The Mast-Head: The Trash Brigade

From a torn receipt that my son, Ellis, pieced together, whoever left two black plastic bags of garbage on the ground next to some trash bins near the ocean beach in downtown Montauk had paid for dinner the night before at Gurney’s Resort. The bill, for just over $200, was for a party of four that ordered cod, halibut, chicken, and tagliatelle, washing it down presumably with water, as there was only a single club soda on the tab. 

It had not been hard to gather up the thin strips that remained of the receipt, despite the fact that the garbage from the two bags had been strewn by sea gulls across the beach access. Light items, such as balled-up paper towels, two bearing girls names in blue pen, had been carried on the wind toward the ocean. Heavier things, including empty wine bottles and a large tub of uneaten salsa, had only been scattered around by the gulls by the time Ellis and I showed up late on Saturday afternoon. 

Last week’s Star had an editorial about the town’s responsibilities and how hard a time it has keeping up with the trash and upkeep at its many parks and beach properties. The torn receipt was, if anything, proof of that observation. The mess had been there for hours, I judged, and it was surprising that no one before us had taken a minute to deal with it.

I put on the pair of old cotton gloves that I keep in my truck and started picking it all up. Ellis helped by happily kicking the bottles, cereal boxes, and plastic items into a pile. Five, maybe 10, minutes of effort and we had cleaned it all. We even scoured under the brush on the side of the path, removing items that appeared to have been there for weeks, if not months.

Guessing, it seemed that the bags had been left by a group of people visiting Montauk for no more than a couple of days, perhaps renters of an Airbnb house. It’s hard to say, but that was the likeliest explanation. People from away don’t seem to know they can just lift the lids on the trash barrels to place large items inside, a failure much to the pleasure of gulls and such. I picked up a similar bag of household trash on the ground near a waste bin at Main Beach in East Hampton the following evening.

“It’s only April,” I thought. “Feh.”