Letter from the Editor

By David Perloff

(Published in the October 2010 issue)

Tuesday night, the cans go to

the curb. Wednesday morning,

a pristine truck rolls up to the

house, a hydraulic arm grabs the

black bin, and the show’s over.

I’ve never met the guy who’s got

my neighborhood on his collection route-I don’t

even know if he’s a guy.

It didn’t used to be that way.

When I was growing up on the mean streets of

the Philadelphia suburbs, trash day was a big deal.

I heard the mechanical behemoth thundering

down the next block, and I dashed to the curb to

see Manny the Trashman. I was seven, and he was

my hero.

Manny had my dream job.

My love affair with all things refuse began a year

earlier. I was standing outside with my father when

a trash-truck driver pulled over across the street. His

colleague jumped from the back of the vehicle, and

then the magic happened. As the guy was dumping

a neighbor’s can, a red ball and two stuffed animals

appeared amid the rubble. He retrieved the ball and

one animal from the gaping steel chamber, inspected

them briefly, then threw them inside the cab with the

driver. My jaw dropped.

“Dad, does he get to keep that stuff?”

In the instant that my father nodded, I saw my

career path. The perfect job. Working with friends,

finding treasures on every block and getting paid

for it? Sign me up!

I might have missed a few of the next 52 trash

days, but no more than that.

The ground shook as the sanitation crew

neared our street. The hair on the back of my

neck stood on end when the reverse-indicator

beeped. When the Dream Team actually arrived,

I smiled so wide and waved so emphatically, they

had no choice but to wave back. One time, the

driver even talked to me.

“What’s your name, Kid?”

I told him it was David. When he said his was

Manny, it was as if a superhero spoke to me. He

was the man behind the wheel, the conductor of

cleanliness and in complete control of the trash-

compacting jaws of death-which occasionally

kept its mouth open for emergency toy retrieval.

When toys lost their thrill for me, so did

Manny’s job.

Later, I wanted to be a doctor like my dad, but

studying for biology exams (or even showing up

for class) didn’t agree with me. After college, I

interned at a radio station and thought I wanted

to be a deejay, but I ended up selling airtime

instead. I did that for seven years, then operated a

small ad agency for six, and now I’ve been running

this magazine for four.

And now I think I may really have found my

dream job.

My hours suck a little, and my brother, who

did go the doctor route, makes more money in

a quarter than I do in a year (he still lives in the

suburbs outside Philly, though, so that evens

the score), but I love this town and the unifying

characteristics of life here that bring us all together.

Working with friends and my wife on a magazine

that celebrates this city is a dream job.

Last night, the woman who cleans our office

was emptying the trash. Watching her dump the

cans was way less exciting than it was when I was

a kid-then she paused, reached into a can and

pulled out a mint-condition Padres beer holder.

I don’t think a career change is in the cards

for me at the moment, but my childhood fantasy

has been rekindled. And I just figured out my

Halloween costume-Manny the Trashman.

Happy Halloween, guys. If you see me

dumpster-diving, don’t feel bad-it’s my dream

come true.