D.O.’s junk yard was the center of the universe and the more I pondered that thought the more it became a plausible reality to me.
The cars were a fine mix of Fords and Chevys and MoPars, old and all in some state of semi repair, as we lived the second half of the twentieth century American greaser dream.
The shop was a scattered and disheveled mess of old and broken and ‘new,’ recently scrounged and scavenged parts. It was the home we knew and the place we worked out the mastery of shade-tree mechanical engineering and applied physics, with shiny Craftsman wrenches and long, long cheater bars that often broke. When the bars did break it and would send one of us flying, in a direction opposite and perportinate to the applied force and length of said bar. These were times we’d find ourselves crossing from the world of applied physics to Newtons laws of motion, and more than a few times chaos theory.
Life was good at the junk yard, it was simple and grimy and everything, except the pretty girls, was well within our reach. The pretty girls were too smart to fall for offers of rides in loud cars with sketchy and dangerous boys.
It is a good and a very bad thing to have lived the bulk of your life within only a few miles of where you were born. The good is a deep and profound sense of home, the bad is the wither, like corn dying in a field in October, and a very real sense of the passage of the years. Standing next to my cousin the other day pondering the age of an oak tree and somehow adding or subtracting sixty some years to its age and imagining it’s height when we were boys. And seeing it now as a old and dying tree, with a few branches leafless and bare of bark and threatening to come off and bust open someone’s head.
The priorities haven’t changed much since the days of D.O., the junk is still as precious and comforting and grimy. The wrenches not so shiny, but the air is still at times full of anticipation and the joys are just as sweet.
A stunning realization bitch-slaps my face standing on the same exact spot I stood as a much younger man, a boy, on the same patch of grass growing under my boots that grew green and fresh so many years ago. Still, this late in life the boots are burned through in select spots with welding spatter, and I’m holding the same wrench in my hand that turned and broke so many ancient bolts.
All the boys are gone now, save maybe one of two, the smart girls got married to doctors and such and never looked back us the greaser boys. I’m over-washed with a sense of being a stone that has never moved and never changed while the world around me spun hopelessly out of control and into more comfortable and cleaner things. A world without broken bolts and hot slag, and the comfort of grime.
I wonder did the greaser boys, now scattered like twigs to the wind and to various spots above the ground and deep in the dirt across the country, take our traditions with them. Did they find new junkyards and other boys to hot-rod and fix broken things with or did they become old men and bankers and managers and accountants.