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Archive for April, 2010

goodbye

Waving Goodbye


Why, when we say goodbye
at the end of an evening, do we deny
we are saying it at all, as in We’ll
be seeing you, or I’ll call, or Stop in,
somebody’s always at home? Meanwhile, our friends,
telling us the same things, go on disappearing
beyond the porch light into the space
which except for a moment here or there
is always between us, no matter what we do.
Waving goodbye, of course, is what happens
when the space gets too large
for words ˆ a gesture so innocent
and lonely, it could make a person weep
for days. Think of the hundreds of unknown
voyagers in the old, fluttering newsreel
patting and stroking the growing distance
between their nameless ship and the port
they are leaving, as if to promise I’ll always
remember, and just as urgently, Always
remember me. It is loneliness, too,
that makes the neighbor down the road lift
two fingers up from his steering wheel as he passes
day after day on his way to work in the hello
that turns into goodbye? What can our own raised
fingers to for him, locked in his masculine
purposes and speeding away inside the glass?
How can our waving wipe away the reflex
so deep in the woman next door to smile
and wave on her way into her house with the mail,
we’ll never know if she is happy
or sad or lost? It can’t. Yet in that moment
before she and all the others and we ourselves
turn back to our disparate lives, how
extraordinary it is that we make this small flag
with our hands to show the closeness we wish for
in spite of what pulls us apart again
and again: the porch light snapping off,
the car picking its way down the road through the dark.

– Wesley McNair from Lovers of the Lost: New & Selected Poems.
© David R. Godine, 2010.

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Last Saturday’s Citywide Clean-up scored 2.31 TONS of litter and debris. Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers that helped clean up our city.

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Marketing a municipality. This is quite a compelling read (those of you of a “certain age” may want to click the full-screen option as I did).) I hope this is informative for critics of this basic concept.

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Thank you to everyone that made yesterday’s clean up another stellar success. We’re thinking we met last year’s numbers in participation and amount of litter gathered. The following images are limited in number because my camera went dead early on. To bypass this problem, take a drive around. The city looks great.

PS… kudos to the girl scouts for coordinating their bottle drive with our clean up. Talk about synergy! We’re all saving this marble of a planet we are planted on.

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“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas.
I’m frightened of the old ones.”
– John Cage

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Do you think I am going to help anybody? No! Oh, no, no, no, no, no! Don’t expect me to be of help to anyone. Nor do I expect to damage anyone. If you are damaged, you did it; and if you are helped, you did it. You really did! You think people help you? They don’t. You think people support you? They don’t.


There was a woman in a therapy group I was conducting once. She was a religious sister. She said to me, “I don’t feel supported by my superior.” So I said, “What do you mean by that?” And she said, “Well, my superior, the provincial superior, never shows up at the novitiate where I am in charge, never. She never says a word of appreciation.” I said to her, “All right let’s do a little role playing. Pretend I know your provincial superior. In fact, pretend I know exactly what she thinks about you. So I say to you (acting the part of the provincial superior), ‘You know, Mary, the reason I don’t come to that place you’re in is because it is the one place in the province that is trouble-free, no problems. I know you’re in charge, so all is well.’ How do you feel now?” She said, “I feel great.” Then I said to her, “All right, would you mind leaving the room for a minute or two? This is part of the exercise.” So she did. While she was away, I said to the others in the therapy group, “I am still the provincial superior, O.K.? Mary out there is the worst novice director I have ever had in the whole history of the province. In fact, the reason I don’t go to the novitiate is because I can’t bear to see what she is up to. It’s simply awful. But if I tell her the truth, it’s only going to make those novices suffer all the more. We are getting somebody to take her place in a year or two; we are training someone. In the meantime I thought I would say those nice things to her to keep her going. What do you think of that?” They answered, “Well, it was really the only thing you could do under the circumstances.” Then I brought Mary back into the group and asked her if she still felt great. “Oh yes,” she said. Poor Mary! She thought she was being supported when she wasn’t. The point is that most of what we feel and think we conjure up for ourselves in our heads, including this business of being helped by people.

Do you think you help people because you are in love with them? Well, I’ve got news for you. You are never in love with anyone. You’re only in love with your prejudiced and hopeful idea of that person. Take a minute to think about that: You are never in love with anyone, you’re in love with your prejudiced idea of that person. Isn’t that how you fall out of love? Your idea changes, doesn’t it? “How could you let me down when I trusted you so much?” you say to someone. Did you really trust them? You never trusted anyone. Come off it! That’s part of society’s brainwashing. You never trust anyone. You only trust your judgment about that person. So what are you complaining about? The fact is that you don’t like to say, “My judgment was lousy.” That’s not very flattering to you, is it? So you prefer to say, “How could you have let me down?”

So there it is: People don’t really want to grow up, people don’t really want to change, people don’t really want to be happy. As someone so wisely said to me, “Don’t try to make them happy, you’ll only get in trouble. Don’t try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it irritates the pig.” Like the businessman who goes into a bar, sits down, and sees this fellow with a banana in his ear – a banana in his ear! And he thinks, “I wonder if I should mention that to him. No, it’s none of my business.” But the thought nags at him. So after having a drink or two, he says to the fellow, “Excuse me, ah, you’ve got a banana in your ear.” The fellow says, “What?” The businessman repeats, “You’ve got a banana in your ear. ” Again the fellow says, “What was that?” “You’ve got a banana in your ear!” the businessman shouts. “Talk louder,” the fellow says, “I’ve got a banana in my ear!”

So it’s useless. “Give up, give up, give up,” I say to myself. Say your thing and get out of here. And if they profit, that’s fine, and if they don’t, too bad!

– Anthony De Mello, SJ, 1931-1987

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Confidential Aide to the Mayor

Job Description:
• Performs confidential and complex administrative functions
• Assists the mayor in evaluating plans or proposals by performing extensive research and analysis of materials
• Working with departments, committees and volunteers, assists in the coordination of economic development efforts
• Specializes in developing and implementing all facets of the marketing program
• Assists the mayor in maintaining the highest level of government services

Measurable goals:
• Conduct research to determine marketing needs
• Develop a marketing objective and plan
• Implement marketing plan utilizing a multi-phased approach
• Obtain a city web based domain
• Establish a two-way communication system between city hall and city residents, thereby creating an avenue of accountability on the part of city government
• Create an online data base for widespread communication
• Perform any other duties as assigned by the Mayor

Current Projects:
Communications
o Press releases
o Official statements
o Draft official correspondence
o Proclamations
o Social networking
o Coordinate website updates with Engines of Creation
o Provide updates to Waterfront messaging board for Waterfront Foundation
o Respond to constituent submissions to website contact form
o Research/investigation

Marketing
o Currently preparing Legislative Gazette feature
o Drafted marketing strategy
o Securing voice talent, scripting, casting for radio commercials
o Devised downtown marketing strategy presented to Downtown Development committee
o Working to secure $20,000.00 marketing reimbursement from National Grid Branding Grant

Economic Development
o Compiled comprehensive listing of Downtown properties for interested property/business developers
o Assisting AIDA director in comprehensive property listing of ancillary business listings (property template and photos)
o Initiated business outreach efforts to potential developers/business in efforts to attract downtown business prospects
o Developing incubator program for Graduate Business students with area business schools to provide office space for new businesses opened by recently graduated MBA students.
o Provide aide to mayor in outreach efforts to secure OFT data center.
o Directing Year-Up proposal with NYS CIO/OFT for Amsterdam satellite office

Neighborhood Initiatives
o Direct efforts of Amsterdam Neighborhood Association
o Liaison with APD director of Neighborhood Watch
o Coordinate community events, volunteer activities.
o Liaison between community organizers and Office of the Mayor.
o Design/print marketing for publicity

Advisor to mayor
o Provide budgetary analysis
o General research and opinion issuance
o Coordinating w/ AHS in creation of Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council.
o Stand in for mayor at minor occasions in absence

Inter-Department assistance
o Provide intermittent I.T. support within various departments
o Assisted Clerk’s office in devising new proposed FOIL form and policy
o Wrote grant application for record’s management
o Assisted Transit dept. with compiling reporting

Future projects:
o Fair Housing/Rehabilitation program
o Green energy initiative/Municipal utility district

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waits

flat out hero worship

God, I miss NYC.

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vigil


Life is too short to sleep through.
Stay up late, wait until the sea of traffic ebbs,
until noise has drained from the world
like blood from the cheeks of the full moon.
Everyone else around you has succumbed:
they lie like tranquillised pets on a vet’s table;
they languish on hospital trolleys and friends’ couches,
on iron beds in hostels for the homeless,
under feather duvets at tourist B&Bs.
The radio, devoid of listeners to confide in,
turns repetitious. You are your own voice-over.
You are alone in the bone-weary tower
of your bleary-eyed, blinking lighthouse,
watching the spillage of tide on the shingle inlet.
You are the single-minded one who hears
time shaking from the clock’s fingertips
like drops, who watches its hands
chop years into diced seconds,
who knows that when the church bell
tolls at 2 or 3 it tolls unmistakably for you.
You are the sole hand on deck when
temperatures plummet and the hull
of an iceberg is jostling for prominence.
Your confidential number is the life-line
where the sedated long-distance voices
of despair hold out muzzily for an answer.
You are the emergency services’ driver
ready to dive into action at the first
warning signs of birth or death.
You spot the crack in night’s façade
even before the red-eyed businessman
on look-out from his transatlantic seat.
You are the only reliable witness to when
the light is separated from the darkness,
who has learned to see the dark in its true
colours, who has not squandered your life.

– Dennis O’Driscoll, from “New and Selected Poems, 2004”. © Anvil Press Poetry.

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gorsedd prayer

Grant, O God, thy protection,
and in protection, strength,
and in strength, understanding,
and in understanding, knowledge,
and in knowledge, the knowledge of justice,
and in the knowledge of justice, the love of it,
and in that love, the love of all existences,
and in the love of all existences, the love of God,
God and all goodness.

– iolo morganwg,
1792 summer solstice

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dream

If you are the night’s cry
I am the sea’s moan
If you are the sun’s beam
I am the tree’s shade
If you are the silk hand of a dream
I am the darkness that takes you in
If you are the world
Then I am everything.

– Atea Lynn, age 11

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A friend on facebook named Tammy responded to yesterday’s post:

“While I agree with 100% that it is disgusting the amount of litter and cigarette butts are found along the side of the roads….I 100% disagree with you that the fast food companies, chip manufacturers or tobacco companies should have to pay any sort of surcharge on their packaging.

McDonald’s (nor it’s shareholders) should be held responsible because lazy ass people who happen to purchase their product decided to throw the wrapper on the ground. Same goes for Wise, or Hershey’s or Marlboro. It’s the lazy consumer who is at fault. Why should I have to pay an additional fee (because you know those companies will only pass that added cost on to the consumer) because some lazy ass other consumer is just that – a lazy ass?

This policy would punish me, a conscientious consumer, who does not litter….and that would be fundamentaly wrong. Instead, in addition to helping out by picking up stuff, why not ostracize those you see doing the littering. I do it all the time. :)”

A second friend, Bobby, kicked in with this:

“it does my heart good to know that some people still understand capitalism, and that any new tax, fee, or cost of any kind will be directly passed along to the consumer. I’m for raising the littering fines drastically, and making the lazy asses pay.”

To tell the truth (a theme that runs through several threads of life right now), I didn’t immediately have a reply. I understand being conscientious. I was taught early on that I am responsible for my body, my family, and my surroundings. I am in charge of keeping them all clean and safe. I also understand the importance of thrift and economy. I don’t want to pay any more than I already am at the grocery counter, gas station, or to Uncle Sam.

Given my undecided stance, I proceeded out again to let the litter do the talking. I headed up the west side of Brandt Place hill and started my picking just south of the McNulty sidewalk. Again, I faced the torrent of casually tossed wrappers, cups and bottles popping from the wintered weeds like brightly colored Easter eggs in assorted reds, greens, bursts of yellow, orange, cobalt and cerulean blue. There were shimmering metallic bags, faded plastic bottles, snow white Styrofoam cups and their brittle lids, and shorn bits of plastic bags. I stood every few minutes to scan where I’d been and what still needed tending, unable to control a heavy sigh of disdain every time. This is a massive, unrelenting problem.

While I scavenged through the brambles, I thought about the necessity to sculpt the attitude of our youth that they too might disparage this behavior. I was a child of the 60’s and 70’s. We were taught that pollution was ugly. Our slovenly ways made the iconic Iron Eyes Cody cry and we were ashamed. Earth Day was something we all wanted to be involved in. We knew we could make a difference. It’s ironic that this lesson has not persisted or apparently has not been passed on.

I thought about Tammy’s insistence that this is the responsibility of the lazy consumer. I absolutely agree. They deserve our contempt. These criminals (because the desiccation of our community is truly a crime) should be held accountable, but herein lies the problem: littering is inherently anonymous. It is a discarded snickers wrapper on the way home from fifth grade, the flick of a smoker’s wrist, or an intentionally jettisoned soda, beer or vodka bottle on a side road. It is thoughtless and casual. One rarely witnesses it. The highest fines in the world won’t stop this; it’s a closely guarded secret. Who do we ostracize?

I repeatedly thought about Tammy and Bobby, because I was becoming more and more sure that this evil must be sliced out at the root. With every handful of waste, I thought about how many times a day we are assaulted by advertisements for McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, and KFC. You can’t watch Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel without being bombarded with commercials for juices, snacks, candy, and (let’s face it) crap.

These companies are spending unbelievably astronomical amounts on manipulating us and it’s working! After today’s pleasantries, I’d much rather see them half their air time and invest that money into finding the solutions to this crisis: give money to municipalities for cleanup efforts and develop rapidly degrading packaging.

We’re not talking mom and pop shops here. Tobacco and the “convenience food business” are enormously profitable, global concerns. Altria (the $43B dollar parent company to Phillip Morris & US Smokeless Tobacco Company) realized $3.21B dollars in profit last year. Sales went UP 7% in 2009, despite selling fewer cigars and cigarettes. Pepsico (also a $43B dollar industry giant) touts it’s “healthy, convenient and fun nourishment” portfolio that includes the $12B Frito-Lay lines (Fritos, Cheetos, Doritos, Tostitos, Lays – OMG, the number of bags I’ve ferreted out of the weeds) as well as a variety of drink choices (including Pepsi, Gatorade, and Tropicana). Interestingly, Pepsico recently announced its intent to promote higher rates of beverage container recycling in the U.S. Specifically PepsiCo said it intends to create partnerships that promote the increase of U.S. beverage container recycling rates to 50 percent by 2018. Let’s hope they chop the cost of this effort out of their profits and not our pockets. Big daddy Coca-Cola boasted of $48B in assets and $7B in profit for the year 2009. McDonalds serves a whopping 60 million people A DAY and made $5B in profits last year. As a mayor struggling to come up with $1.2M to continue to provide necessary services to my constituents, the amount of money spent on bubbly and sweet salty snacks almost makes me ill.

And sick we should all be, as the tasty treats we are imbibing in are not only killing the environment, they’re killing us too. Look at us and look at our kids. We’re heavier than ever and diabetes, cancer and heart disease are on the rise. Maybe it’d be good to carry the cost of cleaning up over to the consumer. Perhaps we’d eat less of this nonsense.

As you can see, I had worked myself into quite the rant and had only made it halfway down the hill. It’s amazing where the mind wanders when the body is exercising and productively engaged. I hope you’ll try this out yourself. You may come up with a better idea, but one way or another, we’ll all benefit.

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I spent the past forty-five minutes walking the dog on this beautiful day, the 80° of sunshine more than my Northern European temperament could handle. Much to the dismay of my miniature canine friend, I brought gloves and an oversized trash bag to pick up litter along Major Lane. This had no appeal to her as the heat of noon intensified and her leash was jerked with each passing car. I had several revelations along the way.

The first epiphany I had was this: McDonalds, all “fast food” venues (but especially McDonalds) or “snack” producers (chips, candy, etc.) should be charged a surtax for every cup, bag, wrapper and straw they dispense with the fare they deem “food”. Ditto the beverage and cigarette industries for the cans, plastic bottles and butts (what percentage of cigarette butts would you estimate properly makes it to a trash receptacle?). Half of this tax should be distributed to the small municipalities that are being swallowed by their rotting refuse, and half should be put toward developing rapidly degradable packaging. Better yet, these industries should be directed to produce permanent packaging (flash back 100 years): collectible plates, glasses, bottles and utensils that people’d sooner keep than toss from a moving car.

My second epiphany was this: if each of us spent just fifteen minutes every few days picking up a place we notice growing candy wrappers, cups and plastic shopping bags, our communities would be remarkably more attractive. So, here’s my challenge, over the next six warm months, I dare you to take responsibility for cleaning up the dirty, forgotten spaces that we only subliminally notice, but when harvested will have a dramatic impact on the perceived beauty of our City. I’m only asking for 15 minutes now and then. Invite your friends and kids.

I dare you.

BTW: the City-wide Clean-up will be on April 24th. More information to come…

Addendum: My family left soon after my post to pick up a couch we ordered. I opted to stay and made my way back up with two more bags to finish what I’d started: the last half, and most heavily trashed, section of drainage ditch. It took me a little over an hour. Picture a middle-aged, overweight, really florid woman, panting, shaking, swelling and maniacly determined to make it to the end of the street. My heart strained at the effort and I won’t be able to remove my rings tonight. I went through three pairs of plastic gloves, but finally made it to Brandt Place. A kindly neighbor took the two sacks of garbage I’d gathered and promised to put it out for me on collection day. I began the walk back, watching the heat mirage along the road ahead of me. A nondescript car (because I can’t tell the difference between brands of automobiles) paused at the stop sign halfway down the road, tossed a brightly colored McDonalds bag into the ditch, and waved as they passed me.

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“Her hearing was keener than his, and she heard silences he was unaware of.”

~ D.M. Thomas

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