Provincetown VI: Summer 2015-Today

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. This is the Sixth Post in a weeklong series about my experiences there. A reminder that this is intended to be a Celebration of Pride and Gay Culture from my Perspective, over some three decades. It is my story — the Story of My Experiences — and I am Happy to share it with You. Happy Pride!


Summer 2015- Today

STEVE KATZ is a PTown artist who does this Lithograph/Photograph With Quotes kind of thing.
I have a piece of his on the wall of my New York apartment–– It’s a picture of the HAT SISTERS with the EMILE ZOLA quote, “I came to Live Out Loud!”
Do you know the HAT SISTERS?
They are a PTown Legend!
Two guys — big burly men with big burly mustaches who come to PTown every summer and dress in the most Fabulous drag outfits you could ever imagine with their big hairy arms, hairy chests, and these Hats — they defy description!
They create these Magnificent HeadDresses — Enormous things with Wires and Birds and trains of toile —
Hats that would make CARMEN MIRANDA green with envy!
And they’re always Well Coordinated to one another!
And for no particular reason on any given afternoon or evening of Summer,
you see them walking down Commercial Street in PTown…
often with a Regatta of Drag Queens trailing behind them!
They are so Fabulous!
They bring Joy!
Even the most conservative of straight folk now seem Enchanted by them!
Most of us always have been!
I saw them a few weeks ago and I told them that I’ve been coming to PTown for over twenty years and that they have brought me so much Joy and they do it so seemingly effortlessly but that I could not even conceive the amount of Work and Art and Care that went into those Hats.
Oh, and did I mention… a different Pair of Hats every single day, all summer long, Every Summer! At least it seems that way!
I told them that I had the STEVE KATZ photo of them right by the doorway of my apartment so it is the first thing I look at every time I enter and the last thing I look at every time I leave, and how it reminds me to Live with Joy Every Day!
They thanked me so graciously.
One is named JOHN MICHAEL. The other one is named TIM.
They are teachers–– they teach Art, of course — to high school students.
JOHN MICHAEL is now retired. TIM is repeating everything I say to JOHN MICHAEL to make sure he understands.
They have gotten older now, as have we all.
Yet still, on a 103° afternoon in PTown there they are leading a gaggle of Drag Queens in full Regalia down the center of Commercial Street, and causing quite a stir as they sit at several tables crowding up the outdoor section of Bubbala’s Restaurant, facing Commercial Street, making the day Oh-So-Much-More-Festive than that day managed to be anywhere else in the World!
And Everyone passing by for several hours knows how Lucky they are to be in PTown!

A year later, JOHN MICHAEL passes away.

Indeed, it marks the end of an era.
There was a time we Danced and Enjoyed Life
Standing by our Friends as they died slow and painful deaths
While President REAGAN refused to utter the acronym AIDS during his entire eight year tenure as President, and GEORGE W. BUSH continued that Legacy.
It was then that half the Americans living in this Town were summarily executed by their Actions.
Are we wondering where the Gay Majority in Provincetown has gone?
RONALD REAGAN murdered them.
And the children of RONALD REAGAN are now here
To enjoy the spoils of war.

I am walking back along the Herring Cove Beach at Sunset, almost at the Parking Lot, when a Young Boy, maybe 13 or 14, and noticeably effeminate, is running around with his arms spread out like an airplane, the way kids do.
“Hello Mister!” he says to me.
I say, “Hello,” and ask if he is with anyone, just to make sure he is not lost nor unchaperoned.
“Yeah. My parents are back there.”
“We’re here on vacation!” he volunteers, enthusiastically,
“But I like it here! I think I’ll be back someday!”
I smile and reply, “I think you will too!”
And he flies off, back toward his parents, making airplane sounds.

They drive too fast down Commercial Street, especially the West End.
And they Shout!
They stand in the middle of the street and argue.
Their public displays of affection seem nauseatingly insincere.
They are Fat. (And they’re not even a little neurotic about it!)
They arrive at the corner of Commercial and Pleasant and bark to no one in particular: “Yo! Where’s the Main Drag? You know. Like, the shops and shit!”
When they head to Orleans, or back to Hyannis, they refer to it as “Down Cape.”
They drink.
They don’t say, “Hello” when they pass you in the street the way we always did.
They still want their Salt Water Taffy and their Fudge, but they are different than they were twenty-five years ago.
Bolder somehow in their newfound majority.
They travel in packs with their picnic coolers
As they walk down Herring Cove Beach, even past the stick.
They are quick to point out that it is Federal Land
National Seashore
And cannot be claimed by us.
The Lobster Pot
Once a run down shanty
Transformed into a First-Class Restaurant by a Lesbian Woman and her family
They come to eat there!
Gay Men of Taste,
Purveyors of Fine Housewares
Who set up shop
They come to shop there!

The girls wear more makeup and bigger earrings than even the Drag Queens!
They wear their bikinis through town.
How I miss the Hat Sisters in their Full Regalia!

The boys with their nose in their Nintendo’s
And iPhones in their ears
Texting as they walk
Don’t really seem to notice us.

The chambermaids tell me they need to spend an extra hour to clean their rooms when they’re gone.
They see a difference!
There is graffiti on stone walls along Bradford Street and in the restrooms at Chach
The T-shirt shops sell playboy bunny T-shirts.
I am called “faggot” in a disparaging way for the first time here.

MOJO’s… Still there!

JUDE passed away.
So did STEVE.
RYAN LANDRY is putting together shows.
Blondies is now an Upscale Restaurant named Enzo’s.
There are more and more Upscale Restaurants in town (no longer just Front Street, though that is still our Favorite!)
And a Beer Garden!
The town restaurants and clubs are permitted to stay open an hour later.
But the Block Party in front of Spiritus won’t quit.

There are signs posted now at the entrance to the Herring Cove Beach Trail,
which now boasts a Giant Bulletin Board displaying
Ordinances and what not
There are five or six of them
What they say is essentially,
“Gay Men welcome, but you must behave well.”
You are allowed here, Gay Men, but we remind you of our laws.
You must be respectful of the Customs and Culture of Straight People.
Straight People are here now.

Remember when there wasn’t a Herring Cove Beach Trail?
No bike racks.
No yellow rope.
And what if the officials who so respect the rich diverse culture of our town
(It says so on the signs!)
were to officially change the name to Herring Cove Gay Beach?
Since we are so fond of signs now, we could place a sign at the stick which reads,
“Gay beach,” with an arrow pointing to the LEFT.
Then, even the oblivious would know
And perhaps be less offended by us.

Of course, All are Welcome!
They are welcome on our Beach
Just as we are welcome on theirs!
But perhaps this could help dissipate the notion that all beaches are theirs.
This is so much about federally owned land, and national seashore,
in a nation that largely still refuses to recognize us!
Something about “offending children.”
Well, at nearly 50 years old, I have had a lot worse things said about my naked body than that it offends children!
But it still stung a bit.

There appears to be an increase in the number of kids playing on the Dunes back by the highway
Straight families arriving in town who find it too long a trek to the beach
Have in recent years taken to spending an afternoon at the large dune by the highway and letting their children slide down the Dune over and over like a sliding pond or sledding ride.
If I were a small child, I would know nothing about Dune erosion or respecting the environment.
Or if I were an oblivious parent.
Are there laws protecting us from oblivious parents?
May we post signs?
What of environmental consciousness?

They talk so loudly along quiet streets about their strategies for lotto tickets.
They throw their bags down to hold a table before getting in line to order.
They are oblivious.
And what was one expecting?
Look! See what 25 years of the Bush/Reagan Era hath wrought!
Neo conservatism.
A Gay Beach?
In Provincetown?
Heaven forfend!
Send in the Marshals, UnderCover!
We’d prefer a Family Beach
in this town of rich diverse culture we like our beaches HOMOgenius!

When I spent my summers here as a young man in my Twenties
That was before my body was declared by a Federal Marshall offensive to children
The World was a different place
And Gay Culture was facing the AIDS Crisis,
One of its seminal, most formative Periods of Growth.

It is not that I fear we shall be lost.
This Year, Pride Weekend,
In the Second Half of BARACK OBAMA’s Second Term as P Obergeresident,
We receive the Great News of the Supreme Court Ruling on
OBERGEFELL v. HODGES, in favor of Marriage Equality.
Progress Continues.
And We March.

Outer Cape Kites, now run by LUCY

We are from a Proud History and Culture
Though I expect only one of those ever made it to Provincetown.
And we are still here in Great Numbers.
And occasionally,
One may spot a glimmer in the eye of a Young Teenage Boy here with his family on summer vacation.
A glimmer of recognition
That At Last
Somewhere in the World
He has found a place
Where he can be accepted for who he is
Even though he hasn’t told anyone yet,
And where he can belong.
We owe it to that Boy
And to the many others like him
To keep alive the Spirit that built this town into what it is today
Come to Provincetown
Hold hands with your Lover as you walk down the street
And Lie Naked on the Beach!

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