Boston Driver’s Notebook 9/11/12

11 09 2012

I had obligations in Paradise, and so headed out to Concord on a hot August morning.  Rain was expected later in the day, so I left the Tunacuda under cover, and instead drove Clyde the Blue Barrow, my 1988 late model Toyota mini-truck.  The usual high-speed freaks surrounded me for no good reason, so that by the time I reached the turn-off for the Lincoln long cut, I was ready to bail from Route 2.  I felt better going slower on the back roads bounded by rock walls and big trees.  I wasn’t in a hurry.

A Blue Truck, Franconia Notch, NH
ElFin photo

Charlie Paradise was in his basement, and came up the stairs with a chicken in each hand.  He kept them inside at night to keep them from getting eaten by coyotes or neighborhood dogs. 

We considered our strategy for the day.  There was a lot to do in the house, and I owed him a ton of hours at two hours a month for boarding my white 1967 Barracuda, the Shark Cuda.  One of the more pressing tasks was to repair the big hole in the attic ceiling where Steve, the former roommate had put a foot through the sheetrock while “looking for things to sell for drugs,” according to Charlie Paradise.

The ceiling repair was contingent on moving the large pile of  precious junk that Charlie was hoarding in the garage bay, including a plethora of cardboard boxes which couldn’t be broken down, since they were soon to be filled with alleged items to be sent to his rapacious hoarde of siblings.  While these treasures, including an assortment of moldy upholstered chairs, plastic tables and a well-used gas stove.

Is Everything Sacred?
ElFin photo

“We could load this gas stove into my truck and I could scrap it,” I said.  “We could probably get $40 for it.”

“That doesn’t sound like a good deal at all, Jordan,” said Charlie Paradise.

“Do you even have a gas hook-up?” I asked.  “Don’t you have an electric stove now?”

“I got an estimate for $1000 to run a gas line.”

“You could always get another gas stove as good as this one for free off Craigslist,” I said. “Should you ever get a gas hookup.”

We weren’t getting closer to getting rid of any items from the garage.  The Tunacuda gleamed, fresh from a recent washing the last time I was out there.  Empty cardboard boxes had been piled on the hood.  “I could build a shelf over the hood area where you could pile boxes,” I said.  “I worked for nine months in the Philippine jungle to pay for this paint job,” true story.

At the End of a Philippine Jungle
ElFin photo

“If you would spread a blanket on the hood before you leave, the empty boxes wouldn’t make any difference,” said Charlie Paradise.  I wasn’t getting anywhere trying to discuss the empty box situation with him.

“I need to get a sticker on the Shark Cuda,” I said.  Maybe we should do that now, and then come back and tackle the garage situation,” I suggested.

Accordingly, I fired up the car as Charlie went inside to prepare himself for the trip.  By the time he was ready, Tom, the piano tuner roommate had parked us in.  I told him that I had mentioned him in my last Boston Driver’s Notebook, and, lacking a picture, had used a photo of Wyatt Earp as a young man to picture him.  Looking at him now, I could see the resemblance to the gunfighter.  He didn’t seem put out by the comparison.

Tom moved his Saab out of the driveway and we were off.

I didn’t take the long cut, but headed into Boston on Route 2

I drove conservatively, having been warned to keep within speed limits by the State Police the last time I had driven the Tunacuda.  We discussed whether they keep track of official warnings, and count them against you if you are pulled over again.  We both resolved to inquire with our various sources affiliated with the enforcement community.

It began to rain suddenly.  The rain reminded me that one of the windshield wiper blades had rotted away, and I couldn’t use the wipers.  Yuppies roared past me, their manhood threatened by the prescence of a muscle car in their midst as I tried not to run into them while peering through the wet windshield.

What Rain on a Barracuda Windshield may Look Like
ElFin photo

The rain stopped as I got off the highway in Arlington.

“I know where there’s a parts store in Arlington,” I said.  “The last time I was there was on 9/11/2001, right after the planes crashed into the buildings.  And got the neocons all riled up and war-hungry.”

“There are no neocons or Republicans or Democrats,” said Paradise, “only Illuminati.”

“OK,” I said, “you have a narrative that fits the circumstances, whether or not it’s improbable.”

“You’re a government liberal,” said Paradise.

I didn’t know if that was true, but didn’t see any point in continuing the conversation.  He was out where the buses don’t run, politically, and I was a lesser-of-two-evils cynic.  Never the twain shall meet.

Take the Pain: The Death Tuna
ElFin photo

I got to where the road we were on crossed Mass Ave, aka Route 2A, at the western end of Arlington, before it gets to Lexington.  I didn’t want to take the car on the redlight-ridden road through the bowels of Arlington, so I crossed to the other side, past Arlington Coal and Lumber, a lumber yard where we had bought supplies back when I was working in the area with the Sturdy Boys, a lifetime ago.  The back roads were tricky there, and some of the key ones were blocked for repairs.  After fifteen minutes of switchbacks and meanderings, I passed Arlington Coal and Lumber once again in the other direction.

Where We Is?

“We cannot fail to accept the reality of the situation, as Stanley Kubrick liked to say.

“Fate is making us drive on Mass Ave, and we just have to take it,” I said.  Accordingly we took Mass Ave, and I made a left where I felt that I should make a left.  A soccer mom in a minivan ahead of us tried to pass a schoolbus that was making a left turn, and then had to wait while the school bus made the left.  Nobody died and no minivans got crushed.  We even got to the NAPA Autoparts store.  It’s in a tangential location, and family-owned.

They are too old-school to have a web presence,  but their curriculum vitae can be found at:

A Bucket that has “NAPA” Written on It photo

I sent Paradise inside to ask about wiper blades while I determined if I could get the old ones out.  The slide refill unclipped and I pulled it out of the eight small aluminium fingers, and was bringing said slide refill inside as my cellular telephonic device commenced to ring its factory-setting ring tone.  It was Paradise, so I answered and said, “Goodbye?” and hung up.  I’m pretty certain they haven’t had slide refills in the joke discount stores for a decade, except a monster one for those three-foot long wiper blades for some mono-wiper import.

I had also taken a minute to see if the old aluminium blade insert holder arms were detachable.  There was a clip, but it didn’t seem to do anything.

“I was here on 9/11, the year they flew the planes into the buildings?” I said.  “I think you were here.”

Earlier This Millenium photo

“I was here and my old man, he’s gone now.”

“It was a traumatic day,” I said, “so I was able to remember where the store was.”

That was a lot of sentiment for a parts store, and he directed me to the wiper blade aisle.

On 9/11/01, I had bought a large tube of glazing putty to finish off some fiberglass work I had been doing on the Tunacuda.  It was actually my daily driver at the time, before the first blue Toyota, that I eventually rolled on Storrow Drive at rush hour and thereby totaled.

Color TV
stephisdigital.blogspot photo

Where was I, oh yes, 2001.  It was a strange day, I got to work in the Tunacuda with the top down, listening to classical music.  We were repairing a nice house next to a lake in Winchester.  Then the GC showed up with a story about a plane and a building.  We watched the towers fall down on the customer’s little color portable, perhaps the first edition made circa 1963.

Also Found In Rhode Island photo

Then we went and ate a steak at the 99 restaurant, which was the most normal thing the GC could think of.  Then, on the way home I passed the parts store and bought glazing putty and maybe fuses or bulbs.

They didn’t have refills in the wiper department, but they had 15” replacement assemblies  with what appeared to be blade inserts as part of the equation.  The other wipers were rubber-coated, for bad weather.  They were actually pretty retro, my 66 Valiant had come with those back in 1983 when I aquired it.

The red 1966 Valiant had been an absolute total when I bought it for $450.00.  In fact the seller talked me down from my offer of $500.    After sinking enough into it to have bought a multi-family dwelling in Cambridge in 1983, I sold it for $500.00 to the Ringo Starr of car buyers.  I was in a rush to jump out of the pan in which I was frying, into a fire out on the West Coast.

Make Yourself at Home
ElFin photo

I brought the wiper up to the counter guy whose father had owned the store.    I asked him about cannibalizing the refill out of the new part.

“Is the car here?” he asked.

I said it was, and Charlie Paradise agreed, so we all went outside to look at whether the wiper assembly could be at least temporarily replaced with the whole new unit.  I didn’t mention that I had tried to take the wiper off already.  I didn’t want to prejudice the proceedings.

The parts store guy looked at the arm and agreed that he couldn’t get the assembly taken apart either.  I asked him again about cannibalizing the refill strip from the new unit.

“It’ll turn into a rubber strip with two metal strips, if you take it apart,” he said.

Barracuda Wiper Arm, lower right
ElFin photo

I went in and bought the new unit and tried to take it apart.  It separated into a rubber strip and two flimsy metal strips as advertised.  I looked at the old blade insert and noticed that there was a worn-out rubber strip inserted through the correct metal retaining strip.  I pulled the worn rubber strip out of the old refill and held it up to the new rubber strip.  It was virtually identical.  With some effort, I jammed the new rubber strip into the old metal strip and inserted it back into the holder.  I was back in the clean windshield business.

While we were at the parts store and all, we checked the safety equipment, specifically the lights.  The front lights and blinkers all checked out, but Charlie Paradise reported that I had no rear brake lights.  The tail lights came on with the headlights, but there was nothing in the brake light department.  Then there was a comedy routine with one taillight suddenly not working, and then working again.  The four-way blinkers worked, but still no brake lights.

Something’s Gone Wrong Again photo

I crawled under the dashboard to check on the brake light switch.  The bracket holding the switch was bent out of the proper position.  I expected the brake lights to come on when I pushed on the switch by hand, but there was no result.

When I thought about it, I realized the switch was normally engaged, so that the brake lights would normally come on when the brake lever was pushed down toward the floor, releasing pressure on the switch.  In that case, the brake lights should be always lit.

Mopar Stop Light Switch photo

This fact caused me to suspect that the switch was bad, as well as being out of alignment; a result that defied common logic.  Usually one thing goes wrong at a time.

I sent the Dice-man to check on the availability of a new switch, as I wedged further under the dash, with the door sill cutting into my back.  I tried to bend the bracket back into position by hand, but didn’t have the leverage.  Under-dash work is always a joy with its occluded spaces, and unseen sharp edges.

Some Days, You’re the Lion; Some Days You’re the Zebra
ElFin photo

Charlie Paradise came back to ask how many leads were on the switch, two or three?

I could only see one, but I could also see a disconnected lead floating around in the nearby under-dash wiring harness.  As they might say in Central Pennsylvania, “Couldn’t it be that wire hanging right there?”

I got a big pair of vice grips out of the trunk that I was able to use to bend the braket back into place.  Giving the switch the old reach-around, I found that it was indeed a two-lead switch, with one of the leads detached.  I attached the lead, and suddenly there were brake lights working on the back of the Shark Cuda.

We were ready for the inspection!

Golden Age- Ingres

I drove without incident to an undisclosed service station where I had an good working relationship with the inspector. He didn’t look too carefully, and I did my best to bring him vehicles that were in compliance.  It worked out well for everyone.

We compression-tested the Shark Cuda up the Route 2 hill, before settling down to a direct return route to Paradise.  It was too late for the garage, so I glued up a kitchen cabinet that had lost its structural integrity, and drove the barrow into the teeth of an evening thunderstorm.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: