and today we will learn how to waste
Here is a small not-yet-even-rough bit of text that will eventually find its way into the freegan book. I haven’t sourced anything in here yet, but believe you me, everything in here is source-able and will one day be filled with insane (from the books I mention) and interesting (from books about the history of trash) quotes. Enjoy. (Comments appreciated.)
“Declutter Your Life.” It is the title of one of three pages of books that I find on amazon when I search the keyword “declutter.” These are self-help manuals to cure the pack rat. They are manuals on how to throw things away.
Pre-1900s there were household manuals that focused on saving, re-using, scrapping, re-purposing. They advised their readers to save little bits of cloth and string for later projects. They gave tips on pack rat-ing, on never throwing anything away that could possibly be used. Now we have three pages of books hoping to reverse hundreds of years of household habit, to teach us how to exist in this, the age of hyper-consumption.
You might not think it, but charities like Goodwill played a huge role in teaching people how to throw things away. Their advertisements were demanding. If you didn’t give your extra things to Goodwill, you just weren’t that great of a person. It got people used to the idea of getting rid of their “extras” instead of holding onto them again until they once again could be useful. People could stomach this “throwing out” because they could think of it as a good deed. Once you get used to getting rid of extras for charity, its not that far of a step to being used to getting rid of them in general.
Migration into cities was another huge player in this shift. Instead of living on sprawling farms with plenty of basement and barn storage space, people were living in tiny little apartments where there was no room to hoard and save like there had been in the country.
And now we have manuals to teach us how to stop hoarding. Many of these books are based on the principle that people’s consumption is out of control and that their stuff is starting to own them. I can sympathize with that message. But the practical advice within these pages is always to throw things away. “You’re never really going to use that!” encourage these books’ pages in their “trash-it!” cheerleading. The ramifications of these books very existence is insane.
I would reckon that one reason that people tend to hoard things is because in a healthy world it would make sense. Use and eat every part of the animal you just killed because you don’t want to deplete the entire herd and you don’t want to waste more energy and time on hunting than you have to, to take one example. People also hoard things because they have lived in times of want and fear famine.
Hoarding may have made more sense a hundred plus years ago because most of the things around to be hoarded actually were useful. Food, fabric scraps, wood, metal wares. These days people have cupboards full of plastic bags and drawers full of twisty ties and rubber bands from bunches of broccoli and chives they get at the supermarket. And while they might come in handy once in a while, these things are in no way a boon to our lives.
Of course the de-cluttering books never address the root of the problem. They talk about feng shui. They talking about not needing to buy a bigger house because you don’t need so much stuff. They talk about how having too much stuff “holds you back.” Some go as far as to address the point that avoiding clutter means avoiding hyper-consumption. But I have not yet found one that recommends putting an end to the companies that are manufacturing and cluttering up our world with things like plastic bags and straws in the first place. After all, once you de-clutter your home of plastic bags, they don’t disappear. They just become clutter on somebody else’s land, preferably that owned by a landfill, far far away from where you live.
dumpster find of the week
Oo la la.
Also took home: a red leather suitcase, black high top Converse that fit the Beard, black skinny leg jeans, a sweater, and two down blanket covers with matching pillowcases.
The trash coffers are full and overflowing in that way they only do at the end of the month before a bunch of people move out. The food dumpsters had little to offer last night, but tonight they will overflow again with the refuse of the weekend.
This just in (the trash)
Right after writing this and scheduling it to post automatically, I discovered another motherload in the uni big trash depo. The main dumpster there is enormous–maybe about three meters high, two plus some wide, and six or seven meters long. I was standing in it pulling out sheets and plates when a duder showed up to throw in some boxes.
We danced around each other a bit so he could put them in the back of the container where they wouldn’t be in my way, and on his way out of the dumpster stopped to look at what I was rumaging through. “Who the hell would throw something like that away?” I was holding a stack of pretty white and blue plates in my hands, and standing almost knee-deep in piles of other ceramic and glassware wrapped neatly in newspaper. “People are fucking nuts.”
“Can’t disagree with you there.” We collectively shook our heads, and he left. I packed up a bicycle trailer with flat tires that I’ve been eye-ing in their trash for a while, and pulled it home to glory.
Contents: Two thick blankets (I gave them to a dog owner to use as bedding as they are incredibly ugly); three down blanket covers, one with a matching pillowcase; a roast pan; a sauce pan; four glass bowls; two tea cups with saucers, four soup bowls with saucers; a very small fork and a very small spoon; two towels; three plates, two ceramic bowls; two glasses; and an insulated pitcher/thermos for keeping hot drinks hot.
no strings attached
I was sitting in the student center, cutting and pasting bits of a short zine together at one of the tables usually occupied by the black-leather-clad Magic players.
A woman approached me, looking nervous. Long black hair, long gray wool coat. Stack of papers clutched to her chest. “Can I bother you for a minute?”
“Sure.” I looked at her briefly and then went back to pasting as she started to tell me about the financial advisory company she worked for. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that she was leaning toward me, trying to pick up my head with her eyes, trying to get me to make eye contact with her while she talked at me.
I continued to paste, giving the occasional nod and “uh-huh” to show I was listening. Blah blah blah statistics say, she said. Blah blah blah planning for the future, she said. Blah BLAH blahblahblah blah and wouldn’t I like a free, no-strings-attached financial advisory session with her?
I stopped and looked up. “Well, no, I wouldn’t. Frankly, the idea of a financial advisory session doesn’t interest me at all. Sorry I couldn’t help you.”
She wasn’t ready to give up at that. “What semester are you in?”
“I’m not a student. I just live on campus and use the copiers here.”
“Oh. How convenient.” She paused. I wondered why she was on the job in the empty student center at 9 pm. There were only a few lights still on and I was the only one in the room. “But what about retirement, have you thought about that?”
“I don’t have a job I ever want to retire from.” On the day that I don’t want to write anymore I will be dead already.
She looked confused, but she didn’t ask me what it was I thought I would never want to retire from. “But you really need to think about the future. By the time our generation is ready to retire the public funds will be all dried up.”
I stopped and put my glue stick down. “Listen, I can see already that we have very different opinions about what a person needs when they are old, and I don’t really feel like unpacking mine with you right now.”
I thought about having a community that took care of its elders, about having a profession that I couldn’t imagine ever retiring from, and about how I hoped that by the time I was old and gray there would be, not only no more government funds, but no more government. “Besides, I could be run over by a bus next week. I just really don’t see the point.”
I had hoped that my last remark would convince her that I was a lost cause and should be left alone, but she became agitated in the way that people become agitated when they think they know better than you do what is good for you, and who think that if only you would just listen to them they might save your soul. I should have told her that I was used to living on less than 150 euros a month. Perhaps then she would have given up immediately, no longer capable of imagining me as a potential customer.
She repeated herself, I shook my head. She repeated herself again, and I told her I’d really just prefer if she left me alone. She moved on to the only other person in the room and began her spiel, word for word, once again.
the green window
I was sitting in bed listening to music when a loud BANG against the window scared the bejesus out of me. I hopped out of bed and stood tensed, listening. Should I open the door and risk getting hit with something as soon as I did? I peered out of a small window near the door. No one in sight. Then, on the other side of the wagon I opened the window and stuck my head out to listen. Still no sound.
I gathered my courage and swing open the door. Nothing hit it. I went outside and examined the ground around the window. Someone had thrown a rock. I walked up the hedge bordering the wagenplatz until I saw a group of four kids on the other side. They didn’t see me, and walked back down the hedge in the direction of my wagon. I walked with them, watching their four vague forms through the small spaces between leaves. They didn’t throw anything more and after a few minutes returned to the back corner of the platz.
Often there are Turkish wedding parties in the building behind the platz. Usually these events aren’t particularly bothersome. They play music and dance for a while and are finished and gone by 11 or 12. It’s a relief in comparison to the Thursday night techno and/or reggae parties held there during the university semester, and which have a tendency to lead to confrontations between us and the door men over keeping the god damn door shut so we can get some sleep. But during these parties there are almost always little gangs of children running around. Usually they are harmless, mildly annoying, but they have never done any serious damage.
I found several of my platz-mates and told them about the kids and the rocks. The kids were still hanging around the back corner and even braved approaching the back entrance to look at the chickens. I slung an axe over my shoulder and stared them down from down the path. They left. I wish I had yelled at them then. I need to do a better job cultivating my public image (crazy lady with an axe).
Several hours later I was in bed again, reading, listening to music, and getting ready to go to sleep. Then: another crash. The sound of glass shattering. A shriek.
I pulled on pants and boots, grabbed my polo mallet and went from wagon to wagon examining windows. They’d shattered the beautiful old green glass (made of the bottoms of bottles smelted together a million years ago) window in the guest wagon.
Natasha and Liam had almost been near enough to grab them, but only almost. They’d already been over to the party, and an older man had insisted that there was no way that it was children from their party. Right. So it was the kids from the other party? At one of the construction sites surrounding us on all sides?
We thought about calling the police, but wanted to try to talk to the people at the party one more time. Three of us returned, and this time several young men acted like they were going to help us. I identified the kids form earlier, sitting on the stage across the room. They looked about 12 years old, 14 at the very oldest. The young men passed the story on in a chain that spread throughout the party until a man with short brown hair in a gray suit came over. I hated him instantly. He oozed chauvinistic, self-importance. He acted like he was in charge, suggested we discuss the issue outside so as not to disturb the party.
The three of us led the way and fifteen men followed, spilling out of the door behind us and surrounding us. One of the men was the size of at least four of the others put together. We had show, up to find the children’s parents and get contact information so we could replace the window that guests from their party broke, and we, two small women and one man, need to be surrounded by fifteen men? Fucking macho, intimidation bullshit. I was already getting shaky from the angry adrenaline running through my body.
Gray Suit called the kids out. First only one came. “Who has been throwing stones?”
“Bohat.” I was actually surprised at his willingness to betray his friends. Then again maybe there was no Bohat.
A smaller child, maybe 6 or 7 years old followed. “It was Bohat,” he repeated. “I threw some stones too.” They were nonchalant, as if they were completely unaware that throwing rocks at windows was pretty generally thought of as socially unacceptable. The other two had conveniently disappeared.
The kids ran back inside and Gray Suit turned back to us. “Their parents aren’t here, so you’re going to need to talk to the organizer of the party.” I found it hard to believe that these little fuckers had come to the wedding without a parent, or that there was no one there responsible for them. “But the organizer is busy right now. This is a wedding. If you come back in an hour you can talk to him.” So his power trip had been an act. Either he wasn’t really important to this party in any way, or he was and he was covering up for his friends’ children.
I don’t know why, but we agreed to come back in an hour. Back in the kitchen we immediately regretted it. “How much do you want to bet that when we go back there all the people we spoke to are gone and no one knows what we are talking about?” I watched the back door of the party and as soon as they had turned off the music and started to fold up tables and stack chairs we returned.
“I’m not leaving until we have cash in our hands,” I said as we walked back to the party, this time with more people. I hoped that we weren’t going to have to call the police, who may or may not have actually improved the situation. Fucking police. I have no problem with calling them in a situation which cannot be solved in another way, but the police usually don’t bother helping people like us (squatters, punks, people who are poor, etc). At the very worst, we knew how to contact the group that rents out the building and could get a hold of the organizer’s address. But there was still a window to replace in the meantime.
Most of the guests were gone when we arrived. We approached Gray Suit. Suddenly he didn’t know any of the kids involved, though he had acted like he knew them previously. Several older men standing around him gave us dirty looks and told us they didn’t see what we thought they could do about the situation. “Why don’t you just call the police then?” one spat at me.
“I’d be happy to,” I spat back. “We just figured it might be easier to solve this between us. But if what you want is for the police to come here, and for us all to stand around until we’ve all given our statements and sorted this out legally, then that’s fine with me.” He walked away.
Gray Suit, we said, you told us to come back in an hour to talk to the organizer, so we’re here to talk to him, where is he? “Fine, he said,” smirking. He pointed to a woman in a ruffled blue princess dress; the bride. Previously he had told us we needed to wait to talk to a man (his German was good; I do not think his mistake was a language deficiency, though I briefly considered the possibility). It was clear that he was fucking with us, hoping we would feel too guilty about annoying the bride on her wedding day.
We approached her and were intercepted by her father, who brushed us off and sent his other daughter to get rid of us. All of the older men looked at us as if they couldn’t understand what we were upset about. I wondered how they would have reacted if one of our children had thrown a rock through a window in one of their homes. I wondered how they would have reacted if the children’s rock had injured someone. Luckily the person living in the guest wagon had been out that night.
The bride’s sister didn’t approach us with one bit of sympathy, but immediately started to explain why there was no way that she could be expected to help us. She didn’t know all the people at the party, she said. “You don’t know the people at your sister’s wedding? Didn’t you invite them yourselves?” I asked her. “That just strikes me as being pretty unlikely. Either way I assume there are hundreds of pictures from the night, so it shouldn’t be a problem to identity the kids.” I pointed at Gray Suit and another man who had been outside for the children’s admittance. “Besides, those two were outside when the kids admitted to throwing the rocks. They can also identify them.”
“If you wanted to solve this you should have come immediately and stayed until there was a solution. That is what I would have done. At this point I can’t help you. How should I know which children did this? I can’t be held responsible for what the guests of my party do.”
We did come immediately, we told her, but out of politeness followed Gray Suit’s suggestion to come back at the end of the event so as not to disturb the celebrating family. We had wanted to be polite, but, Karlsson said, not to worry, we’ll never make that mistake again. And by the way, we told her, we regularly put on events with hundreds of guests and yes, it was the case that the organizer of an event is responsible for the actions of the party guests if those actions involve, say, damaging the neighborhood. I recall being at many events were organizers asked the guests to be especially respectful of the neighborhood because they didn’t want to be prevented from organizing further events.
Bride’s Sister still didn’t see how she could help us. She suggested we call the police. She told us she couldn’t understand why we hadn’t called the police in the first place. We told her we’d be glad to if that was what she wanted. We told her we thought that it might be more pleasant to solve the problem ourselves, together. We told her that it would also be no problem to get payment for the window out of their deposit from the renters, if she would prefer that solution. But apparently it had all been a bluff; she didn’t want to deal with the police or lawyers later, she just wanted us to give up and leave.
An older woman had approached the group when we’d first started talking with Bride’s Sister. She examined the piece of the broken window that we’d brought with us to prove that there had been a window broken at all. She didn’t seem to speak German, but held the bit of glass out to Bride’s Sister and looked concerned. They talked for a few minutes in Turkish. She seemed to be the only one at the entire party who thought that kids breaking a neighbor’s antique window was a bad thing, and one that someone needed to take responsibility for.
She and Bride’s Sister discussed something in Turkish, and finally Bride’s Sister told us they would pay us the hundred euros we’d estimated we’d need to replace the window if we signed something saying we would not take any further legal recourse. We eventually agreed. It was the old woman who gave us the money. She seemed to have good intentions, but it seemed that Bride’s Sister had only agreed to give us the money to get rid of us.
The adrenaline finally started to leave my body as we walked back home. “I just don’t understand some people’s understanding of responsibility,” I told Camera. “It’s like responsibility is just this abstract concept that doesn’t have anything to do with reality. When it comes down to it they’d rather be forced by the ‘justice’ system to take responsibility for and within their community than to act of their own accord.”
I wondered how kids who grew up thinking it was acceptable to throw rocks through the windows of people’s homes would turn out as adults. I thought about the 12 years olds who stabbed two friends of mine on a Mainzer bus last week because my friends had told them what they thought about the 12 year olds hassling a woman on the street. Some days its hard not to lose hope for a different world.
all i wanna do is drink beer for breakfast
In America if somebody sees you drinking beer for breakfast they are probably assuming that you’re an alcoholic. In Germany they just go ahead and assume that you’re Bavarian.
Here’s something I wrote for another website, to fill this abyss of non-posting this week. Recording + work = tired. Next week there will be heaps and heaps of posts to make up for it.
When all you want to do is drink beer for breakfast.
today it was spring and i did not despair
Returned from Mannheim, recovered from the weekend, spring here. Today more seeds in dirt went into the greenhouse, more random trash disappeared from my future-wagon-spot, and I built crumbly brick mini walls to mark the places where spring and summer will bring gardens.
Soon I will be closing up the hole in my wagon wall, sanding floor boards, moving my house-ship-trailer, and breathing a big sigh of relief. Will it ever really be finished? Yes. I can even imagine it, and I do imagine it, every day, in excruciating detail.
Yet something about the thought of actually finishing makes me anxious, like in the nightmares I have where I have to accomplish a task but it is impossible but I have to accomplish a task but it is impossible butIhavetoaccomplishataskbutitisimpossible until I wake up sleep-pacing my room and wringing my hands. But the weather will not let me despair.
There is so much to do, and instead of being overwhelming it has become exciting. Outdoor showers, outdoor baths, outdoor dinners and lunches and breakfasts…bonfires and fire barrels and candles on tables outside, sat around until dawn. Oh what awaits us in the coming months!
If it is Friday afternoon, then by the time you read this I will be on the way to Mannheim (!) to record (!!) a demo album (!!!!) with lots of people that I really like (!!!!!!). Which means that sometime soon we can finally release the country noises that we’ve been brewing out back into the world, for better or for worse, ’til death to us part.
In other news it is so warm that I am wearing a tank top, and when I got home form work yesterday night, I found everyone sitting around a table outside eating carrot soup. The tulip bulbs I dumpstered and planted at the beginning of last winter are already sprouting, and the greenhouse is full of little pots, seeds buried in dirt, warm, waiting.
dumpster find of the week: antique shipping crates
Shipping crates once upon a time used to transport artifacts from somewhere to this university’s anthropology department. Now cleaned out (except for one lost tooth which Karlsson quickly pocketed) and discarded. Several crates had newspaper clippings from the 1960s inside, others bore labels reading “1935.” It took two tractor trailer loads to get them all home.
Today many of the crates turned into the (until today still partially open to weather) walls of Franken-shed, and the walls of a second wood shed/fence between my future wagon spot and the house garden. In their new life, the crates look like this:
Oh how I love old wooden boxes. Lovely.
breakfast on the way
At one time, long long ago, I thought click clack gorilla was going to be (mostly) a travel blog. Ha! As I recently admitted to a reporter interested in my “story,” it turns out that I don’t even really like leaving my house/land. Whoops.
So, as usual, instead of telling you about Germany’s cultural quirks (you can read about those on another website where I also blog), I’m going to talk some more about chickens and food.
This (see picture to the left) is the chicken coop. Bean and Coyot built it last summer when the old coop experienced a very intense mite infestation. I walk past it every morning (and a thousand times after that) on the way to the kitchen.
Every night just before it gets dark, the chickens waddle one by one into the coop. They do this because they are clever. There are a lot of animals, even in this over-built wasteland of concrete, that would eat them during the night if they didn’t. Once last summer a hedgehog walked into an open coop (one of several mini coops some people built for two mama hens) and tore two chicks to shreds before somebody heard the squawking and chased the hedgehog away. The world is a pretty brutal place if you’re a chicken. We latch the little door for them each night to be sure.
Several days ago, two of our platz-mates left for a very, very long bike trip. New people were needed to help with the chickens. I volun- teered. Now on the way to the kitchen each morning, I open the coop (one entire wall swings out on hinges for easy egg collecting and cleaning) and look for eggs.
Our land (and our platz-mates) can’t handle any more chickens than we already have, so we need to make sure we get all of the eggs before a hen becomes interested in sitting on them. (We also have to check around the platz constantly, and count the chickens each night to make sure one of them isn’t sitting on a nest somewhere outside. That’s what happened last time, and whoops! suddenly we had ten more chickens.)
Before I went vegan, back when I used to buy factory-farmed eggs at the grocery store without blinking an eye, it never would have occurred to me; but the reality of eggs is that when you get them out of the nest, there are bits of shit and feathers sticking to a lot of the shells. If you are even remotely acquainted with chickens, this would be obvious, but it just goes to show you how much I used to know about where my food came from.
All that I know about the food on the left is that it came from my favorite dumpster. The animals killed for these sausages were probably factory farmed, and it just kills me to see pieces of an animal who probably had a really shitty life lying in a dumpster wrapped in plastic. To torture an animal its whole life, kill it, and then just throw it away. What disrespect. I insisted that we take every last sausage home, and after egg check I cut up a few packages of meat and feed it to the chickens. In my former life I also had no idea that chickens ate meat. But they love it. Especially throughout the winter when the ground is too hard for them to get to any juicy earthworms.
The shorter sausages had no price on them, but the longer cost 2 euros a package. We dumpstered about eight of them, and five or six of the short ones. Luxury chicken feed, to say the least.
I start tossing little bits of meat to whichever chickens happen to be around, and soon they are singing their food song, and the rest of the flock comes running from every corner of the platz. Then they bitch at each other, steal each other’s food, and Outcast Rooster gets his ass kicked, again. (Anyone local who wants a rooster? One of ours is not allowed to spend time with the rest of the flock, be with the hens, and gets the shit kicked out of him by the other chickens daily. It seems that he might be happier in another family.)
Chickens gorged, I return to the kitchen to fry up break- fast. The frying pan has a few spoonfuls of leftover brown sauce from the night before (three large dumpster mushrooms, soy sauce, flour, water), and I scramble the eggs in leftover sauce and make salad. I prefer a heap of oily fried greens to accompany my eggs, but the dumpsters haven’t provided any. But there was cantaloupe. Time to start planning lunch.
lifestyle + ism
The first time I heard the term was in a bathroom in New York City. I had gone down to Bluestockings to look at zines and drink tea. Scrawled on the bathroom wall, black ink on white wall was “Lifestyle anarchists fuck off.” I wondered what a “lifestyle anarchist” was. I wondered if it meant people who tried to live what they believed, and I wondered why that could possibly be bad, could possibly be a reason for a bathroom wall war cry.
The next time I heard talk of “lifestyle” activists/anarchists/whoever was on a discussion forum. Then it popped up in a book I was reading.
Ah-ha, I thought. Lifestyle-anarchists/activists/people weren’t those who tried to live what they believed in because it felt good. They were people who thought that living what they believed in was going to change the world. People living off-grid, using boycott tactics, and preaching these as The Answer. Vegans were the most oft-referenced example.
I wondered if there were people that would call me a lifestyle-ist. Considering that I spend a lot of time writing about my lifestyle choices, the thought processes that led to them, and then often in the same breath mention that I’d do a cartwheel if industrial civilization were to end tomorrow, there are probably people who do think this. I do not, however, live as I do out of a conviction that I am changing the world through my actions, and I wanted to make sure this was clear, dear readers, because I really enjoy being understood.
I live as I do because I really, really like it. I pursue habits that I perceive as being in the right direction for me and perhaps for some others, but the way I live isn’t even close to anything I could fathom calling “right,” whatever “right” is supposed to mean anyway.
I think the most important thing to remember, always, is that there is no Answer. There are many answers. There is no Truth. There are many truths. Each is different depending on the person, depending on the place, depending on and interlinked with a thousand factors rarely duplicated. Diversity is necessary in everything, even in, especially in our beliefs about the world.
Perhaps, however, there are a few universal truths. Things that are true for every human no matter where or when or what. An example: If you do not drink water, you will die. Another: If you don’t breath air you will die. And a third: If you don’t eat you will die. Because I do no see death by starvation, dehydration, or suffocation as positive ends, I conclude that eating, breathing, and drinking are good (from an animal perspective). So I conclude that food, air, and water are good. So I conclude that poisoning and/or destroying food, water, and air are bad.
This is why I do not like industry. This is why I think industrial civilization is crap. There are ways to go further with this method of defining what is universally good, but I need no go further here. It is this very basic point—the inarguable importance of food, water, and air—is the foundation of my entire personal morality. I thought you should know.