Saturday, December 29, 2012

Inventory # 9

Saturday, December 29, 2012
25˚ Sunny

rubber stamps (one of a church another that said 'Save the Rainforests')
soft black play horse head without pole for riding
childs tricycle
month-long green plastic pill box
books including
"The Nancy Drew Files  - Fatal Attraction" by Carolyn Keene
"The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Freidan
"Hunters and Horrors - 10 Grisly Tales"
"The Atlantic Monthly - Diamond Jubilee Issue" from 1932 (Goddard High School stamped on it)
books in Russian
"The Anatomy of Dependence" by Takeo Doi
"Marx and Engels - Basic writing about politics and philosophy"
"Patterns in Western Ciivilization"
"The Trembling Leaf" by John Colleton
"The Souls of Black Folk" by W.E.B. Dubois
Christmas wreath
red, blue, and gold round Christmas tree ornaments
tall beer glasses with Have Fun! Pat Obrien's New Orleans, Louisiana printed on them
glass vases
wicker magazine rack
many children's vhs movies including "Beauty and the Beast"
vhs of Bob Ross No. 3
belt for a hernia
Enjoy Sarajevo 1995 in Coca-Cola design with year calendar on back
many pairs of shoes
soccer ball paper weights
swiveling lounge chair

Friday, December 28, 2012

Nourishing the Body, Mind, and Sense of Wonder: Economies of good will in Lawrence

Give Take Give is focused on the free flow of goods and the meandering current of people that run through and eddy around the dumpster behind the Social Service League, but this isn’t the only place to find evidence of an alternative economy in Lawrence. In fact, when you recalibrate your notion of what an economy is supposed to look like, to include markets that don’t assume a quid pro quo, many more instances of gift or exchange economies become apparent. Below, are a few of my favorites.

The Fruit Tree Project
The Lawrence Fruit Tree Project is just a few years old but is deeply rooted in the often touted American ethic of self-reliance, although the ‘self’ in this case should be prefaced by ‘neighborhood’ or ’community,’ since the project is aimed to benefit many more than the individual.  Led by Byron Wiley, Skyler Adamson, Eric Farnsworth and Jason Hering with the volunteer help of many more, the project has begun to restore what was once common - harvesting fruit from trees right here in town.  In just a few years, a dazzling variety of trees have been planted including a small orchard at 13th and Garfield. But before an apple or plum or pawpaw or persimmon or mulberry or elderberry or hazelnut or cornuskousa or jujube or Turkish hazel or gumiberry or juneberry or peach or Asian pear or European pear or tart cherry or Siberian peashrub could be legally picked, the city needed to be persuaded to change an old statute that outlawed the act considered until then as “Harming Plants.”

Preparing to plant the orchard    photo by E. Hampton
In June of 2011, statute 14-303 was changed.  But free right from the tree prompts questions for the hungry passerby used to paying cash for their produce. If the trees are planted in public, who owns and takes care of them? How much fruit can a person take? What happens to extra fruit? 

Harvesting peaches
The answer is that we who harvest the pears and paw paws and enjoy the shade and beauty of these growing trees are all implicated in their welfare. If we neglect them or take them for granted, they may die. If we hoard all the fruit for ourselves, others won’t have any. If there is an abundance, we need to pass it on or it will rot. In the clearest most practical way, restoring orchards to our commons illuminates and revitalizes the adage that ‘We share the fruits of our labor.’

The Little Library
The small free-standing book kiosk near the corner of 17th and Indiana holds only about thirty books. Not much of a selection until you actually browse the titles, which range from intriguing novels “ Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foers, to political manifestos “Civil Disobedience and Other Essays” by Henry David Thoreau, to Beat poetry “Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems” by Gary Snyder, all of them a reflection of the library’s chief curator, CJ Brune. 

CJ and her husband Bill decided to make this little library after seeing a tv story about others doing the same in different parts of the country. It wasn’t such a stretch for them, since they have maintained a community library and meeting space inside their home for many years. By extending their collection and creating a branch of sorts outside, they hoped to attract the student, neighbor, delivery person, or meter reader who might not feel as comfortable knocking on their door. 

Architecturally, the house shaped structure invites the curious by differentiating itself from other freestanding boxes for mail, newspapers, or bill collection. And if there was any doubt about its purpose, CJ’s son Gregor (a librarian by profession) has decorated its walls with painted vignettes that show a flamingo reading Darwin, a young man reading Aldous Huxley, and a goat reading Don Quixote. But even with this open invitation, the freedom to take a book still catches me off guard. I can’t help feeling a little bit like I’m stealing, which I’m sure says a lot about my indoctrination into the ideology of the market economy and private property. 

The truth is that the success of this little library depends on us taking the books, reading them, sharing the stories they tell, and then returning the same or different titles for others to enjoy. The more we use the library, the greater its impact, and not only as a place to find reading material but also as a place to find company. The book kiosk and its modest assortment of titles act in a way like a watering hole for readers, attracting hungry minds to browse. And since this activity is happening in public, chance meetings occur, conversations arise, and people who once passed each other without even a nod become familiar, adding a new link to the chain of relationships that give texture to the neighborhood.

You’ve arrived in Funkytown  (somewhere in Old West Lawrence tucked into a small bamboo grove) when you see the tiny banner, hanging over the menagerie of colorful curiosities, announcing its name and the straightforward suggestion, “Take something. Leave Something.”

The majority of offerings at this shrine / free flea market seem to be oriented toward young people – small toys, game pieces and other curios. That feels right since kids are most in tune with idea of gifts, their potential for storytelling, and how they signify bonds between people. After all, most kids don’t have credit cards or cash on hand to buy things. They are indebted to their caretakers and friends for both practical necessities and diversions.  The gifts they give are gifts received and then passed on or ones made by their own hands. 

That’s why at first glance, Funkytown might seem like just a jumble of broken bits and abandoned toy parts. It’s only when we begin to see the trinkets and random offerings from a kid’s perspective that we understand that those knickknacks are only as meaningful as we are imaginative. Their value is in direct proportion to the stories they carry and the stories we create for them. Like the Ruby Slippers in the Wizard of Oz, the magic of the stuff at Funkytown stagnates without our active conjuring.

Fruit, books, and toys, are the goods that move through these alternative exchanges. They nourish the body, mind, and sense of wonder, but their greatest value may be in how our giving and taking of them binds us together in new relationships predicated on good will, trust, and long-term reciprocity. By sharing and maintaining an orchard, a library, and a ‘funkytown,’ we challenge the assumption that chaos will ensue without strictly enforced rules that govern how goods are used and distributed. 

What connects these three endeavors is their insistence on being public, free, and relatively unsupervised.  They encourage a flow of good will against the prevailing current of anxiety and suspicion that’s led to building ever higher fences and installing security cameras on every corner. All three are cared for by a loose affiliation of those of us who frequent them and are therefore vulnerable to our misuse. In other words, there is risk inherent in trust.  The trees will die without our care, the library will be empty if we don’t refresh the books, Funkytown will become a mere spectacle if we don’t participate, and the dumpster behind the League will return to being filled with garbage if we don’t renew the source of its wealth. They all rely on collaboration and an extended network of givers and takers in order to thrive. If all we do is take and not give, they will disappear. If all we do is give and not take, they will become overwhelmed and unmanageable. We provide the current that moves things along.

Monday, November 26, 2012

NPR story - Give and Take

 I heard this story on Morning Edition today. It describes the 'social rule of reciprocation' and how it appears to influence our behavior whenever we're given gifts - even by strangers. The story doesn't quite get into the idea of gift economies but does talk about our inclination to create ties with people through a cycle of gifts - not unlike what happens at the Social Service League dumpster.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Inventory #8

Inventory #8
Friday, November 16th
4:30 pm
Sunny about 58˚

at least three pairs of sweatpants
assorted sweatshirts
turkey shaped couch pillow
tabletop children's soccer game
heavily used black converse low-tops
Yamaha electronic Porta Sound keyboard
"Trail of Broken Promises" stickers
one baby doll intact
one baby doll head
twenty-five unused Wildcarrotherbal small paper sacks
yellow plastic box filled with green plastic army men
snow globe with snowman lying on his side at the bottom
Lawrence Peace and Justice Coalition November newsletter
Fischer Price pink piggy bank (empty)
size 8m brown Bass shoes with wedge heel
wicker bowls
Budweiser Good Sport red party beads
package of 800 gold sequins
assorted small children's toys 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Inventory #7

Coming back to Lawrence after two months in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, I found the dumpster filled to the brim with a mix of trash and treasures. I also learned that construction of the Marriott hotel fifteen feet to the west of the dumpster would begin just as soon as the site was tested for remains of victims of Quantrill's Raid. It's true, the corner of 9th & New Hampshire was, in 1856, the planned building site of St. Lukes AME Church. Before construction began back then, the Raid occurred and some believe that African-American soldiers who had been killed in the fighting were buried in a trench that had been laid out for the building.

If remains are found, construction would be slowed and possibly put on hold until a full investigation of the site was completed. This being close to Halloween, I can only imagine what might happen if the contractors went ahead with building the hotel on top of such a significant grave site.

Inventory #7
Saturday, October 27th
5:00 pm
sunny about 43˚

In the dumpster
brightly colored crocheted infant jumper
Cannonball Splash waterslide
small orange life jacket
black Aqua Socks
t-strap women's black flats size 4 1/2
"Murder on the Orient Express" by Agatha Chrisite
red cardigan baby sweater
lime green plastic coffee cup
two large Snoopy-like stuffed animal dogs
small women's black cardigan sweater

"The Ocean" book from Scientific American
Madonna's "Bette Davis Dub" cassette
large Gap green sweater
infant "Hunny" play seat
9" x 12" Frederic canvas board
unopened fruit-themed decorative wallpaper border
soiled white leather purse
cd/cassette portable audio system with speakers
cut Canna Lily plants that had been growing next to the dumpster
lots more at the bottom of the dumpster that I couldn't get to

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Inventory #6

Inventory #6
Monday, July 31
8:30 pm 95˚

In the dumpster
White plastic shelves
Black & white studded belt
Rock Band for XBox 360
Box of clothes and shoes
Desk lamp
Gnarly gray comforter
Empty box of Trojan Ecstasy condoms with fire & ice lubricant
Emergency Services documents for someone with kidney stones
Painkiller prescription receipts for ibuprofen, ondansetron, and oxycodone
Addiction handouts for person charged with OUI
CD's including -
Paradise Fears - Yours Truly
Panic at the Disco
All Time Low - Dirty Work
food garbage

On the ground near the dumpster
Two office chairs
One stool
Sunbeam breadmaker
X-mas decorations
Wedding cake bride & groom decoration
Ceramic duckling pot

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Inventory #5

Inventory #5
Saturday, July 14, 2012
6:30 pm about 95˚

This was the first time I set up the "Ask me about Give Take Give" table next to the dumpster. In the hour or so I was there, about fifteen people stopped by and many had stories about particularly meaningful things they had found.

Jean Ann Pike, current manager of the Social Service League, said that years ago, before she worked at the League, she found a framed quotation that read "I believe God can teach me how to swim without floaties." It's been prominently displayed in her house ever since, she said.
In the dumpster
one fresh cantaloupe in good condition
many many small plastic toy figurines
two Barbies without heads
two Barbie hair do's
one frying pan
one stuffed cat pillow
two suitcases
assorted clothes
one pair of beaded moccasins
pine bough snowflake decorations
old 'Nation' magazines

"Serenity" art work by Michelle Beechower 2008
giant Nerf gun
trimmed tree branches
kids mini boogie board
fake plum
large baby doll leg
baby doll
Elmo toy
random playing cards
faux leopard fur patterned box

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Inventory #4

Inventory #4
Sunday, July 8, 2012
3:00 pm about 90˚

In the dumpster
small black plastic dragon
Where's Waldo puzzle
Harry Potter board game
Blues Clues board game
Monopoly board
rollerblade shin and elbow guards
2008 GPRC FFB Champ Football trophy
Dolly Parton's 2007 Dixie Stampede Collector Series plastic cowboy boot cup
Where in the World is Carmen San Diego board game
clothes hangers
oval picture frame
decorative dove ornament
baby doll
undetermined garbage
battery operated toy Sandtire jeep
snowflake/candycane xmas platter

Near the dumpster on the ground
two large cork bulletin boards
box of assorted computer hardware / software / cell phones
Nerf hoop
coffee mugs from KCUR, Beloit Farmers Co-op, Scott Specialty Glass, World's Greatest Golfer,  Cutler Hammer Directrol-2, heart design
pillow with plaid cover
small fan
hiking boots size 10
Cloudforce remote controlled helicopter from Brookstone

Monday, July 2, 2012

Inventory #3

This inventory took place two days after the Lawrence City Commission approved developer's proposal to build a Marriott hotel right across the alley from the dumpster. The potential of the hotel being built was one of the reasons I began Give Take Give. My concern was and is that initial construction and long term imposition of the building will dramatically change the use of the alley adjacent to the dumpster by impeding easy access to the exchange and permanently damaging the social environment that has developed there. 

Inventory #3
Thursday, June 28, 2012
8:45 pm clear and about 95˚

More than fifty complete sewing patterns form McCalls, Easy Sew, and Simplicity for everything from children's clothes to more adult formal wear.
Two boxes of slightly dented but unopened cans of vegetables, fruits, and soup
Pair of gray women's jeans size 9
Two pairs of men's dress shoes
Red wire basket with heart decoration
Bunny candle
Wine glass
Small flower vase
"Bless Thee" turkey table decoraton
Eight foot long Happy Birthday banner drawn (probably by kids) with markers 
KCUR glass beer/coffee mug
Paperback books including:
"The Boys From Brazil" by Ira Levin
"The Tin Can Tree" by Anne Tyler
"The Mammoth Hunters" and "The Clan of the Cave" by Jean M. Auel
"You Can't Go Home Again" by Thomas Wolfe
 "O" and "Field and Stream" magazines

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Inventory #2

Inventory #2
Sunday, June 24, 2012
6:30 pm on a clear day about 100˚

The dumpster was pretty full with a mix of unfortunate smelling garbage and more usable things. I poked around and sifted through what I could reach. Here's what I found.
This photo doesn't capture the unfortunate smell coming from deep within the pile.
Large inflatable pool floaters (pink, clear, striped)
Cardboard box full of mostly empty rock cd cases
Box of wine glasses and coffee mugs
Two garbage bags full of clothes including blue t-shirts with old Bourgeois Pig logo and one black t-shirt with a Naked Lunch / Burroughs design
Four mens suit jackets in good condition
19 inch television
Broken brown office chair
One pair of mens black slippers
One pair of mens brown dress shoes
Baby animal childrens book
Bad smelling garbage jumble

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Inventory #1

As part of the Give Take Give project, I'll be keeping close track of the the stuff that's circulating through this unique free economy.

Below is the first inventory I have done of the dumpster's contents and area next to it. I'll be fiddling with the format of these inventories in the weeks to come, but basically I'm trying to list all the things I can see in and around the dumpster without actually getting in to it or emptying it out. Each of these inventories will be accompanied by photos taken during my observation.

Inventory #1 
June 12, 2012
about 3:00 pm on a bright clear day, about 85˚

In the dumpster
shattered full-length mirror in fuscia colored frame
pair of large navy blue denim shorts
pair of large black sunglasses
scattered puzzle pieces of unknown design
Panasonic cd / radio receiver without speakers
styrofoam cup
one aluminum soda can
one empty Camel Blue cigarette pack

Looking into the dumpster, June 12, 2012

On the ground near the dumpster
one pair of hiking boots size 7 mens
one pair of World Industries kids sneakers
unopened large teddy-bear wax candle
unopened box of Paperoni
unopened box of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer tiny ornaments
large box of unopened Corpak Farrell enternal gastric pressure relief system valves and super valves
assorted unopened snapshot metal picture frames
unopened Royals gift items
other unopened decorative gifty things

Next to the dumpster, June 12, 2012