Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Au Cimetière des Voitures

For the last few days our righteous de-rusting mission has been on hold, as Tara and I spent the weekend (and a couple of days before the weekend) up at this car meet thing in New York. And no, we didn't go to sell anything; this was just for fun. Now, I will admit that I'm not generally all that keen on cars myself. Oh, they're good for getting around town in, or for hauling stuff or groceries or what-have-you, but I'm not particularly interested in them as objects on their own, especially if the damned things are of a 'vintage' type. I just have too many nasty memories of those old air-cooled Volkswagens, which besides never having any heat in them, or often, precious little floor in the back (I can recall watching the road go by through the holes) were perpetually unreliable.

Though, come to think of it, when I have talked to other people about old VWs, they almost always say something about how they just don't stop running; the engines are supposedly very good (if simple), and not actually prone to break down. And yet funny enough my father's cars, the cars of my father the professional Volkswagen mechanic, were always held to be very unreliable—we, well, my mother, really, weren't supposed to go too far in them because they might break down. Which makes me wonder what exactly was going on, you know? I can think of a few possibilities, from innocent to not-so. Was it that my father always had the cars that were truly on their last legs (wheels, I guess), since he was a mechanic and could coax the things along? Was it simply a case of the shoemaker's children going barefoot? Was it just more of my father's relentlessly negative thinking, that the worst possibility must always come true, so oh my God never, ever, risk anything? Or was having (or pretending to have) a perpetually unreliable series of cars just one more way of having control over the rest of us? I have always assumed old VWs were just piece-of-shit undependable cars, but if it comes down to the rest of the world's opinion vs. my father's, well, I know whose I'd consider reliable.

But despite all that I do find the kind of cars at this meet actually amusing, perhaps because they were not a part of my childhood. Or because they are French. That's right, we went to a Citroën car meet.

Tara has a 2CV. That's French for Deux Chevaux ('two horses,' yes, two horsepower, though supposedly that's some kind of tax designation and not actually indicative of their power. Sure sure), and the first time I saw one (on a visit to England, actually), I thought it was a VW bug that got squashed between two snowplows.

Here's a picture of one I found on the internet (Wikipedia, I believe):

It looks like something some French guy suffering from an excess of patriotism and a shortage of sleep Frankensteined together during the hard times of World War Two; he wasn't going to let minor things like, oh, a scarcity of metal stop him from telling Hitler casse-toi! you know? Mais bien sûr! the chicken coop does not really need a roof, non? For a hood it would be excellent! Eh bien, look at this box of buttons and switches! They do not all need to match! Voilà, these lawn chairs would make fine seats!

Seriously, every time I get in it I am amazed that as passenger it is not actually my job to turn the windshield wiper knob by hand. They are beyond basic, they are beyond ridiculous, they are beyond anything any reasonable or sane culture would come up with.

I did say they were French.

So, in this case I will—begrudgingly, mind you—admit to a bit of fondness for the things. They're just so damned weird.

So at any rate we went up and had some fun, among all the other Citroën-loving weirdos, though it must be admitted I followed Tara all the way there (and back) in her new Beetle, as the 2CV was being a little testy shall we say (as usual), though it did make it. So though I missed the fun of riding in the thing I did get to actually listen to music, which is a lost cause in a 2CV as you'll never hear it over the engine. Ha! Like they have radios.

So after a day of recovery back it was to the old day in day out; and there Tara was today with the Bus, which she had handily filled with (yet) another load of scrap, mostly some more car doors and this old lawnmower, with some aluminum thrown in. Ah, old lawnmowers. I don't myself recall how many we used to have, but Tara would probably know. I do know they were one of my father's very favorite things to hoard. I mean, as if my father was capable of picking a favorite. That was the problem, now wasn't it.

Alors, the pictures. First, the side view:

And from the back (pictures by Tara):

Surprisingly enough this load came to more than we would have thought: 1260 pounds of iron, plus another seventy-one pounds of combined aluminum and stainless steel. Which brings our total of iron removed from the property since we've been keeping track to 29,820 pounds, or 14.91 tons, and marks our thirty-fourth trip to the scrapyard.

Et oui, il y a toujours plus.

And yes! The translation for 'junkyard' (well, at least according to the usual online translation places) means cemetery of cars. Now that's a satisfying phrase!


Tara said...

Ah, well the lawnmower was actually the mower I (Tara) was using at my place, until 2 or 3 things went wrong on it. It just became much more satisfying to get rid of it in favor of something newer and more reliable.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Your description of Citroens made me laugh out loud! Incidentally, my brother had a VW beetle in the late 60s and it was an absolute piece of crap. He bought it new too. Just a lemon. Always in the shop. He never bought another VW again and neither did anyone in my family.

Sidney said...

Oooh la la. The Citroën, not the scrap.

The progress and writing, too.

Anonymous said...

Grinned and giggled all the way through. You have a delightful sense of humor.

I've only owned one Volkswagen. It lasted for 14 years.

Thalia said...

Yes Tara but the lawnmower originally came from here, right? It was just getting a temporary reprieve at your place until it finally died.

Debra you do realize that 'Citroën' is awful close to 'citron', lemon, right? Not that it has that connotation as 'problem car, bad from birth' in France I don't think.

The Writing Goddess said...

I had a semi-automatic bug in the 1970's that was cursed. Despite having the fuel pump and lines replaced, it would periodically choke and die for no reason... oh, going up a hill, going downhill in the middle lane of the freeway, or just whenever the hell it wanted.

Eventually, it was brutally murdered by a four-door car that ran a red-light and broadsided me. I got another bug - which also had problems, then switched to Hondas.

Loved your post, you had me laughing till I almost wee'ed myself. (TMI? too bad.)

Dave said...

If I remember correctly, there used to be an add that said that the VWs were never as reliable as we thought they were, but they were never expensive to fix, I think it was for some investment house Fidelity maybe???

Thalia said...

One word, TWG: Kegels.

Dave I never saw that ad, but that sounds about right.

copious_amounts said...

Ou - pour la plupart du monde au Québec - LE SCRAPYARD.

There may very well be a France French word for scrapyard that sounds all official and crap, but I've never heard anyone say anything other than "le scrapyard," back at home.

Since you're in Mass and all, you never know when you might meet Quebecer (perhaps, say a Habs fan on their way home from watching the Bruins lose...)

Anonymous said...

all that tonnage...what are the shocks like on the VW bus/van?

Any chance you could do an overhead sketch of the layout of the property...and where the car remnants were/are.

I'll say it again....you girls rock!!!

a reader from Chicago

Thalia said...

Actually we just met plenty of Quebecers at the Citroën thing, as well as a bunch of people from France proper who now live in the area.

Apparently 'le Cimetière des Voitures' is a French film, as well; something about kids living in a junkyard around a nuclear crater or something. Sounds fun.

Anon in Chicago, I've floated that idea to Tara before (I think you may have suggested it before? Someone did). It's a good idea and I'd like to see it myself, though Tara would have to be the one to do it as I don't remember where everything is.

Anonymous said...

I love maps.....draw them all the time for people to get to my house.....not that hard...in the suburbs of Chicago, but my "hood" has lots of curving streets....one wrong turn and you could circle for days!

Just a sketch....driveway, house, out buildings...
just keep it simple.

your faithful reader from Chicago