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Bottles and Cans

11 May

Homeless guy walking around with a giant industrial lawn and leaf garbage bag, gathering cans.  On a Wednesday morning.  Prime can gathering time; this is when people haul their garbage and recycling bins out.

How does he get this route at this time?  There are like 10 other homeless people who collect cans on my street, walking behind apartment buildings into people’s parking lots and rustling around the clinking clattering resonating trash cans– those things are like fucking tympanis– often at six or seven AM.  Up with the cock’s crow to go harvest cans, lest some other more enterprising homeless person get to them first.  Walking up steep hills with three layers of overcoats and snow pants on, with a black sweatshirt hood pulled up amplifying the sun.  Pushing a shopping cart with a bum wheel so you are constantly having to jerk it back to the left– pushing this up the second steepest hill in Los Angeles.  Getting to the point where you have the cart not just full to the brim but overflowing with a densely packed mountain of bottles and cans heaped up to the highest possible hump you can get without them falling out, and then on top of that four huge industrial lawn and leaf bags purloined from the city brush dumpster in the park, each full to bursting, packed drum tight like Cool Hand Luke’s belly after the fifty eggs, four of these lashed to the corners of this herky jerky shopping cart– restraining your now heavy and now even more awkward cart as you drag back down the second steepest hill in Los Angeles– dude. This is hard fucking work.  And a structured life: you’re up at six in the morning!  And you’re squabbling no doubt with fifteen other guys who want to do the same thing, OR, even more unbelievably, the other fifteen lesion-covered hairspray drinking schizophrenics have worked out a system, where one guy gets this block, this block and this block on Thursday, another gets them on Saturday, and so on.  I mean, this is how panhandling works– homeless people collectively have their shit together enough to assign one corner to one person on certain days; that’s why you never see two hobos battling to the death on the offramp over who gets to hold the VETERAN: HUNGRY sign.  They work it out, and in fact they give a cut to the cops, who enforce the territories in exchange for a piece. Probably they do the same for the bottle and can racket. Continue reading