The Fixer Upper

It was a sunny afternoon in Reedsport and Elmer the husky and I were on a walk through a neighborhood clustered with mobile home parks, one of the last options for affordable housing in rural areas of Oregon, but who knows how long that will last.

I was in a jaunty mood with my dog after a full day of researching Steve Prefontaine for an upcoming book and hitting some remote ocean beaches where Elmer went nuts and I thanked Tom McCall for his monumental role in preserving them for the public to use for free.

Down the street I noticed a hulking and dilapidated RV parked halfway on the sidewalk. No back license plates. A homeless rig either housing someone or abandoned, like they are all over Oregon in some of the strangest of places. (Entrance to Crater Lake National Park tops my list.) How people come to procure these battered rigs is the story of homelessness that currently fascinates me the most and I would love to make a documentary film about the subject.

What also fascinates me about this story is connected to something I observed with this rig: a power line was running from the rig to one of the trailers in the trailer park. Someone housed was rendering aid in the form of electricity, perhaps even water, and who knows else what. I see this kind of aid being rendered all the time. It is an almost totally undocumented story.

I have become a self-appointed expert on these kind of RVs and I speculated this one, named The Bounder, dated to the late 80s because of the design and color scheme (very Miami Vice).

The Bounder is one of my favorite names from the halcyon days of RV names from the 70s and 80s, names such as Diplomat, Vixen, Nomad.

Today’s RV names speak for themselves, and their era: Attitude, Volt, X-Streme! Maxx Ultra Lite. Torque.

We approached the rig from the rear and I thought about crossing the street because there wasn’t much room to pass it on the sidewalk. Then I saw the main door to the rig open and some cigarette or pot smoke twirl out. Someone was in there!

A story-gathering mood overtook me so Elmer and I made our way down the sidewalk. I stopped at the entrance and beheld a woman in her 70s sitting on the steps into the RV, dragging on a cigarette.

I said hello and she said hello. I peeked inside the rig expecting to see piles of shit,

It was completely empty, gutted down to the floors and walls!

I asked her about it. She told me she had ripped out everything except the kitchen sink. She was going to customize a 40-something old RV and make it her new home.

Oh to see that finished project!

She said she lived in the trailer park, and I got the feeling she was moving out because it was no longer affordable on her fixed income, although she didn’t say that.

One of her neighbors was letting her tap into power for various tools for the remodeling. Her place was too far away and the rig was too big to park in the park, so out on the sidewalk it had to go.

I asked her what year it was. Nineteen-eighty-six, she said. I told her I’d always loved the name Bounder and thought its logo of a crazy kangaroo with a crazy joey in the mama’s pouch was the best RV logo of all time. She smiled at that.

Elmer started getting impatient and I wished her good luck. Thirty yards away, I wheeled around: I had forgot to ask her how she had procured the Bounder! Fool!

I almost started to walk back and ask, but the moment had passed and I moved on. There will be many more times to ask this particular question.