Category: The New Millenium

UPDATE: Ptown Bear Week 2014

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Just what I thought Bear Week was going to be, in hindsight, I cannot say. I was certainly not disappointed. That is one thing I never am in Provincetown. But when comparing my recent day trip to any other week we’ve spent during the past eighteen summers, it did not seem there were any more Bears around than usual. While enjoying a tall, cold beer with lunch at Pepe’s Warf on a shady deck, I asked two guys nearby, sporting bear t-shirts, if they thought numbers were down this year. Both of them were town residents who assured me there were tons of Bears in town, just like every other year. They told me most of them were either busy at special venues like huge pool parties and other organized events, or sunning at the beach. All the clubs were packed with the grizzly guys every night, they reported, not to mention loads of private parties all over town.

While I tooled about Ptown, traversing up and down Commercial Street stopping in favorite stores and discovering a few new ones, I kept my eyes open for unusual Bear sightings. Of course they were ubiquitous as always. A pair that I wish I’d been able to photograph were these two guys getting out of a Checker Cab who took everyone by surprise. They looked to be in their early 30s, each of them six-foot-something and definitely the musclebear type. Both of them handsome as hell and nicely groomed, what made them stand out were their outfits. Gone were the denim cutoffs and flannel shirts with the sleeves ripped short, these two might have been expected to be wearing. Instead they were clad only in speedos–plus big, floppy garden party wide-brimmed hats, AND tall platform high-heeled Joan Crawford comefuckme pumps. Needless to say, this Bear Pair stopped traffic–and many hearts I am certain. To borrow a phrase: they were simply “too tremendous”.

Never having gone to Provincetown for just a day and without a spouse before, (David had to work and I was on a bus trip with forty some students and faculty from my school), it was a strangely unique experience. There was so much I’d hoped to do, but with so little time I worried I might not spend it wisely. I had known for weeks that Armistead Maupin was in town for Bear Week again this year.  He was doing a program of conversation, and reading from his final volume of the Tales of the City saga. How I wished I could stay to hear him. He is truly one of my heroes. But our bus would be leaving at 5:00 p.m. and his program began at 8:00, presenting a scheduling impossibility. Posters of him were at the box office and in several shop windows. So close and yet so far away.

I was also shamelessly distributing a new postcard promoting the blog, to any place that would accept them:

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While making my rounds, I spotted John Waters riding his bicycle only an arm’s-length away, always a welcoming sight. He spends summers in Ptown for some years now and we enjoyed his show at the Town Hall a few years back. Call me cornball, but I still get a thrill seeing famous people in the street, especially such a clever one who made some of my favorite films–the original Hairspray, not to mention Polyester, starring Divine with Tab Hunter (filmed in Odorama–I kept my scratch-and-sniff card for years after).

Then it happened. Not five minutes later, still fresh from my brush with cinematic greatness, as I passed the Crown and Anchor Hotel, leaning in its shade HE stood alone all by HIMSELF. It was as though the heavy foot traffic in the street shuttling by HIM unnoticed, mystically parted to expose the man as I approached. For a second, staring at that face I knew so well, yet had never seen in the flesh before, we were the only two people on Commercial Street. I was looking at greatness, and it was calling to me. Hesitating for only a millisecond, I started towards HIM with my paw extended, grabbing HIS warm hand in mine. I began my feeble soliloquy:

“I knew you were in town but I never thought I’d bump into you on the street!”

I lifted my oversized and very dark sunglasses to lessen both my frightening appearance and a perhaps too enthusiastic introduction. HE looked into my eyes, while quickly searching my face. Dear lord, I prayed, he thinks I am some lunatic. I ceased pumping his arm.

“It’s so amazing to finally meet you!” I wanted to add his name to the end of that sentence, but “Mr. Maupin” just didn’t fit the man whose hand I still held tightly in mine, nor the love for HIM and his talent which has burned in my heart since 1979 when I first began reading his Tales. And I couldn’t allow myself to be so presumptuous to ever call him Armistead. What DID people call HIM I wondered? Armi?

Then HE spoke to me, (while I still clutched his hand). “Oh, for a minute there I was struggling to put a name to your face and I couldn’t place you”, he sort of chuckled as a wonderful grin took over his face. Wow, I thought to myself, he laughed. I think he likes me.

“Oh no, you don’t know me. But I feel like I know you really well.” To punctuate this, I cover our clasped hands with my left hand, making a sandwich of his between mine. “I’ve read everything you’ve ever written…except for the last book.” Plus now I am gushing, just like my mother used to. I cannot believe that at the moment I am face-to-face with one of the greatest gay icons in this world, I am also channeling my overly exuberant and very dead mother.

“I wish I could see you tonight.” I believe I released his poor hand at this point.

“There are still some seats…”

Interrupting Armistead Maupin I explain: “I’m only here another few hours. My bus is leaving at 5:00.” What the hell does he care about your schedule, asshole? Stop babbling and say something writerly fer’ crissakes.

“Thank you so much for all you’ve written.” Again he grinned, perhaps a bit broader. His blue eyes twinkled in the afternoon sun and all these wonderful laugh lines appeared around them magically at the same instant. With all the bright white hair on his head and in his bristly mustache, he looked like a gay Santa Claus masquerading in summer mufti. My thank you line became my exit cue, then I nodded almost reverently and continued up the street, not daring to turn back for even a parting glance.

Heady from the excitement of our brief encounter, I moved quickly, digesting the chance meeting the universe had just provided me. Why had I wasted the opportunity to really talk to the man–discussed something of substance–posed perhaps, at least one intelligent question?  I’d wished to come across like a well read, somewhat witty person who understood that maybe such a thing as literary criticism existed in my world too. So why was I left with the feeling that I’d just done a near-perfect Edith Bunker impersonation?

What I wanted to tell him, was how important his stories had been to the young gay man from Ohio, who just like Mary Ann Singleton, had transplanted himself into a strange and wonderful Oz-like city where being gay was nearly as normal as being straight. I wish I had thanked him for the doors he opened so that it was possible to write stories–not G-A-Y stories for G-A-Y people, but stories like Mark Twain or Charles Dickens wrote, that were about all kinds of people who any reader could identify with or fall in love with. Being gay, or straight, bi-sexual, trans–whatever, he had made it so that didn’t matter anymore. No book I’d ever read before was so richly inclusive or honestly real– funny and sad or so very human. No, I didn’t say any of that to him. But I did manage to tell him what time my bus would be leaving.

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Daddies and Twinks and Bears–OH MY!

 

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While the LGBT population world-wide struggles for acceptance and equality, at the same time we insist on separating ourselves into categories which we came up with–all on our own. The society we fight to find our place in had absolutely nothing to do with it. No wonder it’s tough to be gay. Sometimes we contribute to it by stereotyping ourselves, insisting on choosing a specific compartment that classifies us according to some physical trait or insignificant preference. It wasn’t always like that, this dinosaur is here to tell you.

Back in the last century, in the early 1970s in Ohio when I first came out, you went to a gay bar and there were two kinds of homosexuals–dykes and fags. We were so happy to be able to be out, no one thought to be anything more than simply GAY. In those clubs we could hang out together and just be ourselves, which we dared not do anywhere outside the safety of the places we frequented. It wasn’t that these gay bars were particularly fabulous or fun–they were all we had–a place to be comfortable in your own skin a few hours each week.

Moving to New York City, my gay world expanded. Actually, it damn near exploded. Unlike northeastern Ohio, where you could count the number of gay establishments on one hand, here there were dozens of places in Manhattan alone. And NYC is where I began to notice the development of gay stratification.

At this point there were: jocks, leather men, daddies and elephants. The jocks were hardly the buff gym rats of today. In fact, in those days a six-pack meant only one thing–six bottles or cans of beer. These jocks were closer to preppies, in button-down shirts, loafers with or without socks, clean-shaven and well-groomed hair. Leather men were easy to spot in their chaps, vests or black leather jackets and huge, heavy belts and boots. They made facial hair fashionable again. Leather men were the first to embrace piercings–initially just ears–then they commenced to travel south–way south. In the beginning these guys intimidated me, until I smartened up and realized for many, it was simply costume, and had zero to do with how they performed under the sheets. Daddies were men forty-plus years who dressed more sophisticatedly than any of the others. Technically they could have been a twenty-something’s father. While I found most daddies tantalizing in my heyday, I hesitated to pursue their advances because the age difference made me a bit queasy. And the elephants, oh those poor elephants, were the older, grandfatherly men who most gay guys ran from, (except for the gold diggers who took full advantage of the poor old horny dudes).

There was an unnamed category that a majority of gay men fell into in this same era. I would have to call it the ‘denim crowd’. It was the strata I identified with in my single days. In fall and winter we wore flannel shirts or work shirts and jeans with a jean jacket. In summer we’d don the same jeans, wife-beater tank tops or go shirtless with a jean jacket. Some guys wore heavy boots if they leaned towards leather. Others chose sneakers or loafers if they were more jock-inspired.

I dated my first denim guy for only a month or so. He worked in the interior design industry like myself. By day his job required he wear a suit and tie. Regardless, he wore this tiny gold hoop earing which I found an odd juxtaposition, but so very hot. His name was Robb (with two B’s) and his last name (French Canadian), also began with a B. I affectionately referred to him as ‘Robb Bone-air’, frankly because that’s what he gave me whenever I caught a glimpse of that shocking earring and the dirty grin always pasted on his handsome face. Even when dressed in denim, there was something about his earring that hayseed me found so provocative in those olden days. Robb was also responsible for making me go commando…but I’m getting a bit off-track here.

Just before the end of the 70s I went off the dating market, settling down with a man who didn’t belong to any of the above-mentioned categories. He was Alejandro, and we were together for a dozen years. During my time out of the gay loop, a few new categories were formed. The biggest was the Bear Community. They surfaced somewhere in the early 1980s. Of course Bears have been around since forever, but this is when they became a huge thing, perhaps because there became so many kinds of them.

Bears, first and foremost, are guys with body hair. Bears are not into manscaping. This does not mean you have to wear a chest wig to be a Bear. There are some burly Bear dudes who are not terribly hairy. These men might compensate by cultivating hair where it does naturally grow, like on their heads. And if it doesn’t grow there, then maybe they’ll sport full, bristling beards. The Bear population has grown so large they’ve developed subclasses: younger bears are referred to as Cubs, older bears are often called Polar Bears, there are Musclebears, Panda Bears (Asians) and then, to totally confuse things, there are Bears who are hairy but thinner and extremely muscular, termed Otters (which in the animal kingdom aren’t even in the same family!).

I’ve always found Bears adorable. Although we shouldn’t make sweeping generalizations about any one group of people, I’m sticking my neck out here to say almost every Bear I’ve ever met has been a really cool guy. They’re fun-loving and playful. They don’t intimidate and for the most part are very open and accepting of non-bear types. They couldn’t be less pretentious, and typically dress totally for comfort–fashion be damned. I’ve always secretly wished to be a bear, but I’m (1) not entirely hirsute, (2) too old and never was nearly in-shape enough to dare to call myself an Otter, and (3) unfortunately, a little too overly concerned with what I wear. Perhaps they will someday bestow an Honorary Ursine membership upon me.

If the 80s introduced the Bear, the 90s was the dawn of the Twink. These guys existed even in my youth; only the name is new and their growth in numbers appears to have increased. They could be considered the other extreme of the Bear. Twinks are slender, young, boyish, typically clean-shaven, manied and pedied and always dressed to go clubbing. They have their fingers on the pulse of what is most current in fashion and anything that is of no earthly use in the real world. It would be difficult, I imagine, to be thirty-something AND still be a Twink. I never got what they were about in my day, so I am even more in the dark concerning the Twinks of today. They’re the kind of people my Grandmother would pray for daily, were she still alive and able to recognize their existence in her world.

Dating sites and apps like Grindr will no doubt create some new categories of gay men perhaps even I will get wind of, as David pushes me in my wheelchair up Commercial Street in Provincetown, should I live long enough. Who can say what will be considered cool and appealing to the next gay generation? The only wisdom I can impart at this point in my life is simply this:

Whether you are a Twink, a Cub, or an Otter, please don’t get so wrapped up in the look or the trends of the day, that you miss the now–the moment you should be living. Forget about your outfit for Tea Dance–nobody cares if your shorts are just a little too baggy, or your sneakers are last season’s. Dance your ass off, even by yourself if no one else asks you to dance. Order dessert if you want. Only you see the extra half pound the next morning. Looking back on my gay life, it is as if only three summers ago I came out at twenty-one. A year later, I was forty and single again. And just last week, AARP sent me my first invitation for membership while still in my late fifties. Life happens so goddamn fast you become a dinosaur, before you’ve even had the chance to begin to sample life.

 

Epilogue

I have always longed to visit Provincetown for Bear Week, as it is one of the most popular weeks of the summer, when the town is overtaken by a Bear invasion. My job schedule has never afforded me the pleasure, but this year I will be able to at least make a day trip on Friday. I can’t wait to report on my day there in a follow-up post.

A Ptown Journal for Week # 28 – 2013

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Saturday, 10 August

We were on the road by 6:30 this morning for the 162 mile journey to Provincetown. The ride, time-wise, is three and a half hours off-season. In August it has taken as long as six hours or more due to bridge traffic and the huge number of cars on the road, laden with bikes, boats and necessary paraphernalia associated with sun and fun on Cape Cod. This will be our seventeenth annual one-week Ptown summer vacation. All but one of those weeks was spent renting a unit in the same house on Commercial Street in the West End, so in a sense, it is like going on vacation by coming home.

We make the trip today in a little over four hours. I treated myself to one small cup of coffee on route. I had to stop and pee three times. The third time there was no rest area, so David pulled over to the side of the road and I hurriedly wandered into the brush and out of sight. I didn’t see the thorns on the low brambles and scratched the hell out of my legs. Oh well, there goes the last decent looking thing left on my body I could still show off. I’ve been maimed for the week. Now I’ve got to rethink all those darling shorts outfits I had planned.

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Not only is this our long-anticipated vacation, it is also our pup, Mr. B’s fifth birthday today. He accompanies us every trip here. Our rental doesn’t allow pets, so he stays at KC’s Animal Resort where he’s got an air-conditioned kennel. The place where we stay has two shitty plastic window fans which sort of blow the air around occasionally. But who deserves it more than him? Provincetown has been voted the most dog friendly town in the USA for many years. I can honestly say that more dogs turn David’s and my head on the street than cute men these days.

Mr. B spends the day with us, walking around town being adored by the multitude of dog lovers he attracts. We eat either breakfast or lunch each day at one of the several restaurants that welcome good doggies to dine. He gets his water bowl before we are served our cocktails. Of course lifting his leg every twenty or so steps, inspired by the entrancing odor of the countless other poochies who’ve passed the same way is his idea of the perfect summer retreat. For Mr. B, Ptown has been named for one’s ability to pee wherever the hell one wants, and he certainly takes full advantage.

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We drop him off at the kennel each afternoon by 5:00 so we can enjoy quality parental time, just his Dad and me, for the remainder of the evening. Next morning he is ready at 8:30 to do it all over again…and so are we.

Sunday 11 August

We’ve shared the house for many years with our dear friends N and R. N and I met at school where we both teach ESL. I know her longer than I know David. She and R have been together since forever. R worked for a huge computer company, and his job enabled them to travel the world, even live in the south of France for several years. N has taught a semester in China for the past three years. It is an amazing adventure for her each time. Still these two find sitting in lawn chairs in the front yard of our rental, sipping wine and nibbling cheese before dinner with the two of us a wonderful pastime. Go figure!

It wouldn’t be a proper summer holiday without them. Due to scheduling and other minor glitches this year, they nearly weren’t able to join us. David and I were heartbroken, but last minute, things worked out and here they are. N and I were chatting this morning about being at an age where it takes all kinds of creams and additional products to keep up with simple body maintenance. It had just dawned on me this trip, packing for our week, that it now requires a canvas bag full of goodies simply to prepare for each day. I am serious. Take a look:

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Monday 11 August

Now we’re certain we are on vacation, because it is Monday and we don’t have to go to work like all you poor slobs back home. Today is also our 9th wedding anniversary. It’s the one we mark, but don’t really celebrate. We were married by a Justice of the Peace on the front lawn of this house under the only tree. N and R were our witnesses. They hosted a champagne and hors d’oeuvres party immediately afterward, offering a glass to curious passersby on Commercial Street. We were toasted by countless street-traffic-strangers. We were even photographed with some Italian tourists who couldn’t believe two men could get married. “Solo in America”, they repeated again and again between camera clicks. Then we took the small group of family and friends we’d invited to Bubala’s restaurant for dinner that evening and dined under the stars.

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So we ate lunch at Bubala’s this afternoon, just the three of us (the dog came too) and we reminisced.

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Tuesday 13 August

Uh-oh, the weatherman was right. It is a drippy day. We had breakfast at Governor Bradford (I started with a bloody mary) and made it back home before it really started to rain. Two guys were sitting on a bench on the sidewalk just beyond our place who had a shih tzu, so we stopped to talk and exchange dog stories. Their names were Brad and Joe and their pooch was Sophie. They are from NYC. We chatted forever until the rain became steady. They were those fun, warm and very real sort of people you sometimes meet away from home and know if only you lived closer you could be friends.

Looks like there will be no wine and cheese in the front yard this afternoon. Rained out.

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N and R are smokers (as is David) so they invested in one of those collapsible canopy things they set up on the back patio to smoke if the weather doesn’t cooperate. We moved back there this afternoon. I started on rose wine at 5:00-two glasses before dinner at 8:30. On the way to dinner we stopped at Bayside Betsy’s where we each enjoyed a Southern Comfort Manhattan UP. Our favorite bartender there Nick was off, but cocktails were lovely anyway.

Onward to Jimmy’s Hideaway. Dinner was so scrumptious, rich, filling and ‘oink-oink’ I cleaned my plate. I also washed it all down with two glasses of an incredible French Cotes du Rhone. It wasn’t until we began walking back to the house that I realized I was experiencing an excess of something-maybe everything. I passed out, sound asleep by 10:30 p.m.

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Wednesday 14 August

I awoke at 5:05 a.m. No headache, seemingly rested, but my stomach was queasy. I reached for my traveling arsenal of gastric remedies. Gas-X was of no use, Zantac ditto-heartburn not being the problem. I chewed two Maalox, hoping it might ease my tossing tummy. Nope. This was the landlubber version of sea sickness. I was fighting noxious nausea. I lay in bed quietly groaning. I want to puke, but I don’t feel like doing it in a foreign bathroom with an audience. It’s that horrible sick feeling where the only thing to possibly make it better is your mommy. Her death in 1999 making that an impossibility, I chose the only alternate route I knew. I swallowed half of a 1 mg Lorazepam. In less than twenty minutes I was ambulatory. Sipping herbal mint tea made me a nearly new man. I am certain it had to be yesterday’s tomato juice in the bloody mary, or possibly the aged gouda on my crackers.

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N and R are leaving this afternoon. We will miss them. Already we have pushed beyond the halfway mark on our week. Because of the incredible weather, with the first half of yesterday the exception, we’ve been able to accomplish our planned shopping at nearly all our favorite haunts. Saturday and Sunday was the annual Massachusetts Tax Free Weekend, so serious purchases were accomplished early on. We kept the dog with us tonight to sleep over (unbeknownst to the ‘landlady’) and walked to pick up a pepperoni pizza. We were all ready for a quiet night eating in front of the tube together. It was almost like home and an early night for all.

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Thursday 15 August

An old buddy from college and subsequently NYC recently relocated to Massachusetts with his longtime partner, now husband. Because they really didn’t know Provincetown, we invited them to finish the week with us. Busy lives haven’t allowed us a lot of time together since their move, so we are all looking forward to a good visit.

David and I skipped both breakfast and lunch, having only coffee and danish-and Mimosas. Note to self: must monitor the alcohol levels today. When the boys arrived we broke out the wine and caught up on our lives since we last got together just before summer. We tried to be respectful of our innocent mates and not reminisce too much about our KSU days, but there were a few conversations revolving around names we’d forgotten we even knew, let alone remembered some forty years later. The laughter was shared among us all.

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Eventually our little party moved to The Patio for dinner. We had to wait longer than was necessary, due to a ditzy hostess who hadn’t a clue, however our little waiter boy was quite cute, charming and efficient and made up for it. My tall Mojito helped some as well. I realized, that aside from pizza in front of the TV and dinner Tuesday night, we have eaten all our other meals outdoors this entire week. That is something we both adore and shall certainly miss when we leave Saturday morning.

Friday 16 August

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We all went out for an early breakfast before our friends left to sample the sand and sun at the beach. Afterwards I took the dog with me to Joe’s for coffee and wi-fi. Although we’re on vacation, I cannot wean myself away from the internet. My iPad has been betraying me, so it wasn’t too long before I gave up. On the walk back to the house, I did a little more shameless promotion for the blog, leaving these new postcards in various shops along Commercial Street.

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Before dinner at Ciro and Sal’s, a Provincetown dining fixture for decades, the four of us enjoyed cocktails and more laughs. Friday night there were as many, if not more people in the streets than in the afternoon-every restaurant and bar packed. Stuffed and content we all still found room for a little ice cream as we waddled up the street to the house. It was my only dessert the entire week. Monday will be soon enough to step on the scale to access the damage the week of overindulgence had on my old body. But who cares? We enjoyed a typically wonderful, relaxing vacation in our beloved Ptown and could not be more content with our place together in the universe.

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Our, (Not Your), Typical Trip to Montreal In Pictures

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Everyone has his/her own sense of what travel is all about. When it comes to us, it is not so much the adventure of discovery as it is the routine of the well-known. David and I are both incredible creatures of habit which is why we are such a good fit. We spent a long weekend in Montreal and celebrated Canada Day for the very first time. Here’s the drill for our usual trip in pictures.

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Most times the worst part of the trip is not the six-hour card ride, but saying goodbye to our pooch, Mister B, and dropping him off at the kennel. Although he seems to like the place and the people who work there, it’s always a heart-tugger the moment they take him to his run. You might detect I’m a bit too attached, so four days apart is healthy for all of us.

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We were excited to be in our favorite city in July so we could take advantage of the summer closing of rue Ste. Catherine from St. Hubert to Papineau to make way for a pedestrian take over. All eateries and bars build ‘terrasses’ to serve at tables outside their establishments. Montrealers spend so much of the year indoors and underground that the city has extended the festival from May until the beginning of September to enjoy the good weather.

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In the last few years the Gay Chamber of Commerce has added the draped ceiling of les boules roses –  nearly 200,000 pink balls of varying sizes strung overhead, forming a pink canopy over the main street of the Gay Village. “Oh Mary, it takes a fairy to make something pretty.” (Emory in BOYS IN THE BAND).

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Are we sensing a theme here? The name of this store, by the way, is PRIAPE.

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We checked in at Le BBV, staying in a new room for us. As always, the owners were warm and welcoming. We met some really neat people from everywhere: Toronto, Virginia, PA, Boston-as far away as Australia and as close to home as our very own city! Breakfast around this table is a great start to each day. Philippe is always disappointed that we don’t eat in the morning, as his table is filled with all sorts of wonderful breakfast goodies.

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Each morning we start out at our local Second Cup where we enjoy a cappuccino as we plan the day’s itinerary.

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Further up Ste. Catherine was the Jazz Festival. This brings in huge crowds and takes over neighborhoods throughout the city. We walked through as they were still setting up for the festivities that day.

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The main stages are centered around the Arts Complex. One of the women we met at the bed and breakfast was covering the event for her Public Radio Station and was really excited by the talent she was able to hear.

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David calls this ‘his store’, because he stops at least once a day for a bottle of soda to take back to the room each night. The chain is Montreal’s version of a 7/11.

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We go to the Casino every visit and never leave with any of the money that we feed into the penny slot machines. One visit, many moons ago, I hit for about $200 and we ran around any shop still open on a Sunday night to spend my Canadian $$ mini windfall. So this trip we went on Sunday afternoon just like always……

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Except that this time David was playing this machine, frustrated that he wasn’t getting any of the bonuses that everyone around him was. The bonus ranged from $13 to $20 maximum. I was standing behind him watching for about fifteen minutes. All of a sudden he hit an obvious big “something” and we stared as the counter went past $50…past $100. At $500 I was pissing my pants. P.S. it stopped at $1,109 Canadian. From then on, everything we did/ate/drank was on David!

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We ate dinner that night at our favorite pasta restaurant La Strega. They serve fresh pasta with a selection of about a dozen different sauces.

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We ordered a bottle of Valpolicella, shared a Caesar salad and ordered our own favorites. Here is David’s farfalle with sauce Rosee.

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Our last day we did make a discovery while exploring a different area of the city along rue St. Laurent-a very ethnic neighborhood. We happened on this incredible store filled with foods and relishes from all over Europe.

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We had a great time shopping and studying the wonderful selection of jars and bottles and boxes of great stuff. There are over 300 different cheeses, alone. I chose three varieties of fromages Quebecoise….which I managed to leave in the refrigerator at the B & B so they became gifts to our hosts.

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Our last evening we went for something light and enjoyed white sangria and gourmet sandwiches at Le Saloon Bistro Bar, accompanied of course by frites and mayo. Montreal, je t’aime.

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I leave you with a picture of the two of us dining in the dark taken by a very young and handsome waiter. The weather was perfect for our entire perfect stay. We only hope that autumn is kind so we can make one more trip before Christmas to spend the rest of our Canadian funny-money.

Our (sort of) “I Do” Anniversary

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Way back in 2003 there was nary a state in the Union where gay folk could get married. Hard to imagine I know, but true. However, there was the BRAVO Channel. We are television addicts, the both of us (the TV is our nightlight as we sleep). Instantly we became fans of the reality series Gay Weddings, which aired in the fall of 2002. I cannot credit this show as the catalyst for us to plan our own ceremony, but its timing was perfect and it acted mostly as inspiration for what we would NOT do for our own faux nuptials. We had already exchanged rings privately, but we wanted to formalize what we shared before family and friends in celebration of our commitment to one another.

Deciding where this festivity would take place was a no brainer. For sure I did not want to host it in the city where we live-a tired and colorless place with little flavour. The magical land called Provincetown seemed the only logical choice to me. I had visited it just once before meeting David and that was in the fall during the early 1990s on Women’s Weekend. Although still quite beautiful, it was enough off-season to lack some of the typical gay glamour. David took me there for a long weekend our first summer together in 1996. We joked that it was our honeymoon. We went to the beach everyday, Tea Dance in the afternoons and dining outdoors each night. It was a honeymoon, in the sense that I fell as deeply in love with Ptown as I already had with David. The location was settled the moment we decided on having our ceremony.

Finding the venue and planning the function was going to be the challenge, especially doing it all while living 150-plus miles away. We wanted a brief, meaningful ceremony and then to throw a really fantastic party. Growing up I certainly went to my share of weddings. Those weddings brought together the entire family (from three states) to drink, eat traditional Slavic fare, dance the polka to oom-pah-pah bands, then finish with several relatives fighting over some silliness, only to be pissed at one another and estranged for at least a decade. This would not be that kind of wedding. Our Gay Wedding would be planned carefully and executed with as much good taste as we could afford. Besides, most of my relatives were either dead or not invited and the ones who were, knew better. This was going to be my picture perfect dream and would require my acute attention to every detail. Why? Because I am a self-confessed Type A, that’s why.

In order to host our affair in Provincetown we would have to do it off-season. Our guests would be coming from all over and would need to stay the weekend. During ‘the season’, most guesthouses and hotels require week rentals. Similarly, many venues cannot afford to close for a private function. We chose May, knowing the weather might be iffy. We drove to Ptown in late fall of 2002 to check out possible locales before many closed for the winter.

Cape Cod has some of the best eateries in New England. One reason we spend so much time there is for the great selection of fine dining. Over the years we’ve eaten at dozens of places, though only a handful could accommodate our needs for this celebration. We limited our guest list to fifty, to make it an intimate and very special evening. We had appointments to see a few locations that advertised commitment functions. The largest one had a dark, stale cigarette smelling room reminiscent of a VFW hall. The guy in charge also managed two of their bars and was clueless about our kind of party. The most elegant on the list had nowhere but an outdoor garden for the ceremony portion of the evening with absolutely no provision for the service if it rained. The only large hotel was right on the water, reeked of musty, dead seaweed and hadn’t been renovated since the 70s. The ‘catering menu’ looked even older. We felt defeated before we’d even gotten started.

We headed off to find a glass of wine and perhaps rethink our concept. A favorite cafe was still serving outdoors, so we got a table where we could drink and hopefully figure things out. Across the street was a pretty, sprawling old Victorian with a restaurant on the first floor and a small bar on the lower level. We had been by it countless times but never tried the food. We could see through the windows that it was being readied for dinner that night. What did we have to lose? We crossed the street and walked in.

“Sorry, we’re not serving tonight. We’re closed for a private function”, a wonderfully harried, impish sort of guy greeted us. We introduced ourselves and told him what we were about in twenty-five words or less, because it was obvious he was stressed about something-perhaps everything.  Still he was all smiles and so cordial, primping tablecloths, straightening silverware settings and rearranging glassware as he gushed about the small dining room. It was a commitment ceremony for two gentlemen who had been together for quite a long time he explained to us  “with a different wine with each course and they’ve just added four more people and this room just simply does not hold that many and now where am I supposed to put them?” His name was Benny. He was perfectly in charge of the situation and in less than twenty minutes, he had become our Wedding Planner.

We returned a few weeks later, once they’d closed for the season and had a tasting of various entrees prepared by the chef. Her food was incredible and by evening’s end we’d settled on three courses with a champagne toast to start off. After the ‘cake thing’, we would retire to the Club on the lower level for drinking and dancing. The party portion was set. Benny was knowledgable and endearing and, we trusted, the perfect man for the job. Save the date notes were sent with our Christmas cards and we were off and running.

Next came the ceremony itself. We had plenty of ideas what it would not be about, but were quite sketchy, (other than exchanging vows) what it would include. An old acquaintance is an Episcopal priest and a partnered gay man himself. He always struck me as very cool. He has marched in every gay pride parade in Boston since I’ve known him. He was thrilled when we asked if he would officiate. We met in March for a lunch to discuss what we expected from him and he surprised us with a legal pad full of liturgy, New Testament readings, prayers and such. He was strong-arming us into making this a pseudo sacrament and that was somewhere neither of us ever intended to go. It was an uncomfortable meal in a large restaurant where no one had room for dessert in the end. Now what to do? We would write something ourselves and find a friend comfortable at speaking before a group to officiate. I asked the director of our ESL program who is also sympatico. He too had viewed the entire Bravo Gay Weddings series so of course he said yes.

At this point in my life I was well over my short-lived affair with Martha Stewart. I had sung her praises only briefly after her introductory Thanksgiving Special. She had me when she opened her pantry, displaying her huge closetful of wonderfully unmatched dishes and I have never been the same since. Even though I judged her passe and just a greedy, money-making enterprise, I found myself channeling her through every phase of our party planning. You know, like when Martha decides to make an omelet and begins drafting blueprints for the chicken coop and starts to plant the chicken feed. I’d worked in bakeries and for caterers in my early life decorating cakes, so that would be a given, of course. David is lost in the kitchen, but he works in a party store, so he designed our custom invitations. Neither of us can do a thing with flowers, but a colleague of mine is gifted at putting together unique fleurs and creating wonderful floral art. He consented to doing the table arrangements.

I searched for silver mint julep cups for the table flowers which were last-minute back ordered, so we settled on a taller version vase. I scoured the internet for the perfect boxes for party favors, then drove miles in all directions to find just the right width of fabric rainbow ribbon to tie around them. I will not begin to tell you how long I searched for the right combination of sweeties to include inside. Fire laws prevented lighted tapers, so the vintage candelabra were out and individual votives at each place were in. There were CDs I burned for the entire evening: pre ceremony music while guest gathered, ceremony music, exit ceremony music, two and a half hours of dinner music and a four-hour dance mix-all of it David’s and my favorites which is definitive eclectic. “What a party” I kept assuring him and myself this was gonna’ be.

The week before reminded me of tech week in the theatre. All the pieces would finally start coming together. On Thursday we had fourth row tickets on the floor for Cher’s Farewell Tour. Just how gay is that? I needed it as a diversion or I would have imploded from my self-induced mania and David is a die-hard fan. We packed our cars early on a rainy and grey Friday morning. I had the cake in pieces in my trunk, along with all the frosting and decorating equipment to assemble and finish it at the restaurant. Unassembled, it symbolized all the projects I’d spent half the winter and most of spring concocting for this one weekend.

David had our clothes and necessaries for the next three days and a car full of cut flowers in four twenty-gallon plastic buckets. As it turned out, my colleague was not able to attend. The prior week he ordered enough flowers from a local florist to show me how to put together a sample arrangement. “It’s a no-brainer. You can do nine of these in a few hours”. He ordered all the flowers from the wholesaler and we picked them up on our way to the Cape. “Just remember to fill the buckets with warm water overnight to force them open”. Even though I had carefully recorded how many blossoms of this and how many sprigs of that per vase, it had me worrying. It was about four hundred dollars worth of flowers, but would have easily cost a thousand if we’d had them done by a florist.

We’d blocked rooms at two different locations for our guests. We were staying in a large suite with a fireplace and a balcony overlooking Commercial Street. Almost all the family had arrived by Friday night and our very best friends gave a very lovely rehearsal dinner in the house we rent together each summer. Magically the weather cleared by sundown and the forecast called for cool and partly sunny on Saturday. I took it as an omen that it all would be okay-that my fussy obsessiveness would pay off. I woke early Saturday morning with a mild case of IBS, but it was expected after what I had put my poor self through.

We set to work on our flowers first thing. Indeed, the blooms had opened-so much so they appeared unlike his sample version, nearly trebling in volume. Even reducing the number of flowers per vase, they were coming out taller and fuller. Our arrangements were akin to Audrey II, the plant in Little Shop of Horrors at the very end and I feared they might overtake and consume each table of guests before dinner was done. But they were so beautiful we were certain no one would mind. The day flew by with so much to do we had no time to obsess about trivia. The cake went together without a hitch and looked exactly as I’d planned.

The ceremony would be held in the Club downstairs and in the daylight it didn’t look too much like a bar. The only decoration for the ceremony was to be a huge vase on a pedestal near where we would be standing. The vase could hold forty-plus Gerber daisies which David and I would pass out to welcome each guest as we entered the room. Once the ceremony began, family and friends would be asked to come up and place their flower into the vase, symbolizing their own commitment to us as family. (Truth be told, my main reason for doing this was so that I could carry a huge bouquet of flowers on my wedding day. Why should brides be the only ones who get the chance?)

The Gerber daisies were delivered by a local florist shortly after I finished the cake. Rather than delivering the big vase, Benny came running in with this sad pair of crappy glass vases like those you get from a bargain TeleFlorist bouquet. Our vigilant Wedding Planner phoned the florist asking where our special vase was-that we’d paid forty dollars extra for and she claimed she had no recollection-the bitch! I went totally nutso, carrying on like every crazed banshee bridezilla in TVdom. It was too late to find a substitute, so we went with the pair she sent flanking each side of the wall behind us. As her punishment, I never did send payment for the two boutonniere she made for us, which hardly compensated for her egregious error.

There is a photo we took of ourselves in our suite just before we left for our ceremony. It is one of my favorites from the whole weekend, for it captures the nerves and the fear we both were experiencing. Suddenly it was not about all the things we had been doing, but rather the significance of what we were about to do. We both looked good in our matching tuxedos. Benny was in an amazing black suit, our super Wedding Planner checking last-minute details, reporting all was ready. The kitchen staff was busy upstairs. Guests were beginning to arrive and seat themselves.

David and I were hidden in the back hall as we divvied up the daisies between us. I wasn’t really listening, but it seemed like the first song on the pre-ceremony CD was taking a long time. Suddenly Benny reappears to report a problem.  Calmly he explains the house CD player used downstairs is evidently not able to read a computer-burned CD. It plays the first song only, repeating it over and over.  I see him in his black coat looking so professional, so in charge. His player he brought from home is upstairs in the dining room working fine. It will take a good deal of time and fussing to change players at this point. What do we want him to do? I look down at my bride’s bouquet cradled in my arms and smile, knowing that this is the hand of fate stepping in to put me in my place. How dare I think I can control the universe? I tell him there is nothing to do but give in. Once everyone is there we will enter to our first ceremony song on that CD, do our thing and exit to first post ceremony song (it was Faith Hill This Kiss). It made for a briefer, quieter ceremony, but no one was the wiser.

The remainder of the evening moved flawlessly once I gave in and let it happen. Benny was invisible and yet every time I looked, I saw that black jacket in the corner of my eye, always on the ready. Dinner was beautifully paced, the food was delicious and David and I consumed two bottles of a Mondavi Chardonnay before we cut the cake. That is one of the last things I remember from the evening, other than having an incredibly wonderful time. I danced like I hadn’t danced since my disco days in NYC with absolutely everyone there. If it weren’t for the hundreds of pictures everyone took, neither of us would have a clue about the remainder of the night. It was the prettiest party I have ever hosted and the most fun the two of us had in years. Nor have I ever seen so many of  our family and friends so very drunk.

Yes it’s true, as corny as it may sound, going through the ritual of a ceremony, even one of your own design-your declaration of love in public to another human being does make an enormous difference in a relationship. Just how or why it works that way I cannot say. A little more than a year later we made it legal by marrying in front of a Justice of the Peace, but that did not hold the weight that our Commitment Ceremony did. That’s why each year we celebrate the 10th of May as our real anniversary and usually forget the date we got married in August, often remembering it came and went a day or two after the fact. This year was our Tenth Anniversary and we returned to Ptown for a long weekend celebration as we do every year. The restaurant has changed hands, changed names and menus twice and added a big covered deck in front. Benny works at another restaurant. It would be nice to have been able to have a lovely dinner at the old place again, but even if it was still our restaurant, we could never capture that glorious evening again. And that’s just how it should be too.

lastDance

The last dance of the night