the ones with nothing left to give
This is a story about the guy who works at the auto salvage yard whose job is to catalog useful parts on the worthless shit cars in the mud.
It’s a story of how he’s able to choose one of the new arrivals, to spot a good one and start it with a screwdriver. He always knows from a distance which ones will run though, and this one, the ashtray’s still full of cold cigarettes and the dashboard is covered in a film of dust. Maybe the windshield’s gone, maybe the foam in the seats is eaten up by mice, but it’s still got a little bit of gas, and even the heat works.
“You’d be surprised how far a car will go with three wheels!” he imagines himself saying to those he imagines are interested in what he does.
The radio is missing the knobs but he can still tune it. The car saves him from walking through the rain and the mud as he drives it around with his clipboard with a picture of his daughter taped to the top and his can of spray-paint for marking the cars with hints like “cracked block, “broken driveshaft,” or ”good trans” and a big letter X for the ones with nothing left to give.
This is a story about how everyday he reminds himself, that maybe he could, he hopes, he might find one of these cars in better shape one day and fix it up for his daughter who could drive it instead of riding the bus to her job at the liquor store where she’s saving up for community college.
This is a story about hope, hope of something left to give, in a guy who works at the auto salvage yard whose job is to catalog useful parts on the worthless shit cars in the mud.
cruising in the Edsel a few years ago.
Polar Bear Cruise 2012
Bare Bones Polar Bear Cruise
I decided to process some from the set to black and white.
The glow of the dashboard on him
I remember the first time I was ever in awe of a car.
I was a kid in the very back of a 1982 Ford Crown Victoria station wagon. It was a dark night on highway 89 up in the mountains of New Hampshire. I must have been 7 or 8. Dad, the glow of the dashboard on him, the corner of his eye in the rearview mirror, said, “watch what’s about to pass us.”
I perked up and saw low headlights behind us, to close to the ground. Something was wrong. The headlights were low, as if the lights were projecting the road before it like a movie, like a plot, like a storyline where the ending is just beyond the reach of the headlights. The car flung passed us. It was chopped and low, flat black, with a tiny rear window on a long sloping back. It looked like it got its shape from driving at speed, like a drop of hot lead flung across the face of the earth, streaking an inch above the ground and leaving a blackened road in its wake. Dad glanced at the dashboard, the needle on the Ford’s massive speedometer lazily bobbing, to gauge the speed. He said only “51 Mercury.”
As it climbed up and towards the sky along the slope of highway on the mountains before us, only a fading red glow of bullet shaped tail-lights was visible. The car moved as if the draw to move forward was a greater newtonian force than gravity.
That’s the definition of the awe: that need to move, as if the car were not designed simply to go, but instead made to sail in that universal language of movement over time to show us what velocity means like a new category of vocabulary, to show us that these aren’t miles per hour, these are the miles of our hours.
Dad said it more succinctly with a disbelieving “Look at her go.”