Relay: Fathers and Sons at the Dump

But Sunday arrived, time presented itself, the dump beckoned

   Nostalgia, Platonic love, and a church-like experience would hardly be on the average man’s mind when contemplating a routine excursion to the East Hampton Town dump. Now the dump is referred to as the East Hampton Town recycling center. But Sunday arrived, time presented itself, the dump beckoned.
    Cardboard boxes, a damaged plastic storage container, a toy lightsaber, a carved wooden handle, a child’s club with a note of the aboriginal: These artifacts would make their final departure to the unknown.
    The way Henry, Lane, and Morgan Jr. had swung those extendable plastic “Star Wars” swords on the lawn, it was unlikely this one still glowed the way it once had.
    And that old black jacket never did bring me much luck. Some of that Kmart clothing can be like that.
    Other things would be loaded into the Ford truck: a small amount of unruly sweepings from the driveway, some remnants of the annual winter wood-splitting massacre, a half-baked lampshade, a book concerning Donald Trump, two empty wine bottles, a destroyed pair of L.L. Bean tropical-weight shorts. Can’t be seen in shorts like those around this place anymore.
    All would make it via the 2004 Ford Ranger two-wheel-drive truck to their final resting place at the town dump.
    How many great memories can one location hold for a person? Seems like yesterday when I refused to allow my father to ride along with me on the weekly dump excursion. The air temperature was hovering around 92 degrees and heading upward; August heat had set in like a wildcat’s claw.
    I told my dad that he was not coming to the dump with me, and that was final. I told him, “What do you want, to drop dead of the heat at the East Hampton Town dump?” He was dressed in his usual bona fide safari jacket, nylon pants circa 1965, thin Christmas socks, and clean sneakers. Dad was closer to 90 years of age on that day than he was to 80.
    He was very mad about the whole thing. I explained to the man, “Your obituary headline will be ‘Judge Dies at Dump.’ ” Some sharp newspaper person might point out what a total idiot the son was, taking his aging father to the dump when the temperature there could have been 100 degrees.
    The matter blew over later that day. After much deliberation, Dad decided that if he had a stroke from the heat at the dump, it might not look so good for me. People from this part of the world talk about stuff like that.
    Late May 1987: What glory it was, in the era when men were mice and women were . . . now let me think. Oh well, my 1966 Ford Twin I Beam made it to the top of the hill. The top of the hill was where you used to dump lots of stuff prior to full-scale recycling. The hill was steep enough, and the gears were so low on that old truck, and what was left of the motor was not so get-up-and-go — a man was left wondering if the truck would make it to the top of the hill.
    As anyone who has delivered stuff to the top of the hill at the old dump in an antique truck knows, the view was quite good, and a scent of times gone by was pungent. It was the late 1980s, and the dump was destined to become what it is today, a recycling center. No more top of the hill nowadays, in a 1966 Ford in a state of dilapidation. How sad it really is; it was so fun.
    Boldly on to the present! The dump scene this recent Sunday had a touch of intellectuality to it. A man wearing a well-worn yet diplomatic East Hampton High School football jacket pondered a few books left on a stone sidewall next to the nonrecyclable bin. One of them was “The Art of Zen, the Art of Zen Drawing.” He had a hardcover cradled in his left arm, the black-lettered title broadly displayed: “Microwaving.” Me, I never really learned how to use a microwave oven.
    After many walks back and forth to the variety of recycling bins — glass, cardboard, plastic, and tin — I exited the dump in my truck, only to return. How does one go to the dump with small amounts of household leaves or brush and head to the regular recycling area without driving into the dump two times? As with microwave ovens, I never have figured out how to do that. It is a ponderous situation. Someday I will ask one of the people on duty at this fine East Hampton Town recycling station, “How do I recycle my household garbage and drop off some brush without having to leave and re-enter the main entrance?”
    My Sunday at the dump required one extra excursion from my family’s home, carting two large rhododendron branches in the back of my truck. Everybody in East Hampton knows unsightly piles of brush are not acceptable anymore. The in style is the Bridgehampton “new larger house look”: nothing on the lawn, new S.U.V. in the driveway. No forlorn yet beautiful daughter splayed out on the lawn in partial tears. The derelict uncle on a minor bender, blurry-eyed, thinking about his future, seated in some old outdoor chair.
    No, no, this will not do. No thoughts of future adventure on one of the many global seas for that young uncle. It is off to Target, Polo, or J. Crew for a set of new clothes. No piles of brush are allowed to be seen, and definitely no older trucks. Everything must be thrown away, neat and tidied up, especially the people.
    My son refused to ride shotgun with me to the dump. Can’t blame him. Morgan Jr. did hoist the heavy garbage cans into the truck bed and loaded some other garbage and whatnot. With arms like a truck driver’s and a head like a water buffalo’s, Morgan Jr. is the perfect Loader of Truck for Dump Run.
    He does a much better job of it than my dad used to. On the other hand, my dad used to meet the most interesting people at the dump. Like the guy in the old white van who was in the witness-protection program, who had either been run over by a car or had run somebody else over — never got that story straight.

   Morgan McGivern is a staff photographer at The Star.