1. Upon a Time Wherein Mike Waives His Right to Life
Scrapyards are mildly terrifying to me. Not because one could easily walk in and walk out dead or paralyzed from having a colossal claw drop tons of old mac G4s or broken bike-parts on the hapless wanderer, though death is pretty scary, too. Death-by-claw is in my top-five fears. Mostly they are frightening because I perceive them to be full of strong-minded and strong-armed men and I fear they’ll look into my soul or ironic band t-shirt and see that I am not a strong man, but a young goon.
Yard Song (ext. play)
But, despite my anxiety of having my real identity of two children sitting on one-another’s shoulders exposed to the world, scrapyards are too attractively teeming with man-made sounds to be passed-up. Whereas traffic and lawn-care, which constitute a vast majority of our auditory landscapes, tend to be somewhat drone-ish and one-dimensional, scrapyards are visually and sonically diverse places. If you like audio/visual garbage, that is.
My assessment of this particular scrapyard serves as a template for all scrapyards that have ever or will ever exist, because I don’t know any better.
2. An Embarrassment of Riches
Visually, as far as the constructed world goes, I don’t see how a person could want anything more than what a scrapyard can offer. If you are a fan of art in the literal or abstract, the high or the low, the cornucopia of the scrapyard is an interminable feast. Piles of loosely-organized objects are scattered throughout the landscape open to the explorer. I happen upon car-country very quickly. Carburetors,(I think), engine blocks, (I think) and old alternators (I think) all congregated in unnamed peaks, rising to impressive heights. Wheels that probably all bore crying babies or hospital-bound men down freeways all over the country now sit in uncountable and uncomfortable piles, undocumented but still very beautiful to look upon.
There are stacks of cars smashed into one another like great and frankly-gross sandwiches and fields of screen-doors spangled with occasional tea-pots or discarded organs of some old computers. In the far corners are whale-sized beasts composed of (for me) literally unknowable convoluted parts. Obtuse and strange metal limbs languish in listless clumps, vaguely directed at the sunlight. Where did you guys come from? Did you know each other from before? Or are most of you just mingling in this pile and getting to know each other for the first time?
Just behind the whale is a giant truck tipped over on it’s side, guts and wheels exposed the the sunlight like dead animal. Macabre, but a sight I had never seen before.
3. The Sound of the Fury
The Sound of Steel
The sound of the scrapyard is equally compelling and fresh. It sound writhes and shifts in a much more living way than the visual still-life of the yard as titans pick up what probably amount to hundreds of pounds of scrap metal from massive trailers and unload them into piles on the ground. Since one has to sign a waiver before coming in indicating that they have fully accepted their own imminent death in the scrapyard, the massive claw-game machines just drop piles of metal right next to you, unconcerned with how your family will react to the news of your passing. The deep bellowing crash of a mass of “stuff” hitting the dirt layered with the high, metallic crunching is a good reminder of what humans have been able to achieve, for better or worse. In every direction, a shifting and fluid landscape of engines winding up and down and the tingling sound of scrap still settling from the fall, or breaking loose prematurely from the grip of the claws and flying into the dirt makes a bizarre world to briefly inhabit.
I felt strange as a dude walking around the scrapyard full of strongmen, recording sounds like a dumb hippie. I’m sure I wasn’t the first person to wander in with this goal, and I stand by my nobel quest. The crown jewel was indeed secured when a massive claw went in to pick up a refrigerator. I don’t know if the claw-operator actually needed to smash said fridge into a pancake in order to pick it up, or he was just trying to have some fun and impress the obvious visitor, but he did. The sound of a claw focusing it’s metal fingers to a point and performing three pulverizing strikes on an old fridge is a treat:
Pulverizing a Fridge (Take THAT!)
So I would basically argue that it is impossible to visit a scrapyard and not have a good time. They didn’t even charge admission, and I would have easily paid hundreds of dollars for the experience that I had. Please don’t tell them I said that, because I don’t have much money and I don’t want to pay. I tend to shit on the world of machines and the disastrous sounds we’ve constructed as a result of those machines. I mostly stand by that, but a scrapyard, well.