Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Waste Management

Whatever it happens to be--idea, inanimate object, seed pod, or unfinished torpedo sandwich tossed at a waste can at a park and missed--you note it, take it in for a moment or two, then move on to another random assortment of things. Some things seem so hauntingly meaningful--a plush Donald Duck, say, sitting on a cushion of a cushion-sprung sofa discarded on a back street, that you grab a shot of it with your cellphone or Leica or perhaps make a note of it on the handful of three-by-five index cards you often carry.

The devil is said to reside in the details and there are details everywhere; it is impossible to get away from them because there are no public access vacuums. There is stuff everywhere. In your own room and work areas there is stuff, its only difference from the outside stuff being that it is stuff you have brought in with you, perhaps even from other places you have lived or other places you have visited.

To the extent that you have any sense of neatness or order or perhaps even a sense of design, things are arranged about you. Sometimes this is total chaos of chance, a receipt, for instance, from the Conserv Fuel #6111 at 150 South La Cumbre Rd Santa Barbara Ca 93105. It makes sense that you would purchase 9.296 gallons of 87 octane but why would you keep much less request a receipt? Ballpoint pens which you hate, fountain pens which you love, crumpled napkins, okay they must be investigated for scribbled notes. The battery recharger for the Leica is a no-brainer, the red 2010 Weekly Pocket Planner from The New York Review of Books also obvious, all these things having some purpose that have immediate significance to you or some embedded significance. Sure. On the back of the receipt from the gas station, two figures, the mileage on your odometer and the number of gallons purchased, your curiosity about miles per gallon (31.6587).

The key to these things, this river of events and elements into which you try at times to swim, is you and what calls to you for attention and, when you attention is gained, what you do about it. It often amazes you how easy it is for others to see some quality, beauty, say, or squalor or perhaps even waste or decadence or tragedy in the things that are strewn about the landscape. The worst thing you can do is affect some shield that blindfolds you to the things about you, even if this means you are likely to be distracted from tasks at hand.

It is as ineffective, you reason, to be insulated against noticing things as it is to be too open and alert, yanking your purpose from under you by providing distractions. You were never one for middle ground and so that approach seems even less practical to you. Museums, book stores, stationery stores, hardware stores, food stores, the lairs and retreats of animals.

The metaphor of the world you inhabit as a huge waste dump seems appropriate at times but more often than not your interest has nothing to do with possession, rather to classify, notice, somehow arrange and make connections that lead to the individuals you try to induce into your stories. Who left the sofa on Greenwell Avenue? You haven't given that a thought in nearly a year. Who left the Donald Duck stuffed toy and under what circumstances? That sometimes keeps you awake at night.

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