Saturday, June 30, 2007

Vegetable Oil Terrorist at JFK

Today I had to drive to Kennedy airport to pick up my sweetheart who was arriving from Los Angeles. I took the surface streets instead of the freeway through Brooklyn and had a nice drive that left me with time to get an ice cream from the good humor man and stop at the beach in Canarsie. I parked in the airport garage, very happy to find that the ceiling clearance is high enough to accomodate the fuel pump and vegetable oil that I carry on my roof. I arrived 15 minutes early and after I parked the van I decided to call my friend, Eun Young.

The phone was ringing as a couple of armed US Military security dudes in fatigues and the whole bit began to approach my van. Soon I was being surrounded by military and port authority police who were demanding that I step down from the vehicle. I thought it had something to do with me talking on my cellphone (don't ask) and as I got out of the van I must have looked completely puzzled because the police started asking me if I knew why they were questioning me. I had no idea but that's when he finally pointed to the roof and said "What's in those containers?" What I was unaware of was that earlier that day a car bomb had been detonated at an airport in the UK. The police did all the questioning as the military surrounded the van. In my bewildered state I did my best to explain that it was just vegetable oil and a fuel filter but the man questioning became quite aggressive when I told him that in fact, I DIDN'T have any identification on me, due to having had my wallet stolen twice and leaving my passport back at my friend's house in Williamsburg. "Well," he said "we're going to be here for a long time, until you can prove your identity." and that's when I put one of my most underused skills into action and burst into tears!

At that point the cop dispersed the military dudes and softened up considerably. He explained that they were on high alert for suspicious vehicles and that as soon as the K-9 unit was done inspecting my van I would be free to go. We waited for about 20 minutes for the dogs to arrive and he and another cop asked me a bunch of questions about vegetable oil fuel. When the K-9 unit still hadn't shown up he simply escorted me to the terminal and wished me a nice day.

When Brenndan arrived we went back to Williamsburg to have a barbeque. I made squid stuffed with shrimp and cabbage and shrimp and mango brochettes with jalapeno-cilantro sauce and we watched the sunset from Rufus and Lauren's rooftop. I wasn't able to take any pics of the cops questioning me so instead here's one of the door handle of my van which came off while I was thrifting in the Bronx the day before.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Who buys this shit?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

It's growing!

I think I was in Tennesee when I stepped on my computer. (I only know this because I saw the footprint on the back!) Anyway, over time this is what has become of my cracked screen. Kind of cool looking but really annoying too. If anyone can help me find a 14 inch iBook I can get for parts, that would be great!

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Back in Brooklyn

I am back in Brooklyn again, trying to withstand the extremely warm weather and still thinking a lot about the two break-ins that my van suffered in Montréal. It's very easy after something like that to replay the circumstances on endless repeat, wondering what you should have done differently, but is that helpful? I spend a lot of time thinking about the circumstances of the thief or thieves. Were they young kids? Were they clients of the soup kitchen on the next block? Are they the homeless people camping in the neighborhood? Were they jerks or are they nice folks in a desperate situation? The fact remains that I was careless, I should never have left any valuables in my van, period. The fact also remains that try as I may to understand, I simply never will and I will never see my beloved guitar again. In addition, there is the fact that I am a mostly white, middle class anglo and no matter what I know that I am in a very priveleged group by comparison to most people in the area where I was parked, I was also an easy target with foreign plates and all around windows on the van. I know that writing about this won't bring my guitar back and that's not the point, I guess I just need to process this because like it or not I am grieving this loss. Of course I compare it to all kinds of other losses and I know that compared to some, it's just not that big of a deal but when you live in a van you are in a position of vulnerability and when someone exploits that vulnerability it is really painful.

Last time I was in Brooklyn I stayed in a hotel in Manhattan but left my van parked here on a pretty deserted block and when I came to move it 24 hours later I found that I had left the window open. Nothing had happened to it. Interesting as well, was that when I left Brooklyn I realized that I had a little something on me that I would never risk trying to take across the border so I took some green duct tape and I taped a little package to the underside of a part of a building thinking that "If it's there when I come back, great, if not, oh well.." Here's what I found when I arrived back in Brooklyn yesterday:

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hawthorne Valley

After Brooke and I dropped Bryn in Ormstown we headed to her friend Demarra's father's place near Hudson, NY. We got to meet a baby bunny that the cat brought home. Baby Bunny!

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Monday, June 25, 2007

It coulda Been worse!

You know me, always looking on the bright side!

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Still Sad

Since my van was broken into twice in the last ten days I have been thinking a lot about what to do. I put up reward notices in the area where I was parked. I know that whoever took my guitar probably got $50 for it at a pawnshop so possibly I will call around to some. I am debating whether or not to replace the camera and the iPod. I have my old camera, which still sort of works. I am mainly having a hard time justifying buying any more crap. I might look for a used iPod because as much as I hate them, it's really the only way for me to keep a lot of music in the van. I could burn cd's to listen to but that seems pretty wasteful too. Does anyone have any ideas for me?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Murray St.

I woke up this morning in my usual spot on Murray St. in John's parking lot when Carrie called to tell me that she and the family were headed to the country and they would leave the key under the mat for me so I could stay at their place. I was really looking forward to having a bath and doing some laundry, especially using the clothesline to dry my stuff. So, after breakfast I decided to go up to Fedex to see if I could get the new card that had arrived from my bank which replaced the one that was stolen when my car was broken into 10 days ago. Since I was going to Carrie's for the weekend I decided to take my guitar along with everything else so I put everything in the van before walking up the hill to Place Ville Marie and Fedex.

It was one in the afternoon, since Fedex was closed I was back a half hour later and jumped in the driver's seat ready to head over to Point St. Charles. When I was about to back out of my spot I looked at the window of the sliding door and saw pieces of broken glass on the window "How could there still be broken glass around and how did it get over there?" I thought as it slowly dawned on me that the big, sliding window was GONE. I jumped out and ran around to the door side and sure enough! My window had been smashed and my guitar was gone! I assumed my camera and computer were gone as well as I ran up to get Dave to come and help me. Help me what? All he could do was wait patiently as I cursed and swore at the top of my lungs, alerting everyone in the neighborhood that I had been robbed. When I got back to the van I saw that my computer was still where I had left it but the thief had taken my camera, my guitar and the basket that lives between the seats full of gum and advil and so many various odds and ends.

I screamed and screamed until I could scream no more and then called BT Auto to see if they were open on Saturday and had another window for me. They told me to come on down, which was lucky because Monday is a holiday here and otherwise I wouldn't have a window until Tuesday. Dave came with me to the south shore and they fixed me up for $130. I'm putting up reward posters and tomorrow I'll start checking the pawn shops. It's not the first time I've been through this and I know it's not the end of the world but I am so sad right now and feeling so defeated, for the first time since I left Portland I feel strongly that I'm ready to go home. If only I knew where that is.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

More Montreal

I had a feeling Montréal was going to have some nasty grease. Click here if you have a strong stomach.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

BT auto repair

These guys fixed me up with a new triangle window for a mere $50 and even offered to let me have the entire door that it came from. I bought some coolant instead and just took their picture.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Place des Arts

I got John and Brook to come with me to see Rufus Wainwright at Place des Arts and enjoyed another fine and hilarious performance by the gay one. After a glass of wine under the florescent lights of the Salon Vert we all went to the Main for late night deli food and more sexy mood lighting. I had a half order of potato varenekes, coleslaw and a dill pickle while others were more adventurous and went all out with smoked meat poutine.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The longest drive

I left Brooklyn at 11 am to go back to Montréal. I noticed that the vaccum gauge for the vegetable oil was showing some restriction so I pulled over near Kingston and changed the fuel filter. All was fine for about 30 miles and then I saw that the coolant light was flashing and looking very hot. I pulled over at a gas station and sure enough, coolant was spraying out at the rear of the van. I was talking to Marc Amsden about what to do when I was approached by a friendly truck driver. He helped me to locate the leak, which was caused by the axel rubbing against one of the hoses. He offered to drive me to buy a new hose connector and some clamps which we found at a truck repair shop about 5 miles away. Of all the days that I needed my camera this was the one that it would not work. Fred, the truck driver, travels with his daughters Elizabeth and Gabby. They play video games from their bunks in the cab while traveling the country. The office at the repair shop was completely decorated in shades of purple and lavander, clearly designed by the office manager who was also dressed in those shades. I took some tootsie rolls from the jar on the counter for the girls.

Once we arrived back at my van Fred helped me to install the hose and fill up with coolant. once everything seemed normal I continued on my way, delayed by about 4 hours. Of course, by the time I arrived in Montréal I was ready to relax and drink a beer. I found Dave and Kevin listening to records and we sat up for a while. At three am I got my guitar and computer out of the van but forgot my wallet and my iPod. When I went to move the van at 7 am, this is what I found:

My wallet and iPod were gone.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Long Island City

Finally visited the Socrates sculpture garden then drove to Prospect park for a nap under a tree during a thunderstorm.

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Saturday, June 9, 2007

More New York

I met up with Blendy Maguro at the corner of 45th and 8th avenue and we checked into the Milford Plaza hotel. That night we went to a party for Paper magazine and drank tiny bottles of free champagne. I took a look at the magazine and I won't bore you with my negative opinions but basically the party was exactly what I would have expected from such a superficial magazine. Rufus Wainwright played three songs and Feist showed up and made room for us at her table.

On the way out I grabbed one of the free bottles of Marc Jacobs perfume for my friend Ellen, who we went to meet in Little Italy where she and Ralph were watching the final episode of the Sopranos. When the restaurant was closing up I saw that they had placed four containers of pretty clean looking grease on the sidewalk. We asked permission to take it and then the four of us took a cab with the grease up to the hotel. Strange looks from the staff and guests abounded as we made our way though the lobby with 20 gallons of used cooking oil. After depositing it in our room we took a taxi to Chelsea to have a drink.

We went to a place on 23rd with seats by the open windows and had to cope with a 25 year old, very drunk man doing everything in his power to get some attention from us. Asking for sips of our beer, taking them anyway after we said no, calling us racist, smoking cigarettes in our faces. The bartender didn't even attempt to do anything until I went and asked him to. It turned out that attention from the bartender and even the police was not enough for him as he kept coming back for more. Eventually we had to just give in and hang out with him. Pic coming soon, for now here's one of Blendy as we waited for our taxi after checking out.

PS. IF you look closely at the picture you will see that Mr. Maguro is holding not just one paper cup from Starbuck's but TWO, which I imagine his coffee was served in so that he would not burn his delicate fingers. While I appreciate their thoughtfulness in this matter I do NOT appreciate the fact that one cannot recycle said paper cups at any Starbuck's location. It is for this reason and several others that I have asked Mr. Maguro to refrain from purchasing any more coffee from them. I know this is a big sacrifice for someone who A) Is kind of addicted to coffee and B) Travels all the time, making it hard to know where to get the coffee that you want. Mr. Maguro responded to my request graciously and agreed to no longer buy coffee at Starbuck's, plus he has been using the reusable thermos I got at the thrift store for fifty cents. When you care about someone you want to help them make healthier choices, even if it's hard at first.

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Friday, June 8, 2007


I got to meet up with Jill Borra and her boyfriend, Sinclair to go to see Rufus Wainwright at the Gramercy Theatre. Wow! What a show! Sparkly brooches and costume changes and Rufus in drag. What a night!

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New York

Last night my flight arrived in Montréal from Vancouver at one-thirty AM and I took a taxi to my van, which was parked at Marc Amsden's garage, Marc woke me up in the morning and went over the work he had done on my vegetable oil system and then I left for New York. A few miles after the border a Hare Krishna dude approached me at a rest stop saying he had seen me at the border and wanted to offer me some literature "about farming". Wish I had a picture for you. I made it to the Tri-boro bridge in record time and only sat in traffic for an hour getting to Brooklyn. I went straight to Rufus and Lauren's place and we went to Alethia's opening two doors down, ran into Selma and SF pals Lara Allen and Christine Shields on the way. I passed out in the van in my clothes with the door open and woke up at 8 am. I heart NY.

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Monday, June 4, 2007


I woke up yesterday in Québec city and went to bed last night in Vancouver. I'm trying not to think about it because it doesn't make much sense. I'm supposed to be helping Brenndan move his stuff into storage but actually I'm sitting on the couch with Jojo and Piggy typing and being the boss of everyone. I'm surrounded by a mountain of audio gear and cardboard boxes. Oh ya, and guess what. It's raining.

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Sunday, June 3, 2007

Quebec City

We parked the van for the night in front of Buddy's fine looking rig and Leslie Feist and a friend dropped by to say hello.

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Friday, June 1, 2007

Montreal, encore

Back in Montréal, we did laundry and ate dinner at Glen's sculpture garden on Van Horne. Sautéed fiddleheads with mushrooms and quinoa. I wish I took a picture but we were too hungry. I was driving Brenndan to work after dinner and the route I planned to take, down St. Hubert, was closed for the big bike tour so Brenndan had to get out and RUN about 20 blocks to get there on time. I got to sit in traffic and look for parking for about an hour. Don't you wish I had a picture of that too?

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