Our Man on The Spot: Living Down in Brooklyn
Here is my current place of residence, one chevy van parked in a lot in south Williamsburg, Brooklyn — beneath the M train.
I met a man named Stan with a taco truck who said I could park the van in the lot in exchange for a couple hours of work everyday.
This photo was taken a few weeks ago after the epic of van troubles. It began with the engine dying on 17th street in Manhattan. At the time I thought it was as simple as the battery being dead, so I had two friends guard the van while I spliced an extension cable into a phone booth to charge a battery pack.
This of course did nothing, the van has a great sense of humor and would not let a problem be fixed so easily. So I walked across the bridge to Brooklyn and bought a new battery and walked back with the battery in my hand, arriving at the van 5 hours later.
For a day after that my hands were molded to the shape and task of carrying a battery and had a hard time remembering how to perform other functions. I installed the battery and was thrilled when the van whirred to life. The next day I drove out of there, got to Brooklyn, and pretty soon the lights died, followed by the engine. The van gave me a break this time and got into a proper parking spot before dying. So I then realize of course the battery wasn’t the issue, rather the thing that is supposed to charge the battery–the alternator-was at fault.
I spend the next two weeks going back and forth between the van and autozone as they sell me the wrong alternator repeatedly. At last after walking miles down Atlantic avenue into the heat haze abyss to a different autozone they give me the right alternator, I walk back and put in the van and the van rightfully doesn’t start.
The van sits in this spot another week, collects some graffiti, and some debris around the wheels. Somehow I avoided not being towed or booted, or someone ransacking the contents of the van which would be easy enough since there was not glass but merely a wool blanket for a rear window. Around this time I get a gig overhauling 32 bikes and through the owner of the bikes I meet stan who says “get the van towed over here.”
So I do.
During the day I would liberate abandoned bikes (bike thieves work by night, I am simply a bike liberator) and fix them up and sell them, and in the evenings I would contemplate the van. I made good friends with a young man named Christian across the street from the lot who I found playing a steinway piano on the sidewalk outside his apartment.
One day Christian leaves and gives me a key to his place to use the kitchen and such. I go over there and remove the key from its hiding place and fuss with the door for about 5 minutes until an undercover cop car rolls up and 4 gigantic officers accuse me of attempted burglary.
I somehow wiggle my way out of being arrested. A few minutes later Christian shows up and tells how just as he was walking around the corner to his place he saw me being interrogated by the cops and had walked right through us without me even noticing.
He kept walking only because he is living in America illegally and couldn’t risk a cop asking him to produce an ID of which he has none, besides he says “I could tell you were breathing right and therefore were exempt from NYPD tactics.”
I finally got the van started just by asking it to (as well as flipping around the starter relay which had been installed incorrectly, by my own hands no doubt). I then drive to Baltimore to pick up will and we set out on tour the very next day.
By the time we arrive in Charlotte, North Carolina the van is backfiring and misfiring so severely I have no choice but to pull over in the first lot I see. There the van sits for a few days while I imagine the possible causes of this.
Maybe the points on the distributor have corroded so that the sparking order is all mixed up, or maybe there is a hole in the intake manifold and the manifold air sensor is modulating in attempt to give the right amount of air to the cylinders.
All of this is way out of my expertise to fix. But after two days in Charlotte I pop the hood and notice that for some peculiar reason the engine would smooth out when I placed my hand on the dipstick for the transmission fluid.
This makes absolutely no sense but I look further and realize the dipstick is resting on the alternator mount which is missing a bolt and presumably is fluctuating between a grounded and ungrounded state. I had no bolt handy but learned from the airplane guys that steel wire works good enough in place of just about any proper part.
Now I am back in Baltimore where the time can be ascertained by how recently a police helicopter has flown overhead, where the cops twirl there nightsticks on the corners to intimidate but unlike new york aim to make no arrests instead of making as many as possible (this of course is not always the case).
Just finished Huckleberry Finn and don’t understand why I wasn’t made to read it sooner. Erik just read it for the first time too, in his jail cell, and relayed the necessity of reading it, especially for the mischief prone.