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Dispatches From the Vacation Front – Fruitcake


On our walks along Lake Michigan the last couple days we noticed our watery neighbor had regifted a few items.

Over the last two days she's returned a tire, a dead mylar balloon, used sanitary products, a fully-loaded rolled up diaper, and lots of styrofoam.

It seemed a little rude for the lake to be tossing these things up on the beach, but, in all fairness, the stuff did get dumped on her first like so much fruitcake.

It's a big lake, so it's I'm guessing it's taken a lot of practice throwing stuff away to get this much garbage regifted onto the shores. I've been coming to this spot along Lake Michigan since I was a fetus, and I can't remember a time when the lake wasn't part swimming pool, part watery trash can and even part oil barrel.

Most of the time we're so focused on the sunsets and sounds of the waves that a pleasant version of Stockholm Syndrome kicks in before we're aware of the creepy sensation that we're actually swimming in garbage – even when it washes up at our feet.

This week, however, the cellophane candy wrappers and dirty diapers give me the heebee-jeebees.

Our train stopped in Toledo, Ohio a few days before we got here. A few hours earlier, Lake Erie had shut down the water supply for the entire city. Fertilizer runoff had spawned a crisis that had 400 passengers waiting to use a bathroom where washing your hands could result in nerve damage or other life changes – none of which included something sexy like flying or super strength.

It occurred to me as I looked at the warning signs in front of the sink that one of these days Lake Michigan could decide to regift us with something super, and it's be super scary.

We throw a lot of fruitcake into that water – heat from the local nuclear power plants, spilled oil from passing tankers, and litter and other trash from cities and towns around the lake along with all the other things we think we throw away. I'm starting to think, however, there may not actually be an away – just other beaches.

As I skirted a pile of tattered gift ribbon and a mangled prophylactic, it became obvious that solution was to start throwing stuff away in the direction of people we don't like so the fruitcake ends up on their doorstep. Things like that always backfire on you, though, so then I realized we just need to get better, as a society, at throwing stuff away. If we work hard at it, I know we can figure out a way to throw unwanted stuff away for good.

I'm betting we can make it happen before we accidenntally throw away the stuff we meant to hang on to.