I’m not a single female. Happily married, see? (waggles ring finger.) But I’m the only female in this house. So why am I head-down in the trash can? How did taking out the garbage become a gendered job? Should I feel like I’m doing the gentlemen (Mr Husband and The Boy) a big fat favor when I’m taking out the trash? Should I get annoyed when it’s still sitting here in the kitchen? Who died and made me the Boss of Everything?
Uh. No one. Of course, I wouldn’t be alone in thinking that taking out the trash is the man’s job. Check out these marriage experts, and this one, and even these knuckleheads who have strong opinions about the Taking Out of the Trash. Looks like everyone has some thoughts on the matter.
Amusing, but that’s not really our point today. I take out the trash as much as anyone else. It all depends who’s home when it’s full. But more important — it’s not just trash. We have a system of what goes where. Actual real garbage (which includes nasty bathroom stuff, old Band-aids and soiled plastics) is not much in existence at this house (apartment). We have a 1-gallon can in the kitchen that is lined with a small plastic grocery bag and is rarely even filled. One of us takes it down every week or so to the gray can. The gray can is usually pretty empty. We could get away with once-a-month service. Not so for the green and blue cans.
Everything else gets sorted and either composted or recycled. Broken glass? Recycled.
Old clothes? Used for rags, then recycled.
Empty paint can? Recycled.
Paint can with some paint left over? Taken to Alameda County Industries for household hazardous waste disposal. (Free!)
Plastic bags? Collected and returned to grocery stores.
Sometimes people (I won’t name names) put the wrong thing in the trash. Bottle caps, for example, are recyclable. Don’t throw them in the garbage. How long do you think it takes a metal can or bottle cap to decompose in “garbage,” aka landfill? About 50 years. More or less.
Julia Park Tracey is an Alameda eco-freak, writer, author, editrix and conservatrix of her great-aunt’s diaries from the 1920s. You can read more about Julia’s green-ventures at modernmuse.blogspot.com or follow her at facebook/julia.tracey. Her diary project is online at twitter/thedorisdiaries.
“Please, Mom, we need some childhood memories!” my offspring have been known to plead, trying to guilt-trip me into acquiring a fur-bearing mammal or taking a road trip to Alaska or cooking something other than spaghetti à la Costco for dinner.
What they mean, of course, is not that they lack memories—they just don’t have the picture-perfect kind depicted in English novels about five charming siblings who live in a quaint old mansion and solve an improbable number of mysteries.
I know where they’re coming from—I’m coming from there, too. Unlike other space-age spawn raised on the Spocks (Dr., Mr.), I never wanted to go to Mars; I wanted to go to Middlemarch. Mine was a childhood with too much time, by most American standards, devoted to reading lace-collar novels (The Secret Garden, Jane Eyre, Gone with the Wind, every last blessed volume by Louisa May Alcott) and not enough to fashioning tinfoil hats. The story of my fiction-obsessed life: Remembrance of Things (Not Actually Part of My) Past.
No surprise, then, that I’m immersed in the tsunami of Titanic centennial commemorations this month. On my side of the family, we lack the antibody that makes you immune to nostalgia for events you didn’t actually experience (and that, in some cases, never even happened—for example, the pretty cross-class love affair at the center of James Cameron’s top-grossing blockbuster).
So I’m all over the bodice-ripper details of the North Atlantic tragedy that took down the largest, fastest, supposedly most unsinkable ship that had ever been built. On, no less, her maiden voyage. The Astors and the Strauses, the 13 honeymooning couples, the 1,000 oyster forks, the 1,500 Champagne glasses, the tinkle of privileged laughter. Refresh your libation, madam? You only go around once, you know.
Perhaps the story’s plunging arc limns a cautionary tale about what English professors invariably term “overweening pride,” usually while lecturing about the very pre- Titanic tragedy, Oedipus Rex. (Those ancient Greeks were all about nipping O.P. in the bud, may they R.I.P.) Maybe we should view the smash-up as a comment on social class, an epic episode of “Upstairs, Downstairs,” in which 75 percent of those Downstairs die, compared to only 37 percent Upstairs. Or maybe the apt headline is simply “Another Random Act of Unkindness (Make of It What You Will).”
Speaking of death (and aren’t we always, really?), one of the striplings and I once took in an exhibit of Titanic memorabilia where we were assigned the names of real-life passengers—a clever ploy to make us feel the disaster on a visceral level. In the end, we were told, we’d find out whether we’d lived or died.
We lived. Now that was an afternoon to remember.
Autumn Stephens & Sarah Weld
Autumn: I’m more of a loner; Sarah’s more of an extrovert. Three years ago, when I was hired as her co-editor, her first thought, she says, was something like “Yay! Now I don’t have to do this all by myself!” My first thought was “Yay! Now I have a job!” My second thought: “How the heck is this going to work?”
Sarah: Collaborate sounds a lot like the word “elaborate,” which means: one, to expand on a topic, and two, to take something over the top, over and above, fancy schmancy. The idea of collaboration gives me comfort; it means I have company in figuring things out, and getting it done—it’s more than just my brain figuring it out. Together, we are one really smart person.
AS: For me, the scary part of job collaboration is relinquishing control. (As Elia Kazan said, “I think there should be collaboration, but under my thumb.”) And the fun part? Relinquishing control.
SW: In an average day we confer, discuss, exchange, share, bounce off, check in, switch off, take turns, agree, disagree, convince, concur, overrule, concede, don’t understand, understand. And somehow we end up with a printed magazine—the result of our two melded minds (now that’s an alarming idea).
AS: Janus was a two-headed dog, also a two-headed god. Does that make a total of two heads, or four? Between us, we might have up to eighteen different opinions about any given thing.
SW: Every month, we come up with cover lines, those very short, hopefully witty, eye-catching teaser titles on the magazine’s cover. We brainstorm separately, and then together. It takes us a while to talk it out; we end up keeping a little of Sarah and a little of Autumn and a lot of both of us in the finished product.
AS: We both are vitally interested in the writing that we edit—the content, the style. For every story that you see in print, each of us has read and edited several drafts. Of course we bring our individual strengths and aversions to this task—Sarah is president of the “Make It Clear” club, and I’m chair of the “Some Visual Details, Please” society; I could write goofy photo captions all day and Sarah can spot an extra space or a backwards quotation mark from 10 miles away.
SW: By the end we often can’t remember who thought of the original idea. This push and pull, forward and back, tug and nudge and squish, is how we create together—ideas flying and drifting around the room like so many winged things (or gnats).
AS: The nuts-and-bolts definition of collaborate: “to labor together”— “labor” in this sense obviously unrelated to childbirth. Although wouldn’t it be nice if that particular task could be shared? “Book a birthing suite for two!” But I digress. Geez, where’s an editor when you need one?