Guest post: What I Love – Provincetown, Massachusetts by Kate Scelsa

8 Sep

Today I’m very excited to welcome Kate Scelsa to One More Page as part of her Fans of the Impossible Life blog tour. Kate’s excellent debut is out on Thursday (10th September) in the UK from Macmillan and is released by HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray in the US today!!

Kate grew up in New Jersey, went to school at Sarah Lawrence College, and now lives in Brooklyn with her wife and two black cats. She spent much of 2002-2013 traveling the world with theater company Elevator Repair Service, performing in their trilogy of works based on great American novels, including an eight hour long show called “Gatz” that used the entire text of “The Great Gatsby.” Kate is currently collaborating with her dad, the legendary free form radio DJ Vin Scelsa, on “The Kate and Vin Scelsa Podcast,” now available on iTunes and SoundCloud. Today Kate is sharing her love of Provincetown, Massachusetts with us. Welcome Kate!

In my young adult novel Fans of the Impossible Life, best friends Mira and Sebby run away for a day to Provincetown, Massachusetts, which they discover after Googling “gayest beach town in North America.” They stay at a motel and sing karaoke at the Governor Bradford with a drag queen named Dana. This is my favorite part of the book. Here’s why:

I was on tour on my thirtieth birthday. The theater company that I worked for was in Boston, doing a residency at a college to develop our version of “The Sun Also Rises.” In the show I was playing Frances, a jilted woman whose fiancée leaves her for the beautiful and charming Lady Brett Ashley. But Frances doesn’t go quietly. Before she leaves the show (and the book) forever she lets out a hysterical four-page monologue about all the ways in which she has been wronged. The part nearly took my voice away many times. I delivered the final lines front and center, wine glass raised, spotlight stolen, yelling my crazy heart out. It was starting to make me feel crazy offstage too. But there were other reasons for that.

DORM

My dorm room. The balloon helped a little. Not much.

Some of us were spending the month living in college dorm rooms that had recently been renovated. Some obvious things had been overlooked in the renovation. Like the fact that there was no way to change the toilet paper rolls. And that my shower leaked onto the bathroom floor and then leaked into my bedroom. And for some reason we had to call a management company in Arizona to get the microwave in the kitchen turned on.

One morning forty ten-year-old boys showed up to stay across the hall from us. Apparently a camp had rented the rooms. Resident advisors called our company manger to inform us that we couldn’t drink alcohol in the common rooms. Did I mention that I was about to turn thirty?

My birthday ended up being special, but it’s what happened after that I want to remember here.

My wife Amanda had come up to Boston for the occasion, and she and I planned to PROVINCETOWN MAPgo to Provincetown for the weekend. Provincetown is at the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It’s the end of the road. No one passes through. It is only a destination. You can call it Ptown or Problemstown if you like.

On Friday after another rehearsal of yelling in my part and yelling in my own head, five of us set out for Ptown. Me, Amanda, and my company-mates Mike, Vin, and Susie. Mike, Vin, and Susie are my siblings from another lifetime. I love them in a way that is devoted and devotional. They are older than I am, and they have spent years being very patient with me while I have been growing up. It has not always been pretty to watch.

I had been to Ptown before. I’ve been going to Cape Cod almost every summer since I was fourteen, when I started working as an au pair for some family friends that have a house there, but this was different. I was thirty, I was with my wife and my friend family. I was escaping something. I was declaring independence.

We got to Ptown late on Friday hungry, and headed to the only place to get food after midnight. Spiritus Pizza is halfway down Commercial Street, the busiest street in this little beach town. It stays open when the bars close at one am, and everyone heads there, blocking the single lane that is still technically open to traffic but it takes a car half an hour to inch through the drag queens and dudes in leather.

It was before the one am rush and we got our slices and went outside to people-watch. Vin recognized a co-worker and said hi.

“I’m with Danielle Staub from the Real Housewives,” the obviously drunk man said before being whisked off by an entourage.

Susie was sharing a room with me and Amanda, and when we got back to the motel Amanda read to us from a book of MIKE READINGstories about lesbian nuns that she had found in a used bookstore. We fell asleep listening to forbidden convent affections.

The next day we were at the beach and the water was so cold and good and it was an echo of so many other beaches we had been to on our tours. We always kept coming back to the water.

Susie ate sprouts raw from a container and pretended that she was eating seaweed. Mike read from the lesbian nun book.

LOBSTERThat night we had dinner at the iconic Lobster Pot, waiting for our lobster buzzer to flash before we were welcomed inside to a world of butter and seafood so fresh it nearly crawled off the plate, and salad dished out table-side with multiple dressing options. They don’t serve it like that anymore. You have to order salad now.

After dinner we went to the Governor Bradford to do karaoke, where Amanda and I like to go, but rarely worked up the nerve to sing. We snuck into a table right next to the stage as some people were leaving.

 

“We’re obsessed with Dana,” Amanda and I told the others. Dana was the drag queen who ran karaoke nearly every night. She had her favorites and it was difficult to break in. We were desperate for her approval.

Vin and Mike knew what to do. They can both sing. We are all performers. This was serious.

Vin put in “Turn Your Love Around” and performed it complete with butt wiggling choreography. Dana enjoyed this. The gauntlet had been thrown.

Mike had put in some new material, a song he had never tried before, but now he was getting nervous. He needed Dana to like him more then she liked Vin. They are like this.

Mike saw his song in the queue and he went up to Dana while someone else was butchering “Sweet Home Alabama” or something.

“I need to change my song,” he whispered in her ear. “I need to impress you.”

Dana shrugged and changed the song.

It came up in the queue.

“Nights in White Satin”

The big guns.

Mike was into plaid shorts that went past his knees that summer. None of us approved of them. With a white polo shirt and baseball cap he looked like a straight guy from Boston. No offense, straight guys from Boston.

“Nights in white satin

Never reaching the end

Letters I’ve written

Never meaning to send

Beauty I’ve always missed

With these eyes before

Just what the truth is

I can’t say anymore”

Dana wasn’t paying enough attention. She was busy managing the queue. Mike turned to her and sang his heart out.

“’Cause I love you, Dana!

Yes I love you, Dana!

Oh how I love you!”

Dana turned, hand on heart. She smiled. Who was this straight guy from Boston?

I remember that Mike was holding her hand by the end of the song, but maybe I made that up. I remember Dana fanning herself with her hand. She was impressed.

Mike and Vin had charmed her. We emerged from the Governor Bradford giddy with victory.

SUNSETWhen you walk down the street late at night in Problemstown you can feel the ghosts. The houses are old. The street is older. Thousands of gay men who died of AIDS have had their ashes scattered on the breakwater.

It is true that the pilgrims came here first, before Plymouth, and the sandy soil wouldn’t let anything grow, so they left.

I was always afraid of the dark when I was little. I slept with a light on for years after it would have been considered normal to need even a nightlight, always stayed up reading as late as I could to somehow ward off thinking of creepy things and distract both myself and the ghosts. I dreamed then of growing into a person who was not afraid of the dark. I wanted to be tougher than that.

Back at the motel for our last night in Ptown, the weekend after I turned thirty, Amanda read us a few more nun stories. As I was drifting off to more forbidden love, I realized why I loved this place, and why the dark did not scare me there. It was because the ghosts of Ptown were our ghosts. They knew us. And maybe we had charmed them too.

Epilogue

Dana knows that she’s in my book. I sent her a copy. Here we are together this past summer, five years later. We continue to be obsessed with her.

https://instagram.com/p/5Ddp-4Lu7A/

Looks like so much fun! Thank you Kate and happy happy publication day part one!

Find out more about Kate and her writing at:

Website: www.katescelsa.com

Twitter: @katescelsa

Facebook: katescelsaauthor

Tumblr: http://katescelsa.tumblr.com

Instagram: @kate.scelsa

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC02mC6y2JmL2scYguwNqsKQ

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