Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Greasy Rider excerpt, page 1

The kids have a snow day today, so instead of my usual enlightening posts, I bring you an excerpt from page one of Greasy Rider:

'Grease on earth'

I drive a 1985 Mercedes 300TD wagon. It runs on waste oil from restaurant deep-fat fryers. Like nearly all (of the many) kooky ideas that arise in my cozy Cape-style home near Burlington, Vermont, the one to convert a diesel car to burn grease came from my wife, Ann Marie. She is a devout saver of the earth. She feels guilty swatting a mosquito. She cleans and reuses Ziploc bags. She forces me to use organic toilet paper, which is far from cottony soft.

I began lobbying for a second car not long after she was accepted to medical school at the University of Vermont because our soon-to-be-crazier schedules would no longer allow us to get by on one vehicle."I want a pickup truck," I told her. "A big, old one."She shook her head. "Why would you ever need a pickup truck?" Having been married to her for seven years, I knew exactly what the question and her body language implied: (1) a pickup truck burns too much fossil fuel, so it wouldn't be cheap to drive or environmentally friendly, and (2) I, of all people, would have absolutely no use for one."What do you mean?" I asked in a defensive tone. "I could totally use one. I'd haul stuff. I'd get compost for the garden. I'd clear brush from the yard. I'd...get a snow plow."

I didn't really plan to get a snow plow. And we could borrow a friend's pickup on the extremely rare occasion when we needed to haul something or clear brush. But I yearned to feel the power of a V-8 engine, revving at the slightest touch from my leaden foot. I dreamed of shifting into four-wheel drive, and crushing a Prius beneath my fat tires. My truck would be red, its chrome bumpers gleaming so brightly they'd blind passing motorists. I looked pleadingly into Ann Marie's eyes, but her stony expression didn't soften.

She said we should buy a diesel and convert to vegetable oil. Therewas an article in one of her green living magazines about someonewho had done it. "You'll be the only guy on the block with a veggie car," she argued. I didn't care. "You're always ranting about politics. Now you can walk the walk." All right, I was listening."You'll save a lot of money." Very good point. Then came the kicker. "Dick Cheney will hate you for it." Done deal.

In many ways, I'm the yang to her yin. I only take a stand onsomething when I think I'm getting screwed, and to me, potentially paying four dollars per gallon at the pump--and watching my hard-earned money get split between already-rich oil company executives and already-richer sheikhs--is getting screwed. Burning used french-fry grease did seem intriguing. Restaurants usually pay to get it disposed of, so they're happy to give it away for free, Ann Marie told me. Yes, free. As in, 'I won't have to pay for the fuel that goes into my car.' While it's true that I did have a slightly more than passing concern for the environment, I mostly saw a veggie-powered car as my chance to stick it to The Man.