Phil and I bonded several years ago when I learned that he attended Alfred University in the early 1970s - at roughly the same time my dad did. I was a very little kid at the time and we lived in Alfred and a few of the other small Allegany County towns. I'm pretty sure that our paths never crossed back then, but I was too young to remember much. You would never guess that Phil is 60-something -- he doesn't look a day over 45. He makes sure to visit the gym, read books, get fresh air, and listen to the opera. Phil is a left-leaning activist and member of the Unitarian Church who spends plenty of time signing petitions and doing his part to turn the U.S. Senate and the House blue. He adores Hilary Clinton and does not hold it against me that I was a Bernie Sanders delegate.
Phil is also blind.
Even though Phil is blind - he detects when there is litter along our walk. And I don't think there has ever been a day that we've ventured out and didn't pick up at least one item of trash that was in our path on the sidewalk -- usually on Quail St or Hudson Ave -- pizza boxes are common, and so are plastic bags. One thing that frustrates Phil to no end is LITTER. Wednesday had 2 additional factors that didn't help (i) all the snow had melted and revealed several weeks worth of litter that had been buried and (ii) it was the day after garbage night -- when inevitably there is some trash that escapes from cans and trash bags.
As we were walking, I noticed one of Phil's new South Lake Ave neighbors outside picking up litter. I thought to myself, "This will give Phil hope in his neighborhood!" and so, we walked over and I introduced Phil to John Clarkson, the former Bethlehem Town Supervisor who recently moved to the heart of Albany. Phil was delighted that a new neighbor was out pitching in with the litter problem. Phil, is a very recognizable person, and John Clarkson told Phil that he had seen him at the Unitarian Church in the past. I think this made Phil happy, I have found that Phil appreciates being known.
John Clarkson isn't the only one cleaning up his neighborhood. The Pine Hills Improvement Group has been working with UAlbany student groups the past several years on a series of bi-weekly clean-ups that the students perform Sunday afternoons on Hudson, Hamilton, Quail and Ontario. They were scheduled to start their spring cleaning in mid-March, but since the snow melted and the weather has warmed up, the first group plans to head out this weekend.
Warmer, longer days and seeing neighbors pitch in to spruce up their block has been brightening up these final days of February!