Thursday, October 20, 2016

Treasures in the Trash Collection

This past weekend was Open House New York Weekend. Every year for one weekend, places of architectural or historical significance around the city open their doors for tours. Some are ticketed, and some are open hours, and since I've moved here I've had a love/hate relationship with the whole event. I love it because I love touring things—I'll pretty much go anywhere, especially if it's free. I hate it, because tickets are notoriously difficult to get—the last two years we were able to get exactly zero tickets, despite being trigger-ready right at the 11am drop time. Despite our disappointment, we still saw some pretty wonderful things, including the TWA Flight Center at JFK and the (now-shuttered) Four Seasons restaurant.

This year there was one ticketed event that I wanted above all else: a tour of the Treasures in the Trash collection. Third time must be a charm, because this year I got my tickets, and on Saturday afternoon we met at a sanitation garage in East Harlem for the tour. The collection, which occupies an entire floor of a building mostly used to house garbage trucks, is made up entirely out of stuff New Yorkers have thrown in the trash. Nelson Molina, a retired sanitation worker, has been working on the collection for more than 30 years, and it's all meticulously organized by themes. They don't hold regular hours or tours unfortunately, so getting tickets was a huge coup.

There's really everything you can think of in the collection—skeletons, political memorabilia, paintings, silver sets, action figures, swizzle sticks, troll dolls, Beanie Babies, globes, glassware, typewriters, trophies, cell phones, door knobs, Pez dispensers, Tamagotchis, taxidermy, cameras, eight-track tapes, books, skis, bikes, watches, shoes, jewelry, family photos, chairs, lamps and so many other things that I would never even dream of just throwing away. It's hard to pick a favorite thing that we saw, but top two would definitely be the three (!) women's bodybuilding trophies and the unfinished painting of OJ Simpson trying on his glove in court.

 To say the collection is fascinating is a definite understatement. I consider myself a collector—not a hoarder, although some might disagree—and to see everything organized so neatly and thoughtfully really appealed to my sensibilities. I can't give Molina enough credit for having such vision, and seeing how many true treasures he's collected just makes me wonder how many more wonderful things make it all the way to the dump every single day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mr. Bill's, a Muffler Man and a Uniroyal Gal

After exploring the Clara Glen Pet Cemetery on our way back from Atlantic City, we stopped at Mr. Bill's for dinner. I had taken my mom to AC for her birthday, and because she's the coolest, she was totally ok with eating her birthday dinner at a roadside diner which I picked only because they have a Muffler Man.

This was the tenth Muffler Man I've seen, and my second of the "happy half-wit" variety. I met my first half-wit at the Magic Forest, but aside from sharing the same basic mold, they are both styled quite differently. Mr. Bill's Muffler Man has been newly painted, although I do think some of the coloring is a bit off—the face is a bit too white and the lip color a touch too harsh but the wide variety of customizations is what makes all the Muffler Men so fun to find.

Mr. Bill's had been closed for a while, but recently reopened under new ownership. I'm so glad that the new owners are taking care of their half-wit, and even without the Muffler Man, it would be a worthy stop. I had a fried chili dog which was delicious, and if anyone ever asks if you'd like your hot dog "fried or raw" just trust me and know that fried is the correct answer.

A few minutes after we left Mr. Bills, my mom looked back and said "Hey that looks like a female Muffler Man." I immediately turned the car around and realized that she had spotted a Uniroyal Gal. According to Roadside America, there are only ten known Uniroyal Gals remaining, making them much more rare than their male counterparts. They were made by an International Fiberglass sculptor who apparently had a thing for Jackie Kennedy. "Nitro Girl" stands outside of a Uniroyal Tire dealership in Gloucester Township, New Jersey and I couldn't believe our luck that our Google directions took us right past her. Thankfully my mom was being vigilant, and it was an amazing find especially for someone who had just seen her very first Muffler Man minutes before.