Sunday, February 26, 2017

My sister's book club is soliciting entries in an essay competition about "second chances" so I just wrote this:

As a one man band traveling from country to country and town to town all over Europe for twenty years in a rusty old camper van I had many a second chance. One particular one that comes to mind was back in 2005 when the Swiss police were going to confiscate my old 1978 Mercedes truck from me and compress it into a bale of iron and aluminum for recycling. I would also get to pay several hundred dollars in fines and fees to cover the costs.

I had been living in Big Baby(so named for the double Bs in the license number) for almost 18 years at the time and it was my home, full of all my worldly treasures and possessions. It was a wonderful truck which I bought in Holland from an old man who used it to sell “Ouldie Bouliches” a delicious Dutch pastry much like our beloved donuts. I had outfitted it with a bathroom, kitchen, dining room and bedroom as well as a corner to practice my one man band. It also had a fold up stage for me to perform on the side and an amazing terrace on the roof from which I enjoyed many a scenic view. It was an awesome truck but alas it was old and did not comply with the all the Swiss very strict regulations upon motor vehicles.
The police came knocking one day while I was parked in a beautiful spot one of Switzerlands many clear blue lakes. They had me follow them to an inspection station where my truck was deemed unworthy of Swiss roads.
The police were polite and civil enough. They gave me almost a week to empty my truck out. They had me park it on the parking lot of an unused railroad station in the nearby town of Solothurn. They took my plates and instructed me not to drive but I would be allowed to live in it while I figured out what to do with all my belongings.
I had no idea what to do though. I couldn’t legally buy another vehicle in Switzerland and even if I could rent a vehicle to salvage my one man band and all my possessions I really had no idea where to store them. I was really freaked out by this but luckily I was travelling with my faithful companion Jolly Olly, the always happy and friendly Swiss Appenzeller dog who helped keep me from total break down and despair.
As luck would have it, Olly struck up a friendship with a dog that lived in a house that bordered on the station parking lot. I got to conversing with his owner and of course told him all about my situation.
I had pretty much decided that I had not much other choice but to fill a backpack with a few carefully chosen things and find a friend who might let me and Olly stay for a while until I figured out what my next step would be. What made me saddest was that this could well have been the end of the Professor World Show, the one man band performance of mine that had made millions of people smile in so many countries for the past couple of decades. The crazy contraption that I built had grown into a giant music machine too big to schlepp around without a good sized truck. It would have to stay behind but I wanted to make one last show with it before it got squashed along with Big Baby.
The neighbor that I had been pouring my heart out to about all this was very sympathetic. He suggested that I could make a show right there on the empty parking lot to which I had been confined by the police.  He would bring all his neighbors and there was a home for handicapped children right nearby which could bring all their kids.
            And so it came to pass. What could well have been the very last Professor World Show took place in the empty parking lot of that abandoned railroad station the following Sunday afternoon. It was a wonderful show as well. The weather was warm and sunny . A good crowd of locals showed up as well as a dozen children from the nearby home for the handicapped. Everyone had a great time and when the hat was passed around for me the audience was more generous than I had ever dreamed possible.
            But the next day the police were scheduled to stop by and tow my truck to the wreckers. I was very sad but not for long. Some of the neighbors who were at the show interceded on my behalf and the police changed their minds. The next day they informed me that if I were to fix a couple of things with the steering and weld a few spots on the frame I would have another chance to take it through the inspection!
            I couldn’t believe my luck but it gets even better. I went looking for a mechanic right away and found a nearby garage and explained my situation to the owner. He took an immediate liking to me and Olly and offered his assistance. I would help out with the work and the only thing he would charge me was for the replacement parts. We set to work right away and with his unwavering assistance we soon got it through the inspection.
            Almost miraculously the Professor World Band was back on the road making people smile once again!
Moral of the story; Never lose hope. It ain't over til it's over!

Here's a couple of photos of Olly, my possibly last ever Professor World Show and the mechanic who helped me get Big Baby through inspection.


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