Stink Spirits: Clean-Up Day with Curb Your Litter Greenpoint

By Jamie Hook.

I spent last Saturday cleaning the border of Greenpoint’s own Newtown Creek. And while the company may have suitable for a low-key party, the atmosphere was decidedly the wrong kind of fetid.

This trashy adventure was organized by the non-profit, Curb your Litter Greenpoint. Curb Your Litter is a new-ish organization, whose methods effectively URLize, at an honorably local level, the IRL problems of street trash. Acting as a web-based avatar of Jane Jacobs’ eyes on the street, their site hosts trash maps, publishes common-sense observations, and effectively socializes the task of being mindful of our neighborhood trash.

Their equivalent of the Yoga Retreat is their quarterly Clean-Up Day: You show up, get your gloves and bags, and then go out and pick up trash. You practice mindfulness, turn your eyes to the street, breathe (it stinks), and do what needs doing.

We followed the leader, Sri Swami Lisa Bloodgood of the Newtown Creek Alliance, to a postage stamp of greenspace at the bitter end of Meeker St. Once the site of parapets for the historic Penny Bridge (Passage to Queens: 1¢), this glorified litter-box now lays prostate aside the viscous chartreuse of Newtown Creek, not a greenspace so much as an urban leper: forgotten, sick, and helpless.

You can read about our exploits in the Book of Luke, Chapter 17, Verses 11-19.

Or, I can just tell you: Brothers, we cleaned the shit out of that park–Literally. Candy bags, spare tires, broken glass, and hundreds of plastic bottles soon filled our backwards-day Santa Bags of waste. And if most of the trash was of a mundane and plastic nature, some small treasures were on hand.

This little lost lamb stands out:

AS does this bespoke bag of filth:

As does the preponderance of Poland Spring bottles:

As the Gangs of New York (The Skeeters) steadily advanced their territory, and we retreated to the less buggy streets, we marked a solid improvement in the quality of our little area. It’s not now, and may never be, hammock-worthy, but we at least took the tires out.

One of our trash pickers, Felicity from Melbourne, offered me a cogent theosophical formula for her ethical calculus, which sees her spending a precious summer Saturday brunch-time contemplating cat-turd-encrusted plastic bag with a benzine remoulade and a side of broken glass rather than eggs florentine with home fries: “My mom was a mad environmentalist,” she tells me. “We did this growing up. For me, it’s something like exercise: you don’t wanna do it, but then you’re happy you did.” Here she is holding some trash:

As we worked, I was reminded of a scene in the great Hayao Miyazaki’s masterwork, Spirited Away, in which a Stink Spirit comes to the spectral bathhouse for a bath. Miyazaki often stated that his inspiration for this scene was his experience helping to clear out an impacted river in his hometown of Tokyo.

“There really was a bicycle, stuck in there,” he notes. “But we really cleaned up that river…and the fish are back!”

Click here to view the River Scene

One can hope….