The Commander

A few weeks ago, Kate and I were walking someplace in the neighborhood and she suddenly exclaimed, “Look, there’s the Commander.” Yes: a well-known local character. It’s a wreck of an old RV spruced up with red paint. It patrols the greater North Berkeley flatlands in search of parking places where the neighbors won’t raise a stink. It graced our street and others nearby last December. Then on Christmas Eve I saw the Commander chugging slowly away; I thought it looked kind of sad; but maybe it was off on an Xmas mission, delivering its own Yuletide treat to a soon-to-be-surprised homeowner.

Now, with winter long behind us, the Commander, which apparently hails from a Canadian RV maker, has migrated back to our block. Not all the neighbors are pleased with its reappearance. The police have been called. The Commander has been ticketed and towed. One guy up the street says he had an angry face-off after following the Commander’s commander to try to figure out where he lived (the owner doesn’t live in the RV, apparently, but ventures out from a more conventional domicile and moves his vehicle from place to place). Tensions run high in a place where some people have a deeply proprietary feeling about their native asphalt and others just can’t give up the romance of the open road. (Though now that you ask, no, I wouldn’t be especially thrilled to have this thing dumped in front of my house, either).

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