Beach Blanket Stinko

traditional No Snark Sunday returns next week as we deal with reader requests to address a pressing issue: 

Ok, it’s NSS- no snark Sunday here at The Clam. I’ve awoken, hugged kittens, put on my favorite vintage Kermit “Rainbow Connection” T shirt, baked a blueberry crumble for our neighbors and made a delicious cup of flavored decaf by which to write another missive about how much we all love our beloved island with love. I’ll just slip over to FaceBook for some ideas…

It's so great to spend a day outside in nature, eh kids?

It’s so great to spend a day outside in nature, eh kids?

Oh fuck no. What fresh Hell is this? For those of you from out of town or folks who have that ‘Memento’ condition where you can’t remember anything for longer than it takes to make a bag of microwave popcorn, that’s the bike rack at Good Harbor, on the East Gloucester side of the bridge over the creek. With a huge pile of stinking, rotting trash like the aftermath of The Gathering of the Juggalos but with fewer discarded Faygo bottles.

Garbage cans, magnets and spelling. How do they work?

Garbage cans, magnets and spelling. How do they work?

[Goes upstairs, removes rainbow shirt and puts on Pogues ‘Rum Sodomy and the Lash’ tour tee, takes ball with little bell away from cat, microwaves three day old rot-gut coffee from bottom of pot and goes next door and stamps right in the middle of the baking tray left on the Garberg’s front steps.]

Let us begin. Is there anything more gross than people who litter? I have this wonderful aunt who through lifelong, in-depth studies of Buddhism and psychology has a tremendously optimistic view of human nature. She was explaining it to me a few months ago driving through upstate New York on our way to a family event. She firmly believes that every human being is simply fighting an internal battle we can neither understand nor are we in a position to judge. “Our goal, as fellow humans, must be…” she began. But just as she was about to drop a Karen Armstrong all over the interior of the Prius the car in front of us ejected a stream of Burger King bags and drink containers out the driver’s side. “You motherfuckers!!!” she starts yelling, pulling up to their bumper and honking her horn. “Are you kidding? You bastards!”

You're making the Buddha cry, Aunt Sandy

You’re making the Buddha cry, Aunt Sandy

So litterbugs suck. But hating people who litter (and oh do I ever) is not getting any Dunk’s cups off the streets. And this image of trash, much of it bagged, in somewhat neat pile seems to be transmitting a different message than if it were just strewn about everywhere. These people seemed to want a place to put their trash. They put it in a pile, rather than just ditching it someplace. And it’s fair to assume that one bag of trash begat another as one after the other succumbed to herd mentality, convincing themselves, “Oh, this must be how it’s done here.” Let’s unpack this (not literally) Who are these people? There are three types who come to the near edge of the bridge with trash:

  • Locals who live nearby That’s us and we can assume that a very small portion of that trash would be ours because we know the rules, it’s our town, and we’ve made accommodations to transport it. Also if any one of us was caught littering it would wind up on GMG, Cape Ann Online, the focus of some kind of contest on The Clam as ‘douchiest person of Fishtown’ and, three days later behind the paywall of the GDT, name misspelled. So I’m willing to wager it’s not one of us who started this.


  • Visitors who parked in the neighborhoods or used public transportation and are making their way home We all see the folks who walk down to the beach because they don’t want to pay the thirty bucks or whatever it is to park. I’ve seen them parked as far away as in front of the graveyard on Mt. Pleasant and up on Hartz Street. If you will note in the photo one of the bikes in the rack is a folding bike which likely belongs to someone who either parked far away or took the train. So, if I took the T here I’m supposed to carry my trash out to where, exactly? The cans (typically overflowing) at the station? Medford? Advanced civilization has a thing called “public trash receptacles” and these people, I believe correctly, assumed that notion extended into Gloucester.
It's like they don't even know how to read small, hand lettered rocks (Photo GMG)

It’s like they don’t even know how to read small, hand lettered rocks (Photo GMG)

  • People who parked somewhere else picking up their family at the bridge They look as if they packed more crew and equipment than Shackleton into HMS Endurance making for the Pole. Dad’s ‘round back of the minivan loading chairs, boards, coolers, pails and umbrellas. He slams the rear gate shut, skips to the driver’s side and peels off ‘forgetting’ the 45 gallons of Goldfish bags and juice boxes in the Hefty on the sidewalk. “They must never know I am a litterer,” he thinks. “But fuck me if I’m going to sit in this thing for the hour home to Needham with a bag of diapers and sour baby formula that’s been bloating in the sun for half the day.” We fault him, yes. But do we understand, to an extent? My aunt would say yes, then probably slap him in the face with her hand-woven Ecuadoran beach bag.

So what do we do? This is where it gets tricky and I’m open to all options, but I really think the shortest path through this thing might be PUT A FUCKING GARBAGE RECEPTACLE THERE BIG ENOUGH TO HANDLE ALL THE TRASH PEOPLE WANT TO GET RID OF.

Science may have solved this problem

Science may have solved this problem

Radical, I know. Look, we tried. We tried the ‘carry in, carry out’ thing and it failed. That’s fine, I’m all about trying stuff but this obviously does not work. Visitors are not accustomed to this practice and there is no way to effectively educate and habituate them because they only come a couple of times a year at most. It’s simply not their town and they don’t really care. At some point the shame of making Iron Eyes Cody cry is overcome by having to spend x amount of additional time with a bag of filth and refuse you have no idea what to do with. This is human nature. If you think you’re ever going to 100% overcome this you are a teenager who just finished The Fountainhead while listening too Farewell to Kings by Rush on repeat. The rest of us live in the real world.

I could irrigate our garden with this guys tears after a holiday weekend

I could irrigate our garden with this guys tears after a holiday weekend

Some other ideas:

  • Station a person there 100% of the time people are at the beach to make sure the pile doesn’t start. Once it starts, people add to it. However this seems more expensive than JUST PUTTING A RECEPTACLE THERE BIG ENOUGH TO HANDLE ALL THE TRASH PEOPLE WANT TO GET RID OF.


  • Some kind of technology, like a camera or something with a big sign that says “This area being recorded by Gloucester Police”. Once again, A RECEPTACLE THERE BIG ENOUGH TO HANDLE ALL THE TRASH PEOPLE WANT TO GET RID OF SEEMS CHEAPER AND SIMPLER AND LIKELY MORE EFFECTIVE.
Martin Del Vecchio?

Martin Del Vecchio?

  • A private small dumpster with an attendant who takes some reasonable amount of money [three bucks?] per [bag? pound? quart?] to dump it. Ok, that might work if there was enough trash…but I think you know where I’m going here WITH THE ALL CAPS AND STUFF.


  • One of those solar-compactor garbage cans with advertising on them like they have in Boston. They don’t look big enough, are about four grand each and someone still has to empty it, but maybe if local businesses wanted to chip in there might be a solution there that could work. Once again, I have the sneaking suspicion that it might just be cheaper to PUT A NORMAL TRASH CAN IN THERE but if someone wants to check that out here is the link.
Solar? At the beach? Sounds too utopian

Solar? At the beach? Sounds too utopian

Dealing with other people’s trash is just one of those things a town has to do. It’s not new, it’s not fun, but we have visitors who come here and generate trash. That’s simply reality. Pretending all human beings are going to collect their own trash is not realistic and we might as well ask people to fix potholes on the way out of town or submit a workable harbor plan before ordering dinner. People just don’t see this as their responsibility.

But I did once chase a dude in a Suburban on my bike with a bag of his family trash he’d ‘forgotten’ hoping to catch him at the junction of Bass Rocks Road and Atlantic. By the time I got up the hill he was a ghost and I rode home with the bag over my shoulder. “Man this shit stinks,” I thought as bits of it mushed around and dug into my ribs.

For just a millisecond, going past some woods, I thought about ditching it.