Recently, I feel like life is moving extraordinarily fast. It seems like just a couple of days ago it was April. Okay, that is actually true, so let’s try that again. It seems like just a couple of weeks ago it was February. Even so, trying to remember what February was all about, on the other hand, is a dubious task. When I go back into my Oy! archives, I can see that I was clearly enjoying my first winter in Chicago walking down Lake Shore Drive and racing turtles. That was back in the innocent times, with weather too cold to worry about missing anything exciting happening outside and most people hibernating in their mole holes.
It seems like the annual rite of passage for springtime is the completion of my favorite holiday— Passover. I view it as a transition in the types of things we complain about. All winter, we complain about the cold and the slush and closed beaches. But on Passover, we forget all that - we have to spend a billion years cleaning our bear dens and the only reward we get is to not be able to sit down and have a beer (chametz) when it is all done! At least there’s matzah pizza and Netflix, but that’s hardly consolation.
As spring has moved in, the opportunities for fun have become a lot more abundant. Joining an Ultimate Frisbee group, running in the Cinco de Miler (destroying my mile with a 35 sec./mile improvement!), and actually enjoying hanging out on the streets of Chicago have all put some spring in my step. What could be better to top it off than heading over to Wrigley to take in a fresh dose of America’s past time and get some chametz back in my system, salted peanut and cracker-jack style. This ballgame, however, was the beginning of a crazy journey.
Sitting in Section 229-3, Row 23, Seat 10, I was being blown at by a fierce wind from all sides and then drifted down to a closer seat - Row 15. The trip down to Row 15 was not an easy one. I was kicked around, thrown about, and pushed aside by an usher. At that time, I had only made it down to Row 20 when I quickly realized I was positioned in Someone Else’s seat and that Someone Else, who was not a small individual by any definition, was quickly moving towards me on his way back from the concession stand. Someone Else was getting closer and closer and I finally got up. Before I could get far, he tried to step on me to teach a lesson, but his corpulent self could not outwit me! Just as I was about to be flattened, he tripped over me and dropped his soda and soft pretzel on the chair in front of him. While trying to rescue his snack, I was able to sneak away and resettled myself seven rows down to my more-permanent resting place in Row 15, Seat 7.
You’re probably waiting to read about how I got through this unscathed...don’t worry, we’ll get there!
Seat 7 turned out to be the most exciting though. The guy sitting two seats down from me got in a shouting match with a seagull after the bird wanted to add a little bit of flavor to his nachos but missed, hitting his sleeve with something that went “splat!” Seriously though, what are the chances of getting hit by bird “leftovers” at the game? Probably about the same as catching a foul ball, which I might add, happened to the same guy two innings later!
After the baseball game, which the Cubs lost, I figured I would stick around for a little while and relax, but the baseball gods had something different in store. Finding me in Seat 7, an usher picked me up and threw me in an alley outside Wrigley alongside a dumpster. After wandering the streets of Wrigleyville for a few hours and getting shoved aside and kicked around by anyone who came my way, I eventually found my way over to Lake Michigan, where the only logical thing to do after such a journey was to jump in and let the current take me away.
The story I just described to you really never happened to me, but it is one that could have happened to a piece of litter in a public place like a baseball stadium. Recently, I was able to participate in and help in leading an Alliance for the Great Lakes beach clean-up at Montrose Beach along Lake Michigan. I’m not trying to gather your sympathy for the long and hard journey that trash takes, but to gain awareness for our local natural resources and to instigate thoughts about where our trash ends up!
Our drinking water, our beaches, forest preserves, and parks are all made less enjoyable by the things we pour down the sink, flush down the toilet, or leave behind without cleaning up. Among the trash that was found at the beach, most of them were items that can be traced back to activities based at the beach: broken glass, bottle caps, fishing line, and cigarette butts. However, there were plenty of items that we found which you would have to come up with an outlandish story (like the one above) to figure out how they got there: a fake Santa beard, personal hygiene products, and a fake finger nail.
In addition to protecting our natural resources so that we may be able to enjoy them more, we should protect our natural resources so that they can be healthier and safer for other species and life forms to use, too. Raccoons, normally preferring to live in woodlands, are attracted to the beach by leftover food waste, creating an unsafe environment for them and for human beach visitors, too. Other animals that spend their time in coastal areas are also attracted to food waste and cause other problems in coastal ecosystems when their increased droppings cause chemical and bacterial imbalances and funky smells along the beach.
The natural resources that we treasure so dearly, especially in the springtime and summer, are so important for us to protect. Last year, 10,000 residents of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin picked up 31,295 lbs. of trash at beaches along the Great Lakes through Alliance for the Great Lakes’ Adopt-a-Beach program. While there are many ways that beaches become unhealthy, our actions can contribute to having healthier, cleaner, happier beaches this summer and beyond.
Enjoy the sun!