Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The Grab Garbage Men

Nathalie Atkinson, a Toronto-based writer and loyal Bigge Idea reader was kind enough to point me to an article by Ian Frazier in last week’s (January 12) New Yorker about rescuing plastic bags from trees. Frazier and a friend named Tim McClelland invented a bag snagger ten years ago and, with the help of Tim’s brother Bill, are fond of beautifying the city whenever possible. Here, Frazier immortalizes his enemy:

Of course, the basic thing that gets in a New York City tree is the white plastic deli bag. It reaches the tree with the aid of the wind, or (as I sometimes think) by its own power. With its filmy whiteness and its two looped handles, it suggests a self-levitating undershirt; we have named it the undershirt bag. It does not have a soul, but it imitates one, rising and floating on the exhalations of a subway grate like the disembodied spirits that poets used to converse with in Hell.

As strange as his obsession might be, Frazier and company aren’t alone. Bette Midler is also a bag grabber fan.

If that weren’t enough to signal that filthy plastic bags are hottest trend of 2004 (any day now anorexic models vamping in dresses made of Safeway bags will appear in the Globe Style section), Zachary Houle, an Ottawa writer I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, informed me that last Thursday, an Ottawa city councilor named Diane Holmes is urging a total ban on plastic grocery bags within three years. I would have excerpted from the relevant Ottawa Citizen article, but you need to be a subscriber to gain web access, an information hairclog that is about to cause an identical blockage at the online version of the National Post in a few weeks. Information no longer wishes to be free, it appears.