My Place

New office?

I’ve long said that when I die, just throw my body in a dumpster somewhere. People can grieve or celebrate my passing, but I won’t care where you leave me.

There’s a lot of tongue in cheek in that paragraph, but seriously. Physical remains don’t really matter.

That said, I was driving by a location that is a common trash depository. I took a look inside, and the mattress and chair is what I found. What a scene. What a picture,

I did what I do. I made the picture. The purer, more documentary version, is very strong. But, these days I’m messing with photographs as a base to a more painterly-like piece.

My photojournalist friends will gasp at this. I don’t care. I haven’t been a pure photojournalist since 1990. These days, I’m closer than ever to getting outside myself and into the image. They say that all art is autobiographical.


What does this picture say about me.? In this time? In this place?

I’m thinking quite a lot.

We are living through a period in history when it seems goodness is retreating. Democracy is fighting to live on. Leaders have become autocratic. And, others think they have the right to determine what goes on in other human being’s bodies. The planet is suffering. The climate is changing. Plastic seems to be ruling the earth. (I’ll get to that in a minute.)

Dark. Dark. Dark.

History shows us that when darkness is at its highest point, artists become more creative. We feel less inclined to go back to our old standbys. We tend to explore more. We tend to take more chances. Our work might not be beautiful. Instead, it makes a point.

This picture is about how we got here. Our disposable society. I went in and took a close look. The chair didn’t have a whole lot of wear on it. One  arm rest was torn and patched with duck tape. I know an upholstering place that could fix that like new for about fifty dollars. The mattress? It was fine. It still had a sheet on it. Surely, it could be saved. At least, the sheet could be.

The picture. I went through a lot of changes on this one. Me, as well as the picture. It started out as a pretty good documentary piece. I kept working and working. I made a lot of false starts.

I had the image in my head. Getting there was a different issue. I finally did.

For instance, the dumpsters — the two dark frames on either side of the picture — are black. By removing as much color as possible, they revealed themselves to have a red undercoating. Likely, that’s how they came from the factory. When they reached the garbage collection company they were painted black and branding was added. I layered another picture over that. It was about nature. Nature retreating.

That’s it.

Oh yeah.

Plastic. It way worse than we thought. We make a big deal out of plastic water bottles. We make a big deal out of single use plastic straws.

That’s nothing.

I decided to save a month’s worth of plastic trash, with a little help from my friends. Today is March 25th. Six days to go. Two large paper grocery bags of plastic. Filled to the top. Admittedly, we ran out of some long lasting items like condiments. They added to the monthly total. But, what we found scared the hell out of me. And, that takes some doing.

Almost everything we buy has a plastic component to it.

Prescription bottles, prescribed and over the counter. All condiment bottles like mustard and catsup. Even vinegar bottles are made of plastic. Every possible kind of food wrapper. We normally buy different kind of lettuce in bags. We stopped. Doesn’t matter. Even a plain old head of ice burg lettuce is wrapped in plastic. Every fresh veggie or fruit that is carried out of the store is wrapped in plastic. Just a bag, but still.  Meat. Sure the bottom of the package is made out of styrofoam, but the whole thing is wrapped in plastic. Frozen veggies? Plastic. Spices come packaged in plastic bottles. Buy a takeout sandwich? It is wrapped in plastic and shoved into a plastic bag. The only fast food place that doesn’t do that is Five Guys. Everything comes in paper. How many hamburgers can I eat in a week?

I could go on. And, on. And, on.

Instead, I’ll leave you with this.

Nature’s ultimate protective package is a banana. It comes with its own wrapper. The skin. You’d think that would be enough. Nope. We saw bananas wrapped in plastic. Oh no. Not the bunch. Each individual banana. Then, that was wrapped in plastic as a bunch. What are these people thinking?

There are some solutions. For fresh veggies and fruits you can buy mesh bags. The best are made of hemp. You can buy them in many health food stores or online.  You can have a butcher cut and wrap meat in paper. You can buy bulk spices, and store them in your own containers. But, you have to be able to use them before they start tasting like colored saw dust.

So many things are hard to replace. Prescription bottles, for instance. Reusable glass bottles would be great. I suspect most people won’t remember to return them. We used to have glass milk bottles. When we had milkmen. My parents used to buy seltzer the same way. A delivery guy would come by and collect the empties which he replaced with refilled bottles. We drink seltzer today. We buy it at the grocery store. It comes in cans or bottles. Plastic bottles.

We can grow some staples. Tomatoes grow like mad down here. We’ll have 500-600 this year. Our basil plant is now a bush about to grow into a tree. We’d have strawberries too. But, the little jerks who call themselves dogs, smell them as they are ripening. When they are ripe, one bite and they are gone. They try to act like they aren’t guilty. Hard to do with red juice dropping down their chins.

In any case, shopping in store that uses paper, buying your own bags and containers, growing stuff and such, is going to get expensive. You don’t need to buy a lot, but you shop more… using your car. It never ends.

I think it’s worth it.


Leave a Comment

  1. I complained on Twitter to Whole Foods about this recently — they have these gorgeous glass-and-metal containers for their spices and herbs, and it’s really easy to pop the (small plastic) top off and refill them with bulk stuff. If we –if _they_– were serious about “reduce, reuse, recycle”, then they’d do this, right? –0nly I don’t think that they’d get the cash for bulk refillable stuff that they do for per-unit, nicely-packaged glass containered products. The clientele that they have positioned themselves to serving aren’t really the earthy-crunchy type who like the feel that goes along with Green practices, but the upper-middle classes who wish to purchase their own redemption with every product — and are willing to pay a premium for that feeling. In the war between a Green mission and another green mission (for Benjamins), the latter wins, it seems.

    Needless to say, Whole Foods never replied to me.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh, WF can’t make even their margin, which is very slim, selling much bulk. But, there are other places to buy in bulk. Even here, we have two. One is more South Indian than anything, which is fine with us because Ms. Storyteller is half South Indian. The other is Chinese, Vietnamese and a little Mexican. The bulk packages are inexpensive and we repackage them as you suggest. We rarely go to Whole Foods. You described what we call the wannabe hippy scene. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes. It’s worth it. I’m on the same journey, perhaps a bit behind you (haven’t saved my plastic trash for a month yet), but feeling the weight of the weight my consumption is leaving behind me in this world. It changes the way you think once you realize that single-use plastics are exactly that – but are not going away after their use. Dry cleaner bags are another thing – why do the clothes need to be in plastic bags – they’re only going from the cleaner to my car to my closet. I complained about it and they gave me a nice cloth bag that will be used from now on. A tiny drop in a giant sea…

    On your larger point, the comment “We are living through a period in history when it seems goodness is retreating,” is so poignant and heartfelt, and I struggle with similar thoughts every time a brand new blow (regressive policy, angry attacks, dehumanizing behaviors, etc.). But I have to think that while badness is surging right now, it will not win.

    I hope you keep up this introspection and philosophical commentary – it is thought-provoking and makes for great pictures.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I only did that to prove a point to ourselves. Dry cleaning bags… we “borrowed”some from some Asian hotel. Big ones and little ones for stuff like socks and underwear. We just bought some mesh bags for fruit and veggies.

      Back in the days when they made me fly, there were missions I didn’t like. But, we flew medivac missions so I had no choice. I wan’t about to leave wounded men behind. I used to say that I had “a bad feeling about yxz mission.” I had a bad feeling about Hurricane Katrina, so I trust that instinct. I’ve been living with that same kind of feeling for about a year now. Before anything changes for the better, it’s going to get worse.

      This is all coming out because of another blogger who badgered me into use a word as sort of a koan. My word is learning. Mostly, I seem to be learning about myself. For instance, I never talked about the war — my war. now I do.You won’t get glorious battlefield stories — there aren’t any — but you’ll get the truth.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for your photo. It reminds me of a feeling I used to get when I saw old billboards that were many-layered and peeling away. It resonates such a lonely empty feeling of “Forgotten times”. Discards from other peoples lives – your photo captures this space in time that we are living and creating a vision, which is somewhat tattered, but as you pointed out can be repaired, like the chair. A lot of us are crying for renewal out loud and in our art. Great piece.
    This is important for us all to listen and care about where we are and what will happen…to this beautiful planet.


    • Thank you so much. I never know if I touch anybody with these kinds of posts. You know that lonely empty feeling is called “high lonely” in music. The Grateful Dead captured it very, very well. We are on a holy tear around here with renewal. We reckon that if I do something, and you do something and a guy who neither of us knows does something, we can build a sort of momentum .

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “Our work might not be beautiful. Instead, it makes a point.” Too right. Beauty may be reassuring but it doesn’t get things moving, it gives no food for thought.
    What is beauty anyway? As Paul Gauguin said, “The ugly can be beautiful, but the pretty never can”. I came across this quote when I was studying art in high school. It struck a chord and has stayed with me ever since.

    Liked by 1 person

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