The Commander in Bondage


The Commander, a battered old Dodge RV that until a couple of months ago was a familiar habitué of local byways, is for sale. Big deal. But here’s the drama: The owner, a Berkeley denizen without fixed address (though not exactly homeless, since he had the Commander), made a reputation for himself in the neighborhood by stowing his vehicle wherever his fancy led him.

Naturally, it led him to park in front of a lot of houses whose residents started out annoyed when the Commander took up station at the curb and soon became irritated, if not hostile, with its owner’s habit of not moving until he’d been parked for the maximum 72 hours and gotten tagged with a warning to move or be towed. If the guy had been a sociable sort, maybe his more traditionally domiciled fellow Berkeleyans would have eventually cottoned to him and his semi-nomadic ways. It’s that kind of town, filled with that kind of people. But his general practice was to avoid all contact with the locals; those who managed to speak to him — your correspondent not being in this elite group — found him defensive and truculent in answer to most inquiries. Without putting too fine a point on it, the guy was a pain in the ass and apparently reveled in it.

Late last year, people from several blocks that furnished some of the Commander’s favorite resting places conferred with the neighborhood beat cop. It turned out that the Commander is big enough it qualifies as a commercial vehicle; under Berkeley ordinance, it was an infraction to park it on residential streets from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. The police, who had a file with more than 50 complaints about the Commander just from this little slice of Berkeley, agreed to come out and cite the vehicle every night that someone complained about its presence. The fine for each ticket is about $30. The bet was that the rapid accumulation of fines would force the Commander — for me, owner and vehicle became one — to find friendlier, or at least less complaining, environs.


He didn’t give up right away, though. He piled up lots of citations throughout November, reportedly went to court to try to get them thrown out, then temporarily departed the neighborhood before Christmas. He reappeared after the first of the year, and the same routine started. He got towed and paid to get his vehicle back. Then one night, after the Commander had been parked in one spot about a block from us for two weeks, the police arrived with a tow truck at about 4 in the morning. They hooked up the Commander — the owner climbed out of the back, where he’d been sleeping — and it was hauled off. Now it’s for sale. As is.

The owner has apparently been taken in by a friend a few blocks away. We’re all wondering if he’ll go to the wrecking yard that’s selling the Commander to try to buy it back.

One Reply to “The Commander in Bondage”

  1. Take up a collection to get him out of hock and turn him loose again. I’ll kick in twenty or thirty bucks. I’m sure the neighbors would be real happy to see the return of the Flying Dutchman. This thing is the four-wheeled version of that vacuum cleaner. It would be a shame to see it go the way of barrel staves.

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