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Veronique de Turenne

The valley of ashes

to the landfill

Even before you reach the Las Virgenes land fill, you're in another world. You've passed through a lovely canyon, a shaded boulevard and a tidy subdivision, and you've left behind a freeway onramp, a kind of last chance at civilization.

Enormous semis rumble by, burly men in the cabs yanking the steering wheels. Around them, schools of pickups swarm like pilot fish, escorts sucked along in the wake. And then there's me, the lone female, driving the smallest of the trucks, a petite red Ford with a ton (literally) of stuff in the bed and 285,000 miles on the odometer.

You've arrived at the landfill when you hit the scales, big steel plates that weigh your load. Behind thick and shiny glass, a guy you can't quite see asks for a zip code, and for forty bucks. Then it's onward, along vague and unmarked dirt roads, just a hand-lettered sign here, a roughly-drawn arrow there, sending you deeper into the moonscape.


The land fill kind of freaks me out, but it's also fascinating, this other world where tons of junk is tended to, ministered to, by workers who know you and me by the things we leave behind. I dumped the remnants of my mobile home bathroom yesterday, along with old life vests from my kayak, a torn wet suit, cracked book cases and a bunch of moldy leaves. It landed on someone's couch cushions, a two-legged camera tripod, and some complicated chrome lamps you might see in a fancy showroom.

When the pickup was empty, I borrowed a broom from the guys next door and swept it clean. Then, on the way out, shot this photo of my hot water heater, so filled with minerals and crud after 15 years it took the better part of a day to drain, and was still releasing Malibu water, drop by drop, onto the hardpan of the land fill as I drove back to the ocean.

goodbye, hot water heater

Next entry: Showing their expertise

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