By: Joel Epstein

I’m a refusenik, as my friend Paul Ross, the writer and China hand has christened me. I am one of those people you see picking up trash and recycling, gloved and masked of course in the Time of Covid, on the streets and sidewalks. It has been a calling of sorts since as a kid I started going to the beach on Long Island with a bag, to leave the sand and shore cleaner than I found it. I once found a ten dollar bill which kept me in penny candy till my dentist shut me down.

I like the term refusenik so much so I may decide to hang up my old moniker, El Basurero. The new name brings to mind my father’s quip about me becoming a sanitation engineer, or as they are known here in New York, garbage men. An “engineer” of course because, like law and medicine, only a professional career will do among the Brownsville, Brooklyn Epsteins.

A few weeks ago, while I was buried in the newspapers reading about IQ45’s latest desperate and dangerous act of incitement and sedition, Paul was good enough to point out a bit of lighter fare. From his ten month quarantine in Paris, he sent me a link to the article by Gabriel Cohen in The Times about a Brooklyn poet (of course he’s a poet and of course he lives in Brooklyn) who has taken to calling himself the Plastic Bagman. This gentleman has started a holy war against the plastic bags that get caught in the trees when the winds pick up.

Paul suggests I “join forces with Plastic Bagman and we do a sweep of upper Broadway together — a refuse ‘tag team’ [or ‘bag team’ I corrected him] as it were (known to insiders as ‘refuseniks’).”

Thanks Paul. I am in. But I have larger ambitions. With the fascist insurrection in full swing before the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris I am focused on eliminating any reference in our fair city to the outgoing “president.” That includes the few buildings that are still besmirched with his unholy name after his latest incitement to violence. Who are the real terrorists out there!

As the Georgia Senate results confirm, we as a nation are better than this. Yes, I’m glossing over the Rothschild laser-wielding troll elected in North Georgia. Now if I can only find a ladder tall enough to reach out and tear down the letters from that gaudy and tasteless building at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.

Yours in transit,


Joel Epstein is a New Yorker and an advocate for public transit, livable cities and public space.



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