those were the days

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We went on our annual family vacation to Cape Cod.  Minus Jo who was at sleep-away camp.  But plus Ruby who is brand new to our family rhythm, and just about everything else.  So much was the same and yet everything was different.  Not having Joita with us was painful for me and I really missed her presence and companionship.  Not to mention fishing partnership.  Navigating the needs and naps of a baby along with the tides (the house is on a piece of land that becomes an island when it is high tide) was sometimes frustrating and interestingly liberating.  It meant we couldn’t, and therefore didn’t, plan too much.  We stayed close to the house and took things more slowly because packing up a baby to go do anything is ridiculous.  Plus Nina broke her arm the week before, falling off monkey bars at a playground near home.  So that cut out swimming, kayaking, biking… pretty much everything enjoyable for her.

Nina is my toughest kid in lots of ways.  She’s strong-willed, smart as the proverbial whip and opinionated bordering on refractory.  I usually have the most grist for my mill in parenting her.  I was sure this broken arm was going to destroy our vacation.  I was blown away, however, at her equanimity in handling this semi-disastrous calamity to my outdoor-loving girl just a few days before a beach and nature vacation that she looks forward to all year long.  I was humbled by her ability to put things into perspective and remain engaged and upbeat despite serious disappointments at what felt like every turn.  She broke down and let herself cry just once, when it all felt like too much, when she realized one more thing she wasn’t able to do.  But she put herself together and let herself have a good time in so many other ways.  It is a personal strength that will serve her well her entire life and a lesson I won’t soon forget.

One of our only excursions off the island was to go to Provincetown – that mecca of gayness for the east coast.  I grew up less than 2 hours from P-town and went more frequently than one might imagine.  I think it was one of the first places I went when I got my driver’s license.  And I probably went 2 to three times a month from spring to fall every year (more in the summer months) through my late 20s.  My friends and I would hop in my car, blast Joan Jett, and enjoy the glorious results of a misspent youth.  We’d eat our way to the end of route 6 and spend the day on the beach, sitting in cafes, walking through town and breathing in the permission, acceptance, welcome, camaraderie, and genuine community we were granted there.  I knew then that it was a most amazing gift and I was grateful for the sanctuary each and every time I went.  Back then it was a small unassuming town at the very end of Cape Cod, a place welcoming, supportive and accepting of  gay people and biracial couples as well as society’s other “misfits”(sic) without comment or judgment.  It was an artsy town, with cafes, good restaurants and art galleries galore.  You could also get contraband gay paraphernalia.  I’ll be honest, I never went for the kinky sex toys.  But I always loved the affirming bookstores and music shops, the gay chachkas like rainbow key chains, lambda-embossed wallets and pro-gay jewelry,  bookmarks and bumper-stickers I’d never have the guts to openly display.  It all felt subversive and radical.  I was a revolutionary in the underground.  It was a safe haven in an otherwise unsafe (to be gay) world, a refuge of unconditional love.  It  represented the family of my heart, a utopia for the gay community.  In so many ways I grew up there.

The few times each summer (at the height of tourist season), when straight folks would sneak into town to stare, we were righteously indignant, staring right back, long enough to shame them into looking away, if not outright leaving.  Something about that entitlement (be it straight or white or male, or…) that has always burned my ass and inflamed my fury.  The co-opting of culture that is so synonymous with birthright (read that unearned) privilege and assumption to rights that actually have no basis in reality.

Long after I stopped going to P-town regularly  I had an argument with a straight co-worker who glibly was telling us about her wonderful vacation with her husband and children at their own little slice of heaven in P-town that summer.  I blew a gasket hearing her refer to P-town as HER little slice of heaven.  What the actual fuck?!  Is having a safe space the size of, let’s say, the entire fucking world not enough for you that you need to hijack the itty bitty teeny tiny space we have eked out for ourselves?!  You can literally go anywhere in the world and be safe in your being and your partnership and family, but you feel you simply must go to the only place gay people have?!  She was hurt and shocked by my anger and my visceral vitriol.  She considered herself an ally and was rearing her children to be open-minded individuals.  Wasn’t that good?  Didn’t that mean anything to me?  Yes, of course.  As soon as I reel in my rage I will get down on my knees and kiss your feet for encroaching on one of the only places I can actually go and be myself.  We never got to a mutual understanding and our friendship ablated as a result of that argument.

But I digress.  Provincetown was for me, and many many others, the quintessential paradise, the answer to the longing of our hearts.  When I was old enough, I was able to enjoy more fully what P-town had to offer; the esprit de corps of P-town’s night life.  Starting with tea-dance in the afternoon, where 80s disco brought everyone singing loudly onto the dance floor, to the flamboyant frivolity of drag shows in the evening, P-town was my kind of town.

I haven’t really been in years.  I’m old now, settled with a family.  I believe I still only know the lesbian-two-step.  I don’t know any current dance music (unless you count “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you” – which puzzles me continuously).  I, thankfully, live in a world more and more accepting of the LGBT community which has coalesced into a force to be reckoned with.  I thankfully do not have the need for the kind of sanctuary Provincetown provided for us for so many years.

Nostalgic for those days, I drove to P-town with my family.  I half expected it to be as I so fondly recalled it, half hoping that transgender people would have joined the mix in a visible way.  I remembered the places I stayed, the parking spots that generally got tickets, the well-manicured gardens, the smell of sea air.  We parked and walked to Commercial street (the main street in town).  {cue screeching tires} – I love that line 🙂

First of all, there were at least as many (if not more) straight families as there were gay people.  And even the gay people were so mainstream-looking as to appear straight.  Unruly children crowded the stores, running rampant in the street and sidewalk.  The shops, once scandalous and risque, now seemed shabby and conventional, places where one would purchase Cape Cod crap rather than clandestine membership in Shangri-la.  I was heartbroken as I looked down the street at the changes in my once-beloved haven.  Shell shops and candy stores, scattered between commercial ice cream and fro-yo chains lined the road.  Even the few drag queens peddling their late-night shows seemed like farcical mimicry of bad burlesque.

I drove back to the rental house with Janis Ian playing in my head.  “Bright lights and promises”.  Those were the days my friend.  I’m sad to see what it has become.  But I feel blessed beyond measure to have had it.

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About halitentwo

i am. god is. we are. as soon as i write something about me i change, am different, evolving. i am trans. i am a parent. i am a partner. i am a human. i am attempting to live a well-lived life in the spaces in between, beyond definition, fluid, dynamic, omnifarious and always changing. hopefully growing.
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5 Responses to those were the days

  1. Kris says:

    So sad that when memories and reality clash, reality always wins. Hold on to those memories and dreams, they are precious.

    • halitentwo says:

      Thanks man. I’m really working on the difference between holding onto those wonderful memories and grasping at them with savage white-knuckled fierceness that ruins them. Definitely what I’m working on in so many realms right now. Sigh. Glad to have you along on this journey my friend.

  2. suefendrick says:

    You are such a wonderful writer, my friend.

  3. halitentwo says:

    Thank you! Sometimes I write and feel so good. And then I re-read and I feel ridiculous. Glad to have the feedback and friendship ❤

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