It’s The Only Way to Live In Cars

IMG_0231The hills rise up and there is a green cover that tappers at the edges to small blossoms or red buds while thick purple bunches of flowers drape about. The older houses are small and many are quite run down. The factories are generally large boxes with tin siding and these vary only in colour. There is an occasional older factory, brick and stately like those in the north, but these are far and few and the ones still running a rare site.
The outside of Atlanta appears to be a collection of several fabricated communities, perhaps gated perhaps not, but otherwise each house taller than the rest, I can only assume due to the miracle of air conditioning, but like their traditional suburban fore-bearers of the 50s, 60s, 70s they appear in two types – roof facing roadside, roof facing neighbors. Each backyard is divided into the same square, the differences being only the litter of huge plastic toys. Entering Atlanta, the station for this route is apart from what appears to be city center as the tall glass buildings reach up and were reflecting the early morning sun, a warm spring day I can only assume is unbearable in the summer since already the humidity is thick.
The south of the city is not as quaint, nor are those suburbs seen from the rails. There are a number of car dumps, some of which are private, that is private homes littered with cars in various states of exhaustion and dismal repair. It strikes me just how many cars there are in this country. Parking lots, dealerships, used, new, junked, scrap, and then the backyard collections where 2.5 cars per average family are those on the road and don’t count for those dead or under the blue tarp, which may bring up our national average to 6.98 or higher.
Full disclosure, I do not have a car… on the road. My truck, a 1995 Nissan has been in the shop for over a month with a strange computer problem and will remain there until a fix is found. Then… I have a 1984 convertible, parked for the colder season at… my mom’s. Yes, I may not live with my mom, but my car does. So too my Jeep, a 1981 CJ7 that I intend to repair one day or perhaps should just get rid of. Last run a few years ago, the frame is rusted off the carriage and the gas tank is ripped open. Then there is my mother’s collection – a 1994 minivan with a ticking lifter she is retaining until she can strip a few parts and then there is the 1969 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, a monster black and white status symbol of over 40 years ago that Car & Driver claimed was the ultimate driving machine and which is true, since when I was younger I drove it after my grandmother had died. Then there is my mother’s two other cars, one of which slips in second gear so is not being currently used and I have made the recommendation that this particular car be sent to the retirement paddock, the crusher or whatever.
So that leaves 5 cars on her property. One of which is currently on the road. And I have three motorcycles, only one, the 1984 Honda, is on the road. The other two are stored in my place, a 1984 Honda and a 1971 CZ which is in pieces and perhaps would make a better lamp than a motorcycle at this point. So, car horder, I guess I am too.
IMG_0223This is not much different from what I see where I go, town, city and country, the multiplication of cars in and out of service, classic and just crap, and of course those I see stuck in traffic on what I assume is their daily commute and time alone in the car where they can think, talk to friends on their hands-free device, and catch up with Opus and Andy, or Minus and Mindy, or Bonker and Boing Boing, or whoever is on the radio these days. The car is with us and is necessary evil at this point since we’ve put shit so far from other shit and walking is only fun when it doesn’t involve actually having to walk out of necessity.
And maybe this sanctimonious position I take on the many cars littering the land is because I am ridding inside a train, the ultimate “oh lookit me and how greeeeeen I am” and perhaps since the property abutting the rail track is perhaps as valuable as that adjacent to any large highway, that is low cost and given to being used by industry and poor people, who, like myself, accumulate vehicles because their replacement is thought difficult and the intention is to some day one time perhaps maybe get a little money enough to “fix her up.” But, this is not the first time I have noticed the prevalence of cars, trucks, and accessories stacked here and there and everywhere there is human activity.
I have been car dependent for much of my life. Early on, when I was a teen, I walked to and from work. In the rain, the snow, the dark, up hill both ways. In some ways I enjoyed it, except on those really dark nights when I’d walk alone and have to pass the cemetery, the only way to remain on the road was by looking up and seeing the break in the trees marking the middle of the road… sometimes a deer would startle me (or we would startle each other) or a fish would splash in the pond, or an unholy specter would snap a twig, and I would freak out… but for the most part it was an enjoyable walk and allowed me to save money I’d otherwise spend on a car. Then, I finally bought a car since walling to work may be all good and all, but I needed to do something to improve my employment. So I needed a car to get to college for some time, then when I got in to a residential college, I no longer needed one. Except for a few months after college, it was about eight years before I again owned a car. A 1992 Nissan Sentra. That died after I took it to Canada and ran some of the Trans Labrador highway. So I bought an Eagle as replacement. However, that died as I was driving my dead dog upstate to burry, the timing belt broke and the fracture motor, fractured and I could actually understand those cowboy songs about dead pickups, dogs, and wives, and since I soon got divorced from my own wife, it was almost a cliché occurance. Then, I bought a Geo Metro, I named Sushi. That I flipped on a country road in the middle of the night after skidding on a patch of ice. I remember thinking as I flipped over, “do I have healthcare? Wow, this is going to be so expensive…” There’s a story there perhaps for another post. I went back to my use my “second car,” the Jeep that I had already driven into several ditches, taken to Labrador and back was a risk to use to commute to and from Boston and about western Massachusetts considering the body was down to just a few bolts holding it to the frame but I used it anyway and had some very good adventures with that Jeep. It came time to get something that didn’t stall out in traffic or at risk of blowing apart, so I retired the Jeep and got another Geo Metro at the height of the gas spike… but then, that Geo Metro had the wheel fold under itself as I was driving down the highway. Apparently I did not know about the unibody rust and neither did the mechanic who had just inspected and replaced the brakes for about $350. That was a fun night. I had a back up car in this convertible I paid $500 for from an old man that I used until the winter came and then borrowed a minivan from my mother, the one with the ticking lifter. I was going to get another season out of it but when I took it to be inspected, the thing started to fold in two on the lift and the laundry list of unsafe conditions apart from that prevented it from passing inspection… and I returned to the convertible. This I drove again to Canada, this time to James Bay and back. The thing got us there and back again, but started to stall and complain and after the third or fifth time I was pushing it down the road, I figured I better get another car, even if that meant taking out a loan from the old credit cards.
IMG_0202So I bought a truck. And that truck is in the stop with a blown computer, and has been for a little over a month.
So in my life I have had perhaps…. 7-8 cars, not counting the times I borrowed my momz minivan.
I don’t think that is unusual numbers so a lot of people, and those who buy new or lease may not have as many fantastic “my car broke down on the way to…” stories, yet they are contributing nonetheless to the piles of cars that blanket the landscape. While it seems the need for recycled materials is strong, and many of the wrecking yards I knew of as a kid were cleaned up in order to remove spare parts from the after market as well as send Asia our scrap in order for them to turn it into new geegaws, the number of spare cars and trucks expands. I know I’m not ready to call it quits with my Jeep restoration fantasy, but perhaps I will use this reflection to inspire me to do away with some of the other hunks of junk on my family estate…

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