Tuesday, June 21, 2011

bottom feeders

"You know you've lived in Cleveland a long time when..."

So we're sitting on the front porch eating dinner as the sun sets as Bright Young Things move in down the street and discard their stash of Ikea furniture on the curb. We're trying to figure out if it really is on the curb for the taking or if they don't know that you should put your stuff inside the fence or on the porch, but it looks like there's some nice bookshelves there and we can always use bookshelves.

We try to look nonchalant, premature old women on the porch peering down the street over glasses of lemonade and plates of pasta, trying to figure out what sets off the next-door neighbor's uber-sensitive car alarm and waiting for the new neighbors to go to sleep. We take the dog out to appear more nonchalant even though we've been sitting there looking across the street for the last twenty minutes and we decide to scope it out to see if there's anything worthy to scavenge, with her boyfriend on call in case we need some extra arms.

Someone's beaten us there already. A family driving a Jetta, the son on his phone talking in Spanish standing over what turns out not to be a bookshelf but a giant desk that we couldn't've used anyway. By the time we walk to the next corner and back, a pickup truck containing more family members and the most of the contents of the curb is rolling down the street and we laugh, wondering how we got to be this way.


Anonymous said...

got poor or timid? one of my old profs james hillman once asked why do we look down on the rats that leave the sinking ship but praise the captain who goes down with it... always good to laugh in the face of the absurd

thatgirl said...

Part of it is still feeling like a college kid, hand-me-down/trashpicked furniture, never turning down free food (did a lot of dumpster diving back in the day).

I'm always checking the curbs to see if I get lucky, found a bass guitar once. Some people get weirded out by the whole trashpicking thing, but in the city, it's like a sport.

Randal Graves said...

Nothing wrong with hand-me-downs (I think that's my entire house except for the stove) and people would rather curb something than haul it away. Trash and treasure, and 'sport' now means this is going to become a game show eventually. Is Wink Martindale still around?

Anonymous said...

oh that's a feeling i'm all too familiar with having never quite made it out of grad student mode. growing up in a college town with a dad who grew up in the projects spring dumpster diving was better than xmas.

thatgirl said...

With our lack of an old Chevy pickup with the wood slats on the sides, we are but minor players in the land of victimless illegalities.

you never knew what you might find, especially in college towns full of out-of-town trust-funders. My mom would bring home chairs and CDs racks, and my dad was always working but if he saw someone going through the dumpster behind one of the stores he delivered to he'd give them bread...

There is that element of surprise... definitely scored furniture, books, CDs, candles, art supplies. Since I live in a neighborhood that's partially gentrified but still very poor (with the attendant vegan bike messenger types), lots of people are out Thursday night seeing what their neighbors are throwing away.

Considering that the reality TV execs have discovered hoarders, couponers, and pawnshops, trashpicking and dumpstering can't be far behind.