Return To P-Town - All Things Must Pass
by (c)RayzRealm May 2000
The magic is still there, I guess.
When I was younger a Summer without at least 2 weeks spent in Provincetown was not a true Summer. As I grew older, wiser and sober, Summering on the Cape lost it's luster. The "to see and be seen" crowd could have the Cape during peak season. I discovered the truly magic time to visit was either before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.
In maturity and sobriety I began vacationing with my closest friend and companion, Paul. We would spend a few days in Provincetown (Early June or Mid-September) and the remainder with friends of his up in Kennebunkport, Maine. The last time I visited the Cape was shortly after Paul's initial diagnosis and treatment of kidney cancer. We decided to spend a few days in P-Town just after Labor Day 1998. It rained or was seriously overcast the entire time we were there. About a month later Paul's cancer would spread to his bones and, well....he passed away this past February.
I kept his friends and people we both knew up to date on his condition via phone and e-mail, Allen, the owner of Safe Harbor in P-Town included. Shortly after Paul passed away Allen sent me mail inviting me to spend a few days before the season began as his guest. It was gracious of him to make the offer, and at first I did not want to visit again for quite a while. I was in such a royal funk that nothing could jump start any life in me.
I decided to visit during the Patriot's Day weekend (local Mass holiday). Allen said that would be fine and he'd mark his calendar. As that Friday approached, I wanted to call and cancel my plans at the last minute, but packed my bag on Thursday night, leaving from work on Friday. I had grabbed a handful of homemade cassettes to play during the 3 hour drive. It's strange that I always unconsciously select the same unmarked tapes (most are unmarked) that contain some of my favorite hard to find cultish 70-80's rock and dance tracks.
I left the office at 2:30PM under sunny skies. The weather reports had been for a mostly pleasant weekend with possible showers Sunday or Monday. Although it was too early for the true rush hour, I hit a bottleneck at the merge of 128 and 3 South. Traffic crawled through Braintree and didn't thin out until after Weymouth. It was almost smooth sailing through Plymouth and then then hit a brick wall at the Sagamore Bridge rotary. OK, things moved pretty well after that, but since I got held up for so long, I had to....pee like a race horse. I'm not sure why most of the rest areas up here have closed, but I've heard it's due to lots of "illicit" activity (ok, I'd rather not know). Now almost all of these stops are called "parking areas" with signs informing drivers "no sanitary facilities". It's no longer legal I guess to trot down over an embankment, slump behind some bushes and whiz yourself back into a more comfortable driving condition. Rather than risk orbiting police spy satellites catching me taking a felonious piss, I kept driving. Ahhhh, "Rest Area" next exit. Well I get there and it's closed, but did find a gas station that had a loo, but only for paying customers, so I topped off the tank with $3 worth of regular. Abdul or Apu cussed me out, so I added a pack of cigarettes and a box of Altoids to my purchase. He grunted out something in some Mid-East dialect (probably not have a nice day) and tossed the throne key on the counter.
I could now resume my trip in comfort. Luckily there was almost no traffic from Hyannis to the Orleans rotary, and from there the last 26 or so miles seemed eerily deserted. After Orleans the temperature seemed to drop 20 degrees and the sun was replaced my heavy gray clouds. This is one of the prices you pay venturing out to the tip of the Cape. It can be miserable in Boston and truly spectacular in P-Town or vice versa. I usually luck out with the "Vice Versa", beautiful cloudless skies in Boston, monsoons on the Cape. I flipped the tape over for the last 26 miles. Hmmm, strange (Deja-Vu), but every time I drive to Provincetown, the very same tape side plays during the home stretch of my journey. In a future journal, perhaps I'll discuss at length my lifelong love affair with music, disk jockeying and audio hardware.
My mixed feelings about taking this weekend trip quickly faded as I passed the sign, "Provincetown, Next 3 Exits." I was glad I decided to get away from the real world (or is that escape from the psychotic delusion that passes itself off as reality). I stopped at the A&P for a gallon of spring water and some munchies. P-town's water supply leaves a lot to be desired, and like a 3rd world country, I get gas, trots, cramps and the pukes every time I visit and drink the water. It does not bother some people, but I have learned to drink only bottled water while in town.
I finally pulled up at Safe Harbor and Allen greeted me at the door. Hugs were exchanged and I sat with him catching up on 2 years worth of news; Paul's terminal stage and death, my layoff and job change. Allen shared news about Provincetown and his own trials since we last saw each other. I told him I was going to make a quick pass of Commercial Street and see what was open. Many of the shops were closed, but enough were opening for the new season to make things interesting. I stopped in a dance music store, P-Town Spin and chatted with the proprietor for an hour, before buying a double CD set of rare dance classics. I stopped in a tee shirt shop and almost bought a tee that tickled my fancy. A graphic of the Devil with the caption, "God's busy, may I be of assistance?" I'd decide later what to buy or not buy, since money was very tight.
I decided to dine at "Fat Jack's", a popular storefront bar and restaurant. Hmmm, the prices had risen quite a but since my last couple of visits, but Provincetown has suffered the Yuppification and price increases of everywhere else in this Northeast ".COM" realm. Dinner was ok, and carried a tab of $27 with tip, no booze or dessert. After dinner I dropped by a Portuguese bakery for a cheap pastry on the run, then continued browsing the shops and galleries that were open. Hmmm, everywhere I went the same haunting female vocalist was singing the same songs. The shop keeper in a wymyn's shop told me the artist's name was Beth Orton and she had the CD for sale. Well, not to be rude but I was not going to shell out $18.95 for a disk and told here I would be back during the weekend. I did wind up buying the CD back in Boston for $11.95 on sale at Newbury Comics. Trips to P-Town usually inspire me to buy new music I have not heard before, since most shops, cafes and such tend to play interesting mixes of background tracks in their establishments.
The neuropathy in my legs and feet was beginning to deter any further trekking around on foot, so I headed back to Safe Harbor. I went on an errand to pick up some wrought iron fence sections with Allen, then we stopped at Spiritus Pizza (a P-Town institution) and discussed yuppie scum, greed and the changing demographics of the lower Cape. Many businesses were closing or had closed due to the astronomical increases in prices and rents. I can see Provincetown becoming yet another playground for the moneyed class with their SUV's, cell phones and "I have arrived" attitudes, another Hamptons?
We returned to the house and sat up chatting until midnight (about 3 hours past my normal bed time, old fart that I am). I was amazed, went out like a light and slept the whole night through, which is very rare for me.
The rain on the roof woke me up. During the night it had rained quite hard and it was even more raw and cold that when I arrived. I showered, got dressed, grabbed my umbrella and headed out for breakfast. The Post Office Cafe is another of P-Town's institutions and very popular for breakfast and brunch. I forget the box number I ordered (the menu is listed as Post Office box numbers) but was the equivalent of a Lumberjack breakfast. The rain seemed to be letting up, so I continued on browsing shops as they opened. I always stop by Taqwa Glass Studio and engage in lengthy chats with Christie, the proprietor. She and I get going talking about Science Fiction and Fantasy, X-Files, 12 Step recovery, etc, etc. She asked where Paul was. Sigh... I filled Christie in on what had transpired over the past two years and that Paul passed away in February. Paul and I always stopped by her studio 2-3-4 times while on vacation, to chat and shop. Taqwa Glass has some strikingly unique and beautiful handmade stained glass. Paul and I purchased a number of pieces at her Studio. It looked like the weather just might break, so I bid her farewell, "I'll be back before I leave" and headed back to the house to shed my jacket and umbrella.
I stopped back at the house long enough to pack a liter of water, book and umbrella in my knapsack and headed down to Herring Cove Beach. It was peaceful walking through the dunes, not a soul in sight. During warmer sunnier weather the dunes and beach can be quite busy, but today I was all alone. I found a perch high atop a dune that overlooked the ocean and just sat, listening to the deafening roar of silence. A guy walked by walking his dog, nodded a hello and continued on toward the beach. After an hour passed more men seemed to walk out of nowhere. Hmmm, that time of day and I could tell they were not looking for a lost wallet or keys :-) I moved on, making my way to the deserted beach. Of course it began to rain, then rain harder, a cold wind coming in off the water.
I returned to the house drenched, and after laying down for an hour, got changed and decided to attend a P-Town A.A. meeting. So OK, this particular meeting did nothing for me. I actually felt more depressed (a rarity) after the meeting broke up. After the meeting it was time for dinner, and most of the restaurants that were open had menus priced way above what I felt like spending, so opted for a burger and soup at the Post Office, which set me back about $16 with tip as it was. I browsed around in some of the shops. I was a good boy and did not spend any money, finally stopped at Spiritus Pizza for some ice cream.
When I returned to Safe Harbor everyone was out, probably out to dinner then a night on the town. I sat in the living room for a while thumbing through magazines, and watching TV, then went to bed at 8:30 PM. Gawwwd! me in bed asleep in P-Town by 9PM on a Saturday night; I am getting old, or was it bored and feeling quite alone. The driving rain on the roof and windows woke me a few times during the night.
When I awoke Sunday, the weather was just as miserable. I got up, showered and headed out for breakfast at the Post Office. After eating I paid a final visit Christie at Taqwa Glass Studio, passing part of the morning chatting with her, then made one final pass up Commercial Street, stopping in at a couple of shops that were open early. When I got back to the house everyone was in the kitchen and huddled around Allen's PC, surfing the web. We exchanged interesting links, visited some mighty silly smut sites, looked through listings (smutty) on e-bay where people were selling their used and soiled underwear, panties, jockstraps and thongs to the highest bidder. This would make for an interesting expose, "how I made .com millions selling used underwear on the web."
I could have stayed until Monday but told Allen I was going to head back home. Farewell hugs were exchanged and I told him, I would try to return for a longer (paying) stay, hopefully in late Summer, depending on how my life and finances were holding out. When I was younger (in my wild oats days) spending a week to ten days, traveling to P-Town incognito was tons of fun. It is still nice to get away alone, but there's almost nothing worse than staying in Provincetown alone during monsoon rains.
As I crossed the town line leaving P-Town, I realized that for all the bad weather, I was able to remove my brain and put the world on hold for a weekend; I felt slightly rejuvenated. Provincetown has always had the same mind altering effect on me. Perhaps it sits in the center of some weird energy vortex, but it's like visiting another dimension. I drove home in silence, stopping in Harvard Square to pick up a copy of the Beth Orton CD, then a coffee and pastry at Au Bon Pain.
I returned from P-Town without armloads of shopping bags or a chocolate brown tan from the sun, just one small bag from P-Town Spin records and one from Newbury Comics. I still managed to spend $120, but on what I still can't figure out. I put on a pair of sweats, sat back in my easy chair, put on the headphones and listened to my new CD's. One small observation, it's funny how the music does not sound or feel the same from when you first hear it. Of course Provincetown is a mind altering place, so nothing seems the same once you crawl back out of the rabbit hole and back into reality.
Will this Prodigal return to Provincetown? Perhaps, and hopefully in a better state of mind, with better weather and enough money to afford staying without worrying about how much it cost me this time.I would not have made this brief pilgrimage if it was not for the graciousness of Allen at Safe Harbor.
Links To P-Town Information
- Safe harbor Homepage of Safe Harbor. Tell Allen Bigboote's Area51 sent you.
- Provincetown Business Guild Gay/Friendly Business Organization
- Provincetown Village Website
- Fat Jacks Reasonable dining in P-Town.
- Spiritus Pizza A P-Town institution.
- P-Town Spin Dance music, hard to find disks.
Cheers, Ray...another trip report later?