I just bought a ’90s era truck and it needs a few things so I ventured out to “Pull-a-Part” out by Boomtown Casino and the Harvey Canal a little while back to get a tailgate assembly, a door cable and whatever else I could find on the trucks out there that I didn’t have on mine.
Expecting to have a frustrating day (because even though my dad is an amazing mechanic and restorer of cars, the traits he tried to instill never cured in my constitution), I found myself strangely calmed by the place, I think perhaps by the ordered chaos. The cars, in various states of decrepitude, were also very neatly arranged in rows and as much as possible were grouped by makes and models. This is a large expanse. It’s also very quiet. Space, order, repetition – very meditative.
Within the cars and trucks, there were two cultures present. The first was of visitors to the yard and the results of what they scavenged off of the vehicles since some wreck or costly repair had rendered it useless. Many of them all had the same part missing. A knob or a panel that had some genetic defect and often needed to be replaced. My tailgate mechanism was one of these, most of the truck there didn’t have them or had ones with the same failures as mine. Many people would stack parts removed from the motor or transmission inside the car so if someone came looking for a part they removed to get to another part, the work would already be done for them. Some pieces of the interior or dashboard items were simply ripped off by a fella who didn’t bring the right tool. Disemboweled dashboards showed hanging wires and connectors. Split and torn upholstery gathered mold. This was all post-mortum.
Deeper into the wrecks there were relics of the last owner. Matchbooks from Marrero nightclubs, crayons, Mardi Gras beads. Bumper stickers (perhaps the most pure and succinct indicators of who we are in this modern world) still adorned the rear windows of many. There were also signs of how well the cars were maintained in their “life.” Some were still cluttered with debris in the crevices of their interiors while others were still showing signs of detailing in spite of having missing doors or no windshield.
I actually didn’t have the tool I needed that day. To get the door cable off, I needed a Phillips screwdriver that was just slightly larger than the one I had. I tried to get the screws loose on one truck and I managed to get the forst two loose but the last one wouldn’t budge. So I moved on to the next one. Same thing. Same two loose in the same spot. Same one wouldn’t budge. Ditto for the next truck. I finally cracked the code by finding a truck that had for some reason already had the screws missing.
Next to one truck I was working on was a Mustang (they had all the Fords in one corner). During the time I was there, three different people came and pried a part off it. The last guy told me it was the only junked one of that make and model in the area. He also lamented that, “They no leave me nothing!”
As I left, I thought this tranquility was absurd. People most likely died in some of these cars and trucks. But then, a lot of things probably happened in these rides. People were conceived in them. But regardless of what used to happen in them, now it’s all gone. I felt like I was in the past peering into the future but I was actually in the future looking back into the past. I can say with certainty that most of these remains at some point in the last generation, brought someone a great sense of exuberance and accomplishment. Perhaps a few times. Then a natural decay began to form or a terrible accident and the car lies out here like a carcass.
I called my dad to tell him about how the truck was going and mentioned the trip to the junkyard and he said, “neat out there isn’t it?” He said one time he was at one and a storm came up on him so he got inside a truck and just sat there smoking cigarettes until it passed.