Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Van, Man

In 2004, I bought a minivan for a dollar from the man who would become my husband. If you have not yet read the details of that transaction, you can catch up here.

As promised, following is Jeff’s account of his experience with The Mystic Mechanic:

In 2002, I was living in Los Angeles. The band I was in at that time, Young People, had a green Plymouth Voyager minivan as our touring machine. As the only person in the band with a credit history, I was the one who bought the used van. We had put many miles on it over a period of two years and six U.S. tours. Money was nonexistent as was our maintenance record for the van. Except for gasoline and the white bobble head horse doll that we super-glued to the dashboard, we put no money into The Voyager.

It was the middle of summer and we were leaving in two days for another North American tour. The engine began overheating every time we drove it more than a few blocks. The band was extremely screwed and extremely broke.
Our neighbor Becky, suggested we call a guy she referred to as "The Mystic Mechanic.” She insisted that the mystic mechanic was "the real thing,” although according to her the guy was homeless and she didn't really know if he had ever really fixed anyone's car "for real". She had met him at a donut shop in Silver Lake and he had given her his card. On the card was printed, “John – Mystic Mechanic.” His phone number was scribbled along the bottom in pencil.

Desperation won out over good judgment and I called The Mystic. He told me he would meet me in 20 minutes in the parking lot by the Astro Diner because as he put it, he spent hours every day "holding court" at the place next door.

When I arrived, a man who looked like a hobo-y Crocodile Dundee made of chicken leather, appeared like an apparition from behind the Winchell's Donuts. He veered toward me and asked for my keys and told me not to worry. He had "picked up a vibe" that I was “really stressed out” about the minivan. I tried not to get irritated that this guy was trying to mellow me out. As I explained the car's problems, he opened the hood and gunned the gas and turned knobs and played with switches. He told me not to worry because he had a "few tricks up his sleeve" even though he was wearing a ripped tank top. He would need a little time to brainstorm and he would call me when it was time to come back.

My phone rang just two hours later. When I returned, he showed me that he had rigged a separate wire to the fuse system with one of those booster clamps that you see connected to the end of jumper cables.

“When the car starts overheating," he said, "just do this," and with the car running he grabbed the cable and connected it to the live battery. The fans turned on and the temperature gauge went down, however the duct tape and fuse box rig that he had set up appeared, shall we say, non-standard. He charged me $30.00 total for “expenses and lunch.”

 Despite the bizarre and dangerous nature of this fix, we drove the van just like this for thousands of miles. I used the van to move cross-country to New York, and then back again a few years later to California. Even once I could afford it, I still did not consider actually taking the van to a real mechanic for a more permanent solution, until it broke down again and I had to recount this story to my future wife. She was not surprised and not impressed.

The lore of the van is in the air. Go to Extreme Craft to enjoy a story about our friend Garth's band van.


  1. I mean no disrespect when I say - Only in California. Awesome.

  2. That is some story. It's a wonder that the thing didn't blow up, because you know that if a woman did that it would have. And she would have also gotten yelled at by a man.

  3. Love it!
    It reminds me of that Holistic vacuum cleaner repairman sign I always saw in the the Valley.

  4. Wow! That is quite a story! I think if my husband were in the same situation, he would probably do the same thing :)

  5. Love that! Right before I got married, my future husband asked me how long ago it was since I changed the oil in my car. I told him I didn't really remember I kind of just psychically knew when it needed it. First he looked at me like perhaps I was joking and then as if maybe I had some crazy side that was a little scary. Then he just patted my shoulder and said I didn't have to worry about it anymore. I haven't seen the innards of our cars in 12 years.

    Karen Peterson Matchinga

  6. Is that guy still in business? My transmission is starting to slip...

  7. Sadly enough, I can picture this guy because he reminds me of people who live around where I do!

  8. " . . . had a few tricks up his sleeve even though he was wearing a ripped tank top." Again with the SO GOOD.