The Klock Shop

November arrived with tail pipe dragging, rust setting into my hood latch, acceleration waning, rear brakes grabbing, my state inspection tags firmly expired. Time has taken its toll on my trusty vehicle as it nears its 200,000 birthday. I decided today to drop it off at the auto repair place and walk home with my camera in hand to get some oxygen into my blood after too many days of computer sitting. On foot, I noticed a small wood frame house that I must have sped by on the way to the mechanic. It crowded right up against the sidewalk and sported a collage of clocks in the window and a strange and primitive cat carving affixed next to the front door. The sign overhead read “Karl’s Klocks”. I could see a light on inside, so pushing the vaguely ominous connotations of the store’s alliterative title to the back of my mind, I pushed the glass door open and was sucked into the black hole of Karl’s Klock’s time warp. Inside were so many old clocks marking different times that the fourth dimension itself had shattered into an indeterminate quivering mass of temporal anomalies that threatened to cut off Einsteins balls with a rusty pocket knife. In the corner of what once had been the front room sat a man in an old red overstuffed easy chair, facing the door. He was wearing a maroon apron, thick, dirty glasses, old jeans, and quoting Rush Limbaugh to a plump older woman who had stepped in from the 1950’s to restart her clock, but he hadn’t had time to get to it yet. I’m not sure that she was in the right place, but she might have been at one time.

Time wasn’t exactly standing still in the shop. It was instead slowly accumulating in layers of sediment on a dirty beige shag carpet that looked as if it had given up hope of meeting a vacuum cleaner sometime in the late 1980’s. Broken clocks lay scattered in piles that threatened to engulf the outmatched shop owner. Different eras, sizes and styles of time pieces were strewn randomly, filling the space with an overwhelming visual confusion, threaded by a tenuous path that looked as if it could be blocked by an avalanche of alarm clocks at any given moment. The presumably working satellite synchronized clock in my iPhone read about 17 minutes past noon when I walked into the shop, but several hours had somehow elapsed before I managed to escape the gravity well of the shop’s time sink. All this frozen time clamored for my attention in a tangled temporal collage that would only release me on its own schedule. I tried to quiet my busy mind, and absorb whatever lessons this place had to offer. It slowly dawned on me that had walked into a metaphor for my own photographic image archive. Both my repository of images, and Karl’s trove of dusty timepieces were disorganized and ill-defined collections of frozen moments that nobody else wanted, stored away and jealously guarded as if a precious legacy. I couldn’t help notice that all Karl’s Clocks had been adorned with very large red and white price tags that bore what seemed to be extremely optimistic dollar amounts, given the general atmosphere of disarray permeating the establishment. He was obviously in no hurry to sell any of his collection of time pieces from times gone by. A comment on the cost of clocks inspired a monologue on the price of time pieces relative to the retail index on a brand new Cadillac relative to the GNP and average take home wages before diverging into a treatise on the mechanical durability of the Cadillac vs. that of the Subaru and other Japanese interlopers. I didn’t think it worth pointing out that my 13-year-old Subaru had actually been assembled in Indiana during the waning days of the Clinton Administration, and had safely transported me the equivalent of eight times around the planet, fearing that this line of thought might set him off on a conspiracy theory about government’s faking the moon landings, and that the Earth was actually flat. Prada has their strategy for retail success, J Crew has theirs, and Karl has his own ideas. Sitting in his armchair surrounded by broken timepieces and the apocalyptic drone of AM talk radio, he has had plenty of time to develop a theory for pretty much everything. Over the course of the next several hours, I was treated to an account of many of them. The American’s with Disabilities act, affirmative action, government corruption, corporate lobbyists, The Obama administration’s energy policy, Imminent Domain, gun laws, unfair small business tax policies, Gay Marriage, immigration law, and many other topics came under his withering fire. Proof of a failing economic policy was found in the fact that his clock repair business had lost more money each succeeding year, and his terrible problems with cheap Chinese replacements for the clock parts that he used to get (believe it or not) from India indicated a trade policy in crisis. Obama’s reelection infuriated him, and the “I’ll Keep My Religion, My Guns, My Liberty, and My Money. KEEP YOUR CHANGE!” bumper sticker affixed to his front door had already alerted me to the possibility that my host might have a firearm or three stashed within easy reach under his armchair, or in the jumble of clocks at his feet, and inspired me to carefully frame my disagreements with his views as gently hinted suggestions for alternative potential interpretations on the consequences of time’s passage through history’s causes and effects.

Karl and I didn’t agree on much. While the difference of our opinions on the relative human worth of Lee Atwater and (“that fat fuck”) Ted Kennedy couldn’t have been more stark, our views did converge on the common fate shared by those two old ideological adversaries. Our respect for the dangers of cell phone microwave radiation also overlapped with mutual anxiety of the technological obsolescence of our respective fields. In our consciousness of the inexorable march of time, we both stand in tragic, futile resistance in our own disparate ways. Maybe his conservative political agenda and his collection of stopped clocks are both an attempt to retard the passage of time, as is my collection of stopped fragments of space/time in the form of a personal archive of photographs. Who really needed a clock repair man any more? Or a photographer? He talked of a coming economic apocalypse where the best insurance for the protection of one’s assets would be a machine gun. Both of our professions will be considered unnecessary then, he warned darkly.

While I was lost in the labyrinth of time at the clock shop, and wondering how many images of clocks I would find with a Google search (Turns out about 289,000,000 at the moment of writing http://tinyurl.com/agr5pdd.) I redundantly froze a couple of hundred more exposures of the clock cemetery with my digital camera to add to the image avalanche. I made no attempt to compose the frames as discrete images, but envisioned stitching them together into huge overlapped fractured collages that didn’t come together at the edges, like the bankrupt Kodak dream of stopping time. Maybe tomorrow I’ll visit Karl’s Klocks with my 8×10″ view camera. Stopping the flow of this much time might require some heavy artillery.

Posted by scoopneil

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