An OLD YORKSHIREMAN IN NEW YORK. (6) Terror at the DMV. (Part One of two)

In Britain your driving license permits you to drive anywhere in the country.
And you don’t need to have to apply for a different license if you move from
one County to another, Yorkshire for example to say Surrey.
It’s not the same in the States. For some reason way beyond my ken, if you move from Massachusetts, as I did, to New York and New York State, then you have to apply for a new license.
You don’t, mercifully have to re-take your driving test, but you do need to go through all the pallava of going along to the DMV office and standing in one of those queues to be processed by the bureaucratic machine. I didn’t relish that when I first came to live in New York, but it was something that just had to be done so I could drive myself and the missus around occasionally, and get a break from her stunt-woman style of urban driving.

Actually going to the DMV, (Department of Motor Vehicles) in New York City. Something I’d dreaded, turned out a doddle compared to applying for a license on Cape Cod where I’d lived for the previous six years. But then there had been extenuating circumstances.

I don’t know why I needed a license on the Cape; after my marriage had broken up I didn’t have a car, just a bicycle which did for me for most local journeys, but for some reason I thought it was important, like becoming a real citizen, with a proper carbon footprint.
As with several other facilities like a hospital, the DMV office was situated on the mainland end of the Cape. Provincetown, where I lived was on the opposite far Eastern end, the Outer Cape. And it was all of a fifty-mile drive from P’town going South West to appear in person and apply for a license (I had to as I was a legal alien). So I had to find a lift.

At the time, I lived in an eccentric house high on a dune overlooking Cape Cod bay. It was an extraordinary place which had been owned over the years by various families of artists and craftsmen and fashioned outside and in, according to their creative whims. It was a magical place.

The family who owned it, lived away in Boston and other parts and only came to stay for a few short weeks at the beginning and at the end of the summer. I rented it from September to June and lived on the top floor.
It was a big old spooky house that creaked in the wind and had a labyrinthine interior, but I didn’t pass the winters there alone, just as well because it could be a creepy and lonely in the dark months. The house commanded a fantastic view and stood high up overlooking the sea.

The chap who lived there year-round on the ground floor was called Magnus. He was the son of the family who owned the place, when I arrived there he’d reached his mid-fifties. He didn’t work as such although he was always busy and lived there year round as a live-in caretaker.

He and his family considered themselves to be of Viking lineage, something over generations they’d expressed throughout the property in wood carvings and decoration, like the elaborately carved arch that framed the front door and the dragon that perched upon the roof of one of the outhouses which overlooked the drive and gardens and guarded the house.

Magnus was the epitomy of a Viking, at least in looks. He was a big broad man, very handsome with a weathered bronzed complexion. He looked as though he had he had sailed there from Greenland in an open boat as his ancestors had. He had bright blue eyes, a huge blonde beard, bushy blonde eyebrows and a great full mop of blonde hair; all he need was the helmet and a two-bladed axe and his own dragon ship to complete the total Viking look.

But Magnus was not interested in the the normal Viking pursuits of raping and pillaging and robbing monasteries. He was most of the time a gentle man, and child-like in his manner. He was a qualified naturalist, a would-be artist and a cellist. Yet every molecule of his six-foot two hundred and twenty pound frame was as eccentric and unique as the wonderful house that he looked after.

He also dabbled in taxidermy, an odd thing to dabble in really. Dabbling meant not always completing a piece, in fact I never did see anything he’d stuffed and completed. But in preparation of it, he’d been building up a collection of dead things to stuff that he kept at the back of the fridge. They lurked there behind the tins of pork and beans, the butter and the pickles.

Most of the critters which lived on there cryogenically, were road-kill that he’d peeled off Route Six and stuck in the fridge and forgotten about.
I hadn’t been there long when he invited me down for a beer and asked me to get a couple of cans. I couldn’t see any on the crowded shelf so pushed my hand to the back amongst the strangely aromatic left-overs, until I felt something cold and furry. That made me jump a bit, what the hell was it? I peered in and two dead black eyes peered back.

The surprise discovery, even with his explanation, made me feel like I had come to live in a potential slash and stuff movie- Psycho with an inert filling.
That was the day when I decided to buy and fix a stronger lock onto my interior door the one that he had access to from a spiral staircase from the ground floor.
Most of the time Magnus was charming and friendly, a gentle giant if there ever was one, but he had another side to him, besides that which was forgotten and frozen in the fridge.

As soon as I’d met him I guessed he didn’t have all the oars in his dragon boat, that after I’d witnessed him lose his temper about some imagined thing. Then I’d been was astonished to see how he seemed to grow like the ‘Hulk’ the madder he got, only Magnus turned red not green.

Then early on one day shortly after I’d moved in his brother’s wife, who was visiting told me that they had him stay at the house all year not so much to look after the house, but to keep him away from trouble.
Adding that he’d done serious damage to his brain when he was younger through overuse of certain mind-altering substances, and done it to such an extent that it had left him with a form of eruptive paranoid schizophrenia, which emerged from time to time. I think they were all a bit scared of him and I could see why. I decided I’d do nothing to bring the crazy Viking out of him.
Apparently she explained, that’s why his elderly father had wanted me to stay there, and why the monthly rent was so reasonable, because basically Magnus was a nut-case and they wanted me to keep an eye on him!
It wouldn’t have been so bad, if the chap had been a meek and mild midget, but he was a giant Viking!
Thank-God that for most of the time he was ok, but then some nights he’d have a little drink, smoke a little weed and whammo, Frankensteins’ Monster with horns on would appear! That’s when I double-locked my door and kept quite upstairs while he raved at the moon in the downstairs windows.

It was after such times when I discovered that he believed he was being spied on by the Government, They (the Government) kept an eye on him through his television set (I was alright because I didn’t have one ).
One time, and believe me I thought my end was nigh, he burst into my place and accused me of being planted there by them, a spy in his own home, funnily enough he wasn’t far wrong.
Luckily seconds earlier I’d I heard him pounding and bellowing up the spiral stairs, just like some monster in a Fairy Tale. So just in case, as he was cursing me and before he gott to my inlocked door, I quickly stuck a rolling pin down the back of my trousers, I don’t know what I’d have done with it, I suppose I could have brought him down with a sudden burst of recreational baking. But after all he was unpredictably deranged and quite possibly dangerous. Fortunately I did manage to calm him (and no we didn’t make pies), the only damage being self-inflicted as after he’d gone I plumped down on a wooden chair, forgetting what was stuck under my belt- and bruised my coxes!

But when Magnus was not acting crackers he was a friend who would do most anything to help me out. And as two outcast oddities we became quite close; for me it was a bit like having a crazy bear for a pal. For him, I was the eccentric English arty chap in the attic.

So anyway, back to me having this sudden urge to get a driving license. Magnus, generous chap that he was, offered to drive me all the way down the Cape in his beaten up old van.

Unfortunately, when we’d got there and waited in line for a while, watched I noted by a policeman at the back of the hall complete with gun, who was there no doubt to stop people shooting the place up if they failed the questions part of their driving test, when I got to the desk the woman on the counter, informed me that I did not have the full set of correct documents.
She explained when she got to the letter from the bank, saying that indeed I was who I was, had to be notarized, which it wasn’t. I had the letter, but forgotten to get it notarized.
Being rejected, and this was just to get the application forms, after our fifty-mile trip all the way down the Capes winding roads, was a bit of a bugger to say the least!
But worse than pleading with the lady on the counter, was the ride back with my pal Magnus the barmy Viking……

(to be continued in part two).

An OLD YORKSHIREMAN IN NEW YORK. (6) Terror at the DMV. (Part One of two)

John Sunderland

New York, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

What happened the first time I applied for a driving license in the U.S.

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