White Trash

I was walking my dog yesterday, early morning, and it was trash day, so we were dodging the garbage and recycling cans at the curb, which were covering up extremely valuable dog pee smells. People are so rude, to put their trash cans over top of urine-soaked grass.

But they do. Even on my favorite street in my neighborhood, a street where I try to steer my dog (not that I am the least bit in control of the dog walks) because the houses are so big and fancy. My husband doesn’t like when I gush about these houses, because he thinks I secretly would rather have one of those houses instead of our perfectly fine, actually-really-nice, more-than-I-deserve house. But in reality, as unmaterialistic, unpretentious, and leftover-‘60s-hippy as I am, I would still kill or do something equally illegal and immoral for one of those houses. I have named each of them after a notorious gangster family or someone from the Sopranos. Some of them have fountains in front, they all have courtyards and cool patios, and there’s a lot of wrought iron gates and such. I’m quite sure that behind the gates and walls, there are people wearing expensive, sparkly clothes.

So the dog and I were in front of the Gambino house when I saw a perfectly good white wicker dresser at the curb with the garbage that was tempting me to no end. You have no idea how badly I wanted to run the dog home, get our pickup truck and load that dresser into the back, take it home, throw a sheet over it, and hide it from my husband.

Two things stopped me: One, my dog Grace will not have her walks rushed, certainly not in pee-soaked Little Italy and not for a wicker dresser that is unlikely to be used to hold Milk Bones and peanut butter. And two, I don’t have a square inch in this house where I can hide a piece of trash-picked furniture.

When we moved to Florida last year, we had our square-foot living space cut literally in half and I had to get rid of 65-70 percent of our possessions. I’m still not completely over the heartache I suffered in purging myself of more than half of the things I’d accumulated over the past 25 years. Honestly, the sight of me crying on my front porch as the Habitat for Humanity truck driver pried my fingers off the kids' old Fisher Price Farm had to be the most pathetic thing to witness.  And because we’re now in Florida, there isn’t an attic or basement or spare anything room to stick the stuff that you don’t really use anymore, don’t need and are looking to hide from Mr. White Wicker Hater.

My sister’s sister-in-law once hid a new La-Z-Boy chair that she had bought for her husband for Christmas by putting it in the living room and piling a bunch of laundry and newspapers on top of it. Just like she thought, he never even noticed it. Some husbands are like that. Mine would pick up the scent of a La-Z-Boy or a pre-owned white wicker dresser from two doors down and have it ferreted out before I could take his briefcase and hand him his glass of wine. (Remember, he’s the guy who cringes when I buy clothes from Goodwill.)

My friend Gail, trash picker extraordinaire in New Jersey, used to trash pick furniture in our neighborhood. Our street in south Jersey was a main line for trash picking. Gail was an interior designer, so she was always on the look-out for something she could refinish and sell to a client. Her husband didn’t mind because she would use the proceeds to buy Victoria’s Secret underwear.

Once, she was on her way home from grocery shopping and she saw a headboard, dresser and nightstand on the curb and she zipped home, unloaded her groceries and went back to pick it up. In that short time, a near-homeless guy had arrived and was getting ready to load it into his Jed Clampett-mobile.

“That’s mine!” Gail yelled shamelessly. “The owner-lady, yeah, she put that there for me, so I’m here to get it. Thanks ‘kay bye.” Shameless.

In that neighborhood, we used to put things out at the curb early, for the convenience of the professional trash pickers (and Gail). We never had to trek to Goodwill or ring for the AmVets to come pick up stuff. We’d put it at the curb and we knew it was going to a good home. Occasionally the trash pickers would take a day off or get uppity and pass over some of our good stuff and then there’s be a mad scramble to figure out what to do with it before the BFI truck rolled up, or face the reality that it might just get crushed in front of the children.

“They’re just pushing it in, nice and snug, before they take it to the farm,” I’d tell the kids as their eyes widened while the puppet theater was biting the dust.

I don’t know what ever happened to the white wicker dresser. I haven’t seen a trash picker in our neighborhood here for - ever, so if I had taken it, I probably would have been the first. This kind of behavior could get me kicked out of the homeowners’ association.

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