Monday, November 19, 2007

Web Wendy and the Fork in the Road

My friend, whom we'll call Web Wendy, is convinced God is out to get her.

Trouble seems to come from all her encounters, even the most innocent encounters.

Stooping to help a child, she gets hit by a car. The child is unharmed.

"Why me, Lord?"


Ever get that feeling?

Not so bad being hit by the car, but at night, Wendy has these almost- LSD dreams of her floating down the river Styx and the Coyote god from "Roadrunner and the Coyote" is telling her she's going down the sewer pipe of the universe.

Well, there are sewer pipes and there are sewer pipes.

Meet your friendly Pipe Tunnel man, me.

The sewer can be a comforting place, as any Fritz the Cat knows, but since most of you have too much class to actually skin your elbows on the edges of dumpster, or as in the case of bag ladies, stick our toes out through the knee parts of pantyhose, there is really no point in going through all this embarrassing foolishness.

Only crazy folk want to forget everything, logic, bills, respectability-- and just be crazy.
I have slept with many such a woman, and maybe I picked up something through osmosis.

I keep telling people to get in touch with their feelings.
Makes them think I am hip, from L.A.

But here in Newmarket, where it seems every third house downtown is a halfway house, we are inundated with crazy people. Greedy politicians have gotten huge rakeoffs from the Mental Health folks. Take them out of Bedlam and send them to Newmarket! Everybody profits, except for us reasonably sane people scared to death to sit in a park, becaus someone will ask you for sure, "Do you snuff ducks?"

"Sure," I reply. "And I rarely leave a tern unstoned."
This is too much for the crazy bastard and he goes off to find someone else to bother.

Being crazy is an irritant to other people. It is really a condition for which there is no cure. If you're a nut, you might as well at act normal and do the normal things. Shop at the supermarket. Pay your bills. Don't lose your money. You can't be an obvious psycho or freak; people just won't talk to you. Crazy is bad. It exasperates psychiatrists who diagnose you as "asshole" and want to hear no more of your rantings or your staring at the wall looking for symbols.

But being broke is worse than being crazy. This you learn.

Being broke sets of a hyperbole that makes even crazier than when you started out.
You happen to see a day-old loaf of Calabrese bread down there still wrapped, in the dumpster: Well, "Faint heart never made it with a pig!"

Your shiny cross-hatched Adidas soles sticking out of the dumpster, and you unable to get out-- Wrong way, Corrigan!

Crazy is bad. It makes people cluck and not want to talk to you.

Crazy is calling Telecare and being told you're an asshole.

Crazy is really pissing off Dale Carnegie so badly that he punches you in the mouth..

Crazy is dumpster-diving.

And I for one, though I have made money writing aboutdumpster diving--hard research, you undersdand-- nevertheless have had pretty well enough of it.

You can only keep an apprentice down that hole till he starts to stink.

But how to get out of this resounding, deep dumpster?

Well, sane might be hitting your friends for another loan. All right, they are impatient, "Next time you come, bring $600"--but what can you do when you live in a shoe?

What is it you are trying to do?

Discover the nature of God?

Maybe you've got a gift.

Leaving an intolerable situation is a gift. Being a writer is a gift.

Quit your job? Write a novel?

You could try going this way, Web Wendy. Become a professional writer living by her wits. Then your bad karma might leave you alone.
But I don't think you'd want to go.

This way of life might drive you crazy.



eric1313 said...

Exactly. How do we define insanity? Let us count the ways.

Actually, you already have.

How long have I been unemployed? In the traditional job sense, that is. But my time has been employed. I have enough material that I can post for months on end without coming up with anything new. Yet I insist on writing every day. I need to get my ass paid for doing this.

There is nothing else for me to do. I could move to Arkansas where my best friend is inheriting his own company and has jobs waiting for me because they have no choice but to hire meth zombies because there isn't enough people to do these jobs, but that will just set me back further.

Well, Ivan, Here's a shot of vodka. Salud! To the choice of dying fast or dying slow, not much to decide.

Talk to you later, Ivan. said...

The ideal situation, I suppose is to be crazy, creative and still somehow have a job.
This was painfully brought home to me by a grant-giver from the Ontario government some years ago.
"You're getting $250. That's not even enough for a good drinking jag."
I noticed the man was close to my own background and had a thick accent.
I told him how hard it was to try to be a professional writer amd all the while trying to make money at this.
"Yes, yes," he had said, "I too like to think I'm creative,
"But I'm one of these people who has a job.
"You no got job." (I noticed he was slipping in his grammar).

Fuzzy-eared dweeb.
These are the people who run and abuse us writers. They produce sh*t documentaries for the National Film Board and bore us to death with their novels, usually stolen from bad American movies.

I took the $250, pocketed it and left the Bloor street office with a sour feeling.
I was not thinking pleasant or cheerful thoughts.
This bastard was making a hundred thousand a year telling me that I had no job and the $250 I was going to get for my novel was hardly enough to get one drunk.

I teamed up with two ad copy salesmen and got drunk.
Ten years of work and I got $250.

And I "no got job."

Anonymous said...

IT'S COLD AND DARK. A light drizzle adds to the gloom of the asphalt parking lot in downtown Melbourne where I stand beside a dumpster bin. Cars rumble by, windshield wipers slapping, as shoppers swoop out of the grocery store grasping plastic bags. Muffled sounds emanate from inside the bin. A hoot of joy precedes the emergence of an outstretched arm clasping an unidentifiable object.


"What is it?" I ask.

"It's a chocolate bilby!" my whiskery friend proclaims. "A bilby in entirely one piece!" brags Jim as he proudly peels back the foil and takes a large bite. (1)

Jim is a "freegan." He has enough money to buy food but chooses to eat out of dumpster bins to protest against wasteful consumption. Despite how distasteful this practice might seem to most people, my friend is not alone. Reports of freegan activities span the Western world. Aside from disadvantaged people who cannot afford to buy adequate food, there is an international stirring of people who glean edible food that would normally be thrown away. Political and environmental concerns motivate these individuals.

Freegans include "dumpster divers," such as my friend Jim who collects food from supermarket dumpster bins. But freegans may also be members of Food Not Bombs, an international group that encourages members to collect surplus food before it hits the bins and then give it to street people. The very existence of these groups makes plain the staggering amount of good food that is thrown away. In turn, they emphasize society's need to rethink its ethics around eating.

The typical Western food cycle flows from field to factory to supermarket to consumer. Along the way, a lot of food is discarded. In Wasteful Consumption in Australia, The Australia Institute, an independent public policy research centre, indicates that Australians threw away food worth almost four billion US dollars in 2004. Meanwhile, a report by Kantor, Lipton and Oliveira published in Food Review in 1997, stated that retailers in the United States generated 5.4 billion pounds of food waste in 1995.

According to freegans, much of the food that supermarkets discard is still edible, having been removed from shelves due to cosmetic blemishes, the finishing of product lines or due to it having reached its expiry date. Expiry dates serve as an official guide to how long foods can be stored. Freegans prefer to judge for themselves.

Gleaning from Gluttony is a 2005 report (by this author) about youth subculture and ethical eating. A respondent in the study stated, "When it comes to food, anything you can think of that the supermarket stocks, you can get it in the bin. From organic macadamia nuts to apples to laundry detergent to fertilizer to jars of olives to feta cheese." This colourful quote indicates that contrary to popular belief, dumpsters offer a wide menu selection. Also surprising was the finding that only one of the 30 respondents interviewed in the study had ever taken ill from eating gleaned food.

Not all waste food reaches the bin. Good Samaritan Laws protect from liability donors who distribute food in good faith. In Canada, several provinces have Good Samaritan Laws. Thus, charities in Canada, along with those in Australia and the United States can collect food from fields, factories and commercial centres, and distribute it to the disadvantaged. For example, in 2004, One Umbrella, an Australian organization, prepared 183,000 free meals made from rescued food.

Whereas Food Not Bombs gathers up food before it hits the garbage bin, dumpster divers reclaim food that has already been discarded. These groups differ from mainstream charities since they couch their gleaning activities in the philosophy of freeganism, which embraces the ethics of what people eat and where they get it from.

Freegans avoid food that is produced by industrial agriculture since they believe it to be contaminated with chemicals and industrial waste. They also accuse large agricultural producers of being cruel to animals and using fossil fuels unnecessarily. Freegans often prefer diets that are vegan or vegetarian and locally sourced. In "The Raw and the Rotten: Punk Cuisine," an article published in a 2004 issue of Ethnology, its author, D. Clark, refers to the consumption of dumpstered food as a practice that transforms discarded products such as meat and industrially produced foods into "pure" acceptable foods. The ethics of many study respondents seemed to fall along a similar line. They indicated that by consuming food that had already been discarded, they reduce waste without raising demand for industrial produce. Their food is also often collected by bike and eaten socially. Furthermore, many respondents indicated that they complemented their gleaned diets by purchasing organic groceries which often come from local, sustainable farms.

Ethical food sourcing for dumpster divers involves favouring the bins of large supermarket chains over smaller independent stores. Respondents reason that large supermarkets generate more waste and support large-scale industrial agriculture. Rather than supporting the demand for industrial agriculture with their dollar, freegans reduce the waste output of these suppliers.

The freegan lifestyle extends beyond consuming "garbage" to establishing subcultures that contrast with mainstream societal norms. Participants within these subcultures often support the DIY (or "do-it-yourself") punk ethic. This anarchistic ethic supports activities that allow people to live outside of the capitalist system. The DIY punk ethic emerged from the late 1970s punk music subculture. It includes activities such as making music, zines (street magazines) and clothes. Hence, freegans extend the consumption of wasted food to alternative economic options. This may allow freegans to downshift within contemporary society. For example, they may choose to squat in empty buildings and eat gleaned meals so they need work only minimal hours.

Jim, my freegan friend, is not some prankster playing around in a garbage bin. Each time he lifts a dumpster lid, he reveals the world's waste on a platter: excessive quantities of discarded food that degrade the environment, produced from industrial systems that consume fossil fuels and involve animal cruelty. And all this while people go hungry.

Ferne Edwards is a social researcher who specializes in consumption, waste and social change. She works at RMIT University and for the Sustainable Living Foundation in Australia.


(1) A chocolate bilby is an Australian version of the Easter Bunny based on the bilby, a bandicoot with ears like a rabbit.

For facts on food waste, freegan health and safety tips and more, visit

Josie said...

"Sure," I reply. "And I rarely leave a tern unstoned."

You had me laughing out loud.

You, Ivan, have picked up something by osmosis. You aren't crazy, you have fear of success. It's very common. Something in the back of your mind says, "What the hell will I do if I become successful? I will lose my identity." Somewhere along the way you have picked up the identity of the dumpster diver, the character from Steinbeck. You have consciously sabotaged your success.

It's not too late.

TomCat said...

Crazy: Voted for Bush in 2000.
Insane: Voted for Bush in 2004. said...


Oh-oh! said...


Thanks you so much for your insight and encouragement.

People at "work" say I behave more like Conrad Black (Lord Crossharbour)--but then look at what happened.
Conrad Black, Lord of world publishing, getting caught with hand in the big till-- and now it looks like he'll be somebody's bitch in a cell.

Hee. Is this why I'm success-shy? :)

Liz said...

Ivan, who is the lady whose photo you stole. She looks veeeeeeery familiar! Like Miss B! ;-) said...

Shhh. :)

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

What are we all to do Ivan? We sit, we eat, we write, we drink, we never produce what "they" think we should. To hell with them. I may not know you like Josie does, but damn well agree with her. You are afraid and to hell with that as well.

Dig in deep. Dig in hard and make those pulishers feel like asses for offering you 250. Screw them, set a path and walk down it. Hell, I know nothing. I write shit compared to many. Who cares. Love who you are Ivan and love what you do ... be it crap or brilliance.

T said...

Thank you, Tara. said...


Maybe it's not just your own computer that's acting up of late, as you report in emails.
The internet seems overloaded lately, what with campera phones, iPods and such doodads and you may be the first to experience the inevitable technological breakdown.(I think an old song called it "The Road to Hell".

Here is a teaser (not taser!) from the Toronto Star:

Chris Sorensen
Nov. 21, 2007
Rising demand for bandwidth-hogging Internet activities such as swapping music files and watching YouTube videos threatens to outstrip the Web's infrastructure within three years, creating the spectre of service "brownouts" ...

Where is Glen Campbell and his Wichita Lineman?

"And I can hear you through the wires..."

Hey Glen, we're bracing for another overload!

Hope your computer is still operable, Josie.

Shesawriter said...


Isn't that Bernita's picture up there? LOL!

You wrote: "Being crazy is an irritant to other people. It is really a condition for which there is no cure."

One of my favorite quotes comes from the late great Charles Bukowski:

"Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead."

Josie said...

Ivan, my computer is working okay. YouTube, etc., are here to stay. I don't know anyone who has a problem with them. Chris Sorenson sounds like Chicken Little. The Internet and everything it has to offer is here to stay. People will simply increase the requirements to accommodate the needs, as always. said...

Going crazy one day, I scoured the net looking for a picture of someone who appeared to do 360=degree head turns.

Great quote from Bukowski, Tanya.

I wasn't aware of that one.

Oh what good company we are in! said...

Thanks, Josie.

I was in a beer fog this morning and scoured the Star, trying to find the key to everybody's spam and computer problems these last few days. Eric 1313 says he is being spammed about thirty times a day. I get 40 spams a day.
Those clever recently-employed Calcutta Pavement Dwellers are really busy of late.
They are all over my phone with telemarketing as well.

Ah well, as an old Police sergeant, whose name was Dorkas (sic) once told me, "These things are sent to try us."

Josie said...

Oh, gosh, I never get spam :-(

I must be doing something right.

I am told, however, that I have spyware, and I have to get it removed.

The voyeurs are after me. :-) said...


Gimme the link to your spyware(wear).
I thought I was the only masher out there. :)

Josie said...

Heh, heh.

Especially since I am a member of the Nekkid Bloggers??? said...

"When the frost is on the pumpkin'...:)