Meditations on a Dump Run

Last summer, a friend accompanied me to the Astoria dump. He’d never experienced the primal joy of taking a load of shit and throwing it away with wild abandon. It was my job to instruct him on the fine art of how to obtain maximum joy from a dump run. And that I did, calling on my long and storied history of dump runs and throwing away shit.

My history began in my youth, in Oregon City with my father, at the dump and adjacent landfill near Kelly Field, where once during a baseball game, I was stung by a swarm of yellow jackets as I was urinating in some blackberries.

In the early days, it was open-air if I remember correctly, and you just drove right up to the edge of a concrete precipice, paid a few bucks, and then cast your shit deep down onto a pile of more shit. Of course there were gulls and crows, and a few years later, dump officials erected silver (or were they blue?) towers that released fired methane to keep, presumably, the landfill from blowing up, which occasionally happened to dumps in that era.

I quickly learned that the experience of a dump run was greatly enhanced if you had large, breakable objects to smash upon the pile. TVs were obviously the best. (Remember, this was long before recycling.) No wonder rock stars loved hurling them out of hotel windows and watching them explode on contact. In a sense I became, for a few precious seconds, a rock star at the dump when I got to throw a television set over a precipice and watch and hear it explode. Furniture and full-length mirrors were fun, too. And small lamps would fly through the air for what seemed like hours and then shatter ever so beautifully. Oh, and the old church coffee percolators were fun to heave as well. I also recall flinging a speckled bowling ball, too, and watching it pulverize a shower stall’s glass door.

Often I would accompany my friends with their fathers to the dump. The call would come early Saturday morning, I’d ask my mom or dad permission, and later, a friend and his father would pick me up in some kind of truck and off we went. I preferred these dump runs with my friends’ fathers because my father was not the kind to amass a lot of shit, or the really good stuff that broke apart on impact. These other fathers hauled all manner of appliances, windows, lawnmowers and furniture. I once participated in throwing a drill press over the precipice. What a sound that made when it landed and cracked in two.

When I think back to what was thrown away, most of it was in pretty decent shape and today would be donated to thrift stores, which were uncommon in my Oregon City youth.

I never recall a single time a female joined us. I have never been on a dump run with a girlfriend or wife. I have brought along dogs.


I rented a U-Haul truck and my friend walked over to help me load it up for a run to the dump. It had been well over five years since my last big run and I was a bit giddy at the prospect. That wonderful purgative feeling of purging and starting anew. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the best objects to throw away. Most of them weren’t even breakable! Still, there was one desk already somewhat unraveling. I figured it would make a pleasing sound when it completely shattered and mentioned this to my friend to plant some anticipation.

The Astoria dump is easily the worst dump I’ve ever patronized. There is a preposterous bottleneck at the entrance and it is designed in such a way that users can’t throw shit down, down, down…to break apart. Rather, users toss their items onto a flat concrete surface and actually have to throw them upward! It reduces the breakage potential by 98-percent. Every so often, a piece of machinery comes along to push the debris over a precipice and into containers that will be trucked away to a landfill. Virtually every sight and sound of glorious breakage has been eliminated at the Astoria dump. The machines get all the fun. Well, the gulls, too.

We waited in line, discussed his educational future and my existential one, and then got the signal to proceed. As I backed up the rig, I noticed all all the TVs, monitors, computers and appliances waiting to be for recycled. I winced. What a waste! (I’ve never shattered a computer, but know I want to. Doesn’t everyone?)

Can’t you shatter something at the dump and still recycle it? Why not? Should I open a dump and let people shatter computers? It would be a huge hit, I’m positive. It’s our only revenge against what they’ve done to us.

They don’t even call them dumps anymore. Recycling or transfer or waste management centers. Dump is a great word. I hate seeing it going away in this context and relegated to a bowel movement or break-up.


Invariably, there is always something you don’t want to throw away at a dump run, but it can’t be helped. In high school, I remember throwing away my Civil War, cowboy and Indian, and WW II action play sets. I damn near cried, but what was I supposed to do with them?

One of the last items we pitched was a mattress I’d had for 14 years. I know it was 14 years because I’d bought the mattress in 2004 with my then-girlfriend Rose. She hated my old mattress and at one point told me she would never sleep on it again, much less have sex. We drove to Roby’s furniture store in Lincoln City and tried out various mattresses in the showroom with probably more ardor than was required. In fact, if I recall correctly, Rose tackled me onto one of the fancy brands and then sat on my chest and pounded the mattress to test its firmness, all the while making subtle sex noises. The showroom guys didn’t know what to make of that. But that was Rose and she got the mattress she wanted.

Now, I had thrown this artifact of my life away and I was left without a mattress. Can a person start over at my age without a proper mattress? I’ll soon find out. A foam pad doesn’t count, I think.

As I said, I didn’t have great things to shatter, Despite this, my friend and I managed a couple of mini-smashes that delighted us, and quite obviously turned him into a instant dump run enthusiast. The desk cracked apart quite nicely. We teamed up on a quasi couch/hide-a-bed and it flew farther than we thought and the twisting metal upon impact generated a soothing sound.

After we finished, I looked at my friend’s face and recognized an instant convert to the joys of the dump run.

As I drove us to return the U-Haul, I thought there ought to be a country song where the singer goes on a dump run to throw away his mattress that his wife used to cheat on him. (Or some variation on that theme, with perhaps throwing the mattress away because he used it to cheat on his wife, or the man throws the mattress away because he can’t bear to have it around because they bought it together on a second date and wore it out on the third…something like that. You get idea.)

Later that day, I went to the bank and struck up a conversation with a teller. She asked me how my day was going. I told her about my run to the dump and that I felt happy about breaking some shit.

“I met my husband at the dump,” she said.

I said there ought to be a country song or Hallmark movie about that.

We then engaged in a long and passionate conversation on the joys of the dump run during its golden age. A couple of customers chimed in with their fond dump run memories. Every one of them was older than 50.