Mobile Power Improvisation


One often sees improvised power in urban contexts. Whether the “Diablitos” in Mexico or “Gato” in Portugal, tapping into the local power grid, usually from a street lamp, is pretty standard urban improvisation.

Often, though, it happens in locales that are somewhat impoverished — siphoning a bit of juice from “the man” to power a street party or some such.

Here, I found a very curious means of mobile street power. A long garden style extension cord running down a street in the posh SoHo neighborhood in New York City. And running from no less than a nicely trimmed Mercedes sedan. It ran up the street to a vendor’s modest stall, selling modest trinkets. Inside, the power came from a converter that was stepping up the normal 12 volt DC from the cigarette lighter plug to 120 volts AC.

The context is quite peculiar. I can understand having need for power in such a context as a street vendor. But there were a number of mixed objects. A very high-end luxury car, presumably owned by the vendor. And a rather haphazard power connection, leaving his vehicle several parking spots down the street, wide open like this to play a little music.

The signs at his stall advertised his “ware” — house for sale.

The result of a speculator crushed by the recession, liquidating hard assets as best he can? Or an enterprising music producer selling house music?