January 30, 2008

Bug Truck

The truth is you never know what people are thinking.

I was eating lunch alone in a Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown today—the order was a limeade and Bo La Lot over rice— when the waitress, perhaps seeing me staring out the window, asked what I was thinking about. How could I explain I was thinking of the bug trucks which would roll slowly through the backroads of my Texas hometown? They would appear at sunset spraying a fine mist of mosquito repellent in the air. I wasn't thinking of the trucks themselves, but rather of the kerosene smell and how we would ride up along side the trucks on our banana bikes holding onto ladders on the tanks with one hand so we wouldn't have to pedal. We would look back through the spray at the sunset which, because of oil, would flare into countless oily rainbows. We would call to each other. "Marco"
"Ten four"
"Keep on truckin' dude."
Jay would flick matches back at the spray hoping to ignite a fireball. Having convinced ourselves that one day he would succeed creating an Evel Knievel Snake River Canyon style propulsion, we held the ladders with only our fingers ready to peel off at any moment. He could light and flick matches with one hand. It was an impressive skill which we chalked up to the fact that he was both double jointed and six months older than the rest of us. We would ride the trucks until twilight or until we were kicked off or until someone started coughing too much. Sometimes even a few days later you would still have the smell in your nose. It was hard to wash off.

Jay died in a car accident right out of college. He fell asleep at the wheel on one those long straight country highways and drifted off the road. And today sitting at lunch down on Baxter Street I was thinking about how I wished that just once he had managed to set the spray off and propelled that bug truck down the street like we had imagined because it would have been something to remember. But this was all too complicated to explain to the waitress so I just said I was thinking about the limeade and how delicious it was on a rainy winter day even though limeade is a summer drink that evokes Texas and August sunsets.

posted at 03:45 AM by raul

Filed under: personal history

TAGS: 1979 (4) bug trucks (1) east texas (2) limeaide (1) spraying (1) summer (5)


01/30/08 08:00 AM

If you ever write a novel, I want to read it. Put me on your mailing list.

01/30/08 08:51 AM

Every time I read one of your posts it evokes so many images, so many memories... and I don't even LIKE those damnable "bug trucks"!

Get me on that novel mailing list too! If your posts are anything to go by, that novel is gonna fly off the shelves!

Peace and Good Dharma...

01/30/08 10:10 AM

that was beautiful... thanks for sharing...

01/30/08 10:14 AM

Bug trucks! You just unlocked a whole part of my Louisiana childhood I had filed away and forgotten. My mother would make us come in the house and we would lock the doors and windows when they came by. I echo the call for a novel. You already have the outlines of one here in your personal history archives. Have you ever considered writing one? Or do you have that problem of thinking of yourself as a photographer first. Your writing should be more than a hobby! Your public demands it. Add me to that list.

01/30/08 02:12 PM

wow. so many layers. . .from that part of childhood that totally felt like something I experienced but didn't . . . to single-handed match lighting . . . to your friend's death . . .and on to the great story that would have been if the match did work. what a ride. wish wish wish I were an editor, I'd so publish your words and photos. Thanks for the post.

01/30/08 03:42 PM

When I read your stories, I too can "see" the vivid pictures they project. When I view your images, I can "hear" the stories they tell. I just can't help it. Your stories read like pictures, and your pictures show stories. I still don't know how you do it. I have to come back again and again for the secret.

Does raising a young family help invoke childhood memories?

Can I be on your mailing list too?

01/31/08 11:45 AM

amazing. i guess if you happen to be 40ish and spent some of your childhood somewhere hot and/or steamy (south florida in my case), you could be found, in the evenings, chasing bug trucks on your banana bikes.

it seems a certain reckless freedom that my young children may never know growing up in brooklyn in the early 21st century... for good or for bad.

02/02/08 12:15 AM

A perfect small story.
Wanted to say thank you for this blog, Raul. I just stumbled across it tonight. It will be a great treasure chest for me.

So - Thank you.

Brandon - you have some really wonderful photos as well.

02/06/08 01:11 PM

Raul, thanks for the Lufkin memory. I hadn't thought of Jay in a number of years...he and I were in the same Boy Scout troop and church youth group, and I got my first glasses from his parents' shop. His mom always seemed so exotic to me, with her scarves, super stylish glasses and the mysterious first name "Charda."

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