Two Very Different Stories About Animals, Plastic Bags, and a Lack of Public Garbage Cans:
I. Intentional Placement
Coming back from Pathmark last year I discovered a dead cat near my house. It had obviously been hit by a car. I'd been the guy-who-scoops-up-dead-cats-in-the-neighborhood before and it's a role I probably took a little pride in. I love cats and I'm not squeamish. Removing their corpses from the afternoon sun dignifies them and it keeps kids from being traumatized. Everybody wins. The complication being that in this particular house I had no access to the garbage bins, only my landlord did - and she frightened me.
So I dropped off my groceries and returned to the sidewalk. I brought two plastic bags but it was impossible to shuffle the creature into them; rigor mortis had stiffened the cat and its guts threatened to flop out. Instead I used the bags like gloves, carrying the cat like one might carry a tray of orange juice and breakfast bagels. 4th ave would've been closer but I went down towards 3rd. The streets were less crowded that way. When I reached the intersection I discovered no public garbage cans on any corner - probably because it's a deserted area.
Not to be defeated, I walked south another block, and another... six blocks. No dumpsters, no public garbage cans, no place to drop an empty Pepsi bottle, a bag of Doritos, or an anonymous dead cat. I was far away from home and my hopes were dwindling. The cat was dripping blood and it's eye was falling out. The sun was high and hot. I tried to stay on the opposite sidewalk from pedestrians.
I passed a construction site and asked if I could put the dead feline in their dumpsters- they said no. A guy stopped me as I was turning to leave saying it would be OK, then his boss reiterated it wasn't OK. Maybe his boss thought I killed the cat. I must have looked a little suspicious, and I'm sure it's a liability to have dead cats in the company dumpster among all the fiber glass and planks of wood. I took the cat further still to 2nd ave, walked north up to 9th St. No garbage cans.
Two Hasidic Jews were leaving a building and in desperation I asked if they knew where I could discard of the cat. They suggested I put the cat in one of the dozen or so garbage trucks lined up outside Lowe's so I walked over there but all those garbage trucks were locked up, nobody around. No way to put garbage in them. Each truck had DON'T LITTER painted on their sides in red. No, we mustn't litter.
I remembered something Big Gimme Jimmy taught be back in college. He practiced a kind of post-modern living exercise called Intentional Placement; a process of leaving something - usually a piece of garbage - in a precise location on the ground. It is not littering, (which is careless and habit forming). Instead, Intentional Placement is a form of artistic expression. I'd seen Big Gimme Intentionally Place orange peels, cigarette butts, soda bottles... so surely it could be done with a dead body.
I left that cat tucked under the shade of a young tree on 7th street and 2nd ave; sprawled out and rigid on its bed of plastic bags. There was nothing to say. This was by no means a final resting place but it was an improvement. Things continued to be alive all around the cat. I could live with that. I went home and unpacked my groceries.
II. Intentional Placement 2
dog sitting for new clients
in jackson heights
i did not realize
there were no garbage cans
on the street corners
around the building
where the dogs live
eventually the dogs were eager
to go back inside, it was raining
so i carried the poop bag inside with us
clutched in a plastic grip
in a crowded elevator
ready with a line
"i'm taking it to the vet
have it tested for worms."
but of course nobody asks
can't leave dogshit in the kitchen garbage
flushing it down the toilet
seems like something an insane person would do
and what of the bags if i did?
returned alone to the streets
five more blocks in the rain
and no garbage cans
finally dropped it in some residential can
outside a nice house with a patio
some guy leaps out of his car
, multicultural brown
like a jackson height's stereotype:
"that's not your garbage can!"
but i continue
walking fast against the rain
not missing a step
"Hey! Guy!" he tries me again
let him chase me down
you'd have to be a brave motherfucker indeed
to confront a stranger
sopping wet without an umbrella
, not walking any dogs ,
who drops a bag of excrement
in your stupid garbage can
and this is why i make the big bucks