Remembering Zeke (My VW Van)

I don’t have a personal relationship with my cars. I don’t give them names. Except one. I had a 1979 Volkswagen van I called Zeke, which I purchased used in 1984. In my novel Desert City Diva, there’s a brief homage to Zeke, as Rolly and Moogus recover from an altercation at Desert View Tower.

You remember Old Zeke?” said Moogus.
Rolly nodded.
“Yeah. I wrote a song about Zeke.”
One verse. That was all he could remember. And the melody. His voice cracked as he sang it.
“Old Zeke’s got a number, stashed in his glove box
A number he’s waiting to play
She gave him her number, the day that he met her
A wahine from Hanalei Bay”
“Oh man, that sucks,” said Moogus. “A wahine from Hanalei Bay? Really?”
Rolly shrugged.
“I was going for a surf-rock kind of thing.”
“Zeke deserved better than that.”

Zeke and me, somewhere in Montana

My wife and I took Zeke on a monthlong tour of the West shortly after we met. San Diego to Catalina to San Francisco to Ely to Jackson to Yellowstone to Cheyenne to Denver to Meeker to Durango to Santa Fe to Grand Canyon to Flagstaff and back to San Diego. (Note: if you survive a month together in a VW Van, it’s a good indication of future compatibility).


All packed up and heading out for the gig

Zeke was my band van, as well. With the middle seats removed, there was just enough room for PA gear – woofer and tweeter cabinets, monitors, mixers, microphones, cables and stands plus my keyboard equipment. You could fit it all in there, with just enough room for my brother and me in the front seats.

Zeke wasn’t the most dependable car I ever owned. If the engine got hot and you stopped anywhere above sea level, you might not be able to get started again. Vapor lock would set in. The only solution was to sit and wait for the gasoline in the fuel lines to re-liquify.

Zeke didn’t have any air-conditioning either. The engine was always threatening to overheat and the only way you could cool down the engine was to turn on the heater. I will never forget crossing Utah’s San Rafael Swell in 100 degree heat with all of Zeke’s windows open and the heater set on full blast. Car and driver both survived the trek, if you don’t count the fits of maniacal laughter I was given to by the end of the day.

Zeke at home in the driveway

At the end of my band days, when I got out of grad school, I traded Zeke in and leased a brand new red Jeep Cherokee. The Jeep was my first new car and much more dependable, but no car I’ve owned since has had Zeke’s personality. There was a brief moment of mawkish farewell as I cleared out the glove compartment and then he was gone.

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