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The following is the tale of a journey. Not a journey by bike, but an involuntary journey caused by the entropic forces of nature. This is a story of serendipitous discovery, heart-wrenching loss, and miraculous recovery.
This is a story of buoyancy.
Or, to get directly to it, this is the story of a big-ass buoy that was swept across the South Oyster Bay by a hurricane last year.
I wrote about Charlie’s beach house in my previous post, “Brooklyn to Jones Beach”. Sitting as sentry in the front yard, this buoy serves as the unmistakable landmark to Charlie’s property.
The story begins just before sunrise; an ordinary morning on Gilgo Beach in 1974.
Charlie’s eldest son, Paul, and two friends, Mike and Phil, were on their way home after a night of drinking at the local pub. Paul, the oldest and wisest, decided to call it a night. Mike and Phil, on the other hand, hungry for exploit, made their way to the beach to see if the ocean was still wet. It was on this beach at Gilgo, in the wee-hours of this Nixonian-era morning, that Mike and Phil discovered the buoy.
Not satisfied leaving this strange flotation device to the whimsy of the sand crabs, the two men thought it best to make irrefutable proof of their unearthed treasure by rolling the massive ball through the underpass, across the parking lot, and down the street to Charlie’s house, waking up the entire beach community with the celebratory sounds of a boulder scraping against pavement and crushing atop gravel.
Despite its initial clumsy introduction to the neighborhood, the buoy developed something of a landmark status over time, and another of Charlie’s sons, Charlie Jr., took up the mantle of artist-in-residence, making the buoy his palate of sorts.
Under Charlie Jr.’s creative eye and careful brush, the buoy underwent many transformations as the seasons passed – Eight-ball, fishing bobber, baseball, Christmas ornament, and WWII naval mine to name a few. He continued until his death and it was subsequently painted as the globe by a family friend and dedicated to the memory of Charlie Jr.
On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy roared off the Atlantic coast and swept over the narrow strip of barrier island where Charlie’s beach house helplessly sat. The ferocity and magnitude of the storm’s surge washed much away, including Charlie Jr.’s famous buoy.
Lamenting the loss and hoping for a miracle, two of Charlie Sr.’s granddaughters, Meredith and Jacqueline, took the cause to Facebook where they posted pictures of the recognizable blue-green monument.
Demonstrating its usefulness for more than reconnecting people with their first-grade classmates, Facebook came through when one of Jacqueline’s friend’s parents noticed a misplaced-looking, Earth-painted buoy in her neighbor’s backyard in Massapequa. Somehow the buoy had floated four miles across the marshy bay, finding new residence in the suburbs.
Jacqueline’s husband was able to get his hands on a crane and a flatbed and hauled Charlie Jr.’s keepsake back to its proper home in front of the beach house in Gilgo. There was an impromptu neighborhood celebration as people from up and down the block watched the unloading and restoration; a small, but substantial moment of levity in the otherwise sobering aftermath of the storm.
Today the buoy rests back where it belongs, welcoming guests on their arrival to Charlie’s house. It is inscribed with the message “in memory of Charlie Jr.” and the sage truth, in case you ever forget, that YOU ARE HERE.