Monday, December 27, 2010

"Wasted: Life in the Age of Excess" (Video)

Here's the video I was talking about yesterday, created by a friend of mine, using interviews with Eric, friends and me.

"Cosmic Rockstar presents "WASTED", a documentary on a merry band of dumpster-diving anti-consumerists called Freegans! Check it out: Freshness guaranteed!"

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bittersweet Christmas + New Freegan Video!

Christmas was bittersweet this year, with the knowledge that several of our friends will likely not make it to Christmas next year. At the LACW, we make our house a home for people who are near the end of their lives. Many poor individuals have moved off the streets and into the hospitality house to live out their last days (or to live many years, too).

Right now, we have a man named Mike who is suffering from a malicious tumor in his jaw. His doctor told him that he may not see Christmas this year (thankfully he did!). We learn from him, and those in the past, how to die gracefully. Mike is a gracious and friendly man. We pray for his comfort.

In other news, a friend of Eric's and mine has directed and produced a mini-documentary about freeganism. The video follows a Los Angeles Dumpster Diving Meetup event and included interviews with Eric and me.

Watch the film here. This link is only useful to Facebook users. You have to sign in to see the video. I will post a public link or embed the video as soon as I get that information.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On Eternity

Interest me, please,
That scratching at the door of my mind,
a thought squeezing its way in
from empty void to idea behind my eyes.

Explain to me, please,
That fascination of the human psyche,
an abstract obsession long written
on the pages of our history.

Present to me, please,
A rationale for this futile fantasy,
this unproven unreality ever wished for
in the spaces between life and death.

Why are we so interested in a possibility of life after this present moment? Is it merely to give hope for those whose lives are not happy here? I have no answers, "only questions." 

There's no time for hatred, only questions
What is love, where is happiness, what is Life,
where is peace?
When will I find the strength to bring me release?

And tell me where is the love in what your prophet has said?
Man, It sounds to me just like a prison for the walking dead
And I've got a message for you and your twisted hell
You better turn around and blow your kiss goodbye
to life eternal angel...
-Jeff Buckley, "Eternal Life" (full lyrics here)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mixed Blessing

It's been raining record amounts here in the "City of Angels" during the season of Christmas. The Oregonian part of me rejoices in the life-giving waters. The humanitarian part of me aches with every thought of the "unwanted ones" who come to eat at our Hippie Kitchen, many without shelter, proper rain gear, or some even without shoes. We do what we can, but still people suffer in the rain. How can we face that?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dumpster Diving at the Bloomington Catholic Worker

Almost every Catholic Worker community has its own newsletter, and receives the newspapers of all the other communities. I hardly ever find the time to read the newsletters, but every once in a while a front page or an article catches my eye. This time, one of my fellow community members pointed out this article in the "Bloomington Christian Radical", because it made them think of me. I think it's fantastic and worth sharing.

On Dumpster Diving  by Laura Ertmer

Dumpster diving is not about trash. It is about waste.

Esteban grew up on the streets of La Paz. He knows about trash. It is a last resort for the homeless - offering little more than bones and other food scraps. In Lima, basureros pock through mountains of trash to salvage tin cans and plastic bottles to resell. In Buenos Aires, cartoneros collect and recycle cardboard. In Bloomington, we too collect from what has been discarded - but ours is a privileged scavenging. We are feasting on the absurdity of mass food production and mega stores. America is confused about trash. The wealth - and shame - of our nation is reflected in the abundance of usable, edible and wearable items that stores throw away.

We are exuberant, energetic dumpster divers. There is no delight quite as wholesome as salvaging pounds of food from the garbage. Imagine when the beam of your headlamp first plunges into the darkness of the bin and illuminates a radiant red bell pepper.  And then it falls on another. And then a yellow one. Oooh! Bags of apples. Broccoli. Ah, and there's some Brie! A fish fillet! A lime! A meal begins to take shape when the light shines upon some wine a peach pie. In this big metal box behind the grocery store, we forage for food and come out with a feast.

We win! We eat for free!! And yet, in our joy we recognize that this is sick. This system of production, consumption and waste is sick. Why are beautiful apples and fresh organic milk discarded? Have we lost all common sense? Do we not see food for food? Do we see food only as profit? Do we expect perfection in produce?

There is always more food than we can take. And we take all we can. We distribute it to friends. We throw dinner parties. We dry fruit, can tomatoes, pickle cucumbers. It's not enough. The dumpster is always full. Go. Take your flashlight. Drive around back and look in the bin. You will see the absurdity of the system. YOU can eat for free. This is the truth about the trash. If we ignore the waste of the system, we let it become trash. If we reclaim the waste, we eat for free.

America's food system is messed up. We do not pretend that we are changing it. We are, in fact, relying on the absurdity of the system for our sustenance. While we continue to to harvest from the dumpsters, we need to call attention to the waste. We need to ask stores to reduce their waste - or to redistribute their "waste" to social service organizations that depend on food donations. It is the cost we should assume when we are nourished by an immoral system. We cannot become complacent. This waste is wrong even when we benefit from it. 


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Post #100! and Quote of the Day

This is my 100th post! Strangely, it has taken a year and a half to get this far... but WOO HOO anyway.

I came across this cute thing that a friend of mine said of Eric and me:

"You two are like foster parents for garbage."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Record of Dumpster Diving

I feel rather disconnected from this blog, like it has become only a record of my dumpster diving adventures instead of a journal of my lifestyle and ideas. Unfortunately, I am not sure how to fix that. My life is so full that it is hard to articulate everything that goes through my mind.

I am so grateful to have Suelo and his traveling buddies around for the Thanksgiving weekend. Eric's house (the "RagaJazzFreegan House") has become its own intentional community, with 12 people staying in the small 3 bedroom duplex this weekend.

On Saturday, we hosted our November Dumpster Ride and Freegan Meal event, which was rained out. We still met, but watched a documentary ("The Power Of Community") instead of having a bike ride. After the movie, the group of us went dumpster diving and pulled out a mountain of holiday related goodies, including a whole frozen turkey and at least 15 containers of cranberry relish.

I continue to deliver dumpster goodies to the Hippie Kitchen. On Saturday morning, Catherine told one of our volunteers where some of the food had come from. The volunteer happened to be an employee at one of the stores that I like to dumpster dive at. She told us that her particular store had passed a mandate in 2010 saying that no food could be thrown out and that it all had to be donated. I didn't have the heart to tell her that her store was the one at which Eric found a whole case of wine a couple of months ago (it had been chucked out because one bottle was broken).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just wanted to wish all of my readers a happy holiday tomorrow. Make the best of it, even though it's based on a twisted interpretation of colonialism.... ;)

I'm going to have a great time. Here at the Los Angeles Catholic Worker, we have invited many of our guests from the streets and personal friends to come to our big house for a giant lunch time meal.

And a big news flash: "Suleo" (Zero Currency Man) is currently in LA, for the first time! I cannot wait to see him.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Freeganism as Civil Disobedience

Dumpster diving is a great way to get free food and to shock people into awareness of waste, but I see a lot more to it. It is true that the activity is mildly illegal, because it is often seen as a form of trespassing or even stealing (which is ridiculous to me, but that's beside the point). People shouldn't be fooled; even though it is rare to be arrested or prosecuted for bin raiding, there is a risk of that (and the risk that goes with the stigma associated with such activities). And because of the risk, people who dumpster dive should believe that it's worth getting in trouble for. I think that's where the principles of  Freeganism come in.

I personally see dumpster diving as a form of civil disobedience. I am violating the petty laws that protect trash (which is a representation of a wasteful society) in order to make a statement about the system that creates trash. Another part of freeganism is finding ways to reduce my own participation in that system. Dumpster diving provides a strategy for stepping out of consumer habits.

This topic came to my mind because of a recent police encounter. At our last dumpster ride event, we were confronted by the same officers who stopped us on our May dumpster ride (check the link for a recounting of that incident). During the first stop on our October ride, we where cornered by the police while we were behind the fence and in the dumpsters. We were caught red handed, trespassing! I have a problem with the way that authority holds the words of the law above the ideas that motivate people to break or keep the laws. The cops were also verbally abusive with us, assuming that we were less than them, merely because we were "breaking a law". How can they expect us to cooperate and keep our cool when they approach us with guns and sharpened words?

Even when stopped by authorities, it is rare to be prosecuted for such a "crime" as dumpster diving. We have not been contacted since the incident.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Back Again

I've taken another break from the computer, including a great vacation with my family in beautiful Oregon. Eric went with me (his first time in the lovely place I grew up), and we even dumpster dove in my hometown (population 3320).

Check out the pictures here:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Things I've Been Up To

As usual, life has been busy since my last post. Big events and everyday life eat up my time as we pass through the moments we all live in.

"Jesus Was a Street Server"
from our LACW website:
On September 30th we joined the Los Angeles Community Action Network and other groups dedicated to serving the poor of Skid Row, in a protest/street meal calling for an end to police harassment of street servers. Delicious food was served and a good time was had by all! Check out our photos.
 Reverend Billy and the "Stop Shopping Gospel Choir" at RedCat theater

I finally got the chance to see this theatrical, anti-capitalist genius in action. Eric and I went to see Rev. Billy and his choir on their "Earth-a-lluia" tour stop in Los Angeles Thursday night. The odd thing is that we paid $12 for tickets... but the Rev embraced the irony with humor instead of shying away from it. From his website,  before the show:
The Choir and Rev kick off our tour in the Disney Hall. This church was founded on the discovery that MICKEY MOUSE IS THE ANTI-CHRIST so please come help us embrace our contradictions. (
Eric and I fully enjoyed the hilarious and inspiring show, which focused more on environmental issues than on those of consumerism.

And here's an interesting article about him (including a little background on who and what he is), that I read in the LA Times that day:

Monday, October 11, 2010

CicLAvia!!! (Being Car[e]free)

Yesterday, 10/10/10, was Los Angeles' first Ciclovia event. The website/blog for the LA version is here. It now includes pictures from yesterday's opening of the streets. I took a large group of friends on bicycle to enjoy the 7 miles of car-free streets, from 10 AM to 3PM. A lovely coincidence was that one end of the route was at a park less than half a mile from the LACW house where I live.

CicLAvia 2010 - downtown L.A. - photo by Yasuko Fujisawa

My friends and I had a great time riding and enjoying the car(e)free atmosphere. There was live music in several spots, with musicians including my friend (Eric's roommate), sitar player Paul Livingstone. This event brought out a great sense of community. For example, we rode down the route. looking for a place to set up the sound equipment. Paul saw a lawn he liked in front of a house. He asked the resident if he could play there, and she gave permission. I thought that was pretty cool! People passing by stopped to listen to Paul's wonderful music. It was the most relaxing part of the whole day.

<---this guy is relaxing

People rollerbladed, skateboarded, walked, ran, rode bikes on the streets all morning. For me, I saw a future in this. When cars are obsolete and asphalt has outlived our machines, we will still have our bodies. May alternative transportation grow and live on!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

CW Reflection

Thankfully, I did get some rest this weekend. Ah, I enjoyed sleeping in until almost noon (though I didn't get to sleep until 2am anyhow) on Monday. The weather also decided to cooperate with my intentions to rest that day. I took it easy the whole day, including a lovely walk in the light rain. This mildly stormy weather is a welcome break from the record breaking 110+ degree weather we had last week (so says the Oregonian typing this blog). Unfortunately, our homeless friends may not enjoy either option...

I wanted to share something I read today. This comes from the quarterly newsletter of the St Francis Catholic Worker House in Chicago, but it accurately describes the LACW House (at which I live and work), too.
St Francis House is a house of hospitality in the tradition of the Catholic Worker Movement. The movement was begun in 1933 by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. It is based on communal living with people struggling with poverty and homelessness, and nonviolent resistance to war, injustice and materialism. There are 150-200 Catholic Worker Houses in the US and other countries, but there are no organizational ties to the Roman Catholic hierarchy and Catholic Worker houses are not dependent on it for support. Each CW house is run solely by the people who work there, most of whom live in community at the house itself. In most cases community members need not be Catholic.
St Francis house practices the work of hospitality by taking in single adults who need a place to stay. Decisions are made by a group of people called workers who share the responsibilities of managing the house and are committed to the CW movement's ideals. They have no titles, they need not have professional credentials and they are NOT paid. St Francis house is supported entirely by personal donations and earnings; it receives no government, Church or corporate funding. We are not recognized by the government as a non-profit organization, thus donations to the house are not tax-deductible. We reject the government control that comes with the non-profit status and we feel that federal taxes are best not paid at all because of the violent use to which much tax money is put. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Little Burnt Out

I've still been rescuing food almost every night, serving on Skid Row nearly every day, living communally (that means having lots of meetings) and keeping a busy social schedule. When the weekend came, my body told me it had had enough of the late nights and early mornings. We all need balance, even the most energetic and idealistic of us. I tried to sleep in this morning... of course I only made it to 9:30 (after a bedtime some time after 1 AM). Let's try this tomorrow...

Make no mistake; I am not complaining. I choose this life and I love every minute of it. But sometimes we're just tired...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Funky Freegan Home Brewing

My boyfriend Eric has made a personal commitment to stop buying alcohol; he already spends less than $5/week on food. Eric's decision was sparked by a sudden inspiration to brew his own drinks from our dumpstered fruit finds. Thanks to our home-brew enthusiast friends Kurt and Sybilla, a home brewing supply store on the West side and an initial investment in equipment, we've bottled our first two batches of hard cider already. Celina (Eric's 10 yr old daughter) labeled each reclaimed beer bottle afresh as "ERIC'S Funky Freegan Hard Cider".

Now the "Raga Jazz Freegan House" (so named for the combination of Eric's and his roommate's respective activities) is brewing alcohol, in addition to all the freegan potluck parties and tons of dumspter food that pass through! My life is too much fun. :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Don't Call Us Saints

Last weekend, the ladies of the LA Catholic Worker community (including me) went on their retreat weekend known as "Women Walking for Peace". It's a funny name for the weekend, since we only walked for an hour on Sunday morning. We did walk for peace, though! It was akin to our weekly vigil (Wednesday Peace March) around the federal building complex in downtown LA. We walked down the thoroughfares of suburbia in sunny Santa Clarita that weekend, holding fast to our anti war signs. Drivers honked and waved and flipped us off.

Holding signs to protest the wars and greed may not seem like doing much (even though we have some type of peace vigil every day), but at least we are showing a dedication to the cause that many others don't have. I like to think that we are a beacon of hope to unspoken pacifists driving along in their cars.

The rest of "Women Walking" was a relaxing time at our 78 year old CW friend Patty's beautiful house in Santa Clarita. We lounged around in the hammock, went swimming in the pool, ate good food and drank good beer. Not a lot done for peace, but at least we recharged our minds and spirits to do the work, however flawed it may be, that we carry on in Skid Row and downtown.

On the first night, we gathered together to talk about women who have inspired us in our lives. The memento for the weekend was a T-shirt emblazoned with the above picture, which is the cover of a movie about our most inspiring lady in the Catholic Worker Movement, Dorothy Day. The title of the film comes from a quote of hers;

“Don't call me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed so easily.”

Monday, September 13, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Quality Waste

We get a lot of food at the Hippie Kitchen. Most of the stuff is from donations through other organizations, like Little Sisters of The Poor. This is most often the food that stores would have thrown away, but diverted to food banks instead. And that's fantastic.

Some of the food we prepare to serve is brought by yours truly, straight from the trash (it missed a step). The other day, some of the volunteers were commenting that the produce in some of the boxes was in much better shape than usual ("The rotten vegetables aren't rotten today!" said one). And here's the thing: the better quality food is almost always from the dumpster, as in this case.

I have heard it said many times that people in the house eat better now that I live here to bring the freegan food.

What does that say about the waste in our society?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"That Money Thing"

Change of address: the URL for this blog is now I thought that it would make more sense that way.

The other day, Celina (my boyfriend's ten year old daughter), and Eric and I were talking together. She was sharing with us about the house she last lived in with her mom. Celina missed the old house, and knew that the rest of her family did too. "We were happier there", she said, "but we had to move because of that money thing. I don't get it". Her dad then tried to explain the difference in price between the houses they rent, and the necessity of moving out of the expensive place because of changes in the economy and their income. Celina was hanging on to her memories.
"Don't they want us to be content?"
Eric replied, "No, they want to make more money."

Isn't it the truth? Why does human society make things so complicated? I imagine a world in which people did care whether or not others (especially families) were content.

I just finished reading a book (called "Life is So Good") about the life of a Southern man (George Dawson) who lived for the entire 20th century. He didn't learn to read until he was 98 years old, as he had been forced by circumstance to work from age 12 to support his family. In his later years, while writing the book, he reviewed history (now being able to read it) with the young white man (Richard Glaubman) who helped him to write the memoir. In this passage I want to quote, they were discussing the Great Depression of the 1930's and the raised rate of suicides during that time.
I still didn't get it. I asked Richard, "Why did they have to kill themselves?"  
Richard said "They didn't have to, it's just what some people did when they lost all their money". 
"So they was rich to start with?" I asked. 
"Some of them were very wealthy on paper, but when their stock value fell they couldn't pay their debts."
"Wealthy on paper, huh. Yeah, back in those days, when you could get em, I would always take a silver dollar over a paper dollar even though they was heavier to carry."
Richard said, "Well,  I don't know how to explain it. Their paper wasn't even paper dollars. It was just pieces of paper that represented money. Their huge capital losses were really about losing money they never had."
I just looked at him.
"The more I think about it, I'm not sure I understand it so well my self."
I couldn't help myself from saying, "Tell me again how many years of schooling you've had."
Richard threw up his hands, "I never even took Economics 101".
"Well, I never did neither, but I wouldn't go killing myself about losing some money that I never had in the first place".
Richard asked me what I remembered of the '30's. I was there in the thirties alright, but I didn't know too much about a depression. Times was tough, but that's just how it was.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Making My Mark

You may remember my post in May about my friend Marie. She was an intern of the LACW last summer and was inspired by my freegan activism, which I got her involved in while she was here. When she got home, Marie started her own dumpster diving meetup in her hometown of Grand Rapids, MI. It's been as thriving as such a thing can be in such a place. :)

This summer, she got another tattoo. Her new addition is in honor of the spirit of freeganism; the graffiti on the side of the dumpster reads "WORK 4 <3 (love), [not for $]". The cat on the left side represents me! I was so flattered when I heard and saw this. Think about it: I literally "made my mark" on Marie's life. :P Not that it's about me at all...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Getting Back Into It

It's been a little while since I last wrote. My last post was about July's Dumpster Ride, and we're going to be having the August one this weekend! Hopefully we will have scouted out some new spots by then...

I took a little break from things this month. It had even been a while since I had gone "bin-raiding" (another term for dumpster diving). Thankfully, I have been getting back into it, now that I am home from vacation. My blog is another thing that I need to get back into.

While I was away on vacation, Eric had been a busy freegan. He had found a whole case of "two buck Chuck" (cheap Trader Joe's wine). It's the same old story: one bottle of wine had broken in a case of twelve. They "chucked" the whole case out, leaving 11 unbroken bottles for my Eric to take home from the trash! He's been sharing them around with friends, hosting little dinner get-togethers and sharing his gardening skills. I didn't actually know a lot about composting until I starting dating Eric. :)

The other day, Eric and I took a friend bin raiding for her first time (another familiar story). We hit the dumpster in the middle of the day, being wary of employees. In less than five minutes, we hauled in two large bags containing a likely $200 worth of quality food.

Our friend's ten year old daughter (who came with us), was so excited about the excursion that she was bubbling about our dumpster food inside the store, when they went in to buy a few things they hadn't found outside. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dumpster Ride in July

On Saturday, Eric and I led our monthly "Dumpster Ride and Freegan Meal" event. I discovered that it has been one month more than a year since we started the dumpster tour ride.

This year's July ride was successful and fun. We had a group of about 15 riders, and they all stayed on through the end of the meal. Usually we start with a bigger group and about half of them drop out before we get to wherever we have the dinner. Everything went very smoothly. This was the first ride since our exciting May event in which we were followed by a police helicopter and briefly waylaid by officers after our first stop of the night. no such surprises popped up this time. We finished our raiding quickly, gathering a goodly amount of food for a tasty meal at Throop Church.

One trivial thing I noticed about the ride was that each stop was progressively better than the last. We went to three stores for our food. The first was a 99cent store in a residential neighborhood. The food was crap, but we found a couple of men's collared shirts and had general fun. Then we stopped at a nicer grocery store where we found lots of food, mostly packaged, processed stuff (but damn tasty). Our last stop was the best - a higher-end grocery store that carries a lot of fresh, organic produce. We got a lot of fresh fruit there. Posher stores have higher standards, and therefore throw away more, better quality food.

For dinner at midnight, we had great salads and other tasty treats. My favorite thing (besides the fresh watermelon) was the hamburgers that we cooked with mushrooms and served loaded with vegetables. YUM!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Photo of the Day

Here's a bountiful basket of beautiful fruit. Eric and I took two of the new LACW interns dumpster diving at our favorite Pasadena spot last night. We hauled home about ten boxes of fresh produce. I'm about to make dinner from it all, including the abundance of packaged mushrooms we scored.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My Alternative Fourth of July Weekend

I had a fantastic Fourth of July Weekend, and not because I like the holiday (which I truly don't). It was so great because spent it with wonderful people doing fun and (sometimes) meaningful things. Saturday started, as always, with work at the "Hippie Kitchen". Later, the LACW community went to a rockin' music party hosted by community friends, where I met up with Eric and his charming daughter. That full first day of the weekend ended with me picking up an old friend whom I hadn't seen in a few years (as he lives in Sydney and has just spent the last year traveling in Mexico). My friend Ash is also a former member of the Jesus Christians; he left that community a couple years before I did. He also happens to be one of the main people to influence me towards a freegan lifestyle. You may recognize his name (if you're a regular reader of this blog) from my repeated posting of this awesome freegan video. Below is another video (please be patient through the first 30 seconds of silence) about freeganism that Ash has appeared in. And click here to read an article by Ash that was included in a small booklet the JCs wrote about freeganism.

Anyway, Ash and I went with the LA Catholic Worker Community to celebrate the patriotic holiday on Sunday by mourning the deaths caused by our country's imperialistic foreign policies. We helped to set up the Arlington West - Santa Monica Memorial next to the pier. It was hard and sobering work. I have also mentioned this thing before - in this post from May 4.

The rest of the weekend was pure fun. We met up with Eric on Sunday afternoon. Instead of watching fireworks, we went dumpster diving (of course)! In reward for our hard work, we had a midnight snack/sushi feast. We said goodbye to Ash on Tuesday, wishing him well on his return to Australia.

I was proud to have spent the "birthday of America" doing things that pointed out the two main flaws in America's society - its violence and its consumerism-induced wastefulness.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Comic of the Day

Actually, this was in the paper last week; but I can call it what I want.

Yes and No, Mr. Bliss. Food for thought, indeed...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Defining Freeganism Pt. 2

Since I am short on time, as usual, I will post another article that has caught my eye in recent times. This one was in the New York Times Magazine this month and is about a group Freegans in Buffalo, NY who have set up a community in a squat. I liked the article; it showed the great diversity in the types of people who adopt freegan ideals. It also showed the movement to be more than just dumpster diving. Quotable quote:

Kit is a freegan. He maintains that our society wastes far too much. Freeganism is a bubbling stew of various ideologies, drawing on elements of communism, radical environmentalism, a zealous do-it-yourself work ethic and an old-fashioned frugality of the sock-darning sort. Freegans are not revolutionaries. Rather, they aim to challenge the status quo by their lifestyle choices. Above all, freegans are dedicated to salvaging what others waste and — when possible — living without the use of currency. “I really dislike spending money,” Kit told me. “It doesn’t feel natural.”

The Article: "The Freegan Establishment"

Pictures from the article

Monday, June 14, 2010

"The Real Cost of Cheap Food"

Shortly after making my post yesterday, I ran into this fantastic article in Time magazine. The piece was written last August and is called "Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food". It's an excellent article about all of the important food issues of our day. I highly recommend that you read it!

quotable quote from the piece:

"But we don't have the luxury of philosophizing about food. With the exhaustion of the soil, the impact of global warming and the inevitably rising price of oil — which will affect everything from fertilizer to supermarket electricity bills — our industrial style of food production will end sooner or later. As the developing world grows richer, hundreds of millions of people will want to shift to the same calorie-heavy, protein-rich diet that has made Americans so unhealthy — demand for meat and poultry worldwide is set to rise 25% by 2015 — but the earth can no longer deliver. Unless Americans radically rethink the way they grow and consume food, they face a future of eroded farmland, hollowed-out countryside, scarier germs, higher health costs — and bland taste. Sustainable food has an √©litist reputation, but each of us depends on the soil, animals and plants — and as every farmer knows, if you don't take care of your land, it can't take care of you."

(See pictures of what the world eats.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Greetings from The Farm (Eating Right)

For the last few days, I have been on vacation from LA and that it entails. It's been a good time to slow down, to think and to recharge. My weekends are never times of rest when I'm at home because we're always busy doing something, whether it's community duty or "fun time" or dumpster meetup related.

I've been taking my time off in an organic farming community in Camarillo, CA called the "Abundant Table Project" or "Join the Farm!". There's a small group of girls ("interns") who live here to tend the farm and grow in community. They're very welcoming and friendly folks. I've really been enjoying my time here.
Something that I particularly love about this place is how well we eat here. We have full reign of the goodies that we harvest from the fields (they have roughly four acres of organic veggies) and the produce that the girls trade for at the local framers' markets. Since I have been here, I have been eating raw kale salads, fresh fruits, Swiss chard cooked with tomatoes and chili and fresh eggs from their friendly backyard hens. I have a deep-rooted feeling that this is how humans beings are really meant to eat. I'm sick of these over-processed foods that are shoved down our throats through aggressive advertising. How can anyone think of selling such unhealthy things to people? How many of our health problems could be reduced if we ate more healthily? How much easier would it be to eat right if we were sold the right foods (or if we grew them ourselves)?
I go home tonight, to a community in transition. It will be straight into the summer program, with two new interns to meet and instruct. 
Until next time, 
greetings from the chicken. ^

Friday, May 28, 2010

Defining Freeganism

In a recent post, I mentioned that my friend Marie started her own Dumpster Diving meetup group when returned to Grand Rapids after a summer visit to the LACW. Shortly after I posted that, she sent me a link to an article her local paper had done on the group, its purposes and its practices. This photo is from the online version of the newspaper article. Marie is the girl in the dumpster, doing the dirty work.

The article is a great piece to spread the ideals of Freeganism. Even the title itself is positive publicity (click the title to read the story): 

Dumpster diving with purpose: Grand Rapids Freegans make political statement by searching through trash

Unfortunately, the majority of user comments on the page are rather negative. Maybe some of my readers can go and change that...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"You People Don't Look Like Criminals"

As many of you may know, we hosted our 7th monthly "Dumpster Ride and Freegan Meal" event on Saturday. We rescued a lot of food, as usual. In fact, we filled up most of our cargo capacity (including the space in two accompanying cars) at our very first stop. The event was a success in all aspects. After the ride, we had a party at our gracious friend Eric Michael's house and enjoyed the bounty of our harvest (and the company of his pet boa, René). (more pics here)

But we had an extra element of excitement in our event this month. As we were leaving our first supermarket stop, some of us noticed that a helicopter seemed to be following our small band of about 8 cyclists. Less than a mile down the road, we paused at a stoplight and were surrounded by police cars! The issue was that an employee of the store was there when we were and he called 911 to report theft. He thought that we were stealing the stock that they keep behind the fence next to the dumpsters. We never met the employee, but the cops we talked to made sure he knew that we were not stealing.

The officer who confronted us asked one of our friends to open a wine box that was mounted on his bike ("That box looks familiar", the cop said). It was a classic moment when the opened box revealed not bottles of wine, but dirty potatoes and lemons. The encounter was a little tense at first, but it relaxed quickly after the cop shared our disgust in the amount of food that goes to waste. He told us that his brother, who works for a large food warehouse company, tried to start an organization to redirect his company's food waste to needy people. The effort crumbled because of tough legal requirements and food standards. Millions of tons of edible food are still wasted every day. In that light, the officer said he could understand why we were dumpster diving. He had to remind us, though, that trespassing is illegal (which I am sure we all knew). At the store we first stopped at, the dumpsters are locked behind a fence near the loading dock, where new stock is also kept. When we climb under or over that razor topped fence, we are incurring the law and suspicion of theft, even though we are careful to never take anything but trash.

One of the first things our officer friend told us was that "You people don't look like criminals". My haughty mumbled response was, "That's because we're not". (To which he replied with a lecture on trespassing laws). The scenario reminded me of a video in which my friend Ashwyn encounters a security guard while dumpster diving. The guard is telling Ash to leave, saying, "It's illegal". Ash counters with, "It should be illegal to throw some of this stuff out". Seriously, who are the real criminals here? The people who break laws about private property in order to make good use of edible waste? Or perhaps it's the corporations who are breaking laws of humanity by denying people food. The huge amount of waste has a negative effect on the environment, and keeps millions of people hungry.

On another note... What exactly did the cop mean when he said that we didn't "look like criminals"? Was he referring to the fact that we weren't hiding (since we don't feel that we do anything wrong, we allow ourselves to stick out like sore thumbs)? Or did he say that because we were a group of white people on mediocre or nice bikes? Just some food for thought...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Freegan Flowers

First, I would like to report that the LA Catholic Worker 40th Anniversary Party was a blast! There will be pictures of the madness, I promise.

But for today, I would like to "consider the flowers". Here at the house, we have beautiful flower gardens in our yard. When I enjoy them, I am reminded that a number of the plants in the gardens were actually foraged from dumpsters by myself and Eric. There are three wonderful permanent "guests" who tend to the yard and they always appreciate bringing new things to life.

This flourishing fuchsia is one out of a box of 12 that Eric and I found in a supermarket bin a couple of months ago. Even the planter is "freegan", thanks to Alberto's clever use and painting of an old coffee can.  

We found these roses in a different dumpster about six months ago. They have bloomed twice so far.
The beautiful plant at the right was dry and suffering when we brought it home in October. It's now growing rapidly.
Last, but not least, I will display the first pictures of Eric's and my vegetable garden. These are beet sprouts, with pretty red stems! It's really exciting, watching life sprout from the dirt. If only more people could experience this natural wonder.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"Take Me Home"

The other night Eric and I were dumpster diving at our favorite place. This store has 6 dumpsters; usually 2 or 3 are full of fresh produce, dairy and other tasty treats. That night, we each got our own dumpster to ferret through for salvageable food. While I was knee deep in trash bags, oranges and discarded containers of yogurt, I saw a box full of intact oranges. On one of the side flaps, it was written "FREE - Please take me home". I loved the beauty of the moment. This ripped up and tossed away box, full of perfectly good fruit, called to us. It told us to do exactly what we were doing.

Yesterday, Eric and I planted a small vegetable garden on the LACW property. It felt wonderful to be working barefoot in the dirt again. I hadn't worked a garden since my time in Kenya in the beginning of 2009. Gardening is a very Freegan concept. If people would grow their own food, we wouldn't have the need for supermarkets and industrialized consumption. I have a feeling that there would be a lot less food waste.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Arlington West Santa Monica at CSULB

in Santa Monica^
I have spent the last two days on the campus of California State University - Long Beach supporting the peace movement and representing the Catholic Worker during the Arlington West event at the school. This memorial typically appears on the Santa Monica Pier each Sunday. Veterans for Peace, the movement behind the memorial, was asked to bring the display to CSULB this week.

CSU Long Beach ^
The display struck me as very powerful. It appeals to people of all persuasions as it remembers the misguided fallen soldiers, fellow citizens of our nation. It brings the battle home and makes the numbers personal. In addition to the crosses, there are displays with photos of the fallen US soldiers, pictures of wounded Americans and Iraqis, and a long list of Iraqi casualties. The whole project is very extensive and moving.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Meeting Up

My dumpster dry spell was finally broken on Saturday, when we held the 6th "Dumpster Ride and Freegan Meal". It was a successful event. The ride was nice, the meal delicious. Thanks to our friend Eric Micheal and his  roommates for sharing their kitchen with the group. For more pictures of the event, click here. We hosted another pair of student journalists, this time from USC. The above photo comes from the project of one of the USC girls who tagged along. More pictures from her collection can be found here.

A friend of mine who visited the LACW last summer has started a new Freegan Meetup in her hometown! I was ecstatic when she let me know, because I was the one who introduced her to dumpster diving and Freeganism while she was in LA. It's so rewarding that she took charge like that. It seems like the group is doing well. Here's a bit of advice for anyone seeking to start dumpster diving meetings: just be patient and consistent. It may be a little hard at first to get attendance, but the more you just keep meeting and passing word of mouth along, the more regular members you will attract.

Here at the house, we've been gearing toward the upcoming 40th anniversary party! It's pretty inspiring that this Los Angeles branch of an immensely positive movement is turning four decades old. many intentional communities can't last even half that. Even more inspiring is that Jeff and Catherine have both been here, keeping order, for the whole lifetime of the LACW. Wow.

I've been in Los Angeles for an entire year now and am still enjoying the experience. Sometimes I yearn for travel again and know that I cannot stay in one place forever. But I feel confident that I belong in this place for now. When it's time to move on, I will know.

That's all for now. Peace!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tag Teaming

Lately I have been too tired to go dumpster diving (gasp!), with my work and all the social activities we do. Eric has been so kind to me, letting me sleep while he goes out at 10 PM by himself or with a friend to rescue the free food. On Saturday night, he took our friend Gazi, a man who works in banking/finance and drives a BMW, on his second expedition. They came back with boxes of potatoes, hummus, ground beef, bread and more while I was snoozing on the couch. It's so cool that Gazi is as enthusiastic about dumpster diving as he is. His wife was surprised that he liked it so much, because she knows him as a conventional, clean, organized person. But he loves the idea of saving the food from landfill and getting it for free. I am pretty sure that he is as excited about the adventure of it as he is about the "ethics" behind it.

I haven't been out in a dumpster in almost two weeks! But that will change soon, if no sooner than Saturday. Our next dumpster ride is coming up. We are hoping to finally make this a monthly event. Hopefully, we can find a kitchen in time to keep the "freegan meal" aspect of the event. [yikes]

Til next time, let us tread lightly on the Earth!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dumpster in Peace

Busyness condemns us all. (Don't ask.) Where does the time go?

Just a quick "catch-up" for you all:

Two weekends ago now, we had our last Dumpster Meetup. Unfortunately, these events have not been as frequent as I would like them to be. We shall correct that as soon as our personal lives are stable enough. Ha. The last event was a "success". We had a good turnout for a non-bike event (between 12 and 15 people), found a goodly amount of food, hosted a friendly pair of student journalists and had no security run-ins. We did discover that yet another of our favorite bins was locked. Publicity for the deeds of Freeganism is a double-edged sword. We hope that the public will begin to think about the ramifications of a consumer- and material-based society and that businesses will be pressured into facing up to their waste. But it also means that stores are going to take measures to keep people like us from exposing their dirty secrets. We won't be able to live off of the waste forever; one way or another, it will become unavailable to us. Our hope, of course, is that there will be no more waste to pick through because resources will be used in the most efficient ways possible. That goal, realistically, is a long way away.

Above, at right is a picture from that event (note the mic in the foreground). For more, click here.

That same weekend (an insanely busy one, it was), Eric [holding the "P"], his daughter Celina [hiding behind the "C"] and I [with the green "A"] attended the "Palm Sunday Peace Parade" in Pasadena. It was an enjoyable event, family friendly and very peaceful. :) Pictures for that here.

Dumpster in Peace, ya'll.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Photo of the Day

Pretty Veggies. Can you believe this sort of high quality, healthy product is thrown away in enormous quantities every day?

Sorry for the bad, grainy quality. This is cellphone camera technology here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Just Living

I haven't been posting much recently, merely because I haven't had that much to say. I've just been doing the usual: serving the residents of Skid Row, protesting the wars, riding my bike, reading books and dumpster diving with the love of my life. Thinking deeply about life and all it entails has been a part of my recent activity, but I don't really know how to translate that into words at the moment. I also got a nasty sunburn from riding to the beach on Thursday, but who wants to hear about that?

Perhaps I will get the inspiration to write my thoughts soon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Comments on My Last Post

I just wanted to say that, after I posted my last blog post, I thought back and noticed the hypocrisy there. In the first line, I mention that I was "hit with a traffic ticket". A few days earlier, I had posted a rant about the insanity of cars. So, I am a hypocrite of a cyclist... yes, I drive. I would like to defend myself, since I do try to take my bike or public transit as often as possible. However, I realize that I'm more likely to ride as often as is comfortable. :( We all get sucked into the culture of our enviroment, however much we try to go against the grain.

Enough beating myself over the head.

On a more positive note, I would like to post an update about Homeboy Industries. On Tuesday, I went to an event at their headquarters. Father Greg Boyle, the founder and head honcho of Homeboy, has just written a book. The reading and signing was well attended and inspiring. I picked up a copy of the new book, "Tattoos on the Heart" and had it signed for the LACW community. I have only read the first few chapters and would already recommend it to readers of this blog. It's a collection of stories from Father Greg's more than 25 years of working with the gang-involved youth of Los Angeles.

Peace out.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Homeboy Industries

Recently I was hit with a traffic ticket (ugh) and was assigned community service to pay the fine. Because the Catholic Worker is not registered with the government as a tax-exempt nonprofit (see second half of this post), I could not do my hours at my normal "job" (which is itself a community service). So I chose Homeboy Industries, a nonprofit I only knew a little about. The most I knew was that a branch of Homeboy makes all the T-shirts and keychains for the LACW.

I learned much about the nonprofit in my four Mondays there. It's a gang intervention program and much more. Here's a little snippet from the "history" section of their website.

Homeboy Industries traces its roots to “Jobs For A Future” (JFF), a program created in 1988 by Father Gregory Boyle while he was serving as pastor of Dolores Mission parish in Boyle Heights. Begun as a jobs program in 1988, offering alternatives to gang violence in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city, the program soon grew beyond the parish.
With the addition of a small bakery in a run-down warehouse across the street from Dolores Mission, JFF had its own business, one where it could hire the most challenging, difficult to place young people in a safe environment. The hope was that they could learn both concrete and soft job skills, to make them stronger, better prepared candidates for permanent employment. A tortilla stand in Grand Central Market downtown solidified the evolution of JFF into Homeboy Industries.

Today was my last day of community service at Homeboy, and I was a little sad for it. I feel like I just started to get to know the place, in its many facets, and the great group of people who work there. I heard a testimony of one of the homeboys this morning, who told his life story with passion. It's still "therapeutic" for him, he told the group of white students he was leading on a tour of the huge Homeboy headquarters. He spoke of his childhood and his journey from there to gang-banging, in and out of jail and, eventually, to Homeboy Industries, where he was offered a job and a chance to change his life around. It was an inspiring story, to say the least. But Brian is just one of the hundreds of such stories to be heard at Homeboy. Kudos to the work of Father Boyle.

There are so many issues, so much pain in the world. What can we do to make some kind of small difference where we have the chance?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Among Broken Glass

I wrote this poem months ago in response to a dream I had about rejection and being homeless.

Among Broken Glass
Merrick Street, my old friend,
you house my feet as I queue
for the sustenance I once served
Joining the many other tattered souls,
whose collective  suffering is a heavy brick
crushing my ribs and imprisoning my breath

Tonight I will crawl into a concrete bed
with the smog as my only blanket
and the door of a trash bin's cage as my wall
The dumpster - no longer my playpen,
but my home
Rejection is the foul stench
making my heart ill

On my hands and knees among broken glass
strewn about the sidewalk
(my wilderness)
Slivered shards of lonely desperation
penetrate and pierce my deepest soul

The irony of loneliness jeers at me
as I am surrounded by numerous other "unfortunates"
whose smiling spirits often outshine their pain
I am still an isolated castoff
Overlooked by the crowds (just "surviving")
as I drown a dry emotional death

a gentle brush of skin on my skin
shifts my focus
And I am tumbling upward out of this hell
into a soft bed
where an undeserved love lies unmoving
undisturbed by my dark internal struggle
His eyes locked safely behind his eyelids
unable to see the nightmare from which I have woken.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Why Cars?

Last week when we were doing our weekly anti-war vigil procession around the downtown federal building complex, I decied to count cars. I counted for about 10 or 15 minutes while we were walking. My estimated tally of cars driving down Alameda Blvd in that period is 300. I counted around a dozen buses, 6 Metro trains and 3 bicycles. That's 1 cyclist for every 100 motorists. Most of the cars held only the driver. It made me hope for a day when cyclists outnumber cars. Motor vehicles are so big and need so much more fuel to power than a bicycle does. Why do we need cars anyway? They take so many more resources to create and to function.

I am reminded of Cuba in the 90's, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Cuba's source of fossil fuels was drastically cut off, and so they had to adapt. The country's agriculture changed significantly to reduce the use of petroleum products. Cars were forsaken and traded for bicycles. The face of transportation was transformed simply because there was no longer a source of cheap fuel. Check out the documentary "The Power of Community" for more info about that page of Cuba's history.

Someday the rest of the nations will have to face that same situation. I say we adjust now, before we are forced into an unfamiliar lifestyle by circumstance instead of choice.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fruit and Photos

Last night we had the video potluck showing of the Howard Zinn documentary "The People Speak". Because the event was hosted by our Dumpster Diving Meetup, we went out dumpstering after the meal, film and discussion were over.

It took a long time until the employees were finished closing up, but it was worth the standing around and hiding. While we were waiting, we watched from the shadows as workers dumped three shopping carts of fruit into the bin. There was no way that we could use it all, so we took what we could handle. There were a lot of other items in a different store's dumpster to give us a nice variety to "shop" from.

A box of fruit that hold perhaps a tenth or less of the fruit we saw thrown out.
A selection of colorful veggies.
Our bread box and a strategically placed pie.
The must-refrigerate items, including many boxes of fancy Brie cheese.