If you have a City of Hampton, New Hampshire license plate sticker on your car, you will have access to easy beach parking. Plaice Cove, North Beach – if your vehicle has the proper decal, you are welcome to these hallowed grounds. If not, get the fuck out.
I love the beach, so you’d think losing that sticker when I moved a few towns to Stratham would have been a big disappointment. But I have other beaches that I like. For me, the real tragedy of swapping my Hampton sticker for a Stratham was losing access to the Hampton dump (excuse me, transfer station.)
Supposedly, Stratham has its own dump, although I’ve never seen it. From what I understand it’s only open for about 15 minutes on Saturdays, there’s a mile-long line of cars to get in, and they don’t accept trash, which is all gross exaggerations or lies. It’s just not the dumping ground for me.
Until about a year ago, I had always driven a truck – a 2001 Toyota Tacoma. As a truck owner, I felt this natural impulse to move things, haul things, and get rid of things. My friends and family had the same impulse, but for my truck and their stuff. So I found myself quite regularly at the Hampton transfer station. Even though I don’t have that old Tacoma anymore, or the coveted Hampton town sticker, I still go to the junkyard once in a while, borrowing my dad’s Hampton-registered truck to get in.
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Every time I make the trip, I remember my grandfather, my mother’s father. How can I describe it as succinctly as possible? Let me try: this was not a person who had ever been to the dump. We called him “Bup Bup” – the result of his oldest grandson, David, trying his best to say “Grandpa” when he was a baby, leading to decades where we, 14 grandchildren, let’s call him by the same name. (When you’re the first, you get to name things. A good lesson.)
Bup Bup passed away on August 15, 2018, and in the few years leading up to that moment, he and I went to the dump half a dozen times, getting rid of old things from his basement and garage. . I would have been fine to take the articles five minutes further on my own, but luckily for me he still joined. These weren’t just errands, but visits with him and my grandmother, always including lively conversation, maybe a Gatorade and a snack, and the telling of a story or two, triggered by the artifacts that he surveyed the basement as he decided their fate.
We didn’t have to catch up too much because I saw him often, apart from these little trips. The conversation flowed easily. “Please don’t let Grandpa [a name we never, ever called our grandfather] lift anything heavy,” my grandmother would plead, as if I were tightening the straps of a piano on her back. I assured her I wouldn’t, and she stuffed $20 into my hand. I tried to decline once, sometimes twice for good measure, then reluctantly accept the money before happily slipping the bill into my wallet.
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After loading the items, Bup Bup and I got into my truck. There was something very personal about this vehicle to me, and every time an unknown passenger (from the car) joined me in this space, I felt like someone was entering the inner sanctum. When it was Bup Bup, I made sure there was no a.) no music, b.) music he already knew and liked, or c.) new music I thought that he would like. It wasn’t difficult, but it was kind of the right thing to do. I think he once said that the Vampire Weekend album I had been on “pretty good”.
Around the corner from the long entrance to the transfer station is the city skate park, which my cousin (the aforementioned name of Bup Bup) helped start years ago when he was still in high school. “You know, David was instrumental in founding this park,” Bup Bup would say proudly every time we passed. “He went out in front of the city, got all the necessary approvals and helped raise funds.” He turned his head to keep watching him as we passed. “Look at all these kids having fun. What a great thing.” I don’t think he ever mentioned writing a check to help with the project, but I knew he did.
We turned toward the facility, tugging at the weigh station so someone could wave us through. This vantage point offered a pretty good view of the whole place. Each time, without exception, my grandfather raved about the efficiency and scale of the transfer station. “Wow, what an operation. Look at all this,” he commented, as if walking on the floor of a SpaceX factory. We drove to the trash and recycling compactors, housed in a kind of large covered garage building. He followed my grandmother’s instructions and stayed in my truck while I unloaded things and put them in the right places.
When I was done he was commenting on something he noticed someone else was unloading, or a sign, or something on the floor, like a pair of crutches or a computer screen, not yet thrown. He would compliment the workers. “I bet it’s a good job,” he would often say, building imaginary lives for these guys in his head. Our work done, we sometimes stopped at McDonald’s on the way back. I always appreciated how much he loved food – it conjured up folk images of Warren Buffett and his fondness for Coca-Cola and the Golden Arches. Bup Bup was telling me about his friend who owned dozens of McDonald’s on the east coast, and I wondered if he’d be willing to give one or two to a young man who sometimes takes his grandfather to the dump.
We would drive back to the beach to her and my grandmother’s house and park in that familiar driveway. If I was lucky, he would mention a computer problem (though he always planted the seed earlier, never throwing it to me at the last minute) and I would walk inside, until his space – there was a reading chair, sofa, TV, computer, bookshelf and a large floor to ceiling “bubble” window, is this a den? – and understand. Usually the problem was related to the Flash installation.
Soon it was time to go, and I walked out of the driveway, wondering how many times I had gone to visit this address and see my grandparents. The last time I went to the dump was a few weeks ago. Now that’s just another item on the to-do list. I don’t know if the takeaway here is that I need to add more wonder, ritual and interest to the races that make up my daily life, or just that I miss him . Maybe both.
Adam O’Kane is a former Hampton native. He was named Big Brother Big Sisters of New Hampshire’s 2021 Big Brother of the Year.