car of the night: don't come knockin'
by Michele Christopher

The car of the night is....a van. We've got two van stories for you.

First, the turtle's story: The Sled

The van was old. Smelly. But it was fucking cheap. So it worked for us. Vans are a necessary evil sometimes and I'm not talking about fucking a girl when you are in High School while listening to Foghat thinking this is the greatest moment in your life, cause in all reality, if you are listening to Foghat, your greatest moment in life will probably be finding a soup kitchen while kicking crack cocaine. Doing the homeless shake. Dance for me fucker!

This was a van with a cracked suspension that barely took turns. A van that we named "The Sled" for obvious reasons. It was a van that would let you know it could take fucking anything but it sure as shit wasn't gonna make it easy or make any apologies. A van that was covered in ink marks and empty beer cans.

That fucker got us through so many states you wouldn't believe. It kept on going with the engine screaming at us. "Can we stop already? Please? All right, fuck you then. Let’s do this."

The van died one night. Not on the road. Not near home. But at home. In the driveway. A night after we got home. The van had made it. You could feel the heat and smell the smoke coming off it, scents that reminded you of the look of a bloody kid on the street who just got his ass kicked but still could say "Hey I got my ass kicked but I got through. So fuck you, assholes!"

It was like the van gave us the final finger saying it had won and we better get used to public transportation ‘cause it had done its job and just wanted to go to the great junkyard in the sky. And "Fuck you for doing this to me!!!"

I loved "the sled", god bless her.
[no, we did not drive around in a van that said free candy, that's just a random picture]

Slayer - Bitter Peace
Foghat - Slow Ride
Turbonegro - Ride With Us

Second story is mine: If the Van is Rockin'.......

The summer of ‘79 I dated this guy we’ll call Dave. It wasn’t a very deep relationship. We just enjoyed each other’s company and had some fun together, but we both knew we were just biding our time until something else came along.

We clocked a lot of hours that August driving to Jones Beach in Dave’s van. I hated the beach, but sacrificed for Dave because he had this notion that he was a surfer dude and surfer dudes belonged with the sea and sand. And he had a cool van.

lovevan.jpgRemember, this was the late 70's. Vans were cool back then.. No, not Ford Econoline vans borrowed from your father's flooring business, but custom vans, the kind with a bed and beaded curtains and a bitchin’ portrait of unicorns or some shit - maybe it was the cover of a Steve Miller album - painted on the side.

Dave loved his van as much as he loved the surf. He doted on that thing as if it were the hottest chick in the world and she was going to give him a blowjob every time he bought her something. Every Saturday morning he would go to the custom van shop and spend more money on his masterpiece; some new pinstriping, etchings on the windows, another mural, more beads and incense.

One side of his van had the unicorn shit. I think, anyhow. It might have actually been a portrait of Duane Allman. Hey, it was a long time and many tabs of mescaline ago. The other side of the van was dedicated to the beach and getting high. Tasty waves, a cool buzz, etc. Surf, sand and Columbian Gold all air brushed with exquisite precision. It was psychedelic, man. Like a car with tattoos.

The inside of the van was treated with even more reverence than the outside. Shag carpeting, a queen size mattress, a hand-crocheted blanket woven in the twenty colors of the acid-trip rainbow. Hanging beads separated the front of the van from the back, so whatever Dave's friends were doing to their skanks of the evening while Dave was driving them around remained private. There were velvet posters on the walls and a mirror on the ceiling and pink champagne on ice. No, not really. But it was gaudily decorated in a theme I like to call sex-me-up. Gauche, decadent and, when you are 17 and dating an older guy, kind of creepy.

One evening we arrive back home after a day at the beach and Dave turns around to me and says very nonchalantly:

I think we should stop seeing each other.
Excuse me?
I can't really date anyone right now.
Ok, that's cool and all, but umm...kind of out of nowhere?

Honestly, I didn’t care one way or the other. Dave and his van obsession was starting to grate on my nerves and he was pushing too hard to get me to “ride his mattress” as he put it. Yes, he used that phrase.

Anyhow, Dave explains the break up.

Well, I have my reasons. And it's not because you don't put out.
Dude, that mattress is skanky. I wouldn't lay down on that thing even if you put fifteen blankest on top of it. I’m sure I saw things crawling on it.
Yea, well, Brad’s girlfriend has crabs.
So what's the deal then? Why are you dumping me?
I just don't think it's fair to you. I'm really devoted to my van. That's what I want to spend my money on and my time with.

I giggled. I couldn’t help it.

Your van? You are dumping me for your van?
Yes, I wanted to be honest with you about it. And fair.

I got out of the van with my hand over my mouth and I think Dave thought I was heartbroken and crying but dude, I was hysterical laughing.

The next time I run into Dave is February, in the parking lot of Nassau Coliseum on the opening night of Pink Floyd’s The Wall show. He was sitting on the hood of Camaro.

Where's the van?
I sold it to Keith/
WHAT? How could you? I thought you loved that thing?
It’s this chick I’ve been seeing. She said it was either her or the van.
I’m guessing this chick rides the mattress.

Somewhere in there is a lesson.

Fu Manchu - King of the Road
Fu Manchu - Action is Go

Check out this site: Don't Come Knockin' - lots of van stuff, plus an interview with Fu Manchu!

See also, Hoopty Rides: In Praise of Vans

See sidebar for list of previous car entries.


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