January 2011 Archives

Rainy days and Monday

Do you know that scene in Westerns where the bridge has given out, but somehow the wagon train must get across the river before nightfall? There's Indians trailing, or bad weather coming, or a doctor on the other side that's needed.

Then someone rides forward on a trusty horse that picks its way across the treacherous river bottom, water rising up to its chest. Others follow and everyone manages to get across the river in time.

I relived that scene in my car at an intersection during the recent Los Angeles rains. My steed made it across.


I have been through two floods. Both times, I was not in Los Angles but in the Hill Country area of Texas, near the banks of the Guadalupe River. The rains were relentless and heavy.

I was a kid back then and, having grown up in Los Angeles, I didn't have much experience with severe weather. My one reference point for flooding was the story of Noah's Ark. After several days of constant downpour, I began to understand how rain could be interpreted as a punishment.

At nighttime, I slept in the top of a bunkbed in a room with a low ceiling. The pounding of the rain sounded both loud and smothering, like thousands of dictionaries being dropped in rapid succession. The noise kept me up at night, staring at the ceiling, worrying about the rising river and imagining water moccasins swimming towards me, mouths open. As the night wore on, the same thought would go through my head again and again, "When will it end?"


While driving in the rain the other day, I saw my first dog-assisted dumpster diver.

In my neighborhood, the alleys are populated with a steady stream of people competing to go through trash dumpsters. I used to think it was kind of cool, like a built-in recycling community. I'd use something, trash it, then someone else would come along and use it.

Sometimes I'd feel bad about the possibility that these dumpster divers might be homeless. But I also knew they could be freegans, or excessively frugal, or simply pursue dumpster diving as a pastime.

Over time, I've come to see dumpster diving as yet another privacy issue. I feel like I can't take a crap these days without ten people combing through it looking for scrap metal. And in Los Angeles, it's clear to me that dumpster diving has become a saturated field. If you are an Angelino that has avoided homelessness thus far, pray you continue, because all the best dumpster spots are taken.

Given this competitive scavenging environment, using a dog to assist in dumpster diving makes perfect sense. The dog I saw the other day was on a leash, except the collar it was attached to was wrapped around the dog's middle like a belt. Dark green trash bags were tucked into the belt in an overlapping manner, forming a skirt that trailed behind the dog prettily. When the dog's owner needed a trash bag to collect stuff in, he would peel one off the dog's skirt.

I watched them for a moment working in the rain together, man and dog huddled under a single umbrella. I hope they found what they were looking for.

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