In the old days there used to be a band called The Grateful Dead and when they went on tour they would always stop at the Richfield Coliseum.
One year they played Richfield in early March, and it was the weekend of the blizzard - heavy snow and the icy freeways deserted and temperatures down around 10 farenheit (not counting that cutting blizzard wind). I'm told that was the only instance when The Dead ever cancelled a show.
Other years they played late in the season - August and September - and the Deadheads following the band were legion, swelling the combined population of Richfield Village and Township from 8,000 to 30,000 or more. The Holiday Inn was full up, the parking lot at Gastown was packed, Country Counter had empty shelves afterwards, and Dover Lake Park became 53 acres of crowded campground.
Of course, on those occasions, the Volkswagen Junkyard was a very exciting place to be. Six or eight buses in the drive with plates from Massachusetts to Oregon was not at all uncommon. The Junkyard was the meeting place of the townies and the touries - and we set our local friends to helping our new-found friends work on their vehicles. Mario putting a new regulator in the Michigan bug. Warren trying get the generator out of the Indiana bus without pulling the engine. Kevin retiming (by ear) the 67 bus from Utah. Orchard going out on road service for the North Carolina 72 bus.
And the reason that none of us is rich is the same reason that we generally didn't accept any money from those kids, although I do now have a remarkable collection of strange crystals and Kevin occasionally shows me some of the fine Deadhead gee-gaws that he has squirrelled away. But we had a wonderful time - much more fun than sitting around the bar - and we met new people and learned new things, both mechanical and philosophical.
And as for not getting paid for any of the parts or labor, I don't believe that is true at all. During and since those halcyon days, we have been paid back tenfold. And I'm not talking about that intangible stuff here.
Like the guys in the 63 California bus who got stuck in 3rd gear on the way from New York. They limped down to the Junkyard at a top speed of 35 mph, and when we determined that the problem was internal, rather than linkage, they sold the bus to us for $100, just enough so they could buy a late model Chevy station wagon and make the Chicago show.
Or the fellow from Athens, Greece, (another place where they evidently don't use salt on the road in the wintertime) who developed a rapping in the engine up on the interstate and had the tow truck driver bring his 64 bus directly to the Junkyard. When told that the engine would have to be replaced or come apart, he gave us the vehicle for the price of paying the tow truck driver (who eventually settled for $50 and a Solex 34 carburetor).
Are two instances enough, or should I give you a dozen more?
Pam explains this stuff with the myth of the Volkswagen Fairy; "If you help enough people fix their VWs and give away enough parts, then one day the Volkswagen Fairy comes down and slaps you on the head with her magic wand and all of a sudden you fall into a FABULOUS Volkswagen deal."
Works for me.
So there we were, Mario and I, sitting in the Clubhouse (65 type II) warming up and watching the Power Rangers on TV after a stint of carburetor rebuilding in the unheated shop, when the phone rang. It was the Volkswagen Fairy, wand in hand.
Actually, it was a fellow named Mark from Cleveland who had a 71 Karmann Ghia that had made some nasty sounds, stopped running, and would not start. And he wasn't very interested in fixing it so much as selling it. He wanted $600 or $800 or so.
I told him that sounded like a fine deal, but I was building a building and couldn't afford to buy anything. He seemed disappointed, so I took his name and number and told him I'd put it on the Internet for him. When I hung up the phone, Mario said, "I'm interested. Let's go look at it."
And we did. It was parked in an impound lot up in the city, and although it was after 5PM and the lot was undoubtedly closed, we loaded up in the Orange Hippie van and took a ride. We found the lot, and in the failing light of dusk, through the chain link fence, could just make out the Ghia and it's California plates.
Mario lit up. The whole ride home, he was exhuberant, and the next day I called Mark and told him that Mario might want to buy it, but could we go up to the impound lot and look it over? Fine with him. And we were back up to town again.
The girl who took us out into the impound lot was very pretty and carried a pair of leather work gloves with her. Her name was Maria. She made small talk with us as we crawled under the car and poked and prodded the rust-free pan and fenders. "A couple guys in the body shop wanted to buy it," she mentioned, "but they couldn't find the owner's number."
A little bell went off in my head. This deal was becoming too drawn out. The Volkswagen Fairy doesn't like drawn out deals. It was time to buy the car or kiss it goodbye.
Mario agreed, so we called Mark and went directly to his work, where he met us in the lobby and filled us in on the story. This was not the first time he had experienced trouble with the Auto-stick torque converter, and he didn't want to pony up the money for that repair again.
So Mario said he'd buy it, but he could only give $500 for it. He was trying to Low Ball the deal. And that bell went off even louder this time. That's two things that the Volkswagen Fairy doesn't like - Dawdling and Low Ball. Mario could tell by the look on Mark's face that he wasn't very happy with the offer, so Mario offered to split the impound lot costs with him. Nobody had any idea how much those costs might be, so Mark went to call the impound lot and left us waiting there in the lobby.
And we waited. And we waited. And we waited.
After about 45 minutes, I told Mario, "You may have killed this deal." and he said that he was thinking the same thing. And we waited some more. And when Mark came back, it turned out that the impound lot wasn't going to charge him anything, but they said that there were two employees who wanted to buy the car. At the moment, however, both employees seemed to have sneaked off to the bar for a snort and they were not to be found.
So Mark sold the car to Mario, although he insisted on $600 and Mario caved in immediately, handed over cash money and they signed California title papers and that was that. Mario owned a Ghia.
And later on, going through the stack of receipts and documents for the car (including the original window sticker), we verified that Mark had paid on five different occasions to have the torque converter replaced. Indeed, that proved to be the problem again, the ring gear for the starter having pulled loose from the converter. But with a full day of work and ten cents of welding rod, Mario had that fixed.
These days, the Ghia lives up on Pelee Island, where the residents and tourists alike always wave when Mario drives it past. The Customs lady was amazed to find a spare engine in the trunk, and the local Canadian girls were equally amazed to discover that if you open the hood, the car has no engine whatsoever.
Over the years, I have come to believe that the single over-riding law of nature is best expressed as: "Goes Around - Comes Around." This law is a two-edged sword that cuts both ways. When folks say, "God bless you" or "God damn you", or when they talk about good luck or bad luck, they are talking about "Goes Around - Comes Around" without seeing the chain of cause and effect rippling down through time. The Volkswagen Fairy is merely one of many manifestations of this law.
A month or so after Mario bought the Ghia, Tom Schwendlemeyer called, saying he had just heard the story from Mark, and that months prior he had made a standing offer of $2000 for that car if Mark ever wanted to sell it. Still a steal at that price. But when push came to shove, Mark could not find Schwendelmeyer's phone number. And I believe that's the work of the Volkswagen Fairy as well, although Tom disagrees.
You see, the Volkswagen Fairy carries a magic wand. But she carries a nasty-ass club, too.
c 1996 Air Cooled Volkswagen Junkyard of Richfield, Ohio http://www.acvwjyro.com
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