Bringing a little Calcutta to Fairfax

Pity, revulsion

Pity, revulsion

For the second Chooseday in a row there was a tasty trove in the dumpster at the corner of  the BP gaspstation &  the “Villa Jokes” apartment building. Not the Mother Lode (besides, that’s for non-edible items), but more like a good Easter hunt.

Doing anything twice can catalyze a Ritual, but on future forages,  I will have to take steps not to be seen (portable privacy screen? Cloak of invisibility?). Traffic flow’s at least a dozen cars per minute , and I imagine five percent of the drivers are ‘really  looking  (instead of talking on the phone), or the sight of a hunched figure caught their attention….of these witnesses, a fraction will  know me. But a number will..have an opinion, just like one does when one passes a scuzzy hitchhiker.

Coincidentally, or not, our morning paper had a great shot of a young woman on her bike with a fruit-grabbing pole. Half my age. That is very heartening. Maybe over time there will be some way to actually feed people with the found food lying all about.

Prepared food has hazards that raw ingredients don’t…but I’m feeling dangerous,  so I trod new territory by hauling away unopened meals. The ones that Meals of Marin prepares using good ingredients, then packs into alu-tubs and delivers at suppertime).

Like an irritable mom  who  polishes off all scraps, I mourn waste with a thickening waist.
Take my time arranging twenty pounds of  groceries, mixed with curiosities like a pair of glasses, a camera, and many sets of airplane headphones. One imagines some sort of gastronomic crime scene, where the resident cooked up something, took pictures, hated the meal, threw everything  out: the meal, the camera. and in so doing   bending his glasses, etc…Can’t  work in all those headsets, though. Push off with only the tiniest wobble of the handlebars–un-recycling that big cardboard box to carry it all was a stroke of (insert cliche here).

When I tumbled into the house, laden as usual, I knew my afternoon would be waste/rescue oriented.  Ignoring inner signals that I’m throwing away my precious time and talent on the equivalent of bailing out the Titanic with a teaspoon, I settle in for a good bail..

Stepping over the ‘food styling zone’ in the middle of the living room floor, CC asked if I’d thought through the implications of being being spotted out there, week in and week out.

“Well, you are bringing a little India into Fairfax” he offered.”They might have mixed feelings”.

What about being questioned by the cops? Mental note not to wear dark blue ironed longsleeve wool uniform shirt with gold buttons…while diving. Otherwise “Ossifer Phelan” might just become a true fashion criminal.

Is this all perverse?  Must consult with Jeff Ferrell, my friend at Texas Methodist University, a sociologist, criminologist, but mostly the adept author of  The Empire of Scrounge.

It’s possible that since a new hard times might be upon us, there will be a brother/sisterhood of not exactly hobos, but bohos, bohemians I guess, who don’t give a (expletive here) about how it LOOKS to be harvesting the hurled household hoardings.

My excuses for transgressing have been : the economy, the fun of it, the shock value, and the revulsion and the pity. Revulsion about the waste, pity for the time and resources being pitched…and I guess it’s also a form of research/experience for my slowly augmenting BOOK that still has no agent.
The book that combines cycling, recycling, remembering, and the Glean Plate Club branch of the Salivation Army.

~ by jacquiephelan on February 3, 2009.

4 Responses to “Bringing a little Calcutta to Fairfax”

  1. I believe I have been a dumpster-diver my whole life; it appalls me that we are such a wasteful society! I have, at times, furnished – – quite handsomely, actually … and, quite cozy, rooms in an apartment with my finds! My one son, a Buddhist monk living in a monastery in the Catskills was an avid dumpster diver when living in Washington, D.C. and regularly gathered food every Friday night to distribute to homeless individuals as a volunteer for “Food Not Bombs”! Good stuff, Jacquie!

  2. I’ve dumpster-dived for years for non-edibles. Being Someone Who Cannot Smell — farts, kitty litter, and Albany, Oregon all smell like air to me — I’ve always been nervous about diving for food. What if it’s gone bad and I can’t tell? 14 cases of food poisoning over a 20-year period have kept me away from questionable food leftovers, but I’ve always felt like I was missing something by not playing (sorta like the lottery, you know?). Advice for the olfactorily-challenged would be welcome.

  3. I think my first dumpster dive occurred in 1992. I still have a nice,comfy shirt from that find. Now that I am a county worker, I can avoid dumpsters and just do my shopping at the landfill. Got a nice Schwinn Stinray for my son that way, plus numerous bicycle parts and many other useful things. I also find some good stuff when I am mowing roadsides (snagged another Stingray that way).
    I recieved my first mountain bike, a 22″ Puch, for my 14th birthday, 1984. I think I read about you in a Bicycling article a year later, and have been an ardent fan ever since. I am glad to see you are doing well, and happy to have stumbled onto your blog. Will be following your adventures from now-on! Thanks,
    John (signed-in through his wife’s blog- ssshhh!)

  4. Dumpster diving for edibles makes me kinda nervous. As an “armchair pathologist” I have developed a tendency to cook any meat to “well done/re-entry crispy” and avoid anything fuzzy or off-looking. I’m sure it’s just the scary stories that are messing with my head…

    How do you pull it off so frequently? So successfully? These are adventure tales to me!

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