Since I was a young boy, I’ve always been intrigued by old cars and trucks. Unlike some, many of my earliest memories don’t involve trips to Disney Land or rides on the merry-go-round with a parent looking on proudly documenting the moment on super 8 film. Not me, my most cherished memories involve my dad taking me to the junkyards just beyond Shea Stadium by Willets Point to find a part for his latest clunker or to exact a debt from someone who couldn’t cover the split on the recent prize fight or that week’s Football game. Those early trips to the unpaved roads and auto part graveyard, along with our treks to the train yards in Woodside, Queens would help shape my love of art, antiques, crate digging for records, antiques and finding the beauty in things others often leave behind. Here’s to seeking out, searching and finding those hidden treasures.
For as long as I can remember and probably before. I’ve always been drawn to gas stations and junk yards. From a very young age I could often be found snooping around the gas station on my corner of 83rd street and Astoria Blvd. or tagging along with my Dad to collect from many of the gamblers who worked at the junk yards outside of Shea Stadium. Drawn perhaps, by the smell of gasoline, barb wired fences, guard dogs and random car parts. These places served as the keys to some of my earliest adventures.
So when my wife pulled in to the parking space across from Central District Ice Cream. My excitement regarding a sweet weekend treat was doubled by the site of an abandoned / out of business gas station. Between the antique cars parked in the lot to the hose-less gas pumps. It was all goosebumps and fist pumps. Once again, I was reduced to using my cellphone. I snapped a few shots before joining my wife for ice cream across the street.
As for the ice cream. My wife had a cup of Peanut Butter & Plum Jam. While I indulged in a waffle cone of Coconut Cantaloupe. Great stuff and highly recommended on our part. As I get older, I take a lot of satisfaction knowing that the smell of old gas stations and the taste of freshly scooped ice cream still bring a smile to my face.
Some of my earliest memories involve my Dad taking me to the junk yards just beyond Shea stadium at Willets Point. Whether it was to scavenge for parts to keep his T-bird running or as a shark collecting on bets whose payment had over reached the official calendar dates. For me personally, the opportunity to seize the passenger’s seat and tag along on such an adventure was better than a trip to Disneyland, or at least the local arcade. That excitement I felt when the car would come to a rolling stop. Where I’d eject myself from the car, run past the half-berserk junk yard dog towards the wrecked cars, old tires and random parts that lay about like toys waiting to be opened on Christmas Day. I tell ya. From the age of five to about ten years old, there weren’t many playgrounds or theme parks worthy of such excitement on my part.
Decades later, and with many years behind me. I find myself, sometimes embarrassingly, drawn to the same things that inspired me as a child. Things that, till this day, raise my brow as well as the hair on my arm or the back of my neck.Those sensors and those knots in my stomach let me know that… as broken down as I may be. I’m still alive and full of a passion to get closer, investigate, document and report back. I hope that passion never leaves me.
This afternoon while walking on a stretch of Route 9 highway. I had a straight up “Stand By Me” moment. You know, the moment where they’re walking on the train tracks and come upon the bridge. Well, in my case it wasn’t train tracks or the fear of an oncoming train bearing down on me. As I passed the cemetery gates and the overpass looking down on the train yard. I suddenly came to a dead end. The rocky, gravely road I had been walking on for miles ceased to exist at what seemed like the final leg of my journey home.
Stopped in my tracks. I looked at my limited options. Already bloodied and still bleeding from a fall about a half mile back. I wiped my sun beaten brow and began to contemplate my narrow choices. Option 1; Walk just a matter of feet (Maybe a hundred or so) on the shoulder of a very busy shoulder of the road that turned onto 9 South and the Pulaski Bridge and proceed to what is known as “The Circle of Death. Option 2; Walk back about a half mile and cross at the next available signal. Having recently watched as car after car mindlessly broke for the shoulder (unfortunately for them, towards a tragic accident and in to the waiting sirens or the local police.) and how dangerous that spot tends to be. I began limping back towards the traffic light in the not so close distance. As I limped towards my destination I spotted a small break in the concrete medium and waited for my chance to bolt towards it. Lucky for me, I made it across without being hit or causing any collisions. Before long I was home wiping the blood from my leg. If there’s anything to be learned from my experience. It would be to dress appropriately. Sandals and shorts are not recommended when walking the highways or exploring local junkyard’s or industrial complexes. Two, take the high road. Life is too precious to have it end foolishly.