Boston Driver’s Notebook

7 01 2011

It’s official, the Sixties are dead.

They died when Power Dave died last week.  I knew he was fairly sick, but nowhere near dire, when I dropped off my new, unregistered pickup in his driveway.

Superannuated Vehicle

It didn’t have an exhaust, so as  much as possible, I eased up the hill and coasted back down, in front of the dumpster.  The front door was open and I didn’t see anyone in there.  I figured he was sleeping so I went up and got behind the wheel of Charlie Paradise’s incongruous SUV that he got for four hundred dollars.  It was a Honda something or other.  I started out driving slow, Paradise-like,  but when I got on 3 North all bets were off.  I was in a small modern vehicle with decent steering.

“You are not going to…” hollared Charlie in my ear as I passed between a lurching construction truck and a Jersey barrier near my left fender.  I wasn’t positive about clearing the truck to my right.  It would have to take care of itself.  Fortune was with us because the truck swerved the other way, as I had predicted it would; having carefully observed its periodicity.

After that things went smoothly until we were on Route 2, nearing the land of Paradise.  I came down the long hill where 2 makes a 90° turn in front of the gas station.  I was driving at a high rate of speed to try to make the light.
“YOU WILL APPLY THE GODDAMN BRAKES!” said Charlie Paradise, audibly.
“Oh sure, fine, anything you say, Charlie,” I said.

Charlie “Eggman” Paradise

“The brake emergency light is on and you just said how tippy these things are!”
“I do have an escape route, Charlie.  I could go straight across at the light.  I have come out of two complete brake system failures without a scratch.”  He didn’t appear mollified.
The light stayed green, so I let off the gas and downshifted into the turn.  I suppose the SUVs have become less tippy over the years, because we stayed upright.
I went back to Dave’s the next day for our oft-delayed business meeting.  He wasn’t there, but his mother was.  She said Dave hadn’t been able to get his transfusion the day before but would be back at four.  I went out to my new truck and started taking off rust with a wire wheel on a 4” grinder.  The metal went completely away in some places, but the Toyota bed was not well-designed in the 80’s.  There was the truck bed, as usual, and then lower side valance panels below the bed, two panels: before and aft of the wheel well.  There was a caulked seam in between bed and panel, and to drive in the final nail, a decorative bulge below the seam for rain and ice and wet salt chunks to sit on.  In later models, the whole thing was one piece.
My new truck even had a comparatively recent replacement bed, and that was beginning to rot.  I had a plan to repair the rust-through areas, and treat and paint the rest.  It was slated to be the coldest week since last February.
First I had to chop the corner off the cab of my old truck and weld it onto my new truck.  I also planned to swap my glued-together side mirrors for the new truck’s taped-together side mirrors.  The seat was sprung and it didn’t run for crap, but all in all, it was a good $1700 Toyota truck.  My rationalization for buying a truck not made in America was that I was paying the money to another broke-ass American, and that was good for economy and good for USA.


I got a coat of self-etching primer on the driver’s side undercarriage and areas that I first rotary brushed.  The ambulance showed up with Dave in it.  His friend T hopped over and leaned her head toward me.
“He’s kind of out of it.  Please don’t talk to him because it will get him going about work.”
“Yes I get it.   I’ll lay low and fade out.”
“He’s going tonight or tomorrow at the latest,” She said.  This was a turn of events.
I started to wrap up and put stuff inside the cab.  The welder, the grinder, drill bits, drills, metal, tool box, green milk carton full of spray paints.  I stood up and they were still getting Dave strapped onto the chair.  They turned him toward me and I lifted my arm, Band of Brothers style.  I don’t know if he noticed me.  He looked glazed and banana color.
Before I left, I pounded a sqare of mahogany between the bed and frame of my old truck, right behind the rear wheel where the shock absorber has its upper mount to the frame. The constant push and pull of the shock absorber on the rusty frame was tearing the frame rail apart.  Half a tube of polyurethane construction adhesive globbed above and below the block would secure the block in place, when it eventually set up, a matter of days at this temperature.  I pounded a narrow piece of cedar shim above the rounded shock mount and below the mahogany block to hold it in place until the goo set up.  This was upcountry repair at its finest.
It was a good hour back up to Boston in the rush hour traffic.  Dave had not looked good.  This could be it.
I went back the next day, but Dave had died on the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death.  Power Dave… it didn’t seem right.  I took the old mirrors off my new truck, but waited until I was done with my old truck to take the mirrors off that.  New wires and plugs had the blue truck humming like a small, rice-powered sewing machine.  I ground more rust and sprayed more spray.

Dave’s whole family was in the house.

Power Dave

I cut the corner off the  cab of my new truck, and layed out a similar cut on my old truck.  I unbolted the old bumper that was a rust pit.
I drove down the next day, Friday, the day of the wake.  The new exhaust pipe was there at the exit 10 Autozone.  It was too short to fit, naturally, so I ended up having to scavenge the old pipe for an extension piece.  I got the exhaust back in place on the hangers, and lined up the new pipe between the catalytic converter and the muffler.  I had spent hours getting the old bolts out of the catalytic converter, which were rusted in place and needed to be cut off and drilled out.  I tacked the new pipe together in place.   I carefully extracted the tacked-together cat-back system and welded it up.  Once everything was ready, it bolted in without further incident.
It got dark and even colder.  I went in and put on my clean clothes and jacket, and went to Dave’s wake.  I stood in line with some friends and then walked by Dave’s family and Dave in the box, looking less in pain than he had for a while.  I’m not a church type, but from what I understand the soul is presumed to have left the body by then, so why put what is no longer of interest to said soul on display?  Mysterious.

We’re all lost in the supermarket

I stayed over at Dave’s house, and watched Full Metal Jacket with Dave’s ghost, I didn’t have any hard alcohol which Dave would have felt was missing.  It got to be very late and I fell asleep on the couch.  The next day was the funeral.  After that, I welded on the cab corner that I had chopped off my old truck, and then applied plastic filler fortified with strands of fiberglass to the welded area as needed to fill it in, and also to a spot on the problem-area seam which was rusted through, that I had primed the day before.
Dave had been the first baby born in Massachusetts in the year 1960, January first just after midnight.  He loved getting drunk, and tripping, and to a lesser extent, smoking weed.  He liked to picked fights with large people, like me, while he was drunk, and once I had to break his arm.  Another time I had to knock him out.

New 1988 Toyota

He went windsurfing during hurricane Hugo.  Later he said, “I was about a mile offshore, under the sail with the uphaul wrapped around my neck, when I had the thought that maybe I shouldn’t be out here.”  A brilliant guy who remembered more Organic Chemistry than I was ever able to learn.  For a while he’d taught Genetics to pre-meds at BU.  He later got religion, but wasn’t really preachy… too often.  Then we called him Power and Glory Dave for a while.
I took the seat-back out of the truck and took it home to work on in the basement.  I stuffed some pieces of foam rubber between the springs and the padding.  Then I added some cross pieces of bamboo to the springs, tying it across with thin steel wire.  It helped considerably and didn’t cost any money.  I went back the next day and applied some more filler to the new truck.  It had stopped being bitterly cold, and was raining.




One response

12 01 2011

Nice tribute to your good friend, Spiah!!

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