Monday, August 31, 2009

Moving Day

I took a tour of some Back Bay alleys and Beacon Hill streets this morning, and found them loaded with trash and cast-off furnishings, as is customary around September 1, Boston's official moving day. I wish I'd taken my camera to document everything I saw, but I was technically out for exercise, and besides, everything will have vanished by the end of the day.

It's interesting to see what people keep in their apartments until they have to move, and it's equally interesting to speculate about why the toss what they do. I can see why you might toss your ugly student furniture — but won't you need an ironing board, a vacuum cleaner, and a full-length mirror wherever you're going? Or are you moving halfway across the world, working on a cruise ship, or entering a convent?

I was pleased to see that there were no formerly live Christmas trees out there, so far. I did see a tiny pale-brown one, but it was so small it hardly counts. But the amount of pure garbage I saw, whether in whole, tied bags or ripped, destroyed ones, was just staggering. If I were in "waste management," like Tony Soprano, I'd plan my summer vacation to coincide with September 1.

We try to keep our carbon footprint small, and we're embarrassed to be putting out a 3/4-filled trash bag twice a week — it's mostly cat litter — and several bags of recycling. It's sad to see how many people don't following the recycling rules — I saw ripped plastic trash bags loaded with paper, for example.

On a busy trash day, I like to imagine how I'd furnish a studio from the cast-offs I see. Among today's pickings, I passed many boring beige sofas and mattresses in various states of decay. On Garden Street, there was a cute maple desk with seven drawers. I also walked past metal beds, end tables, a brass table lamp, melamine bookcases, decent office chairs, ugly rugs, a Mac, filing cabinets galore, and a few of those cylindrical chrome trash cans. Also, a cotton-lined wicker hamper in perfect condition. A large aquarium with accessories, behind a private school. At least one kennel-cab for a very small pet. There are also two early 20th-century wooden dressers sitting in the parking lot of the frat house around the corner. With refinishing or a coat of paint, these would be excellent additions to my imaginary studio.

I wouldn't stock the imaginary medicine cabinet with any of the medications that are lying all over Beacon Hill sidewalks today — including albuterol canisters, which aren't cheap.

The only item I considered snatching for myself was a Brita water pitcher in great shape. Although it was much newer than ours, it was also smaller, so I left it to the serious pickers.

Speaking of them, I only spotted the usual shabby alley crowd going through the Back Bay trash for bottles and cans. But in Beacon Hill, I saw a well-dressed couple going through boxes of trash by their double-parked car. The wife was exclaiming loudly about some scary-looking beige bathroom rugs she'd found. The husband smiled and shrugged at me, and I smiled and shrugged back. One woman's trash is another woman's treasure.

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