Thursday, February 13, 2014

Rusty TinCansters

Tree trunks look like torsos to me and I suspect that's where my anthropomorphization of rusty, flattened cans begins: reinforcing bands in the tin cylinder look like ribs, the almost severed circular lid flips up to form a head, the bottom kicks out and down to suggest feet or legs.

I have always picked them up to fondle and admire, but regretfully denied myself the pleasure of taking them home. It's trash, and I can't, I reasoned, fill up my increasingly smaller living quarters with trash. But one cold dawn at the Pleasant Valley reservoir parking lot, waiting for my fishing buddy to figure out my phone message and meet me at the dam and not the gas station, I pocketed an exquisite, one-of-a-kind, gold and silver (tin and rust) masterpiece -- which when painted became a bluish Clam Samurai the First, a charming little five-by-seven painting that later fell unseen out of the back of my truck in some other parking lot and was lost, or perhaps reclaimed by its plane of origin. I was unexpectedly overwhelmed by anguish that found solace only in repainting Clammie and giving myself Poet's Permission to henceforth gather up whatever crusty old cans call out to me and paint as many Tin Cansters as I like. Here's the first batch:


TinCan Dumps, speculation on 20th century Eastern Sierra town middens

I have been rotating through three of the six County Campgrounds in the unevenly enforced restlessness of the County Fulltimer Anti-Resident 15-Day Maximum rule, and in search of inspirational treasure, have discovered the existence of Old Can and Bottle Mines adjacent to their flat-dirt hospitality. 


Just south of Baker Creek Campground I found a pavement of broken glass spread over an area of undulating dunes, planted with cans in a sort of English Garden lawn-and-pansies way. No whole bottles -- most of the glass in an similar state of shardliness, and the cans likewise disintegrating in a uniform patina of rust. In places, the rust heap and shard slurry appears to lie in a nest of cinders.  I surmise that the even size of glass pieces results from bottles having got shot to bits until there no longer exists anything large enough to aim at. 

Similar Can Dumps can be found around all the towns, and I wonder if the County Campgrounds were nestled in the ground of informal municipal dumps by design -- nobody wanted the land for anything else. Or, did the dumps accummulate around the campgrounds? The presence of cinders suggests that cans were burnt in fire rings and dumped nearby; the flattened, burnt look a result of Good Camping Practice in days of yore before recycling and dumpsters. Or perhaps they hearken back to when trash was routinely incinerated in California, before the advent of landfills. The Lone Pine Campground Can Dumps also contain cushion springs from automobiles, the occaisional chassis and fender, and scrunched up fencing material, suggesting a wider donor mix than mere tourists. Heavier iron and steel parts may have already been gleaned for sale as scrap. 

I remember a car decorator in Berkeley who would glue whatever you wanted onto the car body of your choice. Many cars had monster-dinosaur themes, or hot pink Barbie scenes; one was covered with PC green motherboards, another shingled in shiny-side-up CD disks to look like carp scales. Perhaps I could get an old van cloaked with rusty cans and "stealth" camp anywhere in Owens Valley without a ranger prodding me to move along. Just pull off a county road, back into a sand wash and deflate the tires. Stay put long enough and you may become a subject in another artist's painting or photo essay.