One gardener's observations, discoveries and random thoughts whilst simultaneously worshipping and dallying in a Cape Cod garden. "A garden," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man's coatskirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg and his whole body to irresistable destruction."

Archive for the ‘friends’ Category

Memories of a Brown Girl

Unexpectedly, we received news this weekend that our sweet friend, Emily Grace, had passed away.   As she was a pound rescue, we were never entirely sure of her age.  She was probably around 15 years old.

The memories came almost right away:   that wet nose and that giant tongue in the morning, more compelling than any alarm clock (though right up there with the persistance of the Gray Catsby when his morning bowl is empty!), the way she could often be convinced to snuggle for a while under the covers instead, that obnoxious squeaky noise she’d make when she thought we were ignoring her.

Such a crazy dog I have never know in my life.   Three times to the pound before we met, she came with plenty of issues and baggage, things we could only learn with time.   Basements were off limits.   She firmly believed she was entitled to a minimum of 15% of all we ate.  For the first month she was with our family, her other Dad and I were not allowed to touch in her presence.  She was a wicked bed-hog.  Perhaps most importantly, there was a rather short list of people whom she could be counted on not to scare or nip at.   Attention must be paid.

I remember her first Christmas.   Among other things, we bought her a neckerchief that read “SANTA’S HELPER” and a nice deep plush dog bed.   The next morning, the living room was a puffy cloud of dogbed stuffing strewn everywhere, and the neckerchief had been chewed where she could reach so that it now, appropriately, warned “SANTA’S HEL”.

We often described her as a Cape Cod Brown Dog of Uncertain Lineage, but we could see plenty of things in her.   German Shepherd.  Rhodesian Ridgeback.  Pit Bull.  Veloceraptor.  Alligator.

Because of her sometimes unpredictable behavior around others (it runs in the family on her other dad’s side), I quickly figured out that the best way for people to meet her was online.  During the earlier days of the Internet, Em hosted a GeoCities site (now mostly gone, tho every now and then a page or two floats to the top of a well-played Google search) called Emily’s Online Doghouse, in which she stole car keys to joyride around Wellfleet, suffered many costume changes, sang the praises of the rescue dogs at Ground Zero and participated in the Salt Lake City Olympics.

Despite her flaws and foibles, she was a sweet girl who brought plenty of happiness to her years in our family.  I will always remember that New Puppy Smell of her old puppy ears.   We know she is now romping in a place where there’s no need for leashes or fences, where food and water bowls are always full and the Dorito bag has no bottom.

The Gray Catsby and I haven’t seen her for nearly four years, but we remember the challenge of adjusting to a life undominated by her massive presence and personality.   Our hearts remember all her best qualities and we send our condolences and best wishes to her Other Dad.

May the comfort of fond memories bring peace.


Before the Parade Passes By: What I Did On My Summer Vacation, Part Two

Previously, on the Midnight Garden:    It was Summer.  It was Hot.  Marc and Jess and their friends came to Provincetown, and Greg enjoyed a faux Outer Cape vacation, with gelato and gallery crawls and drag shows and er’thing.  Remember?   You thought I forgot.

It’s interesting how things happen.  I guess usually Life is pretty random, but every once in a while you can watch the dominos tumbling, linking one thing to the next.   To whit, while “carousing” around P-Town during the Guys’ vacation week, we attended a Moonlight Barbecue (Half) Birthday celebration, where my New York friends introduced me to our hosts who are from Provincetown, which in turn led me to reunite with a friend I’d lost track of after moving up-Cape years ago.  Old friends, new friends:   one of my favorite themes.

The fellows and I hit it off quick enough when they thought I was another of the NY guys (which technically I am, but from way back), but when they realized we shared common non-tourist status, we were on track to be great friends.  As August unfurled like a magnificent dahlia (you thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you?), we found a few occasions to get together here and there for a cocktail and a few laughs.

As is sometimes the case on the Outer Cape in high summer, the talk turned to Carnival Parade, which I was particularly looking forward to.   Carnival is, one might say, the sweet bastard love child of Gay Pride and Mardi Gras – a gloriously spectacular afternoon of glitter and beads and confetti and music and pretty boys and wicked girls and saucy queens and sweaty dancing men in the summer sun.   Seriously, what’s not to love?

In the thirteen years I’ve lived hereabouts, I’ve only had the pleasure of attending the parade four or five times.   Since even the times I went and the day totally sucked I still had an absolutely amazing time, I’d decided last year that my new tradition was to never miss the parade again and maybe work at being just a little more than another one of the 50,000 spectators who crowd into this little seaside town to see it all, in the bargain.    We all wanna be in the show a little, don’t we?

So I started scheming and brainstorming about the theme for the 2010 revels, Jungle Fantasy.   What to do, what to do?   You can usually count on it to be a pretty hot and sunny afternoon and there’s not much in the way of shade for hiding (although one can always duck into some bar or other to escape the sun and rehydrate), so a hat of some kind seemed wise.   Easier done than said:  I already had a pithe helmet, perfect for the theme, but how to bring it up to speed for the occasion?   One afternoon at work, it all suddenly occurred to me and I started scribbling lists.

A leisurely visit to a local craft supply store helped me gather the right raw materials for the project.  A styrofoam egg, a few different sheets of felt, hot glue sticks, some faux pothos vines, duct tape, some waxy things called Wikki Stiks and a can of spray glitter.  I’d complete the outfit with a pair of camouflage cargo shorts (with pockets for keys, extra camera batteries, cash and er, what-have-you), a vaguely explorer-y vest and probably not enough sunscreen.

It was all starting to make sense to me, but it wasn’t until I had everything arrayed on the dining room table and I turned on the Little Shop of Horrors soundtrack and I started cutting into styrofoam with a steak knife that it all started to become clear how things might come together.

It’s all just a blur of questions and challenges, now.  How to keep the styrofoam from A) crumbling and 2) melting in the face of the hot glue?   Proof why they don’t call it lukewarm glue.   “Oh, that‘s why you bought the Wikki Stiks…”    Giggling like a loon in the fumes of the spray glitter.   And so on.

Two or three hours later, there was Lil’ Audrey reborn, the sole bloom on a vine of pothos that twined around my newly-glittered pithe helmet.    I did some testing, to make sure she was pretty secure (and not too heavy), cranking up a little disco and dancing around some, knowing how Carnival can be.    She moved a little, forward and back – enough to imply life, but seemed tight.    Ah, but there was something missing.

I cursed myself for not picking up a couple of the pretty faux butterflies I’d been admiring in the craft store:    I needed Prey.  After a few minutes fuming and stewing, I reached deep into a closet and found exactly what I needed in a box of Christmas decorations, and I knew I could rest.

[I’m glad I took these pictures, because- as you’ll see – it turns out many of the other pictures I was in that day were taken by people who cropped the top of my hat off in their composition.   Eyeroll, head/desk.   I’m told there’s another shot or two of me in the hat that came out well, but I’ve not yet seen those.   But I’m glad I have these, since Audrey escaped during the After Parade Tea Dance at the Boatslip and hasn’t been seen since.   While it’s true I stress-tested her for dancing, I apparently didn’t test her for dancing to Lady Gaga.]

I was trying to sort out the logistics of the day.    With so many people converging on Provincetown, you can be sure that the traffic nightmare extends far up Cape.   Even though the parade doesn’t step off until late afternoon, waking up in my own bed in Orleans on parade morning seemed a bad idea.    That could work, I figured, if I took the bus, but the last one to leave town goes so quickly after the parade concludes, there’s hardly time to have fun.

Driving seemed a dubious suggestion at best, considering the lack of parking (*)…and then my new friends sweetly offered not only their Fabulous Blue Leather couch to sleep upon, but part of their driveway for parking.    It is for this reason I discreetly conceal the identities  of these most generous souls here, although I concede the Fabulous Blue Leather couch is kind of unique, as identifiers go.  I’m not the only blogger who’s passed a night there, after all.

I enjoy the whole summer night atmosphere of PTown.   Just people watching on Commercial Street can be hours and hours of entertainment with folks of every flavor and kink and persuasion populating the landscape.    Barkers shout their shows and hawk their menus while street musicians of every variety provide a soundtrack in the quiet spaces between the storefronts that spill disco or hot jazz standards out into the summer night.   Rainbow flags hang over the street from one end to the other.
Sizing the photo above took away some legibility, I think, so allow me to point out the signs above read “The GODdess approves.   The original Jungle Fantasy:   Adam and Steve.   The Jungle of Eden.”     This is particularly noteable because – as you will see – for a lot of other people, Jungle Fantasy seemed to be about inflatable monkeys.

Fun to have a few pals to gad about town with and I enjoyed taking in some of the local nightlife and having a couple of cocktails.  There are pros and cons to every situation, and I found myself a little non-plussed that more than once someone thought suggesting we cheat on his lover was the way in to a conversation with me.  If they’d been a smidge more sober (and me even less so), perhaps I’d have found that flattering.    On the other hand, there’s something to be said for full disclosure right up front.  And, please DO NOT blow your cigarette smoke in my face.

Ah, well.  Whether or not I’m quite ready to jump into the deep end of the dating pool yet, it was still a fun night and there’s nothing like ending an evening of drinking and dancing with some great pizza from Spiritus, where nearly everyone finds themselves once Last Call arrives at 1:00 a.m.

The Fabulous Blue Leather couch was comfy and as always, morning came too quickly (and with the fumes of hot glue from the still-nascent Carnival costume of my host), and as I enjoyed coffee in the early sun, I handled the watering duties in my hosts lovely and abundant deck garden, in lieu of my own home watering duties (I’d given everything there an extra drink before departing the night before and was hoping for the best).

And I enjoyed the gardener’s holiday, a chance to poke around amongst someone else’s potted lovelies and see what their plants were doing, what hidden surprises their garden might offer.  Strawflowers, bush-style morning glories, darling dahlias….

….freshly spray-painted pumps, drying in the morning sun…

Yes, all over town, you could feel the anticipation.    Once the watering as done, I struck out to wander around a bit and see what the morning had to offer as I addressed a minor errand or two.

Compared to the honky-tonk evenings, morning in PTown can be sort of peaceful and quiet.   Boats and ships of a variety of sizes are plying the harbor waters, their horns and bells echoing on the breeze.    All the delivery trucks are making their way along Commercial Street before the traffic of later in the day.    Plenty of the people who are making their way up and down the street actually know one another.

But on Carnival morning, things were already seriously hopping.    I blessed my hosts once more for their driveway space, as I passed (*)parking lot after parking lot already packed with cars and sporting CLOSED signs before ten a.m.    Those that did have space available were displaying $50 rates where $10-20 might normally apply.    I watched people lash lawn chairs to storm grates to reserve their spots for a parade that wouldn’t start for seven hours.

Stores were selling animal prints in every color and design and style, real and imagined.    I stopped into one shop and bought a few strands of beads, a couple of starter strands for myself and a couple others to share around as the day unfolded.
Huzzah!  Inflatable monkeys!!

After a bit of walkabout, it was back to Home Base to rendezvous for a bit with the hosts and some friends.    There were, after all,  details to be addressed.  Last minute runs to the store for panty hose and nail polish.  Pretty boys who needed loinclothes sewn onto/around them.   A lunch invitation in the East End.

You see, while Facebook friend-ing my new real world friends, I discovered my long-lost friend and former work colleague, Etta.    We reconnected on FB and then agreed to get together somehow in relation to the day’s festivities, which then grew into a lunch party at Etta and her girl Flavia’s place, with an assortment of their peeps.

What a treat to renew our friendship and to meet some new folks in the bargain.    And there was a terrific mid-day meal, a smart choice for Parade Day, with plenty of liquid refreshment on the side to keep us from…uh, parch-ment.

After lunch, they sent me around to the street to see if the parade was anywhere on the horizon yet, and so off I went.   In searching for that, of course, it should come as no surprise at all that I found plenty of other gardens to delight in.

As I have tried to chronicle in other summers, there is no lack for stunning gardens and beautiful vistas in Provincetown, and I am nothing if not easily distracted by them.

I was really sort of impressed with the way this gladiola blossom seemed to mimic a butterfly.

And look!  I’m totally not kidding about the inflatable monkeys.   They were everywhere.   It shouldn’t have been such a surprise, if I’d thought about it.   But who thinks about that?

Here’s another shot of me with the helmet cropped, as I posed with this lovely lady from Texas.   I was chatting with she and her partner while waiting for the parade to appear and we had a terrific visit.   I”m afraid their names are lost to me, but champagne in the afternoon and the hot sun and almost seven months time under the bridge since then may have something to do with that.

I do recall that they were friends of Annise Parker, newly-elected (first ever gay) mayor of Houston and they were taking photos to share with her of everything they were enjoying about their Provincetown vacation.

And then, over the roar and the babble of an excited crowd full of anticipation, we heard the rising howl and whoop of a police siren, distant applause…and the thump and hiss of Disco on a seabreeze:    The Parade had begun.

It Gets Better: What I Did On My Summer Vacation, Part One

This summer was very hot.   Almost every day was nice and there was almost no rain to spoil anyone’s plans, unless someone wanted to do something besides water their garden.  There was lots of traffic.   I had lots of fun with my friends.   I also met many new friends.   It was a very good summer and I got to do many exciting things like dance and go to shows and parades and stuff.  I had a very, very, very good summer and now I am very tired.

The End.

Nah, I didn’t figure that would satisfy you all, but you can hardly blame a guy for trying.  Hopefully you’ll forgive my long absence from this blog.  I never meant for it to go so long, but as they sing in Bye Bye Birdie, I’ve had a lot of livin’ to do and while fun, its left me sort of tired and with little time to think about posting photographs or doing much writing.   Java reminds me this was more reason to celebrate than feel guilty and I’m down with that.  But now it’s autumn, I’ve caught up on a little sleep and I’ll try to catch you up.

As July turned to August, I turned in my leased car and became the proud owner (well payer-for, just now, but someday it will be mine…) of a 2006 Saturn VUE and began to relearn the art of the Standard Shift.

It was an intensive refresher, coming as it did in the midst of the heavy tourist traffic of High Summer, but one more exciting and fun challenge for me, too.  And I’m kind of love with my new ride in a way I haven’t been with a vehicle in some time (tho, no:  I have not done any naming), so that’s neat, as well.

In turn, that whole process shined a little light on my budget and highlighted the need for there to be just a little more cash in it.  It was my great good fortune to learn that the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater was looking for house managers for the summer season and to be hired as such.

Sometimes it seems things just work out the way they are meant to.  What a treat to find a part-time gig that doesn’t seem so much like work at all, and as a bonus, has given me the great pleasure of becoming involved with an amazing theatre community.

When last I wrote, Java was here for a visit and we had the best day.   One of the things I love about summer on Cape Cod is that there seems always to be someone coming out this way for a little vacation time and spending time with friends always makes me happy.

To illustrate this point, as Java and Corey were headed off Cape toward their next destination and its bad motel room fabric patterns, my other blog buddies Jess and Marc were arriving on Cape for a week in sunny, fabulous Provincetown.  In fact, had it not been for a wicked thunderstorm that deviled the lads for most of their journey, my two sets of journeying friends might’ve been able to wave at one another whilst passing on the bridge.

Summer brings many blessings.

Through a bit of good luck and happy connections, I was able to wrangle myself and my sweet new ride some free parking in town.   Those of you unfamiliar with PTown might not realize what a stroke of luck this was, but because of limited space, it can often cost between $10 and $20 to park in Provincetown during the summer season…and on some days MUCH more than that.   Being able to eliminate that expense (and I found a few other options along these lines as the summer progressed, too) meant I could visit after work most evenings, which turned out to be great fun and let me enjoy a sort of faux summer vacation experience.

Jess and Marc were renting a house in town for the week with four friends and as we all got acquainted, I had the distinct feeling that I was merely getting caught up with old friends, not meeting strangers for the first time.    Common interests were everywhere and laughter came easily and often.

The house was well air conditioned – a treat as our long hot hot summer continued – and we spent plenty of time there, amply supplied by our dear Bokey with all manner of tasty appetizers, cookies, the Most Amazing Chili Ever and all manner of other sweet treats, including – of all things – Bananas Foster, which Jess quickly blended into some delightful frozen beverages.

What a team.

Their rental property featured some lovely gardens, but we also spent plenty of time admiring a rather vast hillside garden across the street, which we could see out the window without  leaving the tender caress of the air conditioner.

Marc and I enjoyed a chance to be garden geeks and spend some time trying to do long distances identifications of the various daisies, lilies, butterfly bushes, hydrangeas, dahlias and foxgloves and cosmos and such.

By the way, this lovely blue thing to the left is, I believe, called echinops, or globe thistle, a plant I’ve long wanted for my own gardens.   Seed pods were harvested and we’ll see what comes of that in the year ahead.

I’m happy to say that we were able to muster ourselves and get out into the exciting environs of Provincetown, where we could enjoy more of the bounty this tiny fishing village has to offer during Steamiest July.

To feast our eyes there were the seaside vistas, many galleries and shops, the throngs (and thongs) of our fellow tourists and the shimmery way the waxing moon rose over the harbor that week.

One of my favorite evenings found us enjoying gelato on a park bench by the pier, the only place in town where a refreshing breeze could be found.

My new (but seemingly life-long) pal Byrne’s blog affords him the opportunity to see all kinds of great theatre and so in his company we sampled a couple of Provincetown’s many show offerings for the 2010 season, starting with Canned Ham, starring darling Tom Judson in a one man show that wove story and song into a celebration of many his talents and experiences and the way that this one man’s unique life has played out thus far.

We all have an interesting story, I think, but we can’t all lay claim to having written tunes for Sesame Street, performed on Broadway and having become gay porn star Gus Mattox (Performer of the Year at age 45!), can we?   Can you play both the accordion and the trumpet simultaneously and do it wearing just a jockstrap? 

Mmm hmm, sure you can.

Tom can, and his show was by turns entertaining, sweet, funny and quite touching.  Byrne said all that and more here, and I agree whole-heartedly.  If the show comes to your town, check it out!

Throughout the week, while I was having such fun with my friends old and new, I had the feeling that the whole experience was kind of important to me in a way I couldn’t entirely put my finger on.  Something about being able to have a little more fun than last summer when so much was still changing for me.  To be able to take another step beyond past heartaches and happinesses and celebrate all the good and magic and fun that’s right there in front of me now, forging new bonds, starting new traditions, trying new things.

I’ve wanted to write about this for a while now and certainly hadn’t imagined it might be October before I’d getting around to sharing some of my July and August adventures with you.

But the days have slipped by and suddenly I have some fresh perspective.   In more recent days, many of us have been saddened by the news of too many young gay people driven to suicide by the hopelessness so many feel at facing being “different” at a time when it feels so important to be like everyone else.  I remember that feeling well and I remember a particular winter’s evening in 1984 when such dark lonely thoughts deviled me, too.

Of course I’m glad I chose to put those thoughts aside.  But only now, years later, is it easy to see how Time truly does soften plenty of those hurts, or at least helps put them in perspective.   With each passing day we learn new things about ourselves, often through letting other people into our lives, but also by facing challenges head on and not giving up.

Hopefully, as we grow we strengthen our connections to the family we were born to, but we also continually build a unique family made of friends and loved ones whose lives intersect with and flavor our own.

Oh, sure, Life is full of days and weeks – sometimes even months or the occasional year – which at the time and even with hindsight, can be categorized as having kind of sucked.   That’s the way it goes.  Somehow you just can’t have the good without the bad; it’s in the fine print of our contracts.   Sickness, sadness, bullies, loneliness, fear.  Rain.   Everyone gets some.

But don’t misunderstand:  in between all that, in sharp contrast, is the rest:  Good health, happiness, friends, company, excitement, fulfillment.  Sunshine.    Evenings where you laugh almost until you pee.   Your days will bring you joys great and small that you cannot possibly imagine in advance.

So don’t give up on the world, on yourself.    Talk to us, anyone of us.   We’ll listen.  Let someone know if you need help.

It feels like you are alone, but you’re not.  You’re in a Big Gay Crowd and we all know what it feels like.   Believe in yourself.   We do.

Seriously.  It gets better.

Happy National Coming Out Day, everyone.