Every Sunday, downtown residents perform a sacred ritual: they throw shit out. Not only is waste discarded, but useful items are also left out for passers-by to take. It's like a garage sale without prices for people who are too cheap to haul their stuff out to a free market.
Apparently there's a by-law against this. In the suburbs, people need permission to take stuff from the curb. Downtown, if the police try to enforce this law, it's front page news:
I even phoned the City about this, back in Spring of 2006, and the person who called me back said that as long as they don't make a mess, trash-pickers are diverting waste from the landfill and therefore not a problem.
(Incidentally, in the incident that made the article above, Gerard--who every now and then goes into Bridgehead to sort the newspapers by section and tidy up the bulletin spaces--wasn't even taking anything from the garbage. Gerard was simply sorting the non-recyclables--styrofoam, plastic bags, etc.--out of the recycling bins. The same officer gave Gerard a ticket for cycling on the sidewalk later this summer.)
My own relationship with the garbage gods started in summer of 2005. My window in a Sandy Hill walk-up looked out over the apartment building's dumpsters. Every morning, I'd wake up and look out the window to see what interesting things had been discarded overnight. Once, shortly after my laptop's screen died, the gods left me a 17" monitor that someone had been unable to sell at a garage sale. Another time, someone threw out a futon frame, which I dismantled and reassembled into this homely spice cabinet:
Shortly after I moved into my current place, which has no dumpster, my new upstairs neighbour said she was looking for a foot-operated garbage bin. I told her that Sunday nights, between 6pm and 10pm, you'll find anything you need. She was skeptical. Sure enough, that very Sunday, I wasn't even looking and I found a foot-operated garbage can. It's in perfect working order, its former owner told me, just they were moving and didn't want to bring it with them. My neighbour lost out--I decided I wanted one, too, and I kept it for myself. Since then, I've found four or five more foot-operated garbage cans and found them new homes.
While Sundays are great for garbage-picking, the first of the month (and the Sundays nearest it) has the sweetest fruit. Especially May and September, which is when many leases come due (especially those of students).
Case in point, this past September first, I was late meeting some houseguests because I had came home along McLeod, and ran into house after house of interesting stuff. One place had a big pile of treasure on their front lawn, which I had spent some time going through. Of it, I picked out the following (the rug is a previous find):
One item was this wonderful chrome-plated juicer. I repaired the grip and cleaned it up, and it looks marvelous:
Of course, I don't make my own juice. If I want fresh-squeezed orange juice, I'll get some from Boushey's, who juice oranges and bottle it on-site. Rather, I love the industrial rack-on-pinion action going on with the plunger:
When I was a kid, I used to love visiting my grandparents' place and making stuff from the random bits of wood and jars of miscellaneous fasteners in my grandfather's workshop.
My place is now full of things I've recovered from the trash, or received from people who downsized. I have an entire drawer in my own workshop filled with knobs, hinges and handles from discarded furniture for eventual projects. My kitchen is filled with more utensils, dishes, and serving containers than I have cupboards for. You can imagine why my apartment is such a mess. But some day, I'll have a project where I'll need this juicer's little mechanism, and when I do, I'll be glad I picked this up! In the meantime, it will look nice on a shelf with all the other kitsch.