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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Janitors of Our Lives Part II

Yesterday I wrote a little about it the Roman God Janus, for whom the month of January is named. Janus is also the God of halls and doors (“janitor”) and the God of endings and beginnings.

I decided to take my own advice and head out into single digit temperatures and into the woods. I choose a park that is not too far from our home and also one that has a beautiful lake skirted by woods and hiking trails: Moutoux Park.

It turned out to be the perfect place to practice some Janus-contemplation. Much of the park is built on a reclaimed landfill from decades ago. I was literally walking walking on the buried past, being present, and looking town the path to the future.

Once through the reclaimed landfill acres, soccer fields and picnic grounds, I came to a bridge – a physical metaphor for moving from past to future.

Across the bridge is a beautiful lake and woods that most people in Evansville don't even know exists.

Sadly, many of the ones that do visit are uncaring, trash heaving pigs. The lake, the paths around the lake and the woods are full of litter. I've gotten so used to seeing sights like this that I carry a trash bag to “hike in / carry out.” My one bag is a mere tip of the trash-berg, but it's the best I can do.

Upon returning home, I contacted the city Parks Department and volunteered to go out in the parks form time to time and bag trash. All I needed from them was a direct number that I could call to inform city workers (paid in with our tax money), so they could go haul out the bags and dispose of them properly.

The reply shocked me (from the email I received from the Executive Director of The City of Evansville's Parks and Recreation):

The DPR welcomes the opportunity to provide our community the ability to volunteer within our city park system. I have attached three documents that must be completed before the workday will be scheduled. Form 1 must be signed by each individual volunteer in order to be eligible to work. The second and third forms are informational documents that must be completed and on file for the project. DPR requires all volunteer groups to begin and finish all projects within the normal working days/hours of our union staff.

Note: These forms shall be received no later than two weeks in advance of the scheduled project date. If not, the project will not approved.

Talk with you soon.

partner in parks,
(name) Executive Director

- - -

One of the forms I must fill out to volunteer contains words such as “the undersigned” and “hereinafter referred to as volunteer” and “desires to perform a civic duty for the City of Evansville and its citizens without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation or reimbursement for services rendered.”

What the F? All I want to do was pick up a few bags of trash every once in awhile and be assured that the bags will be disposed of properly – basically to do most of their job for them for free!

I will contact the director again on Monday and see if there is a simpler, non-formal agreement that we can work out.

In the meantime, there's a lot of trash out there from the past that must be cleaned up in the here and now. Hopefully future hikers will take only a photo and leave only a footprint.

Oh, if I get thrown in jail or fined for performing a “civic duty” without filling out all the proper paper work, will you help me out?

Sir Bowie “Janitor of my own life and trying to be a volunteer Janitor of our parks” of Greenbriar


  1. And the government wonders why people don't give a shit anymore?! My thoughts on Sir Bowie's blog are:

    1. Never been to Monteux Park, must see it for myself.
    2. Great picture of Sir Bowie as Arctic Explorer.
    3. I appreciate your efforts to volunteer.
    4. Forget the red tape and do it yourself!
    5. I'll bale you out if needed.

    Finally, Unions...who needs them?! What started as a good thing for the people has ended up costing us our competitive and entrepreneurial edge!

    Sir Hook I'm Talking Trash Now of Warrick

  2. I have been to Moutoux Park on a number of occasions looking for various geocaches and/or letterboxes. (recently it was the site of a pre Christmas murder of a cabdriver) I have not been deep into the woods as I always plan, and I cannot say it's a very pretty park from most of what I have seen. I have to agree with Sir Bowie on the trash. There are a lot of people who fish there and seem to have no problems dumping their bait containers, chip bags, beer bottles and other assorted eyesores.

    As for unions. I have to agree with Sir Hook of Warrick, in that they started out as a very necessary thing to protect workers health and safety and other areas. Now as auto manufacturers seek bailouts when the union workers are getting $40 an hour and hold immense power (power corrupts ....), they are hurting themselves and the country. Some would rather not have a job then make money more in line with the rest of us (or me). Although I have no sympathy for overpaid and useless management either. Two union stories come to mind.

    1. A friend of mine used to work at Arkla (which became Preway). It was union operation. My friend was driving a forklift one shift and another worker intentionally rammed him with his forklift. It seems that only certain union people were allowed to drive forklifts. Turns out my friend had the necessary credentials to drive the forklift, the other guy just hadn't found out yet. Nothing like an assault with a heavy piece of machinery to work out difference.

    2. I was talking to someone once about people could volunteer to go into the zoo and fix up deteriorating areas and other maintenance to improve the zoo all for free. However, apparently others had volunteered to do that, but the union blocked it as it was their work. So nothing got done as limited resources had to be used to take care of more pressing issues.

    I also applaud Sir Bowie on his volunteerism. He is the most civic minded person I know. And he cannot blame me for getting roped in to any project. He volunteered. He actually shames me for not volunteering more, but not enough to actually do anything about it. But I raise a glass to him and to all those volunteers for better of the world.

    Sir James of Taylor

  3. Todays walks:
    University of Evansville campus as I stopped by the new student center/bookstore for a new UE shirt for tonight's basketball game...32 years ago this weekend I moved into Brentano 223 as a bright-eyed 17 year old ready to start Winter Quarter classes (graduated from high school early and headed on to the big city!)

    then Sir Bowie and I headed to the woods of USI \there we encountered dozens of Canadian geese WALKING very gingerly on the icy pond

    in one little cove, the air currents were making the dried leaves skate across the icy pond - I stood at Makeout Point and watched them dance and twirl

    a good day in the sunshine - and one bag of trash gathered by Sir Bowie

    go Aces!

    Lady Suzanne of Greenbriar

  4. I think for once the Knighthood stand in agreement... and Hooky's list sums it up very well.

    Dropped litter is a cast iron way to make my blood boil...especially when i see people actually doing it...often with a trash receptor within walking distance. I sometimes think, our generation was the last to be born with any spacial conscience, but i suppose every successive generation thinks that.

    I'm known for carrying my trash home in my pockets....until i can find a bin ( annoyingly it sometimes gets left there, as i hang the coat up...and maybe come across the trash months later when i use that coat again..

    anyway i can feel my blood boiling on the i will shut up...LOL...

    Big Salute to Bowie, for putting his actions where his mouth is.... something i am more often these days.. not doing.. Still if feeling guilty is one of the first step to doing anything... then he'll be glad to know I am feeling guilty...and promise to try harder this year.

    The photo, Epic... and makes Me and Hooky look like a couple of ballroom dancers... I'm guessing that you are out there now breaking the ice with your Longest Ring Finger of the Knighthood, and that Barack's first job should be to get a Statue commisioned, based on it...... and the Title..the Great American Volunteer, carved in its base....

    I hope you cleared all that testosterone up before you left the park..:))

    Sir Dayvd ( volunteering to sit in the 11c degree sunshine later, and watch the daffodills opening..) of Oxfordshire

  5. Sir Paul of (let's take a walk soon) LyonJanuary 19, 2009 at 8:59 AM

    Never been to Moutoux Park. But, any port in a storm...

    I experience the same kind of red tape with some of my volunteer efforts. Try helping out at LBL and see what the Forest Service throws at you. I have been determined enough that I finally have gained "access" to the volunteer "family", but frustrations with some of the rules make me wonder if it's all worth it.

    Sir Bowie, I am happy that you ventured out in the cold, for it is there that we often do our best thinking. So, think of that positive...and don't get too concerned with the establishment/trash makers or it will take away from your reason for heading out into the elements.