You may not know me, but you might recognize my silhouette.
I’m a pianist by trade, who has recently taken to traveling with local female impersonators and bolstering their talent. This periodical has asked me, in my trained capacity of finger-tapping, to give a description of some of the magical world that is drag show touring. And since it’s summertime, that means for us a visit to the sunny gay wonderland that is Provincetown. This is a collection of my experiences with the people, places, and things in this town for the season. I assure you that each anecdote is guaranteed as true as the name in my byline.
But first, some history. Provincetown, Massachusetts is a small sea-side town, with a population of about 3000. If Cape Cod is a flexing bicep, P-Town is the weak, oddly deformed fist. It was initially settled by some of the first pilgrims coming across from Europe, but after going to all the trouble of kicking out the native population even they realized that the land would make too good a tourist attraction in the future and relegated themselves further down the cape, like the proper martyrs they were. Later settlers formed the beginnings of the rugged fishing community that would come to typify the land. Beards, turtlenecks, wool caps: men roamed the shores looking like hirsute circumcised penises of the beatnik generation. The town eventually became a popular retreat for playwrights wanting to find the “working man’s” experience, which led to acting companies making a foothold in the land, which today has led to a basically drag-based summer economy. Performers mingling with longshoremen, leathered gay men walking amongst tourist families and mom and pop stores; think Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow meets Pike Place Market meets Pony and you’re on the right track.
There are three ways to get to Provincetown, or P-Town as the fans call it. Driving up the cape takes the longest, but is reliable. The ferry is the most popular option; a true statement for most of P-Town during the summer. This author took the third choice: flying from Boston by Cessna. This is that singular type of plane recognized by it’s piston engine, high wings, and the fact that your average teenager is taller than one. A Cessna is to a regular passenger plane as a baby is to an adult human. And, similarly, riding to Provincetown in a Cessna has the same feel of safety and comfort as riding a baby might. There’s a trundling quality to the flight, a rockiness that suggests the plane would be just as comfortable flying you to your destination as it would diving nose first into the watery depths below. Add to this the fact that your knee-to-neck with eight other passengers, and you begin to understand why people make such fast friends in this brightly-lit beach town: they never know when a moment may be their last.
Next week, we’ll see some of the inner-workings of P-Town, the more adored performers who make their summer livings here, and find the best pizza on the main drag (hint: it’s the place that’s open after the bars close). Join us then, won’t you? Either way, remember friends: we’re all stuck here.