In “Land’s End,” novelist Michael Cunningham’s must-read book about Provincetown, he writes,
Provincetown is, has always been, an eccentrics’ sanctuary…It is the only small town I know of where those who live unconventionally seem to outnumber those who live within the prescribed boundaries of home and licensed marriage, respectable job and biological children…Among strollers and shoppers [on Commercial Street] on a summer afternoon, it is not unusual to see, within a fifty-foot radius, all of the following: a crowd of elderly tourists who have come for the day on a tour bus or have disembarked from a cruise ship anchored in the harbor; a pack of muscle boys on their way to the gym; a vacationing mother and father shepherding their exhausted and fussy children through the shops; a pair of lesbians with a dachshund in a rainbow collar; two gay dads in chinos and Izod shirts pushing their adopted daughter in a stroller; a dread-locked and ostentatiously tattooed young woman who works at the head shop; a man dressed, very convincingly, as Celine Dion; elderly women doing errands; several closeted schoolteachers from various parts of the country who come to Provincetown for two weeks every year to escape the need for secrecy; several weary fisherman coming home from their stints on a scallop boat; a bond trader with three-hundred-dollar sandals up for the weekend from New York; and a brigade of furious local kids on skateboards, seeing how close they can come to the pedestrians without actually knocking one over, a stunt that is usually but not always successful.
Throughout “Land’s End,” Cunningham perfectly and lovingly captures Provincetown in all of its strange and glorious beauty. And I couldn’t help but think of the above description chronicling the rich and vibrant street life found on the town’s main drag as I walked along Commercial Street for an afternoon of window shopping and practicing the underrated art of loafing around.
Now, first let me discuss the limited scope of this blog post. The rich gallery scene, the vast cultural offerings, and the incredible night life will be not be included here. Each deserves its own space – and I will be sure to get to them soon. So, let this blog post act as just a dip of the toe into the ocean of things that can be said about Commercial Street. (more…)