Thursday, March 21, 2013

Current Living Conditions

I want to set the record straight. I'm not only a hypocrite because I wrote anti-hydrofracturing essays and then worked directly in support of the hydro-fracturing industry, but I also edit a blog that is about a guy who lives in a van. But I currently live in a house.

Now, my most uproarious moments have been in the van. Without question. A quick list of 10 of them...

1) Nazi Germany arrives in Santa Monica...a hopelessly stoned Oggy must navigate the entire Santa Monica police department riot squad by moving not just one but two (2) derelict vans (and a broken moped) from the street that is being reclaimed by the police. At one point Oggy is stalled in the middle of the street facing the curb as the police march through red tear gas smoke whipped by a helicopter.

2) Kissing a dazzling Czech woman on the shoulder and moving slowly toward her neck as the Baja moon shines through the windshield over a deserted beach, waves splashing, the perfect Astral Weeks album is on the stereo. "I'm normally a gentleman," I whisper. "I don't know where my manners have gone." Despite having known each other for maybe an hour it turned out we were on the same page.

3) Crossing "The Grapevine" out of the San Fernando Valley at midnight certain a brake failure would kill me and the three (3) Craigslist rideshare passengers...all pretty college girls?? who gripped their seats (one was sitting on a plastic ice chest) in complete terror.

4) Rebuilding my 1974 Vespa Ciao moped inside my 1969 Econoline van.

5) Driving through Indianapolis while my father pisses inside a milk jug.

6) Three (3) attempts to drive to Labrador with a wood burning stove installed in the van.

7) Arriving in Corpus Christi, Texas on July 4th and getting a police escort out of the visitor's center parking lot ON JULY FUCKING 4TH!

8) On Google Earth my van is in front of the house I lived at in La Paz, pictured from a satellite.

9) Austin, Texas. Broke. 5 broke Pill Junkies and Oggy. A case of beer. 5 lit cigarettes. The old shocks sag and the muffler is leaking. At a fork in the road Oggy barely makes the turn and kicks everyone out at a gas station.

10) Recording the Walmart Parking lot song.

Honorable Mention: 5 winter months in a Halfway House in Laconia, NH built in a converted carriage house. The van was parked and wouldn't warm up enough to run. Easily the strangest group home environment ever. A cross between Cocoon and Pirates of the Caribbean and The Shining. I could write 100 stories about that place. Every resident was either officially mental ill or else indigent and dying or all three. I was all three. We drank cheap beer from paper cups and split the purchase of a $1 megabucks lottery ticket three ways.

I don't regret any of it although there are some things I wish I had done but was too much of a gentleman to do... I wanted to do something interesting and make a performance art statement about  unconventional living during a time of increasing cultural homogenization and stagnant pop landscape. At worst I'd have something to write about. I often got more than I asked for and probably missed the point of most of it. Anyway... whole situation now doesn't really involve the van. I drive it to work at the garage when I need my tools there. I'll be rebuilding the transmission since I've got some time. But the characters of my living situation are as follows:

'Fredo (58?) lives in the woodshed. "I'm Spanish...not Mexican," he says. He's a handyman but don't expect his work to last long. I helped him fix the master clutch cylinder and slave cylinder on a beater car and he knocked his front teeth out on the frame. He was bitten by a brown recluse spider while sleeping in the woodshed, couldn't afford the antibiotics...watched his leg rot...found a way to buy the pills. Might lose the leg. I haven't seen him lately.

K.W. (51?, pure Texan) lives in the garage unit (imagine a big uninsulated closet with tons of porn)...the power comes from the circuit breaker with the heater on it so you can imagine how many times he lost lights this winter when I fixed the heater. He works with the street department. Drunk on Friday. Drunk on Saturday. In Church on Sunday. We almost went on a road trip to the Alamo but couldn't get organized.

Note: K.W. and 'Fredo claim they pay rent but I've only seen them borrow money. K.W. currently owes me $40. He got a two year loan on a $2000 truck.

J.D. (73? Portuguese) ) retired art teacher and part time sign painter, owns the house (creepy and filled with dead rats) but doesn't remember how long he has lived here or when his wife died or if I have paid rent yet or when the mortgage is due. K.W. has to tell him since K.W. has lived in the garage for 14 years. J.D. is losing his mind piece by piece. It's obvious that when you get senile you don't know that you are senile so I guess that should be a comfort to us all as we grow older. He feeds birds with no shirt on so the two heart surgeries he's had are obvious.

Oggy (42, unemployed illegal Mexican on tuition assistance) I moved into a separate area that was J.D.'s wife's crafts room (imagine a 1976 craft room with tons of modern porn) looking for a real home/family where people are involved a bit and need one another and care and bake cupcakes and have simple barbecues. I've spent enough time alone in my van so it's nice to have someone accidentally open my mail. I have my own bathroom and electricity which is big step up from the van parked outside Walmart. I made prints of my lightning storm pictures the other day and gave one to all of the above. They thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I bought a piano from J.D. that was his daughter's. I was playing Cuatro Milpas this morning and suddenly J.D. was shuffling up to the door.
"That's Cuatro Milpas."
I said it was and J.D. came inside and sang so the neighborhood was beautiful for a moment. He was a disc jokey in New Mexico long ago and played that song on the radio...or so he told me three times in a row. J.D. was making a sign for me that says "Music Lesson" but forgot to finish it. To me it's all perfectly normal and perfectly imperfect.

I don't gossip much about my fellow residents. I respect them as I respect all the semi-real characters of my blog. I wish I could write more fiction but until I can think of some fiction that is more interesting I'll stick with the semi-reality of my world.

Note: Thanks to Bullwhip for inspiring me to get back to what I do best. Even though he's ashamed to look at his face in the mirror and he once broke my spine in a cowardly blindside tackle he knows I love him.

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