As you may have noticed, my blog has been silent for about a week. Life became hectic with final exams and the close of yet another semester. But once grades were finally averaged and submitted, my husband whisked me away to Provincetown, Massachusetts (my birthday gift), and we spent a glorious four day/three night vacation on the tip of Cape Cod, where we stayed at the Carpe Diem (our Ptown B&B of choice) not just because it’s a beautiful bed and breakfast, but because we adore the men–Rainer, Jurgen, and Hans–who run it.
Provincetown is the best place on this planet partly because of the people who live there. The townies, which is what the the year round residents of this historical town are called, are warm and inviting. In fact, they give southerners a run for their money in terms of hospitality and congeniality. Their smiles are genuine, and they go out of their way to make visitors and other residents feel welcome. There’s a deep sense of community here far richer than any other place I’ve experienced that make it more than just a town. It’s part of who they are, and it’s fast becoming part of who my husband and I are as well.
You see, we typically visit Provincetown during the summer, but we wanted to experience what Ptown was like in the colder climate of its off season.
During the summer, the town is a blur of activity. Barely dressed boys hurry down Commercial Street, dodging not only bicyclists and a bevy of other barely dressed boys but also the never ending cars that insist on driving down the pedestrian clogged one way street. Drag queens and event promoters hawk their shows while zooming down the street on scooters or bikes or simply sashaying about in sequins and big wigs. Restaurants and lodgings are filled to capacity and the dance floors and clubs are packed with sweaty revelers intent on having a good time.
But in the off season, when the majority of the tourists have gone home, Provincetown transforms into something entirely different and just as spectacular. With the coming colder climate, the pace slows, and many don’t venture outdoors. A handful of tourists and townies can be spotted walking up and down Commercial, frequenting the few businesses that remain open in the off season. The drag queens all but vanish, and the shows that once lit up Commercial grow dark. The empty venues are boarded up with signs thanking passersby for a “great season” and promising to see us again in the spring.
What was once a bustle of activity four to six months ago no longer exists. It’s almost as if the town has pulled a blanket over itself and settled down for a long Winter nap. But in that quiet, hidden within the folds of that comfortable blanket, resides the true Provincetown.
In the summer, she puts on her make up and does her best to look presentable to those who come and visit her while the sun is out, but when summer sets in Ptown, she casts off her make up, packs up her wigs and flashy outfits, and lets her hair down. She no longer has to put on a show for the year rounders who love her whether she’s all sparkly or not. Provincetown just has to be who she is.
While the town may feel empty, she’s far from it. She’s filled with townies who get together for game nights, pot lucks, and townie gift exchanges for Christmas. The bars, which are filled with dance music in the summer, become quiet social gatherings where people play darts, pool, and ping pong. Laughter and true conversation replace the music, and it’s beat is far sweeter than any remix a DJ could spin. After all, what could be more fun than playing darts with Thirsty Burlington (a Provincetown drag queen) when she’s out of drag and still fabulous? In fact, during the game, Thirsty said, “I’ve never seen a more loving game of darts ever played in my life.” And she was right.
We played darts not to win (even though my team did!). We played darts for the experience, for what we gained from it. It was about being together with our friends and our loved ones. It was about sharing the bond that Provincetown wraps around you when she welcomes you into her loving embrace. It’s about visiting a place that feels like home, that welcomes you as one of her own.
We’ve met more than one person who said they came to Ptown for the summer and never left. I certainly understand that sentiment all too well. So much so that we are in the process of securing property of our own in Provincetown. If we have our way, we’ll become a part of this town that has come to mean so much to us, and we will do her proud once we are official Townies ourselves.
Naturally, we’ll return to Provincetown next summer, and we’ll likely find her all gussied up as we are used to seeing her. But when I see her again, I’ll remember how she embraced me during the cold of December, and it’ll be that embrace I’ll return for. It will be the one I long to feel wrapped around me once again.