By Barbara Gaby Placilla
This is my first column for the summer of 2018. I have eight columns and 99 days to tell you all about this wonderful and unique Fire Island town, Ocean Bay Park. For some, it will be an introduction, for others it will be the continuation of a journey we are taking, summer by summer. Each day/weekend brings some new experience, creates a new memory, and makes you never want to leave. Like those grains of sand you just can’t get off your feet, OBP sticks to you and hopefully will never wash off. So welcome, new friends, and welcome back, old ones; it’s good to “see” you again!
Since summer has not yet officially come, I’ll start with a brief recap of what happened while you were gone. We closed out the 2017 season with our annual kid’s trick or treat and OBP Association Halloween potluck supper. Don’t know where these kids are coming from, but it’s great. Each year the number has grown, which is a sign that the community continues to evolve and attract more and more families. As usual, Steven Jaffe led the costumed parade of trick-or-treaters and Joanne and Paul Brincat surprised with a giant, animated inflatable in front of their house. The potluck afterwards was delish and a great time was had by all.
Once Halloween was over, things started to unwind and “we” got the town “back.” During the “off-season” there are about 25 of us who live here and watch over the town until you all return. People always ask, “How can you live there?” and “What’s it like in the winter?” I tell them we are fortunate (and a little bit crazy) to experience the change of seasons and share this island with nature. Each year we hope that the winter will be an uneventful one, however Mother Nature always has her own agenda and it doesn’t always match ours!
One look at the current conditions on the beach and you will understand what I mean. Although we have had colder winters, this past one was a roller coaster weather ride. Some weeks were frigid and others were downright balmy. The bay froze and then it thawed. It snowed and then it flooded. At times, our neighbor to the west, Ocean Beach, resembled Venice the flooding was so severe. There was a reason Caesar was told to “beware the Ides of March” because we got hit with three nor’easters in a row. In the blink of an eye, the wind and the ocean reclaimed our sand dunes, protective trap bags, wide beach and some stairs. When I saw the aftermath I had a flashback to the late ‘90s when three surprise storms took 12 OBP houses out to sea. It is a constant reminder that we live here at the pleasure of nature and not ours; there is a circle of life on a barrier beach island and we must do all that we can to protect this precious environment.
Spring just didn’t want to take over and the month of April brought us a surprise six inches of snow, dreary, rainy days and very little warmth. The trees, reluctant to bloom, are finally beginning to, and the old adage, “April showers bring May flowers” something to look forward to. Although it was cold and drizzly, an intrepid group gathered at the Schooner Inn for the first “event” of the summer season – the Kentucky Derby, which coincided with Cinco de Mayo. I was surprised that there were so many people in town that weekend, but I think the siren call of the beach forced them out of their houses, onto the ferry and back to OBP. JD DeSerio was a big winner in the pool and the Supples’ reign was officially over! Although my horse came in second, it was great catching up with old friends and hearing what’s new in their lives.
The circle of life continues. During the winter two longtime residents of OBP, Betty Errico and Frank Ollari, passed away. Betty’s chicken cacciatore was a tradition at the Community Fair. It was always asked for and never went unsold. Frank Ollari was a great neighbor with a dry sense of humor and a wry comment on the current state of affairs. Steve and I will miss him. On a happier note, I learned that there are now three generations of Byrnes’ in OBP. Tom Byrnes’ daughter, Tracey Lasorsa, became a grandmother with the birth of Theo Sebastian Ramsingh, making Tom a greatgrandfather. Congratulations, Tom, and a belated happy 80th birthday as well. More babies are on the way as Diane Sweeney awaits the birth of her second great-grandchild. Mary “B” and John McCullough’s son, Emmet, and his wife, Sophie, are expecting in September, which will make Mary “A” McCullough a great-great aunt! JD DeSerio and Stephen Placilla are NOT having a baby but they are both celebrating their 70th birthdays one week apart.
The ocean reminded us there is a circle of life recently when a young seal was found on the beach at Michigan Street. Thank you to all the concerned residents who called the National Seashore and the Riverhead Foundation and especially to Patryck Kozyra and his parents, Danny and Annetta, who built a protective barrier around her so she would not be run over. I would like to think that the young seal was really a mermaid who decided to leave the ocean, come ashore and stay awhile to see what’s happening here in OBP. Hey, you never know! Until the next time, here’s looking forward to summer 2018!