October 9, 2011

Did You Check The Oil?


The old Chevy van squeaked on ancient springs so that heads and even torsos at bus stops a quarter of a mile away turned to see. There were small dents and scratches, evidence that it was a working van, nothing more. A window was missing for a while. The button on the back door was missing permanently and short thumbs had trouble opening it. The back doors were full of bumper stickers of the far left wing variety. On the sides written in large letters: ‘Money for Human Needs, Not War.’

The steel floor between the bench seats was stained with years and years of spilled coffee from cups held by lazy morning hands during bumpy rides. That’s not to ignore the color contributed by the tea stains and juice stains and oatmeal, raison ruptures, and general grime, it’s just to say that coffee appeared to be the dominant stain.

Over the course of forty years, many different donated vehicles have been used to shuttle these hippie friends of mine between their commune and the soup kitchen they run a few miles away. The blue van served that purpose faithfully for ten years before dying completely.


For dVerse poetry pub's call for bumper sticker inspiration.


If you'd like read more about my hippie friends and I, here's a story from earlier in the year.

42 comments:

EcoGrrl said...

love it, and the story of yours you linked to. our homeless situation in portland was exacerbated exponentially years ago when they closed the state mental hospitals which pushed so many onto the streets. the 'trouble' they don't realize they are causing as they are locked in their own diseases with no system to help. i worry more about the violence that is caused by the massive drug problem in the pacific northwest because we have no concern for treatment, for taking care of the issue at the source. what causes the use in the first place and leads to the addiction? but no, they want to focus on punishing, punishing. it's the bumper sticker that i love about simultaneously preventing and preparing for war in your picture that's always been one of my favorites. there's so much ego out there. reading about the japanese business culture, and humility being one of the most respected traits - wouldn't that be amazing to see more of this in america...

GYPSYWOMAN said...

what a neat post! so reminds me of my old white hippie van i had in the late 70s - cannot even tell you all the stories those wheels could write! ;) wonderful post!

hedgewitch said...

You brought that van totally to life for me, Ed. And so few put their money where their mouth is on those stickers--or T-shirts or whatever marketing tool they've bought--here you show that a simple statement means something to some people besides attitude. And RE: your comment at my place--when I came on that slogan, it illuminated some things for me--identifying with wealth even if you'll never have anything but a wal-mart gift card because somebody's figured out just how to push your hate/fear/acquire buttons. Great take here on the prompt.

Jill said...

If only that van could talk...

PEACE.

Ed Pilolla said...

ecogirl, they closed those hospitals in california in the late 60s here in cali. those people are dead by now. there are a couple people on the streets from then, but it's too hard a life on the street especially with mental illness.
the fact is, this economy is creating way more homeless people than we are moving them out of poverty. so they are put in jail on all sorts of minor offenses, like jaywalking.

Ed Pilolla said...

gypsywoman, thanks so much. i'd love to hear about them!:)

hedgewitch, thanks so much. it was a special van. old blue is how it is remembered:)

thanks, jill. maybe i'll personify that van up:)

seasideauthor said...

There should be one
'Money for Human Needs Not War',
Would that not be the end all for the end all...all issues solved, next?
Great Writing here a little essay!
What you say could actually have been
the answer no one could see. GREAT!

Pat Hatt said...

The van comes alive with the words you give, really letting it live and let live. I guess it's toast now, but you make it's memory still linger.

Brian Miller said...

nice...great to go back into the commune...bet that van has carried some stories well beyond the bumper stickers on it...though they make quite the statement themselves....

tinkwelborn said...

nice prose. (takes me back to the sixties) very descriptive (wouldn't want to drop yer bubble gum on the floor!)

you start of with an exterior view, move into the interior, then cap it all off with a thema.

being a newie here, this is my first prose piece I've had the opportunity to crit...it's nice. thanks.

Betsy said...

nice little story...glad you used your van to do some good! :)

oceangirl said...

I miss Old Blue. Can you miss a car or a person you don't know but reading a beautiful writing? I miss Blue too :)

We have a compulsory charity system that pays to the poor and the needy and our home subscribes to that. 2.5% of minimum excess income, annually.

zongrik said...

people today just don't know how to make a good statement on their vehicle. can this be attributed to the times or to the vehicles themselves.

Laurie Kolp said...

You're a good person, Ed.

The Orange Tree said...

stay cool,
man,

EcoGrrl said...

yep ours are called the 'sit/lie' laws against anyone sitting on the sidewalk.

keep bringing attention to the work you and those around you do. your words are important.

Ruhi Shah said...

What a lovely story

Patricia said...

First time visiting here... =)
love your element of story, your style... on the lighter side, the short thumbs got me... on the deeper side, money for human needs... but overall I can still feel my butt riding on the corrugated ridges of that steel floor. Nice to meet you.

ed pilolla said...

thanks, patricia. you know, i should have mentioned something about the two or three bench seats and how sometimes there was so many people we were squeezed on laps. everyone piled out like circus clowns. i'll see if i can add something like that in.

Ed Pilolla said...

i swapped 'in the van' for 'between the bench seats' in the second graph and i think it works well. thanks so much:)

kaykuala said...

1) To be involved in the homeless and the hippie crowd is undoubtedly a rich experience, Ed. It'll determine a lifestyle of giving and not many able to subscribe to that. Good intentions would make the lifespan of such vehicles to be longer!
2) I agree on your Obama response. It is a rough road ahead as the economic woes of not just the US but also Europe are heading downhill.The Iraq and Afgan situations and withdrawals need delicate policies. Yes, he should be allowed to complete his job for a second term!

Hank

Claudia said...

40 years - wow...could have been a VW as well then...smiles
i like your take on the prompt ed...always love the charm of old cars with all their stains and scratches..

Mary said...

I enjoyed your unique approach to this prompt, Ed. If only that van could talk!

missing moments said...

Lovely story .... think of the stories that van could tell!

Susannah said...

The rich imagery bought the van totally to life. Nice wtiting Ed. :-)

Peaches Ledwidge said...

What a story, what a picture, what a van. Hmmm.

Ed Pilolla said...

i'm so glad this van is getting all this love:) i'm working for aol this week and won't get a chance to post or comment much until the weekend. looking forward to it!

Wine and Words said...

You know how I love anything dented and rusty. If I had a junk yard I would call it a museum. I hope that van had a mighty fine funeral. Deserved it! Love that the coffee stain dominated! GO JAVA!

Little Ms. Fun said...

You just made me feel like that van had actual human characteristics. I'm also in the mood for a crazy, road trip adventure. I'll be planning that asap...You done good yet again :)

Geraldine said...

Homelessness is something that touches me deeply. It is hard for me to put it in words here. I applaud your efforts to help Ed. That's all any of us can do. And it all helps. What you describe in LA brings Vancouver to mind and the situation there. Homeless people rounded up by the police, etc..they were very vigilant on this, around the time of the Olympics, can't have those nasty scenes for the visitors to look at. Solutions seem to always come from ordinary people in the end, not the organizations or the politicians. We can't give up on helping. A very touching post. I'm teared up, reading this.

Phoenix said...

I'm always fascinated by your stories of the friends you've made at the Soup Kitchen. Something about that kind of quiet, polite rebellion against the complacency that most of us have settled into about the homeless.. it warms my soul to read about it.

Thanks, Ed.

Ed Pilolla said...

sometimes there's little polite about them. when the mayor had the inclination to hold a press conference a few years ago across the street from the soup kitchen with the aim of showcasing the new street lights in skid row, they shouted at him all press conference long about all the people going to jail for petty crimes.
it was a wild scene:)

cj Schlottman said...

ed,

This piece is jumping with vivid images. I can see that van very clearly! And your message is, unfortunately, timely and tragic.
I suppose we all just have to do what we can for the homeless and hungry. Nobody else is.

Being Pramoda... said...

@‘Money for Human Needs, Not War.’

yes.. grt attitude..!!!

The Cello Strings said...

it feels good to recall your kindness.

stay fit,
bless your Wednesday.

ayala said...

Ed, great write!!!! I love the images in this, awesome.

Mark Dixon said...

Blue van forever.

Movies on my Mind said...

Having never owned my own car despite having a licence for 15 years, I can't possibly comment on this. Nice story though.

Jyoti Mishra said...

u expressed it very well..
i was able to picture it from your words :)

Nice read !!

Brian Miller said...

hey man just popping in as had not heard from you in a couple days...

Claudia said...

smiling at bri's comment cause i thought i'd pop in for the same reason...hope everything's well ed and wishing you a great week

Now Serving said...

that is a great picture!!!