Saturday, January 23, 2010

millennium mo: a flashback

It was Dec. 31rst 1999, millennium madness, Y2k run amuck. The world was suppose to come to a crashing halt at the stroke of 2000. Remember?

A close friend recently emailed me of catching up on this blog after being sidelined by a computer viral attack. She reminded me of that special New Year’s night we spent together, a long decade past.

My good buddy Barbara and I chose to celebrate in a bowling alley parking lot on Rt. 88 in Point Pleasant, NJ, counting down to the “end of time” with Mo The Millennium Mossbunker, a 10-foot wooden replica of an Atlantic bait fish, covered with 1,500 Mylar scales.

The big ball-drop at Times Square had nothing on us when Mo was lowered down a 40-foot scaffold outside the bowling alley, after being taken a mile out to sea aboard a fishing boat, returned to land and paraded through the streets. Word of the “dropping of the fish” spread ‘cross the pond to my daughter living in London.

"We fully expect this to be the epicenter of the millennium," Mo's creator, Gene Bissey was quoted as saying. OK, so not exactly the epicenter, but Bissey, a local artist and entrepreneur was a character with an imaginative flare for the quirky. Unfortunately, he died several years ago. But that don’t mean he be forgot.

He left the Jersey Shore, and the town of Point Pleasant Beach with the annual “Hey Rube Get a Tube Race,” which is now ends each summer season. Bissey came up with the idea for the tube race 41 years ago, some say, after a night out tilting a few with friends.

It started out as a few rowdy guys peddling backwards across the inlet, I believe, and was later moved to the ocean. It grew in size and lore and in later years was later taken over by the Lions' club as a fundraiser. Beer mugs remain a big seller.

Always the showman, I seem to recall that when women demanded to be included, Bissey suggested they swim topless, like the men.

His mind seemed to overflow with the playful and the absurd, not all of which were a success. If I remember correctly, he once proposed a flour war to be held Gull Island, a small uninhabited hunk off Point Beach. But the war was truncated when one of the teams secreted themselves on the island the night before and ambushed the other. At least that’s what I recollect.

Bissey was a rare and wild duck, the likes of which are missed at the Shore, especially in these oh-so-serious times.

Here in Sarasota they drop a Pineapple to ring in the New Year.