more on car repair

Up or down ?

I used to live in east Hollywood . In the tens and twenties the place was hopping with the movie business . D.W. Griffith’s studio was just down the street a few blocks , where Sunset Boulevard  and Hollywood Blvd. come together and Hollywood Blvd. disappears .  I used to moonlight selling popcorn at the Vista Theater in the 1980s . The Vista  had been the site of the silent film  Intolerance .  The swashbuckling Doug Fairbanks had a studio two blocks away from what would later be my house . Now the somewhat  shrunken studio lot is dedicated to television news  . The Essanay studio was a half mile away , over on Sunset , not too far from the Music Box steps my friend Willie and I visited a few weeks ago . Flip and Flap ( the Polish name for Laurel and Hardy ) were already long  gone .  Mabel Normand had a little studio down on Bates Ave. , too . Oh , I knew all those spots in those days .

But , this isn’t really a post about east Hollywood or now forgotten  old Hollywood glitter . This is a post about car repair .

Oh . Again ?Antique trucks and cars along the road in Montana

I drove old cars in those days,  the kind of cars  the government begged to buy so they could crush them to keep them off the roads .  Not knowing anything about car engines or mechanics , I always needed a good mechanic .

I had two .

One was up the Hillhurst hill a couple of blocks and one was down the Hillhurst hill a couple of blocks . If the car could make it uphill I’d drive it uphill . I lived one house away from Hillhurst .  Both mechanics were good , ie. competent and honest .  That’s worth a lot .

If the car was completely broken down , I’d push it to the corner and roll it down Hillhurst to Ise .  Ise was the choice of last resort . Ise would immediately demand : ” What you do to the car ? ” His voice was harsh , a command voice , dictatorial and uncompromising .

” Nothing , Ise . It just stopped working . ”

” You musta done something ! What you do ? ”

” Nothing Ise .”  At this point he’d  slowly  shake his head . I always envisioned during those moments  the Japanese commander in the film The Bridge On The River Kwai .  He’d tell me , then , that he’d find out what I did to the car . He’d narrow his eyes then just a little bit . He’d remind me that last time he’d found spider webs in the wheel wells .  I think that he was waiting for an apology from me for that , or maybe I should break down and cry .

We’d stare at each other for a few seconds . Competitive . He’d look me in the eye , accusative , adversarial .  I’d have to save face , not show weakness , not waver in my denials .

That was Ise . I’d have to endure those interrogations each time I  took the car to him . His lieutenants , young Japanese guys in blue overalls  , would look over at us with unreadable stares . Did they feel any sympathy for me at all ?

” When will it be ready , Ise ? ”

” Depends how much damage you done to it .”

” I didn’t do anything . It just stopped working . ”

” Yes . ”  There was a particular ominous sound to  Ise’s  ” yes ” .  It didn’t hold any resemblance to anyone else’s   “yes”.  It echoed , perhaps , an old Samurai’s interior yes as he drew and  wielded his sword , ready now for battle , happy in having a target at hand to overwhelm , energized in a face-to-face combat warrior’s way ,  thrilled to put his superb training  to work , to exercise his skill and discipline : Yes !

And that was it . I’d walk out of his mechanic shop with my head intentionally  held high , showing strength, standing up to  the challenge , not crumbling in the face of opposition . There would be another conflict , I knew , when I came back for the car . The engine is dirty . Spider webs . Rust . Cracked this and worn out that .   ” Why you not take better care of your car ? ”

Ise put customers through the wringer . He’d fix the car , alright. But , they’d pay a price beyond the cash .  So , being naturally of weak -minded , non-confrontational , avoidance-if-at-all-possible sort of a guy in  spirit and practice , I’d try to avoid Ise’s garage  . The uphill mechanic never interrogated me , never challenged my veracity , never insulted my car-pacity to properly maintain  my vehicles .

I liked Ise , though , in small doses .  And , truth be told , he’d always seen  the car at its worst , since the only time I took it to him would be  when it had to be rolled  in to his shop .

I wonder if Ise is still there , still glaring and still  barking at customers . He’d be a decrepit old geezer by now . But , he’d be the type to hang in there , to keep up the fight , to carry on the war  no matter what,  to preserve the old values , the vehicle values , the  proper care of cars , to practice forever  his  Hollywood vehicular bushido .samurai


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2 responses to “more on car repair

  1. “Car-pacity,” I like that. I’m not a car person and generally let God wash my car and Christian Brothers Automotive fix her when she breaks. All in the Lord’s hands.

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