Mar. 9th, 2009


Mar. 9th, 2009 09:59 pm
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I took this past Friday off and went scrounging in the junkyards around Winston-Salem, NC. People wonder why I like junkyards so much, and I really can't explain it. It is a combination of all of the things below and more, fusing into some kind of gestalt that is unique among places here in America.

Junkyards are an odd juxtaposition of different attributes. They're incredible recycling facilities. They have a timeworn persona in American Culture that paints them as a kind of lower class trashbin, replete with snarling, semi-feral attack dogs. They're often in rural areas, so junkyard operators are often portrayed as semi-literate hicks. They're a staple of action movies, in which the junkyards are deserted, bleak places, full of menacing shadows.

I view junkyards as a kind of museum. You can go to some junkyards and see the cult of cars laid out in it's purest form- the discards of society. One junkyard I've gone to a few times has decades worth of cars. From old sedans from the 50s, slowly rusting away to new SUVs in various forms of smashity-kaboombity, it's all there. You can see, firsthand, how the styles and features of cars have changed over the years.

In other yards I've gone to, there are sad stories. That car over there? Yeah, the operator pulled that one in at 3 AM one morning, after the rescue crew got done scraping out the driver who got T-Boned d by a truck doing 70mph. That car doesn't have a driver's seat, and the passenger seat has some dark stains on it that could be blood, or could just be spilled cola. I never really checked it out that closely. There are other cars, still with license plates on them, full of CDs and perhaps a discarded tie or child's toy. Those cars were either impounded and sent to the yard after the owner's gave up on them due to high fees, or were abandoned on the road. Each and every one of them is a small window into some stranger's life, and I'm always left to wonder why they couldn't get their car back.

Then there are the high-turnover lots- cars don't sit around for more than a couple of months at those places. By the time they're gone, the semi-pro gangs of car junkies will have stripped out anything of value and thrown it up on Ebay.

In all of the junkyards I go to, no matter what the time of day, there are people about. Many are focused- they know exactly what they want, and they're out of the yard the moment they have it. People with bored friends in tow and desperate looks in there eyes crawling all over a particular type of car, trying to find the piece they need to repair their car so they can go to work. Others are like me. People with no real aim other than to maybe score a few high performance parts out of a junker, or maybe a few free tools left in the trunk of an old beater. We're content to wander around and perhaps find beauty inspiration in unlikely places. I can recall vividly an etched window on an old Ford Escort. It was a group of horses. Somehow, the artist had managed to get detailed shading done on glass. Impressive.

This week, I have busted knuckles, a bruised wrist and some parts that might make one of my cars better once I take the time to install them. I've got too many projects and obligations elsewhere to get it done quickly. So little time, and so much to do. Still, the journey is fun, and sometimes you have to look at the cast-offs to really understand how lucky you are.


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