I am not sure where he’s from, but his accent is interesting to me. Nasal. And he talks lightning fast. New Jersey maybe? Philly? I am a Florida guy, don’t know much about the nasal region of the country.
What I do know is that the old man is walking the vacant beach at seven in the morning, collecting aluminum cans from trash bins. When I meet him, I find him rifling through a trash bag in a public beach access.
He has long hair, bleached from the sun, a beard peppered with white, and his skin is the color of aged boot leather.
“Name’s Alfie,” he says.
Alfie rummages through each receptacle, cigarette hanging from his mouth. Each soda can he finds is a cause for minor celebration. He tucks the mangled cans into a homemade satchel worn around his shoulder—a Hefty garbage bag.
Since I have a gift for inquiring about the obvious, I ask what Alfie is doing.
“What’s it look like I’m doing?” he says, lifting an empty Michelob Ultra can, still leaking
its contents. “Fifty-nine cents per pound, amigo.”
I smell whiskey on his breath from ten feet away.
He’s a nice man, sociable, and an Army veteran. Soon, we are lingering on a wide, empty beach, having a conversation, chewing the fat, watching the sunup. Behind us is a large beachfront McMansion which is roughly the size of the Lincoln Memorial.
Alfie tells me that today has been a great day foraging. He hit the jackpot over in Destin. Someone threw away two cases’ worth of Coca-Cola and Pepsi cans.
“The motherlode,” Alfie explains.
Then our conversation becomes more biographical. Alfie tells me about his time in Vietnam, when he was twenty.
“Me and my little brother enlisted together, on the same day. We did everything together.”
The night before they left for basic, they hit the beer joints pretty hard. It was their…