Part 4: I NAMED HER SO I COULD KNOW HER BETTER
But was she knowable?
I would call her Ursa.
She made me think of a big white mama bear. And together we would be traveling under the stars, so I named her Ursa. Four letters like my dog’s name, Arlo. Ursa and Arlo. They sounded like a good team.
We parked near Elly, Pablo’s mobile home. A play on the letters L-Y, short for Land Yacht. Pablo had some extra time and offered to help remove the gurney locks if I could help ferry a few items from Elly to his apartment.
He directed us to a shady spot on the sidewalk in front of a no-frills single story working garage in Bed-Stuy. I was thankful for the shade. It was already too hot be working outside, but at least we’d be out of the sun. A silver sedan sat in front of me, its hood popped and ready to be inspected.
The owners, Percy and Rev seemed reserved but were generous with their advice and borrowed tools. A sledgehammer. Bolt breaker. WD-40. A metal grinder. Pablo knew them from a stint vanliving with his wife across the street.
Artists had bought Percy’s original garage of forty plus years so they now worked from this adjacent one, a darkened recess with no operating lights, but with ample access to the outdoors and free sunlight.
Rev collected the scrap metal, which was great. This meant I didn’t have to deal with it and it felt nice to be able to offer something in trade. Apparently those things can fetch a few bucks.
We also removed the oxygen tank holsters squeezed in the passageway between the cabin and the rear, the bench seat, extra seat belts, and later, the remaining high cubby after bumping my head on it a half dozen times. Afterward, we gulped down ice cold tea and San Pel and I left feeling thankful for the kindness of strangers and new friends.
Now to clean and outfit that newly cleared out space.
I spent a $200 MoMA sweepstakes prize on a trash can that was like the cargo pants for garbage. Lots of handy compartments that initially seemed like a good idea for the van, but ended up taking up too much space.
At home, my other project awaited. The Purge.
I was familiar with The Purge, having experienced it almost every year I lived in NYC. But this would be the Olympic Version. Final Answer, Final Round, Final Four Things That Would Fit in The Van, Edition of the The Purge.
Round One: Yard Sale.
I spent Saturday hauling my adult life onto the front porch on our quiet residential block. Clothes, dishes, sewing machine, surf gear… My friends Tina and Michael came over to also sell and bring over this beautiful induction cooktop. It seemed like an ideal option on those days I had enough power to feed its 1800 watts.
Unfortunately, our quiet residential block was too quiet for a decent yard sale. Plus, it was overcast.
Of the dozen or so people who did buy some items, two were my neighbors. Two people gave me more than the price I quoted them because they thought it was too low.
The next day, I tried a different location near a park, hoping to cash in on the traffic, but I learned that park-goers aren’t in the same mindset as shoppers. I made three dollars the whole day.
I drove home somewhat disappointed from the lack of sales, but also rested from sitting by the park all day. Maybe too rested, though. Because when I went to unlock my apartment door, I couldn’t find my keys.
I searched frantically. They weren’t in my bag or my pockets.
Which meant there was only one other place they could be. In the van. Locked in the van. My one copy. Was there any chance that maybe one of the doors was unlocked? That I hadn’t pressed the all-lock button?
I walked back, frantically thinking of what I could offer the gods in return for the safe recovery of my keys. But wait, that was stupid, I didn’t believe in gods.
But maybe just maybe by some stroke of luck, I’d left one of the doors unlocked?
I had. The driver side door was miraculously unlocked and there on the front seat were the keys. Note to self: when you wake up sleep deprived, stay home instead of making one bad decision after another.
Round Two: Craigslist, Ebay, Facebook.
I rushed to list my bedroom dresser set, a Heywood Wakefield original. The bed, lamps, chairs, an electric dog collar that made me feel too queasy to use. They went unsold and I ended up purging them all in round three.
Round Three: Salvation Army and the curb.
Goodbye year-old typewriter. Goodbye found dog crate. Goodbye vintage Swedish dish set.
At about this time, I decide to take Ursa into a professional. On Monday, I took her into a recommended mechanic and got a call an hour later to come by. He pressed down on the space where the horn should have been. Yeah, I’d noticed this the other day. No sound, no horn, no resistance.
The mechanic suspected that the horn was actually missing, and worse, so was the airbag, especially since the airbag indicator light didn’t come on when the engine started. Both were cause for a failed safety inspection and a potential $1200 repair. Great. In my head, I was already hammering out the Yelp review I’d write for Vinny and the original van owner, James.
Their negligence, arrogance, greed, and selfishness represented everything wrong with the world today. If my pocketbook was going to burn, theirs would, too.
To the mechanic, I merely nodded my head, Yes, I wanted everything repaired of course. I needed that Inspection sticker and hopefully before I moved in.
It took two days to hear back (*edit, there was a problem with my voicemail), and only because I picked up the phone to call him. Two of his mechanics were out, so it was taking a while, but when he called back finally, it was only to tell me he didn’t have time to do anything. There were too many wires to deal with and his electrical specialist was out for two weeks.
I’d have to take it somewhere else. Great, just great. The current sticker expired at the end of the month—one week away and I didn’t feel optimistic I’d find someone to look at it in time. (Edit, I hear I can get an extension at the DMV. I thank my Redditors for their wealth of knowledge.)
Okay so my next update, in one week, may very well be from inside the van. I have exactly six days to get it all together. No pressure.
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