We are losing. The Magic Wrench.
There is mourning in Adams Morgan, they are dragged on Dupont Circle. The rumors, alas, are true. The Magic Wrench is moving to the Southern tip of Florida. We're stuck here with our cars. What are we going to do?
Ronny Rose - The Magic Wrench - is a wizardly mechanic. He works for friends, and friends of friends (and for their friends, too), repairing sick and broken cars for wonderfully low fees.
He lets you watch him work, he explains what he is doing, he reassures, he teaches. I have never seen him surly. The Magic Wrench is nice.
He works beside a garden, beneath a giant sycamore, in a small garage he rents on Upton Street NW. He lends his tools, he gives advice. If you are looking for a used car, he will help you shop. He sticks to a tight schedule. Cars brought in the morning are drivable that night.
Perhaps you know a lot about car-buretors, gaskets, perhaps the "service adviser" in the white coat ("Wait here") has never sent your car away into his mammoth garage ("We'll check it out and call you"). But even if you've never met an unscrupulous mechanic, you will appreciate our loss.
I remember, for instance, when my car first flunked inspection. The man in the white coat said repairs would cost $160. The Magic Wrench, instead, did the work for $17. Then there was the time the thing began to swallow oil: it let stains on the pavement, it used quarts and quarts. A hole in the engine? A perforated gasket? The Magic Wrench replaced the fitter and charged $0.00.
The Magic Wrench - and Bonnie, his placid black Great Dane - are at the shop at 9 a.m. The first customer, looks worried. He is a social worker, his name, is Tim McDermott. "Florida& It's true?" he asks. "What am I going to do? By a bicycle&"
The second, an attorney, seemed similarly distressed. "You want me to move to Florida?" said H.P. Goldfield.
The third customer, Dorothy Jackson, said: "I spent a morning with The Wrench and was most impressed. Not here, he paid a house call. The truck was dead on Ontario Road. He employed the empirical method. He checked the starter, the ignition system, the distributor, and he explained each step. It turned out to be the car buretor. We drove to 14th Streer, to a somewhat scuzzy shop, where we bought a new one, or rather a rebuilt one. it was a most enjoyable morning. The truck was good as new."
She had brought along a friend, a traveler in trouble, Geoff Mudaur, the musician, currently on tour. Muldaur, who had just completed a posh Connececticut Avenue engagement, had another date in Boston. He also had an instrument-and-amplifier-laden sick VW van.
The problem was a fuel pump. A replacement, it turned out, would cost Muldaur $60. "Too much," said The Magic Wrench who, instead, took out the old one, discovered what was wrong, and then drove to Bethesda for the needed $7 part. "Thank you," said Geoff Muldaur.
The Magic Wrench is 32. A former writer, former social worker, he used "to race old cars on the streets of Jersey."
The sign above his workbench reads:
Amazing and Peculiar
By The Magic Wrench
His Magic Wrench T-shirt, designed by his wife, Sheila, sports a colored butterfly, a symbol of the light touch. While working on the fuel pump, he discussed the California art world, Karl Lorch of the Redskins, and his "old Jersey car." "It was a 1956, four-door, five-color, eight-cylinder Chevy. Actually, it was a three-door. One was wired shut."
He discussed a dissatisfied customer. He had lost her keys. "What have you done to my car," she screamed." He talked to Florida and gardens and swimming with his dog.
The pump was reinstalled. The Magic Wrench was asked how, once he has gone, does one find another skillful, friendly, cheap, community mechanic.
"I don't know," he said.