Home, for now: A windswept beach, with brilliant open skies overhead and welcoming restaurants and bars nearby

Well, this prompt is a good way to catch up with what I started last spring!

Provincetown is home, for now. I love it. I intend to stay as long as it feels right. I’m trying not to hold on too tightly to any ideas about what that means.

Why does it feel important not to hold on too tightly? Well, for starters, Cape Cod as a whole is mostly just a giant sandbar. And Ptown is way, way out on the tip and most of it is not very high. Then there’s the building my apartment is in, which is right on the water, and not very high above it. So, you know. Now that I live here, I see that I (unlike most of the seasonal workers or people who have Ptown-based jobs) do have options for other places to live, but it’s still a very tight and expensive housing market.

wooden steps with ocean waves at foot of stairs
High tide at a new moon.

But back to the good parts of that windswept beach (which is *right* behind my building): it’s a big part of why I’m happy here. I can’t see it from my apartment, but I can hear the water when there are waves (often there aren’t), and if I go out my front door, turn right, and walk 30 feet I can stand at the deck railing and just let the wide open sky and the water sink in.

pink and blue clouds in sunset over water
Sunset looking east from my back deck.

It’s so much brighter here than in a city, even when it’s not summer. The buildings are lower and sometimes farther apart, and there’s lots of reflected light.

And finally, the fact that there are lots and lots of gay people here is deeply wonderful. Also plenty of restaurants and bars with a wide variety of food and beverages. During the off-season, of course, there are not as many options, but the variety is still good. I do miss Indian and Korean food, though. A lot.

selfie of Kenneth on the deck of the Boatslip at tea dance with a pride flag and the Provincetown harbor in the background
Me at tea dance at the Boatslip.

So much for #adventurous60 as a new blog start!

But hope springs eternal. My friend Heather has provided 30 prompts, mostly drawn from a Facebook post I made on National Coming Out Day, to encourage me to write. I’ll do my best to keep up (and it remains to be seen if what I write in response to some of these will be something I want to share publicly).

  1. Home, for now: A windswept beach, with brilliant open skies overhead and welcoming restaurants and bars nearby
  2. I came out as a gay man slightly over 40 years ago (that’s 2/3 of my life). 
  3. In those years I’ve known joy and heartbreak. 
  4. I’ve loved men deeply and only a couple of times come to regret being involved with them. 
  5. I’ve accompanied some friends who’ve died and grieved many more (including housemates and coworkers). 
  6. I helped support the production of the first safer-sex pamphlet in San Francisco as part of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. 
  7. I’ve supported people doing hospice work and traveled in the Quaker ministry with a concern to get Friends to talk about AIDS. 
  8. I’ve had personal conversations with Evangelical and African Quakers about being gay. 
  9. I’ve been the occasion for a disagreement between private school administrators and ill-informed parents. 
  10. I’ve been attacked on the street on my way home from a bar with my lover. 
  11. I spent a year or so when my father wouldn’t speak to me. 
  12. I’ve experienced the rewards of rebuilding a relationship with my father. 
  13. I’ve been charged by police on horseback while protesting government inaction on AIDS. 
  14. I survived living in San Francisco during the beginning years of the AIDS epidemic. 
  15. I’m still often uncomfortable holding hands in public. 
  16. I’ve had sex with women, but do not consider myself bi or queer. 
  17. I marvel at how the world has changed in 40 years and sometimes struggle to keep up. 
  18. I struggle with the conflict between conforming to majority culture and being myself. 
  19. I wonder if I should present as “more gay” at work. 
  20. I have a boyfriend who has a husband, and everything about that feels great except for the distance away he lives ( ❤️❤️❤️ ).
  21. It’s National Coming Out Day, and these thoughts reflect my belief that social change often comes as a result of suffering. I celebrate with those who do not suffer for coming out, and with those who do not regret coming out even if they have suffered. I mourn and am angry with those who do not have a choice about coming out (or staying in) and with those who involuntarily suffer. I grieve the thousands who were outed in death and all those who are not alive to enjoy the changes that are happening around us. I’m committed to expanding the freedom and dignity afforded me to include those who have not benefited. I’m committed to continuing the struggle for full recognition of basic human rights for all people. I dream of a world where we can all flourish.
  22. Experienced spiritual practitioner. 
  23. Tarot neophyte. 
  24. Gay man. 
  25. Survivor of the plague years. 
  26. I wear a fairy crown but dress in denim and t‑shirts.
  27. As I review what I have written this month about my past, I notice that . . .
  28. As I read what I have written this month about my life right now, I see that . . .
  29. As I read what I have written the past month, I imagine this about the remaining years of my life.
  30. As I consider all of my writing this month, these are the things I plan to do.

Welcome to Provincetown!

Sonja not only helped me pack before the move, she drove down in the U‑Haul with me, and she also very kindly provided documentary photographs. (Bob also did an amazing amount of helping me pack, and he drove my cats to Provincetown. Madame Max cried the whole way. And I think Glencora peed in the carrier.)

Lots of stuff remains in the old apartment; some is destined for the trash, some for Goodwill, and some will still make it to Ptown over the next month.

The guys I hired to pack the truck did so in an hour, and Sonja and I set off slightly ahead of schedule. Which was nice, considering the fact that it was snowing at the time. There had been a snow emergency declared (on both ends of the trip), but it was lifted in Somerville shortly before we left. The traffic was light and the roads were pretty good through most of Boston. (We will not speak about the near-death experience in which the weather was not really a factor.)

For a ten-foot truck, it had a surprisingly cozy cab.

There were a few stretches as we headed south with more snow (like Duxbury), but it wasn’t until after we hit the Cape that we got into some pretty serious snowy driving (for a Southern California boy).

Welcome to Provincetown!

I was curious about what changes I would find in the apartment. It’s still a studio, but it’s no longer one room. There’s a new semi-wall and a barn door that somewhat closes off one end (sadly, it doesn’t close enough to confine the cats). The new surround for the bathtub came in cracked, and the new one hasn’t come in yet. There’s a broken pipe under the kitchen sink, so it’s unuseable and “I’ve called the plumber but I’m not sure when he’ll make it, because it’s Ptown.” (At which point Bob interjected the above welcome message.) There’s still a distinct aroma of paint in the air, and the closet-ish area on the back of the semi-wall hasn’t been finished—which is actually nice, because I asked for a shelf and a clothes rod instead of two clothes rods.

Two signs of being in a small town (really a village): a letter confirming my change of voter registration was already waiting for me; at least two people stopped to quite frankly stare at the moving while in process, while not actually saying hello.

I had to move the truck several times for the snowplows. The snow emergency in Provincetown wasn’t lifted until the evening. It wasn’t snowing very much by the time we got there, but it was enough to make carrying things across the street a bit unpleasant. The stairs are also pretty scary when wet.

At last a use for old art calendars. There were blinds in my apartment in Somerville, and I don’t have any curtains yet.

After a very nice (and filling) dinner at Ciro and Sal’s last night, Bob and Sonja went off to their rooms at a B&B, and I spent my first night in my new apartment. The cats eventually consented to visit me on the bed, but they are still far from their usual pushy selves. Today dawned bright and beautiful, and Sonja and Bob helped move the unpacking along much farther than I would have accomplished on my own. We had a nice brunch at Canteen and saw an art show, and I showed them the beachfront behind my building.

And now I’ve begun my exploration of the off-season restaurants (Blackfish, in the space where Local 186 is in the summer), and am about to collapse into bed before 8pm to try and fight off a cold.

Memory lane

Downsizing from a two-bedroom to a small studio in just a few weeks is a terrible idea. Especially when you’re a packrat who previously responded to the last rush before moving by just shoving piles of stuff in boxes. Which then went unpacked. I am paying for my sins now.

But on the other hand, I’ve come across things like a love note and photo from a boyfriend in the early 80s. And a piece of art by another boyfriend in the late 80s. Cards from friends and coworkers when I moved from Philadelphia to Boston. Photos (physical photos! in albums!) that I haven’t looked at in years.

And on a more mundane note, do you remember when you had to buy a box for World of Warcraft and use the CDs to install the game?

Perspective

One of the things that I’m hoping for from this move is a new perspective on my own life. But of course, it will change my perspective on all sorts of things, most directly, Provincetown itself.

I knew in an abstract way that off-season Ptown is quite a different place from what I’m familiar with in summer. I have friends and acquaintances who are posting on social media from the other side of the country (or the world). There are (very short) lists of what’s open on any given day.

But it really brings it home to make a post on Craigslist looking to hire some help unpacking a moving truck and get sixteen responses in a day and a half—many of those after I edited the post to say I probably have enough help. Lots of people who are unemployed in the off season. It will be interesting to be part of a community where I am unlike many around me by being, first, not retired; second, fully employed year-round; and third, employed with only one job (and that with shorter summer hours) during the season. (And for full disclosure, this summer I plan to be on sabbatical, so not working at all. Ahem.)

#adventurous60

I’ve picked a hashtag and everything. Which may use a little unpacking. I’ve received good advice to treat my upcoming move to Provincetown as an adventure. And this summer I will be turning 60. So, #adventurous60.

Downsizing from what will probably be rented as a two-bedroom apartment to a small studio (I suspect it’s not more than 350 square feet, if that) is a giant challenge. High on the list of difficult things to let go of are books, in spite of doing almost all of my reading digitally these days. Case in point: The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson. Purchased in 1976 in the Netherlands when I was working on a dairy farm for the summer in a Future Farmers of America program. Put in the “keep” pile because, well. Even though I haven’t touched it in years.

But no! Tonight I checked, and Dickinson’s poems are online. And so I will treasure my memories, let go of a book, and step out in adventure.

This Consciousness that is aware
Of Neighbors and the Sun
Will be the one aware of Death
And that itself alone

Is traversing the interval
Experience between
And most profound experiment
Appointed unto Men —

How adequate unto itself
Its properties shall be
Itself unto itself and none
Shall make discovery —

Adventure most unto itself
The Soul condemned to be —
Attended by a single Hound
Its own identity.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Oh my. Oh my goodness. Ann Leckie loved it, and I can see why. I am so very glad that there are three more on the way this year. The protagonist is a human/droid construct who calls itself Murderbot. I don’t love Murderbot quite as much as I love Breq (of Ann Leckie’s novels), but it comes very close.

The first sequel doesn’t drop until tomorrow, so today I started another of her series. (The Cloud Roads: The Books of the Raksura Book 1)

Ways to moderate Facebook’s influence in your life

Well, for starters, of course, you can just not use it. But if it’s a useful online watering hole/neighborhood pub/back fence, here are some ideas. I’m not an expert, but some of these are actually based on experience.

  • Do your writing on a blog and post the links on Facebook instead of writing in the posts. You can either customize or automate an excerpt or teaser to get people (hopefully) to go to your blog to read it.
  • And speaking of that blog, if you aren’t paying a webhost for it, that means there’s probably advertising on your blog that you may or may not have any control over, and which the blog host is using to make money off of you and your visitors.
  • Join some other social networks and do the same thing there (post links to your own hosted content).
  • Get your news from a news organization. If it is online, be prepared to pay for it.
  • If you see great information or entertainment (on Facebook or elsewhere), take the time to go to the original source and share that link on Facebook. If you are not already familiar with the source and confident in its veracity, try to confirm the facts first (or, you know, just don’t share it).
  • Don’t use Facebook to log in to anything that gives you an alternative.
  • Don’t imagine that Instagram is where you will go: it is owned by Facebook.
  • Google Plus is at least in the business of using your personal information for its own benefit, but don’t depend on it not  selling your information to others.
  • Always remember that if you are not paying for it, you are the product, not the customer. Keep asking who benefits and where the money is going.
  • Recognize your own role in whatever you think is a problem. Learn how to set your privacy settings; be skeptical; unfollow or unfriend people and pages liberally; remove the app from your phone. (If you can’t stop checking Facebook, that’s not Facebook’s fault, that’s something you need to figure out a way to deal with. /end cranky old man mode)
  • Don’t engage on Facebook with things you don’t want promoted. Facebook does. not. care. if you think something is funny, untrue, outrageous, or awful. If you respond in any way, it just increases the likelihood that your friends (who might never otherwise have seen it) will see it. If you share it, even to ridicule or debunk it, you are just helping to spread it around.
  • Look for other, niche social networks that will meet some of your needs. I am on a very quirky, obscure platform called Plurk (seemingly popular with teenage Korean girls), which is an outpost for groups of people from Second Life. One of the original attractions was that it didn’t police identity or names.