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jigga gets leid

So we were clearing out the house of a man who had collected vinyl.  Instead of using shelves, the guy had stacked records on top of each other in six-foot-high piles along every wall in just about every room. There must have been a few thousand records.  The collection gravitated heavily towards folk, bluegrass, and, somewhat unusually, Hawaiian.  Think of every novelty “Hawaiian” record you’ve ever seen in the dollar bin at the record store – this guy had them all.  I noticed in some of the pictures on the walls a woman – probably his wife – who looked Hawaiian. All of the Hawaiian records were well-worn, like they’d been played many times.  All except for one, which was in pristine condition:

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The guy must have seen “Hawaiian” in the title, bought it on a whim, listened to it once, realized it was rap, thrown it into a pile and never looked at it again.  Here’s a detail of the record’s back cover:

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Had he looked at it again, he might have noticed that the figure crouching in back there is none other than a young (about 19 years old) Shawn Carter, aka Jay-Z.  The guy in front is Jay-Z’s “mentor” Jaz.  Sound confusing?  It is.  Sound like the perfect setup for a saucy hip-hop feud?  Yes, it’s that too.

I haven’t been able to confirm this, but someone told me that this record is actually Jay-Z’s first time ever on wax. Wikipedia has the rest, much of which is merely “reported” or “claimed” or “known” or simply “stated” to be true: Jaz (also known as Big Jaz and Jaz-O) discovered young Shawn Carter, brought him in as a sidekick, let him do background stuff and then some verses on some of his songs, and then faded into obscurity.  His young protege went on to become what even some people besides Jay-Z himself call the “greatest MC alive”.

And somewhere in there, the relationship soured, to the point that each rapper has made a point to “diss” the other on many of their recordings.  Apparently it has sweetened enough that the two have joined each other on a few recordings, but as of November 18th, 2008, it’s back to sour.  The relationship has even helped fuel another more well-known hip-hop fued by being an important subject in Nas’s diss track “Ether“.

Yet look how comfortable they are with each other as Jay-Z mysteriously parachutes into the background of the set in the video for “Hawaiian Sophie”, which has elicited many vituperative comments, one of my favorites being: “A black man should never wear a Hawaiin shirt.  Period.”

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And I couldn’t resist sharing another one with you, which harkens back to those days in the late 80s-early 90s when dignified Afrocentrism was the cool thing to do in hip-hop, when everyone was “Nubian” and Salt-N-Pepa could still utter “No we ain’t tryin to be sexy!” and be taken somewhat seriously.

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But I digress.  The point here is, well, the point is…sometimes it’s nice to be distracted from the point.  Normal experience and human traffic patterns have a way of censoring what kinds of objects (not to mention people, perspectives, ideas, etc.) we come into contact with. Haulers have constant access to a steady stream – steady waste stream – of objects from all eras of history and strata of society.  And if you have any curiosity, some of these objects require explanation.  Which is dangerous if you have a point to make, or more ‘important’ work to do, because these objects can suck you in and make you spend an evening researching obscure hip-hop feuds.  I could be writing something more useful or relevant right now.  But sometimes some hip-hop needle in a haystack of folk and bluegrass just begs to be examined, and I get to remind myself that the world is full of little digressions, objects with rich backstories just waiting to be discovered.

landfill as graveyard

The Cosmology of Waste Part IV: LANDFILL AS GRAVEYARD

An extended metaphor…

The products of our economy, the objects we as Consumers surround ourselves with, are our family. Waste management is a kind of gerontology and mortuary service. End-of-product-life care. We care for your loved ones when no one else wants to anymore. We take them to their final resting place. The landfill is capitalism’s graveyard, and Haulers are the pallbearers. But rarely are we treated – and rarely do we conduct ourselves – with that kind of dignity.

I could go on, but at some point the metaphor breaks down, because, well – it ceases to be a metaphor. We quite obviously produce each other and bury ourselves in the same way. The observation is commonplace that objects are fetishized, given personalities and lives of their own. It’s just that when you’re a Hauler, these things can really start to sink in.

[For more “Cosmology of Waste” entries, see Wastemakers in the Sky, Theme of the Day, and Give and You Shall Recieve.]

give and you shall recieve

Cosmology of Waste Part III: GIVE AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE

There is a sort of karma at work when it comes to finding treasures on the job. If you are too eager in expecting to find something good, you almost surely will not. The Wastemakers will see to it that your jinx is enforced. But if you give much to the Wastestream and are not too covetous with the things you pluck from it, you will be rewarded with treasures aplenty. Furthermore, if you give something away to a fellow Hauler, that Hauler – as a fellow devotee of the Wastemakers – will surely give back to you when given the chance. Thusly does the Wastestream keep its delicate balance.

When there is a dispute, and two or more Haulers want to keep the same thing, what we usually do is search for what we officially and unimaginatively call a “compelling reason”. Almost always there will be some detail about one person’s situation that makes it make more sense for them to have whatever it is they’re fighting over. And if open, honest discussion fails to tease out any compelling reason, our officially sanctioned final dispute settler is always Rochambeau, better known here in Anytown as Rock-Paper-Scissors. And always in its pure form: best two out of three lightning rounds.

Theme of the Day

Part II in the ‘Cosmology of Waste’ series: THEME OF THE DAY
(Part I was Wastemakers in the Sky.)

Whenever we’re out hauling, there is always a Theme to be discovered. We discover it by noticing something at least three times during the course of the day. The same things or things that relate to each other in some way that requires figuring out.

Oftentimes there will be two different things that have each happened twice and could happen again to become the official Theme. In such cases we declare “Competing Themes” and keep our minds open for a more evidence one way or the other.

I wish I could give examples of some of the themes we’ve had in the past, but it is the nature of themes that they’re hard to remember. That’s part of the reason we started this blog. Some themes are simple and somewhat pedestrian; others remarkably complex and unpredictable.

If you try too hard to figure out a Theme, you will inevitably fail. Invented themes will always seem labored and artificial. True themes cannot be invented, only discovered – revealed by the Wastemakers. And true revelation affords a definite sense of favor with the Makers, of being specially chosen to play a part in – and witness the wisdom of – their mysterious designs.

Wastemakers in the Sky

We all subscribe in different ways and degrees to a set of beliefs about this big universe we inhabit. (Or, as I started to call it in the Waste Chain post, this big Wastestream.) This set of beliefs arises pretty organically from the things we do and the roles we perform as Haulers every day. (Though I am guilty of promoting or accentuating these beliefs from time to time.) Anyway, you might find some echoes of your own beliefs in what I plan to explain in the coming weeks, what I’m calling the cosmology of waste.

Part I: WASTEMAKERS IN THE SKY

It’s something of an instinct for us to think of everything coming from something else. So it’s hard to accept the ex nihilo argument – something from nothing – for the existence of God. From our end of the great Wastestream, the whole debate has another coloring. Not only does there have to be some raw material involved in Creation, there has to be some waste. If there isn’t, it’s like something needs to be explained.

Just as it’s impossible for any one of us to give a definitive one-size-fits-all answer to which results of our human activity qualify as ‘waste’, it’s impossible to precisely categorize the results of God’s activity. Now someone might say that nothing made by God could be waste. Or maybe the achievement of the “zero waste” dream is what makes someone divine to begin with. But isn’t that a bit boring? We prefer the following formula: just as everything humans produce is always potentially waste, so is everything made by God. Thus our Maker becomes, by a slight change in perspective – our Wastemaker. All of Creation is Waste Creation.

And as long as we’re being fanciful in developing a cosmology – or letting one settle on our activities – why just one Maker? Why not a host of characters looking down on us, a pantheon of great Wastemakers in the Sky?

Or we could trash this awkward, bulky theism and emphasize the Wastestream as a sort of Way-Stream, a Tao. You only have to replace the word ‘Tao’ with ‘Wastestream’ in a few passages from Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching to arrive at a basic understanding of our basic understanding…
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the Waste Chain

What happens to your municipal solid waste after it leaves your curb? It travels down what we like to call the waste stream. (Another term I like is the ‘Garbage Cycle’, but I’ll talk about that terminology in another post.) Along the waste stream is a sort of hierarchy of different groups of people working to pluck things out of it, or what I like to call the “waste chain”.

The term “waste chain” is meant to echo and be used interchangeably with the term “food chain”. Your waste is a kind of nourishment to many other people after it leaves your house. (And as more and more people are beginning to realize, waste equals food.) Once anything is produced, it is immediately, potentially waste. You could almost look at our entire economy and conclude that the thing we’re so hellbent on producing is not food or goods, but waste. (Every parent knows that feeling that what they’re buying for their kids is already garbage, and us haulers can confirm that many toys have a longer life as garbage than as toys.) And when something gets salvaged, it would be wrong to think that it exits the waste stream; rather, it just gets put back higher upstream, its eventual return to the landfill merely delayed.

The term “waste chain” also implies a certain pecking order or ecosystem that fits nicely with the way “dibs” get passed down to different groups of waste workers as waste travels downstream. Read on for a brief description of some of the different groups that play important roles in the waste chain: JUNKERS – COLLECTORS/HAULERS – MRF WORKERS – TRAILER DRIVERS – DOZER OPERATORS – SCAVENGERS… (more…)

styles of hauling

At the end of the other day the sky looked like this.
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Its strange to say but undeniable once said, we all have a style of hauling. (I admit I exemplify the more awkward style of hauling.) But style exists independent of how good a hauler you are.

It can all be thought about much like the hip-hop sense of “flow”. Some artists have awkward flow, like Biz Markie or Ol’ Dirty Bastard, but that does not mean they have any less “street cred”. People who enjoy ODB can certainly enjoy Jay-Z, who has immaculate flow. On to my example of my awkward hauling flow.

One of the more disgusting items I hauled the other day was a mattress that looked like it was made of fur. Upon seeing the fur I thought to myself, “Shouldn’t I scrape off the fur before lifting this? It will get everywhere.” Then I paused. Then thought, “Nah! I’ll just try to carry it slowly as to not disturb the fur.” And as you can imagine my well intentioned plan backfired when cat hair went everywhere: the floor, the walls, my clothes, in my mouth. It reminded me much of the infamous “I’ll break the large pane of glass to make it more manageable” incident of 2006. Such is a minor incident of my awkward awkward style.