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Monday, March 12, 2012

The Glories Of The City Dump


When I was a kid there was a place that affected me like metal drawn to a magnet, our town’s very own Disneyland—the City Dump.


Like many boys, I looked forward to our annual trip to this place of riches and enchantment. The visit was preceded by Mom telling Dad it was time to clean out the garage because it was getting difficult to squeeze the car inside. It was a mystery to me how she knew this since she didn’t drive, but before long Dad would be cleaning out the garage and borrowing grandpa’s old pickup for the journey to junk nirvana.


A trip to the dump was anticipated like Christmas morning. I usually brought along my best friend, Ricky Delgado, who loved the dump almost as much as I did, not that Ricky looked forward to Christmases. His dad was usually incarcerated during the Holidays and Ricky had to settle for a package arriving from The Farm, a polite term for prison. Ricky’s dad was good with his hands and the Delgado kids would be treated to an assortment of handmade leather goods. Many times I’d watch Ricky fondling a new wallet embossed with the noble profile of an elk or lion and wish my Dad was an alcoholic so he could go to The Farm and make me a cool wallet.


When the time neared for our annual trip, Ricky and I would talk about the dump for hours, fantasizing over items we hoped to find on our next trip, things like Nazi flags or Civil War bayonets. Maybe we’d find a magic lamp with a genie inside, or a golden Spanish doubloon or pieces of eight, not that we ever found anything valuable. Once I found a mayonnaise jar filled with polished agates and Ricky found a broken water rocket he thought he could fix, but it was the quest for riches that attracted us most.


There were bottomless craters with castoff treasure beside mountain-size piles of discarded booty. A cloud of seagulls hung perpetually over the place and added to the unique smell, the third best smell on Earth, right behind bakeries and pet stores, a delightful smell that stuck to us like caramel on an apple. Dad had his hands full keeping me and Ricky from hauling home more stuff than we started out with.


When we returned home, Mom would send Ricky home and order me into the shower to wash off what she called, “The stink of the Dump.” I’d toss my clothes in the hamper beside the washing machine, but before stepping into the shower I’d give my shirt one last sniff.


A year would pass before I’d get another dose of this scent of paradise.

23 comments:

  1. I would not ever want to go to the dump. I'd be too afraid of finding a nest of vicious rats or raccoons or turning up a dead body or something. But I guess I've always just been a pessimist.

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  2. This brings back memories of my own youth. We lived in the servants quarters of a mansion that was at that time a girls dormitory for the school where my father taught. Underneath the back porch were three or four trash cans -- from which just occasionally we would find 'treasures' that the 'big girls' had thrown away! Kids are grubby little things!

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  3. Oh, Chatterbox, I hadn't thought about dumps in years. You just got to go once a year? How sad. We lived in a really small town where you had to take your trash to the dump yourself so we went every couple of weeks. I just found it fascinating what people would through away.

    Probably, some of the smell and such would gross me out as an adult but I am still fascinated with what people find expendable. Even looking around garage sales, estates sales etc. is pretty interesting from the point of view of what people get rid of.

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  4. Oh, I have dump envy. We grew up in the suburbs with garbage trucks that took away the trash to some unknown and unseen place. ;)

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  5. Thanks for recalling a fond memory for me of "the dump". My sister and I could hardly wait to cram into the front seat of the old Ford station wagon when our dad would head out with our discards to "the promised land"! We would go at least 5 or 6 times a year. If my Mom went with us, we weren't allowed to get out of the car. If we went with Dad, we explored! I don't remember any particular treasures we found but can still recall the "dump smell" mixed with the smell of the San Francisco Bay and the screaming sea gulls! As adults, my sister and I would do yard cleanouts of each others gardens and relish the idea of heading out to the dumps. Nowadays, the trip to the transfer station does not offer the same "joie de vive" that a windy dump day from long ago does!

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  6. Whatever blows your skirt or trousers up. Not my kind of place at all.

    Have a terrific day. :)

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  7. When I was young, I heard too many stories about rabid dogs at the dump, so I always tried to avoid going.

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  8. I never could get past the stench and the flies at the dump. Today we have a "transfer station" in town where you toss your stuff onto a lower level. Then the trash is loaded into a bigger truck and hauled to the landfill (a $2 word for the "dump") which is WAAAAAAY out in the country. I've found I can hold my breath for longer than I ever thought possible while I get out, drop the tailgate, shovel stuff overboard, then get back in and drive a good distance before gasping for another breath. It's nothing I look forward to.

    S

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  9. I understand, very well, the allure of such places. When I was a kid, my grandparents would take to the dump once in a blue moon. I loved it. My grandfather was a wonderful amateur carpenter, so he'd go to find useful pieces of wood or distressed furniture that could be repaired. I'd float around, under the watchful eye of my grandmother, finding all sorts of old books, magazines, and other things I loved. It stunk, but it was heaven.

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  10. When I was a kid there was a dump almost opposite our house - my mother would always tell us not to go. Of course it was paradise, I still remember the fabulous feeling of finding all that old junk with maybe just a few holes and dents, but far better than toy stuff that anyone could buy.

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  11. Another small-town girl here. Indeed, taking trash to the "city dump" was our own responsibility. What folks didn't burn in their backyard trash barrel, of course. My dad let my sister and I ride along, but we couldn't get out of the truck. The best time was dusk, because the flames of the assorted fires were prettiest just after sunset. Your description brought back the smell. There is no other like it. We didn't have seagulls here in mid-Missouri, but crows were plentiful.

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  12. Like the Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin, digging in the back yard, unearths rocks and worms, and gleefully says, "There's treasure everywhere!" Boys and cool stuff like a dump or a mud puddle just go together.

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  13. What is it about little boys (and even big ones) and the dump? Growing up on a farm, we either had to burn our trash or take it to the dump. I just didn't have as much fun with it, but I never looked really hard and found any treasures like you did.

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  14. I knew we had something in common!!! OMG, we had a dump out in the country, and nothing was more exciting than my Dad saying.."okay, we need to make a trip to the dump". I never really found anything, but I loved to go looking...just like I expected to find a cache of money or diamonds..Too much!!! Laurel

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  15. I have never been to a dump...actually i think i would like to experience the atmosphere to see what really does happen to all that stuff!

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  16. Firstly, I totally get where you're going about the dump. In my childhood my dad used to love to go to swap meets, old junk shops etc. I used to love digging through the junk for treasures. Lovely memories.
    Secondly, you TOTALLY made me laugh with your oh so accurate description of the Loving Pears. I was just saying that they sure looked "cozy". I think the left one is totally suggesting something naughty! Thanks for the laugh, I needed it. You rock!
    Best,
    Jenn of www.JustAddWaterSilly.com

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  17. i used to love visits to the dump. my mother owned one when i was a teenager. we wanted to bring home all the found treasures. these days you have to pay a fortune to get in and it's against the law to remove anything. no fun at all. i 'found' our cat Mickey at the dump. he was a tiny kitten and was tied up in a burlap bag. he came home with us and had a good long life. he used to bring us presents of rats and leave them by the side door. how generous. :)

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  18. So strange. I don't think I can ever look at the dump the same way. However, it will never appeal to any part of me as a land of enchantment.

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  19. Oh you bring back memories. I can still picture my mother's expression when I brought plastic flowers hme from the dump. My mother hates plastic flowers. C.C., always an artist, you paint broad strokes with prose and I'm one of your biggest fans.

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  20. Some people dream of being a stress-free Wal-Mart greeter when they retire...
    CC wants to drive the bulldozer at the local landfill. Landfill Pirate "Captain CC".

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  21. Oh, what memories! My mom used to make my brother and I dig in the dump for unique things. I have to admit we found some interesting things, but it was embarrassing when some people we knew drove up...

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  22. I can certainly understand the allure of finding a treasure, but girls' memories of dump visits differ in that we'd be tiptoeing around going "eeewwww." Still fun though. :)

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