Monday, June 8, 2009

Why I Am Slowly Morphing Into Howie Carr

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.


Anonymous said...

I agree that people just don't care anymore, and just junk what isn't theirs. I watched someone throw their DD cup at a trash bin, but missed, and didn't bother to pick it up. Sad.

My Mayberry said...

The problem is not only people's propensity to drop their trash wherever, it's that we collectively rely on a single cleanup day each year to address it.

We respectfully need an ongoing adopt a highway approach in our town, where neighbors take ownership of a stretch of city street and invest a few minutes daily, to pick up trash.

An practical example is the river garden located at the foot of the RR bridge on Brown Street. Collectively, neighbors for the past few years have mowed and maintained what used to be a trash eyesore in the spirit of community and civic pride.

Liz said...

I think it is a particular subset of Westbrook's population that "doesn't care" and I wish they'd hadn't crawled out of their holes to attend Together Days this past weekend. The crowd seems to have a distinctly degenerating flavor with each passing year.

If that sounds narrow-minded of me, so be it -- I'll just be one of those caring, considerate, narrow-minded citizens.

Anonymous said...

Caring & considerate??????

Liz said...

Yes indeed, caring and considerate: i.e., one who deposits her trash and recyclables (and sometimes that of others) in the appropriate receptacles, and teaches her children to do the same.

Anonymous said...

I found together days to better than the old port festival. That event was a sty, and people were wasted at 11am. Not family friendly like they like to advertise. Well I guess how could it, when it is in the middle of the old port.

Westbrook Diarist said...

My Mayberry,

I appreciate your ideas regarding the adopt-a-plot-to-clean and frequent cleanings, but it still doesn't address my fundamental concern for, ahem, caring and considerate citizens shouldering the responsibilities of the uncaring and inconsiderate.

I still can't help feeling like a dupe for cleaning up after people who won't think twice about creating another mess for me to clean. Again, again, and again.

P.S. Are you guys organizing the dinners on Brown Street again this summer?

My Mayberry said...

Brown Street potlucks will take place on Thursday nights from 6-8, beginning June 25th.