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Thursday, December 20, 2012

On Leaving America - Part 34 B


            I decided to repaint the hood over the engine—not sure why. I had it painted and all put together except for the latch which held it down. I was going to bolt that on when I got to wherever I was going. The hood, as you see above, was a flat shaped thing and at almost a right angle to the road, like a sail with the wind blowing against it. Seemed obvious the wind would only want to push it the thing down. But crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, an odd gust of wind blew it straight up. It broke off its hinges and flew back over the top of the van, onto the bridge which was full of mid-day weekend traffic, six or eight lanes as I recall, fairly dense. I hit the brakes . . . Ran back and got the damn thing, threw it inside and took off. I don’t know how an accident was avoided  . . . small miracle.

            The van had bells. They were in tune. It took me years to get it right, five of them. Every time you hit a bump or made a turn you’d hear ‘em—ting ting ting. So nice. I meant to take the bells off but had only removed one before the sale. It was from Thailand, given to me by a very beloved aunt. Just as well maybe. Don’t know what I’ve had done with the others.

            I traded the van to my father for his Buick Wildcat after my divorce. It was a faster, cooler car and I was still young, living in Illinois then. He had it for seven years during which it did not age. My father would park blocks away from his destination in order to park in the shade. We traded back when I decided to return to San Francisco. I could get everything I owned inside the van those days. I didn’t know how nice that was . . . but we get older and buy houses . . . and more stuff.
Returning to San Francisco. Van was blue then.
And I had hair!

            I thought it would be painful, getting rid of the van. But I hardly ever used it these last days . . . a trip to Home Depot to buy lumber, or something big, or to help someone move. It sat outside in the Seattle rain for these last fourteen years, but had a good paint job, its third—new tires, and good brakes. But every time I drove it this last year (helping me move again, this one last time) something new would seem a little bit off or go wrong. The gaskets were shot around the doors, rain water leaked in and it rains a lot in Seattle. It’s been raining for the last eight days!

            It never let me down, that van . . . in all those years, but taking the cover off the engine last week was scary . . . so much rust. I’d thought of being buried in the thing, just put my body in the driver’s seat and fill it with tar. But selling was more practical, and it doesn’t feel too sad . . .  losing that steering wheel worn by my father’s hands as well as mine. Dad also loved that van. I think it made him feel young. The guy that bought it’s going to give it to his father, a birthday gift. I think he has money, but I let him talk me down to $300 less than what I asked. He says he’ll spend $5,000 it back in shape for every day practical use. That sounds about right. I’m glad it will go from son to father once again—feels good . . . and sad.

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