Archive for the ‘Lighting’ Category

The Resurrection

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Last night I was back at Haunted Nightmare in Bothell for more screamy mayhem. I had already been through the haunted house the week before, and it was really, really scary. It was so scary, in fact, that I’m okay with admitting that I couldn’t handle a second helping. It’s a true compliment to the actors, who all did a great job of freaking out a girl who drives a car that’s supposedly full of ghosts.

The outside activities with other vendors proved to be much tamer. I managed to snap a photo of two lovely vampires before they tried to suck my blood:

Then I popped in one of my new DVDs and enjoyed some quality time in the back of Barbie while greeting passersby. I also turned on the undercarriage lights. And the LED strips in the back. And I was charging my phone. And my headlights were on.

A couple of hours later, I got a call from a friend in town for ZomBcon, so I decided to head over to Seattle Center to say hey. I hung up the phone, made a big production of announcing my departure, put the key in the ignition, and—And then NOTHING! Because my car wouldn’t start!

Like a total rube, I had drained my battery. Knowing I’d be running a bunch of electronics at once, I bought an Optima deep-cycle battery, so I was surprised it ran out so quickly. As I watched several of the living dead hit it with the jumper cables, I made a mental note to run the engine at least every hour when I’m hanging out.

Jody, the organizer of Haunted Night, commented on how funny it was for a hearse to die on the premises. Still worried about my battery, I much later realized the haunted house is inside an unused room at Planet Jump, a mini-mecca of inflatable bouncy houses. There’s so much in a name… this time, too much!

A trip to Midas after my regular stop at the Seattle Center Elephant Car Wash confirmed the battery was low, but nearly charged since I’d been running the engine so diligently henceforth. Another happy Halloween ending to what I hope will be my scariest true story about this coming holiday weekend.

What’s Been Going On

Friday, May 21st, 2010

As far as this site is concerned, I’ve been suffering from delusions of grandeur. I keep thinking I can still be the internet demon you know and love while my mobile dance card continues filling up. I’ve been having a great time driving Barbie this month, but you wouldn’t know it unless you’re like the folks in the Seattle area pinging me with random sightings on Facebook. (I enjoy reading those, by the way. Keep ’em comin’!)

In addition to writing about good times and fun, I also want to add a bar of links to the top of my site for easier navigation and to have the homepage redirect to an intro about me and the car instead of this news feed. You wouldn’t believe how fucking hard that is to communicate to someone. If I sit down and mess with it myself, it’ll get done, but it’ll take me longer than someone who does this for a living. And yet, I don’t really feel like paying $400 for a single navbar addition to a stripped-down version of my current site.

So, quick info-seekers, I apologize. For now, you’re getting a blog… an infrequently updated blog these days. I apologize for that too.

Here’s some stuff that happened:

SEAF
I drove VIP guests to the Artists’ Reception of the Seattle Erotic Art Festival. To sum it up, being a sponsor was FUN, and it was even sweeter because I got to bring some friends along. I managed to post a few photos between dressing up to attend the event for the next two nights. On Saturday, I was interviewed by a thin black man in drag named Ronaldo for a SEAF compilation video. Stay tuned to see how that went. I’m on pins and needles… and the pain is turning me on, dammit!

Barbie Dream Bike
I used the tips I made from driving SEAF guests to buy a used pink and white Kula bike from Belltown Pull Apart. If you’d rather pedal than put your feet up, I highly recommend talking to these guys. They customized my bike, and I bet they’ll do it for you too! Tell ’em Barbie sent ya!

Barbie Dream Condo
That’s right, I’m moving on up… the Hill. I came thisclose to moving to Capitol Hill, but First Hill is the devil I know. Fortunately, there’s more up there than the hell hole I survived in 2008, and I am happy to say my new place has everything, including an extra-long parking spot for Barbie! I don’t get three parking spasses like my old garage, but I’m also not paying through the nose to park in Belltown, so I’m pretty stoked about that.

Changing the Oil
Flushing out Barbie was long overdue, I’m embarrassed to admit. Thankfully, the guys at Zahntech Automotive were happy to help. I got the afterhours ringside special to see how it was all done. I hadn’t seen the underside of my car before and appreciated getting a rundown on the different parts I was looking at.

Visiting Vashon
One of the best things about living in Seattle is being able to drive onto a ferry and drive through one of its many neighboring islands in under an hour. Vashon is the home of the lead docent at SEAF, my initial cold contact that started the whole thing. She and I were in search of hearse curtains, but we ended up finding random stuff for my house and running into (figuratively!) a friend of hers who drives Vashon’s own version of the Barbie Dream Hearse. It’s a laid-back, no-frills ride home for the drunks, operated by a lady at least twice as cool as I am. That’s island life!

Auburn Wine and Caviar Company
I had a great time promoting my car at this diamond in the rough. The owner, Jim, is another friend made through SEAF, and I’d be happy to offer discounts to Seattlites wanting to visit his shop.

Chris Petty and Gramps Benefit Bash
Like I needed another excuse to hang my back end out of a tiny curbside space in front of the Comet! A bad car accident left Chris temporarily wheelchair-bound, so we got to test Barbie’s handicap accessibility. With a little help from my new pal Hilary, she passed with flying colors!

Here’s what’s coming up:

T-shirts
Mens and womens! Large and small! Goofy and serious! Please buy one! The womens shirts have the Barbie star logo featured on my Facebook fan page. The mens shirts are black with the regular logo (the banner on this site) and a catchy slogan that’s lewd if you’re lucky.

Flyers
Eli took a break from being an awesome new mom and was an awesome old friend for knocking this one out for me. They’re being printed now. I can’t wait to paper the town with these!

Lights
I’m getting an underbody kit and some rope lighting for the interior rear cabin thanks to Justin at Oznium.com. These will definitely brighten things up a little!

Corey’s Birthday
The new Evo in an old limo… that’s how we roll.

Fashion Show
I’ll be sponsoring the “Black” Rocker Diva Fashion Show and gracing the catwalk as a model. What could possibly go wrong? (I’m guessing they’ll supply the first two rows of the audience with raincoats, in case I get all Gallagher with it.)

Movie
The Barbie Dream Hearse has been asked to take part in the revelry of a group of marathon beer-drinkers, and I’m more than happy to come out and play. I’m not sure where we’re going or what we’re doing, but hey, neither are they.

Short Summary: The Suitcase Challenge is a documentary that follows five friends as they proceed to drink 24 beers EACH within 24 hours. While there can be only one winner, there can be millions of antics. This feature-length documentary features an array of Seattle icons including the Morphsuit Dancers and the Fremont Solstice Parade and Festival, not to mention a soon-to-be-named scooter gang.

Pictures
“Hey Kat, you know what you should do? You should take some pictures of yourself with the car.” This advice never stops being great. Please also advise a photographer to shoot me for free, the weather to be perfect, my skin to be flawless, my hair to be full and shiny, and my body to remain a size six. When those stars are aligned, you’ll be seeing quite a bit more of this star. (I’m talking about me.)

****

Okay, that’s a lot of stuff, and I know I forgot something. I also have some car pictures that need to be uploaded, sized, and shooped before they’re posted. If you made it this far, thanks for reading, and here’s hoping June allots me a tad more time to break up my updates into more delectable, digestible morsels!

Sample Stars

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

I spent last night writing an epic email to Stereo Masters, the place I visited while in search of a head unit. I talked on the phone with the same guy I saw a month and a half ago, and he actually remembered me, my car, and my head unit questions. He asked me to put everything that’s happened so far in writing. While it took some time to organize the information for him, it was all there thanks to my diligent blogging. (Who said these things were worthless?)

His response was quick and direct, which I appreciate. Unfortunately, he could only be as helpful as possible without actually helping me. Whoever works on this is going to want to start over. Since he knew I’m at a late enough stage not to want to cut my losses yet, he suggested I get a third party (i.e., a lawyer) to create a contract. So I spent some time thinking about how I want to approach that one.

Most lawyers give free consultations, and I want to be able to do it in person. This means I have to put my trip to Austin on hold and probably also spend some time figuring out a place to stay for at least a little longer while I straighten this out. Come hell or high water, I don’t not want to let this project make me ugly to the people who were just trying to help me.

I was surprised to find a message from Admir today, not too long after my morning run. He had samples ready for me to view. That was fast, considering how long I’ve been waiting for every other little thing he’s had to show me. I knew that this visit would be accompanied by an uncomfortable conversation, but I’m glad to have it out of the way.

He had changed his mind again and decided not to drill holes in the tinted glass. Instead, he put a layer of black, porous, heat-resistant hard foam between the light and the tinted glass and another layer of hard foam behind the cables. Each layer of foam is about three-fourths of an inch thick and surely cheaper than the piece of clear plexiglass that was supposed to go over the tinted piece, but that issue is minuscule compared to the other issues I have with him.

The sample headliner piece is two square feet. The left side as shown below had about 30 stars in blue and white scattered about an inch or two apart (cool). The right side had eight stars with a “shooting star” effect, which comprised of thin, wispy lines trailing the sparsely scattered points of light (shitty).

The picture I took has some glare from the window. But I think it’s quite obvious which side I expected to resemble the end result. He kind of tried to sell me on the shooting star idea, but I think it looks weak. And at this point, I don’t trust this guy to baby-sit my pet cockroach.

When he was done with his spiel, I told him why. I said I would consider buying another engine… online at one-fourth the price. He sat there dumbfounded. I told him that the product I found online was identical to the one he had purchased, and while I’m here, how about we count the cables coming out of this “custom built” engine he bought with my money?

Yep, there were five bundles of 30 cables, just like the one I found online. The person who sold Admir this part told him that he custom-made this thing with 250 cables. Again, as with everything else so far, why am I the one who has to point this stuff out?

I’m really annoyed that he even attempted for a second to make me take some of the responsibility for his mistake. He said something along the lines of “Well, I told you what it was going to be and you said you didn’t want spend a lot of time learning about this stuff.” First of all, I’m taking a much more active role in the customization of this car than almost any customer with my background has ever taken. Second, I shouldn’t have to learn anything. I should be able to rely on his expertise and trust that he’s going to make good decisions. Third, it’s now readily apparent that he is still learning about this stuff… ineffectively and at my expense.

This totally sucks, and I need to lawyer up. I explained that I would not give him any more money until I had a third party create a contract that will protect all of our interests (but given recent events, mostly mine). He made a flat-out poor decision that anyone with experience would have known not to make, and I can’t trust him with any more cash.

He had some more prices on the remaining items I need for my sound system. I wrote everything down so I can research the parts online myself. He had this semi-indignant attitude of “Well if you think you can do better, be my guest.” I had to briefly explain that I don’t want this kind of stuff to be up to me. I’m paying him to be able to get the parts he needs and put them in my car. He has shown me that he is not resourceful enough to do this on his own, so I have no choice.

He also told me about how much labor was going to be, which I am finding an almost laughable topic to broach at this point because I feel like I’ve been holding his hand the entire time. I have the money and don’t mind paying… if the work is done as expected. So yeah, the time to involve a lawyer is long overdue.

I would never say this to someone’s face, but he’s lucky I don’t sue his ass. This is negligence. But there’s not much I can do about it at this very moment, since it’s Saturday evening and most of the lawyers I know are getting ready to booze it up like professionals.

Timelines, Accountability, and a New Spot for the TV

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Today was a somewhat of a D-Day. My car has been in Francisco’s lot for exactly eight weeks. I am sick of being asked when the car will be done, and consequently, he and Admir are sick of me asking them when the car will be done. So I called a meeting in attempt to answer this burning question.

I called Francisco this morning and asked him to have Pablo come pick me up, and would he mind if we stopped by Central Auto Sound to pick up my head unit? Pablo and I talked about our families on the way to Art’s shop. He told me about his daughters moving back to Mexico because they didn’t like it here.

Art was around and not busy, and I was surprised to find him so interested in the status of my car. He asked thoughtful, detailed questions that I would not expect (and haven’t gotten) from someone who hasn’t seen me in awhile. I explained to him my frustration with the lack of established timelines and accountability I was seeing. I didn’t think I was going to have to manage this project on the intimate level I was about to. Art said he’d “light a fire under Admir’s ass,” which is all well and good, but I made it clear that I didn’t go over there to tell on him. (I did not make clear, either, that I went over there to retrieve my head unit because no one was keeping an eye on it.) I left Art’s shop feeling slightly empowered, like I had a knowing party to practice on before I delivered my hammer-dropping speech.

I may look like I’m on vacation wearing my giant sunglasses and floral print tube top, but I don’t feel like it in the slightest. Every day, I wake up feeling frustrated and without recourse as time ticks by and I don’t have a car to drive. I told myself at the beginning of the Barbie Dream Hearse blog that I would write only about the car, the mechanics and perhaps the business. I didn’t want to get personal.

But after eight weeks with no clear end in sight, this project has gotten seriously personal. I can’t reasonably move anywhere and establish myself professionally and socially until this is done. I want a permanent home, job, and friend-base right now more than anyone can imagine. I have been staying at the apartment of a man with whom I am not romantically involved. I have been traveling to other cities periodically in attempt to stay out of his way. My friend did a really nice thing allowing me to stay at his place for so long, but eight weeks is an incredibly long time to spend with anyone. He didn’t sign up for this, and frankly neither did I.

I explained the situation to Francisco and Admir as best I could without sounding upset. I told them we needed to establish timelines and an order of operations to make sure that no more time is wasted. I’m sure plenty of cars have spent much longer in the shop to have much less work done on them than mine, but that’s not important now. If I had known it was going to take this long, I would have rented an apartment month-to-month, and perhaps bought a beater-car that I could ditch here when the project was done.

I’m not going to lie, at one point I almost lost it. Frank and Admir were being understanding and light with the excuses, which I appreciated. While it’s not their fault that I am homeless and not local, I told them this before I turned over the car. I tried to explain my living situation in such a way that it was strictly a list of facts and they could draw their own conclusion about how much it sucks, and for a brief moment I choked and couldn’t say anything. I concentrated on not breaking down into some weepy pile of shit that would gain me some short-term sympathy but no one could ever respect again. Then Admir politely attempted to finish my sentence and a strange wave of relief washed over me. And then I got the status and set a schedule.

The A/C tubing is in place:

And the wiring is 80 percent done:

There are a few more shots of the contents of my future amp rack in the photo album. In addition to all the wiring, you can see the A/C tubing going from the front and up into the car. Now for everything else.

Who What How Long
Admir Last 20 percent of A/V wiring 0.5 day
Frank Padding/carpet 3 days
Frank Cover side panels 3-4 days
Admir Hang the headliner 0.5 day
Frank Put in molding to fit the headliner 1 day
Frank Build rear-facing seats (wood and fiberglass) 4 days per seat (8 days)
Admir Put amp rack under rear-facing seats (only the base needs to be done) 1 day
Frank Build right-facing benches 5 days per bench (10 days)
Frank Build divider 3 days
Frank Assemble components 5 days
Frank Fit components 3 days

These estimates are approximate, but they made me feel a lot better than I did before we talked about them. This conversation opened the floodgates for finding out which tasks were contingent on other tasks being done. It all needed to happen, and now I can have a realistic expectation for a completion date. I’m crossing my fingers for the beginning of July. I’m almost cringing as I write this because I know it’s going to be a little longer than that.

Also, I’m second-guessing my planned placement of the TV. I was going to put it on the left side, but then it’s going to be hard to view from the rear-facing seats, which are the best seats in the car. I have two options, both of which will probably provide a better viewing experience, but I can’t decide which is best.

a) A 19″ mounted TV on the back door. We could make it secure enough so it doesn’t jiggle around as long as I can keep my use of that door to a minimum. I would be able to remove the TV too. In fact, I probably wouldn’t even buy one until I got where I was going.

b) Two 10″ embedded TVs. I think this would look nicer, but I’m afraid they might be too small. The viewing distance will be about five feet.

Maybe I’ll take a poll. I’m not going to be sitting back there much.

Not Fast Enough

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

Yesterday there was some minor drama involving some “miscommunication” among major players. I hate that word, but it’s a great corporate copout when you don’t want to point fingers. Suffice it to say, someone said someone else told him to start working on something Thursday, even though it is decidedly feasible for work to begin earlier. This particular someone is getting a little sick of my car being in his lot and told me he said no such thing, and I believe him. It sounds like someone wants to slack and blame his procrastination on someone else.

I really don’t like being lied to.

Admir came by again to show me a tinted piece of glass called Lexan that he wants to use for my ceiling lighting. At first, he said the Lexan would be the glass covering the lights. WTF? Why would I bother getting Very Expensive lighting if I was just going to put it behind tinted glass?

So after some circular discussion, we decided on a clear acrylic glass. From the beginning, we talked about using plexiglass, but acrylic is a little cheaper and easier to bend. This is good because my roof and ceiling have a slight curve.

We’re also going to put a large sheet of accumat, a sound-deadening insulation, between the ceiling and the roof. I think that’ll make the car more pleasant to ride in and passengers won’t get that harsh jarring feeling every time a door shuts.

The thing that’s weird, that I may need to discuss some more (gag) is the tinted glass being used to flush with the lighting instead of fabric. Fabric made sense to me, since it would cover the cables and stretch and bind according to where the lights poked through. I don’t want any part of the cables to be showing that aren’t shining light, and glass is, ya know, see-through.

I’m getting really sick of dealing with this, since it wasn’t even part of the plan anyway. And what annoys me even more is that throughout our discussions, I’ve been the one drawing the diagrams, doing the math (crazy, I know), and making sure the plan is logical.

I haven’t even owned a car in years, let alone built a custom ceiling for one. I SHOULDN’T BE DOING THIS.

Here’s what I hope is a somewhat accurate representation of the arrangement of components to my ceiling galaxy:

Of course, getting all this stuff apparently just occurred to him, so there’s going to be a slight wait for the ceiling parts too. I’m going to have to call him tomorrow and light a fire under his ass to list absolutely everything he’s going to need to complete this, and also the wiring for the cameras and stereo. I shouldn’t have to tell him to do this, but his lack of organization is causing my trust in him to evaporate at warp speed.

Some of you might think I sound like a heinous bitch right now. The guy is doing the best he can, right? All I can say is if you knew how much this is going to end up running me (in time as well as money), you’d get it.

Lights… Camera… Now Let’s Have Some Action

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

The fiber optic cables and accompanying engine were delivered last week, so Admir can finally start working on this ceiling galaxy we’ve been carrying on about for so long. If it were a progress-blocking issue, I would have lost interest and told him to forget it by now. But considering the fact that Francisco doesn’t have the materials he needs to make the necessary components, like seats, we might as well do some pimpin’ in the meantime. So Admir came by yesterday afternoon for a quick show-and-tell and to answer my usual endless stream of questions.

The control box itself was surprisingly small, about 1.5 by 2.5 by 5 inches. Admir said he was expecting something much bigger, but the guy who made it said that for such a small area (roughly 9 by 5 feet), we wouldn’t need much power, or even that many cables. The final result is a 9 V box connected to 12 feet of fiber optic cables, which will keep the heat level down considerably. There are about 250 individual cables bundled together, and right now they only light up at the ends.

Admir said that he’s going to cut a few notches in each cable to distribute points of light throughout them. For example, if he cuts 3 notches in each cable, we then have an extra 750 lights, plus the initial 250 at the ends. I hope Admir can do this up nice because the fiber optics dealer recommended about 20 lights per square foot. We have bit of room for some practice cuts, but not too much.

When the lights are ready to be hung, they’ll be poking through a thick but breathable black cloth and covered with a sheet of plexiglass about one-eighth of an inch thick. We also talked a little bit about where the air vents and cameras would go in relation to the ceiling, since the the vents are going to run along the side opposite the vertical bench seating, and we’re going to place a camera in the rear cabin so I can always see what’s happening.

Right now the box is programmed to fade from blue to white and back over the course of about 20 seconds. I’d also like the ability to make them simply glow and manually toggle between white, blue, and off. Admir said he could open the box and reprogram it, which makes me a little nervous, mostly because I told him what I wanted a few times over the phone, and he should have just told the guy making the box in the first place.

Anyway, here’s a picture of how the box came to us:

I’m aware of the contradictory “LED” labeling, since we explicitly decided against using LEDs.

And here’s a picture of me being pissed that my car isn’t anywhere near done yet:

Revisiting a larger version of that picture, I think I look downright scary. It kind of reminds me of that low grumble my dog Zoey makes when she’s about to put the smack down on another animal. I’m definitely not that tough, but something needs to happen.

Pretty Cool

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Today I went over to Francisco’s shop to see how the car was coming along and meet Andy the A/C guy. Although Admir and Frank mentioned splitting one of the A/C ducts and routing it to the back, I wanted to have a more in-depth (and in-person) conversation about my options, so Frank called Andy.

Andy told me that with the single-compressor system I have now, it takes about 4-5 minutes to cool the front of the car and it would take 15-20 to cool the back. His solution was to put another unit in the back, which would fit width-wise across the back of the car, hang down 6 inches, and stick out 12 inches. He would probably take a unit from a Suburban, Tahoe, or Escalade and fit it to my car.

Admir really doesn’t want to do this. I wish he could have been around while Andy was explaining all this to me, but he had another job run long and couldn’t make it. Admir thinks it’s going to require too much power in exchange for very little benefit. Since the weather in Seattle doesn’t get particularly hot or cold (just wet), I’m leaning toward splitting a duct.

So on Monday, Admir is going to head over to Francisco’s and split one of my car’s air ducts and route it to the back so I can see for myself how long it takes for the back of the car to get cold. Since a divider hasn’t been made yet (or even invoiced yet, which makes me kind of uneasy), he’s going to hang some kind of thick blanket between the two sections of the car as a mock divider.

From what I understand, no matter what I do, I’m going to need 7 pounds of freon to cool the entire car, versus the 3 pounds of freon in the average unit. I was also informed that I should change the type of freon I’m using from R12 to 134A, which is newer, cheaper, and better for the car. The more you know…

The car doesn’t look that different from last time. Francisco pulled out the dash so Georgie, the dash-decal guy, could measure the wood-paneled parts to make covers for them. I will probably only deal with him through Francisco, since the finished dash is contingent on his covering the rest of it with the pink vinyl. When I go back on Monday to test Admir’s hypothesis, I’ll also pick out a shade of black to cover the woody parts.

But right now, it’s just wiry and naked:

Full frontal nudity:

In other news, Admir is still researching how best to do the ceiling. He met with someone in Burbank who would put fiber optic lights on top of a board, but instead of covering them with a thin layer of plexiglass, he wanted to use some kind of clear paste. Admir said it looked cheesy and I said that reminded me of the popcorn spray they put on apartment ceilings in lieu of leveling the texture to make them look nice. A guy in Florida is sending us a catalog of home theater lighting options that Admir and I will go through together on Monday, I hope.

My head unit was delivered to Art at Central Auto Sound, so I need to call him and make sure it wasn’t lost or stolen.

It’s going to be cheap and easy to make armrests for the two rear doors. The door handles themselves will be cheap, but the labor will be expensive. I want to put curtains in the windows, so I’m thinking of foregoing the idea of windows rolling down and just concentrate on doors opening. You can only roll down the rear windows halfway in most cars anyway.

As some hearse enthusiasts know, a few models have suicide doors, where the rear doors open on the opposite side. My car doesn’t have suicide doors as you can see from the outside. However, since the two full rear seats face the back instead of the front, the rear doors will open as if they were suicide doors. It’s not good or bad, I was just thinking about it…

Here’s an example of a car with suicide doors from outside the Viva Car Show in Las Vegas earlier this month:

Status: Bad

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

I met up with Admir before going to Vegas last week, gave him some money to get started on the lighting, and went along my merry way. Knowing that I returned last night, he conscientiously called this morning to let me know the status. The status is bad.

No one wants to sell him the fiber optic lights to make the galaxy on my ceiling, reason being the vendors can’t give me a warranty on them if I’m not putting them in a stable structure like a home theater. Much like the LEDs, they could go out if I hit a bump in the road or thump my bass too much. Plus, Admir measured the cargo space in my car to be about 4.5 by 9 feet. These guys usually sell this stuff in bundles of strands that cover 20 square feet, since it’s meant to go in rooms, not cars.

Another issue is the heat. There was talk of getting an inverter and a separate cooling fan just for this unit. Admir doesn’t think we’re going to need as much power as these guys do, who again are using to working with larger quantities of this stuff. I said I wasn’t against adding stuff if that’s what we need to do, but he thinks it’s going to make the startup procedure long and annoying, and it will be an even bigger bitch to fix if something breaks.

However, Admir may have a potential seller in Simi Valley, about an hour northwest of here. We’re going to do a conference call tomorrow, but I’d like to meet with him face-to-face. Scratch that. It is imperative that I meet with him face-to-face. Art didn’t want to deal with me at all until he saw me and the hearse in the flesh and metal. This is an even bigger challenge. I need people to talk candidly with me about this stuff and being on the phone adds a layer of uncertainty. Even as Admir talked to me this morning, he seemed a little unsure of why I was asking for so much clarification. I had to explain that I wasn’t doubting his expertise, but that I was writing everything down so I understand exactly what we are doing and why.

Barbie was a doctor, a nurse, a pilot, a flight attendant, a model, a photographer, a Nascar driver, and a backseat whore. And now in addition to being some kind of scientist (what, are you saying computer programming isn’t fun and sexy?), she’s also a hardcore CYA tech writer.

This afternoon I went to see how Francisco and his people are doing. When I arrived, one of his guys was ripping out the rug up front. The back is nearly bare, but they still need to cut out the frame that the casket deck was resting on. This was my first real sight of the giant metal hump in the middle of the back that encases the rear axle. I was forewarned it would be huge and no one was lying. It’s fine. I’ll put a table with some cupholders in the middle or something.

My one-track (yet somehow aimless) thoughts of the hearse coupled with my talking to Admir this morning had me thinking about some other big issues: rear A/C, rear doors that open, and rear windows that roll down. In all the excitement of buying and taking apart the car, I neglected to consider that I now have more than one rear to think about.

The A/C issue is manageable, Admir assured me. Francisco later confirmed that we could reroute the ventilation by putting a fork in the air duct so one tube goes to the front and the other to the back. This method would save me from having to get a separate compressor for the back, but I would have to control everything from the front. I was a little worried about passengers not having air controls, but I figure anyone I’d be driving around should be comfortable enough to talk to me, so asking me to turn on the A/C shouldn’t be a big deal.

What worries me a little more are the lack of handles on the rear doors. That seems like a safety issue that could make someone mad enough to sue me if they wanted to be a dick. Same with the windows. It’s not even a lawsuit issue, but I’m not sure I’d be comfortable riding in a car where I didn’t at least believe I had the ability to escape. Having ridden with enough drivers who don’t know how to disable backdoor child locks, I am familiar with the annoyance of not being able to simply exit a car myself once it stops. Even though I want my passengers to ride like they’re in a limo, meaning I open the door for them, I still don’t want people feeling claustrophobic.

One thing that is clearer than it was before I left is where to put the subwoofers. Having torn out all of the back panels, it’s apparent that we have enough room to put two 8-by-10-inch subwoofers directly inside the body of the car, right next to the two rear doors. I won’t need to get special boxes for them; we’ll just insulate them with sound-deadening material. At some point, someone had mentioned the idea of putting them in little caskets. That would be cute, but a spacial nightmare, so I’m cool with this idea.

Another thing I had to discuss with Francisco is the plastic wood-paneling (yeah, I know) in the dash. Appearing alongside black and pink, that’s gonna look like shit. He said he’d have to special order some custom stickers to put over it, but I said go for it. Dashboards aren’t made of wood. Save the wood-looking stuff my dream hearse’s bastard cousin, the station wagon.

So now it’s on Francisco to get estimates for the new additions to the dash and front armrest controls, adding new armrests to the rear and wiring them, and rerouting the A/C ducts to the rear. Sheesh. Glad I gave myself some wiggle-room on finances. I’m just hoping these are the last of the big surprises.

I was probably counting on them more than I should have when discussing what I wanted done. Of course, very few people have done this, so it’s hard to think of everything. But since it’s my car, they’re working for me, and I need to communicate what I want, I’m literally and figuratively in the driver’s seat (har).

All this questioning, prioritizing, and pushing-back makes me feel like I’m becoming like some of the managers I’ve encountered in the corporate world. You know, those managers: the ones that come out of nowhere, having no idea what you do or how things work, and still take it upon themselves to control every single aspect of every task. They don’t give anyone else any credit or leeway to accomplish things on their own. So then everyone feels crusty and undervalued, but instead of resolving things or leaving, they usually slack because they know someone will be riding their ass at every opportunity anyway.

I DON’T want to be that guy!

It’s a different situation, I know. I’m a customer who’s paying them. Word on the street (or at least in this apartment) is that I’m being a little hard on myself. That may be, but I also need to take some responsibility here; I don’t want to be the reason something isn’t done correctly. I’m sure I’ll strike a balance by the time the project ends. Sooner would be nice.