Monday, August 18, 2008

Truck No. 3915

Today I finished after two months -- yes, two months -- I finished reading Don DeLillo's book Underworld, which is a tremendous book, a really great American novel, a category of book that is good to have because though there will never be a single great American novel there are many, and because we have the category we can name them and include Roth's American Pastoral and Melville's Moby Dick and Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby and Morrison's Song of Solomon and others I'm forgetting. Underworld is a great book, but what matters today is that as I read the last pages, I heard a roar outside and a clang and there were the City of Baltimore sanitation workers in their orange Tees, one driving and two riding, house by house emptying the cans we'd left out for them all up and down Sefton Ave. They rode Truck No. 3915 and they picked up the garbage that all of us had placed in bags and tied off at the tops and placed the bags in the rubber barrels that we call cans, a holdover from when there were trash cans made of metal, and the men in orange Tees took those bags and threw them all together into the back of a truck with the bags from other streets. Those bags held torn credit card slips and used condoms and weeds pulled out from between rose bushes and DVDs that didn't work anymore, and warrantees for items that didn't work anymore and love letters and religious bulletins from Methodist churches and Catholic churches but not Unitarian churches because those bulletins are placed in the recycling and this was the garbage I'm talking about here, this was our lives and that's why reading Underworld has been a very good thing, and why, even though it seems a coincidence, it is worth mentioning that as I finished the book the City of Baltimore sanitation workers cruised our street, loud and shouting, as if at a party, to take our lives, our histories, away.

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