This was in the early Eighties, As I recall. On a tip from a “Friend Who Knows” (We all have them, right?), I turned right instead of left Upon leaving a client meeting At the (then) Brand spanking new, Tastefully architected, Gracefully landscaped, Lavishly swan-ponded, Obsessively lawn-manicured Business park In the formerly agricultural Outskirts of the city.
At the very eastern Edge of the property Stood a stone barn. Anachronistic, yes, But otherwise just as Disney pristine as The rest of the park. It sat at the end Of the park’s only Unnamed road, Its presence partly shielded By a few old-growth willows The landscapers left standing.
I wheeled my car— A Corvair, of all things!— Behind the barn, Found a door with windows, Parked, Gingerly sidled up to said door, Shielded my eyes from The bright sunlight, And peered inside. My heart leaped and sank Simultaneously. As rumored, the barn was Full of fabulous automobiles. Duesenbergs, Cords, Rolls-Royces, Packards, Auburns, Cadillacs, Bentleys, Lincolns, Isotta Fraschinis, Delahayes, Standard Swallows, Hispano Suizas, The odd Ruxton here and there…
All arching fenders… Tail-strapped trunks… Wheels of wire and wood… Spare tires dangling from sides and rumps… Impossibly wide whitewalls… Chrome headlight buckets or bullets Or billets, possibly… And those wet-slick, rich-thick Candy store colors That wealthy folks loved In the Thirties and Forties.
All were part of one man’s collection. The son of the founder. A man of Coolidge mien, Grant Wood propriety and Mennonite breeding, Wealthy because Dad Could weld metal Cheaply, efficiently and fast. None of the antique objets d’art Would receive more Than a small shaft of daylight Through a high barn window Ever again. They were his to have and to hold. Never to be shown. Never to be paraded. Never to proudly Produce oily smoke From pre-emissions-controlled Tailpipes tipped in chrome. Never to honk a greeting From long, gleaming Heraldic horns.
This should have been, At minimum, A museum. Instead, it was A mausoleum.
I returned to the Corvair Angry as hell and, Leaving a trail of blue smoke Of my own (The ’Vair had oiling problems; Didn’t they all?), I drove back to my pathetic Cubicle office Full of dreams of class warfare And the liberation of Deserving sheet metal, Wood and Canvas captives.
To my knowledge, They’re still there. I don’t dare go back.
I had no idea what I was going to write when I sat down. This poem came to a full boil and spilled out over the rim of the cookpot in a matter of minutes. That’s neither a statement of pride nor an excuse, just a fact.
The content of the poem is true. What happened happened. The current fate of the antiques in the barn is unknown; security systems being what they are these days, any attempt to return for another peek would probably end in apprehension, arrest, a fine and an embarrassing news clip on Channel 8.