Saturday, July 23, 2011

OCF: moments

Doug hula-hoops on Mothra

I often embellish things to make them look a little more amazing, but this is absolutely a true story. It's a little more subdued actually, since I think he was also wearing cat's eye sunglasses, and you also do not see the rest of the crew with buckets scanning the ground for cigarette butts. I hasten to add that the truck was not moving when he did this, he was just waiting for the driver to get back and move the truck closer to the kiosk.

In the mornings the various truck crews went to service the various kiosks throughout the fairgrounds. This means rolling full barrels to the truck, lifting the barrels up onto the truck bed, and handing off empty barrels to waiting arms (or, more often, yelling BARREL DOWN as you drop on over the side, with a satisfying gooong) to replace the full barrels. Taking inventory. Make any changes (do we need another cans & glass barrel out here?) Then for the main stages the crew gets buckets and combs the field for trash. Cigarette butts, bottle cabs, paper fragments, and even -- gulp -- condoms.

I forget the exact number of trucks-and-crews we had, but it must have been something like fifteen. Certain routes were so full that they were broken down into types of refuse: compost on one truck, paper, cans and glass on another. Shifts started at six in the morning and sometimes wouldn't finish until eleven.

While they did this I wandered the fairgrounds in awe of the birdsong and relative silence. One delicious morning though I was sitting in the meadow at the far east of the property. It's a high-traffic area, and that morning it was also occupied by a lot of sloppy still-drunk vendors or crew people easing themselves into the new day. Their rhythm was stilted and unstable. Uncertain.

So it was a treat to watch Ceder's truck, Mothra come trundling into the field. Mothra is one of many ancient trucks the recycling crew uses to cart barrels. It takes its cue from the 1920's and is a flatbed truck with wooden boards nailed to the sides to accommodate loads. I am fairly vague here in the painting but that's becuase I can't remember the make and model of the truck itself, and I didn't spend much time with the trucks. And there aren't many pictures online. The public really likes Godzilla, because it has toys on it and breathes fire, but there are many other trucks. Mothra is one of them.

You know a recycling crew truck (or forklift) right away because it has a lot of gloved people hanging off of it. And as soon as it stops the occupants hop off smartly and get to work. They were such a wonderful sight, and probably a really strange pill to swallow for the bleary-eyed non-recyclers in the field. It made me proud. Yes, we are unkept and have a really ragtaggle band of workers. But by God we can get stuff done.


1. During the first meal I had at the staff kitchen we ended up at a bench with a great loose board on the top. Fortunately we were sitting with members of construction crew, and they fixed the thing right there on the spot.

2. Despite the relative chaos of the thing I only lost two things. The biggest loss were my beloved yoga/PJ pants. They weren’t particularly grand -- in fact they were bought after I’d forgotten mine on the move to Portland (silly chilly AC filled hotel rooms.) They were made of an organic bamboo-rendered jersey knit but purchased from Wal-Mart. I’d cut off about 5 inches from the bottom so they were hobbit-pants, unhemmed so they were a bit ragged, had bleach speckles on them from that one time I cleaned that one house, so they really wouldn’t look like anything much to anyone but me. I should have written my name in them -- really I just should have done what sensible people do and checked in with lost and found. But instead I lamented, and then resolved to make some new ones. I know they’ve got similar knits at the fabric store.

2a. The other lost thing was a towel, and we replaced that on the way home. Bath Towels is bath towels.

3. I keep mentioning that being around the recycling crew was a bit like hanging around the muppets, and I’m not lying. For a start, stuff like this guy hula-hooping on the hood of the truck kept happening. But in other ways also:

3a. The crew is not just for those strong enough to lift full barrels (really, no one person can do that. It takes two.) There are many different people-shapes, and people-types in the family. Crews were not really organized as such, but there were some trends. The delicate smallest ones (particularly those on "teen crew") tended to be the extras pulled in during the glass and plastic sorts when the trucks came back to the dock. Big beefy people tended to work at compost or on other non-truck-crew projects like fixing trucks or building things. And the biggest one of all -- an Amazonian with a knee brace -- was the lady who took everything we sorted in boxes and packed the trucks that went to the redeem-the-recyclables places at the end of the week.

3b. The weird collection of dilapidated trucks, which were often painted and made awesome.

3c. We had a house band. Or what amounts to one. A member of the Conjugal Visitors was a friend-of-someone's, and so they were there at our first night of camping, and then again at the cocktail party, and then again for a different non-party fireside night, and THEN at the week-after party at someone's house. Whenever we were together and not working, they seemed to be there. It was lovely. Good high-energy bluegrassy stuff.

3d. The fierce loyalty and sense of “all for one and one for all” that I’ve never, ever seen so strong in a group.

4. There was a spider in the tent, and he was clever clever. Our tent is a minimalist sort of affair, a new take on the old-school pup tent. It's basically a tarp-shelter with a little floor. The floor and ceiling are separate elements. Condensation drips down onto the ground outside keeping the floor and interior dry. Genius. Only drawback is it basically acts like a bug trap. We usually have a cloud of things flying around in the top, but you know. You're camping. So who cares. Though in future we may rent to a spider on purpose, because the cloud of bugs was significantly, immediately diminished when the spider moved in. The few that remained cowered on the far side and did not make much trouble.