51st and Telegraph: Informal economies
on July 2, 2009
When we started talking about the possibility of an “informal economy” flourishing at the intersection, we imagined stories about door-to-door salesmen or fruit stands. In fact, it was during my search for the elusive Temescal fruit vendor that I encountered someone with a far less formal setup–at least, that’s how it looks at first.
Every day, Terry B. pulls a plastic shopping cart through Oakland, collecting plastic bottles and aluminum cans to recycle and supplement his Social Security disability benefits. In his audio slideshow, Terry tells us which recycling centers are ripoffs and where on 51st street he scores the most bottles.
His story reminds me of another informal-economy story I am working on. Artist Lauren Wilson also passes through the intersection, selling handmade greeting cards from her wheelchair before moving on to work Berkeley’s stretch of Telegraph Avenue. Both Terry and Lauren need money after their Social Security benefits cover the bills, but they pride themselves on not panhandling.
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