• Ken Ilgunas

Week at Duke


Last May, when I was close to broke, I tried to sell the van. I put it up on Craigslist for $2,100. After two weeks, I lowered it to $1,800. Finally, I dropped it to $1,500. One guy–from somewhere in rural North Carolina–asked me if I wanted to “trade.” “No thanks,” I said,” I’m flying up to Alaska; I don’t need another vehicle.” “Vehicle?” he said.”I want to trade my guns for it.”

Alas, I turned down his offer and asked David if I could park the van on his property until I figured out what to do with it.


When I moved back into his house in late January, I was glad I still had the van. Apart from it needing a new paint job, it’s in wonderful shape.


I know it’s just a big hunk of metal, but a vehicle affords its owner a sense of freedom like little else. No longer must I hitch rides and depend on the good will of others to get around. No longer must I plan my travels according to the rigid schedule of public transportation. I don’t need to be scanned at airports or sit uncomfortably in a narrow bus seat. Yes, I now have a big, ugly, sometimes costly possession. And yes, I’m sort of destroying the environment. But my goodness, how it all feels worth it when you get behind the wheel of your own vehicle.


I needed to get out of Stokes County for a bit, so I put the van in vandwelling shape and spent a week at Duke to visit old professors and enjoy the numerous library privileges available to Duke alumni.


Here’s the van before refurbishing.

I went to a Goodwill and spent about $30 on clothes, linens, pots/pans, Tupperware, and miscellaneous items. That’s my old sleeping bag.

Brand new hamper.

Water jugs, cutting board, pot and pan. All in all, it cost me about $50-75 to get the van in shape for comfortable habitation.

I paid a local $50 to watch my middle pilot chairs for the year. Keeping them safe has been one of the biggest pains of vandwelling. I think I may just discard them eventually. David had an extra curtain, so I cut it up to make it fit as my partition.


I parked the van in my old neighborhood, the Mill Lot on Ninth Street in Durham.


Duke Chapel.





Duke has some impressive natural features, like 100-year-old willow oaks and magnolias.

In the basement of the library is “The Link,” a labyrinth of high-tech classrooms and study areas.

There are many questionable usages of funds at Duke, including this video art.

This statue is called “The Scientist and Nature,” featuring a camel and Professor of Zoology, Knut Schmidt-Nielsen. The sculptor meant to express the value of scientific curiosity. It says, more or less, “Tell me about yourself, Camel, that I may know myself.”

Students camping for tickets in Krzyzewskiville for the Duke-Chapel Hill game.

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