Beach-toy plastic musings

Had a beautiful walk to the beach for a dip just now. Around 7 PM. The sun is setting these days around 8 so it was a nice time to go.

When I got out of the water and walked up the sand, passing by the trash cans as I headed up toward the road, I noticed a bunch of new-looking beach toys had been stuffed in the trash. The people who had put them there said there was nothing wrong with the toys; it was just that the family was getting ready to fly home.

One small motel on the A1A up towards Ormond has a toybox where the tourists can leave their toys for the next people. It would be cool if some of the big hotels were to do that too.

Well, I gathered up the toys and brought them home and added them to my beach toy library.

I was glad that I had happened to be there to rescue them, but it was kind of sad too. All of this plastic. And so much prosperity, so much income disparity, that buying things and throwing them away is some thing that people don’t think twice about anymore.

Suddenly a forgotten memory popped into my mind’s eye. The inflatable rafts that we had had growing up. They were navy-blue on one side, red on the other, and made of canvas. I am pretty sure they lasted us through 8 or 10 summers. I can remember having them when I was seven, and I think I can remember them still being with us when I went off to college.

Somehow the memory had a deep quality. Like, it might sound corny, but we had an actual relationship with those rafts. The rafts went with us through several moves, rode the waves of Pacific and Atlantic and floated in some lakes and maybe even a pool or two. I’m pretty sure we have at least a photo or two around still, of us kids with those rafts. I can feel the texture of the wet canvas on my skin.

Now, lest this should sound like some sort of bombastic boomer bragging — it’s not. I’m not putting down people for having plastic beach toys. And not saying I will look how great we are for having these artisanal authentic canvas inflatable rafts. What I’m saying is that people deserve better, the same as we had better, way back then. At a much less affluent time of our society, to boot.

On a related note … Yesterday I got an email newsletter from the apparel company Patagonia, which is known for its eco-responsible policies regarding well-made clothing, and repairing and recycling clothing. And even discouraging people from buying more than they need.

The Patagonia newsletter had a link to a film that has been made by Patagonia. The title: The Shit-throp-o-cene: Welcome to the age of cheap crap. It was pretty funny, if a little too painstakingly clever at times, and it made some really good points. You can watch it for free.

It struck me that my little beach-toy lending library is a way of somehow elevating and redeeming what would otherwise be trash plastic. I’ve turned the little buckets and scoops and shovels and boogie board and plastic inflatable life-rings into a bit of cheerful bright-colored art hanging on my fence. Usable art, that anyone can borrow and enjoy — and, I hope, make a sweet and lasting memory.