult time. Thank you.

Oct 6 / Vick Mickunas

Listen to this Book Nook podcast

Click here to listen

Gary Shteyngart talks about his new novel; SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY…. it recently came out in paperback.

Sep 22 / Vick Mickunas

The Book Nook is back in a regular slot


View Book Nook on WYSO

On WYSO Public Radio (91.3fm) and Tune in on Fridays at 1:30 pm and again on Sundays at 11am.

Jan 1 / Vick Mickunas

My fave non-fiction from 2009

I prefer to read fiction and non-fiction in almost equal quantities. Some men rarely touch fiction. Some women only read novels. But the world of books is so varied – so incredible – I wish to read widely, avoiding a narrow range of topics.

Non-fiction books can cover every conceivable subject. Here are my favorites from 2009:

“Imperial” by William T. Vollmann (Viking, 1306 pages, $55). Some books are like boat anchors, others – doorstops. Huge books. Massive enterprises. Some actually work better as doorstops or boat anchors than as books. “Imperial” is that rare book, gigantic yet still worthy of a place of honor on the bookshelf.

This author has a prodigious talent. Vollmann does it all, writing novels and non-fiction. He excels at both forms, cranking out mountains of work. He worked on this one over the course of many years. He wanted it to be a novel but could not find a way to make it so.

“Imperial” is the history of Imperial County, California. This sprawling expanse along the Mexican border is one of the poorest counties in the state. That desert bloomed a century ago as Colorado River water irrigated a bonanza of farm produce. They thought that water would last forever.

Vollmann documents the booms and the busts along both sides of that border. This book is probably twice as long as it needed to be. Reading it felt like running a marathon. You must pace yourself.

“Bright-Sided, How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America” by Barbara Ehrenreich (Metropolitan Books, 235 pages, $23). This searing cultural critique was inspired during the author’s treatment for breast cancer. She got annoyed with people telling her to think positively to help beat the cancer.

Ehrenreich was intrigued by “instructors in the discipline of positive thinking-coaches, preachers, and gurus of various sorts.” She scrutinized a subculture that spawned an entire genre of self-help books, videos, lectures, and retreats. Ehrenreich is an incisive commentator. She doesn’t pull her punches here.

“The Man Who Loved Books Too Much – the True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession” by Allison Hoover Bartlett (Riverhead, 274 pages, $24.95). Can you ever have enough books? If you answered “no” then I know how you feel. We are the bibliomaniacs. We can never have enough books, right?

Some people take their bibliomania to extremes. Some become the bibliokleptomaniacs. They steal books. This story of one such afflicted soul was pure catnip for this book lover. The gent in question stole rare books because he simply had to have them for his collection. He didn’t do it for the money. The author interviewed the thief as well as the man who caught him. A book lover’s delight.

“Tears in the Darkness – the Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath” by Michael Norman and Elizabeth M. Norman (Farrar Straus Giroux, 464 pages, $30). Riveting. Harrowing. Stunning. World War Two history at its best.