You know that scene in “Fight club” where Edward Norton walks through the office with blood in his teeth, smiling at his former coworkers? His anarchist notion of public demeanor rejected decency and projected something odd and affronting to social norms.
That’s me, dumpster diving on “college exodus” while parents and students are packing high end SUVs with stuff, still throwing away their unwanted items on graduation day.
Yeah, that’s trash in my hand, yeah I know I am digging through trash… don’t be so wasteful next time”
This is Punk Rock Christmas
— - the season of May 2019 —
Deep in the Ozark forests, after the spring storms, when the forest is alive with bird calls and steamy heat rises from the decaying vegetation. A miracle will explode upwards from the underground with a spore speckled darkness onto the southern facing hills. The locals get excited, from the country hillbilly to hiking suburban explorers. It is the season of the Morel Mushroom, and it exists within a delicate time frame as they rise to a certain height in singular patches or by the hundreds. The fruiting body of this species of mycelium networks is a culinary delicacy and a treat of the rarest kind. These Mushroom hunters hike the foothills in search of a modern gold that lives only a few days per season.
This feeling of rarity and the rush of tiny time frame is the same for the Dumpster Diver twice a year on those few precious days between the final hours of a College semister and the journey home for the students on that weekend. One must move quickly and with a special emphasis towards a harvest, as the free stuff appears in our local dumpsters. Like the Uniqueness of the Morels during a similar time of year, the best and most delicious morsel of dumpster selections is found outside the apartments of the college exodus of our modern students.
The rain had finished for the afternoon but the sun had not returned, as I turned into the college campus on the Sunday afternoon, it was like a ghost town. Three days before, the parking lots had been full of cars, then came the Friday night party, and the Saturday Commencement. Most of the students left for home on Sunday morning, packing their cars with whatever they wanted to keep. A whole semester away from family and a short end to this solo life experience.
The leftover liquor bottles, supplies, junk food and comfort items are now being tossed with indiscrimitory abandon. The College year was now done and summer vacation was a promise being fulfilled. Some students are wealthy, some poor, some are flying home and all the glory of past goes in the large green dumpster and into the hunting gaze of this Dumpster Diver.
My first little dumpster honey hole is next to a freeway at the edge of the campus. Four medium sized dormitories all wrapped around a parking lot. The School didn’t pay for the usual half top dumpsters, instead opted for full industrial “walk-in” sized monsters. Last year the trash had been overflowing, this year it was slight, as you can never predict the waste of each successive generation. Furniture options were less, and everything was already wet from the rain and the mattresses, rugs, and clothes were soaked. Boxes had been destroyed, but inside the black plastic bag were the goodies I desired.
- The first item discovered was olive oil, it was from a typical kitchen dump. Often students put all of their tiny dormitory kitchen stuff into the trash can or a box and toss it. Spices, eggs, breakfast cereal, butter, condiments and junk food. I always grab the oils, can goods and spices.
- Laundry detergent, a power charger, cleaning supplies and a nice coloring book came next. I usually pick supplies that save me money on a yearly basis, the type of stuff one buys at chain store.
- Those expensive shoes, and female glamor stuff is ignored. I don’t need “mall clothes” or the numerous shower curtains. Lamps and cheap metal lay everywhere not lasting even one year from the Target aisle where they sell to the organizing dreams of a college bound teenager.
As a reader, you don’t need to know every item I found to get the point, Punk Rock Christmas is like shopping, only you rarely find a price tag because everything is free.
I left the dormitories a happy man. My car wasn’t overly full and I will end up saving a lot of money over the next year on the frivolous things of society and that …… is the entire point. The oil and balsamic vinegar will last, the can goods can get me through a few shopping trips, the laundry detergent is a necessity and everything else found that day is just going to get a reprieve from trash hell and extend their usefulness. The vacuum is not quality, and printer has limited ink available, they are temporary things. The rug and sweatpants will stick around, and the hat will be enjoyed by my son, but for me as a Dumpster Archeologist, it is the story of a diary and strange artwork that will become a part of the Dumpster Archeology Story.
I always find a lot of stuff on Punk Rock Christmas and most of it is useful. One wonders how “usefulness” is defined by others when you see a student clarinet and know someone could still use it after its indiscriminate tossing.
When the rain stopped, and those clouds still linger, I pump up some heavy jams on the radio, get my adrenaline up, and excitedly drive to my next dumpster honey hole, it is like drugs, only the high is natural and lasts the whole night.
The Hunt is in my blood, and I metaphorically brought home the bacon.
Each year across America, from West Philly to the University of Nevada in Reno, I have dumpster dived the local campuses. My first was in Tampa, as me and my friends looked for chairs, mini-fridges and notebooks. Every campus is different in it’s offerings. University of New Mexico in Albuquerque had the least waste of any school and the International Students of Washington University in St Louis the most wasteful.
The Loop is next to the campus, one turns South into a closed neighborhood and apartments that remain vacant for 3 months a year. Up and down the alleyways on either side, the dumpsters fill and because it is a public street, campus security is non-existent.
High end kitchen appliances sit on top of boxes filled with odd items. Books, picture frames, acrylic paints, a bottle of gin and honestly…did I need that Disco Ball?
More traffic than usual, from the parents and students loading SUVs to the other dumpster divers slowly looking for wealth. They don’t know what I know, or at least might be too timid to jump full on into a dumpster and tear open black plastic.
You never know what you will find. Perhaps a nice wooden “one-hit” case with a tiny bit of illegal green stuff at the bottom. A full surround sound speaker system, Christmas lights and an old steamer trunk. A cardboard cut-out of Jeff Goldrum is an odd item too weird to pass up.
This is the heart of Punk Rock Christmas. The randomnesses of captialism and the leftover remains of that which still has a usefulness. If one saves hundreds and perhaps thousands of dollars simply by saving something from the trash, what does that do for a lifestyle?
If I spent an entire day, trolling that alley way. Opening every bag, and drove a van instead of sedan, than I likey could feed an army, clothe an entire high school and supply a village with the basic needs. As it is, I get a decent couple hours of digging, a caffeine binge moment of adrenaline pumping excitement and I always leave with a car full, never really worrying about what got left behind.
If money equals time..
And Time is capitalized as a commodity
Than Dumpster Diving is anti-time, like an ancient tribal hunt that takes the time it needs to supply the village.
It doesn’t require money and one could make money, but randomness is a fickle wonder and often doesn’t work for a “living”. In fact you could say it is the essence of living.
A short moment in time in which a fruiting body leftover from wasteful students leave it all behind to scurry back home to the safety of family and comfort. A season if you will, like Christmas, when the gifts are free and holiday spirit gleefully transcends normal reality for a manic hunt of epic proportions.
And its Punk as Fuck.