All I want to do is pick up litter along the road
My cousin Sandra and I were talking the other day, and I let it slip that I was considering committing myself to picking up litter around the neighborhood and wherever we might go on our regular Wednesday Walking Group outings, which the other person who lives at our house and I organize anywhere from Sellwood, Lake Oswego, Tualatin, Tigard, Beaverton and Southwest Portland.
The reason I started thinking about this, I explained to her, was because two of my heroes — humorist David Sedaris and Walt Longmire, fictional sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, in the Netflix series "Longmire" — are dedicated litter picker-uppers.
Sedaris, who I believe set the bar for humor writing, has discussed on talk shows and in his own hilarious compositions his penchant for strolling local roadways wherever he happens to be living or visiting and picking up litter. It's a hobby, he has explained.
Longmire lets his fingers do his talking, and he usually can't get from his parked vehicle to the sheriff's office without stooping to snatch up a cigarette butt or discarded paper cup.
In both cases, I thought, hell, I could do that. And it would be a good thing to do.
So, on a walk at Diamond Lake last week with my cousin I confessed I'd been thinking about following in the footsteps of Sedaris and Longmire — and she immediately got excited. You see, she walks way more than I do — especially since she got rid of her car a few months back — and she has seen even more evidence than I have what a bunch of littering pigs we live with these days.
You can't get more than 50 feet from McDonald's before their bags and cups and French fry containers start showing up in the ditches and streets around the neighborhood. Of course, in this germaphobic era of COVID-19 — which is rearing its ugly head again with the new delta variant sweeping the country — none of us is too excited about picking up trash without being prepared.
We need gloves and heavy-duty bags, my cousin insisted, and maybe even some of those cool little grabbers you see folks using at the beach cleanups. Well, we'd only been back from Diamond Lake a matter of hours before my cohort reported to me that she had contacted SOLVE, in hopes of scoring some litter-gathering gear.
"Thank you for your interest in leading a volunteer event with SOLVE!" came the email reply which she shared with me. "SOLVE supports projects across Oregon that engage volunteers and focus on one of four main activities: Litter Cleanup, Invasive Plant Removal, Native Tree & Shrub Planting (and) Maintenance & Monitoring.
"Lead your event any time of year through our Project Oregon or Oregon Adopt-a-River programs. Or join hundreds of other projects statewide during the Oregon Spring Cleanup in April or the Beach & Riverside Cleanup in September. SOLVE offers free cleanup supplies and volunteer recruitment assistance to all SOLVE Event Leaders. Every successful project begins with a vision and effective planning. SOLVE equips Event Leaders with project planning assistance to assure that your event is the best it can be and will achieve your project goals."
Then, in red ink, the SOLVE message implored, "Please allow a minimum of three weeks to plan your event."
Then came the big question: "Ready to get started?" — which was followed by one of those big, all-caps tabs for me to click on: "BECOME A SOLVE LEADER."
The only trouble is, I don't want to be a SOLVE leader, being retired six years now from the newspaper rat-race and in no mood to try organizing groups of people, for any reason. I can't speak for my cousin Sandra, but I only wanted to pick up litter along the road (probably in a small trash bag) and throw it in the nearest garbage can. Like Sheriff Longmire and David Sedaris.
Also, I'm not really a joiner. Like Woody Allen, I wouldn't really want to belong to any group that would have me as a member.
I can report that, according to the SOLVE website, you can purchase one of their cool litter grabbers, for a neat $15, but you have to go to their office in downtown Portland to get it, so I'll probably just stick to the Walt Longmire method and use my hands — in rubber gloves, of course. I'm not sure what kind of gear David Sedaris uses, but he's a very successful writer of books and New Yorker articles so he probably has the best litter-gathering tools available.
Mikel Kelly, a retired newspaper writer, editor and page designer, is perfectly happy doing nothing all day — but hey, even lazy people need a hobby, right?
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