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mazy goes to the dog walk ~ santa fe, nm ~ july 23, 2011

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thoughts on provincetown ~ october, 2010

THE SAN FRANCISCO OF THE EAST?

to celebrate our first anniversary, tim and i decided to go to provincetown. i had never been there before, but i had heard vague rumors about this p-town — “it’s the san francisco of the east!” — and despite this dire warning, in early november, 2006, we loaded up the truck and headed east towards the ocean. once there, we made a left.

we arrived and got ourselves set up at this very sweet little bed and breakfast. during the whole checking-in-and-chatting-with-the-very-nice-gay-owner process, a slow realization began to occur. although it was well into autumn — and therefore the off-season for provincetown — there was apparently some big event happening that very same weekend. what event? oh you know, the meet your man in provincetown weekend; the one where all these single guys from all over the eastern seaboard come to p-town in the hopes of finding the perfect one-night-stand and/or marriage proposal.

i don’t know what your reaction to this bit of news might be, but my own response might have been accurately described as non-plussed. to spend our first anniversary in a charming, gay-friendly town perched at the end of a terminal moraine is one thing. to spend it on a gay singles cruise is quite another. but what can one do? one has paid for the room and one has already learned and forgotten the names of not only the hosteler but two other guests. it is past the point of equivocation.

rather than go into long and dreary detail about the various things that happened during the meet your man in provincetown/wichland-inocencio anniversary weekend 2006, allow me to summarize my findings re: provincetown, ma.

what i learned about provincetown on my first anniversary:

  • mostly, it’s a lot of older white guys ~ if older white guys are your thing, you can’t do much better than p-town. it’s like palm springs, only wetter.
  • some of you might say, now whoah, they can’t all be older white guys. aren’t there also younger white guys? ~ to which i say, yes i suppose but how useful is that distinction really?
  • it is a very charming place ~ there are plenty of places to get organic, local coffee, dogs are welcome almost everywhere, and there are more tchotchke shops and art galleries than you could possibly want to enter, much less browse. let’s say you wanted a little embroidered patch, about the size of your thumbnail, shaped like the state of new mexico. i’m 100% sure you can find it in provincetown.
  • it is NOT the san francisco of the east ~ it is the ogunquit of the south.
  • it closes early ~ bars start kicking people out at about 12:45am, so if you’re going to meet cute with someone, you better work fast. no dilly dallying with things like conversation. just take off your shirt and start licking.
  • the best thing about provincetown ~ being with tim. honestly. several people figured out this closely guarded secret and tried to be with tim too. poor thing.

i willingly cop to any perceived negativity in the above summary. for those of you who know me, well you know; for those of you who don’t, oh well! i’m sure there are plenty of folks who think provincetown is the bees knees and the best thing since sliced bread. i myself am slightly uncomfortable there and this colors my perceptions. why uncomfortable? hmmm. maybe i’ll get into that another time. oh, one more important finding:

provincetown is NOT cape cod ~ there are lots of wonderful things in provincetown. there are even more wonderful things tucked away in the secret corners and hidden folds of cape cod. one of the best things about visiting provincetown is leaving provincetown.

almost 4 years later, tim and i found ourselves in provincetown once again. having been there once before, i felt better prepared than i had been during my first visit. this time around it was halloween, and the powers that be had decided that the most appropriate theme would be…wait for it…harry potter! hmmm.

this meant that tucked in amongst the folks dressed like bedbugs, chilean miners (there were veritable troupes of these guys), smurfs, drag queens, gladiators, cops, cowboys, zombie bedbugs, zombie chilean miners, zombie smurfs, zombie drag queens, zombie gladiators, zombie cops, and zombie cowboys were maybe 6 people dressed like characters from the harry potter movies. i counted 1 ron weasley, 1 hermione granger, 3 harry potters and 1 member of hogwart’s faculty. and they were pissed. one gentleman with long white beard and star-covered robe wandered past us and, giddy, i hollered, “professor dumbledore!”

“finally!” he shrieked “everyone fucking thinks i’m fucking santa claus! this is supposed to be a harry potter themed event, assholes!”

“whoah,” said tim, “that guy’s pissed.”

we closed out the night at the atlantic house, the best place to go dancing in p-town. the music was good, the folks were friendly, and until the shirts started coming off and the underwear contest started, i was more than content to just stand around and watch the gays grappling with their gayness. after that, i was pretty much ready to head back to the quiet autumn chill of our almost abandoned campground, a wonderful 10 miles away from this, the beating heart of gay new england.

if you’ve never been, here are some 360-degree quicktime vrs that capture some of the magic, charm and absurdity of provincetown. if you have been, here’s a reminder of the things you love/hate about our p-town. (just click on the large squares to get started.)

portuguese square ~ provincetown, ma (click on the above square to load a 360-degree qtvr. you can click and hold to rotate; click the +/- to zoom in and out)

pilgrims monument ~ provincetown, ma (click on the above square to load a 360-degree qtvr. you can click and hold to rotate; click the +/- to zoom in and out)

ross’ grill on halloween ~ provincetown, ma (click on the above square to load a 360-degree qtvr. you can click and hold to rotate; click the +/- to zoom in and out)

one last sad little story: as the meet your man in provincetown/wichland-inocencio anniversary 2006 came to a close, tim and i found ourselves tucked into our cozy room. we had abandoned the clubs early and wandered the moonlit streets of p-town, happy and in love, until we found our way back to the aerie house. we had no idea what time it was until our neighbor, a single guy, banged his way up the stairs, down the hallway, and crashed heavily into his room.

he turned on the television, flipped through a few channels and then popped in a dvd. in a few moments, the melancholy strains of the soundtrack to brokeback mountain began to thread their way into our room. this was followed by the sound of our neighbor, who had decidedly NOT met his man in provincetown, sobbing.

apparently, my friend, it gets better. let’s hope so for all of our sakes.

canyonlands national park ~ southern utah


DEATH BY NEEDLES

if you want to skip ahead, there is a slideshow and an audio recording of tim talking about why he loves the needles district of canyonlands national park with such intensity. however, if you are willing to wait, and you want to read the story of how tim and i almost lost our lives in this unbelievably beautiful corner of the world, continue on.

the first big trip that tim and i took was in 2006. we caught amtrak’s lakeshore limited from springfield to chicago. we got off the train long enough to have a quick lunch with my chicago besties, wenner, freddie and m, and then we boarded the southwest chief and headed down towards albuquerque.

anyway, it was a long trip and very eventful. (ask tim about his relationship with our traincar attendant and why it was so awkward…seriously it’s worth it). after many adventures involving a tiny hyundai that we got from alamo rental and my first introduction to tim’s sister katja, we found ourselves entering canyonlands national park . what with all of our dilly-dallying in moab, we got a much later start than we had intended. still, it was a beautiful day, sunny and brisk, and we were very excited to be out on the trail.

you should know that it was march, and that winter still had a firm grip on the canyonlands. with the full sun pouring down on us, it was very comfortable for hiking, but in the slot canyons or in the shade, the air was brisk, edged with cold. we hiked up through the first pass and entered elephant canyon. a barely believable landscape passed around us; red sandstone spires giving way to wide sage-dotted plains, twisted bodies of junipers, and bright porcelain sky. we followed the dry bed of elephant creek, stair-stepping on god-sized risers of perfectly formed granite. and then we arrived at druid arch . for those of you who followed that link, i know, right? it’s beautiful! supposedly, it’s called druid arch because it looks like a celtic rune.

tim and i hung out at the arch for a good long while, taking photos and exploring the nooks and crannies along the canyon. then we continued on, making our way slowly to chesler park. we stopped at a grand overlook and ate our meager picnic lunch. we watched the sun began to settle towards the horizon. when we consulted the map, a slow horror began to creep into our consciousness. we had an 8-mile hike back to the parking lot and about 2 hours of sunlight to do it. this, through fairly demanding terrain, the path trailing up and around sandstone spires, disappearing into slot canyons, and climbing from the desert floor up through layers of geologic time. we checked our daypack and discovered that we only had one headlamp. the layers that we had brought along, which had felt so substantial in the noonday sun, began to feel meager and thin. we had no emergency blanket, no more food, and not a whole lot of water.

our pace quickened. the sun’s rays began to diffuse behind a layer of purple clouds crowding the horizon. darkness spread, swallowing the shadows like a rising tide. we decided to hike as long as possible without the aid of the headlamp. we had no idea how long the batteries would last and once we started relying on its light, we would be fully dependent on it. in the azure light of dusk, the path remained barely visible in our sensitized retinae; a pale ribbon twisting between the variegated darkness of plant life and cryptobiotic soil.

as if toying with us, the sky began to spit down a cold rain. lightning played on the horizon, illuminating what looked like a massive storm front heading towards us. my adrenaline addled mind began to frantically pursue possible outcomes. would we survive if we were forced to spend the night out in the wilds? would hypothermia claim us? would sharing body heat be sufficient? would anyone know we were still out here, scared and rushing heedlessly through the darkness?

eventually, the trail led us onto an undulating rock floor and then disappeared in its constant, monochrome surface. from here, our only guides were tiny, widely spaced cairns that stitched their way through a landscape made treacherous by sudden dropoffs and unexpected chasms. in the failing light, the cairns were all but invisible. we stumbled on, terrified of losing our way. the cold rain intensified. we turned on the headlamp and began casting about in the darkness, searching for the trail markers. when one of us couldn’t find the next one, the other would take the lead. slowly, in this staggering, frightened way, we continued on.

my memory began playing tricks on me. were we going in circles? had we rejoined the path that first led us into elephant canyon? finally, just as i was about to suggest that we stop and try to find a place to shelter for the night, we crested a low rise. tim shone the headlamp into the blankness ahead and uttered a cry of relief. he had seen the hyundai’s reflectors shining in the lamp’s pale beam. we had made it back to the parking lot!

giddy with relief, we hurried to the car and got in. somehow, the simple act of closing the doors made us feel safer. we hugged and high-fived, congratulating ourselves on surviving the ordeal. the awareness of how tenuous our situation had been came crashing down. if we had begun to bicker or lay blame, if we had taken one wrong step, one of us could have twisted an ankle or fallen and broken a leg. or worse. we could have lost the path and ended up wandering aimlessly, searching for a path that wasn’t there. we could have been soaked by the coming rain and succumbed to exposure or hypothermia. giddiness was replaced by wonder. how had we escaped unscathed?

as we left the park, a strange, almost surreal series of events taught us the price of our survival. in the few miles separating our parking space from a generous bed and a comfortable night waiting for us in bluff, ut a total of 14 desert hares streaked out of the darkness and sacrificed themselves to the hyundai. by way of comparison, in the entire 1 year and 4 months of this endless road trip, we have killed exactly zero animals. that night, we killed 14; the last of which lay down in front of us just as we turned into the sleeping town of bluff; just as tim uttered the words, “well at least we aren’t going to kill any more rabbits.”

in this sad way, we learned how much the canyonlands required in order to spare our puny human lives.

our latest visit to the canyonlands was much less eventful. we enjoyed a beautiful day with pati and andy, marveled at the incredible beauty of this sublime landscape, and made it back to our campsite without injury or loss of animal life. the canyonlands had accepted our sacrifice.

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