Garbage or junk?

My own private blogosphere.

Junk is something you wish you had soon after you throw it away. Garbage deserves to be thrown away.

In Chicago, people put their garbage out to be taken away. Sometimes, they put out old furniture to save parking spaces. Sometimes people have things they no long want in their house because this junk is just taking up space. They want t get rid of it, but it’s good junk. However, they lack the desire or time to give to a charitable organization or sell it on the Internet. So, an alternate solution is putting things out with the garbage in a highly visible place. This way, passersby will see it and salvage it. They’ll bring it into their own home for an undetermined period of time–usually until it becomes their junk, which in turn they must also be put out with their garbage. This is one of the many ways that Chicago recycles. It’s the Chicago Way!

In the past, I have put out old furniture with my garbage because I was tired of it and so I bought new furniture. Once you decide you need new furniture, the old furniture becomes junk. However, there are many other people who would love to have your junk because for them it would be a step up and will be insulted if you call their new living room furniture junk. Nothing is more difficult than restraining yourself from calling someone’s furniture junk. Especially if you’re visiting a neighbor who offers you a seat on your old sofa. How can you say something nice about something you threw away?

Junk Bought, Antiques Sold

Of course, I have also been the beneficiary of Chicago recycling. It’s takes a little bit of luck and timing to profit from something that I refuse to call garbage picking. This reminds me of a sign Mark Twain once saw at a store: Junk bought, antiques sold. So these found objects are either junk or treasures, depending on your perspective. Well, I have found some treasures that I can’t imagine why they were thrown away. Granted, they were exposed for all garbage pickers to see. And see them, I did! Once, I found some treasures of my own. I wasn’t really looking for them, but I couldn’t miss them either. In Beverly, we have to put out our garbage cans out in front of our house once a week for garbage pickup. This is my first Chicago home that requires me to put my garbage cans. At all the other homes where I have lived, our garbage cans stayed in the alley where all garbage cans belong. I still haven’t gotten used to putting my garbage out in front!

Anyway, one night I’m driving home from work. I see everyone’s garbage cans out in front and I realize that I had forgotten to put my garbage cans out. At times like these, I realize that it’s good to keep up with the Joneses. So while I’m making a mental note to myself, I see a garbage can that is oddly shaped. Or so it seems. Then, I notice that there is something leaning against a garbage can. I slow down and I realize that they are oil paintings. But it is dark, so I’m not really sure if I believe my eyes. I stop and inspect them more closely. They are, in fact, oil paintings! I found three oil paintings of flowers. Nothing valuable like a Picasso or a finger painting by one of my sons, but they are still very good paintings. I’ve always thought about buying paintings to decorate my house and suddenly I have some. For free! The wooden frames were made in México.

I keep one by my computer to inspire me whenever I write. Doesn’t that painting look beautiful? I’m thankful to whomever threw those paintings away because they were tired of them. Let’s see how long they remain my treasures!


South Side, Chicago, Illinois.

Once, while traveling in the country, Mark Twain saw a sign that read, “Junk bought, antiques sold.”

To my mother, junk wasn’t merely just junk. To this day, I realize that there’s junk, and then there’s Mexican junk–there is no Spanish word for junk, although I did see a sign that read “Yonke” in my travels through Mexico). My mother managed to salvage just about everything she found in the alley. No chair was so splintered, no dresser was missing too many handles or drawers, no bed frame was so rusty or bent that they could not be repaired, refurbished, or rehabilitated with a little paint, elbow grease, and TLC. If my mother found something that was too heavy or bulky for her to bring home, she would come home to get me and between the two of us we would put it into the back of her red Volkswagon Squareback station wagon.

My mother always knew some Mexican or an entire Mexican family who had just come from Mexico and needed furniture. She would help them set up a home by giving them whatever furniture she had found. She genuinely loved to help people and she would never ask for any money in return. Occasionally, someone would offer money, but she would refuse it saying that they could repay her when they were settled down. People would come from Mexico and look for my mother because they knew that she would help them.

When I bought my four-flat house in Bridgeport, I attempted to help Mexicans on a smaller scale than my mother. I only helped my Mexican tenants and a few of their friends. When my brother lived in one of my apartments, he wanted to get rid of his living room set, but didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t know anyone who needed furniture at the moment, so I told him to put it out in the alley only he didn’t want to throw it away. I explained to him that if we put it in the alley early Sunday morning, the Mexicans going to church would see it and take it home with them. Sure enough, all his furniture was gone within an hour.

When I got divorced and I needed to refurnish my new house, I got most of my furniture from my brother and sister. Sometimes I feel so Mexican!