The cars of our childhood

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I saw a pristine 1990 Chevy Lumina over the weekend. I actually drove a Lumina for a while, but my thoughts turned to a great friend who drove a Lumina, too. Radio newsman Ed Little looked classy behind the wheel of his always well-maintained, respectable mid-sized General Motors sedan. The hipster who was driving it on Sunday was more ironic than classy.
My dad loved cars– looking at them and driving them. He’d always excitedly point out cars that he or someone he knew once owned. As a young man, he drove sports cars like an MG and muscle cars like an AMC Javelin. Of course, I now point out old cars to anyone who will listen.

Just like with my ol’man, seeing an old car that reminds me of a car from my past is one of those instant mood changers for me. I’ve owned a few interesting cars through the years, like a white 1971 Mercedes. Very eye catching, but not too comfortable to drive. I love my ’86 VW Golf, ’95 Plymouth Neon, and ’97 Honda Civic. Those cars weren’t spectacular, but they were comfortable and easy to drive. When I see one, I want to drive it.

But the real memories come from those cars my dad and my grandpas had long before I could drive.

chevrolet_lumina_2
First- Here’s that Lumina, like the one Ed Little had. I’d wait to see this car pull up to fine restaurants like Alice’s Kitchen, Your Host, Grandma’s Pancakes, and the Four Seasons.

aries-wood-panel
In the Cichon house, we had this exact car: a Dodge Aries station wagon with faux wood paneling and tan Naugahyde seats. We also had a black one, with red velvet seats. Nice.

spirit
There were also 2 AMC Spirits in our family. Grandpa Cichon had a white one with a big blue pinstripe, my family had a brown one.

spirit-interior
This is the exact interior of our 1981 Spirit. I hurt myself on the steering wheel playing Dukes of Hazzard, climbing in and out of the windows.

85-pontia-bonneville
Grandpa Cichon traded in the Spirit for a Pontiac Bonneville. It was in this car, my brother and I witnessed one of the great events in our lives up until that point. Usually calm Gramps got hosed at a full-service gas station. He unleashed a torrent of Polish-American cursing that remains with me nearly 30 years later. We i see this car, I think, “You G-dd-mmed horseball!!”

econoline-pickup

Grandpa Coyle would get a new Oldsmobile every year or two… But all though my childhood, he has this odd, pea green Ford pickup– Which was actually van without an enclosed back. There were only two seats, and I can remember fighting with my brother over which one of us would get to ride on the hump where the stick shift was… on the way to the hardware store.

greeg-ford-maverick
Finally my Great-Grandpa Wargo drove this beautiful pea green Ford Maverick. It was a car that was old and mysterious, just like Great-Grandpa. I especially liked that the old yellow NY plates had three numbers then BUX. I liked -BUX on a license plate. Our plates were boring by comparison.

What did your grandpa drive? I’d love to see it, tweet me @SteveBuffalo.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Remember your audience– and your audience doesn’t want to remember OJ

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It was jarring. A relatively new-to-Buffalo TV news guy just referred to “former Bill OJ Simpson.” Um, yeah, we know dude. No need to remind us. Thanks.

There is no need for any further description of OJ Simpson. We all know who he is. If they are running some random story about a random old Bill, because he’s an old Bill, feel free to mention it.

But just landing in Buffalo, and deciding to start the latest on his current legal drama by reminding us of one of our most painful civic realities, just to show us that you, too, are aware of this heart-wrenching connection is too-smart by half and shouldn’t happen.

Personally, I’ve written and read hundreds of OJ stories as a news man, and never called him “former Bill OJ Simpson” on first reference. Ever. The words are superfluous, because we all know. What’s worse— we don’t want to hear about it, so no need to mention it.

Even worse than that, it had nothing to do with the story. I could write a book about why its a bad idea, and as a former news director, if you said that on my watch, I would write a book about it.

It’s not all or even mostly this guy’s fault. Part of the issue is the lack of surrounding crew. Ten years ago, you made that mistake once, and there were a dozen producers, photogs, etc to tell you the right thing to say. Now, chances are you are your own producer and photog.

A few months ago, a newbie weather guy mentioned elly-COTT-ville in a forecast. No one corrected the poor SOB and he continued to say it all morning.

I’m thankful we’re to the time of year when I can experience the youthful enthusiasm with which we’re told that one shouldn’t put their hand or foot in a snowblower. By a 22 year old woman with a mint julip accent— who may or not not have ever seen snow.

Like in anything else in life, you write for your audience. Not every fact which is new or interesting to you is new or interesting for your audience. It’s local news for local people. It’s not for someone from Germany or Florida or Rochester. It’s local….meant to appeal to locals.

Dad knows best, so shut the eff up

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I did something great yesterday. I told myself to shut the f*** up, and I really meant it.

For a very long time, I’ve been doing an exaggerated impression of my dad, saying with disgust, “Just… shut… the f*** … up–”

He was not a fan of people annoying him by going “chirp, chirp, chirp” as he’d say while doing the blah, blah, blah hand motion.

Dad, 1984. He’d have preferred you just have an Old Milwaukee tall boy and shut up.
Dad, 1984. He’d have preferred you just have an Old Milwaukee tall boy and shut up.

Now, my dad was a great father and fantastic in many ways. In this case, though, he was fantastically lacking in patience, and fantastically succinct in his expression of that lack of patience.

That phrase, an exasperated, “Just… shut… the f*** … uuUUP–” came out of his mouth when he was at the end of his rope, but more “tired of it” than angry. Of course, that made it an expression commonly uttered by the ol’man, in that exact peculiar way. That strong suggestion would be offered to us kids, to my mother, to the dog, and to the TV when Don Paul was talking about something that didn’t have to do with whether it was going to rain tomorrow.

“Just… shut… the f*** … uuUUP–”

When I first started saying this phrase in this way in the company of my wife, she no doubt recognized the dramatic style as a nod to the Master of the cranky curse-riddled tirade. As time went on though, and as more and more of my personality (d)evolved into something closer to that of my ol’man’s– I think that phrase has become mine.

We are at a point where my wife knows I’m thinking it even before I do most of the time. She’ll smile, and say, “C’mon, say it.” Honestly, we both know I say it mostly for comedic effect. But as time wears on, that little kernel of truth which makes comedy funny– my actual living, breathing desire for that person to STFU… well, that little kernel seems to be growing into a greater desire for clamped mouths every time I say it. Soon, I too will be swearing at TV weathermen.

But yesterday, I was talking things over with myself, mostly being a whiny bitch, when out of nowhere, I realized what I sounded like in my own head, and had enough. I told myself to just… shut… the f*** … up. Dad would have been proud, because I meant it just as much as the ol’man meant it when Don Paul started cracking jokes about Thanksgiving leftovers one time in 1991 or so.

We all have problems, and even those of us who try to maintain a steely exterior, might sometimes get a little whiny in the doubts that share with ourselves about those problems. I know it’s not the solution for everything, but wow– realizing you’re always a loser when you play the self-pity game, and figuratively punching yourself in the face is really a great feeling.

So, the next time you start to feel all “woe is me,” remind yourself to just… shut… the f*** … up. Or call me to complain. I’ll be happy to channel the ol’man and tell you exactly what I think you should do.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

If voting isn’t hard, you’re doing it wrong

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

How do you vote? I’ve been doing it for decades now, and I’m still not sure how to do it.

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In theory, sometimes it’s easy. There’s a good looking, charming, passionate, good-hearted candidate who shows leadership and with whom you mostly agree on most issues, and the other guy is a criminal buffoon with the mark of Satan on his forehead.

But it’s never that easy. If you’re doing it right, voting is hard. It’s generally the one chance in life we have to choose the people who are some way in charge of us on some level. If you could vote for your next boss at work, would you base it on the letter next to his or her name?

Those letters mean very little to me, as most of the time, they are only two or three talking points different from one another. Even conservative and liberal are ideas that seem to evolve more quickly than they used to, and views I think of as conservative all the sudden are liberal, and vice-versa.

The labels seem vague and useless, but what does matter to me often leaves me scratching my head, too. It’s different every time, and each race has different elements that are more or less important, but nearly every time, I wind up picking as I’m sitting there with my bubble sheet ballot. Just like at a restaurant with a big menu.

This gravy-covered entree sounds delicious, but will likely give me heartburn. I know I won’t be wowed with this lean meat and salad-y one, but it’s almost as tasty and way more healthy.  Sounds stark, but get the baked potato with the gravy one and the ranch dressing on the salad, they might be just about the same.

For me, the worst case election scenario involves two candidates who on paper seem equally appealing to me. One is a candidate who has the best heart, is passionate, positive and forward looking– but is a bit murky or just plain opposite of me on a bunch of big issues.

The other is a smarmy sort of guy– who if he was in business, you might recommend to a friend because he gets the job done– but you’d also recommend that your friend watch this guy, because you don’t trust him as far as you can throw him. This guy, though, shares your vision for the future of the city or the state or the world or whatever.

Isn’t that a tough choice? In my world, it seems to happen in every election. Maybe it’s my decades of “not being allowed to cheer in the press box,” and my role as someone who has to critically examine both sides every time.

I usually finding myself going with the good guy, with the hopes that he or she will make decisions based on what they truly feel is right for the community every time. Or at least most of the time, right? If there isn’t a good guy, I go with someone in whom I see passion. Even if I agree with someone, I can’t necessarily trust that person to do the right thing for the right reasons every time.

I think most people would agree with this, which is why so many polls show people hating Congress, but liking their Congressman. “I met my guy at a spaghetti dinner for the cub scouts and he was great; the other 434 can jump off a cliff.”

I think most of us are charmed by most of the politicians we meet, because they are generally civically minded people who are trying to do good.

There are very few politicians who are “evil,” or deserve to jump off a cliff. There are a few who are in it just for themselves, and maybe a couple more few who just like to see their names on signs on people’s lawns. But even most of those politicians have a pretty large measure of trying to do some good for the communities they serve. They are not evil sociopaths as they are sometimes branded by opponents or people on Facebook.

Sometimes good guys get caught up in baloney, but bad guys look for baloney to get caught up in. So gimme the good guy. I guess.

I find voting hard. I think it should be.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

@#$%!! Winter already?!?

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I’m not the biggest fan of winter, and I hope it’s a mild one. I’ll take warm over cold any day of the week.

While sometimes I might say I do, I don’t hate winter. Winter is part of our deal here in Buffalo, so I accept it and try to make the most of it.

What really bothers me– what inspires something closer to hate– is the speed with which it all seems to go by.

A very artistic, instagrammy look at Steve Cichon’s snow blower
A very artistic, instagrammy look at Steve Cichon’s snow blower

In the last week, I made a pot of scratch chicken noodle soup, gassed up and started the snow blower, and got the furnace ready and turned on the heat. Mundane chores that bother some people, but for me it’s not that chore, so much as it’s just that it literally could have been last week that I was grilling on the 4th of July, sharpening the lawn mower blade for the season, and getting the fans out of the attic.

Really. All of that could have been yesterday. But right now, I’m wearing 4 layers as I type in the back bedroom of our drafty old house, thinking that I won’t be warm until May. Again, it’s not the layers as much as it seems perfectly reasonable that I should be wearing shorts to take the dog for a walk today, not pulling out the peacoat for its 21st Buffalo winter.

It’s not that I don’t stop to smell the roses. I do, literally. I love nature, and enjoy taking it in. But the seasonal differentiation device in my brain is like an old VCR constantly flashing 12:00. I have no good sense of time, which means time is always flying by.

Flying by, in fact, like a tractor trailer on a dark road in the middle of the night.

When you see those little pinholes of light in the rear view mirror coming over that hill way behind you, it seems like that little spec of yellow might never catch up to you.

Daydream (or night dream, as it were) for a moment, and all of the sudden, that truck is right next to you, loudly rattling past, whooshing and reeking of diesel for about 6 seconds. Then it’s tail lights, until they get small and disappear– Just as two more little white pin pricks of light appear in your rear view mirror again.

Not just seasons, but all the things of life. All that time looking forward to something, only to have it whoosh by and turn into tail lights before you even realize it was there.

I’m not sure if it comes with age or if it’s because we change the way we live as we age, but it wasn’t always this way. I find myself being one of those annoying people who have tell people who are younger than me to take the time to enjoy… time. I don’t put it quite that way, but that’s what I mean. And make sure you enjoy time while standing somewhere other than my lawn.

I wouldn’t want to return to youth. The wisdom and knowledge of age roundly outweigh the creaks, groans, and grays for me.

The one thing I’d love to get back is time that goes by like a Countrytime Lemonade commercial– with twangy music, hazy sunshine hanging just above the horizon, a breeze gently swaying the willow tree,and the feeling that none of it will ever end.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

BREAKING: Trader Joe’s Inspires Ambivalence

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This past weekend, we had visits to several box stores on our to-do list.

Since it was Sunday morning, and all of these box stores are each right next to a “box restaurant” where you can get bread-y things for breakfast, we decided to get our Niagara Falls Boulevard visit out of the way before most Williamsville soccer moms are awake to clog the roads and Canadians are still stuck in bridge traffic.

Steve's look inside the Niagara Falls Blvd. Trader Joe's the weekend it opened.
Steve’s look inside the Niagara Falls Blvd. Trader Joe’s the weekend it opened.

There was no line, but I’m not sure the fire marshal would like home many people were packed inside Trader Joe’s this weekend.

There was no line, but I’m not sure the fire marshal would like how many people were packed inside Trader Joe’s this weekend.

We were able to quickly grab what we needed at three stores, and, well, we just happened to be in the plaza that plays host to the most exciting thing to happen to Western New York since Krispy Kreme opened here.

There were parking spots right in front of the store, and there weren’t any Real Housewives of Snyder clawing at each other in a line in front of the store– in fact, there was no line– so we tried Trader Joe’s, especially since we needed to buy something for dinner anyway.

It’s a grocery store. It has a trendy feel, too trendy for my liking, but so does Wegmans where I shop twice a week. They had what I needed to make chicken soup, and they had generic Cheerios on sale. Fine.

There’s my opinion, but people have been all over the map on Trader Joe’s.

They have some interesting inexpensive items. They have some interesting super expensive items. The clerks are either “nice and helpful” or “annoying and too perky” depending on your point of view.

The meat and vegetables were pretty reasonably priced, but you couldn’t possibly do all your shopping there, because the trendy TP looks like its made out of pine cones.

Why do I have to form an opinion on a stupid niche grocery store? We have become a society where you have to love or hate something, and then argue the crap out of why you feel that way.

It’s a store. Some stuff I’d buy, some I wouldn’t. In the 25 minutes my wife and I were in there, three different employees told me they liked my bow tie with buffaloes on it, and three also asked if I needed any help. Based on that, I think it’s fair to say the staff in general is nice, annoying, too perky and helpful.

I just can’t get worked up either way… over a freaking grocery store.

Somehow though, in my ambivalence for TJ’s, as the insiders call it, I feel like less of a man. Like I’ve showed up to a Superbowl party to “just root for a good game.”

“Just pick a team, Sally,” I feel some alpha-male douche snarling at me, and he wants to know about cookie butter and what my feelings are over a lack of “Two-Buck-Chuck” because of our state laws governing wine sales in grocery stores. He hates it, because he has Two-Buck-Chuck in his fantasy league.

I’ve actually been caught in the cross-hairs of a Love TJ’s vs Hate TJ’s battle, with each side trying to sway me with incredible arguments about a grocery store that’s been open for less than 100 hours here in WNY. If only we could corral this passion into something good.

I don’t hate Trader Joe’s. I don’t love Trader Joe’s. It’s meh. But with all this passion about the joint, maybe they should build one in the hole where the Aud used to be.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Time to alienate all my friends

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The other day, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek treatment on my feelings on this shut down of federal government.  Today, I’m going to make everyone mad with a more serious analysis of what I see as the problem.

1856 caning of Senator Charles Sumner on the Senate floor.
1856 caning of Senator Charles Sumner on the Senate floor.

Most people, I think, would agree with the notion that both sides should lock themselves in a room and not leave until there is a solution.

Most people say that, but that isn’t what most people mean.

What most people really mean is, “They should lock themselves in a room and not come out until the effing morons who don’t agree with my viewpoint see the light and defer to what is obviously the enlightened position, ie, my position.”

Our leaders reflect us. Even if you voted for the other guy, you are part of the environment into which these guys came to power.

We as a people say we want compromise, but are swayed by the stupid ads with the dark shaded photos and nasty voiced guys telling us that “this candidate voted against good stuff.”

Compromise generally appears in someone else’s campaign ads shaded as weakness.

We want compromise, but we want people to stick to their convictions at all costs.

Really, we don’t know what want, so our politicians don’t know what to give us.

Or maybe we do know what we want.

We listen to Jon Stewart or Rush Limbaugh, and we repeat the funny interesting ironic things they point out because they are smart and they are on our side. And then we feel informed. Mostly, those two and others like them, are mostly interested in telling jokes and being interesting. Not informing people.

And don’t think that Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner don’t care about what those two might think about any move they make. They have to care, because they in many ways, set the agenda with their partisan political humor.

So we have placed the future of our republic in the hands of an old disc jockey and a former stand up comedian, from whom over 30 million Americans become informed every week.

We say we want compromise, but do we really?

Reading Facebook over the last few days, I seriously wonder how many of my friends might enjoy a return to 1856, when a congressman walked into the senate chambers and beat Senator Charles Sumner unconscious with a cane.

Both sides have mostly good points. Both have a fewer stinkers, too. Both also sound like first graders talking about how the other guys have cooties.

If can’t agree that at this point, both sides are acting like children, and neither is on a moral high ground, then you are  part of the problem.

These are smart and savvy men and women in Washington.  They could come up with a great solution that most of us would be very happy with. But we don’t want that. We want it our way, and we don’t even really know what that means.

We’re just as bratty as our leaders.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Congress: Who has the more impressive package?

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

When people are fighting over whose package is bigger or smaller, whether it’s taxes or budgets or cuts or any other sort of “package,” I usually assume that neither one is accurately portraying their actual package size in the argument, and furthermore, that promises made about either package will ultimately lead to disappointment.

US_Capitol_Building_at_night_Jan_2006

When two sides are so convinced that their own package– and only their own package– is the only way to satisfy the country, and that they are justified in running around waving their package while bashing the other guy’s package… well, that’s just stupid.

It’s especially stupid because no matter which package we wind up taking, it’s going to leave us entirely unsatisfied… Which only sets up next year’s “who has the better package” fight.

Seriously– both of your packages are pretty weak. Neither one is really worth boasting about. So please stop acting like children bragging that your package is so much better than the other guys’. It’s not.

And of course, whenever people start arguing about packages, it’s the people who have to listen to the argument, or get beer spilled on them, or end up without a paycheck or services for a while because of an asinine package fight.

Please, keep your package size out of your discussion of packages, and act like grown men and women.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

A man ahead of his time

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

13427954_10209523827394107_7932250703412461951_nJack Tapson passed away last weekend.

He was a photographer, who like me shared a love of Buffalo Broadcasting, worked in the field for a few decades, and knew– as it was unfolding– that he was watching something important unfolding in front of him daily.

He started at Channel 4  as a lover of photography and teen technician in the 1940s and moved onto Channel 2 where he started the news film department in the mid-1950s.

For decades, these jobs put him on the front lines of some of the really amazing things that were happening in what was then America’s 15th largest city. Behind the scenes at Buffalo’s big TV stations as well.

Through the years, he sent me dozens of photographs along with some sort of brief description of the shot. As is usually the case, many of the photos are amazing not only for the intended subject, but the background and surrounding scenery, too.

His access to free or low-cost film and developing at work, and the consistency with which he carried his still camera through various jobs he was working, give us a bit of a glimpse of what it might have been like to follow a television reporter or videojournalist on Facebook or Twitter 60 years ago. Just like someone whipping out their cellphone for a quick pic while doing their actual job, many of Jack’s photos were taken while shooting moving pictures for WGR-TV.

Importantly, he not only took these shots, he saved them all these years. Even more importantly, he then shared them, mostly with fellow historian Marty Biniasz and me.

Here are a couple of shots, with Jack’s notes and then some further explanation.

Ernie_Warlick_Jim_Castigleone__Bob_Lanier

“Here’s a classic!!! Ernie wore a size 19 shoe, Jimmie a size 6 1/2 and Bob Lanier a size 24.”

Shown: Channel 2 Sportsman & Former Buffalo Bill Ernie Warlick; Channel 2 floorman Jim Castiglione; Bennett High School & St. Bonaventure basketball star (and future NBA Hall of Famer) Bob Lanier. Late 60s.

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Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Pulaski Day, Broadway, 1964

“I received a thank you note from Kennedy after fulfilling his request to send this photo and others….similar.”

Shown: Robert Kennedy’s campaign car takes him through Buffalo’s East Side and up Broadway, 1964

Kowal__Harry_Truman_color“I shot silent footage at his arrival and departure at the Bflo. airport and S.O.F. at Canisus College.”

Shown: Buffalo Mayor Chet Kowal shaking hands with Former President Harry Truman on his way to a Canisius College speaking engagement, 1962. (S.O.F. is “sound on film,” silent film was far less expensive, so sound was only shot for news purposes when necessary.)

Details of Buffalo history aren’t all that I learned from Jack.

Jack and I had a falling out. He was insistent on something that didn’t fully make sense to me. I reasonably refuted a tad, he got passionately angry. I passive-aggressively pushed back again.

If you read through the emails, I think anyone would agree he was acting like a jerk. What I didn’t know though, was that he was really sick. Had I known, I probably would have cut the passive aggressive sort of crap. I did my best to try to make amends with him. I said all the right things, and really meant all that I said. It was too late though, as illness had taken a good grip on poor ol’Jack.

Now we weren’t close friends, I’m not even sure that we actually met in person, but knowing that I didn’t do all that I could have to aid a brother in trouble, leaves me greatly troubled. Just because he was outwardly acting like a jerk, didn’t give me permission to be jerky–less jerky, but still jerky– back.  He was sick, that was his excuse. I don’t have an excuse. Without the details, I posted about it on Facebook.

JackTapsonUpdate

As my friend Libby commented on Facebook, “That is real wisdom. (Wisdom is sometimes accompanied by an uneasy feeling.) (It never seemed that way for Andy Taylor or Cliff Huxtable, but I have found it so in real life.)”

So thanks, Jack for capturing so many fleeting Buffalo memories on film. And thanks for bearing with me while I learned a tough lesson in humility and compassion which will serve me, and the people around me, well into the future.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

The Art of Garbage Picking

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – This weekend, walking the dog, I found the best piece of “trash” I’d seen in a while.

This landfill bound wooden box, filled with woodworking scraps, was once used by Rudolph Frey Meats to deliver sausages and other meat products to small grocery corner stores, butchers, and places like the Broadway and Washington/Chippewa Markets all over the city.

Treasure in the trunk of my car.
Treasure in the trunk of my car.

At one point in my life, for fear that someone else find my treasure, I probably would have grabbed this 50 pound box, and tried to carry it while managing my erratic and mentally unstable dog for the rest of the way around the block.

Instead, at peace with the fact that someone else might snatch up and enjoy this vestige of long ago East Buffalo, I took the dog home and got the car. It was still there, and I loaded up the box (which I wanted) along with the wood scraps inside (which I didn’t want but will explain in a moment.)

It had been quite some time since I grabbed something out of someone’s pile of trash at the curb. These days, people bring me their junk. I don’t even have to ask, let alone pick. Occasionally, I’ll see something destined for a landfill and I’ll ask to give it a home, but straight up garbage picking I haven’t done for a while.

It’s not because I’m above it, it’s just that my tastes have refined. I have eleventy-twenty-two tables that just need a little… or chairs which will be great with a new… I don’t need more of those sorts of things, and that’s generally what’s in the garbage. Broken stuff.

When we first bought our house 13 years ago, the first big trash day doubled the volume of furniture in our big city house. It was the only way we could do it. Some of those items, carefully spruced up, remain a part of our home today. Most, however, were eventually put back to the curb. A few times, I even helped someone load the thing I was throwing out into their car as they plucked it from the spot next to my big blue tote. The circle of life.

As a garbage picker who lives on a busy street, I am careful to properly display (and even put a “TAKE ME” sign on) stuff I consider to be “good garbage.” Not in good enough shape to head to AmVets or St. Vincent dePaul, but still good enough for someone to get some use out of it. As I said, if I see the actual picking, I’ll even help load it in the car, and give the provenance of the piece to the new owner.

One time a guy was so happy to find this bike that he could fix up for his daughter, I went to the garage and got all the bike parts I could find to help him make his daughter’s day. Garbage picking builds communities.

But there’s a right way and a wrong way to garbage pick.

My Frey’s box was being chucked, in some part, because it was the vessel holding those wood scraps at the curb, part of this man’s effort to neatly pile a bunch of junk from the basement on the curb. To just dump the wood in a pile on this guy’s lawn would have obviously (I hope) been rude, and there was no other clean way to leave ’em, so the whole thing went in my trunk. Since it was big garbage day anyway, I bundled up the wood and put it neatly at my own curb.

For as happy as I am when a guy who needs a grill thinks he can get a year or two out of the one I’m throwing out, I’m just as angry at the junk dealers and metal scrappers, who’ll turn a neat pile of refuse into an ugly mountain of detritus and debris, hop in their Fred Sanford-looking pick up and leave without conscience.

After about 8 years of renovations on my home, my basement was filled with scraps and bits of all sorts of home improvement ephemera, small pieces of wood molding, PVC drain, electrical wiring, copper pipe, window glass, fiberglass insulation, etc, etc. I put 8 years of this stuff into about 2 dozen contractor bags, very lightly filled for ease of carrying. By the time I saw him, some low-life had taken an razor blade and slit about 15 of the bags, pulling out no more than 8 cents worth of metal, but leaving saw dust and little bits of broken glass all over my lawn and side walk.

CICHON PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: Tom Bosley with Glad trash bag, Ginsu knife cutting beer can, Mr. C’s fez
CICHON PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: Tom Bosley with Glad trash bag, Ginsu knife cutting beer can, Mr. C’s fez

While Mr. Cunningham’s 80’s commercial advice echoed in my mind, it was rather difficult to “not get mad,” because I had, indeed, “gotten Glad.” It was like some sort of epic battle between Tom Bosley and the Ginsu guy in my front yard, and Howard’s fez wound up looking like that beer can.

I hate the shame attached to garbage picking, but jackwagons like this razorblade loser give people pause when they see someone trolling their trash. So by all means, reduce, reuse, recycle. But be respectful. Pick politely. Don’t make a mess.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com