Dispatch from Ocean Beach.2
Ocean Beach is like an unpredictable friend you can’t quit. It doesn’t care if you’re annoyed by its capricious winds or exasperated by its swirling dampness. It teases you with sun and fog in the same minute and dares you to complain. It scares you with its sneaker waves even as it lures you toward them with rivulets of sea water shimmering in the dull light. It sits at the City’s western border, but it refuses to be domesticated like Pismo or Santa Barbara. Serious beachgoers can sense its willful and wild energy lurking just beneath the waves, a peevishness that, like Shiva, can both nurture and destroy. In time, you understand its moods. Don’t sleepwalk at Ocean Beach. Pay attention and pay respect.
Yet as loud as the signals are, casual beachgoers often seem deaf to the call. They crush their beer cans, toss their water bottles, and discard their salad containers, potato chip bags, and pizza boxes across the sand. They collect their dog poop or infant’s diaper, tie it smartly in a green plastic bag, and leave it bundled at the water’s edge. They don’t visit, they literally lay waste, adding their detritus to the plastic trash washed ashore at high tide. We watch, but we don’t condemn, fearing an angry reaction that might dim our private reverie. On the worst days, we shudder. The oblivious have turned Ocean Beach into a trash-clogged parade route, speckles of red, blue, and yellow plastic standing out self-consciously against earthen tones of brown, silver, and gray.
There is a cruel irony in this waste. When left behind, children’s sand toys, a source of such innocent pleasure, transform into weapons of war against the vast and irritable ocean just dozens of feet away. As the following photos — which feature sand toys collected at Ocean Beach over the last two years — demonstrate, the juxtaposition can be jarring and telling. They also are a reminder to Ocean Beach regulars that our reluctance to remind the careless that we are merely guests on this beach, and not gods over it, puts us all at risk.