Tao of the Dumpster

My father's love affair with trash

| Web Specials Archives

Just before sunrise, in a Dumpster behind Ralph's in Fontana, California, Dad perks up over a jar of whitefish caviar. 'Whoa, baby, baby! Now we're cookin'! I've never eaten caviar in my life!' He spoons out a purple glob on his finger and sniffs it, then smiles and makes a reverent toast to me and the empty lot. 'My first caviar.'

He eats. 'Mmmmmm. Not that bad. A little salty. Woooo!'

He grimaces and works his tongue around the right angle, but his face gets more and more twisted, and he finally clears his mouth in every direction. 'Son of a gun!'

'Rotten?' I ask.

'No, no! Just salty!' He keeps laughing, purple all over his teeth, and drops the jar. 'It'd be okay if you washed it off a little!' He bends down and immediately finds another jar. 'Hey, mint jam!'

'We shit on life and wonder why it stinks.'

Dad wasn't always into trash. But by 1976 he had gone into an ugly holding pattern; nothing was adding up. He was counting weeks like he used to count days. To Dad, my mother was a pining walrus wrapped in polyester who couldn't take a single sentence at face value. If he said two words, she heard five or six, and they scalded her guts. He once gave her a soap-on-a-rope in the shape of an aspirin because she swallowed handfuls at night in order to sleep. But she considered this oversize pill a vicious hint that Dad wanted her to 'go to sleep for good.' One February, she cried over a handmade Valentine card because he had drawn the heart upside down. (He only wanted to juice up a tired ritual, but she was certain it alluded to her great big rear.) In a crowded mall, Dad let go of a door and it nailed her in the forehead. She stunned cheery Christmas shoppers with a high-decibel accusation: Her husband was trying to kill her with doors.

Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!

Facebook Instagram Twitter