A Tree-Hugger Forsakes his Volvo for a Big White Pickup Truck

Silly Lawyer, Driving on the Beach is for Trucks, not Audis

If you look over the right outside mirror of my truck you might make out a dark blur. It's actually two jeeps trying to pull a black Audi out of the deep sand on the beach at Gordon's Pond. This silly lawyer from Philadelphia decided he was going to drive out onto the beach. Needless to say, he got stuck and we had a show. A crowd of big boisterous "fisherwomyn" all turned their chairs around to watch the spectacle.

You say you can't make out the Audi? That's because the photo was taken with my cell phone from quite a distance. My regular camera is being repaired...I took it into the ocean to snap some photos and a rogue wave swamped me. Luckily, I had taken the insurance.

How Do You Define "Actively Fishing?"

I finally got my Delaware surf fishing license, which entitles me to drive the truck out onto the beach for an afternoon of surf fishing. It's actually more than a license you need. The state requires each vehicle to be equipped with a jack, a board, a spade, a rope or chain, an air pressure gauge, and, you are required to be "actively fishing."

Interestingly, the state doesn't define "actively fishing." Most people interpret it to mean that you have to use bait -- you can't just throw a hook into the ocean and forget about it.

Well, I'm not most people. On Sunday afternoon I hosted my first beach tailgate party. We brought out fancy umberellas, Adirondack chairs, a rocking chair, fresh flowers, and an oil painting of Thomas Jefferson (you know he invented the tailgate party). We served up margaritas, white wine, classic American sandwiches, potato chips, grapes, and a selection of sweets. We even threw out a line, with fresh mullet bait, of course. Now that's what I call "actively fishing."

Pillow Talking

The other night in a trendy Manhattan restaurant, the conversation turned to pillows. Seems that Oprah just did a feature on bugs in bed pillows and, apparently, they’re more common than anyone thought. Who knew? But, I’ve got to tell you, as an owner of two beach rental properties with 40 pillows, I’m more concerned about stains. You might not see bugs in your pillows, but there’s no hiding an old soiled pillow.

As conscientious landlords, we make an annual pillow-purchasing pilgrimage to the Kmart for the pre-Memorial Day, two for one $5 pillow special. You should see all the gay boys loading up, especially when the “grandfather” pillows are on sale. Oh, they might look expensive, tarted up in classic blue and white striped Martha Stewart fabric, but underneath, they’re still just cheap poly-foam. What do you expect for five dollars?

This year the Kmart featured crisp white Joe Boxer brand pillows. This confused me. I remember Joe Boxer brand boxer shorts and boxer briefs from back in the 80’s. They were quite trendy for awhile among the Dupont Circle fabby boys. The yellow Joe Boxer smiley face with his tongue hanging out always looked kinda lewd to me, like he’d just finished giving a really great blowjob. When the hell did they start making cheap pillows? A use for the leftover material perhaps?

Anyway, about a mile into our return trip from the Kmart, we realize we had an incident brewing. The pillows were no longer quietly sitting in the back of the truck. Oh no, they were jumping around and threatening to fly out of the bed at any moment and out onto Route One. But I couldn’t stop. And I wasn’t going to stop. There was too much traffic. And there’s no way in hell I was gonna dart around through traffic just to snatch up a $2.50 pillow. Me, well, I’d just leave the damn pillows in the highway to get hit and smashed and run over and ripped up and pushed back and forth by all the cars and trucks until they all finally migrated into the median strip where they’d eventually be retrieved by someone from the county government or some resident of a Dewey Beach flop house.

In the end, I just eased back on the gas pedal and the pillows settled down. Another truck-related incident averted.

How much can you haul with what you got?

There’s a whole Ford F150 web forum devoted to this question. I know this because of a recent incident involving 2 tons of pea gravel and the definition of the verb to haul.

I normally interpret hauling as meaning to transport, as with a truck or car or on my back. For example, I managed to haul all that crap down to the beach in just one trip or I hauled those landscaping stones all the way from Greenwood in the back of the Volvo wagon. In truck jargon there is a decided difference between hauling and towing. The hauling capacity of the F150 is only about 1,700 pounds whereas the towing capacity is greater than 6,000 pounds. Who knew? Truck TV commercials don’t get into these sorts of semantics. Hell no. They give you the impression you can haul anything. Ford tough is what they say. So, naturally on Saturday afternoon, I thought nothing of loading two tons of pea gravel into the back of my very own Ford tough pickup.

Well, that was a mistake. The truck sank a good three feet under the weight. It looked strangely like a pimped out low rider, sans purple lights underneath. The tires were squashed and less than five minutes into the drive down to Dewey Beach we heard a loud pop and I just knew it was one of the tires. Breaking down on busy Route One with a two-ton load of pea gravel just wasn’t going to be fun. But, luckily it wasn’t a tire. Maybe, hopefully, it was just a strut or shock absorber. Anyhow, we made it to Dewey Beach without further incident and unloaded it as fast as we could. The truck slowly rose back up.

Afterwards, I went looking around online for more information about hauling capacity, hoping I might also find out what the loud pop was. I didn’t. But I did find this site where guys talk – brag – about their hauling and towing prowess. Here are a couple of exchanges.

TexasKid1: I don't know about the numbers, I can tell you my truck tows a 33 ft 9000lb trailer with a hitch weight of 950lbs. It hauled 1300lbs of cement last weekend 240 miles without sagging the rear end at all. Its hauled gravel, trees, a bunch of other stuff with no problems. I go out in the desert where most people only take 4x4's no problems there either. (2000 F150 SC XLT 5.44-sp auto)

FarmBoy: I've hauled over 2000 pounds worth of retaining wall brick a couple times. Only about 10 miles from the Home Depot so no big issue. I would not recommend any long trips with that weight, but it was fine for me. I've hauled over 1000 pounds several times up to the family cottage. I tow a snowmobile trailer in the winter, but that probably totals out at 2500, not much. Tow the boat to the launch every year...about .5 miles away the boat probably weighs 3000. Most of my trucks tow over 15% of their miles due to my snowmobiling habit. It is not a lot of weight, but can be a challenge in bad weather. My trucks have never let me down. I like my truck to look nice, but it is used for work, not just cause it's cool to drive a truck. (2000 F150 4x4 SC/SB 5.4 Auto, Tow Package, ORP with the sticker for 2000, Cab Steps, Lariet. Oxford White/Harvest Gold 2 tone)

And my favorite.....

Raoul: Hate to put you guys to shame but, don't think this can be topped. I've hauled my wife, her sister and their mother at the same time. Only bottomed out a few times and maintained a steady 40 mph. OD was off and temp gauge never left normal. Towing mirrors would have come in handy though. (99 Lariat Regular Cab 2WD 120"WB 5.4 3.55LS, Tow,Dark Toreador Red/Harvest Gold, Line-X)

Axiom or oxymoron?

A delightful blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay. A good value at $10, says the Wine Spectator of White Truck, one of two brands put out by the Axiom Wine Company of Napa Valley, California. It's sort of dry -- the review, not the wine. Who writes these reviews anyway? White Truck, in this wine drinker's opinion, is nothing fancy, just a nice sipping wine. Perfect for sunny spring afternoons in the backyard and paired with some grilled sausages and cheese grits. Who says a truck and a bottle of wine don't go together?

Some people like taking ideas to the extreme

Think if you put all the furniture out in the yard, leaving only the beds in the rooms. So, people would get ready for bed outside and then walk to the darkness of the empty house to sleep, remembering, as they try to find their way, of the party danced.

-- Aurelio Grisanty

Laughter is good medicine

My father went into the hospital for an angioplasty procedure. He needed a stent to reopen a clogged artery to the heart. It all went very well, and the old boy is already feeling better. Thankfully, he didn't need a pig valve in his heart, like Jesse Helms. Interestingly, as he left the hospital, the first thing he saw was a white Ford F-150 pickup. Said it made him laugh.

The apple never falls far from the tree

I had just finished mixing a third Bloody Mary when my father gleefully handed me a blue RC Cola racing t-shirt. He’d been talking about it the entire weekend, even envisioning my wearing it to a swank Washington cocktail party, perhaps under a navy blazer and paired with some white bucks. It was, he kept telling me, an appropriate fashion statement for a man now driving an F-150. And, even more, it was a collector’s item, he explained, given that RC Cola’s race sponsorship days were over.

Its camp, is what I think. Pure Southern camp. Like Dolly Parton, South of the Border, and those “wooden cut-out fat lady bending over” lawn ornaments.

Some years back, my father had gotten involved with RC Cola and its sponsorship of a truck in the Craftsman truck series, now called the NASCAR Busch series. I’m still not exactly sure how or in what capacity. What I do know is that RC Cola sponsored the “86” truck, a blue Ford F-150 driven by Stacy Compton, a journeyman driver who now drives the “59” truck sponsored by Kingsford Charcoal and Bush’s Baked Beans. My father began following the RC Cola team and “86” truck to races in places like Bristol, Tennessee, and Martinsville, Virginia. He even went so far as to buy an Eddie Bauer special edition Ford Explorer SUV to drive to the races – so he’d fit in. And that’s not all. My brothers tell me he once sported a fake beard and camouflage hat at a race.

Lest you assume that my father is your regular garden variety redneck, I must assure you he isn’t. He’s a retired accountant and money manager who lives in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Charlotte, North Carolina, where there are lots of trees and building restrictions. He drives a big Cadillac and drinks Bloody Mary’s. The man personally picked out all the wallpaper for his South Carolina beach house. And, I can count on my left hand the number of times I’ve seen him in a shirt without a collar. If anything, he’s a redneck poseur.

I asked him if RC Cola had approached Moon Pie about sponsoring the “86” truck. What a great marketing combination that would have been. Classic Southern camp -- an RC Cola and a Moon Pie, the original Southern "working man's lunch." Yes, they had, but Moon Pie declined the offer. Seems they thought it wasn’t an appropriate marketing vehicle for the product. We shared a good laugh about that, agreeing that the Moon Pie clientele probably attends NASCAR races. Seriously, who else eats the damn things nowadays?

As I examined the RC Cola t-shirt more carefully, it hit me. My father isn’t a redneck poseur. He’s campy. And, somehow, I’ve inherited his peculiar sense of humour, a combination of Southern pride, self-mockery, and irony. How in the hell is this possible?

Following Mr. Jefferson's lead

When the old shingled cottage behind our Rehoboth Beach house was torn down and the lot cleared, we realized we needed to do something quick to create privacy. I mean, who knows what kind of plastic McMansion might be built or if the new neighbors will be an obnoxious Republican family from northern Virginia.

So, we head upstate to Ronny’s Nursery to buy some California privet, which is great for creating hedges – the more you cut it the denser it gets. It seems to thrive on the Delaware coast. Especially when you toss on some of that powerful Milford fertilizer which I know is responsible for some of the "unfortunate looking" downstate Delawareans I see at the outlet malls.

Privet is not native to the United States. English settlers brought it to the New World in the 1700s. Thomas Jefferson used it at Monticello. Toparians favor it for their art. California privet actually came from Japan in the 1940’s and quickly became the privet of choice for Golden State gardeners and landscapers who appreciated its fast-growing attributes and utility as a shield against prying eyes. It can grow 25 inches in a year. I need about 36 inches to screen the neighbors.

Fried egg and scrapple sandwich

I used to feel self-conscious pulling the Volvo wagon into the parking lot full of pickup trucks and SUVs at Bob's Market on Route 301 in Queenstown, Maryland. Nobody ever said a word, but I could sense their eyes on me as I stood in line for my coffee and breakfast sandwich, dressed in a pair of pressed khakis and tassel loafers. Bob's, you see, is a Dickies and Carhartt crowd. The kind of place where the scruffy young guys buy Mountain Dew and boxes of doughnuts and the older guys flirt with the "Wingback Wandas" in blue eye-shadow and white Reeboks, cooking behind the counter. There are lots of fishing magazines, snack foods, and jars of purple pickled eggs. You know the place.

Now that I'm driving a truck, I don't feel so out of place at Bob's. Why just this morning, I swaggered in and ordered myself a fried egg and scrapple sandwich. Yep, scrapple. Toasted. No cheese. And ambling over to get my coffee, I even felt cocky enough to cast a bold, appraising glance up and down the backside of the well-built fellow shoveling sugar into his coffee. He looked hung over, but cute, in that redneck kind of way. And I could tell by his package that he had a fried egg and scrapple sandwich too.

A silver tongued devil

My neighbor quietly slipped a newspaper ad under my screen door this morning. It was for one of Butch Emmert’s auctions, a “highly important Delaware estate sale,” the lifelong collection of the late Robert Stewart of Pilottown Road, Lewes, Delaware, and Capitol Hill, Washington, DC. Mr. Stewart was formerly the Curator of the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, an avid art collector and a socialite. Hmm…sounds like an old queen to me. And a sale I just might be interested in.

But my neighbor didn’t leave it to let me know about the 1850 carved China trade tea chest or the small “flip flop” table. Oh no. My neighbor left the ad because Butch Emmert always auctions off a couple of the old black and white Delaware license plates that are so coveted in this state. Nine plates, in fact, were being featured on Sunday, including two 4-digit truck plates that ought to go for about $3,000 each.

He's a silver tongued devil, my neighbor is. He's already convinced me to 1) drink Manhattans before noon, claiming its unrivaled tonic qualities are a restorative and will firm the moral fiber; and 2) to break, I mean, sneak, into old houses set for demolition, just for a look around. He knows I'm easily swayed by an "interesting" argument. That's the reason I joined a fraternity, took LSD, and slept with preppy girls in college. But the silver tongued devil is gonna have to step up his game if he thinks he can pressure me into spending $3,000 for an old black and white plate...

Trucking with the Duchess

I venture across the River and over into Virginia, that bastion of bigotry and citadel of conservatism. As I drive, I’m amazed not only by the number of cars still sporting “W” and “Bush/Cheney” stickers, but by how arrogant and rude those particular drivers are in traffic. Why am I surprised?

Driving a truck might jack up the testosterone levels, but, interestingly, it also mellows you out on the road. I’m serious. It’s sort of like how the biggest guy in the bar never picks the fight. He doesn’t need to because he’s secure in himself. It’s like that when you drive a truck.

But I digress. I’m driving to Virginia to visit my dear friend the Duchess of Chilmark. She’s in exile in Alexandria, you know, until the summertime when she’ll once again reign over her windswept, hilltop, duchy on the Atlantic, criss-crossed as it is with magnificent old stone walls, beach plums, and Queen Ann’s lace. Ticks are a problem, but who cares? When you’re with the Duchess in Chilmark, you travel back to a more gentile era where the roads aren’t paved and everyone drinks their gin and tonics from old mayonnaise jars.

The Duchess hasn’t seen the pickup truck yet, so we’re going for a short drive. Like good old-school WASPs, we fix a cocktail for the road. Actually, we just pour some red wine into a very small go-cup. Not enough to really raise our alcohol blood level, but just enough to suggest a sense of romance and wickedness. The Duchess has dressed for the ride and with her scarf, I think she looks very much like CIA spy Valerie Plame.

She tells me my anti-Bush sticker is too small and too subtle. “What good is it if the jerks can’t see it?” she says. She does approve of the hand-crank windows and the big bench seat. We don’t drive very far. Just to the new Whole Foods Market to pick up a few items I've been needing. Out here I can easily maneuver the big truck into a parking spot.

Pickup trucks are trendy and raise your testosterone

Pickup trucks, according to Details Magazine, are the new alternative to SUVs which are now so closely associated with soccer moms that they lower your testosterone levels. What can I say? Once again, just as I was with Barry White, bourbon, and ribbon belts, I'm ahead of the curve.

I'm not a gambling man by nature

The realization hit me at 8:30am on Friday morning. My 15 year old Sheryl Wagner club chair was going to sit exposed and unattended in a Washington, DC parking lot for eight hours. I had to get it down to the beach to an upholsterer, so what else could I do? Take it into work with me? I seriously considered it. After all, sometimes people bring their screaming children into the office when they're having daycare issues. At least the chair would be quiet. But, I decided against it. That's just too eccentric even for me. Maybe if it had been an expensive antique...So I gambled. Took a chance, which isn't really part of my nature as a Libra man. I just parked it on the roof of Union Station and walked away, hoping it wouldn't rain and that nobody would go to the effort of stealing an old chair with worn out arms and pillows spewing feathers.

A modest proposal

Its only the first day of Spring, but my artist friend and creative muse Aurelio is already pondering how we can take advantage of my Ford pickup truck to create a more fabulous beach experience this summer. His idea is to start off slow. Perhaps a rug, two or three umbrellas, a small chaise with cushions and an ottoman. Things that are easy to haul in the truck. The big question, of course, is where to set up. Is it possible to do it south of Poodle Beach, just beyond the hot dog stand and close to the water's edge? As the days pass and people get used to the scene, we begin to step it up and bring out a little more each day. Add a pair of twin beds with mosquito nets and cushions. It will be important to ignore any reactions and not to answer any questions. Intrigue and fabulocity.

A Russian Haircut

With gasoline prices creeping towards $3.00 per gallon you start looking for ways to cut back. Jim Beam instead of Maker’s Mark. Boxer shorts from the Gap rather than Brooks Brothers. So, naturally, the idea of paying $9 for a haircut instead of $35 was very alluring.

Don’t get me wrong. Hien, the Vietnamese fella who’s been cutting my hair for 5 years is top notch. I got no complaints. I always look good. But nine dollars…in Manhattan…how could I pass that up?

So I queue up on Saturday morning, joining the Chelsea boys who pay $9 for their haircuts by Igor, a stocky Russian who really looks like he’d be more comfortable in a butcher shop than a hair salon. I’ll figure out later how to deal with Hien. All I know is that I’ve gotta have one of those good looking $9 Chelsea haircuts.

When it’s finally my turn in the chair, Igor gently fits a white crepe paper collar around my neck and then dramatically drapes me with a black cape. He tells me I look like a priest, and then asks me how I want my hair cut. That’s the end of the conversation. In fact, the entire basement salon is devoid of talking. It’s just Chelsea boys sitting there listening to soft rock music and waiting for Igor to cut their hair.

Igor paws my head, pushes it left, right, wherever he wants it. His style is a bit course, but it feels good. A combination haircut, neck and head massage. His focus is intent. And, he’s clearly doing this because he gets off on barbering. It can’t be for the money. C’mon, nine dollars a haircut?

My mind wanders as he cuts and I’m envisioning a scene back in Moscow where a young Igor is cutting the hair of his Russian army comrades, maybe even giving them a Friday end-of-the week shave. The young Russian guys are all sitting around in their underwear, reading newspapers, playing chess, and taking shots of vodka. Very Tom of Finland.

After about 20 minutes, I’m dismissed. No hair product rubbed in. No attempt to sell me anything. I tip him two dollars – the whole thing’s cost me one-third of what I’ve been paying in Washington. And, it the haircut looks pretty darned good.

As for Hien, he’ll certainly know I went to somebody else. Hair cutters can always tell. I suppose I could lie and say I was out of town unexpectedly and needed a haircut real bad. Or, I could just blame it on the pickup truck, the cost of gas, and the lure of a cheap $9 Russian haircut.

See, I do need a big truck

White prairie benches, Milford fetrilizer, some gardening equipment, and a couple of cold beers. It's a sunny Sunday afternoon in Rehoboth and I use the long bed for the first time.

Jonesing for a rotisserie chicken

It’s been two weeks since I’ve been to the grocery store and things are looking bare. I’m out of soy milk and apple juice. There are no organic peanuts in the apartment. And, my lips can’t remember the last time they tasted a crispy roasted chicken.

There’s no food in my kitchen and the truck is to blame.

It’s too cold to walk 10 blocks with grocery bags and I’m still not confident enough in my driving prowess to wheel into the cramped parking garage at the Whole Foods Market. I mean, I used to have a very difficult time maneuvering the Volvo station wagon around.

I suppose I could shop somewhere else, but, I won’t. I’m addicted to the Whole Foods Market experience. As a tree hugger, I like the wholesome, fresh food. I applaud the company’s recent commitment to power its stores by renewable energy – a deal my organization helped broker. I enjoy looking at the attractive crowd that shops at Whole Foods -- no fat women in sweat pants buying frozen dinners.

My shopping habits admittedly are based on aesthetics and convenience. Before the accident with the deer, I would drive back to Washington from Rehoboth every Monday morning. After work, I’d hit the gym, followed by my once-a-week trip to Whole Foods.

By 8 o’clock, the after-work crowd at Whole Foods has thinned out. Parking is easy. And depending on my mood, I might pop across the street to Halo Bar for a Manhattan cocktail. Bourbon kills the appetite and I find it better to shop with a little buzz on than hungry. Better for the waistline. By 8:30, you can almost always pick up a rotisserie chicken. And there are also plenty of attractive fabby boys in post-workout Abercrombie wandering through the aisles filling their carts up with green leafy vegetables, bananas, cans of “certified dolphin safe” tuna, and bottles of Smart Water.

So you clearly see my conundrum. I suppose I could drive to a more “truck-friendly” grocery store. But, I just sense that the rotisserie chicken wouldn’t achieve that perfect balance of crispy skin and moist meat. There’d be no Manhattans across the street. No tasty organic peanuts or men.

There has got to be a way to own a truck and still shop at the Whole Foods Market.

Digit envy

My Delaware license plate finally arrived. CL 42211. It’s not a bad plate -- it’s easy to remember, rolls nicely off the tongue, and, most importantly, it’s five digits. I worried for weeks that I’d be issued one of those common six-digit plates. Six digit plates belong on the uninspiring cars of retirees and fat women shopping at Harry and David’s at the Outlet Malls, not on a big manly truck.

You never know what number the Delaware DMV will issue you. I lucked out. If it’d been a six-digit number I’d have to go over to Georgetown and beg for a lower one. Or purchase a low number plate at one of the many auctions around the state. Yes, you heard me right. There's a market for license plates because Delawareans covet low digit plates.

Unlike most states, Delaware’s typical car plate uses only digits. The plate numbers haven’t reached one million yet, because the plates are recycled. There are different designations for different types of vehicles. Trucks receive the CL designation. Farm trucks get a FT designation. Cars get no designation, except that station wagons and SUVs get a PC (passenger car) designation. Tags are transferrable from vehicle to vehicle and can also be sold from Delawarean to Delawarean. This allows for a family to keep a license plate number in their family from generation to generation.

To add to the fever, you have the handsome black and white tags, the original color combination. Some of the really desirable, old low-digit plates are black and white. They were discontinued in the 40’s in favor of the current buff and blue color combination. But, you can purchase replicas of your buff and blue tags in black and white through the Delaware Historical Society.

All of this creates quite a demand. Just last week, a Rehoboth man paid $82,000 at auction for a pair of license plates: 900 and PC900. According to the newspaper story, the man was away in the Bahamas and was willing to go up to $100,000.

My neighbor Tim has a three digit, black and white plate that was passed down to him from his grandparents. Imagine what that baby's worth? In true Delawarean style, he’s encouraging me to attend one of Butch Emmert’s auctions and bid on a 4-digit truck plate. "A low-digit black and white plate would look real hot on your truck," he whispers in my ear." "And, like a diamond, it will keep it's value." He's right. Butch Emmert, a real expert on Delaware license plates, says prices are going up 15-20% per year. Even the 4-digit plates are routinely bringing $3,000 to $12,000 at auction. Downstaters, according to Emmert, prefer C tags, while those from New Castle County like the PC plates.

Who knew license plates could be part of savvy financial planning? I'm still not convinced, but I'm thinking about it. I bet Alfred Dunhill would have a low digit black and white tag.

Brokeback trucks

Everyone’s raving about Brokeback Mountain -- the cinematography, the acting, the powerful raw emotions, and the pain of lost love. I finally saw the film, on Valentine’s Day, and I must agree with the critics: it’s a beautiful film and certainly deserving of its Oscar nominations.

But how come nobody is talking about the trucks. Yes, the trucks. The film is full of fine-looking pickup trucks. Old classic Fords. Big blue rugged Chevys. Even the two-tone numbers look good, in a rugby jersey kind of way. And tell me, is there anything sexier than a studly fella in tight Levis lounging on an old pickup truck?

Director Ang Lee clearly paid special attention to the pickup trucks, recognizing that in rural Wyoming and Texas the locals would likely drive beat-up old trucks and not new ones. I searched around online for anything interesting about pickup trucks in the film. I found the usual analogies about trucks and horses, but nothing about the pickup truck being a solitary vehicle (with its limited cab space) and how this is a symbolic of the two main characters’ loneliness and of society’s pressure on them to keep their feelings confined and to themselves. Impressed? Well, I did take a couple of film classes in college.

I did find a website devoted to miscues in Brokeback Mountain. There are two truck-related ones. The first miscue occurs towards the beginning of the film when Jack parks his truck before going in to inquire about a sheep herding job for the first time. He parks it head-in (facing the building.) When he and Ennis come down from the mountain at the end of the season and start the truck it is facing the other way. That’s when the second miscue comes in. Ennis helps Jack to start his truck, then improperly closes the hood (you can see it isn't properly latched). Shortly afterward, Jack gets in his truck to drive away and the hood is fully closed.

Who knew Ang Lee was so sloppy? More importantly, who cares about these things?

I mentioned the beautiful pickup trucks to my friend and artistic muse Aurelio. He and I share the same birthday and an appreciation for beautiful things like driftwood and daffodils. He didn’t remember the pickup trucks from the film, but he did recount for me how he used to own a small Datusun pickup truck back on the Dominican Republic and would give rides to his friends at the bars (they loved to jump in the back when they were drunk). One female friend (who will not be named because of a current important diplomatic position) used to jump out of the back and onto any hot man she saw. Of course, they would not pay attention to a drunk girl jumping from a truck and Aurelio and his friends would start screaming “Rec√≥janla! Rec√≥janla! (pick her up, pick her up) while she lay on the road. Sometimes she would just throw her panties at people. Aurelio had a chauffeur whom drove it. He was young and looked like Paul Newman and his name was Moisesito (little Moses).

Ay, everyone has a truck story...

What owner's manuals don't tell you

The Ford F-150 4x4 owner's manual doesn't say anything about rain or snow that accumulates in the bed of the truck. Are there drain holes? Does it evaporate? Ought I shovel it? Or just leave it alone?

At least the truck comes with an owner's manual. Babies don't. I was hanging out with my friends Andy and Dobbie and their two young children -- both under 2 years. They were laughing about having to wing it as parents. Said the hospital hands you this baby, you tuck it under your arm, and you head home. Then you look at it and try to figure out what to do with it. No owners's manual, no nothing.

What does the fashionable gay man drive?

There's a writer with the LA Times named Dan Neil. He's blonde and kind of cute and he writes about cars. I discovered him today because he wrote a piece entitled "What Every Man Should Drive" that appeared in the Post Express. Now, I'm assuming Dan is straight because he's advising fellas on cars that appeal to women.

According to Dan, the 2006 BMW 325XI sports wagon is the perfect car for the fashionable young man, the kind of car you should own along with a great set of cookware and a tailored tux. Dan also says a sports wagon conveys a series of messages to women -- a sense of self, style, and maturity. It says you're eligible.

And to think, I actually looked at a BMW wagon, along with the Volvo XC Sport Wagon before settling on the truck. Guess I lucked out, huh? Anyway, Dan goes on to say that women view men who drive sports cars as needy and men who drive trucks as desperate.

The article got me thinking again about cars and trucks and what they say about you. If sports wagons are now the province of young upwardly mobile guys looking to settle down, what are the cars for gay guys?

I googled "gay trucks" and came up with very little except that Ford Motor Company plans to continue to advertise its trucks in gay publications and a couple of references to some porn videos. "Gay cars," however, turned up a couple of lists. recently came out with its "gayest cars of 2006".

1. Best Car for the Gay Professional: 2006 BMW 5 Series Sedan
2. Best Car for the New Gay Family: 2006 Saab 9-5 Wagon
3. Best Dragwagon: 2006 Kia Sorento
4. Most Likely Down Low Cruiser: 2006 Chevrolet Impala
5. Best Twinkmobile: 2006 Mini Cooper
6. Best Ride for the Trendy Gay Man: 2006 Honda Element
7. Best Ride for the Trendy Gay Man (Urban): 2006 Chrysler 300C
8. Best Retail Queen Carriage: 2006 Pontiac G6
9. Best Lesbian Moving Van: 2006 Subaru Outback
10. Queerest Car: 2006 Ford Focus

A British site lists their top ten. Though I must admit I have no idea what a Smart City Car is and I'm sure they listed the Czech-made Skoda Fabia just because of the name and probably because the guy putting togethe the list likes all that Czech porn with guys in barns and out in the fields. By the way, the photo at the beginning of this story is a Fabia.

1. Smart City Car
2. Jeep Wrangler
3. Pink Rolls Royce
4. Mercedes SL55 AMG
5. Mini
6. BMW Z8
7. Porsche convertible
8. Classic Chevy
9. Skoda Fabia
10. Beetle convertible

Even the guys on PBS' popular Car Talk program have named their ultimate top ten gay cars.

1. VW Jetta
2. VW Beetle
3. BMW 3Series
4. Jeep Wrangler
5. Mazda Miata
6. Saab 900
7. Saturn SC1
8. VW Golf
9. VW Cabrio
10. Chrysler Sebring

Interestingly, among the “Car Talk” ultimate lesbian cars were the Volvo Wagon and the Ford F-150.

And, finally,, a blog dedicated to gay guys and cars put out their list of the gayest cars from the 2006 North American International Auto Show:

1. Dodge Challenger – a muscle car.
2. Lexus LS460
3. Volvo C70
4. Jaguar XK Convertible
5. Toyota Camry
6. VW Eos
7. Ford Edge
8. Dodge Caliber
9. a varety of GM SUVs
10. Jeep Rangler Rubicon – for all those GI Joe fantasies

So what does the fashionable gay man drive? Not a truck it seems. I like that. But, really, lists like these and articles like Dan Neil's are pretty much a bunch of fluff. And to think he won a Pulitzer Prize...

Bow ties and bling bling

The realization hit me on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Not at the Polo Shop in Georgetown where earlier I had purchased a rather dapper bowtie, but in Oxon Hill, Maryland, in the middle of a store called Big Boys Toys and surrounded by a dozen men ogling racks of shiny chrome wheels.

The realization? Men who customize their cars and trucks are the new 21st Century dandies. It's true, and it's not about bow ties or Persian rugs. It's about the bling.

Stylish chrome wheels and customized leather interiors cost several thousand dollars. Decorative painting, lighting, running boards, floor mats, and entertainment are popular enhancements. Hip hop artists call it “bling,” and the Oxford English dictionary defines it as diamonds, jewelry, and all showy style. After purchase auto modification is now a $31 million industry and everyone wants to accessorize and personalize his car. Hollywood looks not only at what you wear to the Oscars, but what you drive up in.

Consider this. The traditional definition of dandy is a man who places particular importance upon physical appearance and the cultivation of leisurely hobbies. In England and in the U.S. at the turn of the century, auto driving was a pursuit of the wealthy. In France, dandies were often self-created men who consciously designed their own personalities and enjoyed decadent lifestyles.

I'm moving carefully in customizing my truck, seeking the bling that Alfred Dunhill would approve of.

Masculine with just a splash of the dandy

Dunhill. The name reeks of British masculine elegance and conjures up visions of expensive leather goods, smoking accessories, writing instruments, timepieces, and colognes. But a lot of people don’t know that Alfred Dunhill and his luxury goods at the turn of the century were associated with driving and fashionable gentlemen motorists.

Dunhill even coined a term -- “motorities” -- to describe the fancy automotive accessories he sold.

So you might be wondering why I'm writing about Alfred Dunhill? Well, you see, I’ve been searching for a new framework around which to organize myself -- now that I drive a truck. I need inspiration and a style guide to ensure I do it right. “Masculine with just a splash of the dandy,” is how Dunhill thought of his goods and himself. I like that...

I already splash on a little Dunhill cologne before hopping behind the wheel. And Michael presented me recently with a chocolate brown Dunhill computer case that's worth almost one-tenth the value of the truck. It's damn good looking.

So, I'm feeling kinda Dunhill and I'm wondering what other "motorities" I might find for my truck? Perhaps I could cover the dashboard in chagreen or find an old Dunhill leather trunk for the bed? The ubitiquous silver “contractor” tool boxes I see in the back of so many trucks just don’t appeal to me. A silver bulldog hood ornament maybe? Does Dunhill make mud flaps? I know Dunhill doesn't make floor mats. So instead I put down a couple of small Persian rugs. The driver's side rug looks like it has little antelopes or deer on it, which is perversely appropriate.

I think Alfred Dunhill would have approved.

Sometimes an antacid just isn’t enough

A terrible thing happened to me this morning as I was driving from Rehoboth to Washington in my big shiny white pickup truck. The incident occurred on Route 50, just west of Annapolis at 8:05 am. A blonde woman in a black SUV with one of those “W The President” stickers on her back window looked over and smiled at me.

It was more of a smirk, really, and its meaning was clear. She though I was a Republican. I barely managed to keep control the truck in the heavy rush hour traffic. My head was spinning and my stomach was churning. Thought I was gonna vomit up the coffee, hardboiled egg, and tangerine I’d had for breakfast.

A little later on --when my stomach had settled a bit -- I started thinking about trucks and politics. Can you really tell someone’s politics by the car he drives? John Kerry drives a Ford F-150 pickup truck, so reports this month’s Esquire Magazine. George W. Bush keeps a Ford F-250 on his Texas ranch.

Some quick and easy research confirms that you usually can. Volvos are still the most "Democratic" cars, followed by Subarus and Hyundais. But, experts who study these things are quick to point out some changes. New customers in Volvo showrooms no longer fit the old stereotype. Volvos have become more plush and bourgeois, which is a Republican thing. More Democrats than Republicans buy hybrid cars. Foreign-brand compact cars are usually bought by Democrats -- but not Mini Coopers, which are purchased by almost equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. Experts say nothing is more Republican than a big pickup. They also point out that the top vehicle bought by millionaires is the Ford F-Series pickup truck.

Interesting. I’m a Democrat who used to drive a Volvo. I’m a millionaire (on paper, if house prices in Rehoboth keep on climbing) and I now drive a Ford F-150. Guess I screw up the pollsters. But, then, I’ve always thrived on being a little different. Not radical. Concepts like “average” and “normal” are just plain unappealing to me. And, that’s part of the lure of the truck: it's not what you’d expect a gay treehugger to drive.

Though I enjoy confounding people, I certainly do not want anyone looking at me in my truck and thinking for one moment that I might support George Bush. I will not tolerate being mistaken for a Republican.

There is only one solution to this heartburn -- bumper stickers. But not too many or else they lose their effectiveness...

I waited 30 years for this auto show?

Auto shows have never interested me. I wasn’t one of those little boys who played with trucks and I’m not one of those men who tinker with cars and drool over Porsches. And, until recently, I didn’t even know Lexus was made by Toyota. But, now that I own a truck, well, things are different. I know about crossover vehicles and I can recognize the “slammer” influence on new truck designs – thanks to the New York Times auto section, my new favorite piece of the paper.

I convinced a couple of friends to accompany me for after-work cocktails and then a foray into the 2006 Washington Auto Show. I was curious. Cars and trucks by their nature are sexy beasts. Just look at the words associated with them: speed, power, size, muscular, chassis, torque, performance, sensuous, indulgent.

So how could a show featuring 700 cars, trucks, and SUVs be so boring?

First of all, there were very few of the concept cars that had premiered earlier in the month in Detroit. How many Hondas and Hyundais can you really look at? The more interesting cars – like the Bentleys and the retro inspired muscle cars -- were locked and off limits, which sort of defeats the whole premise of a car show. The lighting was bad. The signage was bad. The whole thing reminded me of a big car lot somewhere in the northern Virginia suburbs.

The people for the most part were boring too. Way too many serious straight couples examining hybrids and Acuras. I did notice some gay guys with that new GI Joe look -- short hair, short cropped full beards, and cargo pants -- looking at the small, hip Chevy pickup trucks. But, overall it wasn’t a very gay event. Probably because there were more interesting chassis and bumpers on display just down the street at the Green Lantern where shirtless men drink for free on Thursday night.

Were my expectations just too high? I was imagining big boobed blondes lounging seductively on the hoods of Jaguars and Corvettes while dozens of men ogled them and snapped photos with their cell phones. I expected flashing lights and rotating vehicles. I hoped for the future and all I got was real people looking at real cars. And some Professional Perma-Seal show car wax.

Parking and the big truck brand promise

I didn't think about parking when I bought a big truck.

Why would I? Truck commercials don’t mention it. You don’t see former linebacker turned NFL commentator turned Chevy truck spokesman Howie Long helping anyone parallel park a truck do you? Nope. In the truck commercials Howie helps a fella get out of a traffic jam. Howie encourages him to drive his truck down the side of a hill AND in the process regain his masculinity. That’s why you buy a truck.

I overlooked the practical matters when I bought a big truck. I was seduced instead by the possibilities of mountains and beaches and the promise of space for my lawnmower, hedge trimmer, and bags of mulch. With a truck, I’d start wearing old jeans and quit wearing underwear. Drink more beer and less chardonnay. You know, get in touch with my wild voice. That was the plan.

In reality, I’m not doing any of this. I’m just ironing.

Yep, you heard me right. The inability to park my truck on the narrow streets of Georgetown is keeping me from the drycleaners and turning me into an ironing woman. A laundress. A mammy.

Instead of four wheeling I’m reversing dark cotton shirts to avoid fading. I’m not barbecuing with my buddies on the beach, I’m sizing and starching and worrying about flaking.

Smoothing out wrinkles and bringing order to something messy has a certain therapeutic quality to it. But seriously, ironing isn’t part of the truck brand promise.

I need help. I need Howie Long.

Howie would find a way for me to combine the thrill of an outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt. Howie would hook me up with the extreme ironers, that special breed of men who iron in the Himalayas and in the middle of Broadway. Men who iron while skiing and canoeing. Howie’d show me how a real man irons. He'd slip his big arm around my shoulder and tell me its okay that my cuffs are a little wrinkled.

Or maybe, just maybe, he’d just teach me how to parallel park a big ass truck so I could go to the drycleaners and get back to the real business of owning a truck

Should a man's wallet match his shoes or his truck?

My old Coach wallet has served me well for the last decade. Originally tan in color, it has mellowed to a beautiful shade that designers would probably refer to as “cognac” but that I call “bourbon.” It fits my butt perfectly. It has some tears and a few holes, but I’ve mended them with silver duct tape. I figure if duct tape will protect me from a terrorist attack then it ought to be able to hold my wallet together.

When I drove the old Volvo I was perfectly content with the old Coach. It gave off a whiff of “tight old money” and an “I don’t give a damn” vibe. People seemed to accept and understand it when I drove an old Volvo. But that’s all changed now that I drive a truck. Expectations have shifted. I’m learning that a truck and a duct-taped wallet just don’t send an eccentric message. People don’t laugh; they wince. They don’t envision Virginia Hunt Country. They see country West Virginia.

So it’s ironic that this surfaced when I was in New York this week for a meeting about messaging. Picture it. I'm at a lunch with some concert promoters. We're at a hip vegetarian restaurant in the West Village talking about how to get climate change messages across to twenty-somethings, how to "green" a concert, and whether or not we can encourage young musicians to become environmental spokespersons. Good food. Good karma. The ideas were flowing and I'm on my game, baby, on my game. At the end of the meal, all the guys pull out their big wallets and throw cash and credit cards on the table. That’s when it happens. I'm called out on my wallet by a colleague who knows about my truck. He tries to make a joke about it, but I sense the New Yorkers don't get it. I wonder if my stock is dropping.

At the end of the day, I rendezvous with Michael and we wallet shop. The Coach store now caters almost entirely to women, so I won't shop there. I see a good looking orange leather Hermes wallet, but I just can't justify the $950 price tag. Dunhill is selling some very attractive dark chocolate brown leather wallets, but they only accommodate one credit card and a $20 bill. Everything else looks blah.

I leave New York with an uncomfortable wallet in my back pocket and no better sense of what an appropriate wallet would be for a man who wears loafers and drives a big Ford truck.

Flash forward to an unseasonably warm January night in Washington. People are jogging in shorts and I'm wandering the streets determined to solve my dilemna. Wallets at Universal Gear are trying too hard to be hip and they have too many compartments. The options at Lacoste are nice. I'm a big fan of the alligator, but the primary color options just aren't sitting right with me -- I suppose they're just not classically peppy enough. The second hand jeans store has some neat vintage 70's wallets. Alas, they're a tad too "hippy" for my tastes. Wallets at Patagonia use way too much velcro.

The Ralph Lauren Store on Wisconsin Avenue is my last resort. Ralph serves up a contemporary, masculine, classic look that I like and that I look good in -- sans logo, of course. I peruse wallets that look like rep stripe ties and I finger wallets made of grey flannel and of lizard skin. I'm about to give up when I spot it. A tan canvas number with a darker leather border and interior. A classic two-fold without polo pony.

A handsome young sales guy with a dazzling smile and an athletic butt lets me hold it. I bounce it up and down, weighing its heft and squeezing it a bit. It feels damn good in my hand and it slips easily into my back pocket. I could get used to this. When I ask why it's marked down from $135 to $49, the sales guy just shakes his shaggy head and tells me it hasn't been selling well. Then, flashing me a sly grin, he digs down into his pants and hauls his out -- it's the same wallet. I show him mine and I can see in his green eyes how badly he wants to touch it. So I let him. As he plays with it, I ask him whether a man's wallet ought to match his shoes or his truck. Without pause, he says "both." Then he points out that I'm wearing tan shoes and a suede jacket which is a great look if you drive a truck in Georgetown. He's right. After all, he does work for Ralph Lauren. It's the perfect wallet. The look is right. The messaging is on target. Dilemna solved.

One footnote. The sales guy asks what I'm gonna do with the old wallet and if he can have it. For a minute I think this is a come-on. He has been flirtatious. But more likely he wants to take it to Ralph and suggest duct taped wallets for next fall's line. The store is already selling vintage, used-looking leather belts -- why not wallets? I turn him down and keep the wallet. But, I wouldn't be surprised if Ralph Lauren is featuring beat up, duct-taped wallets in the near future.

Abstract #1 in red and green

Abstract art and a Ford F-150 pickup truck are two things that absolutely do not belong together, and, in fact, have probably never been uttered in the same breathe. Imagine my surprise when I walked outside on Sunday morning with a hangover and saw what looked like a Jackson Pollack painting on the hood of my truck.

Actually, a bunch of local birds had been feasting on the red berries on the big holly tree under which I park. What a feast it must have been because the hood was covered with holly stones, crushed berries, twigs, and bird shit. So I did what anyone with an inquisitive mind and an interest in art would do: I grabbed my camera and snapped a few photos.

It’s clear to me that owning a white truck will present cleanliness issues that I never had with a red Volvo. Heck, those holly berries blended right in.

I’m envisioning four options for dealing with this.

1. I become one of those macho guys who washes his truck every weekend out in front of the house. Of course, if I want to do it right, I’ll need to lose twenty pounds so I can strut around bare chested in cut-offs and flaunting a big hose.

2. I take advantage of the environment and begin creating and selling a series of "organic abstract photos." If people buy art produced by monkeys, convicts, and people who paint with their toes, why not from some over-stimulated birds? I'm afraid, though, it might be too complex or too cutting edge for the Rehoboth market. Our tourists seem to prefer seagulls, waves, and lighthouses. If you doubt me, go take a look at some of the "beach art" that sells down on Rehoboth Avenue.

3. I avoid cleaning the truck altogether and document its filthy and physical decline. The truck as art. It might eventually achieve that rare “crackel” finish that some people – mostly enthusiasts of Japanese pottery -- like so much. Then I'd be able to sell it at a good price.

4. I avoid parking under the holly tree. Probably the easiest option, but where’s the story in that?

I'll take a big 'ol shot of hypocrisy with that bourbon and coke

I logged onto AOL tonight and saw a news story about the EPA proposing an overhaul of the way it calculates fuel economy for cars and trucks. Ironically, earlier today I was emailing with my younger brother Jeff about Moby's fuel efficiency.

The new EPA testing methods would result in a 10 to 20 percent drop in fuel-economy estimates in city driving, and a 5 to 15 percent decline in highway performance. The EPA says its current methods are “too optimistic.” Consumer advocate groups say the system is broken.

Now I’m all for encouraging the auto companies to make cars and trucks that are more fuel efficient and that run on alternative fuels. It’s good for the environment. The organization for which I work tries to encourage such policies. So those of you who know me must think me somewhat hypocritical when I say that I don’t care about fuel efficiency or the price of gas when it comes to my big ass truck. I just don’t…

A hypocrite is commonly thought of as someone whose actions contradict their stated or internal beliefs – or visa versa. Oscar Wilde had some thoughts about hypocrites. He said “a man who moralizes is usually a hypocrite, and a woman who moralizes is invariably plain.”

Sociologists actually categorize different kinds of hypocrites. They label someone an “Honest Hypocrite” when his or her stated beliefs contradict their actions, yet their stated beliefs are consistent with their actual internal beliefs. These kinds of hypocrites have strong convictions, but don’t always follow through.

What leads one to honest hypocrisy? The uncertainty of one’s beliefs? The difficulty level of one’s belief system? Or, carnal desires which cause one to act on what the flesh desires, rather than what one believes to be the right action?

In my case it's crystal clear. In only two short weeks this big white truck has led me astray, unleashing all sorts of animal instincts and compromising my value system. If I don’t care about fuel efficiency or gasoline prices, what do I care about?

I succomb to anthropomorphism

Men have been thinking of inanimate objects as having human-like characteristics since the beginning of time. The Greeks wrote about the Centaur with the lower body of a horse and the upper body of a man. The British named their seagoing vessels after their queens. American companies created products called Mr. Coffee, Aunt Jemimah, and Mr. Bubble.

I personally have never been a big practicioner of anthropomorphism. My cottage doesn't have a cute name. I've never named my car or my cock. But for some reason this big white truck is calling out for an identify. Just begging for one. And we all know there's only one name that fits.


The perfect name for a big white truck.

The great white sperm whale Moby Dick was a wild and clever beast. Its whiteness was attractive, alluring, yet, at the same time, freakish and repulsive. Sort of how I feel about the truck. My college roommate Tom, a pale sturdy lad of Irish stock, was prone to anthropomorphism. He called his very big dick "Moby." I'm not kidding. And, judging from the thrashing and squealing I heard from the girls visiting him late at night, "Moby" lived up to his name.

Can the truck can live up to such a name?

Why not a big butch truck?

We were about to purchase another Volvo station wagon – a black-on-black cross country wagon. A good-looking car. A sophisticated car. And about as masculine as a Volvo can get. The brochure, in fact, featured handsome fellas hauling kayaks and coolers and mountain bikes. Not a woman or child in sight.

We were about to bite the bullet and blow $35K when we decided – for the fun of it – to check out the new Dodge Magnum station wagon, a modified muscle car. We didn’t like it. And we weren’t fond of the PT Cruiser the old boys at the dealership were pushing. Although, the price and the possibility of being able to take out all the seats was intriguing. The next thing I know, the old boys had slipped keys into my palm and we were off test driving a pickup truck.

Two days later we’re on our way to Hinder Ford in Aberdeen, Maryland, to pick up our new, shiny white, 2006 Ford F-150 4x4 pickup truck. Purchased sight unseen over the phone from Michael’s brother in law, a Ford dealer.

There’s a big difference between a Volvo and a Ford truck, and we wrestled with the whole image factor. Most of our friends laughed and wondered aloud if we were becoming rednecks or lesbians. Seriously, I'm a loafers and button-down kind of guy. Yeah, I own a pair of cowboy boots, but I've never felt very comfortable in them. And then there was the whole environmental angle. How does somebody who works for an environmental group and recognizes that global warming is the number one problem facing humanity buy a truck?

Luckily I can rationalize anything. At any time. A truck would be practical. We could haul our ladders, our mulch, and our lawnmower between houses. We do all our own yard work. It would be fun. And with four wheel drive, we could take it right out onto the beach. Hell, we could haul our Adirondack chairs with us. Wouldn’t that be great for a beach party? No more flimsy aluminum sand chairs. Yeah, the gas mileage sucked. But, the price was right -- we got a great deal on it and still had cash in the bank accounts. The fact that we also had a chic little aqua Thunderbird convertible helped too.

Another reason, though, had to do with a new year’s resolution. I vowed in 2006 to pay more attention to the “wild voice” within. I want to inspire my writing and avoid becoming too complacent with life. Driving a big white truck was just the thing to help me keep that resolution, to inspire the "wild voice."

The Ford F-150 4x4 is an inspiring, brawny, stud of a truck powered by a V8 engine -- whatever that means. It’s big. I stand 6’3” and it’s taller than me. You have to climb up in it. There are no frills and no gadgetry. We insisted on hand operated windows and a classic, bench-style front seat. It’s got an AM/FM radio. It has air conditioning, but no fancy seat warmers or individual temperature controls. No cruise control. No navigation equipment. Vinyl flooring means I can hose out the sand. It’s a truck. And, in my opinion, if you’re gonna drive a truck, then you ought to drive a truck. I’m not sure what that means. But, it sure sounds right.

There are no accidents, only encounters in history

I was driving to Rehoboth late one Friday night just before Christmas. The trailers and houses along Delaware Route 16 were highly decorated. Big blow-up Santas and snowmen were all the rage this holiday season.

It was a cold night. We’d had our first snow and the deer were running. I’d seen them all along the highway that night and had watched people swerving and honking to avoid them. I was on notice and on the lookout, so you can just imagine how startled I was when the big doe dashed out in front of my car. I swear she looked right at me with her big brown eyes and her own startled expression just before the thud and the crunch. Then she went airborne over the roof and into a ditch.

People tell me I was lucky she didn’t break the windshield. They say I’m lucky I wasn’t hurt. People have died when they hit a deer. But I was safe thanks to my solid tank of a Volvo station wagon.

I looked behind me for the deer. It was a dark night and there was no traffic on the road. I saw what looked like a geyser of water and all I could think was it must be blood and fluid shooting out from the deer. Egads. But when I found the deer she was laying on her side, hit side down and looking very peaceful. So what about this geyser? At that very moment of contemplation, the sky exploded with five or six shooting stars. Was it the deer spirit ascending? Frankly, I don’t believe in God or Heaven and all that mumbo jumbo, so I’m not sure what happened. But I took it as a sign for something.

The Volvo was leaking fluids. The hood was crumpled, the grill was crushed, and the front left lights were smashed out and smoking. There was deer fur in the lights and ground into the bumper. Yet despite an odd humming noise, I was able to drive the old girl the ten miles to my house.

Two days later, the insurance company examined the car, declared it totaled, and offered $6,000 to haul it away. Not too bad for a ten-year old car with 180,000 miles.

But, now I had to buy a new car. I’d been out of the market for a decade. How do you buy a car in 2006? Should I look on the Internet? Buy a used car? Another Volvo? How about a hybrid? And just what the hell was Carmaxx?