Boston Driver’s Notebook 4/1/11

4 04 2011

I was driving home from Jamaica Plain, listening to my new speakers.  They came in a nice box, Sony ‘X-plod’ speakers,  but didn’t sound as good as the old, blown speakers.  In retrospect, I should have replaced the woofer component of the ones that came with the truck.

Beyond Redemption

They were Pyle Drivers, and had a really nice high end, unlike the ones I was listening to now.  There was no going back, though, because I had cannibalized the old enclosures, carving a standard oval 3X5 opening in the old speaker mounting plate.  The old speakers had a separate tweeter and woofer, which meant I also had to make a bigger hole in the interior sheet metal of the truck to make room for the bigger, combination speaker cone.

In Jamaica Plain, the Bleak House of porch repair was coming along “slowly but slowly,” as TT Liang, my old Tai Chi teacher used to say.

Liang Sifu (Ray Hayward photo)

I was in a nerve-wracking phase of trying to cut away rotted portions of the second-floor deck, while not having the entire structure head south into Boylston St.  I was having some success in re-building the intricate, spindly construction.


The porch was framed in a strange cobbled-together fashion.   It actually worked, but was only adequate due to the much stronger, higher-quality wood available in the 1800’s.   I was replacing the mini-studwall where it was rotted inside the box beam, with solid blocking.


So I was on my way home, listening to some brain-crawling music on WZBC, Boston College radio, known for programs like “No Commercial Potential”.  In this state of mind, I turned on the defroster, and for some unknown reason, pushed the lever from “recirculate” to “fresh air”.

Don't Touch...

In a Toyota truck, you never push the lever from “recirculate” to “fresh air”.

The Jolly, Candy-like Button

Everybody knows that.

It’s like opening the shin-high vent door on a 60’s Mopar, you get a shin full of dry leaves and maple seeds.  In my case, it was a face full of dry leaves and maple seeds.  I spat out a bunch of mouse fur, and tried to blink the acorn dust out of my eyes.  The blower was making a rapid thumping noise that shook the entire dashboard.  Luckily, I was sitting in traffic in Brookline Village, so I didn’t really need to see anything.

Home Sweet Home

That weekend, I took out the glove compartment, and the stock-location front speaker, which wasn’t hooked up.  I noticed it was a Boston Acoustic speaker, which are supposed to be good, and that the foam around the paper cone was damaged.  I wondered if it would be possible to glue new foam around the cone.  It might be just the thing to give me some high-pitched sounds in my truck.
I asked musician Scott Robinson about the possibility of repairing the speaker.  I also said, “I guess I would hook up the two speakers in parallel, rather than series, right?”
“I could say something but I would be pretending I knew more than I really know,” he said.
“Oh, OK, I just thought that, being a musician, you might know about electronics…”
“No, just music, and like production, or recording…”
“I know just enough about electronics to be dangerous,” I said.  With that, I went to get the soldering iron.
The winter was dragging on like a bad cold, and I knew I would need a defroster soon.  The squirrel cage-style fan indeed turned out to be loaded with the makings for a very comfortable mouse nest.

Needs Improvement

There was a way to get to the furball, which involved taking off the kick panel and carpet and then with great difficulty, barely extracting the fan.  Instead, I cut a strategic plastic piece from the non-removable plastic grate, that was closely-woven behind the glovebox, but was spaced wider behind the speaker.  Why was the grate different there?

Daily Hand Damage

Why was the grate not removable?  Why did everything cause pain to my beat-up hands?  These questions and others occupied my mind as I squeezed two fingers into the fan area, and extracted a small tuft of fluff.  I went upstairs and got a nice pair of ultra-thin pliers.  I tried them and went back to the two-finger approach.

Primo Fluff

My mind began to wander.  The seat back had been sprung, sad, and saggy when I’d got the truck back in December.  I had fixed it up, first thing, and now the seat bottom seemed played-out by comparison.  Throwing my 250 lbs into it every morning wasn’t improving it.

Free Blue Memory Foam

I was starting to feel a spring directly under my right leg.  If I took out the seat, it would help me access the other two projects.  Perfectly logical.  I pulled out the bench seat and everything behind and under the seat.  Then I went down to the basement and got some wire and some forgotten memory foam.  There was still a thin piece of bamboo in the truck bed from when I had fixed up the seat back.  Sometimes one can over-reinforce upholstery and it becomes uncomfortable.  There is a time to use thick wire and a time to use bamboo.

A Time for Bamboo

Yes, I am a self-taught upholsterer.  Why?

I wired the bamboo across the front of the rear springs with thin green gardening wire.  Then I wired a piece of coat hanger across the back of the front springs, toward the center of the seat, where there seemed to be a lack of support; a flaw in the design concept.
I rolled the memory foam and worked it between the springs and the 23 year-old foam rubber.

Not a Squirrel Cage Fan

That done, I extracted more crud from the squirrel cage fan.  I couldn’t reach down far enough to get the deeper crud, mostly nut shells.  I got my little DeWalt vacuum cleaner and tried to get the crevice tool into the confined area.  It got close, so I made a snout extension out of a cardboard toilet paper roll and blue masking tape.  That got the last of the crud out of the squirrel cage.
After removing the seat, I wire-brushed the driver’s side seat track, where it was corroded for some reason.  That led me to pull up the carpet there to investigate the corrosion further.  Sure enough, there was a rusted-through patch on the floor, as well as some incipient corrosion throughout.  It may have been due to the half inch of standing water under the soggy carpet.  It was all hidden by the plastic floor mat.  Where was the water coming from?

How Did it Get So Wet in Here?

I got the right angle grinder out and wire-brushed everything.  I sprayed a lot of rust converter around and then went inside for a ramen break while the caustic fumes cleared.
After lunch, I ran around the house trying to find the perfect gauge of metal to cut out for a patch.  Everything was too rusty, too thick, too thin…  I settled on too thick, and then switched gears to hook up the front speakers.  The driver’s side speaker seemed to be hard to access in the dashboard, and I had enough to do without taking that apart.  Having the seat out would be an asset.

Paradise Awaits

I took my favorite, old, ripped t-shirt, and tied the sleeves together.  Then I filled the resulting satchel with Speed Dry.  Speed Dry is dessicated clay, and Charlie Paradise uses it as shampoo.

It comes in huge 50 lb bags, and I’m sure Charlie Paradise is still working on his first bag.

With the seat out, I was able to reach up and pull down the speaker wires, where they disappeared into the dash.  I made sure they were the right wires, and cut them off, as far up as possible.  The speaker wire from the side speaker traversed the same area, so I carefully stripped the insulation from that wire for about a half-inch in the appropriate area.  I stripped the end of the front speaker wire and fanned it out before spearing it through the rear speaker wire.  I rolled them together and soldered them.  After buying many rolls of electrical tape, none of them seemed to be anywhere.

I had some gray cloth tape that worked well enough.  If it failed, the low-amperage speaker current wouldn’t catch anything on fire.

Boston Rocks

While looking for electrical tape I had found the perfect piece of metal to weld into the floor.  It was even the exact right size, and fit with minor modifications.  It was also galvanized to resist corrosion, and of a perfect thickness.  I wasn’t sure about welding galvanized metal, but I ground off the coating where the welds would be.


Toyota sheet metal is made from recycled Goya cans and discarded American washing machines, so welding anything to it is a challenge.  There is a thin line between welding the metal and vaporizing it.  I tacked it on in a suitably ugly manner, and ground down the results.  Then I smeared some PL polyurethane construction adhesive into the swiss-cheesy seam.

Plenty of Polyurethane Goop

It was a cold day, and I was, as usual, ignoring the manufacturer’s advisory on the minimum application temperature.  I would have to prime it before the manufacturer’s minimum drying time, and then paint it before the primer manufacturer’s minimum recommended drying time.  I’m a bad person, in that respect.

The Tunacuda; Not Currently Garaged

It was too cold to paint, and getting colder.

The landlord has been nice about letting me store the 1967 Tunacuda in the driveway, and now my truck had his car blocked in, with no seat in my rig.  I wondered if I could drive out and park it on the street with no seat.  My horse stance was not that good… maybe I could sit on a milk crate.  That would be when the state cop would be flying down the street on a silent alarm.  I know how this stuff works.

The favorite t-shirt/Speed Dry satchel soaked up all moisture like the Sirocco out of Tunisia.
A parking spot opened up across the street, so I genuflected and sprayed on some Rustoleum Gloss Black paint, then began power-assembling the seat.  I could put the glove compartment back together on the fly.  I flung all the tools in the bed or the passenger’s floor area, and buzzed across the street to park in front of old Nick’s place.

Old Nick's Yellow House

It was getting dark as I installed the glove compartment and speaker grille.  I turned on the fan.  There were a few flickers of maple leaf fragment, and later when I tried the defroster, a final fine dusting.  But then it ran silent.
I sat on the firm, but not hard seat, turned on the radio and it was Nirvana.  Not their own song.  It was their cover of “The Man Who Sold the World” by David Bowie.  Cobain sounded perfectly modulated in my surround-sound environment.  The front speakers really brought out the highs.




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