Walker Art Center


February 16, 2003

Grandpa's fridge

I was busy working on the Spaghetti document all day. To get my mind of the work I started cleaning the monster sized fridge we got from my wife’s father. We sort of inherited it, not that he died, but he went to a home, because he has gone blind. The fridge was so terribly dirty.

I started wondering how I would have felt while cleaning all this if he had been dead. Would have felt totally different, like it was his dirt, like it was the dirt coming from his dead body. Strange. I never worried about stuff like this in the days I was going through people’s garbage. Not that I really was a bum, but it was a nice way to find stuff. Furniture for one. I learned it from my mother. Was a monthly outing for many families: once a month people were allowed to put their furniture at the side of the road. It turned into some sort of fair, or a common trading ground, where people traded furniture they did not like for the furniture of other people. And the real trash was picked up in the morning by the garbage collectors. Nowadays this is no longer possible. It was too chaotic an event, it was not tidy enough, so it was prohibited. One has to call a special number to have the bigger pieces of trash removed. Special numbers for each type of trash.

Since then I turned finding stuff in the trash into an art. Made some money with it when I was a boy. Selling the good pieces to bric-a-brac shops. Found three gold rings in my live. One in a nice little cabinet I found in a container outside a jeweler in the center of our town. Gave it to my sister, because it was too small for my hands.

Suspected I would turn into those men going through the garbage looking for copper and stainless steel. Thought about patrolling the highway, looking for stuff that might be of value. Live took another turn since then. Glad it did.

I remember one night when the power went down in half the town and people were gathering in front of the jewelry where I found one of the gold rings. Someone had smashed the shop window. The two policemen standing in front of it seemed so small. A man shouted, imitating a stallholder: ‘Watches for sale.’ The whole crowd started laughing. The policemen didn’t know what to do. I was scared. I was not part of that crowd. How long before they turned around and started looking at me? Was this the moment I started to realize this was not the live I wanted? Unprotected, that’s what it is. Unprotected from the society storming past at a high pace. Towards a distant future. In today’s world one can not live without being part of one crowd or another. You can be an individualist, that’s true, but not when you are on your own.

Even the bums, the winos and the junkies – the world’s oldest individualists - operate under one flag now, selling the street magazine in front of the supermarkets. It is their brand, their franchise, picking up the crumbs. Our imitation of the land of freedom and opportunity: everybody has a right to do whatever he or she wants to do, as long as it looks tidy.

Posted by Jeroen Goulooze at February 16, 2003 03:21 PM
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