It’s the water.

There are two kinds of people: Lake people and Ocean People. How do you tell them apart? Easy.

Lake People add on. Ocean People throw away.

ES10Lake People deal with flaws by hiding them. They put bandaids on sores that would heal faster if exposed to the air and sun. Scratch the wall of a Lake Person’s cottage and you’ll find layers of paint over layers of wallpaper. Lake People never strip anything down to the bare and sound essentials. Rot is at the root of everything in their world. In a celebration of decay, every part of the place at the lake remains original. Piers are patched, fences are shored up but the part of the structure that failed is still there, zip-tied to this year’s crudely constructed crutch. Everything a Lake Person owns becomes thicker every year, just like the Lake People themselves.

Ocean People, on the other hand, have an easy-come, easy-go, only the strong survive attitude. It it can’t cut it, replace it. Better still, find a way to get rid of it altogether. Visit an ocean beach and you’ll sense that everything is well maintained. It is just as likely to be brand new.

Lake People are uncomfortable with any object that is in better shape than they are. Ocean People want everything around them to look as good as they do.

Lake people want things to stay the same. Ocean people want things to change.

By the banks of Lake Lethargic, familiarity does not breed contempt. Instead it generates endless re-runs of conversations that have been played many times and many years before. Stories are stacked like pre-owned CDs to be told over and over again in a tired tradition. “what have you been up to?” “Not much.” Pity the adventurer who hits the random button and plays the timeless tales out of order. The desire for things to remain forever the same is vulnerable to the intervention of fate and the disruption of the old order. When there is change at the Lake, it is often apocalyptic change. A drowning, perhaps. Everyone will be sad and sorry, but mostly everyone will be pissed off. Deep down, rage will be directed at the victim, who in a careless moment has disrupted the order and screwed up the summer.

By contrast, Ocean People live in the hope and expectation of perpetual change. Ocean people seldom return to the same place unless it has been ravaged by a hurricane or captured by rebel armies since the last time they were there. “I hardly recognize the place” is a good thing.

Lake People are satisfied that things are as good as they are going to get. Ocean People want them to get better. Or worse.

The line between “recreation” and “refuge” becomes blurred when you are circling the cottages against the assault of the big city. Or the Big Idea. Lake People do not want to hear about the way things might become. They want to hear once more how they were and reflect long into the night on what went wrong. “Stay the course” is the cry. Hang on, hang in and hang anyone who makes a move in the direction of tomorrow. Rather than take a detour around a washout in the Old Lake Trail, a Lake Person will wait for repairs to be made; passing the time talking about how great the road was before the onset of “these damned washouts.”

Ocean People are restless and love role-playing. They want the show to go on, but with some tweaks to the script. They’ll kill for a part they’ve never played before. Every night is first night and the cast is always changing. The theatre has no room for spectators and all the players are on stage. Here in the moonlight in a sand amphitheatre, the plot is as unimportant as the ocean is unpredictable. Happy ending, sad ending … what’s the difference? Ocean People make it up as they go along, assigning the roles of hero and villain with abandon. High comedy and high tragedy give way to high risk and high style.

Lake People come a short way for a long time. Ocean People come a long way for a short time.

It is never far to the lake. But it will take forever to get there. Lake People need constant assurance that where they are going is better than where they are leaving and a long way from it. They pack a strong impression of what they are escaping in order to counter a disturbing sense that the lake is really just the city with outboard motors in place of jackhammers and a reed-filled pool of stagnant water standing in for the fountain outside city hall. Once arrived, Lake People settle in for the summer. Not all of them, of course. One member of the family, usually the father, schedules his time at the cottage for the last two weeks of August, when the kids will be bored, the wife overworked and fed up and when the truly bad time that he deserves for buying the falling-down pile-of-junk cottage will be guaranteed. Some people stay at cottage until the last black fly has swallowed its final pound of flesh and died. They are called Real Lake People. Others know no season and never shut the place up; returning on winter weekends to rescue the children from falling through the ice. They are called Really Sick Lake People.

Lake People hate strangers. Ocean People are strangers.

“You’re not from around here, are you?” If the question is coming from a Lake Person, and your answer is “no,” the best advice is to run like Hell or be prepared to re-enact the pig scene from “Deliverance.” Lake People do not take kindly to anything or anyone they haven’t seen before. If there isn’t a cup with your name on it on the shelf, you’d better get your coffee at the 7-Eleven on the way out of the village. And it gets worse. Lake People are not only wary of people they’ve never met, they don’t much like surprises coming from those they know. If there’s a hint of Alzheimer’s in your recollections of summers past, best to stay at home and tend the garden.

At the bottom of each lake lie thousands of beer bottles. At the bottom of each ocean rest countless Spanish Galleons filled with treasure. Perhaps this is why Ocean People are so much more eager to probe the depths of a place or a personality. Where the Lake Person’s search reveals rust, the Ocean Person finds gold.

Lake People are comfortable with decay. Ocean people are comfortable with destruction.

Lake People live in quiet balance with nature, honouring a deal stating that all winter long, the elements will gnaw away at what the Lake People have built. And all summer long, the Lake People will make repairs to last another winter. In this manner, life goes on and Lake People are provided a sense of being essential links in the chain of life. If fact, they are essential links in a chain of absurdity. Lake People somehow remain oblivious of the fact that doing something in a different or better way might offset the need to do it over and over again.

Ocean People are more fascinated by pieces of something than by the whole thing. They stroll the beach for hours in search of clues; valuing most of all the obscure bits that invite the most outrageous speculation. Ocean People are happiest when sifting through the debris; finding life and new beginnings in the dead and gone. Ocean People will pay top dollar at the last minute to be front row centre at the apocalypse.

Lake People drive cars. Ocean People ride motorcycles.

Since Lake People seldom move and never really go anywhere, they require the stability four wheels provide. The Ocean Person’s transportation of choice is determined by the fear that if they ever stop moving, they’ll fall over.

It must be the water.

11 years ago

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