March 18, 2022
Bag Count - 2. Cleanup MC - Lisa. Running Bag Count - 46.
Experimenting. I’m trying to find new ways to follow Charles Ellison’s advice to Ya Fav Trashman — that is, to coordinate my efforts with those of the city institutions that are supposed to be responsible for keeping our streets clean. So, for today’s cleanup, I mined through the archives of a new automated Twitter account, Philly 311 Photos, that posts images of people’s 311 submissions. I found an image not too far from my friend Aaron’s apartment, picked him up, and we went to investigate:
Note that this mess was reported on March 4, a full two weeks ago. When Aaron and I arrived this afternoon, the scene looked almost unchanged from the image above. I don’t know how long it normally takes the Streets Department to respond to illegal dumping reports, but two weeks seems a bit excessive, so we cleaned up the mess and let them know about it:
Philly 311 Photos @philly311photosIllegal Dumping at 3560 GRAYS FERRY AVE Reported on: Mar 4, 2022 Assigned to: Streets Department https://t.co/gLyItKZJ7b
Forgive the poor quality of that GIF — if you want to see a clearer video (with music courtesy of Lisa, today’s cleanup MC!), here’s the link. On my way home, I drove by the site of another illegal dumping report that was submitted to 311 on March 4, and again, the mess from the submitted image was sitting there almost perfectly preserved:
Philly 311 Photos @philly311photosRubbish/Recyclable Material Collection at 600 N 11TH ST Reported on: Mar 4, 2022 Assigned to: Streets Department https://t.co/mHZkzMA0Js
Giving the city the full benefit of the doubt here, neither of these two reports were technically instances of illegal dumping, though it seems fair for citizens to expect their Streets Department to clean up large accumulations of litter, illegally dumped or not. Even so, Street Department labor is scarce, and there are tons of garbage heaps in Philly that are in greater need of the city’s attention than these two. So maybe there’s nothing wrong with how the Streets Department operated here, and they’re just outmatched by the scale of the city’s litter problem.
In any case, I’m grateful that Philly 311 Photos exists, and I’m hopeful that the account can be leveraged to increase the transparency and responsiveness of the city’s waste management services. Philadelphia is desperate for a change — a woman screamed “THANK YOU!!!” at us from a passing car during today’s cleanup — and we’ll need to use everything to our advantage, Twitter bots included, to deliver that change.
A back and forth. I’ve been exchanging tweets with local political strategist Melissa Robbins the past two days concerning my recent piece “The Street Cleaning Gods of Filthadelphia.” I’m always looking to learn something valuable from exchanges like these, so I’m going to embed the whole thing here for anyone who’s curious, and I’d love to hear peoples’ thoughts in the comments:
Local artist spotlight. Today’s cleanup MC is a 3-piece Philly-based band called Lisa. Their Instagram bio is, simply, “3 angels in Philadelphia” plus a link to their Bandcamp, which consists only of their single “Mad Men,” released just three days ago. The song’s lyrics are fantastic in their own right, but especially for Mad Men superfans like myself:
He said, "If I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die in Manhattan
"With a good view of the city and a rooftop to jump from
"And when I jump from the rooftop, I want an angel to catch me
"And the beauty of his fingertips will burn away my skin."
And when the guy from Manhattan hands me a thick manilla envelope
I wanna take it home and lock it in my desk
So one day when I'm day drunk and chain-smoking at the office
You can break the lock open and discover who I am.
Three men go to war, what do you do with the fallout?
All these pictures I've been sending are gonna tear us both apart.
Dim halo in the kitchen, empty bottles on the counter
Two figures in the stairwell and a glass for the realtor
When you move across the country, you know this'll be the last time
And when you pull me closer towards you, you know this'll be the last time
And when the guy from Mad Men says, "I thought about what you told me."
And the guy from Manhattan says, "I'm happy to hear it."
I could've swore you said to me,
"Then I thought about you."
"And your deep, deep lack of character."
"Yeah, your deep, deep lack of character."
Three men go to war, what do you do when it's over?
Send another one to the moon before you orchestrate surrender
Cuz when I die in Manhattan, they're gonna pull me from the office
Mets pennant in the background, and the camera in focus
Lisa is playing a live show this Saturday — originally slotted for Tabernacle in North Philly — that’s now being hosted by Cecil Records, which is “a record label founded by students of Temple University,” at an undisclosed location. If you want the address, you’ll have to DM Lisa on Instagram. Doors at 8, music at 9.
Have a great weekend, y’all.
Philly Clearing is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.