One man’s trash…
polis is a collaborative blog on urbanism with a global focus. It is a space for our regular contributors and readers to share ideas and information about anything and everything urban from multiple lenses.
But back to the garbage: from the outset I wanted to hate the guy who figured out how to market crushed cans and mangled plastic spoons from the streets of NYC. But I don’t know. The collecting part, more than the academic arguments about the irony of preserving and profiting from the very stuff that’s creating environmental havoc, etc., is what I can’t shake. Here’s maybe why:
A few years ago at a coffee shop in L.A. a guy hefting a piece of driftwood on his shoulder sat down next to me and said, “We collect the conscience of a place, the ideas, the attitude, and we become them.” I’d been reading something Philip Levine wrote about the poet Antonio Machado, “the whole history of Castille is the history of Machado, an empire gone to ruins, and the moment which is his life, the lasting moment he lives and relives, becomes the place itself.” This was either a weird coincidence or the guy had been reading over my shoulder. I don’t honestly know. But here’s what that day taught me:
1. The driftwood was named Samantha.
2. Humans seem to be in the business of collecting. We’re like that creepy lady who dies, and the authorities find thousands of porcelain dolls lining every wall of her house, all staring and smiling into the fading daylight.
3. Much of what we collect has to do with place and landscape and how to reconcile ourselves to the places we exist in. Writers collect place. Sometimes I’ll post about this very thing, as it’s sort of an unpaid internship at this point.
4. Those NYC Garbage boxes sell for $100 bucks a pop. They collect place very literally. I hope someone has something to say about this.
So, that’s by way of an introduction. Thanks, Blake, for inviting me to post!