Saturday, January 5, 2013


There is no index to this heap.  A strewn graveyard without headstones.  Miles of meandering footpaths through the fallen.  Here is an acre of ground roughly corresponding to Japan before 1990.  There is the Yamazuki quadrant. That stretch yonder is more modern.  Behind you, a waterfall of naked motors corralled by a couple of tractor trailers.  Over the wall, maybe some American iron.  A warehose of electrical stuff.  Its twin, stacked to the rafters with tanks.  There are bicycles with motors.  There are motors without bikes.  There are wheels and frames and twisted gothic traffic carnage.  This is a junk yard so big, you can practically see it from space.

Bob's motorcycle parts is a wonderful place.  The ads say 'pack a lunch.'  Your telephone can get you here.  It works to find the number to call.  The satellites may suggest that it is vast.  But once you set foot inside the fence, you know nothing.  It is a salvage labyrinth, and you may not get out alive.  You'll be lucky if you only take home tetanus.  Google does not work here.

You have to know exactly what you are looking for.  Not only must you know exactly what it looks like, you have to be able to imagine what it might look like mangled, half gone, and thirty years stranded beneath the bleaching desert sun.  Some proud, some sad, some murmuring.  One scrabbles after your feet whispering pick me, pick me.  Some just lay there, cyclopean eyes blank, dripping oil, oozing seat foam.  Rusting out loud.

And when you've finally found what you came for, you're not done.  You can't trust it to be just what you need.  You have to get creative trying to imagine just why it is there.  Poke the sleepy ruin.  Was it given up over a bad coil?  Or did it die of carelessness, choking and baking itself into a welded hunk of unmaintained metal potpurri?  Horrors.  If you're lucky, the front is twisted and folded, decked with scraps of fairing.  A true wreck.  It's a hopeful sign of a healthy heart fallen in battle.  Its pristine innards might be waiting, perhaps begging to be reincarnated.  A gasping donation to your own personal combustible frankenstein.

We are scavenging.  Circling vultures.  We are looking for something killed by the world so we can take the useful bits and make them part of what moves us.  If you have come here on purpose, it is because you can see through what these metal shapes are and imagine what they mean.  It's all just a pile of junk.  But to trudge around in the silent glare knowing that fire and noise and speed and wind are only waiting to be coaxed from this discarded rabble of ore?  To imagine that just past that flaking rust, there lurks some crucial puzzle fragment to match the clockwork of your own valiant machine?  That's Archival Combustion.

You might get the same feeling from a warm horse picking up grass.  Scavenging plants that scavenge the saved sunlight.  Its stomach is a burning vessel, setting fire to the field.  Making strength, speed.  We burn old oil in these metal chambers, all scavenged from the rock.  Melted and sparked to give a blast of that ancient sunlight in the dark heart of the beast.  To twist a wheel.  To make us grin.

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