Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Beautiful Trash Incident

I'm walking home one morning after dropping Noah off at school. It’s windy and cold. There's not many people out on the street in my neighborhood today.

I am planning to get myself home as quickly as possible. I've got a long to do list. I'm dressed well for the elements but it is so chilly that my eyeballs feel cold. I'm always joking about how when I have this disconcerting feeling I need to move my eyes around in their sockets this way and that, so that they won't freeze in place.

I see something unusual piled with the trash. These aren't regular garbage bags. They are called Demolition bags. They are overlapping at jaunty angles and look interesting to me. The words Demolition bag repeat again and again because there are so many of them. I love things that repeat, and it's my dream to design wallpaper. They take on interesting shapes because of what I imagine to be craggy bits of stuff inside.

Cold or not, in a hurry or not, you don't see this every day. I take a quick look around for construction people or garbage men. I'm not in the mood for a conversation. The coast is clear.

I have this series I am working on called Beautiful Trash. I deem this scene potentially series worthy. I take a few pictures up close, pulled back and at different vantage points. I am getting ready to do my very last variation when a young man appears.

The man is wearing work clothes. He is carrying more demolition bags to add to the pile. It didn't take a genius to put two and two together about the guy. I take my last picture really fast. Then I prepare to leave.

The man looks at me and points at the demolition bags. What, what! He says. He looks agitated. I am sorry to worry him. I want to be reassuring. God only knows what he was thinking.

I am an artist, I say. What? He says. I repeat and pantomime a little like I'm playing charades. This goes on. It seems like What is one of the only English words he knows.

I can't even haul out my rudimentary Spanish because I can tell by his accent that this is not his language. I didn't mean to be trouble. I tell him.

He continues to be upset and say What? And What, What? I decide the conversation is futile, but as I'm leaving I say, you might want to learn more English before you start asking questions.

I'm all for explaining myself to people. I know what I'm doing is unusual. But he wasn't understanding me or my friendly, non-threatening, non-verbal communication. I am losing my patience even though I am the one photographing trash.

I proceed home and he goes back into the building. I imagine him telling his boss.

Later that day, I'm doing the same commute in reverse. This time, what catches my eye is a wide open field in a grassy part of my neighborhood. It's covered with a carpet of colored leaves that have fallen from a magnificent tree.

I take a moment to compose some pictures. I can be more relaxed this time and don't need to check to see if the coast is clear. Photographing leaves and trees doesn't arouse curiosity or worse, alarm, the same way photographing trash can.

I hear a rustling sound. A squirrel, in a seemingly desperate state comes running over and jumps up on the short wooden fence seperating me from the field. He then gets uncomfortably close and starts looking at me in a totally jacked up way.

If that wasn't bad enough, two of his  friends decide to take a break from burying nuts  for winter, digging  up nuts they already buried, and whatever else they do all day.  They come over. Then the three of them start hyperactively and collaboratively bothering me. They have no sense whatsoever of personal boundaries. This lack of social skills is courtesy of the old people who sit on benches and feed them. Except on days like this when it's really cold.

I decide I've done enough variations already and take my leave. For Christ’s sake, I mutter under my breath to no one in particular. I walk toward the subway, where I intend to edit my photographs in peace.

Here is the controversial photograph of Demolition Bags.

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