The neighborhood hoarder
Part 4. Junk Car round-up
“We break in to cars when we gotta. With pickaxe and hammer and saw. They say this garage has no license, yet it’s little care I for the law. Ta me weigh hey tow it away, the Lincoln Park Pirates are we, from Wilmette to Gary, there’s nothing so hairy, and we always collect our fee…” from “Lincoln Park Pirates” by Steve Goodman.
One day, when Old Dave was still alive, I was walking up the hill towards home and caught a strong smell of gasoline. It grew stronger the closer I got to Old Dave’s place. A rusted Subaru he’d left on the street was leaking a line of gas a hundred feet down the gutter to a storm drain. I thought, “Jeez, if I still smoked I could solve this whole car problem right now with the flick of a butt.” Of course, it would have caught all the cars and burned down the neighborhood, but it was a fun idea.
Junk cars can be hard to get rid of. Old Dave always had at least half a dozen cars in his yard, not all of them his. Plus he stored more cars at the harbor parking lots and on side streets around town. When the traffic officer put a ‘This car will be towed in three days” ticket on one, Old Dave would drive a car from his yard down there, leave it, and bring home the one that had been ticketed. By the time he passed away he was down to just a couple cars in the yard but his fellow hoarder Don Roman had brought in several, plus the guy with the camper truck, and left them without asking permission. This included the car he drove in summer which was so crammed with stuff, including rotten food, that there was only room for him to squeeze in to drive it. That particular car became a problem one summer when a bear pushed in the driver’s window to get at the food. Roman’s solution was to tape a garbage bag over the broken window and leave like that. Nice job. My wife went out and spoke sharply to him about that one day. After that he’d look out for her as he drove up, then bolt into the house.
Our city does junk car roundups every year to get the junkers out of here. For all the cars in his yard, Dave himself doesn’t drive. One year I offered him money to get rid of a couple cars. He took me up on it. Unfortunately, a few weeks later they came back. Well then, time to play hardball.
Some of Don Roman’s cars were in the easement by the road. In winter, 2018, when Roman was down south, and no one is watching the cars, it was an easy thing to call the traffic officer, who I have to imagine was also sick of the guy. He came right out and ticketed them. Three days later, three were towed. It was amazing what a difference that made. On the one hand, it opened up the yard. On the other hand it became obvious just how much other stuff was there.
Summer 2018 was the clean-up that didn’t’ happen.
Fall 2018 Don Roman left his car-o-trash in the yard again. And again, he didn’t tell Dave. He just left it.
With Ren Ren gone, we were down to three cars. Two of Old Dave’s cars and Roman’s. I thought maybe Dave would reconsider having Roman’s car towed.
In Alaska, even if it’s your property and someone leaves cars there without your permission, the process of getting rid of them takes months. It involves filing forms with the Department of Motor Vehicles, waiting six months before you can take title, attempting to contact the owner of record within 30 days of removal.* Dave didn’t want to start that process.
In summer 2019, over just a few weeks our neighborhood cleaned up all the garbage in the yard that had been building for decades. We could see walls on the house. Turns out there was a main entrance we never knew was there because so much stuff had been piled up in front of it. It’s really a handsome place. A pleasure to look at.
There was still the matter of those two cars of Old Dave’s. They hadn’t moved in years. Both were covered with a thick fuzz of mold inside. You couldn’t see through the windows. Moss was growing on the roof. With everything else cleaned up they drew the eye. Then some guy who’d come by during the clean-up said he wanted to buy one. That would have been nice but he turned out to be like our neighbor Carol who didn’t follow through. He came around several times with excuses but still saying he wanted it. In a way he was a minor saboteur because he affirmed Dave’s idea the cars were worth keeping. A few weeks later both cars were towed away. The yard was junkless.
*A little car story:
My brother, who lives down south, owns a small apartment building. One of his tenants stopped paying rent, trashed the apartment, then left town. The tenant left his car in the apartment parking lot. My brother tried to find him without success. “So finally,” he said. “I had the car towed to a place where they crushed it into a cube about 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet. I took a picture of it, too. And if that guy ever comes back and says, ‘Where’s my car?’ I’m going to show him the picture.”
to be continued next up: Landscaping