The Gardena Volvo Salvage Yard
This reminds me of the time I had to go down to Gardena to this Volvo salvage yard. It took four freeways to get there and you have to figure out one of those situations where the street turns from West to East and the address numbers start over, but they said this was the place, the one to go to in the L.A. area. I was looking for this piece of body moulding that my car shed one night in Downtown. Moulding is a funny word, especially in its noun appearance. But that’s another story for another day. So I’m at this salvage yard in Gardena. It’s a huge lot, you have no idea from the outside how far back it goes. All kinds of Volvos in various states of decomposition, from the boxy models to the newer, sleeker models. It’s like a goddamned smoldering battlefield of Swedish mecha. So the salvage yard is run by this big Korean guy. I forget his name. But he’s like a young John Candy. But Korean, I think. I saw a newspaper with that square kinda Oriental writing, so I’m guessing here. I don’t mean to offend no one. So I says to him I need this piece of body moulding, because my car doesn’t look as sharp without it. Purely cosmetic. I feel kind of silly looking for basically a piece of trim when there are people desperately fishing for cut-rate vital under-the-hood organs for their comatose Volvos. But I don’t even want to tell you what those assholes at Santa Monica Volvo quoted me for that piece of moulding. It was well into the three figures range and that was if they could get it at all. It’s about ten inches of plastic and rubber, so you get my apprehension at plunking down for it new. So anyways where was I. I’m at this junkyard. Volvos. Gardena. Big Korean guy. Hot as hell that day, did I say that? I think that’s where I am. So he says what model Volvo to me. And I say 780. Bertone. And he shoots me a look like Good luck, asshole. See, this model is a kinda strange Volvo 2-door coupe that was built in Italy by the Bertone company for about four years in the late 80’s to early 90’s. Notoriously hard to get parts for. It’s a sharp car, or it was in its day and you don’t see many of them on the road in L.A. When you do, it is usually a Sunday driver in a Jewish tretch of town around Robertson. If you squint at it, it has those 80’s Mazaratti lines in it, much more trapezoid slant than the typical late 80’s Volvo quadralateral design. So you can see why I want to keep looking clean. So the Korean guy says he don’t have any of these on the lot, sorry and all that, but he’s eyeing me like he’s sizing me up. I nod and start wandering around the yard because some of the engine parts for 700 series Volvos are interchangable with my model and I could also use a new turbo or power station or something, you never know. About this time, I start wonder why these damned Volvos have come to be associated with a certain liberal yuppie lifestyle. Inevitably when they want to depict a post-yuppie granola crusty cardigan-wearing White liberal professor type in a movie, they put them in a well worn Volvo, maybe the 240 or 700 series model, and slap on a few bumper stickers that telegraph the expected leftwing political leanings. This has evolved, or devolved, if you prefer, to the familar Red State xenophobithet about Volvo driving, latte liberals. Was it the boxy design that established it as Other, as Utilitarian? Is this the appeal, the anti-statement statement? The Fuck You, my car isn’t sexy, it gets me from Point A to Point B and that’s it. Or was it the safety marketing angle that appealed to these guys? Studies have shown that the Volvo is actually not any safer than comparable same-class cars, though safety was the marketing angle they pushed in the United States. Anyhow, it sure as hell isn’t the gas mileage because mine burns the dino blood at a rate that would pay for more than a few horizontal-only flying lessons for Al Quedas funded through the Saudis. But I digress. So I’m a few rows deep in this scrapyard, poking at cardavers with some crudely amputated exhaust pipe I found. Nothing that I can use in my Volvo is turning up, but I wonder if they have the archetypal gigantic magnet on a crane that can pick up a car by the top of it or a junkyard dog named Spike. In the movie playing in my head, I brace for the climatic final confrontation that always ends up in a junkyard like these, with bullets flying around bales of compressed metal until one guy gets on the controls of the Giant Magnet mobile and flips the juice to the polarity to suck up the villain by his metal false teeth. What Bond was that? Octopussy? And do you think they could get away with making a movie with that title in this day and age? You want evidence of the retardation of evolution, there you have it. We were more progressive in the Roger Moore-era 80’s than Pierce Brosnan-era 00’s. Not that use of feline epithets for reproductive anatomy is progressive, but somehow we were more mature, more adult, simply snickered and let it go. Nowadays, a Hooters billboard with a sexual allusion that takes some working out can rankle the masses. I hear some machinery cranking somewhere near the entrance where I drove up. Not unusual in a junkyard, so I press on, whacking aluminum with steel, Indiana Jones of the Scrapyard. Do you know what a dealer gets for some of these pieces new? This a goddamned goldmine. I have a flash of an idea of buying up the most expensive retail parts and trying to move them on eBay. Electric mirrors, alternators, that little button on the door lock. I could make a fortune. How does that crass capitalism jibe with your latte liberal image, Red Stater? But the moment passes and my personal inertia talks me out of the eBay venture. I see lots of trips to the Federal Building post office carrying boxes, so I bail out. So this machinery clanking is now ascending in pitch, and it reveals itself as a tow truck crank–a sound familar to any West L.A. resident. My lazy wits start to perk up (need latte) and I realize this is coming from where I left my Volvo. I may as well go check it out. At the front entrance, of course they are pulling my damned Volvo up onto a flatbed tower. I run around to the driver, flapping my arms. Hey, that’s not for the yard! That’s mine, and so forth. He stops the winch with my car halfway up on the bed, pitched at about 45 degrees or so. He looks back to the big Korean guy who’s overseeing the action from his perch and I redirect my complaint onto him. What the hell are you doing? This car’s not for you! He fakes disbelief and misunderstanding. Oh, I thought you say car for scrap. He has a clipboard with some paperwork. I realize he was going to make me an offer after the fact. He wants those goddamned Bertone Volvo parts to make his own fortune. I tell him to put my car the hell down before I call the cops. He signals the tow man and my car is released with hiss of hydraulics. I mean, even if I was selling my car for scrap, how the hell would I get out of Gardena? It took four freeways to get there.