Friday, April 12, 2002
Preserving a sense of community (cont.)
Expanding on Betsy Fell's fine editorial "Preserving a sense of community" that appeared in the March 29 issue of the Carlisle Mosquito, let me testify to the fact that community spirit was alive and well in Carlisle last Saturday. Yes, I'm talking about the annual Mosquito Trash Party which drew a larger than ever gathering of citizens, young and old alike, who gave their time on a busy Saturday morning to help pick up trash along the roads and on town land in Carlisle.
As I handed out trash bags and refreshments from the Trash Party "booth" in the parking lot next to Daisy's Market from 10 to 11 a.m., I was amazed to see such a variety of eager faces willing to help. There were Brownies and Daisy Scouts, Wolf Pack Cubs and Webelos, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. There were fathers and mothers with their sons and their daughters; entire families assigned to a section of road, and drivers of pick-up trucks ready to carry the filled-up trash bags to the transfer station. Several residents had called in earlier in the week to say they were busy Saturday morning but would have their section of the road cleaned by the end of the weekend.
As a long-time Carlisle resident, I recognized many familiar faces among the senior-citizen crowd, many who volunteer year after year on Trash Party Day. Some, despite aching joints, were back in familiar territory, picking up the tossed beer bottles, Dunkin' Donuts containers and the rest. "Were there more beer bottles and "nips" this year?" someone asked. And just because they have lived in town for only a year or two, many newcomers didn't stay home. They were out there with the rest.
Thanks go to organizer Bob Orlando, a member of the Mosquito board, whose commitment and organizational skills over the past several years have led to greater citizen participation year after year. And finally, let's give a round of applause to those members of this community who help out. It's one of the town events that brings us together, as well as one that makes us proud to say we live in Carlisle.
It is with a heavy heart and a crimson face that I write these words today, for I have come to realize that over the last ten years I have committed, in the words of Jerry Falwell, "grievous sins." No, I have not spent wildly on the lottery, sped madly down dark country roads, nor lingered too many nights in Jimmy Kilmer's crazy little shack beyond the tracks. Neither have I beaten our cat, eaten 'til fat, or given tit for tat, as the British would say. Unfortunately, my mistakes were more sinister than these pesky peccadilloes.
I could possibly have hidden my biblical transgressions of the law for many more years to come and lived in peace and harmony as Thoreau described. But the recent revelations of authorian slip-ups by our neighbor to the south, Doris Kearns Goodwin, have forced me to come to grips with my conscience and, as Irving Berlin so aptly put it in 1936, "face the music."
Yes, it's true: I have appropriated the words of others in past essays with nary a word of attribution nor a single set of quotation marks.
"Godfrey Daniels," you're probably shouting, as did W.C. Fields in The Bank Dick. "How could we have been so easily hoodwinked?" Perhaps, as D.H. Lawrence instructed, we all tend to "trust the tale."
So, to cleanse myself of the stain of these misdeeds (and protect against future lawsuits), I've reread all of my previous essays, scoured reams of notes, and interrogated my research assistants at length for instances when I might have inadvertently passed off the words of others as my own. What I found was startling.
In a 1995 essay on the evils of money in politics, I proposed that "People can only donate a hundred bucks to each candidate even if that candidate is himself. That's it. One hundred smackeroonies." Rereading my notes from that article, I now realize that I lifted "smackeroonies" from a soliloquy by the Keebler elf, to whom I now give full credit.
Just two years later, in a column on the suffering that students endure trying to master the incongruities of the English language, I invoked that they should "Spell it like you hear it." Only now is it clear to me that Mark Twain's observation, "They spell it Vinci and pronounce it Vinchy," was the likely source of my inspiration. Or maybe it was Howard Cosell's dictum, "Tell it like it is." Whichever, clearly it wasn't just me talking.
Then there was the article on why I have seen so few girls out shoveling snow, in which I said, "Girls, clearly, have more brain cells than boys." Upon deep reflection, I now realize that these exact words were spoken to me by my own mother the time I came home muddied and scarred from playing football with the neighborhood gang.
So, there you have it. Now that I've exposed these deceptions to the light of day, I'm feeling a whole lot better. And I pledge to you, my readers, that I will be more scrupulous in future columns, giving full credit for every word or phrase that I borrow, beg, or steal from others (such as William Faulkner), no matter how small or insignificant.
Lastly, for you budding writers, I want you to always keep in mind Wilson Mizner's warning, "If you steal from one author, it's plagiarism; if you steal from many, it's research." (But please, don't tell Doris you heard this from me.)
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito