One block from Norris Square Park in Kensington, Lola peeks out of a garage onto Hancock Street. David Perry purchased Lola, a 1982, powder blue Volkswagen Vanagan in 2009 to join Ed, a 1975 Volkswagen Bus he found on an abandoned lot and bought from a neighbor the year before.
Both vehicles reside in “Garage Mahal”, a warehouse restored by Perry and his partner Stan Gable. Perry initially bought the property to fix up his motorcycles, but he says many see Mahal as an underground venue since the two began inviting the community in for music events. The space boasts a kitchen, lounge, game room, stage and nine motorcycles, and is home to the two Volkswagens, Lola and Ed.
After a rainy camping year in 2009, the men decided they needed to upgrade their tent. That’s when Perry found Lola for sale online; a camp-mobile that can sleep four, equipped with a sink, stove, and microwave and a bounty of storage compartments.
In their heyday, Volkswagen buses were cheap, made for the traveling lifestyle.
“There’s certainly that cultural element,” says Perry, although he adds that he and Gable do not consider themselves hippies.
In Lola’s previous life, she was well loved and taken care of. Perry bought Lola right before her former owner, a man named Jay, moved to Taiwan, and says that he feels as if he’s only an uncle because, “Jay will always be Lola’s daddy,” and gives him updates on the vehicle.
Ed joined the family shortly before Lola. He doesn’t run, but Perry has plans to replace his engine and get him back out on the road.
Gable thinks that Ed gets in the way of other things they’d like to do at Mahal.
“I think of it more as scrap metal,” he said, “Dave sees it as a future fun project to work on but he just never has the time.” Perry admits he’s not very mechanical, but says he enjoys the learning process.
Lola’s had a few notable breakdowns, and to Gable’s dismay, Perry troubleshot the problem on the side of the highway, made a sign asking fellow travelers for brake fluid and eventually got Lola moving again.
“I got home and was like, David Perry is now an official hippie! He fixed his VW bus on the side of the road,” said Perry. Gable speculated it was divine intervention, “kind of a miracle.”
Both can agree that traveling in Lola is like an icebreaker with other drivers on the road.
“Every time we’re in it, driving on the road, he’s always getting some sort of thumbs up,” says Gable.
Even Ed makes friends and was featured in a Fringe Fest play. The script was written after someone at a music show approached Perry to perform in the space, using the broken down bus as a key prop in the play, about a woman whose VW breaks down and the man who stops his motorcycle to assist her. (Of course, one of Perry’s motorcycles was used in the play as well.)
“We always get a good reaction,” says Perry, “people come by and want to poke their heads in. My reaction? Oh, look at Lola, she brings good energy.”