Monday, September 28, 2009

Life of a Trash Collector

I'm in the park now an hour a day 5 to 7 days a week. It's become an important part of my day- my gig. I visit the larger part of the park, once a week on average. Most of the time,however I'm dealing with the litterers of the the small strip of woods surrounding the park's kettle pond. On the other side, the woods and bridal path dominate the park's acreage.On the side where I work is the pond, the parking lot, picnic grounds, carousel and the golf course. The woods around the pond lead up a long thin ridge to the restored Dutch colonial farm house which has offices for the park administrators and their staff. The Urban Ranger headquarters is also on this side. The community bordering this part of the park is dominated by small single family homes with a large Mexican population, and some bigger homes and apartment houses that are occupied by other new immigrants and some "original" inhabitants. Queens neighborhoods are changing fast all over with new immigrants from third world communities in Latin America, Trinidad, Guyana ,India, Pakistan and Mexico. The impact on city parks in Queens doesn't seem to occupy much press in New York. A couple of years ago, Forest Park had to stop issuing permits for the picnic area to a community group consisting of people from one of those third world countries. It's a problem. We are dealing with populations who have no experience of our culture of National Parks and green area restoration. These are people who lived in parts of the world where garbage was either burned or dumped somewhere else. So, I've been thinking a lot about these things lately as I gather beer bottles, food containers, cigar wrappers and what not. Last week I encountered yet another site of a Santeria ritual. If you don't know, Santeria is a spiritual/magic tradition that began in Africa, and traveled to the Americas. Part of their ritual involves lighting votive lamps, leaving certain tokens and ritually killing a chicken. Apparently from the trash left behind, several people attend these rituals and eat and drink during them. It poses a dilemma for me, because I believe in honoring all traditions and as a magician myself, often conduct rituals in these woods. I never leave any litter behind, and make sure if I'm using incense that it can't start a fire but, all the same. I could have called the Park Manager who would send a crew to clean the site, but this time I decided to clean some of the mess, and leave the heart of the ritual. I left the sacrifice which I covered a bit more, the votives (which I had to extinguish), a plate of dried beans and a glass of liquid (wine?). I cleaned up a lot of plastic cups, food containers and attending trash including the ubiquitous beer bottles. Here's the rub. The people who conduct these rituals may have a connection to the woods as a sacred place, but they don't connect with the idea that leaving litter behind is a desecration.I'm struggling with the same dilemma then, that I have with the pot smokers. Any ideas?