While I was in Provincetown recently to visit with Kelly and Carol, I unexpectedly crossed paths with an old college pal. We hadn’t stayed in touch over the years and he’s not on Facebook, so it was kind of exciting to randomly find him. We both had places to be at the time of our meeting and so we made plans to catch up later in the holiday weekend, although we made no effort to exchange contact information. Just an act of faith.
So last Monday, when the holiday and all its attendant frenzy had passed, I loaded up the camera and tripod and went off to PTown. I knew it was a Needle in a Haystack mission, so I figured if it didn’t work out, at least I’d be able to play around with some of the camera’s nighttime settings. And I do always enjoy a summer evening spent in the honky-tonk fun of Provincetown.
It was a gorgeous evening, as we spent some of the weather credit we’d accrued through so much of June. It wasn’t really hot, but warm enough for shorts. The crowds on Commercial Street were not as intense as I had anticipated, a fact I attributed initially to the sorry state of the economy (the actual reason for the quiet evening can be found here – I’m happy to report there was NO sign of this problem when I visited).
Perhaps because of that, Chris and I found one another almost right away after I arrived in town and we found a lovely bench to sit and while away some time, as we got caught up on all that had happened (well, okay, the highlights) to us since we’d last crossed paths and covered some of our mutual friends’ news, too. It was terrific fun and as always, interesting to see how life has treated a long-absent friend.
Too soon, our paths parted again, as he went off to his plans for the last night in town and I wandered off to see what a Monday evening in Ptown had in store for me. Although Commercial Street wasn’t as crowded as I’d expected, there were still plenty of people around and people-watching is always a good reason to visit Ptown. (The gardens are another – I’m always impressed at the beauty that local gardeners cram into the tiny patches of yard available for planting, and I look forward to returning some early morning this summer, when the light is better for photographing flowers.)
Being the start of the week, I saw a few people newly arrived from the bus or ferry or airport, dragging their rolling luggage behind them down the street. One guy caught my attention with his expression that was a combination of Dorothy Arrived In Oz and A Deer in the Headlights, as he scanned crowds of people and took in all the business signs and I recognized it was possibly his first visit to town. Oh, how I remember that giddy excitement of washing up from the land of closets and judgements and seeing the rainbow flying all over town.
I think I’ve mentioned before that the past year has felt like a sort of Reboot. Birdie might call it a Mid-Life Awakening. I like this expression, it seems to sum up my particular experience. Certainly it wasn’t a mid-life crisis.
I have found, in the wake of all that, that I spend some bit of my time reviewing, reflecting and reconsidering pieces of the past, while looking forward with an open mind (but a few hard-earned lessons tucked into my camera case) to whatever the Future has in store for me.
Like others in town, I spent the evening strolling about, enjoying some window shopping and taking in the sites. I remember taking photos of this big lily sculpture last year, but I don’t remember if I captured one good enough to share (rather than spend too much time in the archives, I’ll just show you again!) – this shop was closed when I stopped by, so I wasn’t able to learn anything about it. But wow.
There’s never a lack of pretty gems and bright lights and sparkly things to draw ones attention in Provincetown…and some of those are people, too. I always spare a moment for the murals at Shop Therapy (where middle America buys their tie-dyes, sex-toys and “smoke shop supplies” when they are vacationing out this way), which are fascinatingly detailed and always entertaining. I thought these star-shaped cedar standards were pretty cool, too.
One of the things I just love about Provincetown is its close proximity to the shore. As you walk along Commercial Street, that’s hard to loose sight of, since you can see the harbor between buildings, down alleyways, the salty fragrance of the tide and all its life-bringing decay sweet in my nose. The tide was coming in while I visited that evening and so the effect was even more intense…and drew me away from the hub-bub of Commercial Street to various beaches.
The nearly-full moon was rising from behind Truro’s far shores and made for some lovely views of the harbor. I remember how there was a full moon that first week I visited and, towards the end of the week, a lunar eclipse, as well.
Suddenly, I was thinking of a guy I met that night, as I was waiting for the eclipse to start, who came up out of the blue and told me I should enjoy my visit to Provincetown while I was young (I was already 30-something at that point, but thanks…), that this would be his last visit there, and how it was no place for old men. Even at the time, it felt like a bit of a line, since the guy certainly didn’t look particularly aged to me. I guess he’d run a-foul of someone who’d made some rude comment – young queens can be a little bitchy and hurtful when they pack up, after all.
We hung out for a while…and might’ve even kissed a little in the moonlight, but his agenda became more clear when he realized I was really interested in watching the eclipse and off he went. A silly and meaningless encounter, perhaps, but I have often reflected back on it and the business of agism that can often rear its head in our youth-worshipping culture.
Certainly on this most recent visit, I was feeling just a little of that invisibility field that starts to rise around average looking gay guys of a particular age…but nothing that really bothered me.
Since I know my own eyes are often drawn like moths to flame by the sight of those twenty-something buff gods just off the beach, there’s no denying it exists. So it was sort of sweet when the cute Siberian boy at Burger Queen seemed to flirt with me a little when I stopped for some dinner. I even managed to flirt back just a bit (Baby steps, y’all…).
After dinner, I spent a little time by the benches at Town Hall. Because of town hall’s renovations, this part of Commercial Street seems just a little darker this year, although it is still a draw for aspiring entertainers and people watchers alike, and there was some great music going on in the shadows.
I tried a longer exposure here, which gave me the side effect of ghosting in those who walked through during the shot. I kind of like it. While I was sitting there, a pair of older guys came walking by. I’m not good at estimating such things, so I rarely do it, but I’d guess they were in the seventies, the burdens of age easy to see in their stooped shoulders and uncertain footing. I couldn’t help but grin, and even tear up a little, when I noted that they were holding hands, helping one another. Ah, so there’s the antidote: What matters age when you have a friend to help you find your way through life, eh?
My ramblings about town, and in my head, continued, and I found myself drawn off Commercial Street, up the gangplank to Tim’s Used Books. I was on the hunt for a particular volume, but also was drawn in by the sweet soapy scent of the honeysuckle vines which trail out across the path and found a different world for photographing.
So close to Commercial Street…and yet so far away. There’s something just a little magic about a place that takes you so completely out of your current environment, if only for a few minutes. And even alone, the shadows of an alley can be quite beautiful.
You shouldn’t think, though, that all this rumination is a sign of any regret on my part. I’m quite happy with life as it stands for me right now. My Life is well-populated with many dear friends. I could hardly be alone if I tried and that’s pretty wonderful.
My experience tells me one can’t go looking for Happiness, anyway. It’s something that finds you and lands on your shoulder when you’re least expecting it, like a butterfly, I suppose.
And anyway, for now, I’m more interested in the Moon.