Monday, February 23, 2009


...There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all the springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white’s their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
- I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.

- A. E. Housman

If Mithridates had been king of Fort Worth, he would have been deader than Abe Lincoln after the play. Immunizing himself by deliberately taking all manner of poisons would have failed to protect him against the local Tap Water.

Jeezus, it is nasty.

Years ago, the Missus’s brother Morris William used to live in North Richland Hills, a suburb of Fort Worth. At the time, we commented upon the remarkably vile tap water. When you showered in it, it gave off a pesticide-like pong that was downright scary. The idea of actually ingesting it was horrifying.

We suggested that our (then baby) nephew William’s frequent upset stomachs could be helped by substituting bottled water for that terrible chemical soup. In fact, we insisted on it. We love our nephew, and we were concerned that he might grow webbed feet - or an extra head - if he kept drinking the Local Brew. And I say this as someone who believes that, 99.9% of the time, bottled water is a terrible waste of money and resources... American marketing genius at its most pernicious. But not in North Richland Hills, where using bottled water may very well keep you alive.

What we discovered this past three days is that the problem is not confined to North Richland Hills. Not any more. For the tap water at our hotel in downtown Fort Worth was almost as bad as that old North Richland Hills shit. Ai-yi-yi!

Elder Daughter is convinced that the local water company is in cahoots with the purveyors of bottled water. Maybe... but it is also possible that the City Fathers are trying to cockroach-proof Tarrant County by adding prodigious amounts of chlorinated hydrocarbons to the water.

Look: There were plenty of places Elder Daughter and I visited in Japan where the water was hellishly sulfurous. But you were not expected to drink it... at least, not without digestive consequences. You were expected to bathe in it. And as for the smell, it was perfectly natural for something that had just issued from the bowels of a volcano. Not so the Foat Wuth water.

Mithridates, where are you when we need you?

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