Sunday, April 25, 2010
a little brown cow at the dump
How Now Original Art by Brown Cow
Today, my vacuum cleaner died. It too shall enter the dump. A number of my previous vacuums are already there, bulldozed under the ground. The vacuum cleaner I had before this one lasted only one year. It just stopped working. There was no fixing it. My husband told me, "you should've known better than to buy junk like that." I said, "I bought it at a vacuum shop! I thought at least they should know their products and sell decent stuff!" I threw it out. There must be a whole graveyard of vacuum cleaners at the John St. dump.
When I was a small girl, sometimes my sisters and I were allowed to go with our father when he went to drop off stuff at the dump. The dump held a strange attraction for us. Our mother always loudly expressed her horror about the filthy things that lay about there and the germs and disease that one was sure to pick up at the dump, but that didn't scare us. We still found the dump attractive, and couldn't believe our luck when we got to go there--and get out of the car and look around!
Back in the 60s, the John St. dump was a lot smaller. When we went there with our dad in his Pontiac, we were sometimes forced to remain "window shoppers" in the back seat. Our mother would not allow us to get out of the car; she would be going on and on about the filthy things and the dirt we would touch if we went outside. So, we could only look as Isa went about his business of dumping the stuff we had brought.
In those days, when Thunder Bay was still two cities, Port Arthur and Fort William, when you drove into the dump it was like a large earthen lot which had been dug out of the ground as there were sandy cliffs surrounding it. Sitting in the back seat, my sisters and I would watch the birds, most likely swallows, swooping and criss-crossing overhead, flying straight into the cliff sides, disappearing into small black holes in the sides of the exposed earth. Seagulls squealed overhead, which I now know are ring-billed and herring gulls, but we used to call them seagulls.
Once when we went to the dump with Isa, Aiti didn't come because we were allowed out of the car. We could not believe our luck! It was like going on a treasure hunt! You never know what you could find at the dump. Sure enough, Katja found something: a soft rubber cow. She showed it to me and we both immediately fell in love with this thrown-away toy cow. It was brown and white and it had gentle eyes. There was only one thing wrong with it: a large slash across its belly.
That didn't detract from its charm. We did not mind that its stomach was ripped. It was still a very nice cow. We asked Isa if we could bring the cow with the ripped belly home. Of course, Isa being Isa, told us that didn't we notice it had a ripped belly? He turned it this way and that. He said this is garbage. Someone's garbage. We waited. He asked us if we were sure we wanted to bring this cow with the torn stomach home. And so we brought what turned out to be the cow that our friend Susy had thrown out, home.
A few years ago, I went to the John St. dump to dump off some junk from my basement. This is the junk that you don't know what to do with. The garbage truck won't pick it up. Usually it is large stuff that is broken -- or not even broken, but people just throw stuff out. It could be useless to you (although once it was just the right thing), out of style, or taking up space that you need for new stuff. You might even throw it out simply because you wonder why you were saving it in the first place.
The dump was not anything at all as I remembered it. It was a sprawling huge field of mounds and mounds of garbage--like small mountains of multi-coloured trash-- at which bulldozers and other such machines were busy churning stuff into the earth. Cars like mine and pickup trucks were driving along the earth road that led to the dumping off spot to unload household junk. It stunk like hell. Indeed, the smell enters you before you even see the garbage. It's like a bad movie. You wonder, what the hell?
My throat felt coated with stench. I could hardly breathe. I thought I was going to gag. The seagulls were like a cloud of screaming missiles darting all over the sky. All sorts of home wares, chairs, sofas, bicycles, strollers, plastic junk, leftover building material, suitcases, books, pillows, blankets, lamps, clothes, dishes, rugs, tables, playpens, highchairs, lawn furniture, and lots and lots of baby stuff were being churned into the earth.
I'll never forget the sight. I was completely shocked. I had no idea how big the dump was. I could not believe all the perfectly good consumer and household goods and furniture that was being dropped off and bulldozed into the earth.