Provincetown I: Summer 1980’s

In Celebration of this Season of PRIDE, I have culled a few writings from my Summers in Provincetown, as well as pulling together some photographs from over the years. And so Today begins a weeklong series about my experiences there. Happy Pride!

Provincetown

Summer 1980’s

 

Commercial Street 1980’s

The Pride March is held in New York City on the Last Sunday in June.
It isn’t called a Parade, then.
It is a March
For Rights,
For Freedom,
For Equality,
For Our Lives!

My friends MICHELE and WENDY invite me to come for a weekend to this place they are staying for the summer.
The three buses from New York take some 13 hours, door to door.
The fare is somewhere around twenty-seven dollars, round trip —
Seems like a big investment for a Weekend Away.

What I remember about that weekend is Sunshine — Light like I’ve never seen, And a bowl of granola on a Sunday morning at The Mews more delicious than any I’d ever tasted,
My first reading of DANCE WITH ANGER and learning that “bitch” and “bastard,” although appearing to be insults specifically designed for a woman and a man respectively, are both terms that specifically degrade women,
A Quiet Beach,
That Magical Barbie Garden at the Rose And Crown,
And my first TeaDance at the BoatSlip — A sea of Beautiful Gay Men with that Glorious Ocean in the background!

The Magic Barbie Garden at The Rose and Crown

I tell my friends that I want to stay here forever!
They say, “Okay!” rather matter-of-factly.
I then explain that that is just an expression of feeling — one does not just go on vacation for a weekend and then quit one’s job and never go back to it.
They tell me that in this particular place, that is actually quite common.
I tell them that that just isn’t me — I would need to give proper notice at my job, plan for it… Maybe next summer!

Memorial Day Weekend the following year, MICHELE and WENDY pass through New York and we have dinner together.
They ask when I will be giving notice at my job and coming up for the Summer.
At first, I laugh, dismissing their thought as quaint.
Though we discuss it until 3 AM, we cannot come up with one good reason for me not to do it.

What seems like moments later, I am a HouseBoy for ED ARRUDA at the Dunes Motel.
It’s a good deal — I get over $4.25 per hour for cleaning and a Free Room for the Summer!
I only work for two hours or so each morning — Have the rest of the day to myself!
I take a job at KEELY’S KITES in the center of town, for a bit of pocket money. There I meet JUDE, who tells me that she and all of her Lesbian Friends have just decided at dinner the night before at Front Street to give themselves Italian Fish Names, articulating with Great Bravado:
“Baccala!”
“Cornu a Cornu!”
“Calamari!”
“Vongole”…
It is also JUDE who first informs me that there is no Hospital in Provincetown.
Coming from New York City, I am alarmed to hear this!
“What happens if you have a Heart Attack?” I ask, sheepishly, eyes wide open and fearful.
“YA’ DIE!” JUDE bluntly replies in her Boston Accent, smiling and laughing that Joyful Laugh.

Jude

I have arrived here
Having just come out to my parents
My world broken
And I discover this most Magical and Healing Place.
It is like XANNA DON’T
Here it is normal to be Gay.
Here at the very tip of the World
Just before it all drops off into the Ocean
There is this Paradise of Acceptance
Of True Diversity!
Everyone is Welcome here!

With the most marginalized of society in charge,
We know what it feels like
And we will never allow that to happen to any other human being,
Even the ignorant pigheaded cows who voted for Reagan.
Twice.
They can drive their Winnebagos right up to RacePoint Beach
And play Badminton in the parking lot.

The AIDS Crisis has hit
And because of what filmmaker GREG ARAKI called
“A big White House filled with Republican FuckHeads,”
It hits Hard.

We are coming together as a Community.

We discover our Lesbian Sisters
Loving and supportive, they fill our hearts with Gratitude
MICHAEL CALLEN and THE FLIRTATIONS are playing at the Post Office
And CRIS WILLIAMSON
WAYLAND FLOWERS and MADAME!
BIG AL. And SAATCHI!
Up and down the street are multiple versions of DIANA ROSS, BETTE MIDLER, and CHER!
“ShowTime, Folks!”
The Town is so alive then!
And there are, as well, straight young people.
At the Governor Bradford
At the Surf Club.
As Tevye says in the Opening Number of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, “But we don’t bother them, and, so far, they don’t bother us!”
Well, we know how that ends!

ALICE BROCK, about whom ARLO GUTHRIE wrote the song, “Alice’s Restaurant” has a pottery studio in the West End.
There is a Movie House in the Center of Town, which though small, avails us first run features,
And the Express Café next door is my favorite place to sit out at night and enjoy a cup of tea while watching the passersby.
D Flax next door is creating the most Full Of Wonder TeeShirts I have ever seen, and I am enjoying — and wearing — her voice as an Artist!
MICHAEL CALLEN is diagnosed with AIDS and decides to make his political fight through Music.
THE FLIRTATIONS are born and they write and perform songs that will become the SoundTrack of my many summers here.
Songs such as this:

DI, from Minskoff Studios in New York has just opened a BookStore with her partner, NAN: Now Voyager, just East of the town center.
I pop in and meet STUARD, a Townie, and we become Fast Friends.
He looks at me, sizes me up and down, and asks, “How long have you been here?”
“I arrived yesterday!” I tell him, beaming with the Bright Newness and Excitement of being in this Magical Place!
“The wristwatch will be gone in a week!” he candidly remarks with assurance.
This place is somehow not subject to the Laws of Time and Space.
I spend the summer…
And the next summer…
And the next summer…

STUARD and Me at NOW VOYAGER BookStore

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