Saturday, February 13, 2016

Challenges and Obstacles

having the axle shaft on a dirt parking lot is never a good sign

I've been more broken up than usual lately and it's for reasons I can't expound on. Really torturous introspection and regret and doubt and lack of pride and full of shame. The usual suspects that long time readers of my blog will find boring. Hasn't Oggy solved these psychological problems yet? No, he hasn't. I am so perplexed by my awful past, unrecycled bottles, trash, slights, insults, burned bridges, that it's causing me to have bad dreams I can't even describe. I thought I woke up in prison this morning and I felt I belonged there. I was basically grieving the past and the present, reflecting on my own grief and grieving that also, pitiful, dejected, alone, lonely, hurt. Awful series of bad circumstances and unpleasant scenarios that were almost all my fault. And at the tail end of this unpleasantness I saw differential fluid leaking out the brake drum. I knew it was differential fluid because it was nearly black 90W oil and brake fluid is gold and more like 30W. So, that caused a chain of events that only another person on a crazy expedition will appreciate, the desperate investigation of this problem on the streets of Granada, the terrible mistake of taking the axle off on an incline and also on a slanted incline so that the fluid poured out to confirm that it was indeed the oil seal that had failed...but I could not get the oil seal out to bring it to a parts dealer in Granada. Well, that was a big waste of time because why would I take the wheel off without a replacement part? I knew the problem, so why waste the time. I had an exploded diagram that would show what I wanted and everything in Granada is for Toyota. So, then I go to reassemble everything and drive to Managua with the failing oil seal and neglected to choke the wheels of the van so that when I raised it off the jack stands it rolled forward and tumbled onto my shoulder, basically crushing me under the fuel tank and trapping me while my entire skeleton compressed enough to let me roll away with minor injuries. So, that was a painful and evil reminder that I am not myself, but the situation was grim in Granada. It was bullshit and I'm not focused and I am depressed and sad and would be better off crushed beneath a ton of Ford Econolines to put me out of my misery. But until that happens I merely have the indignity of shuffling through my miserable life, mumbling, heaping criticism onto myself, playing solo concerts for the universe, starved for affection, cutting my soul with sharp blades, punishing myself for decade old trespasses from the moral high ground.

But this oil seal does not care about any of that. I had no option except to get that thing fixed, which translates into me finding the part and fixing it myself. But where the hell am I going to find a rear axle oil seal in a country where there are no Ford parts?...and of course the thing failed on a Saturday afternoon so there was almost no chance I would find a shop open and would have to wait until Monday in Managua where glue sniffing juveniles rule the night streets with zombie stares and hopeless imperial dreams.

Fuck and double fuck. Always alone and searching for some petty piece of bullshit to fix some other chain around my neck. I was too depressed to even curse.
Oggy's previous incarnation
I merely looked up at the churches surrounding me, the 1540 Spanish Churches built by the bible thumping Conquistadores, and asked like Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof, "Dear God, did you have to make him lame just before the Sabbath?" 

not long after I fixed the axle shaft seal

Yes, God gets bored and decided to make Oggy's life more miserable, as though it could get more miserable, as though Oggy has not suffered enough. Good, bring it all on, let me burn as many fucking bridges as possible in my quest for self-destruction.

I flee Granada, which involved more problems than I want to discuss, dressed in mechanic overalls, slippers, miserable, oily, greasy gringo with no trace of levity. Humorless, bulging jaw muscles, grinding teeth. Drive to Managua, which itself is a dangerous trip and the whole time I wonder why God simply does not cause a tire to blow out at the moment a huge Sugar Cane caravan is passing me so that I swerve into the trucks and am demolished in all my puny pathetic glory. But no, God loves to watch Oggy dance in futility, so I make it to Managua, which is maybe the worst of all Capital cities on the planet, perfectly designed to obscure the easiest items. Impossible to navigate, congested, dirty, dusty, polluted, homeless people filling the streets. I am hunting for Mercado Oriental, which means the Eastern Market...but it's in the north central part of town because Poniente means West and this market is not called Mercado Poniente. I have no clue where it is. The rumor is that foreign car part dealers exist there and will help me find a rear axle oil seal. Of course you are asking yourself, "Why didn't Oggy bring a spare oil seal or two, since they are only $4 at Autozone." Because Oggy intentionally sabotages his own success. Oggy is his own worst enemy and he is a failure and a fuck up and sucks at life. Is that a good enough answer for you? All the opportunities I had to stock up on important car parts back in Texas or Mexico were spent pining over lost loves and staring at the merciless stars for answers to life's mysteries. So, this whole trip is required before the differential bleeds dry and burns up and that's the end of the differential gear.

The only good thing about the multitude of windshield wipers and destitute elderly women and glue sniffing junkies at every single stop light in Managua is that despite my being totally lost and hot and desperate I was able to ask and then pay for directions to the Mercado Oriental. I found the place after several misdirected chicken hunts, and then found a parking lot and parked and got out with a spare front oil seal and a diagram of what I wanted. The term is "sello de aceite del eje trasero" The word "flecha" is involved but I'm not sure how. I think it means the specific part of the axle. I asked and asked like I was questing for the Lost fucking Sea Scrolls or the Ark of the Covenant. But these suppliers have lives that require taking a half day Saturday and closing and going home and raising their children and loving their wives. They did not care about one lonely, whining, pitiful pale gringo wandering Nicaragua with a declining level of differential fluid in his axle. No. So I hunted and they either told me that I would never find such a part, or that the places with those parts was closed until Monday. Still, I looked because it was only around 2PM and I thought there was a small chance that maybe God would show me some mercy, he would shine his light on this dog's ass and maybe I could fix this oil seal before I had to sleep on the streets with the stray dogs and glue sniffers.

A miracle happened. The store called Impressa Repustos actually was closed and the lights inside were off and the three employees were getting ready to leave...and the security guard was making sure no one entered BUT by a small miracle the guard was distracted the moment I walked up and the manager was indeed at his desk and when I walked up with my desperate begging expression that is a universal sign of mechanical problems he allowed me to enter and plead my case. A few seconds in either direction and I would've been denied entry. The guard actually arrived quickly to escort me out and that it was too late and to come back Monday but the manager said I could stay. And that was the first miracle. The second miracle is that this parts store actually had one (1) remaining Ford Econoline rear axle oil seal in stock. Yes, it was $8 and I also bought some differential fluid, but that's amazing they had this part. They did not have two, since I am now trying to corner the market on this part after I freshly remember changing this part in the Corpus Christi public library dirt parking lot as it rained on me in 100% humidity like I was a weed growing in a poison lawn and the police rolled up on me like I was an escaped murderer and told me to get off the property or I would be executed. So, this particular right rear axle seal had only lasted since 2012 or so...back when I was homeless and hounded and broke and dusty in Texas before my luck changed there too. But the trip to Costa Rica has taxed everything from my wardrobe to my ethics to my heart and soul and the seals on the tip of the speedometer cable of my Vespa Ciao. It's all bullshit but this is my life.

So, I buy the one 1969 Ford Econoline rear axle oil seal in all of Nicaragua and hustle back to the van in the dirt parking lot where piles of wind blown trash provide bedding for rats and destitute criminals, although I am now addicted to Granadilla fresco, a cinnamon tasting delicacy of fruit and honey that one can never I bought some of that in the small markets where gringos are never seen, and drank it hastily from the plastic bag, on the street, like a baby suckling his mother's tit.

I ran back to the van and began disassembling the rear axle seal for the second time and this time I remembered to chock the front wheels with rocks because you must understand that the wheels will not turn if both wheels are not off the ground, see, so to turn the wheel to access all the axle plate nuts I have to raise the whole rear axle off the ground with two jack stands that I carry with my Bob Wills western swing songbooks. And this is why the van collapsed on me earlier in the day and nearly broke my shoulder. 

The truth is that as soon as I saw the oil leaking on the tire after I got back from a trip to the local Granada gym in the morning I had already mentally fixed the problem. It's all nuts and bolts and some prying and pushing. Not a complicated repair, but very important because oil on the brake shoes destroys braking power and eventually the rear gears dry up and burn out. I knew how to fix this problem but I also knew I didn't have a spare oil seal, or if I did have a spare oil seal then I had dumbly hidden it where I can't see it...which raises the importance of keeping a written inventory of spare parts so that I can look with my own eyes what I have and keep it up to date rather than guessing if I have something or not. More than once I thought I didn't have something, such as spare electrical connectors/lugs, only to find out later I did have it but it was buried beneath the decrepit baggage that belabors my soul and grieves and distresses me.

I pried the old seal out with a hammer claw and then used the whole axle to hammer in the new one because the bearing retainer is a perfect fit and I don't own a bearing driver. I then overfilled the axle with some new grease since remember in Granada I had taken the axle off only to have all the oil pour onto the streets, destined for the Lake Cocibolco food chain. I cleaned the brakes up good and buttoned up everything and by then it was dark. I paid the attendant extra for providing moral support and not interfering when I did this repair in the parking lot. 

Then I decided to leave the big city, where it did not feel safe to sleep on the street, and get lost trying to find the road back to Granada...end up in Tipitapa or Niquinomo sweating in the tropical heat, no lights, cleaning skunk carcass from the grill...eating fried chicken sandwich that looked like it had been caught in a steel jaw leg trap in a Labrador wolf factory. Finally, rolling into Granada long after dark so I needed several hours to suppress the haunting  fears of driving in nighttime Nicaragua when there is nothing but a sea of homeless refugees walking on the highway inches away from my speeding bumper. The only urgency was trying to return my life to the normally tolerable level of hell that I was accustomed to before the oil seal failed. The repair would take maybe 40 minutes outside a parts supplier in the United States, but in Nicaragua it was a cross country affair with many hazards and stresses and risks and emotional despair, but accomplished in about 5 hours.

my favorite architectural feature...the Hacienda Courtyard
I made it back to Granada and slept in the van again, staring at the ceiling, the grit of dirt in my hair, the slick differential fluid on my hands, grime under my fingernails. I'm still haunted, actually sobbing in grief like a Dust Bowl cotton farmer, whilst trying to sing a forlorn song. If the van is moving then I'm destined to fix it as these four brutal winds decide my destiny.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.