I haven't listened to the Boston-based radio ranter for quite a while, but I imagine Howie Carr is still as cantankerous and cynical as I remember. So it is with some sadness that I've recently found myself acquiring some of his mindset, especially the state of mind that informs one of his oft-repeated axioms that "[n]o good deed goes unpunished." Or, for the purposes of this post, no good deed goes appreciated.
As an earnest communitarian, I've contributed a relatively small chunk of my leisure time over the last couple years to the annual clean-up of Westbrook's public spaces. And though I wasn't able to contribute as much time or sweat to the cause this year as I did last, this year's edition has left me far more cynical. To be clear, this cynicism has nothing to do with my forty-something fellow volunteers, the event's organizer Joyce Perrey, or the Westbrook Public Services. The volunteers were active, the organizer was, well, organized, and the bureaucrats were helpful.
Instead, the proverbial sour taste in my mouth has everything to do with the couple strolls I've taken along the Riverwalk since the May 16 event.
Only a few days after I spent about ninety minutes climbing up and down the banks of the Presumpscot armed with a trash bag in one hand and my trusty PikStik in the other, waste had already begun to flutter to the very spots I had scoured for all types of rubbish just mere days before. And my walk home from Saturday's festivities at Westbrook Together Days further pissed me off, as the number of Dunkin' Donuts cups, potato chip bags, etc. had built up to the point that my efforts from a month ago are no longer evident and I can't help but feel I wasted my time picking up after people who (a) probably did not participate in the clean-up themselves and (b) just don't give a fuck.*
So a few suggestions for next year's event. First, revise the City's Code of Ordinances to include a punishment for litterers that includes both a fine and a requirement that they participate in the annual cleanup. And second, schedule the cleanup on a date after Westbrook Together Days, as that event generates more pedestrian traffic and litter in Riverbank Park and along the Riverwalk than any other event in Westbrook.
- John C.L. Morgan
* Again, excuse the harsh language. Inspired by a Sister Wendy video clip I had seen in high school in which the octogenarian nun's utterance of the word erotic had a strange degree of power (certainly more power than if a porn star had said it), I try to adhere to a personal Sister Wendy Rule that says vulgarity should only be used sparsely. That way, when you actually have something to fume about, your diction still has a few lively octaves of range remaining and the dynamism of our language's most powerful words isn't wasted on the banal.