Urban recycler speaks of binning and living with AIDS
He bombs his way through the West End with his recycled baby stroller scouring the alleys for bottles and pop cans and salvaging what many of us have discarded. A binner with a huge grin and even bigger personality, Murray, a native of Oakville, Ontario, prefers to be called an urban recycler rather than a dumpster diver or binner.
Once a nationally ranked competitive swimmer, Murray saw his life spiral downward after his father died, he lost his job and he discovered he was HIV-positive-all in a six-month period. Murray then became addicted to crack cocaine. The addiction eventually ended a career in sales and marketing.
Murray was soon jobless and living in a Downtown Eastside single room occupancy hotel. In 2006, he was diagnosed with HIV, a disease that affects 17 per cent of the neighbourhood's population. Doctors told him the best way to fight the disease was a healthier lifestyle-so Murray started walking, a kilometre a day at first. Murray then walked right up the steps to the Dr. Peter Centre, a health care facility for people living with HIV/AIDS in the West End.
I sat down with Murray over breakfast on World AIDS Day Dec. 1. He spoke fondly of Shirley Young, Dr. Peter's mother, a tireless volunteer and mother to many at the centre.
Murray, a client of the day health program, tries to get to the centre every day. It's a warm refuge from the cold streets for a healthy meal, medical treatment and support. He now walks 10 kilometres a day and includes the Dr. Peter Centre and binning in his routine. The centre has been a source of strength and pride for Murray and so has his work.
Murray's binning prowess got him a job working three days a week at an East Side recycling depot during the 2010 Winter Games. He's still there today.
- What's the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is that I recognize people from the Downtown Eastside just want to work like the rest of us, whether it is binning or otherwise
- Worst thing?
Impatient people. Everybody wants everything yesterday.
- Most interesting item you've found?
A King Arthur Knights of the Round Table figurine set. Thank you to the person who threw it out.
- A misconception people have of binners?
The majority of us are not responsible for making that mess at your building.
- A misconception people have of people with HIV/AIDS?
That we can give it to you simply by touching you. People, please become more informed about how one contracts HIV/AIDS.
- Biggest challenge?
The fact that I have HIV and sometimes I am so lethargic that I can't work.
- Biggest accomplishment?
Taking that step towards better health every day while living with HIV.
- Biggest disappointment?
Not going to my father's funeral. It upsets me to this day.
- What does success look like?
The ability to move forward every day in whatever activities I am involved in.
- One thing you could change about the world?
PLDs (personal listening devices). Take your head phones off and listen to the world.
- What you dislike most about the world?
People who complain but do not have a better idea or solution to situations.
- What's your secret talent?
I can throw grapes 40 feet up in the air and catch them in my mouth.
- Best place for coffee?
Tim Horton's since I was a kid.
- Favourite restaurant?
Flowers on the 300 block East Hastings - decent food, huge portions, great prices.
- Last book read?
Gemini Contenders by Robert Ludlum. I re-read his book all the time. I should have been a spy.
- Describe your perfect day.
Ferry ride from Nanaimo to Vancouver (my late mother lived in Nanaimo) and a drive to Deep Cove to spend time with my brother and family.
- Community event you look forward to?
Christmas dinner compliments of the movie industry at the park.
- Who inspires you?
My mother and father who brought me into the world and gave me the knowledge of how to survive.
- Someone you look up to?
- Most memorable celebrity encounter?
Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine from Star Trek Voyager) at the corner of Burrard and Robson. Seven of Nine's baby girl grabbed my baby cart stacked with bottles and started to walk away with it; once I stopped the child, the mother came over and I realized it was Jeri Ryan and I asked her if this was little Three and a half of Nine.