Jim called one day and said he had an idea of how I could get my money back from the whole stupid fiasco. Scrap prices were up and Acme Metals would pay us a good amount per pound for the thing. He must have seen the defeat in my eyes, as I never said a word about selling it. He was correct though, I had in fact given up on the big red ball. No one was going to rescue me from this mess.
So I conclude this saga not on an up lifting note, but with a forlorn whimper. It’s not easy to take the mundane events of our lives and carve them into deeply meaningful and inspiring messages. In this case it may not be worth the effort.
From the moment the ball first crushed my trailer I should have known that my vision for it was flawed.
As beautiful as that vision may have been, the reality was the damn thing was too heavy to work with.
So I finally said the hell with it.
In the big scheme of things these events hardly rate. Something didn’t work out and most normal people would simply move on. But failure is such a rich territory in which to tromp, I cannot resist.
And in the art world there is a fine line between the Acme Metals salvage yard and the Whitney Museum.
The mathematical equation for art is “ Failure squared x infinity, minus the disasters = Art”
It is necessary to gather up the failures and disasters first.
After Jim told me his plan for the big red ball I called Gerald at Acme Metals (I had once taught him at a private school) and Gerald confirmed all that Jim had been saying.
Next I called Eddie at Eddie’s to see what he thought about loading it. Eddie wanted no part of it. His forklift had suffered the ultimate indignity when it failed to lift the big red ball. I was on my own as far as Eddie was concerned. Fortunately “on my own” meant I was in the capable hands of Lying Jim the Junkman (minus a finger).
Jim also had a vision…but unlike my visions, Jim’s had to do with how to get the big red ball loaded on the truck and to the scrap yard. Visions like that come in pretty handy.
The truck from Acme could roll its flatbed clear off the truck and it had a very heavy-duty winch. That would mean all we needed to do was get the big red ball started on to the flatbed as it lay on the ground and winch it into place.
Once that was accomplished, the driver from Acme would winch the flatbed with the ball chained firmly in place back onto the truck.
“It will work” Jim assured me decisively,which brought on still more anxiety.
Soon the day and the hour arrived to load and transport the big red ball. A festive crowd gathered, and the local vagrants seemed especially pleased with the show.
The driver and the Acme truck showed up on time and I was surprised to find that his vehicle looked nothing like Jim’s truck. In fact it was 180 degrees from Jim’s junky equipment. This truck didn’t have a scratch on it. Acme was clearly doing well and could afford a brand new truck.
“Don’t mess up my new truck” the driver said, and I immediately envisioned a bill for $10,000 from Acme for “truck repair”.
“No problem“ said Jim and I swallowed hard.
We got the truck bed on the ground, the big red ball chained onto its stand, and the winch lined up to drag the ball onto the truck bed. I had thoughtfully brought a bunch of pipe to put under the ball in case we needed to roll it onto the truck bed.
This is an old Egyptian trick that I have been forced to use a time or two.
Once all the pieces were in place, the winch began to turn.
We stopped. The big red ball needed to be elevated about 2 inches in order to clear the ledge on the truck bed.
“We have to raise it a little,” the driver said.
Eddie, who was standing in the crowd, glared at me for a minute then said, “get the forklift.”
The forklift was put in place and Ronnie gunned the engine and the big red ball lifted ever so slowly ….one inch….. then one and a half inches…. then finally it was high enough to clear the ledge and the driver switched on the winch and the ball slid on to the truck bed. No Egyptian tricks were needed.
Soon we were chaining the big red ball down to the truck bed. With so many chains it looked like the featured event in Houdini’s magic act.
“Everything went well,” I said to Jim.
”So far,” he replied.
Indeed we still had a ways to go as the truck bed was lying on the ground and not on the truck.
But the Acme truck driver seemed happy with how things were going so I chose not to worry.
The crowd was getting restless. Things were going much too smoothly for their tastes.
Perhaps a lion was needed to escape and eat a small child or something.
Some of the vagrants even wandered off, looking I assume, for more and better thrills or perhaps liquid refreshment.
Once the chaining was complete the driver got his truck into position. The winch was again used, this time to pull the truck bed (and it’s load) up onto the truck frame.
Suddenly in the middle of all this the truck bed twisted wildly…… the weight of the big red ball was pulling it to one side and the whole thing fell to the ground with a large clanging sound.
That might be expensive,“ I thought.
The driver was not deterred, however. He tried again.
Again a large clang marked the fall of the truck bed to the ground.
“We have come so far, and now this.” I thought
The crowd held its collective breath
The third try was done very, very slowly and the truck and its bed made contact and gradually the parts were linked together. The big red ball was on the Acme truck at last.
Soon the crowd dispersed and the big red ball was ready for its final voyage… hopefully out of my life forever.
I drove behind the Acme truck with my lights flashing. Jim drove behind me and we headed north to the Acme salvage yard on north Second Street.
This truck was a good deal lower than the semi, which had first brought the ball to Eddie’s, and there was no danger from overhead wires, or lights, or police.
Just as we were approaching Acme however the driver pulled over and I could see him through his window on his cell phone …Soon he came back to my truck and announced we were going to the south valley instead.
It turns out that Acme Metals is a conglomerate with several locations throughout Albuquerque.
It was a long slow trip to the scrap yard in the south valley where the big red ball was to spend its final days before going to the big smelter in the sky.
Jim, minus his finger stayed closely behind me. This had been his idea, his vision, and he was not about to abandon it. Jim seemed unusually happy, perhaps because in this instance an artist’s failure was a junk man’s success.
When we arrived at the South Valley destination I took a walk around Acme scrap yard #2 while Jim busied him-self with unloading the ball. The yard possessed a unique beauty that had a wildness at its heart. Huge piles of detritus from our industrial society were scattered about the property: stacks and stacks of steel, wherever one looked. Muddy puddles reflected an overcast sky, and a lone coil of smoke rose just beyond the horizon.
For a moment I could see into the piles of junk and scrap steel and stories from the past revealed themselves to me. Christmases and birthdays and all the gluttonous holidays of consumerism were there. Wonderful moments could be seen when the acquisition of a washing machine or a vacuum cleaner was accomplished with glee and a credit card. For a short time at least a purchase might have brought that family closer together (if not in reality at least in the shared expectation that happiness would ensue).
As quickly as the stories told themselves they began to fade. As I looked further these visions of happiness were swept aside by the winds and I beheld what must have been the Acme of the Apocalypse.
“I am death” the scrap yard cried out to me, and as I looked, the piles of expired hopes, dreams, and expectations seemed to grow taller by the minute. Huge mountains of scrap threatened to engulf me.
I could feel the pulse and roar of the mechanical life that once dwelt there in the rusting steel. It had escaped and sputtered out in a final death rattle that no mechanic could fix.
But was that life truly gone forever?
Was Acme the omega of all omegas if you are a lawn mower?
Was this the end of the line?
In what was to prove a transcendent moment, a voice came to me and said,
“ Life is still here even though it is gone.”
I thought of the big red ball and all I had been through for almost 3 long years….. of my own hopes, my dreams, and aspirations.
I thought of the funny moments Jim and I had shared as we witnessed the big red ball falling from Eddies’ forklift.
I thought of the sandy island west of the parking lot that had been the home of the big red ball as it awaited my final decision.
And in an ironic twist of fate, I realized that the big red ball had ended up deep in the South Valley almost within rolling distance of where I first encountered it….Coronado Salvage.
I could see that although life WAS drained from the carcasses and shells of dryers and leaf blowers, the car bodies, bicycles, and dishwashers that lay before me crushed beyond recognition…. LIFE ITSELF still remained.
“It’s a nice pile of junk “ Jim said absently as he caught up to me
We gazed over the landscape for a moment or two and with a certainty that has only crested within me for a few times in my life, I replied ,
“Yes, it’s a nice pile of junk……”