I am a child of humble Chicago retail folk: I proudly worked at Marshall Field’s, as did my father, and his mother before him. People who work in retail, or have at least worked one shift during the Christmas season, know one thing: Many consumer products are basically high-priced junk, fodder for landfills.
So I think there’s no shame in bringing home the occasional found object from the alley. And Logan Square is a treasure trove of unwanted furniture, clothes, and objet d’art. Before the bedbug outbreak of ’09, people in this neighborhood had a rule: if it’s in the dumpster, it’s trash. If it’s dumpster-adjacent, Febreze that bad boy and lift with the legs.
Shows like “American Pickers” and “Antiques Roadshow” are still going strong and businesses making furniture out of reclaimed wood are booming.
We live in an age where found and recycled objects are a source of conversation as well as pride. We have emerged from the crass, soulless consumerism of the ’80s and ’90s and entered the artsy-fartsy era of DIY chic.
Heck yeah, I found my couch next to a dumpster, threw a $39 Damask Jacquard slipcover over it and gave it polished brass legs that I got from Home Depot. Where’d you get your sofa—from some kind of magical store that sells furniture?
“We see a lot in the streets and alleyways”, said Scott Jaburek, the 35th Ward Superintendent of Streets and Sanitation. “I once picked up a 6-foot banana leaf plant off the curb, right before the trucks were coming for it. I still have that plant.”
With a new generation of earth-friendly residents in the area, recycling is taken seriously nowadays. There are Facebook Community Pages full of posts where people can score perfectly good U-Haul boxes, stacked neatly in a pile for someone to use or at least recycle for spare change.
Our custom of offering up and reusing free swag via social media is not only neighborly—it’s also responsible:
Chicagoans dump more than 800,000 tons of garbage into their black city garbage bins every year, That trash is then transferred to four landfills used by the city of Chicago, according to a WTTW article.
As of 2017, Chicago’s recycling rate of 9 percent is the worst in the nation, with at least five other cities in Illinois failing to meet the average U.S. recycling rates, WTTW wrote.
Speaking of Facebook: from Avondale to Wicker Park, people all over are asking, where are all of these abandoned shoes in the middle of the street coming from—is it the rapture? Thanos snap?
Other than “discarded karma,” the answer is elementary: It’s 3 a.m. and you’re walking home from the bars because you refuse to pay for an Uber. And you’ve had like, 15 wines. Some of y’all might have been so drunk, you just stepped out of those fashionable-yet-uncomfortable shoes of yours and staggered home barefoot.
In a city where people basically chug Malort (whose main ingredient can also be found in Absinthe), enjoy your Hot Girl Summer but don’t be shocked when you can’t find your shoes in the morning. You may laugh out loud at the photos of orphaned shoes on Facebook, but inwardly you’re either thinking “Are those mine?” or “Are those my size?”
As Marie Kondo has taught us, people tend to have an emotional attachment to their possessions: even if they no longer need that tattered old wicker lawn chair, they secretly hope that it will find its way into the hands of someone who will use it and love it as much as they did. And someone else will see that chair and think that it’s perfect for them, or they just can’t stand the thought of it ending up in a dumping ground.
So if you wake up on Monday morning with a hangover, wondering where your new shoes have gone, take comfort in the fact that they will probably “spark joy” on someone else’s feet.
Thanks to the Logan Square Community Facebook Page and the many members who let me use their photos:
- Lindsay Robinson
- Jessica Miller
- Megan Vandehey
- Monica Vasquez
Featured Photo: Monica Vasquez