Ragpicker, Governor

d__images_F196809PThe Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California is shaped like a large “H”. If you walk across the middle of the “H” to the left leg and look left, you’ll see the Ragpicker – a painting by Edouard Manet. He hangs on the wall at the bottom of the “H” and, I imagine, keeps an eye on (watches) everyone who walks through the galleries (rooms for showing art) that display (show) the Museum’s modern art.

I’ve always been fascinated by (attracted to; curious about) this life-size painting of such a humble (not important) man. Ragpickers were early recyclers. They walked around cities, Paris for Manet’s Ragpicker, and picked up rags and other objects that could be sold to people who recycled, or reused them. Rags were used to make paper.

Manet was one of several painters of his time who painted the everyday people of Paris. They weren’t wealthy. They weren’t powerful. And many people probably didn’t notice them. But they were an important part of Parisian life.

I thought of Manet’s Ragpicker when I read about Sarah Godfrey’s recent experience. She was at the Park Street subway station under the streets of Boston, Massachusetts, when she saw what she described as “a nice old man who was picking up garbage at the train station on his way to work.”

Sarah walked up to him and remarked, “What a good citizen you are!” He was grouchy (in a bad mood), she said, and complained that the stations were always filthy. She agreed.

She was uncomfortable when she watched him reach down to pick up a “food wrapper and what looked like a used napkin” and reminded him to “make sure he washed his hands when he got to work.”

He looked at her and replied, “That’s what my wife says.”

When they got to the top of the stairs, he threw the trash he had picked up into a trash container, then turned to Sarah and asked, “How many ex-governors do you think go around picking up trash at train stations?”

Sarah said that she laughed and said, “Not many.” She thought for a moment, then asked if he had actually served as governor of Massachusetts.

“Yes, for 12 years,” he answered, and she realized that she had been talking to Michael Dukakis, the former governor of the state.

Hmm. I wonder how many ex-governors – or anyone else – go around picking up trash to try to keep their cities clean. Probably not many.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach and tutor and creator of the Successful English web site.

Photo of Ragpicker from Wikipedia Commons.


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20 Responses to Ragpicker, Governor

  1. Dan says:

    Hey, Hi everyone.
    Thanks Warren!.

    Never seen that painting before.
    My first impression looking at it, is that it isn’t clear whether the man is looking at me or the trash on the floor.
    It makes me think the painter saw beforehand one of the main problem humans have to tackle: their own garbage/ trash.
    Kudos to the ex governor for doing that, but it’s a lost battle.
    In my opinion, the only thing saving us from the mountains of trash we produce is technology/science.
    And not just that problem, but many others.


  2. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Hello, people. This story is interesting, saying about those people who pick old things to sell and make money for life. These people are very important to the modern world, where things are thrown away just they become a little old. The industry like to see things thrown away because you buy again, you give them money, you accelerate the process of polluting of atmosphere, rivers, water, but they forget that pollution brings diseases, like lungs problems, skin problems and accelerate the process of getting old sooner. Scientists say that we could live three years more if we wouldn’t have air pollution. The day people realize how harmful is rags, this world will be healthier.
    Aecio, the defender of a more natural life, without trash and garbage.

  3. peter says:

    If anything, people litter.
    Hi Warren,
    Hope everything is doing great with you.

    You know ,seems like when it comes to you ,posting great blog posts is business as usual.
    Thanks for the heartfelt post!

    From the looks of it,I can tell ,you are a patron of art: A museum goer who appreciates fine arts and treats them with the delicacy they deserve.

    As for the guy on the canvass :), I must say it must be the centre of attention in said museum, as u are waking down the museum corridors admiring fine paintings hanging on the walls all around you then all of a sudden,you notice a hyperreal painting of a guy looking at you the minute you hang a left ,as if he is watching your every move lest you steal something :))
    It is as amazing as it is uncomfortable 🙂
    You know ,if u ask me the painting deliberately put up there to grasp the attention of the viewers. A smart move I must say. Kudos to the curator of the museum.
    It could be very inspiring painting in terms of picking up after yourself.

    Keep clean people

  4. Dan says:

    Hi there,

    You guys know I spend many hours a week on You tube, and this piece made me remember a video I saw, from a time I was watching Flash Mob videos.

    In the video, recorded at a mall, there is a plastic bottle on the ground close to a dumpster and we see several people passing by the bottle without noticing it.

    When finally a person stops by and picks up the bottle and tosses it in the dumpster, all the people in the mall turn toward the person and start applauding and yelling.

    I liked it. If you guys wanna see it look for Flash Mob+ plastic bottle recycling.


  5. Parviz says:

    Hi everybody,
    It’s been a while since I wrote something here.
    Life is turning faster these days.
    First and the most I am happy to be with you again, though for just a “Hello”.
    Secondly, I do not like people who litter on the streets.
    There are a lot of people who throw things out of the car windows.
    And it is really saddening when you see people in orange suits picking up trashes all night, And then some inconsiderate people trash it in no time.
    Back to your story, It is really nice that a governor worked as a trash-picker on his way to work, and very rare as well.
    I hope our governor learn from Mr. Michael Dukakis.
    God bless you,

  6. peter says:

    Hi peers ,
    My luck has been in short supply recently! Let’s just say My immediate boss at work doesn’t like me.he dumped A tone of workload on my lap which requires immediate attention. It means my weekend is out the window. I called him on that. I told him I need my weekends to wind down. I told him that I needed an extra set of hands to get the job done. He refused!
    he put me on scut for next weekend which is a long weekend simply because I voice my concern.

    My job sucks

    I don’t think I m gonna survive the probation period!

    I better start looking for another job already.

    I m out of here

  7. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Welcome to ESL podcast again, Parviz. We are happy having you here among us.

  8. Dan says:

    Hey Parviz.

    Nice to see you back.

  9. emiliano says:

    It’s always the same, and I have just a question..

    Why is so important personal life of candidates once they try to be designated in USA Congress, Senate or even to be President?.
    Not only to be a politician but just to be elected as attorney, judge or which ever other public charge or just being designed to be a big company´s general director or other similar charges.
    It is a good question to think about, but this subject is considerate only in Anglo-Saxon countries like USA or U.K., but also some other countries that were ruled by the English culture.
    Why is so important having in mind that the real question is not about family, sexual behaviour, or just to be or not married, divorced and so forth.
    The right question could be capacity, honesty, good administration, loyalty, health and now to be a real good manager with a brilliant mind.
    In Europe it does not matter if the candidates to be elected president, congressman/woman, mayor or senator have been divorced once or twice, even if they have an active sexual life or not.
    Europeans does not care about these subjects, they cared about otherideas like, to be at the right or at the left, freedom, honesty, good or bad administration and so forth, but sexuality?.

    No, I do not think so.
    What usually happens in EE.UU. when they are in the election´s years it is absolutely incredible for us, many of the candidates have been obliged to dismiss when something of his/her private life has appeared.
    How many divorced presidents have been chosen in EE.UU.?, well I think that only one Ronald Reagan, but he divorced from his first wife several years before being designated. Not another man was elected along the history of this country, not any woman either what is really peculiar, but only a black person and a single catholic man to be president.

    Why? if to be divorced is a legal situation by all means.
    Even being black, woman or catholic is a trouble?, just not to think about being latino, it seems like impossible that a latino could be president in this big country with more than docens of millions of latinos living in it.
    To be again at the point of sexuality or behaviour we could se that:
    In U.K. a king could not married a divorced woman last century, so he has to dismiss also.
    Now there is one waiting to be king, he has married a divorced woman so it would be amusing to see if he will be king or would be his son.
    I could remember Clinton affair that was so important in USA years ago, but here we were astonished by the relevance of such a matter.
    Lot of candidates in USA or U.K. have been dismissed from their options to be promoted as politicians just because some love affairs.
    Is it good or bad?
    May it be the right or wrong way to choose a candidate or a politician?.
    I don´t really know but our Mediterranean or European point of view about these subjects are somehow different than from the British sexual culture.
    Has the Bible something to do with the protestant sigh of life, sexuality or marriage subjects?.
    I think it could be, but it is my private way of thinking.

    All the best friends and have good elections after all.


  10. Dan says:

    Hey Pete,

    Just because he gave you all that work does not mean he hating you.

    Do the job and show him you can do that and even more. I have worked many Saturdays and Sundays as well.

    Practice the healthy habit of putting yourself in other’s people shoes. Maybe he has a boss doing the same to him. You know it’s like a chain.

    Or maybe in ten/fifteen years you will be that boss doing the same thing to a younger worker.

    Anyway, as it goes, wish you the best.


  11. peter says:

    Hey Dan,
    He gave me a hard time man. I resent that.
    He geniunly hate my gut.
    He knows my hands are tied as I m on probation period. Basically it is a three month period in which u are on an interim position which means u are not hooked up to the system you. During the period ?you need to keep your head down and do what you are told to or you pretty much run the risk of getting canned.
    So ,I must toe the line with these guys or I m out!
    But ,let me tell you ,I haven been walking on eggshells around here for quite long.the truth is , I can’t stand the guy!
    I wish I could change my department.well,sadly it is not my call. U know ,they were bouncing me around different departments to see where I land better,when I fit in best. Well,for some reason they have stuck me with the guy for three weeks. I hate gossiping but he is micromanaging me and he is annoying
    You know , I m not a pushover. I won’t let him walk all over me.
    But ,I have peroblems with authority. It is my nature I can’t help it. And police uniforms give me the willy. If you are wondering ,that beats me too.
    I m ticked off man!

    It is very nice of you to read my comments
    Thanks bro
    You are solid

    Keep cool

  12. peter says:

    I have just listened to jeff on the latest English Cafe episode.
    The movie jeff talks about on the Caffe is indeed one of the most famous And perhaps popular movies that Hollywood ever produced.
    I m wondering who the director is?

    I saw all the sequel of the original die hard movie played by Bruce Willies.
    I am
    Looking forward to seeing the latest of the series that is well under production.

    They First movie of the series had a high-grossing income at the time.the movie was very successful world wide. I was a kid at the time the movie first released. And I was first to watch among my friends. Honest , I vividly remember I skipped classes to go watch the movie. I played hooky ,if you will 😉
    Yup !!
    U guessed right! I was this brat , hypertension kid!
    I was a trouble maker.
    I have seen the movie like zillion times ever since.

    I myself am a fan of Bruce.
    I like his attitude he takes in his movies.
    He usually assumes this icy-exterior ,rough character whose ragged handsomeness has a way with ladies.

    I give it two thumbs up.
    Chances are most of you have watched the movie already. if you don’t, I strongly suggest it. Especially if u r an adrenaline junkie like myself.
    I m telling you, the movie keeps you on the edge of your sit for the entire show.

    I better take off

  13. peter says:

    Hey Parivze,
    I feel you
    The pace of life couldn’t be faster
    It is crazy fast!
    U know , the reason I think is we keep busy and loose track of time.
    It fly like yesterday that i was watching the ball drop in Time Square ,NewYork new year eve 2015. Now we are way into the year 2015. In face just 4 month left to seal punch this year goodby too.
    The sad thing about all this is we r getting older by minute and we can’t do anything about it.
    Man ,it sucks !
    Recently , I feel like gravity starting to do some touch up on me:)) I noticed some lines around my eyes recently. They are softe lines still it is a prelude for some upcoming phase shift. By that I mean , I m getting old bro. Still feel Yonge St heart though
    I m pushing 36 bro
    I feel like m out of my game
    Enough whining
    I didn’t mean to bring the blog down people

    I better take off before you hear me bawling my eyes out :)))

    I don’t mind it! If anything I am more distinguished 🙂 whatever that helps me sleep at night.right !!? :))))))

    I better take off

  14. peter says:

    Hi Parvize
    It is me again

    I , like our peers , wanna take a moment here and welcome you back to the gang of English-language enthusiast.:)
    Where have u been lad ?
    Hope everything is going your way ,mate.
    U know ,if u ask me , busy is good!
    You know what they say ,” the devil finds works for idle hands.” :))

    Well ,I know sometimes it gets overwhelming!
    Well, when being busy gets in over my head , I see it as my body is sending me signals that it is time to cool down. So ,I simply listen. I rest my body.
    I usually go catch a movie or sth.
    As it is my favourite pass time!
    Sometimes I just Lay around my place. I Order in a TV dinner and veg out in front of TV. Well , I always ended up stuffing my face with popcorn. U know ,I find popcorn munching very comforting.

    Keep cool chum

  15. emiliano says:

    Just an incredible story and really absolutely modelic that a man like Mr. Dukakis ex governor o a State like Massachusets that even once wanted to be predidet of USA, I think, or even a common person could do such a thing.
    Not only he doing such a thing but even taken the subway like another single man having been a public authority,

    Here in Madrid rubish is everywhere so sure Mr Dukakis could not pick up a mininum portion of so many filthy things that are along the streeets.

    Thank you Warren, Mr. Dukakis has all my consideration and respect now.

    Usually I have not time, or humor as my wife is really bad and my head is out from English subjects to write here but when I search through the Blog I only see three or four names.
    Dan, Peter, Aecio and Tania.

    Somehow it is really sad, where are the rest of readers, it seems the blog is exclusively of these strong persistent friends, Dan, Peter, Tania and Aecio.

    At least today Parviz have come from Iran once again, congratulations it is a great day.

  16. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Hey, you. In a few minutes the time is going to turn midnight and the only thing I have to say is good bye. Tomorrow will be another day, another thoughts, another beginning, new podcast.

  17. lili:) says:

    Thank you Dear Warren for this special article which introduces to us a museum, a special painter and an unusual painting, and a story that happened recently involving a good citizen.

    The subway in U.S. and underground in U.K. are very old, and very dirty. I suppose because many years ago people did not have a concept of keeping the public services clean and tidy and it was not illegal to litter. Once a bad habit has been established, it is very difficult to banish.

    When Hong Kong built its MTR (same as subway in U.S) in the 1970s, it enacted law to forbid littering and even eating and drinking inside the pay area of the whole MTR system.

    It costs money to educate everyone and catch lawbreakers, but we have a safe and clean transport for everyone to use.

    I don’t know why, I don’t like seeing people like the one in the picture. It’s not that I don’t like them, but that I think the society needs to help them to live a better life.

    It’s sad for me to see that when some rich people spend so much money on unnecessary and sometimes even immoral things, some poor people spend their days on dragging their feet in the streets and picking up litters in exchange for some food to keep them alive for another day, or night.

    Many thanks again Warren.

    Best Regards


  18. lili:) says:

    Hi Emiliano and everyone!

    I’m sorry I have not written much recently. But please know that I always read all the post here.

    I think many people are like me, reading but not commenting, so Emiliano please don’t be sad to see only a few people writing. There are always more readers than writers.

    Emiliano the way you described your typing experience is like a pianist playing music. I could even imagine a beautiful secretary moving her pretty fingers on the buttons of an traditional typewriter. 🙂

    Please type more!

    Best Regards


  19. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Hi, Lili. Your name reminds me the time I was a kid. My school books had drawings with your name. I will write the poem in Portugese language: Lili viu o lobo, o lobo viu Lili, Lili tebe medo do lobo, mas o lobo era manmso. I still had an aunt named Lilia, my father’s sister. Now everything is gone: my father, my mother, my aunts, my uncles, all the family. But that’s the world, the destiny.

  20. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    What a wonderful world. It is wonderful because I don’t have another one to live on. I have only this one. Thanks God I have this.

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