This. Is an update.

People (Alex) keep telling me that I need to actually update this thing.

So let’s do that.

Charles, the buddiest of my buddies, visited this weekend, and it was a glorious experience. Besides getting thoroughly… engorged, shall we say, on SoCo (and then, appropriately enough, wandering through SoHo), we basically hung out like old times, which was a delight. I try not to make this blog too much like a priss-ass journal that no one gives a crap about, so I’ll offer this sage wisdom to you, my faithful readers: I’ve found that I’ve often been down on myself this semester about what my life seems to have become. Apathy, boredom, perhaps an inordinate amount of fucked-upedness, a general loss of faith in myself and how I relate to my friends… Basically the whole shebang, if you will. But when Charles visited, I kind of came to realize something. He kept talking about how much he was enjoying New York City, NYU, and hanging out with my friends and me. It reminded me a bit of when school started and everything seemed so fresh and exciting, which made me realize that my life is, you know, pretty much damn awesome. I go to an amazing school, have sweet-ass friends, have a lot of fun without needing to stress too much about work and the like (though, perhaps a bit more stress wouldn’t kill me)… It’s not a bad setup, really.

So. The sage wisdom. I guess try not to be an emo turd and appreciate what you have? That seems pretty good.

Today, my mini “student issue” feature on Freegans was published on NYU Bytes, my journalism class’s ghetto Blogger page that my professor treats as if it was some sort of professional setup that will open the door to the land of internships. I’m writing a completely different, expanded piece for Manhattan South magazine, but if you’re interested, you can certainly whet your appetite on this. Here is a link (some of the other stories are pretty good, also), but I’ll also reprint it here because I wrote it God damn it.

Dumpster-Diving: Hobo Practice or Political Statement?

By Damon Beres

It’s 9:30 p.m. when dinner is served for Damian Leslie. A hunched old man labors to bring the massive feast to him and it takes several trips just to haul it all out. No, it’s not Thanksgiving, nor is Leslie about to devour a ten-course meal. In fact, he may not get to eat anything at all; the meal he’s waiting on is buried in heaps of garbage delivered to a street corner by an employee of Gristedes Supermarket in Manhattan.

Most people probably associate sifting through trash with the homeless or poor. But so-called “freegans” turn dumpster diving into a political movement. Eating discarded food items from groceries and restaurants has been turned into a demonstration for better waste management and environmental policies, complete with rallies, “trash tours,” and a website called Freegan.info to provide information and freegan networking.

“I’ve been doing it since ’98 or ’99,” said Leslie. “It facilitates a cheap lifestyle. I like to travel a lot throughout the U.S., hitchhiking or using free modes of transportation.”

For many college students, the thought of free meals probably seems appealing. Meal plans at any university take a big bite out of students’ already hurting wallets, and there are other environmental concerns to take into account, as NYU freshman Alex Hart describes.

“I think a large amount of food waste is generated by the dining halls, and I’d really like to see some system go into order to either reduce that or put it to use somehow,” said Hart. “I know they officially discourage people from taking more than they can eat in the dining halls but I’ve never really seen that enforced in any formal way.”

Nevertheless, the thought of turning to dumpsters and refuse for every meal may be difficult to choke down, especially at a school like NYU where there are 12 different locations to use the meal plan. But freegans can make an impact in other ways, and they don’t necessarily need to eat rotten eggs mixed in with used diapers to get a meal. Leslie works at a food co-op, a grocery store that gives its workers food instead of cash, which he says embodies the DIY, or “do-it-yourself,” spirit, “a cornerstone of freegans.”

Blair Ednie, a freegan from the New School, also integrates a host of waste-reducing, eco-friendly alternatives into his life that those too squeamish to dumpster dive might consider. “My goal as a freegan is to limit my destruction of the environment, which I take to mean the world as a whole,” said Ednie. “I do this by reducing my personal waste and the waste of others, and by boycotting as many products as possible, which removes the economic incentive for those who produce them, and by riding a bike instead of driving, using a handkerchief instead of disposable tissues, patching my pants instead of buying new ones.”

And a number of organizations exist to help any and all interested parties reduce their waste production. The Freegan Bike Workshop, for instance, offers a host of mechanics that assist people in repairing and constructing bicycles for no cost (“come out and get a free bicycle, anyone” the website proclaims). Meetings occur every Wednesday from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. and every Saturday from 2:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Located at 123 Community Space in Brooklyn on 123 Tompkins, the bike workshop is seated in the heart of the freegan community, where an array of freegan-favorite grocery stores are also located. Leslie himself is from Brooklyn and says that many freegans congregate there.

However, there are also a number of locations in Manhattan and elsewhere that are sympathetic to the cause, like Bluestockings, a “radical bookstore” on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, which has an organic café and stocks everything from books to “alternative menstrual products and other oddly hard-to-find good things.”

With a mounting garbage crisis in New York City and the popularization of “going green,” the freegan way is one worth considering. From baby steps like patching pants to the sheer glory of inhaling discarded fish bits, freeganism offers a variety of ways to better the urban jungle you live in. And for students, it may even offer a little peace of mind, as well.

“Being freegan helps me to feel like I am actually accomplishing something in my own way, and I don’t have to make concessions,” said Ednie. “I don’t have to despair at feeling one thing and doing another. I can live my beliefs.”

Voila. Who knew, right? Speaking of freegans, though, I’m way behind on my Manhattan South deadline (go figure!) and should probably get up on that. But, uh, I’ve been thinking about a pretty massive Sonic Youth-related update in the near future, so hopefully that will materialize.

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2 Responses to “This. Is an update.”

  1. I wanted to visit you too!
    Come May, you will be mine again and I’ll be whole again.

  2. I am honored

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