Stories - Part 2 - Then & Now
It used to be a lot different around here when I first arrived in the neighborhood. My owner purchased me from a couple in New Jersey for $450. (Back then I had 103,000 miles and the husband was worried I'd break down at any time and leave his wife stranded somewhere. Hell, that was 347,000 miles ago!) All of the buildings on my block (East Second Street between First Avenue and Second Avenue) were grey and black from grime and soot and covered with graffiti. This was before their facades were sandblasted/pressure washed by the current owners. The locals wasted no time welcoming me to the neighborhood. My Cadillac hood ornament was stolen the first few nights I was here, and shortly afterwards all of my other exterior Cadillac emblems. (Kids at the time would make them into key chains.)
A sex worker broke my rear vent window so she could turn a trick in the back seat. (At least she used a condom, though I would have preferred that they cleaned up better after themselves!) Then a homeless guy slept in the car for several nights and told everyone he was my owner — until my real owner chased him out one morning at 5 with a baseball bat. I was stolen three times. The first guy didn't get far because he couldn't figure out how to unlock my steering column. The last time was by some kids from the Avenue D projects who took me joyriding for the weekend until they ran out of gas. Fortunately, they left me only a couple of blocks away from where they stole me. There used to be an officer from the 9th Precinct — Rodriguez is how he signed his citations. He knocked my side mirror off on four separate occasions and then ticketed my owner for not having the required operating equipment on me. What a guy! One night one of those independent garbage carting trucks from New Jersey that terrorize pedestrians careened down the block at a high speed (heading in the wrong direction on the one way street I should add) and swerved into me and crushed my rear door and quarter panel. My owner caught up with him at the end of the block but the truck ended up having fake license plates and the driver had a fake driver's license, registration and insurance card. And the company with the mob-sounding name that the truck belonged to didn't exist. Through it all the neighborhood was more car friendly back then. It was much easier to get a parking spot on my block. Joel Rifkin even parked his pick up truck in front of me a couple of times when he was out picking up and murdering streetwalkers from Allen and Forsythe Streets. His bumper sticker read "I'm not deaf, I'm ignoring you!"
There were two small parking lots, five gas stations, three auto parts stores, three tire shops and two car washes within a few blocks of East Second Street. Now all of them are gone except the one on 2nd Ave and East First Street and the Mobil station on Avenue C and East Second Street (although I hear that one's days are numbered).
Have things gotten any better in the last few years? Not really. Now it's a different set of jerks. Privileged ones who infiltrate the neighborhood on the weekends and make the East Village their playpen. Three years ago some trust-fund kid smashed my windshield as a joke. That cost my owner $370. Then a drunk guy smashed in my rear passenger side window. That has proven to be more challenging to replace. An auto glass specialist in Hell's Kitchen told my owner that he could only locate one similar window within 300 miles and it would cost $475 to replace it, so it remains patched up with cardboard and a garbage bag. Adding insult to injury, during a Friday furniture street-side pick-up night, five frat boys shoved a discarded dining room table underneath me and tore off my exhaust system. This is why I'm so loud now. To replace it would cost my owner $900-1,000. So much has disappeared on and around my block: Frankie Splitz bar, Mars Bar, Cuando, Little Rickie's and most recently — Mr. Yoo's. Soon I will, too, but on my own terms. First I'm going to smell the Black Locust trees in the Cemetery one last time.