Friday, August 23, 2013

Litter Redux

The Litter Lady (LL) would like to share with her readers this recent exchange she had with a perceptive reader (PR).

 PR: The Litter Lady will be amazed to learn that since 1974, littering has been a crime in the State of Illinois under the Litter Control Act. The Litter Lady is all too aware that the Litter Control Act suffers from a lack of enforcement. However, the Litter Lady will be cheered to learn that the minimum penalty for violating the Act is now, brace yourself, $50.

I anxiously await to hear whether the Litter Lady ascertains that this tougher sanction deters the crime of littering.

Doubtless, the Litter Lady regrets that the Litter Control Act does not reward citizens who pick up litter. Assuredly, the Litter Lady believes that the carrot works better than the stick.

LL: The Litter Lady is quite certain (as her charming walking companion surely also has noted) that the paltry sanction is NOT doing its job and that a public information campaign along with many carrots (and many rich rewards for the Litter Lady and her charming companion) are essential.

PR: The Litter Lady's charming companion wholeheartedly concurs that many rich rewards are indeed essential.

The Litter Lady wonders whether she could publicize the Litter Control Act by a well-timed citizen's arrest in plain view of the local media (and also garner the fabulous $50 fine), but on second thought, the Litter Lady prefers to deal with litter, not ruffians.

LL: One of the Litter Lady's famous sayings:

                Ruffians resist. Litter rarely does.

PR: Truer words were never uttered or inscribed. Which explains why the Litter Lady pursues litter, not ruffians. The Litter Lady is no fool.

LL: 'tis safer to pick up AFTER a ruffian than to pick up the ruffian him/herself.
PR: Indeed, safer and wiser

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Another Walk with Me

Today, I was approaching the high school on my mid-day walk. Yes, the big local high school with it's broad Frank Lloyd Wright eves. I've written about it before. Here it is.
School has just begun for the year--a day or two ago. And as I approached, I saw a small cluster of students on the sidewalk about a block in front of me, and I heard a loud, adult-male voice that seemed to be shouting commands. The voice sounded possibly Caribbean, reminding me of the man from Trinidad who often does work around our house. I could not make out the words, but they kept coming.
     As I got closer, I was able to discern that this man was some official from the high school, and he was telling the young people to move down the street, away from the house beside which they stood. Our town is densely populated, with houses all around the high school, and over the years, there have been complaints from those who live nearby about students being disruptive or loud, or littering. I will say right off that the man who was telling the students to move was black, and the students were white. None of them looked like trouble makers (the man or the kids). One girl was trying to eat a piece of pizza.
     Because it took me a while to come up into the action, I missed some of the dialogue, but the kids did begrudgingly begin to move themselves along, and I heard one boy say, "We're not on private property. We're not on anyone's property." Which was certainly true. As I passed the man, I nodded in sympathy with him and said, "Hard job." And he nodded to show casual agreement.
     As I continued on, turning this scene over in my mind, as I so often do with scenes I witness along my way, I thought I could have said to the group, and especially to the boy who made the protest about the private property, that he was correct. But correct does not always mean right. For example, what if someone in the house that they were clustered beside had been up all night working, and needed to sleep but couldn't because of the noise they were making?
     What if an exhausted parent was trying to put a child down for a nap?
     What if someone had a home office and was trying to concentrate on an important and complex problem?
     What if someone was ill and in pain and need to rest?
     Wouldn't they want to make life easier for those people in the house? 
Life becomes less carefree, perhaps, when one has to think about such matters. And I'm all for carefree youth, to the extent it is possible. But I do wish I could have engaged those kids in conversation. That I'd thought to. That I had the courage. Perhaps they would have rolled their eyes. But perhaps, they would have gone right back to school to join this club.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Pie, Blueberries, and Literature

This past Friday night, my husband and I hosted our book group in our home. The book up for discussion was The Orphan Master's Son, by Adam Johnson--the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year, and even more important in my opinion, the winner of the marvelous Tournament of Books. I don't want to talk about the book, at least not here. What I want to talk about is the blueberry pie I served.
     As those who read my blog will know, I have a very particular attachment to blueberry pie, and every summer, some time during blueberry season, I go to the local farmers market, buy my blueberries, and I bake this particular pie (a layer of whipped cream under a layer of berries)--an offering to the literary muse as well as an offering of gratitude for (and an affirmation of) the friendship I formed with writer Patry Francis, some years ago, in a time before time, via a wonderful no-longer-existing website and on-line forum called Readerville.
Making the pie for my reading group had several benefits: (1) it was a literary event and thus compatible with the literary theme that Patry and I have interwoven with the pie and (2) it brought me an audience of eaters.
     Every year, I am very attentive to the making of the pie--how it feels and how I feel and what I can learn from it, about inspiration and concentration and stress and uncertainty--all ingredients in the writing process. This year, to add a new level of immersion, I followed the recipe instructions to look the berries over--discarding leaves and stems and the little green unripe ones and overripe squished ones. I usually conduct this step in the most cursory way, but this year, I looked deeply into the colander, taking the time to sort thoroughly and carefully. How and why this may apply to my current writing project, I cannot say. I only know that I felt compelled to complete this step and that I enjoyed it. Then, as I went, I took a picture of each additional step, emailing it to Patry as I went, thus constructing a photo essay of pie making. I had mixed up the crust (a pate brisee), rolled it out, and frozen it the week before, so forgive me for not including those steps in the essay.

1. The crust lined with foil and filled with rice, ready for the first baking.
2. crust, baked and golden (a little shrinkage, but okay).
3. 1-1/2 cups berries, simmered with sugar and corn starch, butter melting.
4. all berries added, ready for chilling.
5. the whipping of the cream.
6. the spreading of the cream in the crust/
7. Ta-da!
I meant to take a  photo of the group sitting around the coffee table, eating the pie post-discussion, the paperbacks and e-readers arrayed on the table among the plates and forks and napkins, and the chair that held the laptop via which two of our members Skype in from Colorado (alas, no pie for them), but I became so caught up in the experience, and the pie was so very delicious, that I forgot to do so. Sometimes the experience trumps the photo.