Filth and filth

I was going to call this post “Giant Tit Spotted on Offramp to Herald Place.” But this is a family blog, and “tit” is one of the Seven Words You Can’t Say on Family Blogs, so I didn’t. Instead, I’m going to try, in the spirit of the late George Carlin, to analyze filth at length. And we have a filth problem in Syracuse: perhaps we don’t have enough of it.

Here are two standup guys doing Syracuse a good turn and hoping to make a difference. A couple months ago, they cleaned the offramp to Herald Place in less than 20 minutes and made a high quality video to explain and publicize the problem. If we had just 50 more volunteers like them we could probably clean up Syracuse for a whole weekend… if everyone could just get their schedules together. Maybe our elected leaders would strive to live up to the dedication of our citizens, and understand they need to give Syracuse the beautification commission it really deserves.

What would Carlin have said? He would have said “Bleep that bleep.” I didn’t always agree with him, but he always made me think.

Sadly, nobody in power takes the broad daylight approach seriously. Don’t get me wrong: They should take it seriously. And they do, but they don’t. The intellect says “Yes, yes,” but the political will just rolls over and falls asleep. Now, if I was a DPW crew manager controlled by whatever strings control whoever makes whatever phone calls, I have to be honest and say I’d be watching these guys and admiring their work, because they just did my work for me — work I’m under contract to do, except no one thinks it’s their job to schedule the work in a coordinated manner.

Here’s a new suggestion: maybe we should stop sending mature men to do a boy’s work. Because putting trash into a Hefty bag is probably not the only thing you can legally or constructively do with it. And no, I’m not just talking about creating graffiti out of pre-existing dirt. I’m not just talking about kudzu topiaries of questionable taste. I’m talking giant genitalia made of garbage. The more embarrassing to middle-class sensibilities, the better.

Now, I’m sure someone would have to research the precise legalities of picking up multiple fragments of pre-thrown trash and just mistakenly dropping them into a suggestive shape (you can’t just go off half-cocked). But, lest anyone think my suggestion just comes from the blue, let’s take a quick look at the recent history of art, trash and filth in our fair city, and ask a couple questions — here respectfully submitted:

Question One: Why was a giant insect recently made out of trash and safely displayed at Lipe Art Park? I mean, that’s a cute idea. And Lipe is a very public space. The “Litter Bug” is not all that provocative, however. Alas, it is just not filthy enough. Could we do even better worse?

Question Two: Why was provocative (some might say obscene) art recently put on display at one of our city’s spanking new art galleries for the wine and cheese set — where it arguably couldn’t do the local masses any practical good? There is most certainly a niche for provocative art in Syracuse — but some of the artists tasked with the mission of saving Syracuse don’t seem to want to take advantage of the abundance of free on-site materials just sitting in empty, high-traffic public spaces that have a big potential audience just driving by each morning. (Explain that one to me — without using the word “grant.”)

I have no answers, but it’s disheartening to watch all of these good people making earnest efforts at doing something truly worthwhile in Syracuse, yet just orbiting around each other, and never connecting. There’s civic spirit, there’s imagination, there’s boldness, but there’s just something keeping all these ingredients from reacting with one another and creating something that penetrates the consciousness of those in charge.

So at least consider it as a thought experiment. What if some suburban mom orbiting the city center gets offended that her children are getting a free education? And sets off a chain reaction of phone calls to Joanie Mahoney’s office to Mayor Driscoll’s to the SPD, and some joker gets in trouble, and the voracious national media has a field day with it (“Syracuse: Trashiest City in America?”).

Or, you could just make that one phone call. “Mayor Driscoll, if you’d prefer not to see a gigantic gar-boob — or worse — erected somewhere along some highly visible thoroughfare that you forgot to vacuum, I’d think about picking up the phone and coordinating some regular cleanup with the State of New York.”

Or are are things not that desperate yet?

Just a throwaway post, tossed from the window of a speeding blog. But Syracuse is a great recycling town. Why not turn that junk into “junk” today?

5 thoughts on “Filth and filth

  1. TourPro

    I feel your pain.

    Have a look at the Writog, he’s got some real interesting trash/art photos from Plattsburgh.

    BTW: I think it’s perfectly fine to talk about tits.  At our house, we call them “tetas”.

  2. sean

    “just orbiting around each other and never connecting …”

    that nails it. and, of course, it was the point of the video; there are countless volunteers, without celebration, doing similar jobs every day.

    what we need so desperately in syracuse is something so simple: a few public leaders who take those jobs out of sheer frustration at the madness, who go into it only because they are sick of seeing innane barriers to doing the simplest things … such as keeping the garbage off of a heavily-traveled exit ramp (where, by the way, the garbage is piled up again, in a big way: welcome to syracuse!).

    you tell me: why hasn’t it happened? why don’t the state, county and city talk regularly about coordinating trash pickup? why doesn’t the state aggressively clean up every area where the traffic is cordoned off for construction, a job that would take 20 minutes? is it that the leaders of our two biggest local governments are longtime political rivals? is it just a kind of sediment in the way we act and think? because this tiny example, this one bridge and exit ramp – one small piece of an issue whose resolution would be applauded in a big way by taxpayers – speaks volumes to the really weighty problems looming above us.

    and because of that disconnect, the planets of which you speak continue to orbit – and when they connect it is all too often in spite of – not because – those we ask to lead.


  3. Ellen Post author

    Trash in Syracuse has been turned into a moral issue; a spiritual issue; a civic issue; everything but a political issue.

    It’s clear we’re not going to be able to pray our trash away. So there are only two solutions for the problem: politics, or war. I have proposed war. Although politics would be preferable.

  4. sean

    and, as always, trash is a microcosm. children in crisis – moral, spiritual, civic crisis – ought to be a matter of political will. planning, sprawl and design … moral spiritual, civic … ought to be political. i think the reason we all remain so stunned by mahoney’s take on the treatment plant is that she recognized that connection and acted on it, and it was like a full meal when you’re very hungry. except, once that meal wears off, you want some more.


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