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.
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.