Because They Can, can…

Every morning and especially on garbage pickup days Those who can, can.
Those who can are the can and bottle collectors who roam and forage through the recycle trash in the ‘hood’ in search of the 5 cent deposit payoffs.

Those who can are young, old, Black, Hispanic, Asian, White, women, men and women with children in tow pitching in. At times, it seems as if part time and full time working shifts are in place, for those who can are usually seen at the same time every day.

Those who can push shopping carts with plastic bags draped to the sides, others carry large bags in a variety of colours strapped to their shoulders and some just use the pockets in their clothing. I smile and say Good Morning to the ones I know. I yank up the blinds at my window to reprimand those who I do not know because they left the lid off our garbage recycle can after raking through and getting the 5-cent deposit payoffs.

I use to view Those who can as outcasts in society akin to Those who feed birds, unable to navigate through societal demands or culture.  They were the people who had to support their escapism by way of drugs, alcohol or in the case of Those who feed birds through birdseed.

Due to my unemployment at the time and in need of running shoes, I decided to try my hand at being a Those who can. A relative who lived in the basement was a heavy beer drinker and partied on the weekends in the basement with other heavy beer drinkers. By the end of Sunday, the “garbage recycle can runneth over” with the discarded 5 cent deposit payoffs.


Collect all the cans from the relative after the weekend before he throws them out then go to the local supermarket to retrieve my five cents of payoffs. Two hundred 5-cent deposit payoffs equals $100 crispy brand new dollars-viola or vola!-new pair of running shoes!

It did not work out that way…

After collecting gazillions of 5-cent deposit payoffs from the relative and dumping them into 55-gallon trash bags, packed in my car no less, I drove to the local supermarket and stood in line at the return machine. I was overly dressed with clean clothes compared to the others who stood in line and I wore makeup with lipstick to boot. Finally, it was my turn. I unloaded a can from the bag and slid it through the slot.



Numerous cans attempted kicked back the same message. A Those who can next in line advised me to go the Walgreens a mile over and try their machine. I guess it was obvious from my reaction at the rejection notice that I was an inexperienced Those who can who had no plan B.

I jumped in my car and drove to the Walgreens.




On my way to the Queens Center Mall, stop in at a nearby supermarket.


Okay, enough with the error messages.  I tried six other places until I realized the cans had to be returned to the place of purchases.  Needless to say, the beers that were once in the cans were purchased at various beer outlets. No return machines there.

I returned home, bags of cans in tow and into the garbage recycle bin they went.

The next day, the bin was empty. Those who can completed their rounds. The job does not stop at the local supermarket but begins with the back and forth travel to numerous places, returning cans and bottles.

Those who can, have my respect. I was not able to accomplish what they do on a day-to-day basis-heck I did not even make five cents. I had a car, did not go door-to-door collecting cans and had 55-gallon trash bags at my disposal. Those who can, work hard.  I gave up.

Eventually, I purchased my ASICS running shoes but felt no satisfaction at acquiring them through borrowed money.



“What’s in a name…?”

A last name reveals a family’s history, culture and origins and serves as a tracer of continuities and discontinuities within lineages. It can unite groups of people or fuel long-standing feuds between them.

I had my father’s last name, a name my mom inherited by marriage which was passed unto me. Mom, my mom was quite angry when my own handiwork while living in Cali legally changed our shared last name.

“Everyone, is going to think you’re a bastard child”, was mom’s first response.  

Well, since the new last name that once belonged to my grandfather Emanuel (mom’s father) is now my legal last name- I can see why she was upset.  As far as I know, my new last name did not place me in the ‘bastard’ category much to mom’s relief. If anything, it leads to others assuming I am married and since no husband stands by my side the assumption is usually, married and now divorced.

The name change was prompted by a need to honour my great-uncle Wilfred Mc*****, who passed on, on August 1, 1997.

My great-uncle, whom the family called, Tío Wilfred, was the keeper of family stories, pictures, anecdotes  and a living breathing encyclopedia on the idiosyncrasies of the Mc*****’s.  At the age of 92, during an afternoon nap, he died, gently in his sleep as his favourite music played in the background.

Tío’s heart deteriorated slowly from coronary thrombosis and surgeries.  Diabetes caused blindness as well as an amputation of an infected toe.  El corazon de mi Tío (the heart of my uncle) was especially tired at 92. Like a depleting double AA battery in a tape recorder, struggling to push  a tape through a cassette, the heart of my uncle also struggled, to push blood and eventually stopped, working.

On a rainy Sunday via Metro North on May 25, 1997, Mom and I made the trip to Ossining, New York to visit Tío Wilfred.

During the ride, we entertained ourselves bickering. From which side of the train to sit in, which car to sit in, who gets the window seat, what are we eating to I’m hungy,I’m not, I’m hot, no I’m cold, etc. Traveling together tends to bring out a war of the personalities.   By the time the train reached Ossining, I was worn out from the ordeal while mom was recharged and ready for round two. Mom has her own personal system of madness and I have my own.

A cab flagged down at the station brought us to Tîo’s apartment.

Mary, his partner of almost 40 years greeted us at the door. We walked into a warm one-bedroom apartment to find Tîo sitting at a table listening to a radio program. He could not see our facial expressions or how we physically changed from the last long ago, going into years visit. Although I felt discomfort at first, it gradually gave way to comfort due to Tío’s own facial expressions and movements working in a natural way as if he had sight.

My great uncle was perky and extremely talkative stopping at times to let his breath, rest.  Each time he did, mom glared at me as if it was my fault for encouraging him to talk so much. We looked through photo albums describing pictures to Tío and he responded with the background story behind each one. When he had sight, his ferocious reading led to his intellectuality. After sight left, the ferocious reading turned to listening with audio books. He proudly showed off his audio collection.

Mary prepared lunch (oxtails, rice and salad) and we sat around the table eating. On a strict diet, mí Tío (my uncle) could not have the salt his palate previously adored. On the table was a shaker filled with a salt substitute. Tío found it using his fingertips and once located sprinkled white crystals over his food. He described his quest for a substitute and was overjoyed when Mary found this brand at the supermarket. His happiness along with the gleam in his eyes allowed me to feel the effects of how the simplest thing can turn out to be the biggest fulfillment.

I was 33 years old when I saw my great uncle for the final last time and I miss him.

Depression hurts…

“Suicide thoughts?”
No. If I commit suicide I’ll have nothing to be depressed about anymore.

“Problems eating or regurgitating food?
No. Food and I have a mad love relationship. Everyday I’m busy trying to consume as much as I can-why go through the trouble of trying to get rid of it?

“Feeling of hopelessness and despair?”
Yes. The world at times has attempted to suffocate me.

Oh yes, well I have dogs. I choose alone!

“Loss of interest in activities?”
Well…yeah, gaining xx amount of pounds does not encourage me to get out in the park and roller blade in a tank top and shorts anytime soon.

Based on my answers to a series of screening questions, I was diagnosed with depression. My primary care doctor officially and medically placed me in the mild zone of the depression spectrum-not the high or the low but the mild-whatever that means-kidding, I know what it means.

Depression hurts…

It paralyzes mí alma (soul) and drives mí cuerpo (body) into a catatonic state. It is intimidating as it towers over me and devours my ability to self-control. It can also be possessive and demanding as no others are allowed to compete with its hold.

If my depression lasts a day, I can pull through by way of engagement with what I love to do-writing, reading and playing piano. If it stays around longer, I shut down, become lethargic and hide within the comforts of myself.

Depression is frustrating because I have yet to figure out how long it plans to hang out in the fog within my being. But, it does have a way of announcing its arrival which is not by a horse drawn golden chariot or sitting atop a billowy grey cloud. A trigger is what my depression needs in order to arrive and it’s always dressed in its finest.

Examples of some of my Triggers:

1. Aggravation from work
2. Tobias or Pi Patel sick with something
3. Weight
4. Bad ride on the subway
5. Clothes not fitting because of the weight
6. Things not going according to plan
7. Ignored or having my ideas not taken seriously
8. Detangling my hair
…This can go on but it stops here.

My triggers are not a consequence of the situations themselves but my reaction to the situations which in turn brings on the depression.    

My reactions to the above situations:

1a. Inability to think coherently and reacting emotionally
2a. Stress and the unknown leading to loss of control
3a. Emotional eating
4a. People who don’t know the proper usage of “excuse me” and “I’m sorry” especially when my toe is smashed by a stiletto heel
5a. What the hell am I going to wear now?
6a. Why me? I know. Because I am so stupid!
7a. I guess I truly am stupid
8a. I hate my hair, I hate myself
…This can go on but it stops here.

This was depression before Wellbutrin.

Now, depression with Wellbutrin does not hurt as much.

***Wellbutrin effects are different for everyone. What worked for me, may not work for you. Talk to your health care provider for more information.