Closing the Junkyard

The Last Report from the Hinterlands

Bad Neighbors

When M'nique saw how much she was bleeding after the fall off the boulders, her first unerring instinct was to go to Skippy's cottage. She ran down the road to Dane's house and climbed into his truck. The keys were where he always left them, and in a moment she was roaring down the moonless road.

An unerring instinct because Mo, the Pelee Island physician, was undoubtedly at home asleep at 4 AM on the morning after Labour Day, as was Skippy, but Skippy is the type of person who always has a first aid kit and not only knows where it is but also how to use it, and he might prove more understanding about drunken, pre-dawn swimming off the breakwall at the north beach.

The headlights swam over the already-brown bean fields as M'nique took the turns along Brown road. The mosaic of blood splatters on Dane's interior was filling in rapidly by the time she got to Skippy's, so it's understandable that she managed to get the truck stuck in the sand out back. Other vehicles have been stuck there, although nobody has buried one so deep as that night.

"Dude," M'nique said. "I've got to get it out." Dane would be expecting to go to work in a few hours. Skippy managed to stem the rampant blood and assess the damage - mostly a chipped tooth and split lip. Maybe some black eye but maybe not. Morning would tell.

But Dane's truck was immobile. The pumpkin was sitting on the ground. Free revving it only threw sand, although it threw it pretty far. And Dane's truck isn't one of those quiet trucks. In fact, on a scale from 1 to 10, you'd probably have to give it a 9 or a solid 8 anyhow. The Kahuna - whose house was 25 feet away - certainly knew something was going on from the very beginning.

Even though Skip found a shovel in the shed and dug the axle out, the truck had to be rocked back and forth over and over - digging trenches a few inches at a time. Lights had come on at the Kahuna's, and that made Skippy work even harder. When the truck finally pulled free and onto the road, it was a good 20 feet from its original position. M'nique loaded up, thanked Skip, and was gone. He returned the shovel to the shed and started back toward bed, but as he approached the cottage, one of Kahuna's sons or son-in-laws or some such relation suddenly burst from Kahuna's house.

"What the hell's the idea?" he demanded. Now that the noise was over, the fellow felt obligated to make more.

"Sorry about that," Skippy started but the fellow cut him off.

"Don't play innocent with me. You hit the van."

Skip turned to look. The Dane's truck tracks were 15 feet away from the van at the closest.

Skip was tired. "Later," he said. "We'll have it out later." Then he went inside and went to bed.

The Kahuna started the leaf blower about 7:30 and continued straight for about 45 minutes entirely on the side of his house 8 feet from the cottage. Then he used the chop saw intermittantly for about twenty minutes before returning to the leaf blower. Everyone inside Skippy's cottage got up and Rock Dog prepared a killer breakfast of blue gill and rice lathered with a Verdun celery sauce.

Outside, the Kahuna and all of his relatives where shouting - not for any reason, but just to make noise. "Grandpa, why are you yelling." one grandkid said. "I'm right here." But that didn't stop the Kahuna. He thought that he was keeping Skippy up - as though he needed a full 8 hour sleep to survive. When Mandy went to get something out of the car, Kahuna nailed her with a blast of sand from the blower and then started laughing. It took Skippy a while to get all the sand out of her eyes.

Claudio - up from Costa Rica for the summer - brewed up some tea with cloves and cardimom and canela for everyone. Claudio didn't understand what was going on at all, but - like everything else in Canada - it amused him immensely. "Porque estan gritando?" he asked, and when Denley explained that the shouting was a payback for the noise the night before, Claudio broke out laughing so loudly that the Kahuna stopped and craned his neck to see what was so funny. "Como ninos," Claudio said. Like children. Skippy just sat through it all.

And then, when they were all packed up to leave, all the luggage and kids in the van - the Kahuna laid on the horn for a full 6 minutes and 32 seconds before pulling out and driving off. That was their payback - the holy sword of vengeance unleashed. There had never been any more mention of hitting the van with Dane's truck.

Consider this - when the noise first started and it was obvious that Dane's truck was stuck, a sensible man might have said to himself "better to get it out and gone as soon as possible" and then gone to help push or dig. But by himself, with M'nique at the wheel, Skippy took much longer to extricate the vehicle. And that meant that much more noise for that much more time.

Followed by the trumped up story of hitting the van, nothing more than self-righteous indignation based upon self-deception or an outright lie. Humanity at it's worst. And that followed by the most infantile of behavior - capped by the horn honking right there in front of all the grandchildren - watch close kids - this is now we adults solve problems.

The Kahuna doesn't remember that Denley helped clear the sand from his well a couple years ago, soldering up the connections for him to boot. Or the time that Buggyman and 310 helped get his boat out of the lake, the year that the lake was high and the beach at the waterline was a severe incline. Or the time that he borrowed Skip's green anchor and lost it through incompetent knot-tying. Or the time that Skippy talked Red out of burning down the Kahuna's house, notible in that these days Red is off in prison for other arson on the island.

The Kahuna doesn't remember because he doesn't need to. He can get someone else to fix the pump next time and the lake's low enough to get his boat out himself, Red's gone and - hell - the green anchor's gone too. He can't borrow it in any case.

But a prudent man might say, if he had a nice house right on Lake Erie that was left empty 6 months out of the year, and in a foreign country to boot, that he'd sure feel better making friends with everyone - especially those guys that go up all year long - sometimes on snowmobiles - guys that are hooked up with all the locals like M'nique and Mandy and Red and the prudent man might hope that those guys would look out for his stuff while he was away, stuff like a cap knocked off the well or flood waters on the patio or downed electric lines or a cottonwood limb through the roof.

But the Kahuna and his clan are neither sensible nor prudent. They are the product of the times. The pre-dawn confrontation and and subsequent immature retribution are made from the same stuff as road rage and Saturday night manslaughters. The Kahuna is a bad neighbor - nothing more.

Littleton. Jonesboro. If you live in the United States, you know all about bad neighbors. But this is not the natural state of man. We are bad neighbors because - like the Kahuna - we do not need to be good neighbors. We have technology instead.

Bunny: "Have you ever noticed how the things that are supposed to help us end up hurting us?"

If you can still find the Unabomber's manifesto anywhere on the internet, you will note that one of his central tenets is that conservative ploticians who support family values and embrace technology are spinning their wheels more than Dane's truck, because technology is the enemy of those values.

We do not need the help of the neighbor next door because we can call a friend across town who can jump in the car and be here within minutes. We don't need to borrow things from the neighbor across the street because we can afford to go to the discount store and buy our own, with instantaneous credit if need be.

Technology extracts it's own price.

In the land of plenty where we do not even have to move our foot on and off the clutch to change gears, we are surprised that 60% of the population has become obese.

The internet has certainly revolutionized the pornography industry, but how that helps the rest of us remains undetermined.

As anyone can tell you who has talked on the telephone in a foreign language, we talk to the phone, not to the person on the other end. No matter how large the group, we watch television by ourselves. Generally there is only a single person in the American passenger car. We surf the internet alone.

Technology isolates us one from another. It makes bad neighbors.

Good Neighbors

Ajo first met Jose on the Santiago road where he went everyday on the bicycle to climb the hills. Jose was passing on his horse while Ajo was resting under the big Mango tree at the top of the rock hill, and Jose stopped and - like so many campesinos - immediately tried to sell some land.

The two of them squatted in the road while Jose drew a crude map of his land in the dirt with a machete. Ajo wasn't really interested in buying land and told Jose so, but Jose is a pleasant person, so Ajo passed some time with him and took him up on an invitation to stop at his house, just down the road a mile or two.

The first thing Jose did after unlocking the house was go to the lemon tree in the front yard and fix a glass of iced water with lemon. Ajo and Jose sat on the porch and talked for a bit and later Ajo agreed to go look at Jose's land the following Sunday - not as a prospective buyer - instead promising to critique his sales pitch and maybe get some photographs to show to prospective buyers back in the United States. (Sorry - no pictures, but the address for more info is:

Jose Manuel Burgos
Costa Rica)

The next Sunday they met at the top of the tortuous hill above Playa Hermosa. Jose was riding an antique single-gear bicycle, and not only would he have to walk the bike up steep hills but also down, because the only brake on his bike was the one in the rear hub. Everyone they met knew Jose, and he introduced Ajo to each. To a person, they were gracious and surprised to meet a gringo on a bicycle out in the back country. Some campesinos have never met a gringo in person, but even they know that gringos are rich, spoiled people who wouldn't even walk if there was another way to get around. Not that any of these campesinos said anything like that - they were all most amiable.

A kilometer from Playa Manzanilla, Jose stopped, and he and Ajo hoisted their bikes over barbed wire fence and climbed through. This was Jose's finca. Measuring 9 hectacres, the land fronts the Santiago road for about the length of a football field. Leaving the bikes, Jose and Ajo made their way through a grove of banana trees weighted with fruit. Beyond, they entered a large field which Jose had freshly cleared with the machete, burning the brush.

"Nunca lo he cultivado," Jose explained, but even without cultivation, the land was still rampant with bean plants, now dead and dried in the Summer sun, but Jose grabbed a handful of brown pods and showed Ajo that they were full of dried black beans - the same beans that grace every breakfast in Costa Rica. Later, in the flat field past the Choyote trees, Jose said that he would grow rice there - if he were to grow anything.

But a hotel - that was much more appealing to him, and he couched all of his descriptions of the finca in terms of a potential hotel. When he and Ajo walked down the hill to the eucalyptis forest, he envisioned the restaurant there and the rooms farther on beyond the stream bed. After a while Ajo joined the imaginary layout. "La piscina aqui," Ajo said, the swimming pool here, and Jose agreed, although perhaps there was an even better place for the pool on the other side.

And finally, they climbed the small cerro in the back - an abrupt little mountain peak that rose perhaps 300 feet from the stream bed below. From the top they could see the Pacific a kilometer away and Jose said that there was a trail that went down to the beach.

Ajo and Jose sat at the top of the cerro for a while, talking. Even though it was midday and the sun was unobscured, a pleasant breeze was blowing and they were not at all uncomfortable. The same would not be true down by the shore. Here Jose finally asked Ajo what he thought of the finca. Ajo answered truthfully, "falta solamently agua" - it lacks only water.

"Verdad," Jose answered reluctantly. Without water it would be impossible to build a concrete house and nearly impossible to live. The hotel swimming pool would never be more than imaginary.

During the rainy season, of course, there is plenty of water, but starting in November, the stream below would dry to a trickle and disappear. Of course, a well might solve the problem, but that would be a gamble. Better - Jose said - that he should build a tank down at the spring where the stream started and use a pump to bring the water up. And his neighbor across the road had plenty of water and had said that Jose could run a pipe over to the finca if he desired.

Ajo was skeptical. It would be difficult, he told Jose, to convince a buyer that the water would always be there. It was a good solution if there were good neighbors, but wouldn't work if there were bad ones, "vecinos malos".

And that stopped Jose. He didn't understand the concept of bad neighbors. It was an oxymoron to him, a phrase that on the face of it just didn't make sense, like "military intelligence" or "bland spice". Because, as Jose asked, how can you have bad neighbors? "todo el mundo necessita ayuda" - everybody needs help.

Ajo didn't even try to explain why there are bad neighbors. Maybe he didn't understand himself. All he could do was assure Jose that - in fact - there are bad neighbors in the world.

The Cop

I'm re-writing Jack and the Bean Stalk. In my version
the peddler buys the old cow from Jack with Mastercharge
instead of magic beans.
That's pretty much the whole story.
                                        - Kevin

The Bus Palace is gone now. A strip mall occupies the property and the portion where all the buses used to be parked is now a grassy lot beside the entrance. Buggyman and Kevin cleared out as much as they could, but there's no doubt that the landscaping crew are still turning up VW parts on a regular basis.

The VW Museum is history, too. Tom Iammarino called to let us know that all the vehicles were out of the woods and over at Vince's waiting for a trip to the crusher, and he and Joe and Ken stopped by that Spring with a truckload of bus trannies and front ends for us. Transaxle Spring, we called it.

And now it's the end of the line for the Volkswagen Junkyard.

It's not like we made any money at it - none of us, Museum or Bus Palace either, especially if you include all those hours taking things apart and putting things together. We did it because we liked to do it. We kept our cars on the road and helped other people keep theirs there, too. A lot of those folks paid us back by stopping out and helping with junkyard chores like scrapping cars, organizing parts, and erecting the new building. Just a bunch of neighbors. We all have day jobs to support us. The Junkyard has been our avocation.

Having real jobs has stood us well now that the Yuppies have started buying old bugs and bringing them here to be repaired. Not a one of us wants to put up with their Yuppie attitude: "you better jump when I snap my fingers, because I'm paying the bill." Sorry. Go snap and pay somewhere else. And maybe that's the immediate cause of our situation.

Mario was the only one at the Junkyard when The Cop showed up. Not in uniform and not in the squad car, so at first Mario didn't recognize him. And when he did, he recognized him from dune buggy weekends out in Wellsville.

The Cop owns a 4 seat buggy, a fairly unusual item. Mario remembered him because he pulled The Cop and three passengers out of the frog swamp with his own buggy, miles and miles back in the hills.

They exchanged pleasantries and a few tales and then The Cop got down to business. He showed his old heads to Mario who agreed that they were toast. Almost as though the valves adjustment had been much too tight. And the dial vernier indicated that they had been flycut for aftermarket oversize jugs.

The best that The Cop hoped for was a new set of dual ports to take down to the machine shop where he would certainly be paying a few hundred dollars for oversize valves and flycutting and porting, but Mario remembered the racing heads that Amber ported, spending days with the Dremel tool and hand-sanding block by way of paying us back for helping her get her bus Pookie (67) going again. amber Mario started digging around, and after a few minutes he found one and then the other. A set of racing heads that by the best of fortune had been built to fit cylinders exactly the size of The Cop's cylinders. Mario was proud of himself.

It was perfect for the cop. "How much?" he asked, and he already had a credit card out. Of course, we've never accepted credit cards at the Junkyard - it would be just another expense and aggravation for us. In fact, some of us don't even HAVE a credit card.

Mario looked at him and said, "you're a cop here in town, aren't you?" and The Cop said "Yeah."

"Well, they're on the house." Mario was following the lesson that Claudio taught us so well down in Costa - always make friends with the policia.

But this turn of events seemed to confuse The Cop. He paused and then asked, "Well, whadda ya mean?"

"I mean, they are yours. They are free. No charge." Mario explained. But this seemed to confuse The Cop even more. After a bit, he put the credit card away, but made no move to pick up the heads. Finally he said, "I can't take those."

This surprised Mario. "Why not?" he asked.

"It wouldn't be right." The Cop paused again, looking at the heads that would be so perfect for his engine.

"Listen," he said finally, "I shouldn't tell you this..." he faded off. From his pocket he pulled a clean, folded sheet of paper and handed it to Mario. Mario opened it and found inside a xeroxed document headed: Village Ordinance 7020.1 - Payments With Credit Card. There was not much to read, the heart of the matter being:

   No person ... shall refuse to accept payment
   by valid credit card ...
   for any purchase, service, or debt.

"Well, whadda ya mean?" Mario used The Cop's exact words.

"I'm down here on official business," The Cop answered with chagrin. "I was supposed to make a purchase and if you didn't take the credit card, I was supposed to make an arrest."

Third class misdemeanor - $500 fine and 30 days in jail for each offense.

Mario was amazed. "Are you doing this everywhere?" he asked.

The Cop shook his head. "I think this law is only for you guys."

Mario didn't blame The Cop for the law or the charade and he insisted that The Cop take the heads for free, but The Cop just wouldn't do it - even though his buggy could be on the trails the following weekend. They finally compromised and The Cop took the heads but paid $87.50 in cash - all that he had on him.

Bunny: "If they are going to get rid of money and go to something like credit cards, there will be two classes of people, won't there."

Buggyman called a lawyer who recommended ceasing all sales for the time being, and everyone recognized the prudence of that. Nobody entertained the possibility of accepting credit cards. It just didn't seem right, even if someone was going to pay for it, which wasn't the case.

Like the phone. The Junkyard always had a phone. It cost twenty bucks a month and someone always coughed up the money. Long distance was never a problem, even when the Deadheads were in town. They always paid for their calls. But then things got hectic and area codes started proliferating like fleas on Mr Appleby's dog and suddenly calling anywhere became long distance, including short-long distance, the most expensive long distance of them all. So we abandoned the telephone down at the yard.

"Have you ever noticed how the things that are supposed to help us end up hurting us?"

But unlike the phone, by law we have to take credit cards.

Kevin's workaround: if someone buys a $20 item, you just take his credit card information but he doesn't have to sign anything. Then you get on the internet and buy $20 of something using the credit card number. The lawyer thought there must be better solutions.

Swinging Fatbob took a copy of the credit-card law with him on Garage Sale Day and showed it to each vendor at each garage sale. The vendors were unanimous in condemning the law as useless and stupid, but as long as they weren't being arrested, they were not particularly concerned.

Mario took the same copy of the law to Community Day behind the Village Hall, along with a hand-lettered credit card issued by the Volkswagen Junkyard. To nobody's surprise, he was unable to buy anything with the Junkyard credit card, although one of the men at the Amvet's truck gave him a free beer.

Everyone in town heard about it. Up at the grocery store one Sunday morning, Bob, the manager, was running one of the cash registers and when Buggyman gave him a $100 bill, Bob leaned over to the cashier at the next aisle.

"Rita," he said. "Do we still take cash?"

A jolly joke and everyone laughed all around, except the customer at Rita's aisle, who volunteered that she never carried cash because it would be too dangerous. Buggyman offered her $50 cash money if he could just LOOK at her Visa card for 15 seconds, but she wouldn't do it.

There's not much to be done. In the absence of a popular uprising, he lawyer says that someone needs to get arrested in order to get standing with the court to challenge the law, but nobody is willing to face that month behind bars. And if we aren't going to sell any of this junk, there's not much point to having it around, is there?

We spent the better part of the Summer clearing out the junk. Charlie Palmer hauled off all of Transaxle Spring along with boxes filled with distributors and fuel pumps and PICT28 carbs, all just scrap now. Schwendelmeyer 1-740-797-GOVW(4689) took all of the oval window parts. Nick 330-666-4230 got the dune buggy stuff and all the bus trannies. Those boys from Fort Wayne rented a semi and filled it up with engines, the South Bend, the outside grinder, and the door and fender collection. The rest of us took our tools, our favorite vehicles, and a lifetime supply of spare parts. We would have locked the door behind us, but there's never been a lock on the door.

So that's it. We're done. We're closed. The plastic did us in.

Credit cards. Another thing to make our lives better.

Back to the Junkyard

c 1999 Air Cooled Volkswagen Junkyard of Richfield, Ohio "Where Advice Is Always Free"(216)659-3638
This story may be distributed only if it is not altered in any way and is distributed freely without charge.