The Ornate Plumbing of Silt Ridge’s Gilded Past

Morris Crimpanfortis is down on his pinstriped knees, the sleeves of his heavily starched white shirt rolled up, as he performs his periodic chores around the Graphite County Opera House. Today, he’s scrubbing ornate fixtures in the grandiose men’s room off the main lobby. There are additional elegantly apportioned men’s rooms in the opera house on various levels. In fact, there are a lot of fancy men’s room throughout the municipality of Silt Ridge, reflecting the great wealth of its industrial past. Morris wrings out the worn sponge in the rinse bucket and pauses. He has a breathtaking epiphany: what about producing a documentary that showcases the ornate men’s rooms of the Graphite County Opera House? Then he has another thought: what about expanding the scope to include the men’s rooms in other establishments of Silt Ridge? And if that’s not earthshaking enough, why not make a series out of it instead of a one-off documentary? Morris has his enthusiasm short-circuited when he thinks about something that will potentially doom the project before it gets off the ground . . .   

TO: Morris Crimpanfortis V

FROM: Morris Crimpanfortis V

RE: The Lost Elegance of Silt Ridge’s Men’s Rooms


You can say i scour the landscape for new programming concepts. Well, as you will soon find out, i scour more than the landscape. And sometimes it really pays off!

Someone’s Gotta Run with This

The sleeves of my heavily starched white shirt are crisply rolled up. On my hands and knees, I scrub the floor tiles alongside the stateliest men’s rooms fixtures in America. A programming note suddenly strikes me: has anyone thought about doing a documentary on the fancy men’s rooms in Silt Ridge?

This downtrodden burg might not make people mistake it for Manhattan, but one thing makes it stand above the rest: its colossal collection of historical and classical men’s rooms fixtures. We are talking magnificent works of architectural splendor, tall, imposing and fashioned out of chiseled granite, onyx, quartz and marble. To put it in perspective, if a guy happened to keel over while relieving himself at one of these splendorous behemoths, the fixture could presumably double as a coffin – that’s how spacious they were.

Ornate Porcelain Fixtures Flying Off the Walls

In the opera house alone, you have the long lineup of twenty-four grand fixtures in the off-lobby men’s room. There are additional ones over on the first floor East Wing, plus everything on the Upper Grand Tier, Grand Tier, Dress Circle, Orchestra Terrace, plus more serving the Orchestra and Platinum Circles. Then there’s the whole raft of dressing rooms. Plus, there are so many different kinds of marble:  Carrara marble, white Himalaya marble, French red marble, yellow marble, Spanish Gold, green marble and Galaxy Jade – and don’t forget the pink marble in the men’s room on the exclusive upper, upper balcony. My self-imposed cleaning detail regularly includes men’s rooms that have not been used for decades. But whenever the opera house goes into service again, the restrooms will be ready (Verona handles the women’s side of things).

Then, when you consider some of the other establishments in town, there is the great configuration over at the movie theater where you have ornate fixtures circling around the fluted columns. Over at the Five-Points Highway Diner, the fixtures are individually carved out of granite into likenesses of former city councilmen. Maybe it’s the age of this town, or because of the industrial wealth gleaned from its rich coalmining history, but I don’t remember men’s rooms like these in Burbank.

Looking for a Host who is not Easily Distracted

As I start getting excited about mounting this show, I eagerly anticipate who I will get to host it. You have to be really careful the way you approach the person: “Hi, so-and-so. I’m really into men’s rooms, and I think you’d be ideal to host a documentary that showcases them in their classic essence.” My initial thoughts gravitate toward Hadley Codfaldt. But is someone with half a BILLION listeners going to want to put himself out there on a show about historically significant men’s rooms fixtures, no matter how tastefully done? How about Jonas Cider? I could get him off my back about co-hosting Anthracite Tonite while using the documentary as a nifty audition. But no, that would only play into his ego. Face it, the man is impossible to work with. That leaves only one remaining option: me.

I have to be very careful about pitching this to Noreen. I have to work up to it. If I hit her with doing a documentary about the men’s rooms of Silt Ridge, she will shut me down before I get a good head of steam. Hey, maybe I could do a joint partnership with Mayor Perry Quinnion. He is always hawking those inspirational posters. Maybe we could work up a poster featuring a montage of the notable men’s rooms in Silt Ridge, and have some uplifting comment that makes people feel good about themselves.

Visions of Syndication Bouncing off the Tiles

Then I really have a thought that blows the doors down: why not make a series of it? Who says we need to stop at Silt Ridge? Yes, Silt Ridge would be a good launching place, and we could open every installment from here, but then we travel throughout the magnificent countryside, showcasing the most historically monumental male-oriented bathroom fixtures on earth. I wonder if that would make a good title – “The Most Historically Monumental Men’s Rooms on Earth.” It does have a nice ring to it, and certainly it says it all. I’m sure that even Noreen will warm up to the project when all the ancillary merch and promo components are thrown in.

Then I start having serious doubts. My second thoughts run rampant. What if she accuses me of being one-sided and ignoring the women’s interests. But I have a comeback: I don’t know anything about the women’s side of things, as I have never before been in a women’s room.

The next thing is a budget. Daddy’s people always want a budget. Well, like everything else, I’ll just let the budget take care of itself.

I wonder how I’m going to pitch this to Noreen. Definitely, I’m going to have to get her on the right day.

One Amateur Grass Blade Chokes – And Kablooey

A whole slew of office bickering takes place right behind Morris’ back. He thinks he’s trying to vamoose coal country by staking his claim in the rich content fields of Burbank. He fails to realize that bigger forces are working to determine his future. And that does not bode well for the struggling show producer. He has no concept of the danger that awaits if he gets reassigned to another division. Blithely, he continues pitching shows to his sister. But we see in an urgent message from Dirkie Tirk to Noreen, everything is on the table as far as Morris’ future. And that future entails a high degree of risk. Dirkie can ill-afford to have an amateur like Morris gum up the works. He pleads with Noreen to talk sense into her empire-building father. Will Noreen be successful? Or will Morris be sent packing to a place he has no business being to assume the persona of a death-defying grass blade?

Typical Hair-on-Fire Missive

Oh Boy Noreen,

Boris Fornhenge from the design crew has just taken a bite out of my hide explaining what your Father, the esteemed Morris Crimpanfortis IV, has planned for young Morris on the Jersey Turnpike. It does not sound good, it does not sound feasible, and in my estimation you need to do something to stop it down immediately!

Here’s the essence sweetheart. You don’t mind if I call you that, right? We’ve been family friends for more generations than I’m inclined to count. I care a great deal about your family, and that’s why I care about what happens to young Morris. But to a greater extent, I care about what happens to my crack professionals at Hose Powder, Inc. I have a reputation to uphold, you know . . . but more on that later.

Update on the Alexander Hamilton Service Plaza

You are surely up to speed on what is being planned for the Alexander Hamilton service plaza extravaganza. We’re going to have a little bit of everything in this nonstop, 24-hour show – a dash of this, a dollop of that. You know how these things work. Of course, the focus of the show is the fine stable of products from the great people at Kentucky Power Glide, Inc. Do you remember last year when they treated us all to the Kentucky Derby? Will you ever forget that?

Here’s the deal: we don’t want to let them down with any – how shall I say . . . personnel that doesn’t live up to the gold standard of the Hose Powder stunt performers. By that I mean our dear Morris. He has no business being anywhere near a staging area, much less a platform where the grass blades are launching.

Don’t Forget the Flitting Dandelions

Now, as far as the dandelions, they are all going to be on jetpacks. I have assurances that Morrey won’t be considered for a dandelion position, because he isn’t licensed as an authorized jetpack user. Need I remind you of the level of sophistication involved in some of their stunts, swooping down to the motorists on the Jersey Turnpike? You know the score, you know what I’m talking about, right?

The grass blades, I don’t know . . . that’s another story with the bungee cords. Still, do you want your brother flipping out of the heights, dive-bombing the parking lot of the Alexander Hamilton service plaza? If that doesn’t have potential disaster written all over it, I don’t know what does.

The Ballad of One Misguided Grass Blade

The bottom line is this, Lambkins, I can’t afford my stellar reputation being potentially besmirched by the actions of one misguided grass blade. I also can’t afford to be saddled with anyone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Don’t forget, the incompetence of one performer could affect the whole shooting match.

I know you understand and look forward to you taking the proper steps to dissuade your father of this off-kilter proposition, thus saving my reputation as well as the health, safety and well-being of your brother.

I look forward to catching up with you in Chi-town over the Fourth of July.

Sincerely yours,

Dirkie Tirk

CEO – Hose Powder, Inc.

Game Shows with a Gut Punch

Morris Crimpanfortis is in a bad way, a bad, bad way. He had a less-than-fruitful production meeting for Anthracite Tonite this evening. People are starting to get restless about him continually shoving off the start date. He doesn’t even have a credible co-host on board yet. Now he’s swerving down the snow-packed side streets of this long forgotten coal burg, on his way to another gruesome taping of the Silt Ridge Midnight News. In anticipation of this gut-wrenching experience, Morris loses his overcooked dinner in the corroded men’s room of the storied Five-Points Highway Diner. In a heartfelt “Memo to Self” Morris laments the mayhem and madness he’s about to encounter courtesy of the bad attitudes, nastiness and ugly energy of the Silt Ridge Midnight News players. He gets his mind off things by thinking about his new concept: “Game Shows with Consequence.” No longer can contestants blithely lose their shirts on a game show without subjecting themselves to a heavy dose of Adrenaline-induced Angst across America . . . 

TO: Morris Crimpanfortis V

FROM: Morris Crimpanfortis V         

RE: Game Shows with Consequences – Making ‘em Feel the Pain


Before I get ensnared in yet another foul episode of the Silt Ridge Midnight News, I wish to further a theory that I am developing, a theory that should have great repercussions in the network TV landscape for eons to come. It is, of course, the concept known as “Game Shows with Consequences.”

It’s Confidential – No, I mean . . . it’s Consequential

We’re going to get a taste of what that entails on my nightly show, Anthracite Tonite. Since this is a Memo to Self, I can state that I am climbing the walls over the delays to the proposed launch date. I know I need to do a lot of stuff before Daddy will greenlight the show, things like becoming a man and lining up sponsors, but enough is enough. This is going to be a groundbreaking show it’s high time we set a launch date.

I think about how well the snake is going to work, making my guests sweat. This will epitomize my risk vs. rewards theory that I vow to start enacting: if you’re a big-time celebrity coming onto my air to pitch your latest movie or hawk your latest wares, you better be ready to step up to the plate and pay the price. If you mess up even slightly during a live commercial read, you are going to have Mr. Sidewinder to answer to. This is a fitting introduction to my high-wire concept known as “Adrenaline across America.”

Contestants Risk It All

Likewise, there as to be something at risk for the typical game-show contestant. It’s no different than going into a casino and winning big. You’re probably going to lose something before you win. Nobody ever hit the jackpot for free, not even buying a lottery ticket. You still have to buy the ticket.

But these game shows will be the gift that keeps on giving because there will be consequences meted out after the fact for those who perform miserably during on-camera competition. So in most cases you really have it coming to you when you’re perp-walked into the parking lot and given your “payback sentence.” Contestants risk something upfront for the rewards of game show stardom, and they risk losing something at the backend as well.

Payback at the O.K. Corral

For instance, contestants who fail to advance in the rounds may be required to ride bareback through a row of burning hoops; they may be required to spend one minute in an MMA cage match; they may be asked to participate in tackling drills for Division I football players; they may be asked to spin around for five laps in a segment of roller derby; or stand on a track during the last ten laps of a NASCAR race; or be forced to ride backwards in a mile and a half camel race; or compete in a trans-Pacific sailboat race with a leaky hull. All of these pursuits become reality shows in themselves.

My game shows will be structured in such a way that there will be an ultimate winner every quarter. If you keep winning, there is definitely a grand prize at the end of the rainbow. If you win the grand prize, you obviously recoup all the money you put in to secure a place in the competition, and you don’t have to subject yourself to the ignominy at the end for those who lost at some point during the preliminary rounds.

Gamier than Bear Meat

Because so much is riding on these shows, viewership will be substantial. Contestants will sweat bullets because so much is contingent on how they perform – and what will happen to them if they lose. The prize money will be substantial, the rewards monumental. Winning contestants are guaranteed worldwide fame and acclaim. Those who do not fare so well become America’s roadkill – not that it won’t stop them from doing great things in the future. But it starts by putting your money where your mouth is. You need to pony up assets for a place at the table.

And oh, one more thing: all of these shows will be live.

Second Thoughts about First Impressions

Morris Crimpanfortis figures it’s high time to get back in the saddle and start pitching up a storm again. Realizing it’s been over a year since he last pitched Noreen, he contemplates some allowance for rust. He thinks about one of the shows he pitched in Burbank that featured camel races at Las Alamitos. He wonders if he can dust off this pitch and substitute ostriches for camels. They, by the way, were the camels with one hump, not two. He wonders if the hemorrhoid cream company that agreed to sponsor the camel races will be amenable to other sponsorship opportunities. But what if Noreen turns him down, like she always does? Has he learned anything from his year in exile? Does he now have the stones to stand up to her? Time will tell . . . 

TO: Morris Crimpanfortis V

FROM: Morris Crimpanfortis V

RE: Second Thoughts about First Impressions


When you’re Pitching Noreen, Timing is Everything

I check the digital display on my flip phone. Thankfully the satellite is up and running today and I have a signal. It is going on 4:00 PM EST, well past lunch hour in the Windy City. I take a deep breath, putting my feet on my littered desk, listening to something crunch beneath my heel–and not caring what it is.

I pause before I dial. It’s been over a year since the last time I did this. Do I actually think I’ll be able to pick it back up again like riding a bike? What’s the other one they talk about? Oh yeah falling off a log. I guess if you’ve ever done something one time, your muscle memory is supposed to toggle into place and everything will take over from there. Right? Isn’t that what they always say?

Pitching with Purpose: Only One Bite of the Apple at a Time

It becomes glaringly apparent that I don’t even know what I want to pitch. I don’t especially want to open with a really good one. I don’t want to waste it on a practice run. See, I get only one bite at the apple. I never get to come back for a second try. That’s just the way it is. Those are the rules I must play by.

The other tough part about his whole thing is the circumstances involving my last pitch in Burbank a year ago. I do my best to shut it out, but usually end up reliving the night when everyone was in my face, getting all hot and bothered about me having disparaged the family name with such an ill-begotten production. The lesson learned was this: doing an infomercial for a body cleanse product is one thing. You follow the old adage, “Just the facts, ma’am.” My problem came when I took matters into my own hands and made a game show out of it, including the disastrous decision to go live without a safety net.

Noreen had been riding herd on me the whole time I was in Burbank, doing a credible job of shutting me down with all my pitches. But secretly I think she enjoyed fielding them because bits and pieces appeared in her own productions. For instance, how can her reality show about the water treatment plant have ever gotten off the ground unless I hadn’t originally pitched the same show as a sitcom? Just sayin’…you don’t need to dig too far to realize Noreen is a Class-A rip-off artist. I’ve thought about suing her, but Daddy would probably raise a stink. Do you think I should do it anyway?

What’s there not to Love about this Show?

I think about the game show I pitched to Noreen in Burbank where contestants, mounted on camels, race around the track at Santa Anita. The contestant who gets the most correct answers during the Q & A round gets the fastest camel and the inside lane. The contestants who blow chunks in the Q & A mount lesser competitive camels. And no, don’t get me started on one hump two–that’s the argument that doomed the whole production in the first place.

Changing Up the Camels for Ostriches

I think twice about repackaging this show and pitching it again to Noreen. Maybe instead of racing around Las Alamitos on camels, contestants could race on the backs of ostriches around some abandoned racetrack back here in coal country. I wondered if changing it from camels to ostriches would be enough to disguise the fact that this was basically the same pitch as the one I gave her in Burbank.

I sigh deeply. This is not getting any better with age. What if she shuts me down? Then my whole dream will be dashed upon the rocks. Oh well, I’d better at least try. If she denies me an audience, then I might have to go directly to Daddy. But that will defeat the purpose and get me exactly nowhere.

See . . . Daddy is way too busy to take pitches.

Oh, before I forget: the sponsor for the camel racing show was a company that markets hemorrhoid cream. Maybe they’ll want to sponsor some of the shows I’m pitching now.

Ya think?

Client Adoration Gets Sloppy

Dirkie Tirk, President and CEO of Hose Powder, Inc. – “Your most trusted name in stunt recruitment, rigging and choreography” – takes the opportunity of a thank you letter to talk Noreen Crimpanfortis out of using her brother Morris V on a display in Nashville. Dirkie is as tactful as possible, explaining that conditions get very detrimental at those heights in the middle of the night high above Music City. It’s no place for lightweights. Dirkie in no way wants to cast aspersions on Morris V, but he has to look out for the safety of his stunt professionals. No amateurs are allowed at those heights.

Typical Gushing Thank You Letter with Underlying Agenda

Greetings Noreen,

First off, I wish to thank you for your recent order of Hose Powder rocket belts. I am confident these retooled babies will allow our billboard stunt people the flexibility to perform at far greater efficiency and precision than by deploying rudimental and antiquated bungee cords.

Under separate cover I have sent you guidelines and regulations for the use of these showstoppers. Under normal conditions they provide death-defying color to your promotions. But I don’t need to tell you, in the hands of ne’er-do-wells or rank amateurs they become the stuff of lethal weapons.

I guess it’s concerning this latter point that I write to you. Of course, the real reason is to thank you for the generous order of Hose Powder, Inc. patented rocket belts. But Noreen, our families have been tight for gosh, I don’t know, a number of generations, it seems like a few lifetimes, but I feel the need to broach a rather delicate subject with you, and that is this.

Nashville Spider Web is No Place for Beginners

Your father has got to lay off Morey V with these demands that I consider really dangerous. Now, I’m not calling your dad, Morris Crimpanfortis IV, a dangerous man per se. Please don’t get me wrong. But I think his zeal to make little Morris, his only son by the way, into some sort of swashbuckling billboard superhero who isn’t afraid of his own shadow is well…kind of unfounded. You know, with all due respect, wrongheaded.

Look honey we all have our personality quirks. I’m not trying to get in the middle of family dynamics. But if your dad is trying to make Morey into a “man,” then he might not want to start on a steel spider web 500 feet above Music City. Need I remind you that our stunt people are trained to the max. There is no way you can duplicate the situations these men and women have subjected themselves to over the years to arrive at this point. They are not denizens of some 9:00 to 5:00 office community. So to place Morris in these conditions is not only unfair, it’s in my estimation, deleterious to your brother’s survival.

Billboard Stunts are no Place for Little Morey

I hope I haven’t been too forward Bumpkins. I’m only writing to you in hopes you can head this off at the pass before a disaster occurs. Remember, we have the safety of our professionals to consider as well. Maybe, just maybe if your dad wants to involve Morey in the innerworkings of an exhibition he can use him as a spotter on the bungee platform. You know how we love and need our stagehands.

Anyway dear, it was great seeing you last Thanksgiving. I hope to be in Chi-town sometimes next month and will look forward to catching up over dinner.

Yours Truly,


President and CEO, Hose Powder, Inc