On a cool, overcast Memorial Day Monday, I join Mark Alston-Follansbee as he’s repainting the exterior of his Toyota Camry in the driveway of his Waltham home. Over the years, his cars have been painted with suns and eyeballs, flames and waves, flowers and peace signs, hot-air balloons, a winking sun, a giant orange octopus. His art car has become a landmark around Somerville—where he’s executive director of the Somerville Homeless Coalition.
As we paint, Alston-Follansbee tells me he got drafted into the military after he was kicked out of college around 1966. He was told he’d end up in the infantry for two years, but if he enlisted for a third year he could get a better posting. He enlisted to be a military journalist.
“Six months later I was there [in the Vietnam war]. I would jump out of helicopters and write stories. It was all bullshit for the Army,” Alston-Follansbee says. “I’d write a story in an hour and then [go] to the beach and get stoned. It was really schizophrenic.”
“I got back from Vietnam in 1968, and my grandmother died and I got a little money, and I bought a Volkswagen bus. It had a sunburst painted on the front and pot plants all around the sides,” Alston-Follansbee says. That was his first art car. “We drove that car from New York to San Francisco and sold it for four one-way plane tickets to Maui” and some additional, um, considerations.
Read the rest at Dig Boston.