Jan. 25, 2006
I’ll be using this blog’s trash lists for helping address the notion of a fluctuating “auto” in “autobiography.” I hope you Peeps have been amused by some of these lists—actually, they’ve sort of been boring, to me, but the repetition of them offers a pleasingly trance-inducing quality when I reread them. Anyway: the last day—
an oak leaf that skittered through an open door
edges to 2 slices of bread
2 registered mail receipts
day-old cat food
kitty shit & piss clumps
peel-off backings to 2 book mailers
2 EQUAL paper packets
coffee grounds for 2 cups
1 piece of scrap paper
3 pieces of small scrap papers
2 plastig bags that held RICH Fran chocolate-covered cookies
2 paper napkins
1 piece of junk mail
stray grass from kitties' wheat grass plant
cardboard & plastic containers to Marie Callender's Herb Roasted Chicken (the hubby once did a food tasting of frozen dinners and Marie Callender's is the best)
plastic & paper packaging to Benadryl pills
dog's rubber baseball toy shredded by Achilles' beeeeeg teeeeeth!
SAVED FOR RE-USE:
1 large envelope
1 piece of scrap paper
2 pieces of scrap paper for cover memos
2 plastic grocery bags
7 cans of dog food
2 diet coke cans
emptied bottle of 2001 Kistler Durrell Vineyard chardonnay
emptied Pellegrino bottle
Martha Stewart's Living*
(*picked up as freebies from local library)
It seems fitting to end this project with an excerpt from a book I finished reading today, TRAVELS WITH LIZABETH: Three Years on the Road and on the Streets by Lars Eighner (Fawcett Columbine, New York, 1993), an account of homelessness and travel with a pet dog. A fascinating chapter has to do with “Dumpster Diving,” or delving into dumpsters for food, clothes and whatever else a “diver” might salvage. It’s how Eighner helped support himself while he was homeless. Here’s an excerpt:
“The area I frequent is inhabited by many affluent college students. I am not here by chance; the Dumpsters in this area are very rich. Students throw out many good things, including food. In particular they tend to throw everything out when they move at the end of a semester, before and after breaks, and around midterm, when many of them despair of college. So I find it advantageous to keep an eye on the academic calendar.”
But in reviewing the past 34 days of my garbage lists, I realize how little I trash that would be useful to someone else. In part, this reflects my writing life and how, specifically, I work at home. Prior to being a writer, I was a banker. Ten years later, as a writer, I have yet to finish giving away the silk blouses, wool outfits, shoes, bags and so on that I accumulated as a worker who commuted to an office, engaged in public meetings and underwent other activities that forced me to care about my appearance (as a writer working at home, I live mostly in jeans and t-shirts). These often-expensive items from my finance career days are now “trash” to me and I haven’t managed to get rid of all of them yet despite at least ten trips to the Salvation Army or its equivalents. I probably have decades-old make-up and pantyhose still in my drawers. Based on Eighner’s dumpster experience, others aren’t as frugal as I am or have had the time to go through their closets to more effectively dispose of items no longer of use.
Also intriguing is Eighner’s description of how he began diving into dumpsters, and his conclusion with which I also conclude this project:
“I learned to scavenge gradually, on my own....I have learned that there is a predictable series of stages a person goes through in learning to scavenge.
“At first the new scavenger is filled with disgust and self-loathing. He is ashamed of being seen and may lurk around, trying to duck behind things, or he may try to dive at night. (In fact most people instinctively look away from a scavenger. By skulking around, the novice calls attention to himself and arouses suspicion. Diving at night is ineffective and needlessly messy.)
“Every grain of rice seems to be a maggot. Everything seems to stink. He can wipe the egg yolk off the found can, but he cannot erase from his mind the stigma of eating garbage.
“That stage passes with experience. The scavenger finds a pair of running shoes that fit and look and smell brand-new. He finds a pocket calculator in perfect working order. He finds pristine ice cream, still frozen, more than he can eat or keep. He begins to understand. People throw away perfectly good stuff, a lot of perfectly good stuff.
“At this stage, Dumpster shyness begins to dissipate. The diver, after all, has the last laugh. He is finding all manner of good things that are his for the asking. Those who disparage his profession are the fools, not he.
“He may begin to hang on to some perfectly good things for which he has neither a use nor a market. Then he begins to take note of the things that are not perfectly good but are nearly so. He mates a Walkman with broken earphones and one that is missing a battery cover. He picks up things that he can repair.
“At this stage he may become lost and never recover. Dumpsters are full of things of some potential value to someone and also of things that never have much intrinsic value but are interesting. All the dumpster divers I have known come to the point of trying to acquire everything they touch. Why not take it, they reason, since it is all free? This is, of course, hopeless. Most divers come to realize that they must restrict themselves to items of relatively immediate utility.
“...Anyway, I find my desire to grab for the gaudy bauble has been largely sated. I think this is an attitude I share with the very wealthy—we both know there is plenty more where what we have came from. Between us are the rat-race millions who nightly scavenge the cable channels looking for they know not what.
“I am sorry for them.”