Garbage Night in America

All these years later, I can’t help but scan the sidewalks of Albany on Sunday night and early Monday morning. Why? Because Sunday night is garbage night.

When I first lived in the city, during the summer of 1983, I discovered that there were treasures to be harvested, especially around Center Square, where people were always throwing away quality items.

When you have barely any furniture anything looks good, and whatever we could carry or stuff into the back of a car we’d haul off to our apartment. If we later decided we didn’t want it — or found something better — it would just go back where it came from, the curb.

Old urges die hard. On just one block, I recently spied a desk and chair, a couple of lamps, and a bookcase. That’s like a whole room worth of furniture.

But when you practice the art of garbage picking things sometimes end badly. Several items were hastily discarded when they began to emit the unmistakable aroma of cat urine — and there are some things you should never take off the sidewalk.

I learned this the hard way after dragging a queen size mattress and box spring up into my apartment in Plattsburgh. My big new bed was the envy of my roommates — until mysterious bug bites started showing up all over my body.

Those things went back onto the street, of course. Both were gone within hours, off to another apartment where someone else would discover that sometimes garbage really is garbage.

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