First off, let’s offer a small nod to the celebration of Cinco de Mayo. Probably the first Spanish words – besides Hola and buenos dias – learned by non-Spanish speaking Americans. The day is not a holiday in Mexico – except in two smaller provinces. It is NOT Mexican Independence Day, different than our 4th of July. Actually, what happened in 1862 was that after years and years of corruption and mismanagement, the Mexican government was basically broke. They had to default on a number of debts owed to European countries, which always creates a bit of a kerfuffle. Different countries sent troops to try to get Mexico to pay what they owed, or have their resources taken from them. France, under Napoleon III, was perhaps the most forceful. They decided that this was a great opportunity to carve out their own colony in Mexico, since they gave away the Louisiana Purchase 60 years earlier. The French were winning the war, when they attempted to attack Puebla de Los Angeles, a little town in east-central Mexico.
The president of Mexico rounded up about 2000 men to fight against the 6000 French troops, and at the end of the day, the Battle of Puebla had been won by the Mexicans, and after more years of fighting, finally the US, post-Civil War, was able to put pressure on France to back off, and leave the Western Hemisphere.
So 159 years later, as the holiday spread to the US, especially in neighborhood of Mexican immigrants in California, Cinco de Mayo caught fire, and today, it’s the greatest thing since Taco Tuesday, although it appears that tequila has a great deal to do with it, especially when it comes to younger Caucasian Americans.
So – happy Cinco de Mayo! I hope tomorrow won’t be too tough for you…
This week, however, another great American pastime is taking place in Fargo, as it does in towns and cities across this fair land. It’s May, and that can only mean one thing: it’s Big Ol’ Trash Pickup Week. On a par with Christmas, and the first home game of the Dallas Cowboys, Trash Week, is a time of great anticipation, and increased traffic congestion, as the trash pickup day moves from neighborhood to neighborhood. It appears to happen in the middle of the night, as folks carry out of their garages, or up from their basements all sort of “stuff.” We can only imagine the stuff has been stored inside the houses for perhaps months, at least since the last trash week.
As things are carried out, and placed on the berm for pickup on trash day, following right behind are the scavengers. Usually driving rusty pickups, each scavenger specializes in particular things that they will take from the pile and put in their truck. In one sense, it’s okay, since it does create an awkward recycling, and it keeps at least some things out of the landfill, but it’s still kind of creepy to watch folks who never come into your neighborhood, except for one week a year, to drive slowly, searching the piles for that one thing that will make their year. What I can’t figure out is where these people work on a normal basis, and are they taking vacation this week? Are they independently wealthy, and this is just a hobby? It’s curious. Of course, the worst offenders are the ones who will come up to a pile neatly stacked by the owner, and rifle through it, not caring at all about the mess that’s strewn all over the grass. I should also mention that some of the piles begin by not being very neat, as “stuff” is discovered and dragged to the curb.
I’m not a scavenger, per se, although I must admit two years ago, after I dropped Cheri off at work, and was driving home, that I came up to a pile by the driveway of one home, and there on top of it all, beautifully perched, was an antique mantle clock from the 1870s. It was in great shape, except, as is usual, the mainspring had been wound so tight that it was frozen. But the glass, the wood, the pendulum and the keys were all there – the reason I know that, is that I did jam on the brakes, and with no one looking, retrieved it from its doom, and brought it home, and then to the antique clock repair guy, and now we have a nice clock, if we can ever remember to get it out of the closet and put it on the mantle, now that Christmas has been over for more than 4 months…
But like I said, I still am amazed at the kinds and amount of “stuff” that ends up on a front curb. There must have been a sale somewhere recently, because this year I counted 12 different dishwashers, lying on their sides. They of course go along with refrigerators with no doors, lawn mowers, and dozens and dozens of gas grills. Do these people not realize that the grills are more than a one-time use appliance?
And toilets. Toilets everywhere. Have they just been torn out of the bathroom the night before, or have they been carefully put in a family room somewhere for the winter? Of course, there is always building stuff, like lumber and sheetrock, but there are also lots of stand alone cupboards with doors or drawers gone. The story must be interesting: “Frank – we’ve had this cupboard for 20 years, and I don’t know where we lost the front drawer… might as well chuck it on the curb…”
At one house I passed, there were three sofas, a recliner and a broken dining room table. Where does that all come from? Do they not have anything left in their house? Or perhaps for the first time in a year, they can finally put the car in the garage…
And so the ballet continues through the week, starting way up north on Monday, and concluding way down south on Friday – each neighborhood filling up with piles of garbage, looking like the aftermath of a riot or flooding, and then picked apart, restacked, and then finally hauled off by our sanitation engineers. I’m sure they must love this week. There was an announcement that went out this morning, asking folks to have their “stuff” out no later than 7am on their trash day, because the trucks were running more than 10 hours a day, and they wanted to keep the costs down by as much as possible. By next week, it will be back to normal, except now for the summer season, we will enjoy the piles of branches and limbs from pruning trees and bushes that they will pick up every other week. What I wonder about, is how you could know for certain what was the “other” week, and if a pile is stacked on the berm, and it’s the wrong week…
I guess, after all, that having Big Ol’ Trash Week is a nice courtesy the city offers, plus it’s a chance to rummage through other people’s garbage, which is always a delight. I’m afraid, however, that it also gives a visual description of how much “ballast” it appears we have in our homes and in our lives. It’s so much, that you have to wonder, if we truly were to clean out, and then not refill our homes, if houses would just float away, since there is no weight to keep them on the ground.
And so we say, “Well, it’s just stuff.” How intentional might we become, if we took seriously the question of whether we need the “stuff” in the first place? How much simpler things might be, and the weight would be off our own shoulders, and yet not get put on the curb.
Tomorrow is our trash day – I’m getting ready for the parade of pickups going through the neighborhood today. Should be quite a sight…
Word for the day: inchoate. Pronounced in-KOH-et. It’s of course Latin, and we travel pretty far back to find its origin. Inchoare, or incohare, it means “to commence or begin.” It probably comes from the word, cohum, which is a strap fastened to a yoke of oxen. It implies “hitching up the team,” or starting work.
That sounds like a nice word, except it ends up meaning that something has only just begun and therefore is not well-formed, incomplete, or undeveloped. It could be an inchoate idea, or plan, or initiative that someone offers – it’s not just well-thought out yet, and needs more work. Kind of like a term paper written by a high school senior…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.