By MICHAEL PERKINS
IT WAS, ON ONE LEVEL, A COMPLETE WASTE OF GASOLINE: a half-hour’s drive to a dusty cluster of tables scattered across a vacant lot in Carefree, Arizona; a gathering of junk gypsies, hunkering for shade under their teepee nation of display tents, their sprawls of pre-owned debris bunched onto card tables filled with the remains of people’s lives. It was going to take exactly five minutes to make one sad pass around this serpentine mound of resale refuse. No treasures today. Maybe we have time to catch lunch before we drive back to town.
These strange mash-ups of godforsaken bric-a-brac are common in many of the small towns of the southwest. Sometimes they are found shoehorned into sagging old adobe buildings on their umpteenth re-use. Other times they are charitably called “swap meets” or “vintage sales” and litter the parking lots of down-and-out drive-in theatres like the aftermath of an air crash. The visual impact is always the same, that of an attic that has been dynamited to bits, then shoveled into milk cartons and slapped with improvised glo-orange price tags. Coffee cans filled with unrelated fragments of trinkets; cardboard cartons overflowing with random chunks of household backfill. Two mysteries pervade: where has all of this come from….and where can it possibly be heading?
I was about one minute away from the end of my doleful tour when I spotted this box, which someone had filled with mis-matched bits of small dolls. One of such souvenirs on a big table makes no visual impression whatever, but a mass of them together is some kind of little minor-key symphony of dreams gone down to dust. Loved objects that were once transformed into the stuff of fancy, now just shards of lives dumped into a cigar box. I risked one picture. For some reason it haunts me.
But see what you think.
It isn’t about what we look at but what we see.
We leave such a colossal wake of trash behind us as our lives thunder and crash through the world. How to sort out all the stories inside?