Nearly two months ago, Steve offhandedly suggested writing a series of blog posts investigating the disappearance of our trash cans. It was possibly a joke that I would go on to take very seriously. Some might say too seriously.

But I wonder if they said the same thing to Michelangelo as he teetered on scaffolding 65 feet above the ground, squinting at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, his back aching as paint dripped into his eyes and mold threatened to derail his painstaking work. I wonder if they said “Hey, Mike, why don’t you give it a rest? We’re gonna go check out a suggestive fresco of Eve, blow this moldy old cafeteria hall and join us.”

No, they didn’t. Because today, the Sistine Chapel has a sweet paint job and Michelangelo is lauded for his genius. So, to whoever keeps harassing me as @paulblartmoviefan1 on Twitter, please consider this fact next time you call me a loser and politely request that I get a life in 280 characters or less. Just because you have a refined cinematic palate (I simply can’t argue against the subversive mastery of Kevin James’ performance in Paul Blart: Mall Cop, or as it’s known to more intellectual circles, the National Treasure of mall cop movies), doesn’t mean you get to be a big jerk.

The fact that I’ve just compared this investigation to Michelangelo’s masterpiece says absolutely everything about the scale of this undertaking and has absolutely no bearing on the ego of the reporter. It’s not every day that the Buffalo News calls your work “we’ll print anything with a conspiracy theory,“ and “just ask The New York Times, if it’s not the ravings of a mad person, it’s not a headline.”

Anyway, I’ve devoted at least a partial dog year and all of my heart, soul and resources into this investigation. I even hired a private investigator who just turned out to be two kids stacked on top of each other under a trench coat with a magnifying glass. I guess I should have known when they asked me to compensate them in Reese’s Puffs, 7-Up, two rated “R” movies of my choice and a completed book report on Bridge to Terabithia.

Aside from the two-kid-trench-coat debacle, I’ve been painstakingly meticulous and obsessively thorough. Some might even say diligently exhaustive or even extremely comprehensive. I’ve been suspicious of everyone—the true mark of a keen investigative journalist. Not a single suspicion has been spared—not for my coworkers, the neighborhood teens, the nearby businesses, the tenant upstairs, the landlord, the dentist, scientologists, birds, scientologist birds, people who like tapioca pudding too much and whoever is in charge of changing the sign for the Dairy Queen across the street, which read “THE END IS NYE. NOTHING MATTERS. SARAH, PLEASE CALL ME BACK. P.S. THE CONTENTS OF OUR RAINBOW SPRINKLES ARE NO LONGER A LIABILITY” for a whole week before management noticed and informed us, via counter-sign, that the employee previously tasked with sign composition had been fired for going “off book.”

But, despite management’s best efforts to distance themselves from our trash cans and the mystery surrounding their disappearance, any sensible person could see that this cry for help was actually a highly sophisticated code that, upon careful deciphering, clearly reveals the hidden message, “TRASH CANS ARE NO LONGER.”

You just had to know to look for it. And I did, reader. I. Did.

But what did it mean? What did it all mean? Each development of the investigation has only uncovered more questions. With each new lead came new evidence of a much larger web of conspiracy in which I and our trash cans were entangled. Today, I don’t know what that web is, but I know that I know too much.

And so, I need to leave. It’s gone too far and as I’ve delved deeper and deeper into the case, detailed the saga in this blog and pushed for recognition from the main stream media, I’ve let too many people know that I know too much. Maybe you knew the whole time. Maybe you’ve been the audience in a Truman Show-esque drama of very mediocre proportions. Maybe you didn’t know you knew. I didn’t know it, until I stopped not knowing and knew just now. Which begs the question—regardless of whether you knew and I didn’t know you knew or neither of us knew what I know or I knew you know who knew, someone knew something.  So who was really pulling the strings?

This is the question that haunts me. It’s the biggest unknown and the reason I have to go.

I’m writing this from a train car. The abandoned kind, not the moving kind. I’ve embarked on the life of a Boxcar Child in a remote wooded area that I can’t be too specific about. But I will say, there are… trees. Maybe! I don’t know. There’s at least one rock… two rocks. Okay several rocks but the details stop there.

I thought I could tackle the case of our missing trash cans. I thought I could be a hero to a couple of innocent cans caught in a mix-up to no fault of their own. I knew I might learn some unsavory things. I knew that pulling back the curtain on the dark underbelly of crime in small-town America, snooping around in sleepy Hamburg, asking questions people didn’t want to answer wouldn’t make me any friends.

But in the end, I couldn’t handle it. And, most crushingly of all, I’ve become a potential culprit. I was the only lead I didn’t investigative, the only suspect I didn’t suspect.

And, that, dear reader, is where I turn away. Where I retire to the wooded shadows of anonymity, preferably somewhere near a Wegmans. But know this—in following along, you’ve been armed with any immense amount of knowledge. You don’t have to be a quiet observer. Maybe you can do something.

Our cans might still be out there. But so is the truth. You can still be a hero to a couple of unwitting trash cans. And if you’re still curious about the web of conspiracy in which you and everything you hold dear, including your town government-issued waste receptacles, are probably entangled, keep the search alive by visiting

Stay vigilant.

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