Monday, February 8, 2010

It's Been Awhile....but I'm no Quitter

It's amazing how a simple act of decency can make a difference, not just for said individual recieving said act but more so for the person doing. Recently, I was walking home from sweeping up our Toronto streets on a nice warm and melty day when in the thaw I came across a wallet in the gutter on Palmerston Ave. I picked up the soggy leather and assorted cards, put them in my pocket and continued on my way home. After settling in I went through what I had found in search of the identity as to who lost it. I quickly found Michael N. 's phone number and gave him a call, only to hear what is probably an all too common tale in downtown Toronto. His car window was smashed in and some no good schmucknik decided to abscond with his blackberry among other assorted things. While Mike was able to find his ransacked bag in a nearby alley and thankfully had his main wallet with him at the time of the incident, the schmucknik must have tossed this one containing AGO/Science Center and other business cards where i had found it. Now, I'm sure most would be rightfully be concerned with credit cards, cash, I.D., and the such as I wouldn't doubt the police told him he should be thankful wasn't stolen. I've always believed it's the percieved lesser things that matter and can make a bleak situation not necessarly great, but definatly better than it was. It is in this mindframe that I encourage others to take the time and consideration to return something lost, however seemingly insignfigant at the time, because the end result could be joy in the unexpected. While it may seem odd for someone to thank the person who had something returned to them, I want to thank you Mike not just for your reward but for giving me that unexpected something I needed to start me writing again after what could ony be described as two hectic and hellish years in the life of the Litter guy.

Thnx, Mark The Litter Guy

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The True Faces of Queen St. West

It’s been a bit since I’ve been able to put pen to paper, the reasons for this vary, but today I got my motivation from a source least expected. Not from some YAHOO calling me the “The joke of the community”, (Yeah you ignorant Jerk, I’m talking about you)

But from a couple that has supported my efforts.

Jack and Anna are two seniors who, whether with a kind word or a Toonie, have let me know they appreciate me de-filthifying the Queen St. west. Heck these fine folks actually took the consideration to give me one of the three Christmas cards I got this festive season just past!

While my many encounters with these fine folks, just east of Bathurst have left me grinning like the cat in wonderland. One day was different though, I really got to know these people, by hearing, (not just listening) about their life. I had run into them, not as per usual in front of Michael’s (a hole in the wall of a watering hole), but rather inside when all my bending over and picking up trash forced me and my
bloated bladder towards the nearest facilities.

Where inside, after a brief debate on whether a person who rids someone’s storefront of garbage, (often without pay) should be exempt from the mantra of “washrooms are for paying customers only”. I was granted the glorious privilege of using a facility that could, for the fear of Internet censorship due to the obscene nature of the facilities, be described as a washroom in name only. I was then offered to sit and
enjoy a beer with Jack and Anna.

While normally I would be in too much of a rush to get on with my work, I was ever so glad to know two of the real faces of Queen West, as great as it was. I was then told of Anna’s experiences as a young girl in Holland, when the Canadian forces freed the country from the sadistic grip if the Nazis. A thing no Adult let alone Child should ever have to go through. To see the wonderfully caring person in front of me, despite, of perhaps because of, these unimaginable to most hardships is a true testament to her great character.

Then Jack went on to tell me how he worked his way up the ladder, and down the tracks of different railway companies going from emptying box-carts to being a brakeman with everything in between for the made famous for monopoly’s B+O railroad. This is but just a small sampling of what I heard that pays, and what is available to anyone who takes the time to hear what I think Queen West is all about. Something that in our
increasingly busy days, we tend to forget. It’s not the buildings that make the city, it’s the people. So if something as important as this couldn’t motivate me to write, than I don’t know what could.

On a side note to the fella who asked if I found a Alberta drivers license… no such luck so far, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

Found a CBC radio card of Nicola Lucsic on Queen West on Halloween.


--Knights of the round table, Camelot-

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Last Days of '07

Hello there citizens of Toronto and beyond, it's your friendly neighbourhood litter guy here updating you on my activities.

Sorry, it's been a while, but lately life has decided to play ping pong with me, so what I'll do is recap what's been going on with me since last you heard from me. The week leading to the New Year started off brimming with optimism as on Christmas day I decided to give Toronto a present of being able to have a filth-free trudge through the city streets on their way to the day's festivities.
While the day may have left my pockets almost as empty as when I started, the pleasant demeanour of those I ran into left me feeling rather wealthy after my 5 hours of work. Although when I came to the corner of Queen West and Spadina I was greeted to the sight of a line of people out the door and a little beyond at the local McDonalds, I guess a turkey dinner can't measure up to the Big Mac for some folks. All in all considering the quiet nature of the streets, not a bad day.

The next two days though could only be described as complete and utter chaotic capitalism with the mass of humanity converging on downtown and the subsequent refuse left behind had me filling garbage bags at a blinding pace. Oddly enough though, while these two factors usually bring forth a profitable day (lots of people plus lots of garbage times elbow grease equals profits) it just wasn't to be. While I suppose it wasn't a complete financial disaster, for the most part people were more concerned with filling their shopping bags. Although with that said, due to the noticeable absence of city street cleaners, my services were greatly needed.

The next few days leading to and including New Yeas Eve while not very eventful were steady and for the most part fulfilling, leaving me with lots of optimism for the New Year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Silver Lining Behind the Dark Cloud

Someone once told me that it was life's trials and tribulations that builds ones character.
I used to secretly scoff at this tired cliché, cause if it was true, I'd be filled to the brim and over flowing with character to the point where there wouldn't be any room for anything else.

But, low and behold there I was having it proven to me once again that those tired clichés find themselves over used with good reason. My Litter Guy adventures of late had an aura of disappointment, which left me wondering about their worth whileness.
Well today, much to my joy, I got an answer of sorts.

What happened was that I ran into a lady who I had seen a few times before, and she proceeded to tell me that shortly after the 1st or 2nd time she saw me, she was so inspired by my efforts that she decided whenever she could while walking her dog, she would get her young daughter and husband to come with her. And as a family they'd fill up two bags of garbage each time out, so as to show her daughter the importance of a cleaner tomorrow, while turning it into a family activity.
I was so blown away when I heard this, it was just the "pick me up" I needed to hear, as no matter what the future may bring, I know that my efforts, brought forth a positive change (albeit a minor one) for this woman and her family.

I guess it's time to stop scoffing at another tired cliché, as it is apparently true that one person can make a difference.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Really Bad Day

Something unexpected happened today.

You see, my efforts as the Litter Guy have been able to be broken into two parts. One part survival, and one part giving something back to the world, all the while trying to set up something that worked for me, so that someone else can benefit by it.
Now don't get me wrong, I realize people differ like the colours in a kaleidoscope so I probably should have realized that backlash could very well come from those that my intentions are meant to benefit the most. But still it was a shock.

Today along my route down Queen St. West when my path crossed this short bearded guy, about 25 years old, panhandling. Nothing new there, in fact I've picked up litter in front of this same face in this same spot before, but unfortunately today that's where the similarity stopped.
Now let me say I've been given donations in front people panhandling many times before, and what ensued had never even come close to happening before. In fact, it's something I've tried to be aware of so as not to build up any animosity.
Most panhandlers realize that I'll be shortly on my way once the litter is gone and that there's no "cutting of the grass" involved as a lot of those that pay me would not pay them anyways. There is all this and the fact that if said panhandler wasn't some jerk I would've given them half of the donation I received in front of them, 'cause that's just the way I am. So to put it bluntly, what happened next...SUCKED.

I try to treat all my interactions on a one-on-one individual basis, and my prior interactions with said individual have been him asking to borrow 2 bucks from me and me turning him down. Just like most people if I can, I'll help out with a bit of change or a smoke, heck I even get change from panhandlers having a good day. It's just one of those "I know what it's like" things, you don't even have to ask.

That's why when this guy got up all of a sudden and started accusing me of being rich, and making all kinds of money picking up litter on the streets, and that I was somehow hindering his abilities to make money.
I'd be lying if I said this didn't irk me, especially due to the fact that I had spent the last 6 and a half hours picking up filth off the streets in miserable weather only to have made about $25 and all I had to eat that day was 2 Taco Bell Tacos a panhandler gave me.
So being the type of person who hates to be accused of something he didn't do, this really bothered me. I was able to keep my composure and respond with the question, "If I was making so much money doing what I do, don't you think I wouldn't be the only one day in and day out doing what I do?" I continued, "If I'm so rich, why don't you get some bags and gloves and pick up litter?"

I don't know if what I said to him flew right over his head or what, but it was answered with swearing and him showing me a syringe in his hand and saying something about sticking me. One thing that I've learned from the hostile life of the streets is that if you show fear it will make things much worse and you'll be victimized even more.
So as soon as I called him a gutless so-and-so and pushed him backwards, he scampered off and for some reason bragged about how he was off to the alley to shoot up and didn't give a fuck about me anyway.
I'll be the first to admit I have a tendency to view things differently than most but I started to get mad, not at the fact this schmuck threatened me but because he was the one accusing me of having all kinds of money when he had more dollars worth of drugs dragging him into the ally than what I'd made all day. This doofus could afford to shoot up and I was eating gifted panhandler Tacos.

Unfortunately though as all the hoopla subsided, it was me who was slapped in the face by reality.

I've given my body, mind and soul to my efforts as the Litter Guy, in the hopes to take what worked for me, and combine it with the interest that the public has told me about having others do as I have. And this could create another option to what we currently have in place, and help those who most need it.

I'm being honest with you when I say I've been left disillusioned by this, the wind has been taken from my sails, I just hope the doldrums don't last too long.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Power of Encouragement

Man, it never ceases to amaze me how much power can be held in a few positive words of encouragement. I'm sure the modern boss is well aware of these facts but you just can't under estimate sincerity.
This weekend was definitely proof positive that a little appreciation of ones hard work and effort really does ease the burden.
Now, momentary ego boost aside, when the wages I make change as quickly and drastically as the weather, to know that my effort aren't blindly ignored is important for their continuation .

Take Saturday for example, while half way through the day, I was working for about $4 an hour (not exactly much to pay the bills with) when these two young mothers with children in tow sought me out specifically so their kids could thank me for what I was doing.
Now I don't know where these cockles of ones heart exactly are, but I was sure warmed right down to them, and definitely had an extra spring in my step the remainder of the weekend.

You see even though I'm well aware that it's my choice and my choice alone that I keep doing what I do. The only way something like this works is with community cooperation in its varied forms.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Lost + Found

There is however some thing I'm going to try and do with this space and that's have a sort of unofficial Lost + Found.

In the past I've been able to return wallets, cellphones and even bank cards to their owners, and figured maybe I could help others with things that have gone missing.

For example today, I was approached by a lady whose daughter's grey knapsack was stolen from a Starbucks on Queen West, it has the word "FJÄLLRÄVEN" on it. Now there's no guarantee for success but it sure doesn't hurt to try and make someone's day by getting their stuff back for them.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Goodbye College Street

Today, what I inevitably had feared would, did happen.
You see, for the most part my daily litter cleaning route consists of Queen West from Dufferin to Yonge Street, Kensington Market, Yonge Street between Queen and Bloor, and College street between Dovercourt and Yonge.
I also frequented (unfortunately not much so lately) the Yonge and Eglinton Area and surrounding streets. Unfortunately though the past couple of months, with today being the proverbial exclamation point have shown me that the College Street part of my route has become a serious area of concern.

Today I spent roughly about 3 1/2 hours cleaning up both sides of College Street and did not receive a single donation for my efforts. Now this is not some new experience for me, it has happened before and will happen again. But the problem really lies in that in the fact that only one person even recognized my existence.
This has happened increasingly over the last two months. So unfortunately due to these two factors I figured it would be best if I use my time elsewhere. So if anyone knows of an area in need of a Litter Guy, let me know.

That's why it saddens me to have to give up on College Street, an area that believe it or not when I started this little adventure of mine, once roared with support. Now don't get me wrong here, I don't have some ballooning ego, I don't need to have my hand held or to be coddled, but I do think my fellow humans would agree it does only good to hear support for your efforts.

So now I'll take this time to thank those at Kensington Market Organic Ice cream and Tortilla Flats for their undiminished support as well as a thanks to all those that like what I do.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Politically Correct Classism

A while back I mentioned the topic of perverse form of classism. It was about how as a society we're intolerant to all forms of sexism, racism and other isms...but for some strange reason hating on the poor gets a blind eye turned.

A perfect example of this happened this gloomy Monday afternoon, as I was cleaning along my Queen West route, I was tying up a full trash bag at Markham Street in front of the beer store. When I just happened to turn my head streetward in time to see a projectile come flying from a BMW with tinted windows.
Fortunately for me, their aim was as awful as their actions. For when I picked up what was thrown, it was a condiment packet of syrup, so I turned toward the car to see the driver furiously roll up his windows as I decided it better not to treat his shinny car pancake style and pitched the syrup into my garbage.
A few futile words of defiance hurled in both directions and I was left there shaking my head in the thoughts that these schmucks probably saw no problem in what they had done.

Monday, October 29, 2007


One last thing, as I'm gonna cut it short, this past week as to say it's been hectic would be a mass understatement.
On Wednesday the 31st. of October I'll be replaced on my Litter Guy route by The Great Luchador Hero "El Hombre de Basura" (The Man of Garbage), who spends all waking moments on his just and true cause, thwarting the heinous, polluting ways of his arch nemesis, the "Evil" Dr. Filth, so please if you see my silver masked amigo, aid him in his most honourable of conquests if you can, as he fights the good fight for us all.

Thank You

At this time I'd would like to thank the incredible person who made it possible to even have a blog. So thank you Tino for getting me the forum that allows my voice to be heard, that is.

Here Comes The Sun

The sun decided to grace us with it's presence the last 2 days and I gotta say I don't miss that soggy, squishy feeling between my toes. Sunday afternoon while doing my rounds trough Trinity Bellwoods Park, I was chatting with friendly face when our presence was graced by the park's most famous resident...the albino squirrel. Some folks say it's a sign of good luck, but from some of dine and dash stories I've heard about that fuzzy, pale critter, I have to wonder who the lucky one actually is.

There is however one topic that I wouldn't mind some feedback on; it has to do with a lady I saw on the Speaker's Corner T.V. spot, she was addressing the fact that people have more than just a passing tendency to treat the basket on her bike like their own personal garbage can. Now being a former owner of a 3-wheeled with a big old basket on it, I always took it upon myself to remove the filth from the bike baskets on my route, but was uncertain of how others felt about this.
So after hearing what this lady had to say on the matter it clears a bit of the hesitation I had when it came to messing with other people's stuff. Anymore feedback on this matter would be cool.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Construction "dump" site

So as I was wandering south down Yonge Street, what would I "low and behold" but the USUAL construction sight; which usually means that for the next short while my time will be taken up removing piles of Tim's coffee cups and assortment of other visibly branded litter from those orange and black, pylon, warning, upright tube - like things (anyone who knows what they're called let me know).
Something I've never understood is that why someone hasn't just put garbage bags inside the...well whatever they are called. Think about it, everyone puts garbage in them anyways. We all know someone who has or have done so ourselves, the old sidewalk slam dunk. All you need, is to get someone empty them every once in a while and presto-change-o, things become a little less filthy.
When construction folk move to the their next spot, anyone who's been by the Queen West Bathurst area knows first hand what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Another soggy fall day on the streets of Toronto. It never ceases to amaze me that although there are less people out and aboot (yeah I'm Canadian) on the street there's more litter scattered around than at the height of tourist season. Believe it or not when the falling water starts to freeze, it gets a whole lot worse.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Soggy start to the weekend

Hey, Mark the Litter Guy here.

It's was a soggy start to the weekend of Oct. 19th. Which for someone in my occupation usually means 2 things, the streets are empty of people but filled with litter. You may think you can't have one without the other, but for some reason when it's raining or even worse snowing, people tend to litter a lot more despite fewer people walking around.

However, today's mounds of trash were mainly the result (oddly enough) of city cleaners armed with their power washers. While it's great to remove the layers of posters that accumulate on poles and other places, throughout the city. (I know, as several times I've removed 2 garbage bags full of moldy paper from a solitary pole)

It was tough not to become frustrated as I trekked down Queen Street only to stop every few feet to pick up the scattered remains of soggy posters unceremoniously left behind, which wouldn't be a problem if a fellow city employee came by sooner or later to pick the scraps up. But by my past experiences, I know that said scraps are left to the wind until arriving at it's final resting place, a gutter or neighbourhood yard.
So if the city wants to create a new job that needs doing, I wouldn't mind the benefits.
I should state that all was not bad, (aside from this dang cold) despite the gloomy weather, most people were verbally appreciative of my efforts.

Oh yeah, if by some miracle an Ashley Young who lost her credit card on Queen St. West today reads this, I dropped it off at the Bank of Montreal near Dundas & Spadina.

Well, that's all for now, but I'll keep you all updated soon enough.

Mark the Litter Guy.