Friday, April 6, 2012

Encounter with a Legend

I drove carefully down his street and pulled up beside the curb.   I turned the engine off and took in the scene. It was noisy like a barnyard.   A rooster crowed.  Chickens clucked and scurried around my car.   I watched two hens scamper across the street.  They darted into a yard where a big red rooster held forth -- posted menacingly atop a fence.   The rooster crowed some more.   An overcast sky darkened.  

I had ventured over the edge.  The northern edge that is.   I was in Altadena.


"Dad, is that where we're going?"    Thinking there would be some educational or historical value to our visit, I had brought my teenage son along to share the experience.    He pointed across the street to the house with big red out in front.   The rooster crowed some more. 

"No," I said.  "He lives somewhere back here."   Both of us were relieved. 

We walked down the street toward a jungle of trees and shrubs.   The sound of birds grew louder as we approached the mass of green.   I saw a gray haired man on the sidewalk and called out, "Hi, are you Tim?"   The man shook his head and said, "No, but I can take you to him."

 The man led us down the sidewalk to the front of the jungle.    "He lives in here" the man said pointing toward the wall of green.  I looked to where the man pointed, but saw no house; only plants and birds.  Then, with his hands, the man parted two low lying branches and stepped over a short wall into the jungle. 

We followed.   Once in the jungle the light dimmed as we walked over a narrow spongy path.   Plants brushed our shoulders and trees angled overhead.  There were more chickens and more ducks and more noise.  Then geese and turkeys ran to join us, honking and gobbling.  Suddenly our narrow path became uncomfortably crowded.  We pushed forward.

At last we turned a corner into a small clearing.   A patch of sun broke through the jungle.   We had reached the house.  But, we were now closed in.   The porch was in front of us and the jungle to the back and sides.   The geese and turkeys had followed and were a in a phalanx behind us, honking and gobbling in indignant tones and blocking our exit.

"Not many people make it this far," said the man matter-of-factly.   And I do believe he was telling the truth.   


You have to be extra ordinary, highly unusual, to become famous.  I think that goes double when you're talking about Los Angeles and especially Atladena.   The extraordinary seem drawn to these places -- like flies to light.   It takes a lot to stand out here.

But, Tim Dundon does stand out and has for a long time.  His list of monikers tell you he's no ordinary guy.  He's the Sodfather, the Guru of Doodoo, the Compost Crusader, Zeke the Sheik the Compost Freak.  Tim's got a message and he's made his point.

Tim spreads the Gospel of Compost.  He'll wax eloquently and even poetically about the wonders of compost -- how decaying foliage can be used to give life.   And he walks his talk.    His own jungle is a testament to the growing prowess of his methods.  So is the compost pile he keeps at his home.   Known as Zeke's Heap, the pile at one point reached 40 feet high and 200 feet wide.

An Altadena flag was designed bearing Tim's likeness and that of his pile. 

Many stories have been written about Tim and his work.  Daniel Chamberlain has a good one here and LA Weekly did a good piece back in 2004.   Video of Tim is plentiful too, with good stuff on YouTube here and here.   .


So, there we were, our guide, my son, me and seemingly dozens of birds, all standing at Tim's door.  After some wait, we finally met Tim.   A big guy, he appeared a bit stooped over with age.  Tim's gray beard flowed down past his chest and his long gray hair was gathered behind him in a pony tail.

Considering we had arrived unannounced, Tim was as gentlemanly as could be. He spontaneously talked about the wonder of compost.  I told him we were getting our vegetable garden ready.  Tim said his magic mulch would work miracles in the garden and talked about the importance of mulching to protect the soil.  

I asked if he had compost available and he readily obliged.  He pulled an old business card and a pen out of his pocket.   On the corner of the card, he wrote my address and phone number.  He said there were others ahead of me, but that he would he would call when he was ready.    I thanked him for the visit and for the compost to come.  

Tim said that he would deliver a load of "craptonite" to our  house in about three weeks.

And, he did.