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You are here: Home --> Pictures --> Art Car Index --> The Duke --> Bambi vs The Camera Van --> Page 1
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It's a Monday night and I'm standing in some eerie East Phoenix neighborhood asking a frightening-looking blonde kid with a pistol in a shoulder holster if he'll give me a lift to the auto parts store down the street to purchase a new battery for my art car, Duke, dead in a Circle K parking lot. The sun is soon to set. I've driven over a 1000 miles straight in one day on the I-10 and Mike, my passenger, is telling me in his entirely impractical zen idiot savant way to calm down BUT I CAN'T CALM DOWN! I'm hoping it is just the battery. Could be worse. The prospect of having to abandon my art car is making me crazy!

Duke is a car with a soul, one of a rare breed of Art Cars, and you don't leave your art car for dead without losing a part of yourself. God! In East Phoenix, of all places! I'd rather leave Mike here than leave my buddy Duke to die in Phoenix. I've known Duke longer.

So begins the tale. In East Phoenix. It has to, for such journeys must begin with the question of an inopportune end: will my car make it there and back? And if it doesn't, am I prepared to say goodbye? I must confess that I had once thought that if Duke croaked, I would torch him at sunset in some desolate stretch of desert, take pictures, drink myself silly and weep in my beer until the other caravaners carried me off and took me with them. I mean, what choice would I have? Starving artist... no money for repairs or a tow, no triple A, no nuthin. Nothing but an imperative: get the car home. I'm about to relate the experience that led to this imperative, that led me to understand that I was far more attached to my car than I thought, enter that smoked four-chapters-shy of the Great American Gen-X Novel and the road trip that changed a life. It's about the check in the mail, the redefinition of family, and eleven creatively-endowed automobiles on the road to Houston and art history. It's also about the ill-wisdom of illegal ferret trading, the hitchhiker with bad vibes, new uses for climbing gear, engine-baked potatoes, Hunter Thompson fantasies, ex-girlfriends in foreign ports, the practicality of car-driving hippies (gypsies), cops on camera and the psychiatry of the Camera Van, and folk art fantasmic on the I-10. It's about two weeks on the road with first ten, fifteen, then twenty eccentrics rolling, rambling, wobbling through desert towns and Texas spring blooming fields of wildflower color in a dozen cars bound for automotive glory.

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Last update April 1, 2004
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