I, who has been ‘away’ so to speak – in production – on a sound stage – away from the day-to-day of everyday life, am just reconnecting to the ‘real world.’
We’ve been in darkness during the light and light in the darkness. We’ve cycled our days and created art. We’ve just won 5 Emmy Awards for our show, RuPaul’s Drag Race! AH-MAZING!!!
Just like any job, really…we go into our day, produce, and at the time of the hour – at wrap – we depart. To leave, to go home to the family, or to a moonlight hike or a restaurant, or do a class, or to the beach… to watch the summer ocean waves drift on and off the sandy shore. We change and exchange, day for night, sand into glass, glass back to sand.
On the weekends, I have been recycling our bottles, cans and plastics to our local West Hollywood exchange. And on set, our talent team did our part to recycle bottles and cans acquired from production. For many weeks, we rather enjoyed our visit to the recycling deposits out in the far valleys. It was always an adventure. We met people. We saw families. We were there exchanging.
For years, I tossed all recycling in the designated blue bins; or I saved them to give to Donaldo, who often gathered bags full on collection days up and down our street. Now, at our house, I’ve just set up a laundry divider, and re-purposed it to place the plastic, bottles and cans accordingly in their own organized bin. I don’t understand my own excitement about this. My divider cost more than I’ll collect from the deposits, but it is rather fab!
I have a larger obsession with trash and its journey over all – and with recycling, I can concentrate on and do a bit right away. I can’t bear to see a plastic bottle left in a gutter! Money is being made I am sure…down the line as it is handed over and handed over and picked up and taken to a greater, bigger center in the far counties. Of the few dollars I do collect, I put in my daughter’s piggy bank, we get coffees for the team, or donate. Ultimately, it is exchanged and used for something else.
As human beings, we are exchanged and used for something else on a daily basis. Ideally, we are met with purpose. I should like to think we make an impact, however, large or small in what we do, day-to-day. We are paid for the great jobs we do. We provide our talents and services – we form bonds for a short while. And just as we drink out of a can of soda, or a bottle of sparkle water – we are nourished in a sense (even a Coke can make us smile every now and then!) – and we are replenished – and then we are done. Sometimes we are finished with a job and another is brought on to do it – or that piece of work is effectively, wrapped as well.
We’ve moved on and we can discard the tools that helped us at that moment and turn to the next. We take on a new instrument, a new connection, a new favor. We experience a new moment of exchange. We learn from each and every one. We recycle our experience when we share it with another – or our work – what we know, we share. We can turn what we’ve learned into something else – something greater, perhaps. Something is not useless just because it has been emptied. It can be re-imagined, re-purposed, and re-filled. We are all vessels, vessels, vessels.
When we cannot see what we are meant to be in the world, if we feel lost or confused, we must refuel and re-imagine our purpose. If I am no longer a bottle of ice tea, I shall become a vase, upon a garden table in Silver Lake, or a mobile, hanging with other bottles, making music across the canyons. Or, I am melted down and recreated to become something else entirely. My journey is not over. This has all stretched my imagination farther than before. It helps me to think in new ways, even if it is just a short exercise. But I, with my new experience, am changed. I am exchanged. I am recycled. I am new. And if I’ve done something right for the environment in the while, then, blessed be! But I’ve taken action, however small, to get something going.
Over twenty years ago, in 1996, when I worked for Universal after it became part of Seagram, I wrote an interoffice memo to Edgar Bronfman, Jr. telling him that I used my Absolute Peppar bottles to make spicy olive oil. I called it ‘Absolute Recycle.’
Edgar Bronfman, Jr. kindly wrote me an interoffice memo in return – (this was before email!) – of which I still have in its interoffice envelope. In his memo, he noted he thought my idea showed promise and would share it. And…that he couldn’t resist telling me that Absolut was spelled without an ‘e.’
There you go! I, of course, was then inspired to create four very fabulous Absolut ads – if I do say so myself – which I sent on to Chiat/Day and promptly received a note back from the agency that they could not consider my ideas as I don’t work there. Hello… oh, well – I remained inspired, none the less, and it excited me!
Later, I had the wonderful opportunity to work for Ford Motor Company on American Idol for nine seasons. I succeeded in melding my production experience with branding… and I loved it. At the time I started, in 2007, the agency was J. Walter Thompson, which my father, originally from Michigan, was thrilled about! He passed away shortly after I started, happy that I had a fun job in the advertising sector, one that was historic in its purpose too!
I don’t drink now so I no longer collect those Absolut Peppar bottles, but I loved thinking it up and sharing the idea. And it was kind of Edgar Bronfman, Jr. to be so…well, kind about it. It’s an encouraging note and those are rare to see these days. But we persevere – we go into our own days, sharing our ideas, recycling ones that may not have worked originally, and make them into something else. We ourselves are changed and renewed. More useful, perhaps. Something original. Something all its own. I go into today, and know, the end is not the end, but truly a beginning. And I get to recycle and envision something rather new. And that is exciting in every way!
Alicia Gargaro-Magaña is the author of MISS FANCY PANTS