Saturday, November 03, 2007

Three hubcap day

Any SOLV/SWNI cleanup offers a morning of discovery and insight about who we are, or at least who our litterbugs are.

It’s not so much an archaeological dig as an archaeological scavenger hunt.

Orange-vested teams of us, fortified with poppy-seed muffins and full-alert coffee, set out for litter-strewn arterials around Southwest Portland.

My team, consisting of Mike Roach (sporting two “Vote Yes on 49” yard signs), Don Baack (wearing his trademark Australian Outback hat) and me, headed for our traditional hunting ground, the shoulders of Capitol Highway, east of Burlingame, and Barbur Boulevard, north of Capitol.

At clean-up time twice a year, our trio considers the much-traveled commuter route “ours.” We have come to know where to look to find its detritus.

Because it is early November, much of the trash is hidden beneath ochre, moldering leaves, but we raked around and filled a dozen or so white SOLV trash bags with precious artifacts.

Most of the trash is evidence of some kind of addiction: nicotine, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, pornography, automobiles and consumer consumption.

Let me be specific, but not gross.

The pornography took the form of a girly magazine. Some of the SOLV teams this clean-up day consisted of young teenagers. Fortunately they weren’t in our group, but then I’m told there’s no need to protect them from pornography in this “Death of Childhood” age. The Internet has inured children and young people to smut.

Alcohol was represented by scores of cans and bottles. I picked up a nearly full can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. It still sudsed up as I emptied it onto the ground. Why the rejected can was so full I can only guess. (“Hey, Fred, you ever heard of this stuff, Pabst? I think I’ll give it a try….Yeeech!”)

Candy wrappers, Starbuck’s cups and car parts point to other addictions.

You’d expect car parts along a road but how to explain a piece of plastic grill liner unless it was somehow extruded during hard cornering.

I score my day by hubcaps. Today was a three-hubcap day (Chrysler, Toyota and a generic Shucks). Don, who rises to every challenge, wrestled a fender off a guardrail. Later he was rewarded for his efforts by finding a usable hammer, which he figured fell off a truck. More hard cornering.

We also picked up our usual assortment of Styrofoam chips and bubble wrap. If the planet is ever destroyed, these two substances may be all that survive, testimony that “higher” life forms once inhabiting the planet.

Each SOLV scavenging offers something to set it apart: a cocktail glass, a mysterious bone, a doily.

This year was no different.

I started finding strewn pages from a book featuring World War II German war planes just where cars whisk off Barbur and climb the hill on Capitol Highway. Every 10 yards or so I’d find a couple more pages. They and I worked our way up the hill, back through the war to 1939.

The pages ran out half way up the grade, at the outer fringe of our scavenging area. I had just gathered the white trash bags and stacked the orange safety cones to retrace my steps back down the hill when I spotted a page devoted to Dornier Do 17Z-2 bombers and MesserschmittBf 109e-1 fighters from Nazi Germany’s World War II’s air campaign in Poland.

I stuffed the Poland page in my pocket with the other pages, made my way back to my car, drove to our staging area at a mega-church parking lot.

There the teams reassembled, shared scavenging stories and ate 20 pizzas.

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