“A Dumpster Diver’s demeanor purposely rejects public decency in order to operate behind the social structures of trash/privacy/ownership. Scavengers work their odd trade on the waste of society, rejecting social norms”Lew Blink
At the end of May, after graduation or “college exodus” as students clean out living space, pack cars and divide what to keep and throw, there I am, pulling out their unwanted trash and it’s a lot in those dumpsters, a literal smorgasbord free treasures.
Yeah I don’t care, that’s trash in my hand, this is my holiday …. Punk Rock Christmas, where supplies lie in college dumpsters just waiting for the right scavenger to appear.
……..this is Punk Rock Christmas
from — - the season of May 2019 —
Deep in the Ozark forests, after a spring storm, when the forest becomes alive with bird calls and steam rises from decaying vegetation. A miracle will explode upwards from the underground with a spore speckled darkness onto the southern facing hills. Mushroom enthusiasts get excited, from the country hillbilly to hiking suburbanites. It is the season of the Morel Mushroom, which exists within a delicate time frame as mushrooms appear in singular patches or by the hundreds. The fruiting body of this species of mycelium network is a culinary delicacy for these Mushroom hunters who hike the foothills in search of a modern gold that lives only a few days per season.
This feeling of rarity during a tiny time frame is the same for the Dumpster Diver on those few precious days between the final hours of a College semester,the journey home for the students and trash day. One must move quickly and with a special emphasis to blend in, as the free stuff appears hourly. Like the uniqueness of the Morels the best dumpster treasure is found outside the apartments of the college students on the exodus of College.
The rain had finished for the afternoon but the sun had not returned, as I turned into the college campus on the Sunday afternoon. 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 indiscriminate abandon. The College year was now done and summer vacation was a promise being fulfilled. Students are flying home and all the glory of past goes into the large green dumpster. Then into the hunting gaze of this Dumpster Diver.
- 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, these 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. (*Stage manager’s diary)
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 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. The Adventure is like drugs, only the high is natural and lasts the whole night. The Hunt is in my blood, as 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.
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 Goldblum is an odd item too weird to pass up. 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?
This is the heart of Punk Rock Christmas. The randomnesses of capitalism 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? Fun nights in the city spending a couple hours digging in dumpsters with, caffeine binge moments of adrenaline pumping excitement and I always leave with a car full.
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.
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.