When you live in a seasonal resort town this far north, you have to get creative about making a living. Bonaparte Bay, New York, doesn’t have a lot of industry. Okay, no industry. The town shuts down in the winter when the St. Lawrence River partly freezes over. If I wanted to (which I don’t), there are spots where I could walk to Canada across the ice. But that’s dumb when you have a car and can just use the bridge.
I have my own business. I patrol the streets twice a day collecting returnable cans and bottles that the tourists leave all over town. At a nickel a pop, they add up to a decent chunk of change by the end of the week, and an even bigger chunk by the end of the summer. Last year I bought a boat. Which was kind of brilliant. Because now I can make my rounds of the islands in the river. And let me tell you, the people in those big houses go through a lot of drinks. With my collection bins stationed by their docks, all they have to do is fill them up. And all I have to do is empty them. I’ve more than doubled my income, so I started an IRA.
Some people think I’m homeless. Not true. Sure, I get a little grubby when I’m working, but I’ve got an apartment over one of the businesses downtown. It’s clean, it’s cheap, and it’s mine. You should come over some time, when I’m not on duty, of course. I’ve always got wine coolers and Hot Pockets. But when I’ve saved enough money—in about five years, I figure—I’m hitting the road.
Maybe I’ll ask the guy who washes dishes at the Bonaparte House restaurant to come with me. If he cleans up his act.
And someday, if you see an RV with Dumpster Diva painted on the side driving across America, wave as I go by!