Archives for posts with tag: Fire Island Pines New York

Penny Arcade

Gay men in Los Angeles told researchers that they believed a culture that focuses on one-night stands and partying, that emphasizes perfect bodies and good looks, that prizes material possessions, that sees gay men tearing each other down as they compete for attention and that pressures gay men to fit in or conform is bound to create unhappiness, stress and unhealthy behaviors.

The word on the street in gay resort/haven Provincetown?  The straights are coming, they are coming thick and fast, young affluent heterosexuals buying property, renting holiday apartments and day tripping.  I was reassured by a cool, 31-year-old, straight person yesterday that this was the heterosexual ‘tipping point’.  Of course (if true) the reasons are obvious.  The older more affluent crowd of gay men and lesbians who bought affordable homes here twenty years ago are simply not that interesting to a less ghettoized younger gay crowd who go to Fire Island or Mykonos where a good gay thumping time is assured, where they can find an affordable share for the summer… anyway, the drag is so much better the closer you get to NYC.

Provincetown Garden

Young straight men and women who used to actively avoid hanging in gay ghettos… or felt uncomfortable no longer have any reservation.  This, my dears is one of the more unexpected changes that comes with ‘integration’.  Our gay communities, gay clubs and gay bars will dilute as we become more heteronormative.

How do the gays feel about straight people buying into the gay and lesbian ghetto dream?  I hear grumblings from some, but what can they say?  We can’t restrict straight people from joining the party?  Before the great shift, the Obama ‘evolution’, the Blair/Mandleson equality bill I would regularly challenge straight people who came to our clubs and bars, wondering why they were there… if they understood why gays and lesbians created safe spaces for themselves… now apparently we all live in a safe space… together.

If the war is won do we abandon the notion of a safe space, a gay bar, an LGBTQ community? Is that what we were fighting for?  As it turns out, gay men are still living shameful and secretive lives… safely hidden from prying eyes.  No longer behind the blacked out windows of the gay bar but on the internet where we can fully reinvent ourselves as muscle-bound avatars, 10 years younger than we really are.

The gay bar, meanwhile… becomes a themed experience for enlightened neo-liberal heterosexuals.  After all, gay men don’t need to meet one another in real life when we can meet on-line, reducing our interaction before a sexual encounter to the barest possible exchange of relevant facts.  Hung? Looking? Party?

The same heterosexual land grab is happening in the Fire Island Pines gay community.  Straight people are buying and renting homes at a faster rate than gay people. Of course… the truth is, we never really owned the lions share of Fire Island Pines… it was always owned by straight people.  Three heterosexual families who control The Pines real estate market.

In San Francisco‘s iconic gay area The Castro we are facing extinction in our natural habitat, bought out/selling out to silicone valley billions.  What are we left with?  Our sad LGBT ‘pride’ parade: a blinded corporate-sponsored dinosaur serving only the breweries and distilleries, no longer a political defiance… no longer worth a pilgrimage by those newly out yearning to see gays en masse… the gay parade and all it seeks to celebrate merely adds to our woes, confirming the worst about who we have become.

Little Dog

How long will it take for Provincetown to lose its unique identity and become just another Cape Cod town? The Pines,  just another beach community on Fire Island?  How long will it take for our history to be lost, forgotten or ignored by apathetic gay white men who have no interest in those who came before?  The heroes who fought decades of violent oppression, the ‘gay plague’, who demanded equality… how long will it be until their names are erased?

Do you know who they are?  Harvey Milk… and…

The politics of invisibility.

As the quality of our lives collectively ‘improves’, as we ‘integrate’ due to the passing of progressive equality laws why are we still facing a crisis?  Why do gay men continue to struggle with life-threatening health problems at alarmingly high rates compared to straight men — alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicide, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Gay and bisexual men are still most impacted by HIV/AIDS and syphilis, they suffer higher rates of substance abuse, they are more likely to drink heavily later into life, and they are more likely to commit suicide and suffer major depression and anxiety and bipolar disorders.

Gay men with mental health problems are more likely to use illegal drugs and commit suicide. Or regularly using drugs and alcohol can lead to risky sexual behavior, which increases the likelihood of getting infected by an STD.

Our health problems, in other words, are feeding into each other, we’re literally killing ourselves through suicide, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS at higher rates than straight men.  Let’s say that again: We are killing ourselves at higher rates than straight men through suicide, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS.

Some gays are quick to point to the stresses of living as a gay man in an overwhelmingly straight world — one that passes anti-gay laws and constantly spews homophobic rhetoric — as a reason for mental health and substance abuse problems. With that argument, they are coming very close to saying that we are powerless victims who have little control over our own lives and choices, that homophobes have more power over us.

That’s a ridiculous notion — lethal and self-defeating.

Since homophobia still exists and is not going away any time soon, the victim theory, if embraced, dooms us to a life of external, homophobic stressors that forces us to drink too much, commit suicide too frequently and get depressed too often.

The quote is from the LA Weekly.  You can read it HERE.

 

 

Go, then! Then go to the moon-you selfish dreamer!

I left Fire Island on Wednesday.  Driving north with my Persian friend Iliad.  The clouds were low, the air muggy and thick.  We took the ferry from Orient Point to New London, there was a British aristocrat on the ferry stitching needle point.  Beautiful raspberry and pistachio coloured yarn.

My intention is to return to Fire Island… maybe…. next month.  The last couple of days there blighted by torrential rain and chilly winds.  Friends came, David visited from NYC for the day and Lorne made an appearance but mainly to fetch his forgotten/lost bag.

May proved to be chillier than I remember.  Memorial Day and the biscotti queens came and went.  John, the owner of the house arrived and made everything broken… work.  I cooked a huge dinner and he and his friends the Scots seemed to love it.  Andrew from Dover Street Market swept in wearing incredibly chic pants.   John baked Halibut en cocotte.

During the week those of us who stayed were thrown together at the Canteen (I think they call it The Cultured Elephant) and it’s true when they say that one makes gay acquaintances in the city and gay friends on Fire Island.  I got to hang with the resort staff who are genuinely the sweetest, most handsome men… see above.   They have a grueling season ahead of them, working the bars, the clubs, the hotel and the restaurants.  Only the most robust will survive.  It’s a tough, unforgiving business serving entitled, demanding gay men.  The day before I headed North one of the newbies left the island in tears, torn apart by gay unreasonableness.

I met Joey the little person who is a particularly inspiring soul.  I was in awe of his ability to be the hugest man in his little body.  He has a captivating story.

Everyone has a Fire Island Pines story.   There are love affairs and breakups, tears on the boardwalk and fights in the elegant cedar homes.  There are couples and  thruples and orgies, there are undignified old men last gasping for their youth.  Wide eyed first timers arrive on the ferry, amazed that such a place as Fire Island Pines exists.  I remember that day, the first day Joe-Baily  brought me to Fire Island 25 years ago.  I will never forget it.

Everyone has a story.  I was told one hundred times by stick thin youths that they were too fat or not pretty enough to meet the man of their dreams.  They told me that boys talk to them in real life like they do on Grindr.  “Hung?” as an opening gambit.  “Party?”  “Looking?”  The single word pick up.  So lazy and charmless.  I did not envy them, these young boys… so far from serenity.   Of course, not all young gay boys are wracked with self-doubt.  I met young gay men who were comfortable and confident and conquering all… whilst the vulnerable fell by the wayside or let old men blow them at the dick dock.

There’s a degree of gay anarchy on the island.  Every one of the local laws are broken every day by almost everyone.

The AA meetings are vile.  The recovering alcoholics looking down their nose at those who drink and take drugs.   I met a dozen gay men who were once sober who now drink… taken out by a beautiful boy and a meth pipe.

One story particularly moved and disturbed me.  A grey eyed, erudite black boy no more than 28 years old who works for a renowned artist.   We met on the beach and he described his Fire Island experience.   He was embarrassed to tell me that he had encountered a great deal of racism during his time at The Pines.  There are few black people on Fire Island and now I know why.

I made it to Ptown.  I had dinner with Benoit the night I arrived, we ate fish and chips.  The ex-gay story he wrote for the New York Times Magazine is now a film produced by Gus Van Sant, starring James Franco and Zachary Quinto.  I am very proud of him.  Except… it’s another entirely white cast.   Why? Why? Why?

Yesterday, a local fisherman brought two pounds of freshly caught lobster knuckles that we shucked for dinner.

The dogs loved Fire Island.  They miss it!  Dude and The Little Dog bounding up the boardwalk, chasing rabbits and deer.  They are a little more restricted here even though we live directly on the beach and they are allowed to walk unleashed.   Today we walked a mile or so to the West End and visited the pier shack where Tennessee Williams wrote The Glass Menagerie on a stolen type writer.

The Shack where Tennessee Williams wrote to Glass Menagerie

My favorite and the most obviously poignant Tennessee Williams line from The Glass Menagerie:

I didn’t go to the moon, I went much further-for time is the greatest distance between two places.

Which made me think momentarily about Jake Bauman who I kinda owe my love of both Cape Cod and the Catskills.  Both of whom he introduced me.  If he hadn’t mentioned them with such fondness… I wouldn’t have explored them years later.   There are times when I wonder about those crazy few months with Jake.  They sure seem indelible.   There are brief moments when I wish I could pick up the phone and ask him how he is and what his life is like now.  Then I think better of it and let the memory, the moment… the past… slip back into the black, bombazine black water of what was but could never be.

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I’m trying to write everything down but somehow the past few weeks have blurred into one long delicious adventure.

NYC and back again in the car.

Let me remember.

I drove east through death valley and this was the temperature:

Death Valley 118 Degrees

I drove through Utah during the day which was very wise.  Utah is very beautiful.  Devastatingly beautiful.

Emery Utah 2

You see.  I can’t find the words.

I stopped in Des Moines and enjoyed the state building and the wonderful contemporary sculpture park given to the community by John and Mary Pappajohn, a Des Moines venture capitalist and his wife.

I met a young hair dresser with blue hair.

Capital Building Des Moines

18 Year Old Des Moines Hairdresser

I stopped in Chicago and met a huge football player.

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I spent the 4th July in Chicago. The Fireworks terrified Dude, my little brown dog.

July 4th Boys

I arrived in NYC.  Just in time for the horrible heat wave.

It was so hot I had to leave the dogs inside the apartment during the day or risk them dying of heat exhaustion.

I sat uncomfortably in AA meetings.

I stayed on the upper west side.  A block from Central Park.

Central Park

We walked every day off leash at dawn around the Great Lawn.  We saw beautiful young men exercising.  We, being me and the dogs.

I explored Red Hook and saw a band at Dustin Yellin‘s place called Guerilla Toss.

Guerilla Toss

I met a beautiful man in the street and kissed him.

Sparky

Why was I there?

I had gone east to reclaim my gayness after months of feeling like an ex-gay.   Hanging onto the word queer as the only way to describe my isolation from the gays.

New York.

I spent my birthday at the cloisters with Richy.

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I read from my blog at a Lower East Side gallery and they paid me for doing so.

I met more interesting people on the street.

Michael 2

I helped a friend edit his movie.

Then, unable to stand the searing heat a moment longer, I drove to Sayville taking the first ferry to Fire Island.  The Pines.

I rented a small house on Cedar Walk but didn’t spend any time there at all.

From the moment I arrived I had one extraordinary experience after another.

Pines Domestic Life

I met cool people,  and coveted their things.

Beautiful FIP crockery

I was invited into their homes and onto their yachts, I met their friends and ate their food.  I returned their hospitality by paying for them as and when they would let me.

I walked to Cherry Grove where I had breakfast with John Walters.

I had dinner with Andy Tobias…

Andy Tobias

… in my favorite Fire Island Pines home.

My Favorite FIP House

Duncan Roy

I met a gang of charming gay men from NYC who were kind and considerate.

I spent time with all of them in the city once I returned.

This one is called Jon.

John Stevens Naked

As I let myself fall into the gay Fire Island days I began to remember how much fun being gay is.  Even if I was sober and a little bit older.

I walked the beach.

Fire Island Pines Beach

I had a huge old man crush on this beautiful boy:

Ian

Who worked here:

FIP Barman

I saw Justin Bond.

Justin Bond an Joan Fontein

I looked in at the house where we lived for so many years.

Grey Gardens FIP

And I met more men.

Blue Eyes

I spent time on my own.  I found an abandoned cock ring on the board walk.

Abandoned Cock Ring

I walked miles of boardwalks with the dogs who came home covered in tiny ticks.

Boardwalk Fire Island Pines

I finally met a beautiful man who left for India but lives in Paris who stole my head/heart.

I was so god damned happy.

The morning after the Pines Party I prepared to leave.

The Morning after the Pines Party

After ten days I took the ferry, then another ferry to Provincetown.

Provincetown Beach

I rented a small apartment on the beach and met more men.

Beautiful Man

I hung with my friend Benoit Denizet Lewis but the sparkle that used to exist between us has gone.

Benoit Denizet Lewis

We explored the graveyard.  We found Norman Mailer’s grave and a pretty headstone with a small dog carved into it.

Dog Grave

I ate a great deal but didn’t put on any weight as I walked so many miles every day.

I found this beautiful ceramic mirror frame:

Owl Mirror Frame Provincetown

I met more men.

Bulgarian Boat Boy

Eventually I drove back to New York and stayed with friends.  This is their view:

NYC View

I partied with Jeremy Kost…

…and his friend.

I had dinner with Dan at Mary’s Fish Camp.

Dan Hyman

I had dinner with Thom at my club on the roof by the pool:

Thom

I wore this chic watch:

Rolex

We worked on my film.

Franck in the office

Then, after another week in the city I took the car all the way home again.

I met a hitch hiker who travelled all the way to California.  His name is Albert.

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I stayed in The Lincoln Hotel in Chicago.

Bartender

Christian

I stayed in Denver.

Zach

I stayed in Utah.

We drove from Cedar City to LA in half a day.

We drove up the mountain in Malibu, up the drive and finally slept in our own bed.

It has been misty and cool.

Malibu Marine Layer

The first time Joe ever took me to Fire Island Pines I was immediately convinced that something I had always hankered existed: a place where gay men and women of all ages could live together, experience life together and express themselves without shame.

I have heard from black friends who traveled to Africa for the first time that they experienced a sense of truly understanding how it might be to live an unfettered life.

There are exceptions.

I have just finished reading A Black Man Confronts Africa.

From 1991 to 1994, Keith Richburg was based in Nairobi as the Africa bureau chief for the Washington Post. He traveled throughout Africa, from Rwanda to Zaire, witnessing and reporting on wars, famines, mass murders, and the complexity and corruption of African politics.

Unlike many black Americans who romanticize Africa, Richburg looks back on his time there and concludes that he is simply an American, not an African-American. This is a powerful, hard-hitting book, filled with anguished soul-searching as Richburg makes his way toward that uncomfortable conclusion.

I am a gay (adopted) American.   I do not belong.  The laws of the land preclude me from being truly equal.  The streets are periodically mine but not consistently.  Really?  I thought things had changed for the gays?  Strangely, post Will and Grace things have not changed.  I urge any one of you (gay or straight) who think things may have changed for gay people in contemporary USA (and I have said this many times over):  Try holding your same sex friends hand in a street anywhere other than NYC or LA.

See what happens.

Returning to Fire Island this summer for the first time in a decade I am excited to see how things have evolved since I lived there and if the idyl I first experienced still exists.

The beautiful beach, the beautiful boys, the sunset and sunrise…no cars.   Dinner prepared by groups of men who sit down together and share.  Share being the operative word.  What ever share you may have in the house you are renting…doing things collectively is the modus operandi.

Have I idealized my memory of this slim sand bank set at the edge of the Atlantic?  Have, within a decade, my memories been burnished?

I wonder.

Firstly, finding a house to rent has been quite hard.  I guess my demands are not normal by gay Fire Island Pines standards.  When searching for a house I made it quite clear to the realtor that I am sober.  I do not drink and I do not take drugs.  I told him that I was not interested in the big gay beach parties (drug festivals).  That I am going there to write.

Almost every house that I looked at was a ‘party’ house.  Almost every person I spoke to told me that they wanted to have fun…read that as excessive drinking, drug taking and sexual unmanageability.

Having a sober person around might mean curtailing the ‘fun’.

I have heard that The Pines has become quite trashy.  I have heard that they have ruined the ambiance.

The über gays have long since deserted The Pines for The Hamptons.  Aping upper-class American straight people rather than investing in the peculiarities of The Pines.

What is it that draws me back there?  What is it that I loved so much?

Well, Joe and I had a wonderful time together in our pretty little house.  It was the nexus of gay culture and me.  For the first time in my life I saw both old and young gay people going about their business (during the day) just like common people.  Fetching their shopping on small, red carts.  Dressing up, holding hands, not dressing up…alone.

For the first time in my life I felt as if I owned the space around me, that I could not be judged in this place.

Until I got there I believed those things to be true but I had been kidding myself.

Just getting there from Manhattan was an adventure.  The car to Sayville.  The ferry ride from Sayville to the island,  the palpable excitement of the passengers.  The great piles of supplies and dogs and suitcases.

Thank you Joe for taking me there.

The first man I saw when I scrambled down the gang-plank was an elderly man with a stick walking slowly along the board walk.  It delighted me.  “Is everyone gay here Joe?”  I thought to myself that there was indeed a place where I could be free when I was his age.  I knew even then in my late 20’s that being old and gay was going to be difficult.  My premonition has come to pass.  Being old and gay is going to be horrible from what we found out when researching The Scarlett Empress.

Unless, of course you have a spare $160, 000 to buy a surrogate child who might look after you.

I had thought about going back to Whitstable in my dotage but not even Whitstable holds much allure to me.  Being the old gay man in town…I have seen the way we are treated.

When I arrived at The Pines I understood how life might play out.  The options.  I looked around and even though the bars were full of very drunk gays (I was one of them) the look on their faces was different.  They looked relaxed, they looked happy.

We went to gay bingo, we involved ourselves with the gay fire department.  We had opinions about dune reclamation.  We walked barefoot to the beach and watched the beautiful naked men play ball and walk their dogs.  We paid for limousines from JFK for our friends and delighted them with our house, our gay lives.

Our routine rarely altered.  Watching the sunset, hanging out on the dock to see who would get off the ferry.  Buying expensive food at The Pines Pantry…the store was just like any store but crammed with fancy queens buying $100 steaks.

When I got sober the AA meetings were quite small on Fire Island…now they are huge.

I really have no idea what it will be like to live out there once again for the summer.

I am excited at the prospect.

Of course there are other places where one might feel free, where YOU might feel free.  Perhaps you have already found your very own utopia elsewhere.

The Fire Island Pines experience is short-lived.  In September this utopia is disassembled.  The grand houses are shuttered, the store closes, the ferry comes but once a day.

There are other places for us to go.  Unless we vanish.  Those of us who look kindly upon our strange ‘culture’ can find our tribe elsewhere.

Not until I got to San Francisco did I have that sense of belonging once again.  Where the streets were mine.  The neighborhoods belonged to us.  Where fear and shame were banished.

Like Keith Richburg I am aware of the anthropological problems but still happy to have experienced the adventure.   Let me for a moment love it all without criticism, let me love what we have carved out for ourselves both good and bad and celebrate our difference.  Celebrate.

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