Down in
The Dumps

There is a garbage truck in my winter town of Puerto Perdido which is your standard 1960s trash truck except painted across the front bumper are the words "Viejo Amigo" (Old Friend).

It is an old and smelly friend, and for some reason they've wired a doll up to the grill. It's only half-a-doll: head, torso, arms, no legs --- one of those dolls with eyes that close when you lay it down.

I believe it's an appropriate symbol of our city-sponsored garbage collection effort, because the garbage men are only half there. They've apparently been on strike since last winter, but like most things Mexican, it's a half-assed strike because if you pay them 50 pesos or so, they'll come over and haul away your leavings. Otherwise, they are nowhere to be found.

For that reason, we've gone into the garbage business ourselves. Every week or so we bag up our banana peels and coffee grounds and egg-shells and dead dogs and other unmentionables and haul them over to the Puerto Perdido garbage dump just north of town.

There are many beesties there: a dozen fat goats, a multitude of frazzled hounds, a million or so flies who try to fly in your mouth and nose and make you want to hurry and get the hell out of there.

There are gulls picking at the rotten oranges and potatoes, hopping about over the yanked-out strands of cassette tape which decorate everything like ticker tape. There are even lovely white egrets, the upper class matrons of the dumpster set, with their thin, delicate necks --- stepping about hither and yon, sneering at the goats and the hounds.

There are also forty or fifty buzzards over there with their funny little leathery heads picking at something dumped atop the construction dust, going after something red and stringy and so fly-infested that you and I don't want to think about nor even guess what it may be.

There's always the smoke --- that vague burning mistral that is hanging about, day and night. If you arrive in the dump when the westerlies are working, the smoke folds around your nostrils, gets in your eyes, makes the head swim. It's a a profound smell --- a heady aroma that melts the linings of the olfactory nerves, takes over your vision, creates rumblings in the lungs, starts etching its way into your very soul, bringing you to a near-fatal swoon.

It's a smell that brings to mind instantly that graffiti in the Shell Station Men's Room in Tucumcari, New Mexico --- the one that said, It's all right to breathe through your nose (it wasn't). Or maybe it reminds one of that song my sister used to sing when we were kids,

    My man's a garbage man
    He drives a garbage truck
    He smells like garbage all the T-I-M-E time.
    Some day in future life
    I'll be his garbage wife
    And I'll smell like garbage all the T-I-M-E time.

With the smoke and the air rich with dead pig --- there always seem to be a few of these lying about, and their rank scent has a special piquancy --- our local trash-heap probably has what the wine aficionados would call a "distinctive nose," one unlike any to be found in the more fashionable parts of the world. I mean, I've done dumps in Paris and Rome and San Francisco and London, and I have to say that this one takes the cake.

If one day they decide to have a Competition for The World's Most Odoriferous Dumps, I am going to be first to nominate the Puerto Perdido Basurero Municipal for the

Garbage Pile of the Year

--- Carlos Amantea

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