Livin' in a Van Down by the River

By Jennifer Millman
|  Saturday, Aug 29, 2009  |  Updated 3:02 PM EDT
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Livin' in a Van Down by the River

Sean Dunne

Jimmy Tarangelo says he's got no regrets.

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He loves living in Manhattan, but he hates paying rent, so Jimmy Tarangelo has set up camp in a van by the river – a la that "Saturday Night Live" Chris Farley skit of so many years ago.

Tarangelo hasn't always been the man in van. He used to live in a house in Staten Island with his wife, to whom he was married for 14 years. Then they got divorced, and when Tarangelo tried to buy her out it ended up costing more than he could afford.

So he bounced. And moved all of his earthly possessions to a beige van by the river, where he's lived happily for the last eight years, Tarangelo told videographer Sean Dunne, who spent a few hours with him. Watch the interview, you won't be sorry.  

What's life like for the man in van? He wakes up in the morning, walks his four dogs and then has breakfast. He usually gets tea and a muffin, but for a special treat on the weekends he heads over to Dunkin' Donuts for an egg sandwich. Then it's off to the park to chat with friends – and sometimes he gets a free dinner at a nearby gentleman's club.

"I long for nothing," Tarangelo told Dunne. "Money's important but it depends what you gotta do for it."

There's just one teensy little amenity that would come in handy: A bathroom. Tarangelo doesn't have one.

"If it's the middle of the night and you happen to have eaten the wrong food, then you have a problem," he said. "But that doesn't happen too often."

The former odd-job worker calls himself an optimist and says he looks forward to better days ahead. Maybe he'll take his dogs rafting down the Delaware River. Maybe he'll buy a mobile home in Pennsylvania.

But what he won't do, for sure, is pick up and leave his bizarre lifestyle just because someone says he should. 

"When you're forced to do something, then you don't want to do it," Tarangelo told Dunn. If it's of your own accord, then it's different."

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