Three years ago I inherited a 1986 Mitsubishi Mighty Max pickup truck that had traveled only 60,000 miles in its lifetime up to that point. “This baby’s going to last me well into the next century,” I told myself. But when I took it to a mechanic, he shook his head and said, “She won’t pass the smog test. This thing is the same as the Dodge truck, just a different name slapped on the fender. I used to work on those Dodges.” He said no more, but his grimace seemed to reveal an awful truth. Three years later I got a notice from the DMV that it’s time to check what’s coming out of the tailpipe of my truck—that is if I wanted my registration renewed. I took the truck to a mechanic, who advised me to get pre-tested so I wouldn’t be branded a “gross polluter.” The pre-test showed frighteningly high levels of hydrocarbons spewing out of my Mitsubishi (which means “three diamonds” in Japanese). It was my truck, the smog-checker suggested, not the Oregon Biscuit Fire that was most likely responsible for the cloud of dirty air hanging over Chico in recent weeks. “It’s this Mitsubishi carburetor,” he said with a trace of scorn in his voice. “Can you fix it?” I asked. “Not me,” he said, taking a step back. “Can you recommend someone?” I pleaded. “I wouldn’t do that to any of my friends,” he said.

So I took the Mighty Max to another mechanic, who, when he saw the readout from the pre-test, suggested I drive the truck to Oregon and unload it there. He said there was one last thing I could try: “Take it to Jason the Miracle Worker. Though I don’t think even he can help this truck.” I took it to Jason, who listened to my story with little if any facial reaction. He just kind of dragged his toe around in the kitty litter that was soaking up the oil from his garage floor. When I was done babbling he said simply, “Start it up.” Then, with the calm grace of Steve McQueen, he fiddled with the carburetor and announced, “There’s nothing wrong with these Mitsubishi carburetors; they’re just misunderstood.” It turns out Jason is one of only two mechanics in all of Chico who will work on a Mitsubishi. He told me to add a quart of automatic transmission fluid to the fuel tank, then sprinkle chicken blood across the grave of an elderly Japanese man on a moonless night before testing the truck again. I hope it works.

The Chico Police Department has already reported an allegedly drunken student lying down between the railroad tracks and then getting hit by an early morning train (bruises, contusions and lacerations only). A day later an officer responding to a large party on Ivy Street was pelted by a beer bottle tossed by a presumably hopped-up reveler. And it’s only August. If the weekend before classes even began is any indication, the 2002-03 school year could well be one long, loud and drunken affair—and Chico State didn’t even warrant mention on the Princeton Review top-345 party school list! Still, with that initial weekend filed into the logbook, the cops are now casting a weary eye to Labor Day and the alcohol-fueled shenanigans that often dominate the Sacramento River and the rural Butte County roads that run alongside it. On Friday, Aug. 30, the Chico Police Department “will shift to a special event staffing with a high enforcement posture,” says a press release. The police will continue to posture until Monday evening, setting up a Labor Day DUI check on West Fifth Street or Highway 32. ABC officers will work the west side of town and the downtown throughout the weekend looking for minors in possession, minors in bars and other alcohol-related violations. On Labor Day, Sept. 2, the millions of inner-tube-carrying drivers looking for a place to park will find 200 acres of open field on the east side of the Sacramento River, off Pine Creek Bridge, according to Ralph Vidauri of the Hamilton City Citizens in Action committee, or CIA. This is the first year the field will be open to parking on Labor Day. It’ll cost $5; the money goes toward restoring the levy on the Hamilton City side of the river. Cheryl Broom, public information officer for the Butte County Sheriff’s Office, said she expects cable station VH1 to make an appearance with video cameras in hand. VH1 does the "Behind the Music" series that features intimate details of the artists who entertain us. With this visit to Butte County, can we expect VH1 to offer "My Four Years at the Top—the Scott Mackenzie Story"?