Friday, June 18, 2004


I am sitting here listening to a very old Metallica album, just seething. I suppose “seething” might not be the correct word since I’m also smiling and laughing. For some reason Metallica’s music has always been strangely calming to me.

Last night I came home from work a bit late. Since my apartment building only has one parking space, my wife gets to use it so she’s not wandering the streets after sundown. The street parking in my part of Los Angeles can be a nightmare as it’s very congested. If I find a spot, I take it.

Friday morning is trash collection day in my neighborhood, so last night every apartment building and house put out their garbage cans to be picked up. Around the corner from my place there’s this parking space—just enough room for one vehicle—that is always occupied by garbage cans late Thursday night. More than once, I’ve moved the trash bins to make way for my car. Last night was no exception.

I get out of my car and move a couple of bins on the sidewalk, and a couple in front of the driveway to the building they belong to. Viola! I have a parking space that doesn’t require me to walk five blocks to get home.

Things are good.

This morning, I take Bob the Dog out for a walk and out of the corner of my eye I see what looks to be a parking ticket on the windshield of my car. “Crap!” I think, “Is this street cleaning day?”

I walk over to find not a parking ticket, but this.

The picture may be a bit fuzzy, so I’ll translate: WARNING. If you move our containers again I’ll pour the garbage all over your Jeep!

This is an excellent way to start your day. I’m at first shocked. Who would write such a thing? Then, I feel angry. Who would care that their garbage cans had been moved, especially if they were still emptied? Once the garbage men are done with them they’re practically left out in the middle of the street anyway. Then I feel vengeful. I want to dump trash all over the street. Fortunately, the garbage trucks have already come.

I want to know who wrote this, and I have my suspicions.

I come back home all fired up trying do decide what to do. “No one messes with me!” I say to myself. This note is so passive-aggressive, that I decide I have to be the opposite.

First, I call the City of Los Angeles to clarify a few things. After pressing a few buttons, I get a live person on the phone. “Los Angeles Department of Public Works and Sanitation, how may I help you?” a nice lady says with a cheerful voice.

“Uh, yeah. I have a few questions about those trash bins people leave out on the street—You know, the ones people put out by the curb to be picked up?“ I mutter.

“Sure, what about them?”

“Well, I was wondering: Are those are considered city property?”


“Now, if someone were to set them not on the curb, but actually in the street where someone might park their car, can they be moved so someone may actually park?”


“So, there’s no legal issue with me moving them?”

“Not as long as you’re not blocking them from being picked up by our trucks,” she informs me. “What’s the problem?”

“Oh, I’ve got this guy threatening to dump trash on my car since I moved his garbage cans,” I explain.

“Oh. He just doesn’t get it, does he?” she says. I have her on my side.

Armed with this knowledge, I go to the closet and put on a stocking cap, the kind a longshoreman might wear down on the docks. I’ve been told that I look a certain kind of thuggish when I’m unshaven and wear the cap, but I think my wife was just trying to make me feel manly. Despite that it’s already 75 degrees outside, I put it on and furrow my brow; I have no idea what kind of character I’m going to run into.

I grab the note and summon up a small amount of courage as I walk over to what I think is the offending apartment building. From behind a metal gate, I ring the doorbell. A man of about mid-50 comes answers the door scowling. I think he might already know what this is about.

“Hi, are you the manager of this building?” I say.

“Yes,” he replies. In my twisted mind, I’m thinking that he’s already being short with me. Using one-word answers, how dare he?

“Do you know anything about this note?” I ask as I hold up the scrap of paper.


“Do you know who wrote it?”


“Was it you?”


At this point, I realize I should stop asking yes/no questions and get down to it. “What’s the problem here?” I ask.

“The problem is that you’re moving my garbage cans! And you’re blocking my driveway, so we can’t get out!”


“You have no right to move those garbage cans! Those are my property! You cannot touch my things!” he says to me. It occurs to me that this is beginning to sound like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I don’t know which one of us is Larry David.

“Look, pal. I just called the sanitation department and learned two things. One: Those containers are city property, not yours. Two: I’m within my legal right to move those containers as long as I’m not blocking them from being picked up,” I smugly respond.

“How do you know? Are you a lawyer?” he counters.

“No,” I truthfully answer. I figure telling him what I really do for a living wouldn’t help the situation any. “Are you?”

At this point he puts his hands on his hips and looks at me right in the eye. “Yes,” he says.

Going out on a limb, I say, “No you’re not.”

“Yes, I am.”

“No, you’re not. You’re lying.”

“I’m not going to stand here and argue with you, especially with you threatening me!” he bellows.

“What are you talking about? You’re the one threatening to pour garbage on my car. And if you do, there will be legal consequences,” I advise.

“I have 60 lawyers to go after your one lawyer!” he threatens.

“I thought you were a lawyer,” I say.

As he closes the door, I shout, “There better not be garbage on my car… Punk!” Now, I realize I probably shouldn’t have called him a punk, especially since he’s probably a good 20 years my senior, but my playground sensibility had already kicked in.

And I keeping thinking of all the childish things I could do.

1. Design fake law firm letterhead and draft a note from an attorney named Clarence Caswell. He will demand on my behalf a cease and desist of all garbage-dumping threats.

2. I could do a pre-emptive strike and dump the garbage in his driveway before he gets to me. I might spread out the coffee grounds to spell, “Garbage This!”

3. Writing words with sidewalk chalk in front of his building could be a viable option. “Punk” might be the first word I would choose.

Of course, I won’t do any of these things, but it sure is fun to think of them.

I think I’m going to listen to the Afro Cuban All Stars now.

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