And they’re lovely. The kind of lovely that is so generous and warm and kind and thoughtful and virtuous that it’s actually a bit mind-blowing.
So yesterday, I asked one of them if I could go out on his regular tour of Brooklyn’s best garbage.
After dark, we head out on our bikes, me bringing up the rear. I’ve got two headlamps on my head, a red one facing to the back and a white on facing forward. As we ride, Mitch’s* head whips around to examine every pile of garbage bags we pass. Bags of garbage are piled high on the sidewalk, and there are many, many piles to look at. He’s got a trained eye, he knows which heaps might be promising.
At our first stop, an organic grocer not too far from our house, he shows me the ropes. He lifts up each big black bag to check the weight, and carefully unties the knots in the heavier ones. As he’s showing me how to gently push through the end of the knot in the more tightly closed bags, I catch the eye of some of the shoppers leaving the store.
The big automatic doors slide open, letting a whoosh of warm air escape with fashionable shoppers carrying brown paper bags.
I have to laugh at the idea of the sight of us. Me, dressed like one of those shoppers with the brown papers bags, and Mitch, with his long salwar kameez style shirt and longer beard, his big bushy moustache jumps up and down as he explains knot-untying to me. Our old rusty bicycles are parked next to us as we root through the trash.
We don’t find much here – only some prepackaged stir-fry vegetables, cheeses and yogurt (for the house), and some beautiful tulips. Mitch often brings home flowers, thrusting them under our noses so we can enjoy their freshness. We neatly tie the bags back up and Mitch piles them up the way he found them.
On the way to the next stop, we pause at a particularly large heap outside a chain, Duane Reade. “Thadeaus says the black bags have the good stuff” Mitch says – and he’s right. All the regular garbage is piled on top in clear bags, for all to see. Underneath, are at least a dozen thick black bags. We open them up. One is entirely full of snickers bars, starbursts, and Hershey chocolate bars.
Mitch looks at with disgust. He’s not taking this. “It would be like bringing home drugs,” he says. We do pocket some organic dark chocolate bars, baguettes, bananas, and many bags of potato chips. Mitch reads the labels of all the chips to choose from, throwing a lot of them back with disgust. “So many ingredients!” We select some all-natural organic roasted red pepper potato chips and pedal off.
I’m beginning to see a trend here. In New York City, beggars can be choosers.
We stop at three more organic grocers. To our ever-increasing load we add five tubs of sun-dried tomato hummus (there were at least thirty to choose from, but we can only take so much), six or seven packages of veggies sausages, a dozen packages of organic veggie burgers, red and white onions, fruit cups, peppers, rice chips, ‘apple snacks,’ breads, and much, much more. Bags and bags of food are left behind, as we select only the items with the finest ingredients.
We cart it all home on our bicycles, me trailing behind, marvelling at all the sights and sounds in my new home. There’s barely enough room in the refrigerator for all our goodies.
It was a mediocre night, judging by Mitch’s expression. He’s happy he found some onions, but he would have liked more organic yogurt.
*He’s wary of technology, so I figure he wouldn’t want his name on the internet