@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
It was a sight for sore eyes. Though I didn’t mind growing up near the train tracks. The sound of a train passing was hardly noticeable to me, since I was raised there and was so used it. But I remember when my Uncle visited from Virginia or a friend slept over they said they could hear trains pass at night. If anything, I liked the sound of the trains, because the sound was conditioned with the feeling of Home. Additionally, my dad worked for the railroad, as did some of our other family members. And it was a direct transportation to a place I had always been fascinated with, New York City.
The town I grew up in was very much a suburban town, where, when I first saw the movie “Edward Scissorhands” I felt akin to Johnny Depp’s iconic character in the sense that I didn’t care for the “keeping up with the Joneses” attitude and felt like an outsider, mentally. We weren’t poor, nor was living by the tracks a bad neighborhood by any means, though our house seemed feeble and always needed work, a sure sign of financial struggle compared to some of our friends who lived in areas of the town that had immense wealth—giant houses on the water. The lack of diversity there was almost eerie, like a Jordan Peele horror movie.
Because my parents refused to sign us loans for colleges (a decision I hated at the time because I wanted to go away and had the grades for it, but in retrospect, saved me from crippling debt at 21), after high school I attended community college to wrack up credits before I’d transfer and graduate from Hunter College. There were a small group of us “commuter” kids out of our friend group who stayed on Long Island. Luckily for me, these were some of my best friends.
We became pot heads. We were more of “get hammered” every weekend type kids, but since we all were still living home we often went to parks or the beaches or malls and wandered around after smoking a joint, giggling at whatever the nonsense of the day was. We were good kids, overall. Parents generally loved us. This doesn’t mean we were angels. Some of us were surfers and pure adrenaline junkies, drawn to recklessness. We still stole our parents booze and smoked our minimum wages, but I was still a nerd, stubbornly devoted to maintaining a 4.0 GPA and loved reading books in the hammock in the backyard, maybe if for no other reason than to escape my normally loud family. We all had fake ID’s and infiltrated the bar scene when we could, but we got denied and thrown out of many places. Underdeveloped and scrawny, we all looked younger than we already were. It’s amazing to me I ever got to drink in a bar in my teens. I must have looked like I was 14.
The block I grew up on was relatively pristine. Families took pride in their lawns. For themselves and for the nosy neighborhood watch. The only house that was really a wreck was the house across the street from ours, where a widow lived alone. She was a hoarder and her house was rotting outside and in. It was a real eye sore. The window of my bedroom which I shared with my sister faced it directly. I had many a reverie about that house being haunted.
The tracks along Union Blvd near our house had it’s share of litter. I inherited my parents hatred for people who litter. It annoys the shit out of me. My parents were firmly of the belief that it didn’t matter if you had a lot of money or a little money or whatever you were or identified as, if you littered, you were a giant piece of shit. Respect both the earth and people’s property. Find a garbage can. Take the trash with you. Don’t throw your shit to the ground. To this day this tweaks me.
Of course I drove along those tracks every day, multiple times a day. In cars, on my bike, even on foot. Thousands of times. One day, it just really tweaked me. I hated looking at the litter along the tracks. So I went to Lowe’s and picked up a bunch of wild flower seeds. I’m no botanist, and the times I helped my Mom garden she would yell at me for doing it wrong and then replant the plant. I’d get frustrated and go, “why am I even helping you if you’re just going to re-do everything I do!” I didn’t see the irony at the time that in group projects at school I’d do the same thing to my peers, “ugh, we’re not going to get an A with you messing this up so I’m just going to do the whole project on my own.” Classmates both hated and loved being in group projects with me. They’d be subjected to a lot of eye rolls but they also did little work since I was a control freak bent on getting an A at all cost.
“If you want something done right, do it yourself,” was one of the repeated mantra’s of our house which haunts me to this day.
But I digress. One day I finally snapped and decided I didn’t want to look at the litter anymore. So I picked up wild flower seeds (that require no planting, just spreading) and walked over to the tracks with a stick and a large garbage bag, smoking weed along the way. Headphones in, music blasting and damaging my already damaged hearing, I went along the tracks and collected the trash. To passerby’s, I assume they thought I was in some sort of detention, working on community service. Again, I was a nerd, the only detention I was ever sent to was my mental detention in the walls of my own brain.
After the trash and debris was collected I threw the wild flower seeds about like fairy dust.
When I got back to the house, still high, my parents asked what I did that afternoon. I told them and they were somewhat bewildered but I think by that point they stopped finding anything their kids did as “weird.” Weird was normal.
Litter gathered still, but not as much. I am a firm believer that if something is kept clean, people are more likely to respect it. If litter is present, people have a “who gives a shit someone has to clean it anyway” attitude. Look , the wildflowers weren’t some “beautification” like stay at home moms did when their kids grew up. They were wildflowers. And sometimes we’d drive along the tracks and you’d see purples and blues and yellows and I’d go, “you see those flowers? I did that.” People either didn’t believe me or didn’t care at all. But that’s okay. I didn’t do it for them. I did it for me.