The Dynasty Rides Again and…an Unexpected Endorsement

So two weeks ago, I bought some Mexican take out and drove over to my buddy’s house in St. Louis Park to watch Gophers-Hoosiers in HD. On the way there, the Dynasty started driving a little funky—resisting when I tried to turn the steering wheel. Felt like the alignment was off, or there was ice grinding into the wheel well or something. But I muscled ‘er down 394, gritted my teeth over the General Mills Blvd exit, and got a block from Jorgy’s house when SCCKKKRTT-CLNK-CLNK-CLNK-TTT-CH-LNK-LNK-SCCCKKRT-BUD-DOOMP-CHOOM!

Done.

WTF? It was brutally cold, so Jorgy actually drove the block it took to de-damsel in distress me, and we pushed the car to the side of the street.

That Saturday, my father, Gandalf the Grey, came out to see if she was salvageable.

“Jesus Christ, Steve. It’s always somethin’, isn’t it?”

Broken axle.

$60 for a front passenger’s side axle at Napa Auto Parts.

We used dad’s AAA card to have it towed before the sweet suburban couple on Flag Lane in SLP called the authorities about the automobile setting in front of their home, the automobile that looked like it belongs on the West Baltimore set of The Wire.

Where did I tow the car? A warm garage? Back to my parents’ estate in WBL?

Try the alley behind another buddy’s house in Uptown.

That’s what we Marsh boys have been taught to do with a car. Screw taking it someplace and laying real money out, when you can put it up on blocks somewhere and alienate your friends by imposing. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I’m not a homeowner yet, so I don’t have a yard where I can put cars on blocks. Had to settle for my buddy Danny’s extra alley space.

Yup, we fix our cars like decent folk used to get abortions.

So this last Sunday, my buddy Danny wasn’t only gracious enough to let us use his alley for what’s now, thanks to the cold snap that started on Tuesday, an indeterminate amount of time (Only joking, Danny! We’ll be back this Saturday to, ahem, get ‘er done–I promise.), but he even brought out a couple of beers while my dad and I started the job.

Dad showed up around noon, and after we jacked up the Dodge, while we were waiting for the loosening agent to start working on the wheel, he shocked me.

“Took your mother to a movie last night.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Took her to see Rambo. God, Stevie, you gotta see that.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, Rush had Sly Stallone on on Friday. God, it was a good movie. A lot of shooting and explosions—mom couldn’t watch it anymore about halfway through.”

Turns out Rambo is kind of a message movie. Operation Burmese Freedom, as it were. My dad had more surprises. Now he was lying on a blanket in the alley, grunting underneath the front end as he removed parts from the car. I crouched over him and handed him various tools, and tried to pay attention to the procedure, but basically just prayed the jacked-up Dynasty wouldn’t collapse on top of my 66-year-old father, who was lying on a blanket next to a snowbank. Just crouched there and tried to control my shame, basically.

“Did you see that Obama talk? Wow, he sure is a good talker.”

“Uh-huh.”

“If McCain gets the nomination, I think I’m going to vote for him.”

“Really?”

“Uh-huh. I haven’t voted for a Democratic nominee for President since 1960. But if the conservatives can’t nominate somebody conservative, they don’t deserve my vote.”

“Really? Would you vote for Hillary too?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Ron Paul is conservative, dad.”

“Sure, and I kind of like Ron Paul. But he doesn’t have a chance, Steve. And he wants to end the war.”

We got the wheel off first, and then we (oh, who am I kidding–he) removed the disc brakes. But he started having problems with the nut on the end of the hub. He cursed a couple times. “Hey, does your friend Dan have a hammer?”

“I’ll check.”

“Do you remember that song, ‘If I had a Hammer’?”

“Uh-uh.”

“It was a Peter, Paul and Mary song. How did it go? Lemme think. [Starts singing.] If I had a hammer/I’d hammer in the morning…

Dan was working on putting a new baby seat in the backseat of his car in his garage. I shouted towards the garage. Asked him if he had a hammer in there.

“Of course.”

“And, Danny, do you know the song, ‘If I Had a Hammer’?”

“Of course I do! [Starts singing.] If I had a hammer/I’d hammer in the morning/I’d hammer in the evening/All over this land. [Starts singing more confidently.] I’d hammer out danger!/I’d hammer out a warning!/I’d hammer out love between my brothers and sisters…

The Crackheads, Whores, and Thieves of the Midwest Hotel, and Me

Every time I think I’m doing well, that I have a college education, a white collar job in an office building, even my own business cards, that I’ve narrowly escaped my white trash fate…well, THEY KEEP PULLING ME BACK IN.

Yesterday morning, my girlfriend and I woke up, had coffee, and kissed each other good bye. She was going to use the car, and I was going to ride my bike. She called moments after going downstairs and asked, “Hey, where’s the car?”

“What do you mean? Isn’t it exactly where we parked it last night after we came home from Spill the Wine?” [Note the classy wine bar where I spend time with my classy friends.]

“No it’s not.”

I went downstairs, and she was right, my 1990 Dodge DyNASTY was not parked where I left it after coming home. It’s a rustbucket piece of shit; why would somebody steal it? There weren’t any street cleaning or tree work signs, there wasn’t broken glass (not that there’s a functioning lock on the driver’s side door anyway). It really was gone. I called the city of Minneapolis, and asked if the car was in the impound lot. Nope. They asked if I wanted to report it as stolen. Sure. They tried to transfer me. “Sir, the Stolen Vehicle Department is really busy, can you call back in an hour or so?”

A couple hours later, at the office, I tried to call the Stolen Vehicle Department again. No dice. I waited another hour. It was around four at this time, and I called again. Nothing. So I called the impound lot again. The queeniest impound lot receptionist of all times took my call. I explained to him that I was having a helluva time getting through to the Stolen Vehicle Dept. “Your car got stolen? That’s so sad.” I agreed. “They are so busy down there, but let’s try again.” My chipper receptionist was the most proactive voice I’d heard all day. “And I’ll tell you what,” he said. “I’ll hold with you. How does that sound?” Fierce. He got me through to the dour-sounding Stolen Vehicle lady and she asked me make and model and year and where it was stolen and all that, and then she told me she was sending a squad out to ask me the same things over again. She took my cell number and told me the squad would call when they arrived.

They never did.

Cut to this morning. My dad called me at nine and told me that Jeff at the Midwest Hotel found my car.

Who?

He told me to call Jeff at the Midwest Hotel, a flophouse on University and Vandalia by the Dubliner Pub. I called Jeff. He told me that he was working the desk that morning, and this Mexican guy that had been staying at the Hotel for the past five days boasted that the Dodge Dynasty in the lot was his girlfriend’s car. But Jeff thought the guy sounded suspicious–“didn’t speak much English”–so he checked it out, and my proof of insurance and my dad’s phone number were in the front seat. So Jeff called my dad. “And I drive a Dodge Dynasty myself, so….” I told Jeff I would be there in an hour.

For all the millions of new StephenHero readers out there, my daddy is a retired truck driver who lives in White Bear Lake and takes care of my sister’s kid full time. My dad and his charge, Ashton, were supposed to go to the Twins game this afternoon, but he told me he had time enough before the game to come get me and give me a ride to this crackhead flophouse.

I met Jeff in the parking lot. He was a forty-something white dude, in jeans and a t-shirt, with greasy grey hair, smoking generic cigarettes through yellow teeth and scratching the homemade tattoo on his arm. “My boss wanted to tow the car, but I thought there was something funny about the situation,” he said. “And ‘course, I drive a Dynasty myself.” He pointed at it with pride. “There it is, the white one, behind the hotel.” I thanked him and turned my attention to the brown one in the lot. I walked over to see how they had massacred my boy. The plastic around the steering column was ripped away, and a screw driver had been used to start it. My dad climbed in and showed me how to use this technique, since it’s probably not going to be worth taking it to a garage and having the steering column rebuilt. (May I just say, fuck.) There was a hamper of dirty laundry in the back seat, and an unopened box of Corn Chex on the passenger side floor. Jeff leaned in, “I think the white woman who stole the car is still up in 25 with the gentleman who’s renting the room.”

I was pissed. I mean, it’s a piece of shit car, but now I was going to have to drive it around with a screwdriver while this Chex-eating Goldilocks was up sleeping off her dimebag in room 25? I didn’t care that my 22-month-old nephew was running around the parking lot while some creepy old homeless dude was going through the Midwest Hotel dumpster looking for aluminum cans. This was bullshit. So against my better judgement, I called 911. I talked to the Minneapolis dispatch. I told her the story. She asked me if I knew the woman that had stolen my car. I said I did not. She told me the car wasn’t even reported stolen and that I had to call St. Paul because the Hotel was in their jurisdiction. I told her that I had tried to report the car stolen all day yesterday but that the department hadn’t sent a squad to take the report. She asked why wouldn’t they have sent a squad? I called the St. Paul dispatch. I told her the story. She said she had to call Minneapolis and then she would call me back. Ten minutes later, the Minneapolis dispatch called me back. I told her the story again. After accusing me of “not telling her everything” she told me that I would have to make a new report and call back. At this point, Jeff came out to the parking lot again and said that it was getting close to the end of his shift, and that he had to go work his second job scrapping metal in an hour. Finally, I called St. Paul and told her that the SUSPECT WAS UP IN ROOM 25 AND FOR CHRIST’S SAKE WHY WEREN’T THEY DOING ANYTHING ABOUT THIS? She said fine, she would send over a squad.

While I was waiting, I tried to regain my genteel composure. I slipped Jeff a $20 tip for his trouble. He explained that the Hotel has a reputation. “Hey, I’m sorry about this. I just hope they don’t treat you like you’re associated with the hotel. St. Paul considers this a ‘problem spot’–there’s drug dealers and fights and whores out in front all the time–so they’re not very quick to send over a squad. One time, I was held up at gun point, and they didn’t send anybody for 45 minutes.”

A strapping, blue-eyed, crew-cut St. Paul stormtrooper stepped out of his prowler. After a couple of piquant remarks about my poor disfigured Dynasty he asked, “So you don’t know any of these people, sir?” No. “So how did they get your number?” I pointed at the proof of insurance and the other piece of paper with my dad’s number on it lying on the passenger’s side. The cop turned his attention to Jeff. Jeff told him about the braggadocious non-English speaker and his girlfriend in room 25. “Somalian?” the cop asked. “Nope,” Jeff said. “Mexican, I think.” The cop called backup (sweet) and told us to sit tight. In about two minutes another St. Paul cop on a motorcycle showed up. Alright, finally, there would be justice! These wanton bitches were going down and I would be righteously, deservedly, elevated above the unwashed!

Nope. The cops came down and told me the other lady had fled and there was just a black chick left in the room. They told me that I could just take the car, since it was never reported stolen in the first place. (Right.) Oh, and that I should check under the seats for drugs. (Solid advice.)

I put the laundry hamper full of dirty whore clothes and the Chex Mix on the curb, started my car with the thieves’ screwdriver, and we were all pulling out of the parking lot, when a black lady came running out of the Hotel. “Hey! Hey! Can you please pop your trunk?” I sighed. I really think I sighed. Audibly. “I left some of my stuff in the back.” I popped my trunk and got out of my car and rolled my eyes at the cop. I pulled another laundry hamper with this chick’s shit out of my trunk–there was even a framed photograph of this woman in there (evidently, from better days)–and handed it to her. “Thanks,” she said.

Impounded by the Ginger Nazi

If you had an acne problem, a Wintergreen Kodiak habit, a gun, and a shiny new City of St. Anthony badge, and you spotted a curly haired giant driving a rusted out ’87 Dodge Dynasty with a bad muffler, what would be going through your mind?

The correct answer, kids? “Revenue.”

I got pulled over driving to my girlfriend’s house on Larpenteur just past 280 last night. It was about 12:30, and I wasn’t drunk; just a couple of madeiras at the 112 after checking out my buddy Henry Phillips at Acme. But when Richie Cunningham pulled me over, I still got that burst of adrenaline that comes along with the new .08 law. My girlfriend is a biochemistry grad student, so while Opie was back in his prowler running my bar code, she reassured me that my glucose levels were probably fine. But I still babbled a bit when firecrotch asked me for my license and my proof of insurance. I even muttered something about “going to Costa Rica” as I handed it over. I wasn’t drunk, but I must have volunteered my travel plans because my impending Costa Rica trip is the reason I’ve been draggin’ my feet transferin’ the Dodge’s title and updatin’ the IN-surance policy. (My WBL roots are showing…again.)

And this information popped up on Ginger’s onboard computer right away.

He came back to my window with his nightstick and a more pronounced drawl. Another fly in the trap, cooter!

“Sir, would you mind comin’ back and talkin’ to me for a minute?”

He didn’t want to make me stand on my toes or count my ABC’s backwards–the man wanted to talk finance. He asked me to get into the back of the squad on account of the wind. Ok. Not a lot of leg room in these fuckers though.

“It says here the policy was cancelled for non-payment on the 19th. Were you aware that the car is uninsured, sir?”

“Not really,” I kind of lied.

“Can I call your mother at this hour?”

“Sure,” I sighed.

“Will she answer the phone this late?”

“If you keep trying.”

He got ahold of her on the second go. “M’am, this is St. Anthony Police, and I have your son here…” I could hear my mother worrying through the cop’s cell phone. After she told him the good Catholic truth, he told her he would be issuing her a ticket for allowing me to drive her car without insurance (even at 30, I’m still an awful son). Then he told me that he would have to impound the, no, no, I’m sorry, sir, I’m aware that you’re only two blocks from your destination, but I can’t, it’s city policy. It’s okay. I get it. The insurance company octopus has managed to choke the fair city of St. Anthony’s good sense and autonomy. It’s 2007. And everybody needs to make a buck.

At least he gave us a ride home.