Thursday, May 26, 2011

All Systems Go

The saga of the 1969 E-200 Econoline camper conversion van has the latest chapter to fill in. Let me say that a more user friendly van has not been manufactured in 30 years. Either that or I have bonded with this van in an uncommon and unnatural fashion that leads me to believe we were twins separated at birth 40 years ago, perhaps in the mineral deposits of New Mexico that aided my gestation and enabled the refineries to forge from steel a chassis of strength and spine of relative weakness, the van receiving the abundance of benefit from the earth and Oggy receiving a bastardly, niggardly share of heavenly porridge leading to his limping gait and ragged dragon breath. (that was my weak attempt to write like Herman Melville.)

So, the van was buried beneath 7 feet of snow this winter for 5 months, from December to the great thaw and beyond. My goal, as you may have read, is to take this van to the end of the earth in Labrador and from there steal or con someone into taking me the rest of the 3000 miles to Ellesmere Island where I will gather information on the imperiled Arctic Wolf. The Arctic, if you've been paying attention, is melting faster than a peanut butter paradise ice cream from a Somersworth ice cream stand on a humid day in the Granite State. The window dressing I have chosen to disguise my adventure involves my being sent back in time to warn people of the drastic consequences to their heedless resource consumption. I don't even need to do this since the future has happened in Missouri and Tenn. these past weeks. To this point, my strategy has only alienated everyone I've met, gotten me kicked out of Canada and failed to interest several charities and project promoters. If I insist I am from the future then I will be alone in my endeavors. I GET IT! I could no sooner convince my host in St. Louis to recycle box board than I could get Al Gore to give me a piggy back ride to the North Pole. Waaah! No one RSVP'd to my pity party.

So, I'll give up and get a job at WalMart, right? HA! No, I will take my bag of tools to Stratham and dive into my van like a man possessed. Hasn't been started in 5 months. Two dead batteries. Flat tires. Rusting spark plugs. Oil like axle grease. No Problem! This van speaks to me as to a long lost brother. What ails you?

I inspected the plugs, the wires, the points, sprayed the carb, took the air filter off, primed the intake manifold with tender kisses of my silky mustache. There was no point in trying to start it alone as the lights flickered weakly and my brother had already given it a shot back in February to avail. So, even though the rain fell in buckets on my head and shoulders and the lightning struck the trees and fields nearby with regular violence as from the ghost of Ben Franklin calling out to us from the grave that we have awoken a demon with our ape-like tinkerings with electricity and other magics better left to Zeus and Poseidon. I drove the car to my van and hooked up the $2 jumper cables I bought in a flea market in Mexico. I tried the ignition and heard a clicking like cicadas in the Ozark hills. So, I knew that this meant a connection had not been made...and I went back out into the rain and readjusted the jumper cables receiving shocks and threat of death from lightning strikes.

"God damn ye, devils from heaven!" I cried though no one could hear as my brother would apparently melt if hit by water and all of New England has become sissy with fear of weather touching their furless members.

But the readjustment finally worked and the engine roared like a dragon, my brother, my steed, my faithful chariot! Then it died with a cough and cry like a meek child in the oncology ICU.
But I shocked it to life again and gunned the engine because this van would arrive one day in Labrador and bring me that much closer to my wolf cousins.

It idled and I disconnected the cables, receiving another shock from the 12 Strong Men that Thomas Edison unleashed on simple Oggy apes.

The van would soon die again but I was satisfied with my daily allowance of volts so I went home after searching fruitlessly for a journal entry in one of 40 chicken scratch journals I wrote in the summer of 1997 or 1998. 13 years ago? I did laugh as I came across several letters I had written to a former girlfriend while she was in jail. They were all marked "Return to sender" hahahaha...and I read the start of one, "Dear XXXX, I love you so much...." ahahahahahah (crying on the inside). broken hearted and she preferred to turn tricks under the roller coaster for small candy colored rocks of crack and threw Oggy out with the trash. Dozens of returned letters stained with codependent tears.

So, I gave up on finding the poem lest I awaken other ghosts of my past and returned the next day in another torrential downpour worse than the day before. Another lunch of 12 volts and I had the van under my thumb again with a belly full of the go juice squeezed from the blood orange knows as a Kazakh child's heart and away we went, unregistered, uninspected, leering like Aqualung in his tattered overcoat at pretty panties and dead squirrels and rodents in the wet street. Police too fearful of his hulking highway leviathan to pull him over though no decent society would allow him free travel. Oggy, the wanderer, was back on the road, free of nagging and judgmental Suburb Borgs who would speak to him AS THOUGH HE WERE AN EMPLOYEE IN THE JOB CALLED THEIR LIFE. No, that will never do. Oggy does not obey laws written by Indian killers.
The plan was to have the van inspected, change the greasy oil, pack the arctic weather gear, play some tennis and leave for Labrador. This time I will not tarry.

So, the inspection shop took in the van with a bus escape hatch and small wood stove with stainless steel chimney. In preparation, I even fixed the broken horn and checked all the if that would make a difference in a van with a wood stove in it.

Then I took my bicycle out of the van in preparation for a bicycle tour of the seacoast and was almost immediately run over by the chicken farmer's infamous lesbian truck.
I actually recognized the truck with the KTM enduro in the back and started to strain my arthritic knees to catch up when another car, IGNORANT BLIND FUCKING CAGE DRIVER cut me off and forced me into the dirt even though I was already in the bicycle lane.

I calmed down long enough to plan a day of work and reward with the chicken farmer.

The van passed inspection despite having cracked brake pads and not being registered and having a wood stove in the cabin next to a bed and huge wood chopping axe. Safety is not a word used in conjunction with this van. The workers stood around and smiled at the dinosaur. I gave tours and people took their pictures.

"Labrador?" they asked? "Where is that?"

"Well, it's north of Quebec. Then I'm going to visit the wolves in the Arctic because they are all dying as their habitat melts."

"No shit?"

"Yes, see, the atmosphere can only accommodate 350 PPM of CO2..."

Back to Portsmouth and to the city hall where an old lady who disapproved of my furry face immediately decided to flex her bureaucratic muscles.

"You can't have a vehicle registered here and not have a license from here," she said as she looked at my California license from ten years ago.

"But, what can you tell me about the status of this registration?"

"Nothing, until you bring me blah blah blah blah."

I snatched my paperwork back from her before she could confiscate them like a home room teacher taking my star wars photo cards away and telling me, "Oggy, you can pick them up at the end of the day."

Soon, I had my 1974 vespa ciao moped out of the dusty basement and she was firing on her one cylinder> I would take the Vespa to Labrador if I have to because the wolves are that important. The chicken farmer returned with eggs and a mission to the farm.

Off we went to chickenland to retrieve mislaid helmets, then back to Rye where snooty snobs shuffle service workers around like chickens laying screened porch eggs. Tradesmen who can not afford to live in Rye must commute to Rye to dig up hedges and install pompous stone walls in a reminder of what I saw in Santa Monica where proud Mexicans living 5 to a room in The Valley took the bus 2 hours to cut lawns near beach-side swimming pools where frail pharmaceutical widows drool on their false teeth and plastic tits. Now a carpenter has to be thankful to build some fucking addition to a house 50 miles away? You want this room a different color? How about I piss on the wall? Would that work for you? What shade of piss yellow do you prefer?

So, an hour of work accomplished by 4 PM, we fled the snob village, passing sweating and grunting laborers WHO ACTUALLY DO WORK FOR Financial SYSTEMS ANALYSTS who can't spell work. (God, PLEASE LET THE WRATH OF THE Abenaki Indian tribe wreck havoc upon these cowardly charlatan pencil pushing calculator lovers in their false stone mansions! What sacrifice do I have to make to you so a plague of hurricanes will wipe from the earth the political boundaries that enable such unjust defacto slavery?)

Not long after that we passed the menagerie of lawn ornaments on our way to a hot dog BBQ in a mosquito swamp near Berwick.


Most of the time was spent searching the dirt for a missing seat mount bolt but I was glad that not too much had changed because it was already a little shock to have a day with the chicken farmer that didn't involve a toxic scorpion bowl at Kim Lai. If there hadn't been some unexpected crisis the whole friendship would've probably collapsed because I need fully functioning friends like I need a perforated heart. Although this friend, who also took these pictures, bought me soda and pizza and cooked me hot dogs and then I let him buy his own ice cream as he drove me home. He should've dropped me off in Rochester and let me walk 30 miles home with a "cheapskate" sign on my gullet. Next time, ice cream is my treat!

Then I return home to hunt for my DMV paperwork and finally find the stickers with my poverty-ridden IRS paperwork. This completes the saga. The van is registered. Inspected. Insured. Tucked in and tuned up. The wolves are literally hanging on for their lives in the Arctic and I feel a responsibility to address their concerns even if it means defending their dens with my beard and bad breath.

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.