Day 31: A Day (and Night) in Provincetown is BTS

It happened while A.T. and I were having calamari at Pepe’s on the Wharf, one of P-Town’s many waterfront restaurants, visions of scallops, wellfleet oysters, and littleneck clams from the menu still swimming in my head. Our table was by the window overlooking the harbor and, when I looked up, there they were. Children, no older than five or six, playing on a boat by the shore. They were squealing in delight, far too engrossed in their late afternoon frolic to mind the cacophony of commerce a short distance away. Nothing remarkable about the scene, really, but there was a familiarity to it. I was viewing it through a window, framing the scene like a canvas, just enough shades of white and brown and blue brushed in to channel a different planet. It was the planet of Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer. An hour earlier, A.T. and I had been in a couple of art galleries along Commercial Street looking at landscape paintings, thinly veiled homages to the idyllic coastlines and countrysides of the three masters. Those images and the sight of the children losing themselves in play at the beach, made me feel that I’d finally arrived – and not merely in the physical sense – in the New England. It’s a good feeling.

After dinner, we were back among the busy throng of vacationers walking or biking along Commercial Street: buff gay men in their muscle shirts (it was Circuit Week that week); college-age sweethearts; yuppies and straight families and their kids. P-Town was growing on me every minute. I knew very little about it before coming here; some friends have been here but said little other than being a gay resort town. I had imagined a Fire Island with its flashy pieces of real estate and underwear parties but quainter, less drugs, more low-key. While I can imagine the Pines boys itching to flaunt their tight asses at High Tea, Low Tea and a smattering of circuit parties, there was frankly little there that piqued my interest (save for the minor scandal involving local massage therapists slandering each other by way of lamppost announcements).

While I’m walking beside A.T., the revelry and flurry of Commercial Street, P-Town’s Broadway, make it hard to believe I’m in just one town. It’s a happy confusion of towns – of borders and vernaculars and sensibilities overlapping into each other – but never one town too many. Within a block, you can find a dive bar, high-end art galleries, jewelry and antique shops, a bike rental outlet and a fancy seafood resto. All the same, P-Town’s heritage as a hub of artists and writers dating back to the 1890s is intact., Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock have at one point called P-Town home; to this day, art galleries and theatre houses are strewn all over the main avenue. I know this sketch tries too hard, but I’ll make it anyway: gay men partying in Fire Island, sweat dripping down their sinewy bodies; P-Town a massive canvas for a drip painting, the frenzied, electric energy behind the random streaks and splotches of city folks, drag queens, lobsters, ice cream, leather and children playing in boats oblivious to the rest of these things, making for a dynamic, inspired, oddly Gestalt work of art. Just like Pollock’s action paintings, P-Town is pretty much all over the place.

It was getting late and A.T. and I decided to stay overnight at a place called Pilgrim House; it was lucky that we got ourselves a room on a Fourth of July weekend. We spend the rest of the evening checking out the different shops and having drinks; I spotted John Waters at least three times that evening. Back at Pilgrim House, I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. At around four in the morning, I woke up to the loud sound of skin slapping hard against skin. Panicked, I looked down: “Chastity belt still in place, thank God”. I turned around to face A.T. who was wide awake and listening intently to something: “Shhhh. The guys in the next room are having a foursome. Somebody just took a shower and they’re now in the second round.” Ah, how could I have forgotten about P-Town also being the mecca of hormonally-driven party boys? Within the next twenty minutes, A.T. and I became acquainted with the erotic adventures of Justin (who got asked about the soap in the shower), Josh, Kevin and the unnamed fourth person who kept saying “Harder! Harder!” to alternate with the slapping and grunting sounds. I heard Kevin talk animatedly about something that “tastes like shit and yogurt”. When everyone – in the next room, let me be clear — has had their fill of the bacchanalia and two of the gentlemen left to go back to their own lodgings, the sky outside the window was starting to turn light. Before dozing off again, I remember thinking, “Isn’t it just lovely to wake up in a town that can make everybody happy!” 



2 Responses to “Day 31: A Day (and Night) in Provincetown is BTS”

  1. Love your blog. I’m traveling to the cape next week and I hope to have a similar experience. 100 days wow. My husband says I can have 30. I wonder what I’ll discover in the OC.

  2. I’ve never been to Provincetown though I desperately want to go…but I have another idea. You should return to P-town and go hang out with Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver, or at least spend the day reading her poetry. She just recently released THIRST which came out after the death of her longtime lover Mary Malone Cook, to whom most of Oliver’s poetry is inscribed.

    Also, I don’t know what these are like exactly, but there are two libraries that I’ve always wanted to go to: the New York Public Library AND the Boston Atheneum (which is the 2nd oldest library in the US)…and of course there is always MoMA – though these last two may be too touristy.

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