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Adam's College Capers

Illustration from The Great Ringtail Garbage Caper by Timothy Foote. The garbage truck was named Esmeralda.
(Title available in Del Mar Library.)
  Adam Birnbaum and his college housemate on the running board of Seward’s garbage truck, the inspiration for Foote’s Esmeralda.
Courtesy Adam Birnbaum.

To the editor:
I thoroughly enjoyed the review of “The Great Ringtail Garbage Caper” in the Book Corner segment of your February edition. I knew of the book because before embarking on a number of other careers, including that as a planner, I was of one of the duo of garbage men for Menemsha and the rest of “Up-Island” Martha’s Vineyard at the time Timothy Foote wrote The Caper.

Planning Manager Adam Birnbaum in front of Del Mar City Hall, February 2015.
Courtesy Adam Birnbaum.
Click on image to enlarge.

My college housemate, Gary Kalkut, and I (see picture above) worked for Seward’s Garbage Disposal Service. Garbage may not be glamourous, but Martha’s Vineyard during the summer and fall was a wonderful place to be. We drove our truck down rutted dirt roads to empty the trash bins at clapboard cottages set in the woods and atop coastal bluffs. The clients were mostly summer renters, many of them celebrities from the academic, political and entertainment world (John Updike, Robert McNamara and John Belushi were on our weekly pick-up list). I worked the route for four years and proudly kept my Seward’s shirt (at right).

After reading the review, I called Mr. Foote and we reminisced about the Vineyard. He explained that while the story and the human characters Nip and Tuck were fictional, they were based on the two young men who did the route. But for the record, we weren’t Yale students, we attended Vassar; and the-now Dr. Kalkut would have represented the smarter character, Tuck.

Adam Birnbaum, Planning Manager, Del Mar


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