Several years ago and while he was still living in New Orleans, my dear friend and fellow Human Rights Campaign volunteer, Frank, lost his partner very suddenly and unexpectedly. The loss hit the community very hard because, as a couple, they were the envy of many, and as an artist, Chris was one of the premiere custom furniture makers.
As with any tragedy, the community bonded together in support. But, sometimes, that much outpouring can be suffocating. Frank asked me when the attention would end so he could get back to his life, as it now would be defined. My answer was quick but difficult. All attention would be on him until another event diverted the community’s attention. Could be weeks. Could be months. Whatever the length of time, it was too long to bear. Frank made the decision to move very far away and out of the “scene”…and my connection to Provincetown began.
It was the draw of this quaint Portuguese fishing village that had captured his heart. The Pilgrims actually stopped here first to sign the Mayflower compact, but Plymouth always gets the recognition, as that is where they ulti- mately settled. Dating back to the 1600s, Provincetown has a rich and storied history of whalers, fishers and survivors, much like Frank. And much like Frank, this place is very, very gay. In fact, the 2010 census proved this fact by noting that Provincetown has the highest number of same-sex couples in the nation. Just imagine what that number would be if the census actually accounted for LGBT singles!
Because Provincetown is accessible by land, air and sea, the journey there is sometimes just as much a part of the adventure. Located on the very tip of The Cape, Provincetown is essentially the curved fingers of the iconic “flexing bicep” that makes The Cape so identifiable off the southeastern coast of Massachusetts. Driving the area provides wonderful excuses for stops and shops along the way, but with only a two-lane highway, can take upwards of a full day to accomplish. From Austin, our favorite two ways of travel are flying JetBlue to Boston and connecting on Cape Air for small (in terms of time and size of aircraft) flight or the high-speed ferry from Boston Harbor, which takes about two hours.
Upon your approach to the harbor via ferry, you will be greeted by an enormous art installation appropriately titled, “They Also Faced the Sea.” These larger- than-life black-and-white photographs are of the matrons of the village: Eva, Mary, Bea, Francis and Almeda. This is your first indication that Provincetown honors all members of the community and their wise eyes and warm smiles preview the numerous other “queens” you will soon be meeting.
This wharf is also a bit of a demarcation between the two sides of Provincetown– the “kinda gay” side and the “really gay” side. With the ferry dock at your back, you will walk into town to the main road, aptly named Commercial. Taking a right will send you to the “kinda gay” section; a bit of a sleepier, more residential part of the town. Still full of galleries, restaurants and bars, this is the milder, tamer side.
We opt for the left on Commercial. The first few blocks are incredibly touristy, loud, and often causing sensory overload of sight, smell and sound. What is immediately apparent is that in this town, the pedestrian rules. Don’t even think about renting a car. There is nowhere to park, and walkers get to their destination much faster without missing the tableau that is continually unfolding. Our day starts at Joe Coffee & Cafe, where we hope to be lucky enough to score a seat on the fantastic courtyard overlooking Commercial. After a lazy morning, we head down to Relish for a picnic lunch to go…to the beach, through the dunes. Stay out and watch the sunset or head back into town to the Boatslip, as every day, yes every single day, is Tea Dance. Starting at 4 p.m., the boys and many girls join together to dance on the deck overlooking the water. There is something to be said about dancing under the open sky, watching the waves and knowing that while on vacation in Provincetown, every day is a holiday.