Ash Can School

Trash can at the cemetery in Rochester New York
Trash can at the cemetery in Rochester New York

I was cutting through the cemetery on my bike when it dawned on me that the trash cans there are made of metal, not plastic. I was thinking how we used to call them “ash cans” when we were kids probably because that’s what our parents called them. And for good reason, they used to put their ashes in them before all the coal burning furnaces were converted to gas or oil. And we called the garbage men “the ashmen”. We used to get exited when they came down our city street. I don’t even remember garbage men after we moved to Webster. Teenagers have other stuff on their mind.

Steve Hoy and I rented a house Bloomington for $85 a month and it had a coal burning furnace. We used to shovel the ashes out and pile them up on the basement floor. One night I went down there with the lights off and the four foot pile was glowing red hot. We were too lazy (or preoccupied) to put the ashes in the damn ash can.

I was tuned in to the metal ash can because I had just finished reading another Guston book, “Telling Stories” by David Kaufmann. Guston uses the trash can lids as shields for his klansmen and Kaufmann discusses Guston’s allegories which are are now all swimming around in my head.

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