Saturday, November 23, 2013

Requiem for a Muscle Car

You could only find the Impala by accident. It was way off trail, in the back part of a wetland tucked between an urban river and the woods behind a bunch of light factories. They were the kind of woods and wetlands no one is really meant to explore, made from volunteer trees grown up between the chunks of concrete and demolition debris dumped in this downzoned stretch of interstitial wilderness at what once was the edge of town. The negative space of the metropolis, where nature fills in the gaps and wild animals feel free to roam in the absence of human gazes.

When you stumbled across it as you stepped out of the tall water grasses, it looked like it might have been there for thousands of years. But you also could remember when cars like that cruised the streets. Cars with Batmobile lines forged in a pre-apocalyptic Detroit. Cars whose profiles of postwar strength and Rust Belt wonder persist even as they weather into ruin. It was of that certain vintage, after the assassination of JFK and before the resignation of Nixon. Baked by the sun to primer working on gunmetal, with water plants growing up out of the seats and the engine block, guarded by the herons and egrets who filled the secret sanctuary of the wilderness hidden under the roar of the old highway.

You couldn’t tell how it had gotten there. It might have washed downriver in a big flood, or been driven down here at some time when the river channel was different. You would go back and look for it once in a while, and it was always there, but every time you went you needed to intuit a different path through the impassable wild vegetation and knee-sucking muck. It manifested different forms with the changes in the river, sometimes almost completely submerged, at other times almost ready to fly off with its steel hood extended like a gull wing. A mystical motorhead Ozymandias that transported you in ways its designers never intended.

It’s gone now, pulled out of the muck by newer machines dispatched by the stewards slowly working on cleaning up the edgeland and turning it into a park. Maybe they are right that it didn’t belong there with the birds and the fish and the native plants, so close to the “scenic overlook” that there was a real possibility some Audubon Society folks might see it. But it sure seemed like an indigenous expression to you, an artifact that perfectly expressed the essence of this place. You can still find its digital ghosts, if you know the right place to look on the omniscient maps, but that won’t last long.

Curiously, I found love tracking metal Impalas in these uncanny wetlands, another wanderer tuned into the strange vortex of surreal power of the Zona. She was making the wind dance in the windows of an old concrete fire tower while I was paddling against the current in a river out of time. That was five years ago. Yesterday we got married, and today we’ll celebrate with family and friends in this place we ended up making our home. The relics will come and go, but the wonder is always there if you can open up your third eye to it. The power is inside us, and especially poderoso now that we have a pair of magic rings to knock together. Our love is about a lot more than place, but the way we met is what set us on course into the uncharted territories ahead. It’s pretty awesome.

2 comments:

Eric Bauer said...

Very nice. I especially like the Ozymandias comparison. I know of some places just like your Impala site, and I think you captured how I feel when I visit them.

Chris N. Brown said...

Thanks, Eric!