Fresh Kills Park Project: Landfill as Utopia?


The Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island has a dubious claim to fame, that is, a volume equivalent to The Great Wall of China. And, up until recently, it was slated to be one big, fenced off toxic nowhere land. But now it’s poised to become nothing short of a state-of-the-art green zone. Seriously….Here’s my newest piece for Planet Green-

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Men After My Own Heart…

No, I’m not talking about the cadre of Pentagon Shills currently degrading the cover of the NY Times. I’m referring to the brave men and women who got up at 5 am here in Los Angeles, dropped all party affiliations and paddled out into the unseasonably cold waters to surf mediocre waves. It takes a certain kind of person to forgo the warm backsides of their beloved bedfellows, load up cars, stand naked on a pre-dawn beach, pull on stinking neoprene and paddle out into frigid waters which offer only the smallest of waves.

What kind of person, you might ask?

Well, I’ll start with my carload and make it quick- It was me, Slatty, and Sam. Sam lives here and is an avid surfer. Avid in a stealth way. I get emails from Sam at all hours, reporting from breaks north and south. Most missives are brief, “Standing on a pier in Cambria staring at huge waves”. An actor and musician from way back, Sam took to the water in earnest about 4 years ago and has attacked surfing with a kind of masochistic fervor. Sam charges waves (that’s a surfing term for one who surfs fearlessly). He’s got more broken eardrums than a team of deepwater divers and last year he broke his nose…falling on water. This is charging. He shortly thereafter booked a coveted role on a new HBO series, so he may be onto something. As for Slatty, he’s that same character from the last entry, one of my oldest, separated-at-birth friends, who has a Boston Irishman’s gift for comedic flaying and a freshly born addiction to surfing that has yielded terrifying results. He rarely leaves the water when he has the chance. Couple this with the fact that he lives with his family in New York City and only gets out to LA for work (again, an actor. Brilliant, ubiquitous, always gets, “Where do I know you from?” as he walks down the sidewalk), and you see how we came to be up at 6 am, driving 40 miles north when we should have been sleeping. To Slatty’s credit, he pulled up with a full tray of coffees and muffins.

Cut to cold water and a black, neoprene-skinned crowd of surfers bobbing across a 300 yard stretch of 54 degree water: You could be a doctor, you could be homeless window cleaner, you could be a chicken-hawk senator, smirking studio-head or a righteous lefty-campaign volunteer, but if you’re out there when you could be in bed, sipping your coffee, you’re a little bit closer to hearing the big bad rhythm of a much larger beast. And even if those waves are so small you have to paddle like a fool to slide along on a 6 inch face, that wave got it’s start somewhere far, far away and breaks upon your shore like a foreign messenger singing a universal song. And some will surf upon these messages like pros and some will chatter as the cold ebbs through their feet and some will sit like Buddha, big and patient looking out to sea, but all will paddle in eventually. And I feel sagely certain that that news of middle-aged Generals doing Halliburton’s duty, or Democratic candidate’s miserable dividing of allies will all be put in it’s place by the unifying message- that is neither simple nor small- delivered by a cold sea on a Sunday morning.

Swell Fire

It’s April now, and we’re a few months past the talk of the town here in Los Angeles. I am, of course, talking about the strike by the Writer’s Guild of America. For those of us caught up in the strike—and by that I mean either participating, being unable to work because of it or both (we Screen Actors Guild members were there, standing side by side with the DGA, hamming it up for cable news crews everywhere)—the strike had the feel of being the “bad”cop in a mediocre crime drama. It may or may not have been necessary, depending upon whom you listen to, but it was grimly inevitable and provoked no end of snickers and eye rolls from the rest of the cast. Speaking personally, I think it got the job done but I hope it does not get hired for any near-future episodes.

Anyway, to get by as our bank accounts dwindled and “reality programming” filled the time slots with mercenary vigor, many turned to other means of expression. Some took their overflowing talents to the even-smaller-screen and turned out ground-breaking web series. “Wainy Days”, “Horrible People”and “Maria Bamford”” come to mind. (If you haven’t seen ‘em, well, say goodbye to your 52” plasma screens.) Some finally got to that novel they’d always wanted to write (results forthcoming, we assume). Others took that Real Estate Exam once and for all.

Me? I went surfing. And watched the state burn.

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