The People's Poet Tony Robles–SF Art commission award winning Author of cool don't live here no more and fingerprints of a hunger strike

Items Found


Working in security at an apartment complex as i do, i have become a scavenger. In the garages are garbage bins that contain treasure. I was taken by how much good stuff gets thrown out. I have found suede and leather coats, books, fax machines, printers, female self-pleasuring devices (batteries included) and blank journals, among other things. I wonder what the story is behind these items. Many tenants at the complex are college students–many of whom move out and unload their belongings in haste. On one of my latest garbage dumpster excursions i found loads of college text books from SF State. I took them and tried to sell them to the campus bookstore.

I dropped those biology, math and business books at the counter as if they were gold bars. The girl at the counter (who was dressed like a character in a Dr. Seuss book) took one look at my booty (in book form) and said, “We can’t use ’em”. “They’re practically brand new” i pleaded, sensing my opportunity to pocket 10 or 15 dollars slipping away. Sorry, she said. My trip to hot dog on a stick went down the drain. I didn’t want to carry all those (worthless?) books around so i asked her if she’d take them off my hands. “Well, certainly” she said. “No problem…we’d be glad to…(blah to the 3rd power). I got no money but i left the counter 15-20 pounds lighter than when i came.

I took a walk in the bookstore. I saw a copy of my book, “Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel” ( for half price. The stack of my books was about as high as the one i was trying to peddle off to the cashier. I was tempted to start signing my books using the monkier, “The scavenger”. I scrapped the idea and got the hell out of there.

In one of the garages at work there are seven TV’s that have been evicted from their homes. Each time i walk by, one of the screens comes on and shows me a preview of what i could be watching if i bring one of the sets home. I see the face of Maury Povich uttering the immortal words: “Lancelot, when i comes to 3 month old Lancelot II, III, IV & V…you are the father!”

I walk away and leave the TV’s in their rightful place.

When the devastation in the Philippines and Samoa took place, i found bags of clothes in the garbage bins. Some of these items still had tags. Had the people who discarded these items not heard about these events? Did it not cross their minds to donate these items to the relief efforts rather than throw them away? One of my coworkers is Samoan. His family was one of many who faced tragedy in the disaster. We took the clothes and his church sent them and many other items to help back home. Now with the Haitian disaster, I’m still finding many good items in the garbage bins. It’s disturbing to see such waste.

A couple nights ago while wading in the garbage bins i came across some children’s books. I immediately recognized two of them, “Danny and the Dinosaur” by Syd Hoff and “Little Bear” by Else Holmelund Minarik. Those were my 2 favorite books when i was a child. As i flipped through the pages, it took me back. In Danny and the Dinosaur, Danny goes to the museum and sees bears, lions, elephants, Indians, Eskimos (yikes, i didn’t remember the Indians and Eskimos part…as i was too young for ethnic studies at the time) and finally dinosaurs. He meets a talking dinosaur and they hang out for the afternoon.

It made me think of what i told my editor, Ina Cumpiano, at Children’s Book Press when we were working on my book, “Lakas and the Manilatown Fish”. I told her i hoped that my book would be as good as Danny and the Dinosaur. She told me that my book would be much better.

I took the 2 books from the dumpster. They were thin books. But to me they felt like gold.

(c) 2010 Tony Robles