Reflections on Ptown.

My Swiss flight got in quite late into Boston, so crashed at the aLoft in the Seaport area.  The next day I had booked myself on the fast ferry from Boston over to Provincetown, MA, or Ptown as most people like to call it.

For those that don’t know, Ptown is right at the tip of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, and it’s where the pilgrims landed from the Mayflower in 1620.

It’s also a seaside resort which has become predominantly gay as the years have gone on.

I’d been to Ptown about eighteen months prior with a group of friends, but in the off season, towards the end of October.  This time it was very much peak season, a week after carnival there.

So it was a fabulously warm and sunny day in late August and I boarded the fast ferry to catch the 14.00 sailing.

The boat itself was quite a large catamaran with a number of decks with a small shop selling snacks, beer, wine and spirits.  The sailing took a little over the advertised ninety-minute journey time, and we docked at the jetty in Ptown harbour.

Boston to Provincetown by Ferry

I had three nights staying at the rather lovely Snug Cottage, hosted by the wonderful Tim.

Somewhat atypically for my blog I actually wanted to reflect on the town itself and my experiences there, rather than the journey or the places that I stayed.

Commercial Street in Provincetown

In many ways, I found Ptown to be a bit of a cliché of gay life in America.

There wasn’t any theme or event the week I was there, so if you’re into a bit of daddy, this was the place to come.

There’s a very active bar and club scene there, with quite a number of places to go eating and drinking to the small hours.  Grindr and Scruff were suitably busy.

Evenings start with ‘Tea’ at the Boatslip which is where everyone meets everyone before heading for a shower and dinner.

Tea at the Boatslip

There’s a huge range of places to eat including stalls serving lobster roll, to higher end places serving the lobster themselves.

I found the higher end places to be just ok – they were catering to the clientele as opposed to having great cooking. Given the location though, it was understandable.  After dinner, most people would head out for drinks and more dancing.  I was still a little jet-lagged so never made it out too late past midnight.

For me the almost surreal gayness of the place was epitomised by the fact that on my second night I saw John Waters at dinner.  Looking exactly like you’d imagine him to look.

Even the financial institutions are a double entendre.

Seamen’s Bank in Provincetown

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fabulous that people in these uncertain times with the seeming rolling back of some very hard fought legal victories, a place like Ptown exists where people can be themselves without fear of homophobia.

But.  It seemed a little insular, almost like the community was becoming a parody of itself.

Perhaps I should contextualise this against my own background.  I grew up in London and was out from an early age, being out on the scene in London for over 20 years now.  I love being gay and around gays, but it’s always been against the setting of a city of eight million people and all the diversity and integration that brings.

Of course it’s impossible to compare Ptown, a small seaside resort on Cape Cod with a city of 8 million people, however its monoculture seemed a little out of place with its supposed spirit of diversity.

Maybe I’m being too harsh; reflecting on it, I think my critique is less about Ptown, but more about the polarisation of America today. The gay community has always battled with integration versus having gay only ‘safe spaces’. Perhaps Ptown pushes this too far in one direction?


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