5 April 2007...9:33 am

One Man’s Lapdog

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You can, obviously, understand a lot about a neighborhood by looking at its trash. That’s if you happen to have that selective kind of blindness where multi-paned windows, wrought-iron railings, and purebred lapdogs are imperceptible.

(Do you know the trouble I just had with imagining what one would see in a nice neighborhood? I do not live in a terribly crummy place, but was forcing myself to recall exactly the block of East 79th, between Madison and 5th, where a boy I made out with once lived. He’d, like, not gone to Yale in order to hike around Nepal, so I’m pretty sure his house was the fanciest I’ve entered.)

Anyway, it’s clear that I can’t paint the word picture, so your first assignment is to go visit the aforementioned young man and take a gander at his surroundings. Then, and only then, will you be able to proceed:

I bet the trash on that block, and the surrounding blocks, is pretty refined. Organic dog food containers, leftovers from the East Side equivalent of Citarella, Frédéric Fekkai shampoo bottles, tags ripped off the Marc Jacobs spring line–things I would throw out if I were richer. (What do you do with them now, Emma? I KEEP THEM. FOR EATING).

And then there are other neighborhoods, where you’d find cans of Pathmark brand tuna, Pathmark brand laundry detergent bottles, tiny containers of Pathmark brand apple juice, coupon circulars with all the good offers snipped out–the things my family threw out when we were poorer.

But I was walking through Gowanus yesterday, and passed a really interesting quality of trash. My neighborhood is, undoubtedly, going through a transition, and perhaps its proximity to Home Depot (and Pathmark!) makes it particularly appealing to handy house-improvement type folks. For years, though, the area was the province of old people whose families had moved away, the kind who still sometimes peer at Young Max and I through their lace curtains & grimy windows. Now the new, richer families are throwing out their stuff, and on Wednesday nights the streets are awash in all kind of linoleum furniture, puce and mauve accoutrement, and the occasional desiccated Italian grandfather.

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