Archive for September, 2009


Garbage Hymns

Randy Ludacer, Singing about Packaging on Fresh Kills

Randy Ludacer, Singing about Packaging on Fresh Kills

Randy Ludacer is a package designer. He is responsible for the public face of such essential items as lemon-scented insoles, table cloths and pillow covers, furry rocker chairs and retro stools, composters, video game controllers, bath salts for jet lag relief, and Bling-it-on peel-and-stick crystals, best described as spangles for underage females. Also Randy is a singer-songwriter. Naturally, some of his songs are also about packaging, including “The Prettiest Package,” “Expiration Date,” “Pop Top Ring,” “Can Of Worms” and the immortal “This Landfill Is Your Landfill.”

Last Saturday, Randy performed his packaging songs to a select audience on top of the 150 million tons of trash contained in the Fresh Kills landfill, which is, naturally, the very best place to do so. Unfortunately, procedures kept the fans down to a modest number. The audience had to be bused in, in accordance with San protocol—after we signed release forms holding the Department of Sanitation harmless for whatever horrors might befall us during or in the wake of the concert. There were. like, 20 seats on the bus.

But there we were, in the great outdoors, with a view of the Arthur Kill and the ruins of New Jersey to the west, the Manhattan skyline to the north, and a wildlife refuge to the east. Randy sang and accompanied himself on his Tropicana box guitar, keeping an admirable balance on the garbage tightrope. It’s not easy being serious about garbage without getting heavy-handed.

Us, the Audience (and a Methane Well in the Background)

Us, the Audience (and a Methane Well in the Background)

The wind was brisk and rustled steadily in the late-season grass. The baby in the audience complained now and again. We clapped very nicely after every song, while the garbage kept very quiet underfoot.

Meanwhile, as Randy pointed out in one of his songs,  “Through the layers of the landfill, through/the garbage and the rubble, every tire slowly/rises to the surface like a bubble. This landfill/is our landfill. It was made for you and me.”

Just in case you want to know more about Fresh Kills? Try love letters and cabbage leaves About the old dump and the new park forming? More interested in the cheap thrills of Fresh Kills? Then you’ll want to take a look at landscape inspirations.


The Glacier of Corinda los Trancos

Corinda los Trancos is a very romantic spot, entirely in keeping with its name. From the ridge top, you get a gorgeous view of the mountains nearby and the ocean beyond. Early on a September morning, the vista is shrouded in a few late-rising rags of fog fighting a losing battle with the sun. The haze in the eastern sky gives the light a twinklyquality and turns the range farther out into a ghostly shoal of breaching whales. In the late afternoons, when the fog rolls in again, it feels like the ocean rises up around you leaving you stranded on an archipelago of tiny tropical islands while the valleys below are lost in gloom.

The glacier hugging a cleft down the side of Ox Mountain is much less romantic, seeing as how it’s made of trash. Corinda los Trancos is the only active landfill in San Mateo County, California. Not that you can see the trash itself. What you see—if you’re lucky enough to wangle admission, that is—is a vast earthwork filling up one end of a secluded canyon and draped up against the mountain side. The trash is exposed in one little spot, where the big possum-belly trailers are tipped up high in the air to shake loose the garbage they’ve brought from the transfer processing station in San Carlos. A herd of goats roams the surface higher up. At the very top sits a generator that turns the methane produced by decomposing organics into energy.

Corinda los Trancos Range (with landfill glacier tucked out of sight)

Corinda los Trancos Range (with landfill glacier tucked out of sight)

The thing is huge, by the way, containing some 35 years worth of trash already. And it’s going to accumulate many more layers on top, since it’s permitted to keep filling until about 1932 or so. It’s awesome. I wish I could show you what it looks like, but when I got the tour I didn’t have permission to take pictures.

For now, a forlorn little hilltop rises above the scene, the remains of the real Ox Mountain. Not for much longer. It’s being dug down for material to cover our trash—my very own garbage included, I might note—to supplement the concrete and green waste that is also used for cover. So eventually, Ox Mountain the former will be gone and right next to its absence will rise Ox Mountain the latter, a layer cake of trash that at the present moment has a better life expectancy than our civilization as a whole.

September 2009
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