Monday, April 4, 2016

He calls it "Treasures in the Trash"

If there is one thing about me that Peggy would change, and there must be dozens, the chief among them is that I am an inveterate dumpster diver.  I have for years followed the sage advice of young guru and perfect Zenmaster Bartholomew J. Simpson, who preaches that "Poorly-guarded construction sites can be a goldmine."

If I'm passing a construction site, I'm apt to stop and shop in the dumpster. I think anything in there is fair game, and over the years I have come with a door for the bathroom my dad and I added onto Peggy's and my first house, and sod for the yard, and countless Christmas and birthday gifts I have handed out.

Just kidding.  You think.

I come by this trait honestly. My maternal grandfather was always one to come out of his garage bearing some odd artifact, saying, "Look what I found!" And then he and I would marvel at the find, and shake our heads at the very thought that someone was going to throw away such an object of wonder as a pair of pliers that still worked pretty well, or a wooden fruit crate that just needed a little fixin' up.

But, I must bow in humble homage to Nelson Molina, of East Harlem, New York City. He worked 30 years as a sanitation man for New York City, but the great thing about him is that he didn't throw away everything people threw away.

He collected the cool and interesting stuff before the trash truck could mash it to smithereens (have you ever even seen a smithereen? Is it possible to buy just one, or do they only come in a set?) and he has it on display at a sanitation truck depot up in Harlem. He has typewriters, photographs, toys, religious relics, skis, a Native American children’s play tent, a stained glass window and a souvenir tie from the sand 'n' surf TV show ‘Baywatch.’

There is a rule forbidding sanitation workers in New York from taking stuff they find discarded home, and I'm sure that rule is never ever violated, yes sir. But Molina, even though retired, maintains his trash-to-you-treasure-to-him showcase where he used to work, and he will even take you through to see it if you set up a tour in advance.

His favorite item is a heavy Star of David wrought from metal recovered from the site of the Twin Towers to honor a 9/11 victim. How that came to be thrown out is worth another whole blog entry; I wish I knew. But like everything else in the museum, it's something that once meant something to someone, only to be tossed away like last week's magazine.

As were a lot of magazines.

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