Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Pimp Your Ride, Clyde

MAY 28, 2005, Saturday afternoon

Came home today to find Clyde working on his old Ford Taurus, 167,000 miles of hell on wheels. I can’t tell if it was originally painted powder blue or if it’s just sunbleached.

“Say, Clyde, what are these things on the front bumper?” I pointed at the two little black bullet-shaped projectiles, his latest additions.

“They’re supposed to whistle at deer to warn ‘em that you’re coming,” he said. “I can handle anything: windy roads, other drivers, rain, snow, ice…”

Instinctively, I took a look at a front tire: balder than Dick Cheney.

“…but I can’t handle deer.”

“Don’t get much deer around here, do we?”

“Not around here, no. But in other states. I’ve seen ‘em in, oh, Colorado. Central Colorado… maybe western Colorado.”

I didn’t bother to ask him how often he happens to be passing through Colorado. As usual, my biggest apprehension was that he’d answer.

Among the many things Clyde’s done to his car, one in particular is especially goofy, but I’d forgotten the details so I asked him again. If I’m going to blab all about nuts on these pages, I feel I have a responsibility to get the facts straight. Besides, the truth is far more hilarious than anything I could invent.

“Tell me again. What’s the deal with that?” I pointed at the hole he cut in the middle of the hood some time ago, a rectangle about four inches long and eight inches across, hinged back in place and controlled by a lever next to the steering wheel.

“Oh, that was to relieve high temperatures,” he said. Last time he told me about it, he used the term “vapor lock.” I was hoping he’d use it again only because it sounds funny when he says it. He makes it sound like psoriasis or dry rot or some other modern annoyance. It’s also funny because Ken the landlord, who knows plenty about cars, told me that it’s impossible for Ford Tauruses to get vapor lock.

He continued. “But I measured the temperature when it was open and again when it was closed and it didn’t make much difference. That was a dumb idea.”

Clyde’s developing humility. Amazing. Naturally, I had to fuck with him.

“You know, Thomas Edison had a thousand dumb ideas before coming up with the light bulb.”

Clyde smiled his gappy, I-don’t-trust-dentists smile.

He then went on about all the work he’s done on his car. Periodically, I’ll glimpse him speedwalking to his apartment and back in full car repair mode, covered in grease. So he’s definitely doing something to his car, and in his mind it’s called repairing.

“Now it purrs like a kitten.”

“What next? Racing stripes?”

He chuckled and actually got sarcastic with me, the sassy bitch. “Yeah, sure. I’ll put big flames on the side here.”

Why not? It IS hell on wheels.


More history from Clyde.

He knocked on my door. “You interested in this?”

It was a stereo console of sorts. I recognized a tape deck. It might have had an equalizer. It was long and black with lots of buttons. I don’t remember what brand, but that couldn’t possibly matter. If Clyde’s giving something away to the nearest neighbor, it has to be total crap.

“What is it?”

“It’s a tape deck.” He pushed the eject button to prove it.

“Not for me, thanks.”

And he disappeared. It was the shortest conversation I’ve ever had with Clyde when he was standing still. Sometimes the man has a pressing agenda. Can’t imagine why.

A little while later, I saw his car go by my window. Perhaps he was going to get new brake pads. His purring kitten squeals like an injured pig.

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