Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s pops his (book tour) cherry on Fire Island.
As a young gay in Texas, my first brush with Fire Island was the 1989 Oscar-nominated movie Longtime Companion about the early days of the AIDS epidemic. The movie’s powerful last scene of three surviving friends walking on a deserted Fire Island beach was (and still is) breathtaking. At the time, I assumed the idyllic homo holiday community was a Hollywood story telling invention.
That changed the sophomore summer of my New York sitcom life when I found myself dating a doctor with a house in The Pines. During the drive in his Saab convertible with his Corgie sitting in my lap, I fretted that I had been cast as some boy toy and was expected to put out in exchange for my weekend accommodations. I wasn’t necessarily averse to that, just wanted to be clear on the expectations.
Doc put my mind at ease when he showed me to my own room, and then gave me a tour up and down the boardwalk dotted with charming red wagons (no cars allowed). He provided a brief tutorial over the rules of engagement on the island—cocktails and dancing at something called Low Tea ended promptly at 7pm with a mass migration to High Tea and depending on day of the week ending hours later at Middle Tea. If you still hadn’t successfully hooked up after all that, a trip through the wooded Meat Rack was in order.
Although those rules have changed much over time, I have been lucky enough to get to know Fire Island much better and understand the not-so-subtle differences between the two gay communities of The Pines and Cherry Grove. My doctor friend was the perfect specimen of life in The Pines—fantastically decorated house, impossibly toned abs, finely tuned regimen. In the Grove, things are more shabby chic, anything goes and devil may care. Everything’s just a little looser—in so many ways, including bathing suit tops and bottoms that seem to loose themselves on the beach. Turns out, I’m pretty much a Grove Boy who enjoys an occasional Meat Rack meander to drink in some Low Tea.
Lucky for me, dear friends Chris and Tom purchased a home in the Grove nearly seven-years ago and began welcoming their city friends with open arms. Over the years, they’ve renovated the original pillbox house into a charming cottage perfect for Coastal Living. The couple met at the very first Condé Nast Traveler Hot List party, and I suppose as a sign of appreciation they let me steal out to the house and pound out pages on Alphabet City.
So this weekend was a homecoming of sorts for the book when they hosted the Fire Island stop on the book tour. Frankly, I was a little nervous given my recent experience with self-professed non-reading gays at a NYC event. But it turns out summering folk appreciate when the perfect beach read comes to them. The guests listened to my reading with rapt attention and an audible gasp was heard during the excerpt about meeting Tyra Banks. Two-dozen sales later and it was the most successful home book party yet.
The next morning, Chef and I continued our Cherry Grove tradition of walking around the “town” taking in the new seasonal stores—last year’s ice cream shop, this year’s liquor store—as well as the perennial standbys—Floyd’s muffins, the everything-is-$5-grocery store. We play the game “Where Would You Work” followed by “What’s Missing?” Usually we debate the merits of starting a fine dining establishment. But this year, given the voracious reading appetite of Chris and Tom’s friends, we’re thinking maybe a summer Book Nook. That means I need to get cranking on 40, Love to have it in stock for Summer 2011.