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.



Pot of Fire

At the age of twenty-five, I consumed my first one pound, twenty dollar lobster, steamed, cracked opened by my own hand, succulent pieces dipped in butter at a now defunct restaurant called Broadway Bay.

What’s the big deal and why did it take so long to eat a lobster?


A lobster, a pot of boiling water with a pinch of salt and a child equals trauma.

I was nine years old and lived in my childhood home in Brooklyn, New York. I was also a latch key kid and spent many hours after a tortuous day at catholic school, alone in the house, waiting for mom, my mom or a sibling to come home from work and school.

Being a latch key kid had its advantages.

I was able to:

-play with matches (almost set the house on fire after setting a match to a perfume bottle)

-sneak outside and run amok with my friends (but back in the house for mom’s four o clock check in call)

– eat bags of chips and Kit Kats bought with the school’s weekly two dollar pledge envelope money (which seldom found its way into the teacher’s hand)

-rummage through my siblings private draws and read love letters (I was an imaginary participant in the RIF program sans the use of library books)

The list can go on but it stops here.

As soon as mom, yes, she is my mom, came home, I was velcroed to her side. I heard stories about her workday, some funny and some, well maybe a PG rating should have been implemented. After this, she would start dinner while changing into her house clothes as I did homework on the dining room table. This was our daily routine, until, she returned home one evening, with a large paper bag.

The brown paper bag went immediately into the kitchen as I trailed behind it. Mom withdrew a lobster and placed into the stainless steel sink.  The lobster was about three pounds, multi-coloured with dark hues of specks and its claws where a dark shade of ruddy pine green. As it stood in the sink mom turned on the faucet and ran tepid water on it.

Giddy with excitement over the gift I thought I received, I remained spellbound and did not inquire what I had done to deserve a new pet or where the tank was or the food to feed it. I splashed water around the poor thing while thinking of names to call it as I tried to figure out its sex.

Mom, yes my mom, meanwhile, started dinner. She placed a large pot of water on the stove and I figured, ‘oh spaghetti’. I did not think of what was to come for my young budding mind did not comprehend the scenario in front of me. Mom, who is from the Caribbean, is accustomed to petting the goat in the afternoon that would later become the invited, cooked and well seasoned guest on the dinner plates.  Bon Appétit-no problem!

The pot of water had turned into a rage of boiling bubbles that broke the surface with bursts of hot air.

I continued to play with my pet lobster.

Steam emitted from the surface of the pot.

I continued to play with my pet lobster now named Ricky.

In a gesture that took two seconds to execute, Ricky went from a caressing waterfall in the stainless steel sink to the rage and fury of boiling water gone wild in an aluminum pot. One clawed waved listlessly in the air and then it was over.

Sixteen years later, I sat in Broadway Bay with my bib and butter and eagerly dived in. Of course dating someone who loved lobster was the ultimate incentive and long after our ending, my lobster fetish began and endured. Until…Karma.

At the age of forty-something, I ate a piece of lobster during lunchtime at one of the dogs’ press shows. In less than twenty minutes, my scalp was on fire with the itchies. Thankfully, I had a Zrytec in my purse that was able to quell the allergic reaction. I was confused, ashamed, and stupefied. Twenty -two years of lobster consumption now reduced to avoidance. No more jaunts to the Caribbean with lobster for breakfast, lunch and dinner. No more Red Lobster in fits of desperation or for that matter, no more Fairway $7.99 lobster specials!! It was over, done, did, over.

What goes around comes around. I let Ricky meet his maker without protest or tears that would not have swayed mom, my mom’s , eye on the prize. She devoured him that night as I cried in my bedroom, oblivious to my heartache.

Judgments and Assumptions

Personal appearances are often misleading.  Take for instance a person who prefers to dress in Salvation Army clothing while another is layered head to feet in Couture.  Another person may drive a fully decked out slightly used 2010 BMW Z 4, while another drives a 1997 Honda Civic Hatchback.

Judgments and assumptions.

The ‘Salvation Army’ dresser is a cheap billionaire who prefers to have money locked away in investments while the ‘Couture’ dresser is one day from an appointment with the bankruptcy lawyer. The used BMW financed at 12% glistened seductively  in the showroom and now the owner owes three back payments while the Honda is long paid off, vamped with the latest accessories and still in possession of the original owner.

Those who feel entitled because of their perceived notions of elitism quickly cast judgments and assign assumptions to unknowing victim(s) and yes I admit I have been on the assigning end.  The irony is that the unknowing victim is very much aware of what is taking place because of the way the ‘entitles’ treat them and yes I have also been on the receiving end as well and frankly, it sucks.

I am overweight and struggle with navigating my body throughout my immediate surroundings. I was once skinny, society acceptable
skinny, at a weight of 115lbs. I also fitted into Ann Taylor Loft clothing and at times wanted the size 2 label to hang outside the jeans instead of on the inside. Now I waddle down the street, sucking my stomach in and pretending the image I see in storefront windows is the size two instead of an eight.

If you saw me, would you stop to think before passing judgment or would you assume I’m just another fat black person who can’t stay away from the Kentucky Fried Chicken? My weight gain is a combination of emotional backlash as well as physical –a hypo thyroid gone wild is not a girl’s best friend.

And now, to add more salt…My work clothes no longer fit. The pleated slacks, A- lined jackets, silk blouses and richly dyed shirts do not close about the waist. Do I buy new work clothes on a part-time salary? NOT. I walk four miles to work just to save subway fare! Okay, now you’re thinking, with all that walking the clothes should fit. NOT. The caloric makeup up of my lunches far exceed the calories expended walking.

As a monetary society that believes in “Bigger is Better”, the “Bigger” just as easily works with the “Expensive is Better” rhetoric.  Couture clothing, flashy cars, Indian hair weaves, and Botox, not to mention boob jobs and my all time fav, the “Lifestyle Lift”   all help to up the ratings in the judgment and assumptions category.  You are what you eat or rather you are what you wear.

So to all who judge and assume beware, for as you judge, so shall you be judged .