To the Trash Collectors

 

“Dead Horse Bay, once the site of several horse rendering facilities, was covered with a very cosmetic layer of dirt and sand, and later used as a dump. Now it’s regurgitating itself back into the world. When you walk the bay at low tide, you’ll find all sorts of things from working class homes in Brooklyn in 1953: furniture, silverware, bedding, clothing, toys. It’s haunting. You can almost hear the voices of the people whose stuff it is. You find nail polish bottles with the caps still on, shoes by the dozen, Clorox bottles. I’m always eager to go there, and I’m always sad when I’m there. It’s populated with the ghosts of these families.” Dead Horse Bay, Brooklyn, NY 11234. Photo credit: Robin Nagle

“Dead Horse Bay, once the site of several horse rendering facilities [that means slaughter, friends], was covered with a very cosmetic layer of dirt and sand, and later used as a dump. Now it’s regurgitating itself back into the world. When you walk the bay at low tide, you’ll find all sorts of things from working class homes in Brooklyn in 1953: furniture, silverware, bedding, clothing, toys. It’s haunting. You can almost hear the voices of the people whose stuff it is. You find nail polish bottles with the caps still on, shoes by the dozen, Clorox bottles. I’m always eager to go there, and I’m always sad when I’m there. It’s populated with the ghosts of these families.” Dead Horse Bay, Brooklyn, NY 11234. Photo credit: Robin Nagle

This short TED video features Robin Nagle, the “anthropologist-in-residence at the Department of Sanitation in New York City since 2006.” Her book Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City (mind you, if you purchase the book you may wish to do so somewhere other than Amazon.com, but it’s a quick and dirty place to give you the synopsis)

New York City residents produce 11,000 tons of garbage every day. Every day! This astonishing statistic is just one of the reasons Robin Nagle started a research project with the city’s Department of Sanitation. She walked the routes, operated mechanical brooms, even drove a garbage truck herself–all so she could answer a simple-sounding but complicated question: who cleans up after us?

“The garage is at the heart of my work. It’s where the workers come to start their shifts. I very much enjoy the banter — people are goofing on each other and not worrying about being politically correct. I even like the smell of the garage. It smells of garbage a little bit on a hot day when the trucks have come in, but mostly it smells of the oils that you use to keep a vehicle running smoothly, or, in the morning, of aftershave and cologne.” Photo credit: Robin Nagle.

“The garage is at the heart of my work. It’s where the workers come to start their shifts. I very much enjoy the banter — people are goofing on each other and not worrying about being politically correct. I even like the smell of the garage. It smells of garbage a little bit on a hot day when the trucks have come in, but mostly it smells of the oils that you use to keep a vehicle running smoothly, or, in the morning, of aftershave and cologne.” Photo credit: Robin Nagle.

Have you considered what life is like for the people around you lately? How about the ones you don’t think you remotely relate to?

 

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