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How’s Bayou? A load of scrap


The alchemy of scrap

2012 was the year of the pick-up at Madewood, a time when the mother-of-the-bride would back her truck up to the mansion and download any remaining food on the buffet as the wedding reception was winding down.

In 2013, it was as if every U.S. auto manufacturer had ordered a total recall of trucks: Nary a one showed up on the property to mar the beauty of last year’s weddings.

Now they’re back — or at least one is, filled with loads of scrap metal primed for the latter-day alchemy of transformation of base metal into gold, in the form of dollars.

Over the years, as metal desks, aluminum frames and ladders, cast-iron tubs and an array of light fixtures met their demise, they migrated to a potter’s field of sorts at the rear of Madewood’s grounds. Vines with the hardy persistence of kudzu swallowed the hulking corpses, keeping them from the view of guests; but this winter’s freezing temperatures stripped the area bare, and our history of non-recycling was exposed to the naked eyes of all.

Something had to be done.

With the recent passing of her father, Angie (Madewood’s house and events coordinator) became the proud owner of his pick-up truck, which she drove to work one day.

Visions of sugarplums dancing from buffet table to truck bed filled my head; but, with no weddings scheduled for a bit, there had to be something to fill that empty space behind the cab.

Voila! That pile of scrap would fill the space nicely, unclutter the back of the property and yield — at least in our imagination — untold wealth.

After all, the Garden Lane mansion of a New Orleans scrap-metal magnate is on the market for a cool $4,495,000. I emailed a photo of the house to Angie, who agreed that, although it’s pretty spiffy, its pedigree is not that of Madewood. Nonetheless, her response was, “Wow. That’s a lot of aluminum!”

Aluminum enters the picture because, as Angie discovered, it brings the highest price. Mixed in with the Madewood scrap was the aluminum framework of a three-story glass elevator enclosure from the early days of the Canal Place shopping mall. Hearing in early 1985 that it was available for free to anyone who could disassemble it, I gathered a group of workmen and did just that. For almost three decades, I’ve moved, stored and moved again the unwieldy pieces from place to place. Time for it to go.

Along with scrap iron, Angie and other staff loaded the aluminum frames and drove off on one of several trips. She discovered that you drive onto a scale, then unload the aluminum, then reweigh the vehicle to determine what you’ll net for the aluminum.

The other morning, while walking the dogs in our New Orleans neighborhood, I noticed a pile of rusty cast-iron burglar bars on the curb. In a moment of madness, I decided to load them in my trusty Honda CRV and drive them to Madewood as a little gift to Angie.

After neighbors left for work, I directed my stealth vehicle toward the pile and loaded up as discreetly as possible.

As I secured the last piece, a garbage truck pulled up. The men eyed the scrap enviously, then sneered.

I wondered if the occupants of No. 1 Garden Lane had ever endured the condescending states of others as they dismantled decommissioned U.S. ships towed up the now-closed MR GO ship channel for recycling.

Judging from the spectacular interior photographs of the mansion, I doubt they cared.


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