Last weekend, I bought a truck. Actually, I didn’t technically buy it — Jenny charged it on her Platinum American Express Card. So, the initial surge of testosterone that came from being able to say, “I just bought a truck” was thwarted by thefact that American Express called my girlfriend back to verify her identity faster than it called me back so the charge went through on her card instead of mine and my big-man-moment shriveled into a mumbled ‘uh, thanks’.
This is the fourth (or fifth) vehicle I have ever owned.
The first was a 1965 Ford Fairlane that I bought in Jersey City for $600 when I was 26. I bought it before I had actually had a driver’s license so it sat by the curb outside my house for a month before I could manage to pass the test. It was bronze-colored and had just 30, 000 miles on the odometer. In the six months that I owned it, I added another 500 miles to that total, most of it to neighborhood car washes. I loved the car but could never really manage its “three on the tree” transmission. When I moved back to Manhattan that fall, I gave it to my roommate, SImon, who promptly totaled it in a supermarket parking lot.
The next car I owned was ten years later, a 1962 Mercury Monterey — two-tone (teal and white), 18 feet long, and, again, had only 30, 000 miles on it. I was too anxious to drive it out of Manhattan and too impatient to drive it in the city so every other weekend my wife and I drove it up the Henry Hudson Drive for an hour, listening to WOR-AM, and then I would wax it curbside. Four months later, I sold it back to Augie, the man I’d bought from. I lost $500 in the deal.
The third car, I won’t tell you much about. Let’s just say I was a new father and the Volvo salesman was very persuasive.
Three years ago, I bought a tiny Honda motorcycle from a man in the street. He was an artist and needed the cash to replace his dentures. I drove it to my office once. On 10th Ave and 25th Street, I stopped at a light between two enormous 18-wheelers who slowly came together like the walls in the Death Star’s trash compactor. A voice in my head said, “Well, at least now you how you’ll die.” That afternoon, I found the toothless artist and sold his bike back to him. I lost $250 in that deal.
When I was nine, my grandfather’s chauffeur drove me through the streets of Lahore to school every morning. After a year of this routine, my grandfather, worried about my sense of direction, told me that the next day I was to direct the driver myself how to get to school.Two hours later, we were stopped by the guards at the Indian border. We were ninety-six miles from home.
When we got to LA three weeks ago, Jenny rented an enormous SUV. I think it was a Ford Brobdingnagian. I drove it, white-knuckled, to IKEA three times and then begged her to exchange it for an actual car. We got a regular-sized Nissan Something that smelled of stale smoke. Last Thursday, I went to visit my old friend Tommy McG in Venice. I parked the Nissan outside his house and then we walked down to the beach and had a drink on the rooftop of a hotel. A couple of hours later, we walked me back to my car. “Huh,” he said, “it sounds like your engine is running.” I shrugged, and got into the shuddering car. At least there was still gas in the tank and I had remembered to lock the doors.
(Lest all of these facts give you pause, you should know that I have been using New York CIty subway trains and taxis, without incident, since 1973).
Okay, so I now own a truck. It’s very basic. It’s also in decent shape considering it’s twelve years old and other people have already driven it 150,000 miles. In LA, when you drive this sport of vehicle, people assume you are a gardener. I have no problem with that.
Why a pickup truck? Well, so I can transport all sorts of things, yet to be determined. It’s the kind of thing people do out here, moving big things from one place to another. There’s huge amounts of room, huge stores, huge roads. So you just need to be ready to haul something huge at a moment’s notice.
Another really cool feature is I can carry a folding chair and table in the bed of the truck. Then I can drive anywhere, unfold, and have an amazing drawing platform.
And finally, I can now wear a cap. And maybe grow a fu-manchu. And toughen up a bit, yo.