Sacked by the "downturn", an unemployed architect touring the country in a bus...

I used to live in New York City. I designed homes for the tycoons of Wall Street; Park Avenue, Scarsdale, Greenwich. It was great fun. And, after years of saving up for a down payment, I was just about to buy my own little place in Fleetwood, half an hour north of the city, when the economy fell apart. Architects are like canaries in a coal mine when the economy slows, and true to form, there were massive layoffs in firms all over the country. Devastation of the profession. So, I decided to try to find something else to do for a while. I bought a 23' school bus and I'm on the road to see if I can figure out what that might be.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

* T * E * X * A * S * (and more car trouble)

I'm in the first Welcome/Tourist Info stop on I-10 in TEXAS!  Wooohooo!  Or, I think here it's Yeeeeehaaaaaa!

The reason I pulled in here is that a few miles back, as I crossed over one of the improbably high overpasses that are so common here in the industrial south, this one seemingly right at the border between Louisiana and Texas, possibly to discourage immigrants (har har), just then I noticed a low coolant indicator on my dash, and a mile or so later, I noticed the temperature gauge was nearly at the top.  The dreaded H.  Almost 1 1/4" above the desirable C.  Drat.  Thankfully, I made it here, the next exit, without boiling over, seizing up, or any of the other picturesque meltdown scenarios that come to mind when I think of radiator problems.  I had set out on this push westward from the Atchafalaya Basin on the assurance of two mechanics that driving the truck with a faulty PCM or wheel speed sensor would not be dangerous or destroy the transmission, so I had hoped to get to someplace I would want to be for 3 or 4 days while a Ford dealership there gets ahold of the needed somewhat obscure part for me.  Now, I opened the hood and saw that all of the coolant in the reservoir was gone.  When it rains it pours.  I am fairly confident that this new equipment failure has nothing to do with the prior; I had been told back in Mississippi to keep an eye on the coolant level because the water pump had a small leak.  I guess it's a big leak now, because I checked the level this morning and it was fine.

Somehow, I am still in a great mood.  Perhaps it's just moving.  Perhaps I actually enjoy the engagement of overcoming adversity.  In any event, I found myself humming and singing as I readied myself for the night here at the rest stop and prepared to go to the next town in the a.m.

I have two water containers.  The first is a clear, hard, polycarbonate 2 gallon container with a lever controlled spigot, which I bought when I was outfitting my Volvo for the trip.  It's a lovely and functional design for a picnic's supply of water, and it nestled nicely into its spot in the Volvo.  The second container I bought a few days ago at Outdoor World, a humongous camping store that looks like a Disney park with a hunting/safari theme.  The building's facades are broken up so that it appears that the place has grown rough wood wing by rough wood wing, and corrugated metal gable by corrugated gable, as do many farm buildings.  The interior has vaulted spaces looking up at the bottom of the rusted metal roofing (probably a dropped second layer hiding modern construction, insulation, and ductwork) with impressive trusses of rough hewn timbers spanning great distances.  There are vines and rustic hand panted signs with occasional intentionally backwards letters.  I smiled when I noticed that by far the largest departments were for clothes, women's and men's.  But the gear departments were extensive as well, and well stocked with generally rugged equipment.  Thousands of fishing poles, aisles of lures, racks of boats and oars, shelves of rope...  I found a nice simple gimbaled cup holder of chromed wire for my dash.  Easily 75 varieties of back pack.  Climbing gear.  Cooking and BarBQ equipment.  Tents, knives, and on and on.  And of course, guns.

I moseyed up to an unoccupied spot at the 50' gun counter that meandered in gentle turns, in keeping with the rustic theme park look, and behind which were 2 or 3 hundred riffles and shotguns standing side by side like pool cues in racks.  I couldn't resist.  I put on my best this-is-completely-normal face and asked a salesman "What would be the cost of an entry level shotgun?"  The mustached man with the round head mounted directly on his slouching shoulders, sans neck, like Gerry Garcia after an improbable visit to a barbershop, asked almost without hesitation "For hunting or home defense?"  There was in fact a tiny hesitation which I think was intended to ease me over my slightly visible discomfort.  "Home defense," I replied.  "Pump or lever?"  "Pump," I say, now getting the hang of this.  He took out of the rack an all black shotgun saying "This holds seven shells, six in the (long tube below the barrel he pointed to, I can't remember the term) and one in the chamber.  It has a synthetic stock."  It's blackness and precision were everywhere, including the sleekly shaped very hard plastic stock.  It bore an engraved Remington logo, in slightly old looking familiar type, slightly italicized, with the right leg of the R swooping a little below the letters that followed.  The rest of the design was timeless, crisp, clean, functional.  If I were to buy a gun, this would be one I would choose after scrounging forever, as I scrounge forever for many well designed things large and small.  I'm currently on a quest for a cordless vacuum.

Some of my friends suggested I would need a gun if I were traveling in remote parts of the county.  I dismissed these recommendations, of course, but as I stood there at the counter, lofting this beautiful, brutal thing, I did consciously take a moment to evaluate how I would feel if I were forced to defend myself with it.  My examination of the thought made clear it's preposterousness immediately, and I handed the weopon back with thanks.  I did ask the price, so as not to seem to be wasting his time, but I realize now that I never did the obvious hold-it-to-my-shoulder-sight-down-the-barrel routine, my conclusion having been reached so quickly, and this probably revealed me as an impostor.  I had an acting teacher who would notice these kinds of omissions in a students performance as an indicator of a lack of careful preparation.  I guess I hadn't prepared for gun shopping adequately.

I can not conceive of a situation where escalation of a conflict to a level where I am menacing someone with a gun would be the right move.

So, anyway, I bought my second water container.  It holds 5 gallons, and has well positioned handle and hand grips, a spout that reverses in it's retaining ring to rest inside, which spout is intentionally flexible and includes an air passage down it's length for pouring through a tight opening, and a nicely designed final gasket, and an air release from the container itself with a cleverly designed captive cap.  It's brilliant.  It's light blue, for water.

Now at the Texas welcome center, after determining that I would stay the night here and try for the next town in the morning, I took my water containers up to the info center to fill them.  I got the smaller one into the men's room sink with just a little trial and error.  To fill the large container, on a second trip up, I used the water fountain, accomplishing this by supporting the 5 gallon container, which would weigh 40 lbs when full, on a slippery-when-wet sign I turned on it's side, and using the container's removable spout as a viaduct to steer the drinking stream into the mouth of the container.  It's a beautiful design.

I'm hunkered down now for the night, writing.  Ah, the cell phone is ringing.  It's my friend from NYC, David Intrator...

1 comment:

  1. How you doing, Roy? Sounds like you are having an exciting, good time. Would love to hear about everything. Please call when you get a free second.

    - Kate