First Car / Best Car - Chris Kaskie | Varyer

Talking Loud,
Saying Nothing

I grew up in St. Louis, and when I was a teenager my family moved to Omaha. This was not cool. Omaha was pretty a weird place for me. It was uncomplicated, but frustrating in its lack of perspective—basically you were either ready to die for the Cornhuskers, or you weren’t. This dichotomy led me to more simple explorations. At my school if you liked music, you were an outsider, and thus you could be into anything and everything, freed from the trappings of genre-based scenes. If you didn’t play football, you were a freak. So you'd just find your own way. No pressure. Becoming myself became very easy, and being who I was became my personal requirement. And my car embodied that journey.

My 1989 Volvo 240DL was a boxy, comfortable, plain car with minimal ornamentation and almost zero performance. Unlike most of my peers—all of whom were coveting the Wranglers, Discoverys, and vintage Land Cruisers—this car was as close as it could get to obtainable perfection for me.

My dad gave me the car in 1997 after he acquired it from his employer, where he used it for seven years as his company car. It had no air conditioning, a built-in car phone, and a tape player with a CD converter plugged into my cherished vibration-safe Discman. At its fastest, I could get it to 70mph, but only if the windows were up. My favorite detail was the purple oscillating dashboard fan plugged into the lighter.

That 240 could be only itself. It was unique, but never worked to grab anyone’s attention. It was comfortable in its own existence, not trying too hard. And it was genuine, good to those that spent their time in it and with it. It was more than just an escape hatch, it implored me to seek things out that made me feel like myself, things that were rarely connected to Omaha or my high school. It’s the car I drove from Ohio to St. Louis when my grandpa died. It’s the car that knocked my aunt's garage down and escaped without a scratch. It’s the car that brought me to the mountains. It was the only car in Nebraska with both a stealie and a Pavement sticker. It’s what brought me to my future.

And looking back, that is the car that embodied what I wanted to be. It was reliable as hell. Hard working. Unique. Determined. Resolute. And it was honest. Not sure I’ve gotten there yet, but it reminds me to stay on the journey. It made everything possible, and I wish I could get it back.

Author's jacket customized by Small Talk Studio

The author, his Case Logic, some hemp, and Mountainsmith Waist Pack circa 1996

The author pretending he's in Winter Park, CO instead of McMansion Park, Omaha circa 1997