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Touring Denver With a Plumber: Saturday Morning Magic

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“Here, take a look at this.” Plumber Raul Lopez gestures toward the drain.

I bend over to look at the black hole that extends deep below the tub down to…Australia?

“Do you see it?” Raul persists.

As with most questions about electricity, cars or marriage, I nod my head knowingly, while trying to hide the not-a-clue neon sign on my forehead. Merely nodding is usually not enough to throw the questioner off, so I quickly follow with an old lawyer dodge.

“Gosh, what do you think?”

Raul is not so easily fooled. He smiles at my not-a-clue neon sign and goes back to work. I get it. But I know the real secret: Plumbing is magic. Pure and simple. And Raul is a magician.

Raul Lopez is a gregarious, smiling, joking, lively, fit man somewhere on the other side of forty. He spends his life in Denver in small spaces, where he curses, cajoles and laughs as he tries to convince toilets, sinks and tubs to bend to his will.

I know this because I listen to his one-sided discussions from the other room. Does Raul expect the tub faucet to respond to his plaintive request to work correctly? Does the pipe agree that it should turn at a right angle so that the soldering gun can more easily reach it? Does telling a toilet that it is a “son of a biscuit eater” really persuade the toilet to place itself properly?

Of course, the pipe and the tub and the toilet never answer Raul — at least, not as far as I can tell. Although somebody must have listened, because when I glance into the bathroom, everything is in the right place, the job is done, and Raul is smiling.

Magic.

Nate Staniforth, a professional magician, wrote a book called Here Is Real Magic. It is a great book about his search for wonder in a cynical world. “Wonder … that sense of waking up and seeing things the way you saw them before they became ordinary … This is magic.”

This is also plumbing — the magical land of fittings and gaskets and soil pipes. Oh, yes, and people.

“I like the people I meet here in Denver,” Raul says, laughing. “If I don’t make money on a job, I’ll still make a friend.”

Is this guy real?

And just like Harry Potter goes to the Ollivanders Wand Shop to get his magic wand, Raul goes to the plumbing supply store to get a “shower valve rough-in and trim.”

And I tag along.

Listen, I know Denver has a gazillion attractions from art to theater to dance to sports, but trust me, your experience of Denver would be incomplete if you missed perhaps its greatest landmark: the plumbing supply store.

click to enlarge

More magic at Rampart Supply.

Joe Weeg

Rampart Supply is buried among warehouses and concrete in the heart of Denver. Pickup trucks and work vans are the vehicles of choice, while splattered work boots and work pants are the mandatory dress code. The magic occurs in a large showroom that displays wrenches and pipes and fittings. You might have seen a Mona Lisa in your travels, but have you ever seen a wrench bigger than your femur? Well, it’s not too late.

Logan Phillips takes our order. A no-nonsense, get-it-done kind of man. He carefully makes sure we have forgotten nothing, and then disappears into the back rooms. A short time later, he returns, smiling, everything Raul ordered in hand. I suspect he is also a magician.

Raul introduces me to everyone: salespeople, managers, other customers. They smile. They joke with Raul. And back to work they go. A community of people who move water from one pipe to the next. Denver’s lifeline.

Raul and I sit high in his truck as we drive away. One working man and one hanger-on. But Raul, like all good magicians, has another trick up his sleeve.

“Joe, have you ever had an empanada from Maria’s?”

Okay, forget plumbing and plumbers and plumbing supply stores in Denver. Empanadas are magic….




“Here, take a look at this.” Plumber Raul Lopez gestures toward the drain.

I bend over to look at the black hole that extends deep below the tub down to…Australia?

“Do you see it?” Raul persists.

As with most questions about electricity, cars or marriage, I nod my head knowingly, while trying to hide the not-a-clue neon sign on my forehead. Merely nodding is usually not enough to throw the questioner off, so I quickly follow with an old lawyer dodge.

“Gosh, what do you think?”

Raul is not so easily fooled. He smiles at my not-a-clue neon sign and goes back to work. I get it. But I know the real secret: Plumbing is magic. Pure and simple. And Raul is a magician.

Raul Lopez is a gregarious, smiling, joking, lively, fit man somewhere on the other side of forty. He spends his life in Denver in small spaces, where he curses, cajoles and laughs as he tries to convince toilets, sinks and tubs to bend to his will.

I know this because I listen to his one-sided discussions from the other room. Does Raul expect the tub faucet to respond to his plaintive request to work correctly? Does the pipe agree that it should turn at a right angle so that the soldering gun can more easily reach it? Does telling a toilet that it is a “son of a biscuit eater” really persuade the toilet to place itself properly?

Of course, the pipe and the tub and the toilet never answer Raul — at least, not as far as I can tell. Although somebody must have listened, because when I glance into the bathroom, everything is in the right place, the job is done, and Raul is smiling.

Magic.

Nate Staniforth, a professional magician, wrote a book called Here Is Real Magic. It is a great book about his search for wonder in a cynical world. “Wonder … that sense of waking up and seeing things the way you saw them before they became ordinary … This is magic.”

This is also plumbing — the magical land of fittings and gaskets and soil pipes. Oh, yes, and people.

“I like the people I meet here in Denver,” Raul says, laughing. “If I don’t make money on a job, I’ll still make a friend.”

Is this guy real?

And just like Harry Potter goes to the Ollivanders Wand Shop to get his magic wand, Raul goes to the plumbing supply store to get a “shower valve rough-in and trim.”

And I tag along.

Listen, I know Denver has a gazillion attractions from art to theater to dance to sports, but trust me, your experience of Denver would be incomplete if you missed perhaps its greatest landmark: the plumbing supply store.

click to enlarge More magic at Rampart Supply. - JOE WEEG

More magic at Rampart Supply.

Joe Weeg

Rampart Supply is buried among warehouses and concrete in the heart of Denver. Pickup trucks and work vans are the vehicles of choice, while splattered work boots and work pants are the mandatory dress code. The magic occurs in a large showroom that displays wrenches and pipes and fittings. You might have seen a Mona Lisa in your travels, but have you ever seen a wrench bigger than your femur? Well, it’s not too late.

Logan Phillips takes our order. A no-nonsense, get-it-done kind of man. He carefully makes sure we have forgotten nothing, and then disappears into the back rooms. A short time later, he returns, smiling, everything Raul ordered in hand. I suspect he is also a magician.

Raul introduces me to everyone: salespeople, managers, other customers. They smile. They joke with Raul. And back to work they go. A community of people who move water from one pipe to the next. Denver’s lifeline.

Raul and I sit high in his truck as we drive away. One working man and one hanger-on. But Raul, like all good magicians, has another trick up his sleeve.

“Joe, have you ever had an empanada from Maria’s?”

Okay, forget plumbing and plumbers and plumbing supply stores in Denver. Empanadas are magic….

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