Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Road Trip North - Day 0. Leaving Venice and the Story of the Magic Bin

We have been living in Venice for 11 months. I have mixed feelings about leaving, there is so much to love about living here, and so much I strongly dislike. We are ready to go.

I mentioned in a previous post how we are trying to live a more minimalist life, and how moving often, especially from county to country has lead me to view things, possessions, differently. We have tried not to buy too many new things during our time in Venice. However, there are of course things you need to purchase to be able to live comfortably, you need a place to sit and eat, you need a place to sleep, and you need pots and pans and utensils to prepare meals. I had a hope that these things would go on being useful to someone else once we had finished with them as it certainly didn’t make any sense for us to take them with me.  And this is one way Venice amazes me.

When we moved into our apartment back in January, the previous tenants had left us their old microwave. It was a shitty little plastic thing, basic when new and now well used and yellow around the edges. Michael left it by the side of the road behind our apartment next to the bin and within a few minutes it was gone. On his way back upstairs, Michael got chatting to a couple with young twins who were visiting our neighbour.  Two minutes later, this family were up in our apartment to see if they could make use of our unwanted stuff. The Dad, with dreadlocks down to his thighs, was soon ferrying the toaster oven, a lamp, plates, cutlery and all sorts of other odds and ends down to his car while the boy twin took it upon himself to rearrange what was left in our apartment and the girl twin clung to her mother in fear. They were happy that they hadn’t already spent money on such things that they now had for free and we were happy that our things had new purpose and were not going to waste. Not to mention the fact that it would save us a trip to donate them.

Rebecca and Paul took the bed off our hands, this worked out well for us as it meant that we had somewhere to sleep till our last day in Venice, and bizarrely also meant that we slept in our own bed when we stayed with them before we set off on the road trip. Just before Rebecca arrived to collect the bed at around noon, I noticed that someone had left an old mattress by the bin. And when I say old, I mean ripped and stained and with a nylon flowery cover clearly from days long gone.  I joked to Michael that it was a good job that we weren't dumping our pristine white Californian queen that day or the thin flowery monstrosity wouldn't stand a chance. I was wrong, before Rebecca had even arrived it was gone.

This bin has amazing powers to make things disappear, and disappear quickly. Michael's old Birkenstocks, well worn, placed neatly on the ground. Gone in under five minutes. A chipboard IKEA coffee table, $10 when new, collected by the very next person who happened to drive by. And our bed frame, surplus to Rebecca and Paul’s requirements, barely even touched the ground.

I am not sure where I am going with this story, it is not just that this bin has magical powers. It illustrates a level of poverty; in a city where rents are amongst the highest in the world, people are spending their lives collecting other peoples rubbish. It is one thing to make a living collecting unwanted furniture and selling it on, but there are also people who are just about surviving from the money they make collecting bottles and cans from these bins. I suppose there is some comfort that in this vast city of consumption and excess someone is recycling, reusing and repurposing.

This post was supposed to be about our first day on the road but has actually turned into a ramble about a ‘magic’ bin.

Back to our last day. Once Rebecca had collected the bed, and the apartment was clean, we took one last look at the ocean and drove away in our dented 12 year old Toyota. Keys dropped off, a quick lunch of Pho and Banh Mi at a random restaurant along the way, and then off for one last look at this city. We made our way up to Griffith Observatory, somewhere I have been wanting to go for months, and after a bit of science we watched the sun go down over a distant Santa Monica.

Back to Rebecca and Paul’s were we were very well fed and very well looked after. Michael providing scratches and tickles to their two enormous dogs before our old bed was erected in their living room and we fell into it for the night.