From reciclero to El Aluminero
The U.S.A. is THE industrialized country known, and becoming more famous, for old people eating cat food or out of trash cans, catching zees and pneumonia under bridges during Xmas, and other uniquely American (U.S.) customs like losing your home to catastrophic medical expenses. (Not possible in Canada, for instance.)
Evidence of our fame includes people panhandling on American street corners or going through alley garbage bins. We don't see many of the alley basureros, but the panhandlers are obvious to daily commuters.
If you've excused yourself from giving them money because you omnisciently know that they're winos, you should still read on because, given our 1% economy, you might soon be cramming anyway to pass American Begging 101.
Among other sectors of U.S. society where white privilege holds strong, there are few dark-skinned panhandlers, and fewer Anglo basureros. The parameters appear to be that an ethnic has a better chance of gaining something from a nondenominational garbage can than from the Christian driver waiting at the red light. Trash cans possess neither telepathy nor prejudice.
I haven't yet joined the street-intersection ranks, but have gradually became a part of the Can Collectors Anonymous. This happened in stages as I've risen through its many levels.
In the beginning I was the pop drinker who wouldn't throw aluminum cans in the trash. Recycling was more responsible, even if the money for toting them to the recycling center wasn't lucrative.
In the next stage I learned the hassle of dragging six big leaf bags of cans, how sticky hands got emptying them at the center and how much time it took. I graduated to getting a manual, can crusher to lessen the bulk, resulting in toting few bags but still a little messy and time-wasting. I had a new hobby now.
This was followed by obtaining a large trash can on wheels that could hold all the crushed cans that I only had to empty once, never touch, and made for quick trips. I'm in the money now too, making more than ten dollars each trip.
That's when I got my B.A. in can collection. Daily walks with the dog now required two small bags--one for his poop and another for the aluminum poop that Americans leave on streets and sidewalks. A trip to the park might net ten cans already crushed by cars on the streets. It almost became a side business.
Riding the bicycle on long trips gave the can collecting a new aspect and problems. More cans. But for each one I had to stop, pick it up, empty it, put it in a bag that wouldn't get trapped in the spokes. This is still a hassle, something I'll rectify with a tool to pick up cans without alighting the bike. That'll put me in the top echelons of nerdy can-collecting bike riders.
No aluminero is an island unto himself, so as I progressed, my relationship to others altered. The assumedly poorer people go through trashcans and bins in searching for more of the metal. I willing acceded that territory to them, the more deserving. At one house, the couple threw their weekly can collection over the fence to benefit the sincasas. Those too I felt weren't treasure meant for me.
Next came the "poor pocho" psychology. I didn't want the Denver Northside gentry seeing me pick up cans. The verbüenza of their looking down on me took hold and I'd pass up a couple of tall cans, rather than be considered "one of those." I'm still at that level, although my wife has no problemo doing so. Must be a machismo hang-up.
I know I made the grade with the homeless-looking raza, because now they see my bag of stepped-on cans and tell me, "There's some over by that tree," meaning either we're peers and they want to help me out, or I'm worse off than them, so they're looking out for my welfare. They're obviously not mind-reading Anglo Christians at the stoplight.
I've reached the stage of Aluminero first-class, though there's more I need to learn: how to pick up a can in front of a gentry; when's the best time of year to turn them in for the most cash; are there better centers. So, the learning continues.
I've added computer motherboards and other metal collection to my take, which have a better return. I've considered going door to door and asking for old electronics to tear apart, but that's in the future. I'm still working on the bike instrument to make that part easier.
This article isn't intended to turn you onto that path, because I don't need the competition. Nor am I trying to glorify the trade, because, except for me, the collectors don't care how you think of them as you watch them on a collection run.
At least in my case, I don't do this to "save the planet." If that were my intention, I'd be picking up the much more plentiful plastic water bottles Americans love purchasing. Also, my efforts do little to save anything, except some my face to myself. I know littering of any kind is inherent to why my species should lose it's spot at the top of the food chain.
So maybe what started as conservation simply turned into its own mania. I'm afflicted. You might catch it as well. If you're interested in that, you can follow my template. Or maybe you can just stop buying cans, so us collectors don't have to pick them up. Then I'd have more time for writing.
Obama worried about complicity in crimes against our humanity?
From his speech at National Defense University this week, Obama gave History his reputed views on how our loss of privacy and civil rights, our illegal killing of people by drones, illegal detention of suspects and all the other constitutional violations are not his doing. Among other things, he said:
"We strengthened our defenses -- hardening targets, tightening transportation security, giving law enforcement new tools to prevent terror. Most of these changes were sound. Some caused inconvenience. But some, like expanded surveillance, raised difficult questions about the balance that we strike between our interests in security and our values of privacy. And in some cases, I believe we compromised our basic values -- by using torture to interrogate our enemies, and detaining individuals in a way that ran counter to the rule of law."
The Denver Post comment on this is "Can Obama walk the walk on terror policy?" and concluded: "We're hopeful about the vision the president has articulated as he stands at the crossroads of the war on terror. But we counsel vigilance." And where was their vigilance as the violations unfolded to become Presidential policy and practice?
Esquire Magazine noted: "We should be a long way from judging this president on his rhetoric or his portrayal of himself as a moral actor." That seems a more accurate conclusion.
My own take on his speech is that it's groundwork to cover his historical and possibily prosecuted ass, in case The Geneva Convention or the U.N. or History itself ever rises to prosecute Bush, Cheney, Obama et al for war crimes. It could happen.
You should raise your hand if 12 years ago (9/11) you knew: 1. That Bush's Global War on Terrorism would cause more than inconvenience, 2. That expanded surveillance would violate our privacy and erode civil rights, 3. That enhanced interrogation was torture, unconstitutional, immoral and evil, or 4. That U.S. Presidents would do nothing to stop it. Tally up how many you got right and a score of one or more makes you smarter than the last Presidents, present company, included.
Big Writing Opp
Since I'll be submitting something, you may not have a pulga's chance in a haboob of winning this, but here's a call for submissions from Lee & Low Books.
"Lee & Low Books, award-winning publisher of children's books, is pleased to announce the fourteenth annual NEW VOICES AWARD. The Award will be given for a children's picture book manuscript by a writer of color. The Award winner receives a cash prize of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash prize of $500.
The New Voices Award encourages writers of color to submit their work to a publisher that takes pride in nurturing new talent. Go here for the details. Deadline: 9/30/13.
Can The Closet win?
Next Thursday at 6:00 pm in NYC, results of the International Latino Book Awards will be announced. My Chicano fantasy novel The Closet of Discarded Dreams is one of four finalists. The other three are already award winners, which puts my entry also in the category of a-pulga's-chance-in-a-haboob of winning.
I'll be sitting with friends in Denver, eating, drinking and not hoping as much as just mellowing that, at a minimum, the book was a contender. We'll see if there's más.
Es todo, hoy