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Showering with the Gods (Published 9/3/14)

Updated: Jun 13, 2022

There are few times when you get to feel the heavens fall upon you and even fewer times when you get to feel the raw power of nature in all its naked glory. I dare say in our buttoned-up, sunscreen-covered, peanut allergy, antiseptic world in which we now live there are few people who have taken the chance to let themselves stand before their maker in the very natural form we are all born into for all the world to see.

Oh sure there are lots of people who take their clothes off for money and even more people who take their clothes off for the sake of exhibitionism. But I think there are few who take their clothes off and stand before the angry heavens and let the rains wash them clean as only the good Lord above can do.

There was a time when I did and I was made clean in the dirtiest place on earth.

The day was not just hot and humid. Anyone who has ever walked from an air-conditioned airport into the Florida rain in August knows heat and humidity. But the days of summer in Bridgeport have a certain sticky filth that coats your body with 150 years of dirt, grime, pollution, corruption, and disappointment. And it's all mixed in a vaporized milkshake of an atmosphere that's painted on anyone who walks its streets or breaths its air. The humidity of Bridgeport doesn't just weigh you down, it crushes the human soul.

And in Bridgeport, if you can tolerate the streets, there is one place where all that filth and grime has collected and sits as a big pile of resentment and mediocrity perched on the shores of Long Island Sound, The Landfill.

I had spent hundreds of hours wandering The Landfill. The dust was enough to add ten pounds to your lungs when you breathed it in. The water that lapped its shores bubbled with the escaping methane left over from a century of sewage and rotting debris generated from a civilization still in decline. And the trees grew in odd shapes with shallow roots and would suddenly die and fall over in a matter of days when those roots tapped into the most noxious of pockets in the 60-acre trash heap. Yes, the Landfill was the dirtiest place on earth in a City that wreaked of degradation and neglect and I spent a lifetime there.

That day in particular, the heat and humidity mixed with the air-born filth and by the end of the day my legs were black, my nostrils caked and my spirit hung from my body like greasy wilted lettuce on a fast food hamburger. I was as worn down as I could be and the weight of Landfill had consumed me whole.

That day I gave yet another bit of myself to the City, as I waded in the waters, rolled in the dirt and trod the dusty roads. My only companion was my devoted dog who despite the life shortening effects of the Landfill, loved the place almost as much as I did. Most days she would tear up and down the shores chasing birds, digging for clams and eating the sweet macerated toilet paper that washed ashore from the sewage treatment plant. The mixture of musk and sugar made the sewage slurry a delectable treat to a half starved dog and she feasted on the limitless supply that came in on the tide. The Landfill was her paradise.

But even that day was so hot the dog could only lay listless in the shadow of the trailer we called home. She tucked herself beneath the shadow of the stairs that lead up to the recycled mobile classroom turned office trailer we lived in and stood guard against the darting homeless people who ripped along the dusty path on bicycles. But today the humidity and heat were too much for even them.

The sun, a steamy ball of light that shown through the creamy smog, grew a pink fire of streaks across the setting sky as it slid into evening. The hottest part of the day was supposed to be over, but the pile of trash filled earth emitted a steamy life of its own that held the heat and radiated all night long.

The nights spent there were oppressive enough with the oozing heat, but the mosquitoes were something of a marvel. The clouds of 22-pound aerial bloodsuckers would come in just before sunset and carry off small children and cats if you did not watch them carefully. I always assumed I would not need a security system in summer because as soon as the darkness crept in, mosquitoes took care by eating any errant straggler alive. The Landfill was an ecosystem unto itself that bred the most vile creatures and monstrous creations.

The Dog Digging Clams in the Landfill

To curb the bug population I had tried to woo bats to the mountain of trash by having bat boxes installed. the natural predators could eat thousands of mosquitoes and bugs in a night I was told, but I never saw a bat my whole time there- I think the mosquitoes may have eaten them all. But in addition to the mosquitoes we also had a tick problem.

My dog would wander in after a romp in the brush with nothing short of 1000 feasting parasites attached to her ears, stomach and legs. I even had to pick ticks from her nose and eye lids at times as they ran out of free spots to suck on the 70 pound canine. And if removing ticks from the dog weren't enough, when I would shower, I could hear the ticks fall from my hair and body like tacks dropped on a wood floor one at a time. The only thing worse than the mosquitoes were the endless supply of ticks.