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I Entered The Dragon’s Lair

30 Apr

April 30, 2023

This blog is based on a memory triggered by the Facebook post from a good friend of mine, Chris.

When I was a kid, maybe eight or nine years old, I lived in an apartment building. It was the only apartment building on the block, the rest of the homes being two- or four-family homes. And they all had garages.

The house immediately next to my building was occupied by a man known as The Garbage Picker. This was no local legend or childhood fantasy, the man was often seen by me, by adults, by children, by whoever was around on garbage day, not just rummaging through the garbage on the curb for pickup, but hauling unopened bags into his garage, presumably to be gone through later.

I lived in a six-story building, so you can imagine the mountain of garbage the super would put out.

The Garbage Picker was the subject of speculation among us kids. First of all, we just took for granted that he was nuts. Second of all, though we never saw one, we assumed that his garage was full of rats. The Garbage Picker was a fairly normal-looking middle-aged man. His clothes were not new but not shabby, and not the rags you’d expect a garbage picker to be dressed in.

We never assumed he was wearing clothes from the garbage, and never had any idea what he did with the trash. The Garbage Picker left his house and left for work (as far as we know he went to work) and came home in the early evening. In every other way he seemed normal. Just a normal guy who picked through our trash and hauled unopened bags of garbage into his garage.

We never spoke to him and he never paid attention to us. He didn’t try to hide his activities. He didn’t care if anyone saw him. And we never saw him with or talking to anyone else.

Nope, not this kind of garbage picker.

One day we were playing outside and one of us saw that The Garbage Picker had left his garage door open. He had hauled some trash into his garage, left the garage door open, went back into his house and never came back out.

The garage was set at the end of a driveway and behind the house, so technically we were trespassing. We were a little afraid- after all, we thought the guy was nuts- but it didn’t stop about five of us from going into the garage.

Actually, what stopped us from going into the garage was the garage. You couldn’t go in. It was full. Once you stepped over the threshold there was about two feet and then the trash was piled up, in some case to the celling. It was mostly loose trash just piled randomly all over but there were dozens of unopened bags in the pile too. There was no organization, no sense at all. It was literally just garbage thrown into the garage the same way you see garbage piled up at the dump. And it occupied nearly every square foot of the garage.

If there was anything in the back of the garage it was inaccessible. If there was anything hung on a wall you couldn’t’ see it, let alone get to it. All you could see was what was right in front of your face, and given a few more weeks that would all be blocked by new trash. And at that point there would not be single square foot of space left. the garbage almost hit the ceiling in most places.

We were stunned, we were amazed, we dove right in, rats or no rats. It was like trashy Christmas for us. I found plenty of things my parents had thrown out and I wanted them back. My Bo Duke figure with the missing legs? How could Mom throw that out? Every kid there found some old treasure that had been tossed away and now they wanted to take back. Sometimes they found some other kid’s treasure thrown away by some other parent. Too bad, finder’s keepers. Plenty of broken old toys and games with missing pieces were liberated from that garage.

I don’t want to give the impression that The Garbage Picker’s garage was loaded with fun and games. There was plenty of legitimate “garbage,” as I called it then, or “shit” as I more accurately call it now: Broken furniture, unidentifiable pieces of plastic, stained underwear, food scraps, and actual shit- dirty diapers. Like I said, he hauled in full and unopened garbage bags, and no matter what was in it, no matter how bad it smelled, or leaked, or had sharp things sticking out, into the garage it went. But we were kids, and kids don’t care about weird smells or dirt or danger of infection from sharp sticks poking through dirty diapers.

It went on for only a few minutes, and we never did see a rat, although looking back there just had be a family in there, but it came to an end once The Garbage Picker came our of his house and started yelling at us. We ran off with whatever could fit in our pockets. then some adults came out of the house and started yelling at The Garbage Picker, and I can’t say for sure what happened, but within the week the garage was empty and I do not recall ever seeing The Garbage Picker again.

Later that day, I realized that the treasures I saved from the garage really were just trash and I threw them out once again.


Retail Re-tales

29 Nov

November 29, 2018

With Black Friday behind us, I certainly hope you all got your, um, whatever the big thing is this year. As far as I can tell, there is no big hot toy or must have item this season. And that’s a real shame. I’m old enough to remember when people were stabbing each other in the backs to get a Cabbage Patch doll or Colecovision. Shopping today just isn’t the same without the threat of premeditated homicide in the checkout line.

But I am old enough to remember back in the 90’s when the retail industry got together and tried to change the image of Black Friday.

For some reason, probably the threat of premeditated homicide I mentioned above, the Big Retail Companies™ felt that Black Friday had a negative connotation. Long lines, crowds, sold out items, murder, etc, so they tried to change the name. Now back then retail was a different beast than we have now. People weren’t shopping online like today, and the stores were different too. People bought clothes at places like Chess King and Merry-Go-Round and shopped in huge department stores like Bamberger’s and Korvette’s. Where are these titans of industry today? Long gone and buried. And it’s no surprise given that these are the folks who tried to change the name of Black Friday to Green Friday.


Yup, Green Friday.

Today that sounds like an environmental message: Go Green This Friday With Recycled Shoelaces! Reduce Your Carbon Footprint By Flying Pantsless This Friday! and yes, it sounded that way back in the 90’s too. But they weren’t thinking of green grass, but of green money. All the green green cash that would be flooding their registers. So to stop people from thinking about long lines and stab wounds, they tried to get people to associate the day after Thanksgiving with Green Friday.

And you know what?

Nobody gave a damn.

And that is why we still call it Black Friday today.

Ah, tradition.



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