Walking Cross-Town. And Recycling.

My right eye is pulled down and right, to the gutter on 42nd street. A half-eaten sandwich, a bite out of a slice of yellow American cheddar cheese, and its wrapper moist from Italian dressing. A few feet further up, a Bic Pen with its partially chewed blue cap, a cigarette butt and a flyer for Chinese take-out.

This discarded potpourri waits for the next big rain, or the morning sweepers to push it down from one storefront to the next and to the next, when it eventually drops down a street drain, bumping along the dark tunnels, and ending in the Hudson River, where a bottom feeding catfish nibbles on it.

I’m rushing (again) to catch the 6:10 Metro-North home.  I can’t explain it: the mind, my mind, that is.  It’s locked on trash.

Last night, I tossed an empty box of Eggo Frozen Waffles into the trash can in the kitchen. My eyes scan the trash, as my tongue works its way across my lips, lips lightly coated from Log Cabin Maple Syrup.

“Why isn’t this paper in the recycling bin?”

“What paper?”

“All of the paper that should be in the recycling bin.”

“Because it’s soiled.”

Soiled? I dig down. I find unsoiled paper, an empty plastic stick deodorant push-up, zip-lock baggies and empty envelopes.  I toss them into the recycling bin.

I dig down to the bottom for one last pass and my hands land on raw, moist chicken fat.

“Damn it! Do you think it’s a good idea to have this chicken marinating in the trash can overnight.”

The comment is ignored. Loon Man is sorting trash again.

I get to the train with a few minutes to spare, find the Quiet Car, and collapse in an empty seat by the window. I close my eyes and drift.

So what is it with you and trash?

And it rises. Shame. Viscous in consistency, refusing to flow back or forward, parked and simmering on an ever so slight, life-long boil. An Anna Akhmatova rising: “Rising from the past, my shadow, is running in silence to meet me.”

We were just kids. Several miles below the Brilliant Dam on the Kootenay River. It was dusk. The bottles (many) were scattered around a camp fire from a party the night before.

It’s ~40 years later, and I can feel the cool glass of the long neck beer bottle in the palm of my hand. Arm back, cocked and a snap of the wrist prior to release. The bottle would spin in slow revolutions, the glass shimmering against the setting sun…followed by its explosion against a large rock 15 yards out in the river.

One. And another. And another. And another….the boys played until the bottles were cleared.

The Kootenay River flows and will flow. Billions of gallons of water, for years and years and years, not slowed by the shards of glass that lay on its bottom, most now covered in sediment.

Covered, mostly, but there. In hiding.

A deposit for future generations.

And may there be enough dust from my bones to cover the edges, to protect the soft, white soles of a little girl’s feet —

Who will tip-toe in this exact spot on a hot day in August…

Photo: Glass by Jennifer Smith


  1. freddiegeorgia says:

    Oh David. Perhaps you need to get trashed. And recycle the bottles…pahleeze.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I get it. Trash is everywhere wrapping shiny new toys and organic spinach in a plastic shell.
    And we have contributed, and contribute, and wish to stop now, but it is everywhere.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I can never tell if your posts are fiction, fictionalised, or real. But whichever it is, what you say is true, relatable and well crafted. Reads like the best stream-of-conscious prose!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You dig deep. Even in trash. What is it with men and digging in trash?

    Loved, ” And may there be enough dust from my bones to cover the edges, to protect the soft, white soles of a little girl’s feet — who will tip-toe in this exact spot on a hot day in August.”
    Has the ring of a poem to it. A beautiful poem. There is a poet in you after all. Hhhmmm!

    Liked by 6 people

  5. You can’t take back the past, pal, but you can take comfort in the fact that you’re older and wiser now and doing your best to minimize your footprint moving forward. That’s more than many….

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Loved your Saturday morning confessional, David. Most of us have been guilty of one or another variation on this theme, I’m sure. I got myself a lesson on Serious Recycling while visiting Stockholm over the holidays…we still have ways to go at least here in FL.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. use your trash powers for good not evil. )

    Liked by 2 people

  8. David, you just reminded me of my days spending time in the Kootenays. “Get those rocks’ off my road” I say when my car driving off the dusty road followed by billowing clouds of dirt, park anywhere overnight, camp fire going, leaving behind consumed bottles and tin cans. Now I have four piles of recycling bags at home. Paper, Bottles, Compose, Boxes and Garbage. Make that five.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s the rare child, at least in America, who hasn’t purposely shattered a bottle.. And, in half-seriousness, I’d like to find a recovery meeting for chronic cardboard box *recyclers* for my husband. I’ve learned to break down the perfect mailing/perfect toy and children’s books-storing boxes before I bring them into the house and hide them until use — even if it’s the next day. His box radar, especially in light of the 3000 lbs of real junk on the property, is eerie!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I, too, think of broken glass as children romp across the sand toward the water’s edge. However, I spend more time recycling all of my “should haves”. I truly appreciate where your posts takes me to contemplate.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Mental recycle with kindness Dave. Let go of the recklessness of youth and relax around the trash 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I am guilty of the same – going through the trash… I drive everyone crazy trying to get them to at least put the cardboard toilet paper rolls in the recycling bin instead of the garbage. Sigh. My work is NEVER done.
    I sometimes look at my sons and wonder if they are guilty of the same… I see bottles and cans on my street for heaven’s sake and wonder. Would they? Or do they hear my voice? Right. They don’t hear me when I’m right beside them…
    And this: “And may there be enough dust from my bones to cover the edges, to protect the soft, white soles of a little girl’s feet — who will tip-toe in this exact spot on a hot day in August.” Brilliant writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Times were different then. There wasn’t the awareness or the education we have now. It matters what we do from this day forward.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Reading what you write, David, is always like “Cracker Jacks.” Digging through the rubbish, not so much. Maya Angelou I believe, said “when we know better, we do better.” I love this phrase.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. We are all responsible for recycling! It’s always a practice, me included. Let’s hope that little girl on a summer’s day, decides to do it differently. 🌸

    Liked by 1 person

  16. David: I saw something similar to this in the Kuala Lumpur Aquarium http://tinyurl.com/ycoevp76 . I hate trash.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. And I my head, I’m hearing Faces ‘Oh La La’ – specifically, ‘I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger ‘. That broken glass has become sand, the child’s feet protected. Now to protect your heart.😉

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Ouch This hurts…. in every way.
    I have here, in France, developped a new ‘trash’ system. I haven’t got a compost heap (the one thing I refused, I do not want to do that too….. my bad) but I have very little trash. I keep an empty, rather large plastic flower pot in the 2nd of my kitchen sinks and there is always a used plastic carrier from shapping in it. France has only self-decomposting plastic bags since a while ago, all others are forbidden. Everything food goes in there, as do tea leaves, coffee ground, veggie & meat & cheese rinds and cut-offs. Also yoghurt pots are filled with other things, so that they take no place, if they have a cardboard around the container, that goes into our very generous ‘packaging trash container’ which in turn are being collected weekly. We get 1 35l bag filled like this per week, nothing smells, because once the bag in the pot is full, it gets knotted up and then thrown into the bin-bag. NO glass gets ever thrown anywhere but bottle banks. All very clean and satisfactory.
    Last summer we headed to a restaurant in Paris. 10m from the entry we found a parking (this never happens…!) But stepping out of the car, we saw a few empty bottles in the gutter. We could easily have been crushing them with the tires. We picked them up and put them in a nearby (literally 1m away) litter bin. Then we entered the restaurant, where we had our reservation. The owner asked us the bizarre question: You are from which country? We said: We’re coming to eat here not to upset your apple cart…. He laughed and said: You can’t be French, you’ve been picking up empty bottles in the street 🙂
    I feel bad after reading this – like having sand in the mouth when you should feel – I don’t know – ice cream or apple ….


  19. So much goodie here:
    Assuaging old guilt with new lunacy,
    Mosquito bites on the sickly environmental pachyderm,
    Trashy triggers,
    Tactful & experienced non-response,
    Gutter triggers that set the whole machine in motion.
    Gosh, my heart is full of you today.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Memories of the Uncle Carrol’s pile of fresh dug new potatoes that went splat when you threw them at the side of the barn.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. The world would be so much more beautiful without the damage caused by humans. What a destructive species we are and that is such a sad fact. I did laugh though at “Loon Man is sorting trash again.” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Okay. So Eggo waffles and Log Cabin syrup? Yikes. Better days ahead, my friend. Better days ahead!

    I often think of how much trash the ‘average’ person goes through in a lifetime. Good god. Probably because we’ve always lived where we had to take our own trash and recyclables to a transfer station. No pick up. And even though we recycle 3 to 1 everything we consume, and even though we buy next to no packaged foods compared to the average consumer, it’s disheartening to see recyclables cast into the bowels of the roll-off dumpster by those too ignorant or lazy to bother sorting. The education is still just not out there, so I try and be tolerant. Aside from that, there is the real concern about the ultimate destination of our recyclables. Now China is refusing them, so what is being done about them now?

    I love your stream of consciousness prose, David. Love the ending to this one. Aloha. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Hi Bela. Thank you for the kind words.

    And, Yes, I’m on an Eggo Waffle binge doused in Log Cabin syrup. I know! I know!

    Yes, the trash situation is a real issue. I have flash backs of clips from the movie The Road (Cormac McCarthy’s best-selling and Pulitzer Prize winning novel turned movie where a father and his young son cross a barren landscape that was blasted by an unnamed cataclysm that destroyed civilization and most life on earth.) I’m thinking this is all heading the wrong way.


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