I remember these trucks shaking through the poorer parts of town, or heading out to small old farms in the Central Valley. For as long as I’ve been alive, they’ve been dirt cheap and dead reliable. There was a black one that parked by my junior high, the bed always filled with crap. I stole a broken folding bike out of it once and spent a couple of years getting it to work. I only kept that bike running for a few weeks, but I never forgot that truck and its pile of junk I passed every day.
A friend of mine bough a brown short bed with a white camper and started living in it. I bet all of his shit in the back bounces into the air every time he hits a pothole. We’ve been away from each other for years, but I think about him and his truck, the long drives he must take all the time, the cost of the gas he spills into the tank, and the feeling he must have with California spreading out across that huge windshield.
Whenever I see a truck, I wish it were more like this one; simple, crude, and sunbaked in the Central Valley, totally at home on dirt roads out to small old farms that aren’t making any money anymore. Profitable places are lined with trucks from the ’90s, maroon Dodge minivans, and white Corollas. Trucks like this ’80 C/K have been passed on to the kids of middle class ag families. There are still a couple of these in every high school parking lot in my county, for sure. Every time I got into a bus or a van to go to some away meet, I could be sure that I’d see a few of these C/Ks at the school we were up against.
So I want one. I want this one. I want to live in that camper shell. It will cradle me like a womb, shaking me on rough roads, making me forget everything but sweet old memories. It will smother me in nostalgia.
I was back in Davis for a weekend this spring. I was there for the town’s annual Whole Earth hippiefest. I saw a bearded man riding a rainbow unicorn trailed by giggling kids as a jam band noodled on a stage nearby. I saw this pickup in one of the town’s older neighborhoods, where the lawns turn brown every summer and the 1970s living rooms are kind of dark. I kind of want to rent a room in one of those houses, I kind of want to buy this truck.
It is a blunt-faced, stout, simple, honest pickup. I want to be more of a blunt-faced, stout, simple, honest man. I want to go further down the dirt roads my family’s ’89 Volvo wagon could halfway manage. I want to get deeper into the Sacramento delta. I want to drive out of New York City and have no apartment to think about. This is the truck I want to take into the wider, flatter, dustier expanses of America.