Monday, November 17, 2014

Urban Woods Dump Saga

At the end of the block next to mine, at the bottom of a fairly steep hill, is a patch of land owned by a family in the construction business. I can look out at this place from my window using my binoculars, and see what is going on there. They might be builders but they have done nothing with this space except dump trash and old vehicles there. The place is really a "compound" with four buildings on it: the main house, two garages, and an old weathered cabin with a porch which looks like it has been there longer than any of the other buildings. One of the garages has been covered with a blue tarp for as long as I have been here, which would be more than 20 years. At times there were more than a dozen inactive and rusted-out cars in the yard around these buildings, as well as unused construction equipment. What is more interesting is that the old cabin supposedly contains a library of about 10,000 books.

I have occasionally met and talked to these folks but not for a long time. The patriarch of the family was a hoarder, at least this is how it looks. Just recently, again from my observations which might not be true, this old man finally died, and within days his son and the rest of the family started clearing dad's hoard.

They needed heavy construction equipment to do this. First they brought in a bulldozer and demolished an ugly, spreading patch of bamboo which the old man had planted there years ago. Then they went for the dump. There was a massive pile of trash in the yard. They pulled the blue tarp off the garage, which was also filled with trash. Nothing at all valuable, just piles of old cardboard, wood scraps, weathered wood, even old road signs and advertising signs. They used another bulldozer, a small "Bobcat," to do this. They filled a truck-sized dumpster with rubbish and hauled it away. Then they got another dumpster and started on the cabin. That's where they are now. The cabin was packed with decades of old papers and dead equipment. I saw them drag out box after box of papers as well as an old TV. They haven't gotten to the books yet, but I wonder whether they will just throw them away too. 

It's a shame because that cabin is rather nice, or was. It's the kind of building I would love to live in, if it were well-kept and cozy. It is secluded yet in an urban area. There are pockets of hillbilly rurality all over my neighborhood, if you know where to look. Now if they ever get it cleaned out, with the books and the hoarded trash, it would be uninhabitable due to mold and neglect and they will have to tear it down. But given this family's treatment of this woodsy space, it will probably sit there until the whole property is sold, whenever that happens.

I sketched some of the things that I saw and what you see for today's picture is a composite of some of my sketches. I didn't reproduce the scene but put together an image using elements of what I saw. You can see the blue tarp, some railings from the main house, weathered wood, old signs, fall leaves. Meanwhile I am watching this project with fascination and wondering what will come out next. It is quite similar to what happened with my own family's house after my father died. It took 4 pickup truck loads to clear my father's hoard just in the garage and the process is still going on up there at my mother's home.

Pitt brown and black technical pen ink, colored with markers, November 2014. Click for somewhat larger view.

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