My Dad and I spent mostly all of Saturday laboring away, attempting to put a new water pump and serpentine belt in my Dodge Caravan. Most of the expertise was left up to my Dad, making up for the neglect and thoughtlessness that the engineers that designed the car forgot to put into it. It’s like they design cars with the notion that you’ll never have to work on them, that nothing will ever break, like my Dad says.
The pump was on the passengers’ side compartment, recessed far behind a bunch of other gadgetry, making it near impossible to access, of course. We actually had to let down the engine onto a scissor jack and wood, just so we would have room to get inside it. The job also involved taking off the front wheel to access the water pump from underneath.
Anyways, I’ve got my Dad, the expert mechanic, who came to visit for the weekend and spent a full day with me trying to get the darn thing put back together.
So I drove the van back to Denver this morning and offered a ride on Craigslist to see if anyone needed help, and hopefully to meet another interesting character, which I inevitably did.
Arthur tells me to meet him off of Walnut and Uintah, and that I will find him “standing next to his RV.” He’s hard to miss, standing outside in his sunglasses and shin-guards next and old beat-up camper RV.
He is an animated guy, who speaks rigidly with his hands a lot, and has a lot of energy, and a slight stutter in his voice, which I later find out is because he suffers from lyme disease. Lyme disease is carried by bacteria and often through ticks, which in his own words says derives from an “ancient worm.”
He tells me that he is retired military, and he is on permanent disability pay, meaning that he will never have to work again the rest of his life, and he is “free to pursue his art.”
“I suffer from what they now call PTSD”, he says. “Lots of soldiers do, and if you think about it, most true artists suffer from it, in some way shape or form, but not necessarily from a tangible war.”
Arthur tells me that he has taken to living in his RV so that he can live comfortably and not have to worry about paying bills. One thing he is currently trying to do, is get a B-3 piano into his RV somehow so that he can practice whenever he wants. “It’s the kind of piano that’s on a lot of old rock recordings”, he says. Elton John and the Beatles often used the B-3 piano, before the invention of digital recordings and Auto-tune.
Arthur is a die-hard Jethro Tull fan, and even though I’ve heard a few of their tunes and found it interesting, he talks about the band like he has studied them for quite some time. What springs to mind is wild vocals and music mixed with a raging flute. “They were the inventors of metal”, he suggests. “They were onto it way before Metallica, way before Black Sabbath, Zeppelin, all of those bands. Listen to the song ‘Locomotive Breath'”, he tells me.
Arthur tells me that he regularly exchanges yoga lessons for piano lessons with a professional pianist he contacted off the Internet. “I also do belly dancing”, he adds. “I want to incorporate this into metal music.” It’s kind of a strange, awkward thing to imagine, this guy dancing to Metallica in a blue tress and twirling about, well, maybe this isn’t exactly what he had in mind. Or maybe this guy is a true eccentric. Maybe it is.
We pass a motorcycle on the other side of the highway that has just been pulled over by a cop. “Everyone thinks of red, white, and blue as freedom, until they’re right behind you”, he says. “I still have a lot of respect for the police though.”
He spends most of the time talking about his plans to incorporate belly dancing into metal music, and before long we’ve made it into Denver, water pump and all in one piece. As he gets out of the car, he tells me that his son has recently joined the Colorado National Guard and is going to Afghanistan this week, just after his mother has died. “It’s pretty messed up, quite heavy”, he says somberly.
I wish him the best of luck, and he bids me off with “blessings and grace, for the soul.”
No matter how strange some people may seem, there is always something to learn from everyone. Maybe I’ll even take up belly dancing and become a Jethro Tull fan. Or maybe I’ll just listen to a few of the group’s songs on YouTube.