Junkyard Zen

“My many references to an era gone by mentioning “old folks” music and its lyrics is not intended to confuse but to be descriptive, to set a “theme” I want to convey in the only manner I can concoct. I beg your forbearance, dear reader”

My attempts to find a handy list of emotion-types upon the bountiful pages floating within the Web were unproductive.

Surely there IS a list out there but time constraints limit my search.

Thus I am required to do what is so difficult for me;  describe an emotion.

Work with me, please, since in a roundabout manner my message is kinda’ sorta’ auto-related.

There is a certain feeling that enters my mind, my thoughts, my at-the-moment pondering and contemplations that often occur when the clouds open up and cleanse the Earth below… as I listen to the falling rain’s rhythm.

Yes, I love the rainy nights… and days as attested to by Eddie Rabbit by the often-played song upon the truck stop juke boxes and via radio so long yet not THAT long ago during my long-haul trucking era.

There has to be a reason for so many rain-related songs.

Creedence Clearwater Revival was and is among my favorite bands with their Who’ll Stop the Rain among my favorite tunes of ALL time!

Music inspires and assists emotion creation but is not a pre-requisite. Music can also help me describe an emotion-type and why it occurs at certain times.

This article assists in telling you, perhaps, why a particular locale assisted in bringing on an emotion, what I perceive upon reflection as having been at least somewhat Zen-like… to me.

The rainstorms of northern California are unlike the billowing blustery short-term too-often tornado-laden storms experienced on the Great Plains and other sections of the USA that I rolled through often during my truck-driving periods and have lived in these prior 17 years.

While not totally absent those fearsome cyclonic winds, dealers of immense destruction, are mostly absent from the generally placid California climate.

(The “rock and roll” of earthquakes is a different matter that also impacted wrecking yards but those are tales for another time.)

The mainly winter rains of California do strike LA (Los Angeles) that is supposedly “safe and warm” but northern California is known for its typically higher per annum rainfall with some years particularly “wet.”

I did and do appreciate rainy weather but junkyard tasks mostly required outside labor where that rain impeded progress, made a messy work area even messier, often leading to shivering due to the rain mostly arriving during the winter cold period (gentle warm spring rains being rather rare thanks to that cold off-shore ocean current close-by).

Many of my inventory tasks involved paperwork impossible to perform during my beloved rainy periods and once inside-chores were finished and the sales folks had all under control with no assistance needed and I had cleaned that needing cleaning within the office and all deliveries were done– well, time to sit somewhere dry and ponder awhile. One of my job’s few perks, I kept a book or two handy to assist in time-passing.

Recalling a Rainy Night in Georgia performed by Brook Benton I wandered the yard with several hundred vehicles available to provide shelter. I always had a few “special” vehicles lacking the typical broken glass found within many of the wrecks with comfy non-tore-up seats and whose closed doors sealed out the wind.

Totaled heaps often had gaps between doors and frame where wind-driven cold and wetness resulted in an uncomfy internal environment. None of that for this Old Coot!

My desire for a pleasant hidey-hole guided my selection.

With my book warmed between jacket and body I made my selection and entered. Seat dry and the pitter patter upon the roof I settled in. Inevitably I spent time listening and experiencing the rain visually and aurally before reading. Compelled to be a part of nature yet grateful to be sheltered from what I considered to be negative aspects of a winter, rainy day… wet and cold. Brrrr.

Watching the routes the accumulated drops trekked while gathering and sliding down the windshield, following no logical path I could ascertain, perhaps assisted in creating the feeling I am unable to apply a term to.

When the drops came down in a deluge separate pathways disappeared and rivulets became rivers; veritable torrents I was so grateful to be safely protected from.

Unseen to me but knowing others were forced to be exposed to, I felt pity for those forced to work in the downfall or exposed due to homelessness or whatever reason.

That being one of the reasons I regularly  recommend to others to be prepared for possible homelessness, especially during these tough economic times, by obtaining and keeping a vehicle capable of offering protection from the elements.

Anything is better than suffering from unwanted exposure to the elements; rain, snow, wind, whatever. Well… perhaps exposure is not the worstest thing but wet and cold and uncomfortable is a miserable condition and with time can lead to a lowering of one’s resistance to communicable disease and other ailments such as arthritis, rheumatism, lumbago or the worsening of pre-existing conditions.

Perhaps being ensconced within my womb-like wreck was akin to the pre-natal state before my mental awareness that arose around the age of three flooded my synapses.

My first bout of “awareness” I can recall was around the age of three and it was neither a rainy day nor a rainy night.

Several floors above Oakland, California’s Lake Merritt in what assuredly was a dilapidated structure since that was all Dad’s wages during that epoch would allow I clearly recall staring out the large living room window at the multitude of lights below with a particularly clear memory of the trail of free-standing light-bearing columns accompanying the concrete walkway that followed the shoreline.

Staring in wonderment at that moment of “enlightenment” I recollect either an uttered external “wow” or maybe it was an internalized spoken-within-the- head “wow” at the scene below me or my sudden near-overwhelming realization I was a separate, thinking living viable entity. Those particular words did not enter the self-speak within my head but I just KNEW I was “Alive N’ Kickin.” Does it really matter which is fact? I recall the “wow” however it was said and even then knew a pivotal moment had occurred.


Also well-remembered from those days of extreme youth was quietly and carefully to avoid attention from Ma and Pa in the living room, even in those long-ago days (1959ish) mindlessly staring at the TV’s output, as I pulled out drawers to act as a ladder-like device allowing a carpet crawler to become a climber and ascend to the countertop where the treasure-holding cabinets were in reach.

Ahhhh…. Success! With rolls of baby-fat surely quivering with anticipation the cabinet door was opened and the lusted-for vitamin bottle was grabbed and opened.

Biting down upon the red pill that proclaimed, I realized later, required but one-per-day it took all my will-power to replace the container, slowly shut the cabinet door and, close to retching, desiring to turn my innards inside out to cleanse them… repetitively spat the rusty nail taste into the sink and turned the water tap, using my hand to move the water to my turmoil-laden mouth and rinsed repeatedly until the horrid taste was semi chased away.

Descending the “ladder” I pushed the drawers back in and still verging on nausea I forget what happened next but the thoughts of the horrid taste accompany the previous mention of that enlightenment moment and are somewhat akin to SOME of the thoughts brought to mind during my Zen-like periods within the rain-lashed wrecked cars I temporarily used as my refuge from the world in later years.

These tales that can be, if “looked at” appropriately, might be labeled as “Days of Future Passed” if one squints just right and tilts one’s oblate-spheroid-shaped noggin’ properly and grabs at the “Zen” thought mentioned early-on and within the title of this convoluted written jumble strenuously attempting to convey that which is so difficult to convey; feelings and convoluted thoughts occurring in what many may consider to be the most unlikely of locales; your friendly neighborhood rain-wracked junkyard.

After peering at those running rivulets awhile my attention turns again to the impact of rain drops upon the sheet metal roof.

Have you ever actually listened to impacting rain? Depending upon a vehicle’s roof construction and the materials used that sound varies.

Convertibles were rare within the yard and intact leak-free roofs rarer still. Yet they existed at times and if leak free were used as shelter.

The soft-top canvas-type roof transmitted rain drop sounds with a certain level of “boominess” that was not unbearable but not conducive to regular use. After a few sittings of short duration and absorbing the aura within I tended to seek solace within one of the non-convertible options.

Attaining a Zen-like state within a soft-top, though in those days I had not applied the “Zen” term nor even gave much thought to my mental experiences within my refuges during rainy days until later periods when I reflected back upon those “special days,” I now miss, was pert-near impossible to achieve.

Another favorite reading source from that era was Car and Driver magazine. Appropriate considering the time and location. I relished that magazine, much more so than later permutations of that magazine when in my opinion excess “snobbery” led to fewer articles about work-a-day “commoner’s” cars and increased attention given to expensive “rides” of the high-falutin’ folks with wealth beyond whatever I could amass or pilfer.

Be that as it may, I did enjoy greatly the time spent in my “library” surrounded by auto/truck components, grease, puddles of oil and a huge variety of “autodom.”

Peering into the past my mind is near-overwhelmed by the many memories entering my thoughts from those long-gone days. Since I have neither time nor space to mention let alone describe the multitude of memories I have to be at least somewhat selective.

One moment I recollect the sounds from different roof-types then the reading material clenched in my paws enters my thoughts then, as in just this moment, I recall the “junkyard kitties” that made homes in our vehicular inventory.

We regularly shared our vittles with them, tossing torn-off hunks of sandwiches their way that were gratefully and graciously received with meowed “thanks” readily rendered but good luck approaching close enough to give the fur-face a pat upon the head.

One time as I noted the different sound-type of rain upon a padded vinyl roof; a dull sound made more distant-sounding due to the insulating qualities of that roofing material (was that a reason for building vehicles with padded roofs other than the visual effects of said roofs?) I saw a slight movement via peripheral vision.

Hark! A kitty in the rear seat, partially under a dirty blanket that had arrived with the car when towed into the yard and awaiting for components to be grabbed and stored with the car carcass to be crunched to reduce volume then tossed upon our battered carcass-hauling flatbed and dumped at the off-to-the-Orient pier in nearby Oakland, CA.

“Hi cat,” I whispered so as not to startle the tuna-breath behind me.

A couple kitty-winks and a tensing as if in preparation to bolt but kitty remained, staring relentlessly, perhaps contemplating the desire to depart yet aware of the torrent of rain awaiting it outside.

I commenced reading and otherwise ignored the dirty, junkyard contaminant oil-splotched critter.

Kitty remained but after awhile it crept through an opening leading behind the rear seat into the trunk area where I lost sight of kitty. My acquaintance for a short period but interspecies friendship was not to occur; more of a tolerance affair but enjoyable to me, nonetheless.

A few of my retreats still possessed a charged battery not yet removed and in the ignition, at times, keys were present.

These were treasured items since they eased the parts-puller’s tasks of testing engines for compression levels in the cylinders and even just to determine if the engine would start.

Those keys also made the steering column itself easier to sell since the buyer did not have to pay to have a key concocted just to make the column usable in the vehicle it was transplanted into. We even sold ignition switches themselves if a key was present and at a price not much less than an entire steering column. Those components do wear out.

Here’s a tip, kids. Minimize the number of keys upon your key ring. The weight of too many keys can cause excessive wear upon your vehicles ignition (if still equipped with the old-fashioned lock-type that was almost the ONLY type seen in my junkyard days).

Also avoid those unnecessary ornaments added to key rings, there to make some sort of “fashion statement,” I guess, but provide no useful purpose.

Okay, sure, some folks have a mini-flashlight there that is used but either grab the lightest one possible or keep one handy but separate from the key ring.

That’s my good deed for the day. Don’t expect anymore. Perhaps in another article if I am not excessively grumpy. Just don’t count upon it ye heathens!!!

If the vehicle’s radio was operational the key allowed me to use it and I often did.

Music stations were a mainstay but as I aged I found myself spending increasing amounts of time listening to local AM news-talk radio. That station-type made feel me as if I were a part of a larger “whole,” in touch with a much larger population beyond the yards’ confine.

I enjoyed the isolation in my storm-lashed refuge so was the pleasure of connectedness a dichotomy? That is a BIG word… likely cost you fifty-cents if you went to buy it.

But I did not need the radio and even when available the pleasure of reading precluded any need to turn it on. During the many contemplative periods when I was sated by merely experiencing the rain and all its ramifications via my senses I neither needed nor desired reading, radio or any other distraction.

Perhaps the lack of distractions resulted in the Zen-like feelings that I find so troublesome to explain, to describe, to convey to others but meant so much to me especially back then when so many months of the year were seemingly month after near-endless month of unrelenting sunshine with the coastal fog held in abeyance by the Coastal Range of hills.

Without even a stray wisp of cloud to provide a moment’s relief from the relentless blazing sun baking all below it.

I betcha’ kitty, if able to do more than purr and meow, if able to converse human-like might be able to describe those rainy day feelings (just a hair short of the actual song title (darn).

I can hope I conveyed my thoughts and feelings. If I did, I applaud your reading comprehension level and smite myself for failure to communicate if you sit there, scratching your head, unable to figure out “Just what was that doddering possibly demented Old Fart trying to say, anyway.”

Whatever, the case, thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings. Sure beats dodging tossed rocks!!!.

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