In the middle of the northern city of Edmonton, Alberta, there is a ravine. The ravine is wild with towering tamaracks, leaning barbed wire fences, dirt paths, broken bottles, raccoons, and twisted tree roots. A stream winds through the bottom. When I was sixteen, freshly moved out of my parent’s house, I found a square rock in that ravine. When I flipped the rock over, I saw it had old tiling on the other side that had been worn smooth, so it looked like mother of pearl on the concrete. I lugged the urban “rock” home. That was the first rock in my International Rock Collection.
My hundred and third rock was an urban rock that worked it way up from under New York City. It is made of compacted rust, glass, and coal ash. Before the 1930s, the “soil” from under a corner of what is now the Bennett Air Field used to be an island that served as the city’s main dump. The poorest of the poor worked and lived on that island of trash, cut off from the rest of New York. They ran the reduction plant, where dead horses were rendered into fat and glue. They dug through waste to find rags, marrow, metal and other useful items. Robert Moses decided to build a freeway through the area in the 1930s and had their homes bulldozed to the ground. He then buried and capped the island, filling it in so it became part of Brooklyn. Now, the ocean ebbs away the edges of the landscape and these compressed nuggets of conglomerate history nudge up through the sand.
The most recent rock in my International Rock Collection comes from a luxury apartment building on East 79th street just off Lexington. A Rockefeller lives in the apartment, and I was invited to a benefit party there as an expert on plastic pollution. They largely ignored me, but the food was fantastic. The place was posh. There where chandeliers, wood paneling, giant pieces of abstract expressionist art (next to 19th century figurative art), glass tables, an animal rug, an eight food television, and a large poodle. There was also a fireplace grate full of rocks. I mined one for my collection. Upon closer inspection on the way home, I realized the urban rock in question was crystalline, probably chipped class. Even the Rockefeller’s rocks are classy.
It was only when I adopted this urban meteorite that I realized that so many of the rocks in my International Rock Collection have stories. Until now, I had only written the location they were found on them, putting them away until I had an apartment big enough for a world map so I pin the location of each rock on it. I will now record stories with the rocks, starting with the meteorite, and retrospectively storying others.
This is a *fantastic* rock.