The following are tales of two cars,
Frieda 3 and Josie.
Frieda 3 was a 76 Superbeetle. Bleached metallic
blue. This was a car that my friend didnt want to fix, so he gave her to me. The
wiper motor was dead, so instead of paying something like $90 for a new one I put
Rainex (the stuff that puts a silicon film on the glass so water runs off) on
the windshield. It worked pretty well on the Superbeetles curved windshield so long
as I drove 35 mph or more, otherwise I had to stick my head out the side window to see.
The floor had holes where water came in and of course the muffler was held together with
wire and tape around a coffee can. I never bought the parts to fix the brakes either, so I
had to start pumping the pedal pretty early to stop in time. A new Superbeetle muffler was
too expensive. Superbeetles suck, but she got me around. The day before I went on a
roadtrip to Ohio I found an abandoned Superbeetle on the street. It had a good wheel and
tire which I took and put on Frieda 3.
On a July 4th I drove off to a New Order concert in
Cleveland, in order to pick up a friend and come back to New York. But before I left I
went with some friends to see a flag burning demonstration in Washington Square Park. It
was the first fourth of July since flag burning was legalized and some people were there
just to torch Old Glory. Well, a whole bunch of right-wing skinheads were also there
intent on beating the fuck out of whoever they felt was being un-American. New York's
Finest were also there, but they mainly just stood around the parks perimeter and
let the skinheads run amok. A few people were pummelled. People were yelling and running
around in circles. My friend and I got caught in the middle of all this craziness. We were
trying to leave, when a mob of skinheads came running after me because they thought I had
burned a flag. I stood and watched them coming. A leader thug pulled his handkerchief mask
down and spat in my face while this other leader kept asking me, "Did you burn the
flag? Did you burn the flag?" I said, "No" (I hadnt). He then told me
to walk away slowly, and the fuckheads went off after another victim. If I'd have run they
would've jumped me. I walked out of the park and stood next to a cop for awhile.
After the fireworks that evening I got into Frieda 3
and headed West. As I crossed into Pennsylvania a heavy storm hit, dumping tons of water.
The Rainex worked. I kept moving and arrived in Akron the next afternoon. I hit some
thrift stores then went to the outdoor concert, met my friends and sat barely tolerating
the New Order show. PIL opened up with Johnny looking like a clown wearing a day-glo
yellow suit. The show ended and my friend and I decided to drive all night back to New
York. That was fine. I stopped for a nap or two, and we ended up at the Miss America Diner
in Jersey City by dinnertime.
By nighttime we were in Brooklyn. Later we drove into
The City and met friends at Thompkins Square Park, driving into the aftermath of the big
riot there. Smoke, garbage and police were everywhere. Camps of protestors under the trees
holding their ground. It was tense and very weird. Welcome to New York. All of this in 36
Frieda's death came at the hands of vandals. kids. At
that time I lived in a restless Spanish ghetto. I came home from work one night to find
all of the tires slashed, all of the windows and head/tail lights smashed, and all of the
wires and hoses in the engine compartment cut. They just killed her. Nothing was taken
from the inside. I guess I just parked in the wrong spot. So I took off the plates and
went home. The next day I saw some kids playing around on the car, and by the end of the
week she was gone.
Josie was a 77 Toyota hatchback that had been
sitting in a parking lot for over a year. "If you can get it to run you can have
it," he said. I bypassed the starter switch and drove off, putting thousands of miles
on the car before she burned up.
Every time I made a road trip of any distance in Josie
I would give her a new layer of paint, so she ended up with mottled layers of spray paint
(purple, seafoam green, peach and some white) on top of the stock yellow, creating a
finish that melted into a neutral grey under sulphur pink street lights. She also had some
fine racing stripes running across the hood.
Matt and I made several trips between New York and Ohio
in Josie, doing some drunk driving around Yellow Springs and Dayton. But the last road
trip I made with Josie was a perfect example of driving a disposable car.
Some friends and I had just seen My Bloody Valentine
perform at the Ritz on 54th street in New York City. Our heads were full of
droning electric noise and we couldn't sit still, not knowing what to do with ourselves.
Pete suggested we go for a drive. Where to? We debated this during a seemingly eternal
wait for the L train to Brooklyn, where Josie was, and decided to go look at art in
Philadelphia. We got in the car and headed off through the expensive tunnel to Jersey.
The summer sun was rising as Pete, Eddie and I drove
the Turnpike South. We started to feel a second wind through the open windows. Josie was
just humming along, my fucked up box delivering a fine warbling version of a tape of Pere
Ubu that mixed with the burbling exhaust and singing tires. Eddie, who was in the back
seat, had to pour water on the carpeting once in a while to keep it from catching fire
because the muffler was right up against the underside of the floor. This created a slight
misty sauna effect inside. A couple of hours later we were down in Philly, where we had
some breakfast and killed time until the Barnes Foundation opened.
The Barnes Foundation is an amazing collection of art
housed in an estate building outside of Philadelphia. At that time, the pieces in the
collection had never been outside the building nor photographically reproduced, so I was
going to see things Id never seen before. It sort of blew my mind. All these
Picassos, Modiglianis, Cezannes, Van Goghs, eclectic objects,
artifacts, on and on and on... Its something that has to be seen to be believed. We
got burnt out and crispy, falling onto the comfy grass of the grounds and took a nice long
By late-afternoon we were back on the road heading
home. On the turnpike I suddenly smelled rubber burning and seeing the temperature gauge
quickly rising, I realized the fan belt had blown. Pulling off at the next exit I asked
the toll booth clerk for the nearest auto parts store. His directions put us in the middle
of Jersey mall culture on a hot and hazy Saturday afternoon. It was hell. There were
hundreds of cars and thousands of people. At a busy intersection, with shopping malls on
all sides, Josie's manifold pipe fell off. We cruised on up to the auto parts store amidst
a solid roar of exhaust. I got a new fan belt but the alternator bracket had snapped
(hence the broken belt). This meant I had to construct a makeshift bracket out of a piece
of wood and a bungee cord. All it had to do was keep the fan moving until we got back to
New York. The exhaust pipe was a complete bitch. The manifold bolts were stripped and the
only way I could jury-rig it was to wrap a coat hanger around the pipe and manifold to
hold it in place. It worked.
The rest of the drive back to New York went smoothly
enough. With Eddie asleep in the back seat, Pete had to reach back and put water on the
carpet every so often, and we only had to stop a couple of times for me to tighten up the
exhaust wire. We didn't make it back in time to go to the Mermaid Parade, however.
Later that week I walked out of my building to find
some guy peddling crack on my front steps, so I chased him off with my roommate's pitbull.
The next day all four tires on Josie were flat. They'd been punctured on the side making
repair impossible. I used about eight cans of fix-a-flat to get just enough pressure in
the tires to drive Josie down onto the East River waterfront. There, I pulled off the
license plates and set her on fire. I stood and watched her burn for awhile, then went