Mr. Orta was born in San Antonio, Tex., One of 12 children. He spent more than a dozen years in the Air Force, loaded aircraft during the Persian-Gulf War in 1991 and was sent to Germany, Korea and Saudi Arabia. Upon returning to the United States, his wife had left him and he fought with alcoholism and homelessness. He moved to San Francisco, and five years ago he was eligible for a program that helped chronic homeless veterans.
At dusk, he leaves his apartment house, which is sandwiched between a popular technical workplace and a cannabis store in the heart of Mission neighborhood. The smell of marijuana fills the lobby. He walks past a steep hill lined with mature trees. He passes home that can pass for artwork: Victorians, some with stained glass and elaborate cornices and moldings, painted in a soft palette of pastels, ocher, celadon and teal. A virtual tour of the neighborhood in the Zillow area shows that homes valued at $ 3 million and above are the norm.
Within six times, Orta went out with a reporter, he followed a number of circuits, but usually ended up exploring his favorite tracks and a dumpster who has been abundant. (The first rule of dumpster depends, he says, is to make sure there is no raccoon or possum in there.) In March, the dumpster gave a box of silver cups, plates and plates, as if someone had tasted a cloth from under a feast in some European chateau.
"How do you say that?" William Washington, one of Orta's garbage pickers, noted one night. "A man's garbage is another man's treasure."
Herr. Orta's other recent findings: phones, iPads, three wristwatches and bags of marijuana. ("I smoked it," he said when asked how much he got for the pot.) At the end of August or September, as participants return from the annual Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert, Orta says he often find abandoned bikes covered in fine sand.