When all else fails, do like Bey

Making lemonade like a mofo. Photo by Stacy Antoville.

Already Friday.

My head played mental ping pong. My brother’s suggestion to call the Attorney General, call the owner, call Vinny, read up on the NYS lemon laws — all these Good Ideas hovered righteously above me. I wanted to do these things, I needed to do these things, but I was so fucking tired. I’d blown through a week’s worth of physical and mental reserves in one gigantic impulsive fireball. I had nothing left for implementing Good Ideas. Not while I also had to move out and move in in just a few weeks.

That night, I crashed hard. But something rather incredible happened while I slept. Some magical voodoo took over my brain and smoothed back all its ruffled quills. In the morning, I woke up transformed—serene, full of purpose, unafraid. Okay, I thought:

I can do this.

First, the flashers. I swapped out the covers so all the white ones faced front and the red ones faced back. I didn’t know if this made it more street legal, but it made it slightly less “ambulance.” Time: two hours. I spent the rest of the day running errands (and writing the first draft of this blog post).

Afterward, for the first time in weeks, my mind felt clear enough to even catch up on some reading. Perhaps one of the Paris Reviews falling off my nightstand.

As fate would have it, the first story I cracked opened was “A Natural Man” by Adam O’Fallon Price:

Alex steered the juddering van to the shoulder, and, with his dog Munson howling along in the seat beside him, he cursed ­everything: himself, the van, the criminal used-car salesman back in North Carolina who’d sold it to him, the forlorn stretch of road they were currently breaking down on, the distant memory of a service station forty miles back….
…if he knew anything about cars, he wouldn’t have bought this one.
Still, he should have known there was something wrong with the van, a mint-green Ford Econoline—

Wait. What. A Ford Econoline? A lone driver with a dog? A cross-country road trip? Was this a crystal ball preview of my future ?

Okay, weird. But probably nothing to take to heart, right? It was just a story. A story with a lot of similarities, sure (Econoline, shady seller, a dog, a lone driver, heading west), but ultimately just a story with no bearing on my life. Even if it had a terrifying ending.

I would not veer off my chosen path.

The next day, after wielding a drill all the previous morning, my hands ached like hell, but the physical pain was actually a welcome tradeoff for the mental anguish of the past week. It signaled work done versus time wasted worrying.

Next, the decals, the tape, and the annoying cover-up paint Venemy had slapped on. I guess the fact that he used painter’s tape was a nice gesture, but, unfortunately, it was as good at taking off the body paint as the duct tape he’d used in other spots.

For the decals, I’d borrowed a heat gun like Vinny had suggested, saying they’d come right off. But “right off” turned out to be ten hours of tedious work, even with friends helping out (thanks Kate and Stacey!). Plus the time in between to cool my scorched fingertips, remember to eat, and walk the dog.

Part of the reason it took so long was that each letter set required a separate learning curve to figure out its Optimal Peeling Point™— liquid enough to peel, but not so hot that it bonded with the body paint and took some off with it or burned and crumbled. For example, the letters in “SeniorCare” didn’t behave the same way as “Emergency Medical Services” or the numbers in the phone number. So it took a few wrong turns before I learned how to get the decals off properly.

But look at her now:

A crushing downpour over the weekend rinsed off the van rather nicely, which of course, this being Brooklyn, someone immediately ruined.

Thanks dick. Whose tag is this?

I also removed some awkwardly placed shelving.


And found a friend connection, Pablo, who helped me understand the nest of wires in the console—mostly emergency related and useless under normal driving conditions (the flashers and sirens still work though if I ever wanted to reconnect them).

Arlo turned into a human for one hour and operated on these wires!
Anyone need a scanner? (Not a CB, sadly.)

Pablo was working on his own RV, so he had a lot of good info I hadn’t considered, like buying yacht/boating supplies since they’re also meant for small spaces and run on very little energy. Portable toilets for example.

Little by little, things were coming together. The storm had passed, I was gaining momentum, my brain had unleashed a really weird/cool superpower I didn’t know it could do.

I just mainly now had to build a bed and winnow my belongings down to the mere essentials among the sixteen years worth of important stuff along with sentimental mementos that I’d kept through every prior move.

That meant saying goodbye to a lot of cherished books, records, letters (maybe not letters), plants, kitchen gadgets, worn out shoes, my favorite bike (okay, maybe the letters, too). How do you decide what’s worth keeping? Do sentimental things become more or less valuable over the years? Or do you just keep finding new sentimental things to replace the old ones? How do these tiny house people do it??

To be continued…

Thanks also to Jack for the heat gun loaner, Mike Chee for the engine lesson, and random neighbor Hassan for the extra extension cord! 🤘🏽

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Now read Part 4.