Today on Alphabet City: JP rediscovers Maybe the Moon on an end-of-season Fire Island getaway with Frida and Chef.
A walk with Frida on the beaches of Fire Island has become one of my life’s greatest pleasures. Although we have now been lucky enough to prance on those sands dozens of times, each time for her is almost like the first—her puppy dog eyes lit up with excitement, a smile on her snout a mile wide, and a kick her in back legs like a rodeo bronco. She runs the length of her extendable leash until it pops its limit, then she rushes back to me with a look of amazement, “What’s better than this?” she seems to bark. Frida is unencumbered by the stress of the commute from the city—do we change in Babylon or Jamaica and will we make the ferry? Unlike me, she’s not saddened by the thought that this may be the last bath of sunshine on our exposed skin until next May, at the earliest. Her antics on the beach are a reminder of the unexpected joy that can come with living life in the moment, in the here and now.
Chef and I are blessed with friends like Chris and Tom who willingly open their beautiful home to us on Fire Island’s Cherry Grove. While it’s fun to visit them in the height of the summer, especially this year when they hosted an Alphabet City book party, I do enjoy an end-of-the-season getaway. At that time, like this past weekend, the island is filled with folks trying to squeeze out every last bit of pleasure—they aren’t taking anything for granted. Flyers around “town” announce everything as the “last of the season”—the final Middle Tea dance extravaganza, the final Underwear Party. Even venerable Cherry’s gets creative with a “Christmas Party”—why not celebrate the holiday with your island friends?
One of my little pleasures at a vacation home is perusing the bookshelf. I enjoy perusing and commenting upon books left behind. I was guessing the same gay boy who read Eat, Pray, Love probably didn’t also enjoy Larry Kramer’s Faggots. Since I’ve visited the house many times, I’ve developed pretty good command of the in-house library, but this weekend, for the first time I noticed on the shelf a book I adored when I initially read it, Armistead Maupin’s Maybe the Moon. At first, I recommended the book to Chef, but he was too busy enjoying Kyle Thomas Smith’s 85A—the debut book by my friend that is fantastic—a full review later.
I go so excited telling Chef about my love of Maybe the Moon, that I put aside Anthony Bourdain’s latest and cracked it open myself. Within moments, I was once again mesmerized by Maupin’s flowing, storytelling genius about the struggles of being a dwarf in Hollywood who played an ET-like character. The book was based on the life of his friend Tamara de Treaux who played the actual ET, and Maupin claims it might have been the last book that Jackie Kennedy Onassis ever read. What I love about Maupin is ability to create captivating characters and seamlessly situate them in a specific time and place—this one resonating with me as it is set firmly in the recession of the late ‘80s. The 31-inch tall main character Cadence Roth has an outsized personality and work ethic that carries her far—certainly into my heart.
Normally, the trip back to the city exhausts me listening to the unfortunate conversations of jaded queens. Case in point, overheard on the shuttle to the train, “You know how when you play with a pretty dog, and an ugly dog, and you reach down to pet the pretty dog, but the ugly dog lays its head on your lap, and you’re like, gross. That’s how it is with Randy and Elliott. I just want to party with pretty Randy, but ugly Elliott is always around.” Thankfully, I had convinced myself it was okay to temporarily borrow Maybe the Moon, so Maupin carried me away from all that.
Frida slept in her carrying case all the way home, only rousing herself once we were back on land in Washington Heights. While Chef and I dragged our feet a little, sad that we couldn’t linger in the sun a few more days, Frida had the same spring in her step that she had on the beach. She was living in the now—and now was good. We were home.