Thursday, August 23, 2007

If You're Fond of Sand Dunes and Salty Air...

What is it about this place that makes grown men cry when they leave?

You cannot underestimate the number of friends who have admitted to the shedding of tears as they were packing, or driving off down Bradford Street towards Route 6 and home. My own moment inevitably comes after I place our luggage in the car and walk back to lock up the condo. It's early morning, and the sun is rising out over the East End. The streets are silent, with the exception of the occasional gull's cry, and the distant stirrings of the trash men as they once again take up their daily task. I stand quietly in our yard at the edge of Winthrop Street, looking down at the Bay, promising myself I'll return next year. Then I go all silent and get into the car, biting my lower lip.

This year Tim made our farewell just a bit more bearable, by turning left on Bradford Street and pulling into the lot of Tip for Tops'n to enjoy one last Provincetown breakfast, thus prolonging our stay an extra half hour.

There's lots I might squawk about. It's too crowded. It's too expensive. Real estate prices would be comical, if they didn't foretell the demise of so much of what is nice about this town. It's too gay. It's too straight. It's over-built. Everything has gone condo. The beach is too far. You take your chances skinny-dipping. The water's too cold. People drink too much. The bars suck. The art scene isn't what it used to be. Too many of the restaurants don't use enough native ingredients and rely too much on Cape Cod staples. It's a god-damned tourist trap.

None of this matters.

When I'm there, it's the most beautiful place on earth. People who normally wouldn't know their impasto from their gouache get to talking about just how they would paint the scenery. If they could paint. I study the way the light reflects and refracts, fetishizing an aluminum chimney stack that I can see through our living room window, noting it's changing character throughout the day. Tim will wait patiently wait for that sunset moment when the sky flashes green and then turns the deepest Prussian Blue. Usually at that moment, we can be found enjoying jazz and cocktails on our little deck behind the hemlocks, having endured MaryAlice's pots-and-pans dance set, and looking forward to an evening out and about.

Truth to be told, we were rather mellow this year. Extending our stay beyond the usual Saturday to Saturday routine was a brilliant idea, and I'm not sure why it hadn't occurred to me before. Oh yeah, time and money. That would explain it. But now I'm older and can spare a bit more of both. And we have a very sympathetic landlord, as well. Knowing that we had several days to cut loose, we managed to crash every night for the first few days around 10:30, sated with too much sun, food and drink. It was only after I put my foot down on Monday night that we made plans to go out and stay out the following night, at least until the bars closed and we could join the masses at Spiritus. I'm glad we got there once. It doesn't quite seem to have the appeal to me that it once did. Mostly, we'd stop by around midnight and watch the cast of players gathering on stage. That was satisfying enough for me.

We've taken to having a nightcap on the porch of the Gifford House in the late evening with the other, more mature gentlemen, as I could never spend much time upstairs at the A-House without starting to twitch. I can remember cold, late August evenings in that room, when the lighting, decor and music combined to make it seem as if all the handsome men in the world were present in that very spot. Alas, while there are still many lookers, the room is not the same. The lighting has been minimalized to the point of inky darkness, all the better to view the second rate porn projected on the giant screen just above head-level. The decor has been stripped to accommodate said projected image, and all eyes in the room tend to fasten on the filmed action, making it extremely difficult to have any sort of meaningful eye contact, or strike up a conversation with a sympathetic stranger. While the upstairs DJ amuses himself with his home-made techno travesties, the overly eclectic melange of music available on the downstairs jukebox saturates the room with Lipps, Inc., Toby Keith and Julie London. In fact, we were witness to a gentleman who had chosen that moment to propose marriage to his young boyfriend, kneeling right there on the ancient stone floor, while "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" blasted forth.

We were happy to learn that our favorite bartender, Jimmy, who we have dined with frequently in the past at his post in the Lobster Pot has opened his own restaurant, Jimmy's Hideaway, creating a elegant series of darkly paneled rooms out of that sketchy old basement where the Szechuan restaurant has been for years. Friends have told us that Jimmy has a way of making everybody feel as if he wants them, and in fact he does. I like to think he's extra nice to me. Maybe it's the way he calls me Daddy. Or the fact that he came out from behind the bar to attack me while we were waiting for our table. He's just friendly that way. By the way, try the cod.

Most of all, it was wonderful to catch up with all our friends. We've been going the same week for years, and as such, have met and maintained friendships with a large variety of guys from all over the country, even the world. We decided that we're summer camp friends now. We exchange the occasional e-mail during the year, but pick right up where we left off the previous summer. Bo and Jeff, Chris, Steve, John, Pete and many others, all falling back into our old habits and rituals. Meeting at the pool. Comparing dinner notes. Drinking copious amounts of beer.

More than anything, I finally unwound and relaxed. It took several days, but I managed. Tim would nap and I would read as the bay breeze blew across our deck. I managed to finish Ed White's "My Lives", then read the autobiography of an obscure 70's rocker, Andy Pratt, and finally reading "Brideshead Revisited". I read portions of this aloud to Tim when he awoke, to his great amusement. Tim passed his waking hours reading an historical account of the Pilgrims, relaying to me just what despicable characters they were. Who knew?

I never called the office, and I didn't check my voicemail. I turned my cell phone off.

We enjoyed the envy of our friends, as we were the very last to leave. We extracted promises from all and sundry to meet again, same time, next year.

Our reservations have already been made.


Blogger Mike said...

I cried just reading that. I haven't been to P-town this year as of yet. Mentioning Tip for Tops'n is what pushed me over the edge.

And I frequently look at the real estate prices with disdain. Oh to be a multi-millionaire.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Musicguy said...

My partner and I spent a week there for the first time this year. He had to drag me kicking and screaming from the condo on the last day. It really is a different world.

On the downside, I spent a sickening amount of money, so we had no choice but to come back to reality :-(

11:52 AM  
Blogger Ice John's World said...

Welcome back! I can only imagine the beautiful scenary there since I have never been to P-town. At least, it sounds that you had a great summer there.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds wonderful.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Stash said...

It's virtual travelling via blog Daddy.

Thanks, Mark.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Lacey said...

Had to respond to your comment on J.M.G. I love love love Colleen Dewhurst. Is she still alive?

9:45 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Colleen Dewhurst is dead.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

um, yes, Mike. It's true. She is. Dead, you know. Since 1991. Poor thing.

5:11 PM  
Blogger seymour said...

No wonder your pecs are so big having to house such a huge heart.
Beautiful words from a beautiful man.

9:40 PM  
Blogger David said...

It makes me wish I had a "same time, next year" vacation arrangement with friends or a lover. That's a big regret in my life.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous A.J. said...

every summer i go to Provincetown (i NEVER call it P-town), ever since the first time i hitch-hiked there from toronto in the 70's. indeed, the town has lost edge to wallet... but i always tell folks it's not the town i go for... it's the walk thru the tidal pools at the end of a beach day, it's the walk across the stone quay to the lighthouses, it's biking the dune paths at 7am when no families with training wheels are navigating the hills and corners, it's the marconi beach cliffs at dawn... and yes, it's fried eggs everymorn at Tip for Tops'n ("the tip of the cape for the tops in service" ...i asked!)
i treasure my Provincetown memories, and i'll keep returning there forever.

4:28 PM  
Blogger farmboyz said...

Did you have to write all that? Just when I thought I was free of the pain of being away from it. I am grateful you are only there in the summer. I could not bear it if you knew how much more wonderful the off-season is. Icy wind sweeping you and your thick scarves along the brittle beach. Bursting into the Vault with a foot and a half of snow clinging to your jeans...

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Farmboy C said...

Andy Pratt! Should have known if anyone else had ever heard of him it would be you! Avenging Annie... one of my favorite obscure songs of the '70s. It was then covered (poorly) by Roger Daltry, with none of the wonderful falsetto (and that piano!) of Mr. Pratt's original.
Oh, you went to Provincetown, too.

Farmboy C

PS How did we spend all afternoon in the park yesterday and not even talk?

11:18 AM  
Blogger Trey said...

Last year, I couldn't make my annual pilgrimage to Ptown (and yes I do call it Ptown). But I some how managed a business trip to Boston and I just *had* to stay the weekend in Ptown. Catching that ferry and leaving the bright shiny skyscrapers of Boston felt great. But it was when we turned the cape, when I was walking down Commercial, dodging people and cars and bikes and strollers and everything else, that I felt like I had come home. And leave Mary Alice alone, she's the only DJ I know who plays vocals! ;-) Great post!

9:39 PM  
Blogger adam said...

i get the same way when i leave ptown.. either by car or by ferry. us in boston seem to take it for granted sometimes when you own there or have shares for the summer.

but when you don't have a place there, the moment you get there again you feel like you just came home. ptown is just one of those places. and every time i leave, im already mentally planning my next trip there.

and as beautiful as fire island is, ive never felt anything similar there. fire island seems to be where new york goes to fuck in the woods and gossip.

ptown sucks me in with art and great restaurants, and bike rides and tea at the boatslip and spiritus and a hundred other things =)

5:51 PM  

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