Sunday, January 18, 2009

dumpster diving

I grew up in a tight little neighborhood where one of the families owned a refuse service. It was a rural town and the city didn't provide much in the way of services, so private companies took over. My dad worked in Manhattan and left everyday in a suit and tie, but the kids with all the cool stuff were the garbage man's children. Almost weekly they'd show up to play with a new bike, a pogo stick, or lightly used catcher's mitt and when asked where they got it, the answer was always the same: "My father found it at the dump." Needless to say, I never developed any feelings of shame about dumpster diving. It's a handy Weltanschauung to have if you've moved to a foreign city with nothing more than what you can pack into one large suitcase.

Along the route I take to the studio every morning, there's a location for collection of paper & bottles for recycling. People show up there with a car full of boxes, some stuffed with old paper or bottles for recycling, but often with other stuff. Stuff that doesn't really belong at the recycling drop off point. But if no one is looking, they might just dump the odds and ends around the bottle containers. Many of these people are totally schlampig, schmuddelig and down right unordentlich, and they just throw their junk on the ground, but more often than not, they display the best stuff on top of the containers, almost like a self service junk shop. Almost every morning I can count on finding something here, but I need to make a decision quickly. If I come back an hour later, the good stuff will be gone. I've grabbed several items impetuously and then regretted my choice a minute or two later, but what can I do? Throw a detailed model of the Millennium Falke in the bushes? I've got a lot of stuff in my studio now that I have absolutely no use for, a frame pack from the 1980's, a pressure cooker, children's books...

Recently I scored with a collection of napkins decorated with Easter images. One package (and for those of you who are a little squeamish, the packages are sealed) held a stack of napkins with a reproduction of Dürer's Junger Feldhase. Perfect for a painter who plans to entertain at his atelier. And the rest of the junk? It will make for a very eclectic yard sale come July.


Em said...

Shawn too has a love for dumpster diving. Especially in this more wealthy community we now live in, there seems to be quite a bit of 'gems' you can find in and around the parking lot dumpster bins. Mostly functioning treadmills, brand new bike racks, tables, and barely-used Christmas trees. Or at least, that's with the optimistic eye that Shawn see's the dumpter through. I mostly see trash.

Christopher T. Terry said...

Right on Shawn! Always glad to hear of another diver.