Friday, September 14, 2012

A Return to Different

I realize it’s still officially summer, but let’s face it, Labor Day came and went, school started, the days are getting shorter and there has been a nip in the morning air. That basically screams fall to me - my favorite time of year. For me, fall is a time for new beginnings; rebirth. The heat of summer goes away. New shows debut on television while old favorites return. Sweaters move from the back of the closet to the front. Hot chocolate becomes appropriate. Pumpkin makes its annual return and the scent of nutmeg and cinnamon fill the air. All that’s missing is that little square on the calendar making it official. 

I kicked off the approaching most colorful of the seasons with a return visit to Provincetown - P-town for short - during that purgatory time between summer ending and fall beginning.

The streets were the same: narrow, one-car lanes lined on either side with shingle houses, familiar to the Hampton’s and Cape Cod, in weather-worn gray that showed their age with grace. White-painted, grand homes that looked out upon the water. Colorfully painted homes that seemed to invite a party. Homes with widow’s walks that distanced themselves from the sadness of the widows that once stood, longingly staring out to sea in search of their missing husbands.

The sidewalk made of brick still lay under the tread of feet carrying visitors to the next restaurant for another lobster roll; to another art gallery to see this year’s pieces (and in some cases familiar pieces from past visits); or to the next bar in which to sip a drink and possibly strike up a conversation. In my case to gaze at the people in conversation wishing I was part of it. My issues are a subscription that I just keep piling in the basket, slowly working through until I can recycle them into something new and useful.

The lighthouses were still there, majestically standing at the far reaches of the Cape, ready to warn passing ships of the dangers that lay below the water. 

There’s something about standing in P-town, breathing deeply, that makes me close my eyes and find the stillness of being, all the while filling my lungs with oxygen from a deep inhale of salt tinged air. NYC goes away. The thump of music that I hear isn’t necessarily from a bar, it’s from a porch where men dressed in pink from head-to-toe are having a good time or from a music store trying to lure me inside. Laughter is abundant. People on bicycles whiz by. Dogs and their owners stroll down the street. 

People are not as friendly in P-town as they are in Cherry Grove on Fire Island, but it’s okay because to each his own and we each have our own reason for absorbing the atmosphere of P-town. 

This year brought a change in rental house location. We actually rented a home on Winthrop Street. For those of you who have patiently been reading my current piece of fiction, “Return to Winthrop St.,” this is the same street of the story’s title. I was inspired to start the story last year at the end of my visit to P-town. It was quite interesting to me to find myself staying on said street this year. Even more interesting was to see that one of the businesses that inspired the name of one of the characters was no longer present on the street. “Return to Winthrop St.” is inspired by true events. Inspired means loosely based. Very loosely. The story is fictionalized and embellished; it has been a way for me to work through some things in my life. I found it very telling that one of the inspiring names was no longer present on the street. It was almost as if the universe was showing me that people can move on, that we can get over things.

This time last year I was expressing the need for living my life as my own and taking risks for progress. To look at the words on the pages I’ve written since then it’s hard to see that I’ve taken any steps forward, but I have. They may be tiny steps, but I have moved. I’m still close enough to where I was to see it without the need of my glasses, but any step forward is a step away; a step toward change. 

I was very distressed emotionally last year when September rolled around and I stepped off the ferry onto the dock at P-town. I let the emotional conflict playing tennis in my head prevent me from having the vacation I should have had. I was determined this year to enjoy myself. It was my vacation and I wanted to do whatever I wanted to do. Isn’t that what vacation is about?

I’m such a sit around kind of guy. Somedays I like having no plans. I realize that can get boring. I get bored with my own company sometimes, but there are days when having nothing planned - choosing to sit outside at the plastic table that has a hole for an umbrella to block the sun but no umbrella in sight, reading the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar - is just what I need. Add to that a morning bloody mary and a comfy T-shirt with the neck cut out and I’m describing a perfect morning with no cares, concerns, or anxieties.

This vacation brought the rental of bicycles. I actually wanted to rent bikes. Renting bikes last summer during my trip to the Vineyard showed me that I could still ride a bike and made it easy to say yes to renting bikes in P-town this trip. I won’t lie. Riding a bike in any kind of traffic makes me nervous, but the trafficked streets were so few compared to the open bike trails that took me to and past the beach and through a beautiful hilly, wooded area that it made the traffic worth it just to get to there. The excitement of feeling the wind brush my face as I coasted down a curvy hill can’t be matched. Not even by the serene morning of Harper’s and a bloody mary. I brought up the rear of our threesome of bike riders, but that was fine with me. It allowed me to just exist in my own space and experience my surroundings on my own time.

This trip to P-town also brought a visit to the beach. I’m a sucker for the water. Most of you who read my blog know that. I love sitting on the sand and staring out into the vastness that melds into the horizon with barely a break in color. This beach was rockier than I care for, but it was still calming - the waves rolling in and flowing out. I will admit that I don’t enjoy the slather of sunblock to prevent sunburn and skin cancer, but I know it’s a necessity. And please, I’m vain enough at 41 that I don’t want to give my skin any extra chance to wrinkle than it already has from life in general.

There were beautiful sunsets to behold. There were sailboat dotted views of the ocean from the back deck of The Red Inn - while sipping the best Cucumber vodka flavored drink I had while on vacation - that allowed for an exhale of stress so decompressing that my body became smaller. Rosie O’Donnell was there with her new wife. I gave her a shout out before I could stop myself. We’re all just people, right? 

There is still conflict in my life. Some might say I brought it all on myself. Maybe I did. Looking back over the year between P-town visits I realize that I have been dealing with so much in my life that it’s no wonder I have anxiety. Friendships have changed. Relationships have grown and in some cases fallen apart. Writing has continued with even more honesty. More responsibility has been placed upon my shoulders at work. Parasites wreaked havoc. It’s just another year in my life, but oh what a year it’s been.  

Cucumber vodka takes its place in my freezer among my other favorite - Firefly Sweet Tea vodka. A new piece of art hangs in my home. Yep, I finally bought one of the pieces I’d admired from my two previous visits. I’m ready to see the leaves change; add a dash of cinnamon to my coffee. I’m ready to put the anxiety behind me. I’m ready to close the chapter on the old challenges, and, no matter how apprehensive I may be, face the new ones. Although that scares the shit out of me. My subscription basket just got one more issue full. 

“Seasons change,” Carrie Bradshaw says in the “I Heart NY” episode of Sex and the City. She’s right and life changes along with those seasons. I continue to struggle; to grow; to change; to progress in my life. Reflection can be a melancholy affair. Cue “Moon River” and the leaf gently falling to my feet, but pour me a drink first. Maybe something cucumber flavored.