New Heathens

The Frankenraisin, 1999 – 2012

This post pains me to write, but I wanted to eulogize my one-of-a-kind car that finally succumbed to old age last week.

She was known by a sobriquet, "The Frankenraisin."

The story that sums her up the best is in this blog post from 2009 called, "The Hooker and the Frankenraisin."  It still cracks me up.

She was the car that rock 'n' roll tried to kill but couldn't. She died in the line of duty to journalism, white smoke billowing out of her engine last month on the Palisades Parkway. When a semi-truck rear-ended her on the New Jersey Turnpike in 2005, crunching the trunk into folds of scrunched metal, my insurance company declared her a complete loss. The truckers' insurance compensated me for her blue book value, which just so happened to be the the same amount I needed to make the first New Heathens record. Functional trunk, 0r first album? Really, which one did I want more?

The car's wrinkled appearance earned her the nickname, "The Raisin."

In 2008 a city bus crunched her driver's side door, rendering it inoperable. The catalyst for her next metamorphasis wasn't the inconvenience of crawling in and out through the passenger side, with the corollary of draining several batteries after I left my headlights on and there was no more warning ding. I simply started getting too many tickets for "driving an unsafe vehicle." One cop curbed me in Queens and said, "I pulled you over because your car is a disaster, are you aware that your car is a disaster?"

No officer. I wasn't. I swear.

The money I saved sticking with the Raisin allowed me to pay to finish the New Heathens' second record, Hello Disaster. But it wasn't until a manic journalism buddy turned me on to a fantastic mechanic in Newark that the car truly blossomed.

I've said it here before and I'll say it here again, Matt Popola at Paddy's Service Station in Newark is a mechanical alchemist. I attribute approximately 130,000 miles, and seven extra years of life -- remember, this was a car that was once pronounced "a total loss" -- to him. Most of his machinations were done under the carriage and under the hood, with two notable exceptions. Needing a functional trunk and driver's side door to avoid tickets, I asked Matt if he could fix my car as economically as possible. A day later, he called me and said he had good news and bad news.

"The good news is I found you a new door and a new trunk," he said. "The bad news is the door is green and the trunk is silver."

The rest of the car, mind you, was dark red.

Matt found the spare parts by calling workers at junkyards, and then in the lab-like garage space at Paddy's Service Station, he fused them to my car, ressurrecting her.

Running with the analogy that junkyards are like graveyards, and their workers are like Igors serving mad, automotive doctors, the scene was like a four-wheeled adaptation of a Mary Shelley novel.

My car got a new nickname, "The Frankenraisin!" It's AAALIIIIIVE!

Upon first laying eyes on my car Greg Duffin, who engineered the first New Heathens record, quipped, "Oh, it's a custom." Yes, she was. Custom made and one-of-a-kind. She made an entrance and she left an impression. Other drivers had to worry about getting their cars stolen. Not me. Other drivers lost their automobiles in parking garages. Not me. Quite simply, there was nothing else on the road quite like the Frankenraisin.

She could dress up too. Once I won a prize at a party for having the best "CAR-sage." (For the record, I did the paint-job myself.)

One crazy night after a gig at CBGBs, New Heathens guitarist Domenick Tiziano and I drove the wrong way through the Lincoln Tunnel from Manhattan to New Jersey, stone sober! Not only did we not die, I even beat the ticket.

That was the exception not the rule. I paid thousands -- probably more than $10,000 -- in parking tickets, moving violations and tow fees in the nine years I owned the Frankenraisin. I was even driving her the one and only time I got arrested and spent the night in jail, a miserable 26-hour cycle through New York City's infamous Tombs. I managed to get out just in time to go play a gig and smash a guy's guitar. True story.

(At some point I'll send an open letter to the City of New York suggesting that it would be in their financial interests to give me a replacement car, that way they can go back to collecting the proceeds from my tickets. Since I have no car right now, that means I'm paying no tickets and a major source of revenue for the city has dried up. Think about it.)

The Frankenraisin was a tactical missile, deployable anywhere on the Eastern Seaboard -- wherever rock 'n' roll and/or journalism was needed. Provincetown, Massachusettes? There. Columbia, South Carolina? En route. Central Pennsylvania? Done and done.

Thanks to regular visits to Paddy's Service Station, she was dependable. First time she ever got towed was less than a year ago.

But just like the rest of us, the Frankenraisin got old. She was rode-hard-and-put-to-bed-wet. I think Matt took it harder than me when that last run on a breaking news story revealed a warped head gasket, just above a transmission that was held together with nothing much more than grease, road grit and optimism.

She would've been 14 this January. She ran 198,000 miles.

So now I'm on the market, friends. The Frankenraisin, obviously, can never be replaced. But in her spirit I'm looking for something hard-charging and dependable. Looks don't matter. Don't worry, I'll find a way to cram a 200-pound bass amp, a drumset and four guitars in the back. I'll also find a way to ensure she can run to Atlanta if need be.

Hoping to pay something in the range of one-to-two month's rent. Toyota maybe? I hear that like Glenn Close and Anthrax spores, Toyotas just never die.

If you know of something, please contact me at nateschweber (type the "at" symbol here -- I'm doing this to avoid spam) gmail (you know the drill, type a "dot" here) com

In the meantime, Farewell Frankenraisn! Rock 'n' Roll Animal Lou Reed -- whose own speed-seared visage has been compared to Frankenstein -- defiantly declared in 1975, "My week beats your year."

Well, a Frankenraisn mile beats your year, too.

Frankenraisin's last ride.

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