Cleanupalooza! – Picking up trash at Lollapalooza

Imagine each person replaced by 362 beer cans.

Imagine each person replaced by 362 beer cans.

I burned my bare feet on a hot stage yesterday, then worked overnight picking up trash at Lollapalooza.

The stage on which I burned my feet was not at Lollapalooza (a rock music festival in Chicago); it was at the Morton Arboretum. And I wasn’t playing rock and roll; I was playing gamelan. It was a warm sunny day, the stage was black-painted plywood, and gamelan is traditionally played seated and with bare feet. Hence, we all burned our feet. And our bums.

On the way home from the arboretum gig, my wife got a message that our friend Ben was looking for people to fill out his crew picking up trash at the big music fest downtown. My wife’s birthday is coming up, and we’re broke, so I jumped at the chance to make a few bucks.

That’s how I found myself using a landscape blower to blast trash down Columbus Drive at 4 am today. I learned some surprising things during my 11 pm – 9 am shift:

It’s way harder to blow trash down the length of a street than across its width. Go figure.

The Porto Potties at a major beer-drinking festival have a horrific stench all their own.

A tiny bit of ketchup on a napkin is sufficient to bond the napkin to a sidewalk with an adhesive tenacity capable of withstanding gale-force winds.

It is harder to sweep grass than to sweep concrete.

The trash was about 2% food waste, 3% cigarette butts, and 95% beverage containers. If we could only refrain from eating,drinking and smoking, there would have been virtually no mess. And we could have done without most of those Porto Potties too.

All fields look clean in the dark.

Dawn happens quickly.

There are probably metaphors and allegories for life in these observations, but I don’t trust myself to explore them right now: I’m pretty fried, and my feet really sting. I will say I was surprised by the seemingly trivial things that proved to be difficult, like using the blower to move a simple cardboard fan. (Something about Venturi: the harder you blow air across a piece of paper, the tighter it sticks to the ground.) The frustration I sometimes felt reminded me of other things in my life that should be easy, but are not, like asking directions; asking forgiveness; refraining from melodrama; and expressing love, coming on neither too hard nor too soft, but in just the right measure.




4 thoughts on “Cleanupalooza! – Picking up trash at Lollapalooza

  1. After working the first night, I can verify many of your statements. Another observation of mine would be: That job should be for higher pay! Also, I can’t believe you had the energy and presence of mind to write ANYthing after doing that.


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