July 20, 2000 (second) ~ Dumpster Diving Decor
When I was a teenager--
whoa. Hang on just a second... I can actually say that now? "when I was a teenager..." All right! I've been trying to get away from that label for years, and now I most definitely cannot be categorized as it! (All right. So I turned twenty nearly a year ago... So what, I still love the sound of it).
--I had a really cool room. Granted, it was shared with my little sister. Granted, it was an awful baby-blue color. Granted, the window looked out to a covered patio that was usually full of storage junk and very little light ever seeped in (and it was covered by that awful plasticated fake tin-roof crap). Granted, we were really poor and so everything was shabby. But it was because of that poverty that I decided to get creative about my decor.
My grandmother taught me to dumpster-dive. (Yes, my grandmother. Hey... Stop laughing.) She is the queen of finding great free stuff. She took me out to one of the city recycling centers one day. Have you ever been to one of those places? They have a bin for everything. We were on a mission, however. We wanted to find the magazine recycle bin. After a little bit of searching, we found it.
It was huge. Seriously, we're talking ten feet tall. I was about five feet five inches tall. Grandma was probably about four-ten (she's probably even smaller now). And the only way in was through some narrow slots in at the top of the sides. It was huge. It was red—not from paint, but from rust. It had a metal cover on top that did not lift. All of these factors did not deter us, however, from acquiring for ourselves some free magazines.
"You can fit through one of those slots," said grandma. I put my foot in her hands and up I went (Grandma has always been very strong for an old lady).
My head fit through. That was a good sign. I slithered the rest of my body through the drop slot, and, as I flipped around and let go of the edge, I had a disturbing thought. "Wait a minute. If I needed Grandma to hoist me up to get in, how am I going to get out?" I landed in magazines and slid a few feet.
It was a rainy, overcast day in Portland, so the lighting coming from the drop slots was very dim. I looked around. "I'm in a dumpster," said my brain, "Sitting in a pile of magazines. And I don't know how I am going to get out." There are certain times in ones life when one is forced to confirm and prove to oneself that one is sane. I realized that that particular moment would not yield terribly convincing results, so I decided that moment would simply not be a good time to examine the evidence.
I began digging through magazines to find the ones with all the gorgeous pictures (No, not Hustler, get your mind out of the gutter). Jackpot. A few boxes full of National Geographics. Someone must have died, and their family buried their Geographic collection with them. Score!
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP!
"Um, Grandma?" I yelled. "What's that?"
"Shh. Be quiet. We don't want them to know you're in there." Grandma always was very practical.
"What?? What is that beeping noise?"
"A recycling truck," she said, matter-of-factly.
"I'm going to pretend I am getting more recyclables from the car."
"Grandma! But... Hey! Is it stopping? Which bin is it picking up?!? Grandma? Grandma?!?"
Not mine. My mind began to chant. Please not my bin. Some other bin. Don't pick me up with your truck, Sir. Not mine. Nope. There is not a suspicious and dirty blonde girl in this bin. No sirrrrreee. Not mine. You are picking up cardboard, right? Not me. Not magazines. Not mine. Not this bin... Visions of myself sliding about on the magazines and thudding against the rusty walls as the bin tipped and jolted started filling my head.
I listened. The beeping had stopped, but the loud rumble of a very large motor filled my ears. Not my bin. I then heard a clanging sound. I sighed in relief. A bin a few down from mine. The noise of the truck faded into the distance.
"You want me to hand you the magazines?"
I managed to reach the slots by standing on a slippery pile of magazines. I pushed the National Geographics through one by one, along with a few nature magazines and the like. I then hoisted myself up and out. There was rust all over me. I was picking bits of it out of my scalp for weeks. (It had fallen from the deteriorating roof of the bin while I had been rummaging and had lodged in my hair). I swear I had a red tinge for quite some time. My mother was not happy. But I had my decorating materials.
I went through each of the magazines, and cut out all of the words and pictures that meant something to me. I then affixed all of these images and words onto large sheets of tag board, leaving no room in between, so that they were all just solid images and words. I have always loved making collages. I took these large creations and affixed them to my walls and ceiling, until there was not ANY wall or ceiling left showing. I took some of my favorite quotes and poetry, and added these, as well. My walls were no ordinary walls. They were heard, seen, read, and experienced.
Everywhere you looked, all you could see was images and words and thoughts. It was thought provoking. It was deep and philosophical. It was dark. It was oppressive. It annoyed my parents. It was cool.
I don't know if I did it on purpose, or if it was subconscious, but a picture of a snake attacking a mouse (which I didn't particularly like) ended up directly over my sister's bed. I'm talking direct line of vision. She had trouble sleeping. I did feel a little bad... but I didn't move it. I added some Christmas lights that I obtained at a garage sale for twenty-five cents. I hung a few strange geometric shapes and a gigantic light bulb from the ceiling. I put little tiny glow-in-the-dark star dots on the ceiling collages so that it looked like a night sky.
I loved it. My friends loved it. My grandmother liked it. I think my brother was even jealous, though he would never admit it. He did start to make some of his own collages, but his never did amount to the mass oppressiveness that mine were able to evoke.
When I moved to North Carolina, I wasn't able to take the collages with me. I had to leave them behind. When I visited in January, I found that my brother had cut some of them up and used pieces of them for a school project. So the collages aren't what they used to be anymore.
But sometimes I dream of making new ones. The stack of old magazines I have in storage is growing...
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