Birdsong greets the dawn in my friend’s back garden. No matter that clouds mask the rising sun. I’ve a party to get to, so I don’t have much time. It’s Tennessee William’s birthday and I’m celebrating in his “spiritual home” – New Orleans, that is – at the literary festival named in his honor. I don’t want to be late.
I attended the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival back in 2001, covering the event as a journalist for Radio Netherlands. It was my first visit to the city known as the Big Easy and I immediately fell under its spell, much like the young writer who arrived in 1938. Tennessee wrote his Mama: “I’m crazy about the city. I walk continually, there is so much to see.”
It’s been ten days since I arrived at my brother’s place in the wooded foothills of western Maine.
Two weeks since I left Amsterdam for my now annual summer retreat.
Four months since I posted a piece on this blog recapping last year.
Twenty-nine years since I fled New York City for Europe.
Twenty-nine years ago to the day, in fact.
(Exactly one year ago I was on Fire Island for the first time, at the invitation of my friend Kate McCamy. Why I never got there during the ten years I lived in NYC is another story for another time. Kate’s first visit was somewhat more eventful than mine, and I’m pleased to have her tell the tale herself as my first Guest Blogger.)
No summer is complete without a few days of toes in sand and hopelessly tangled salty hair. My beach of choice is Fire Island, Cherry Grove to be specific. My older brother from another mother and upstairs neighbor has rented a house in August for nine years. I’m fortunate enough to stay in his good graces and get invited for birthday fun in the sun a few days every summer. There is nothing like the crackle of anticipation as the ferry slows to approach the dock, rainbow flags flapping in the breeze.
The stress of life falls off me as I roll my suitcase along the bumpy boardwalk. I pass homes with fantastic names like House of Orange, Over The Rainbow, festooned colorful decorations ranging from baby doll heads to a cornucopia of all things sexual. Such is life on the Grove, a different country with it’s own customs and language. The queen of the island is the Belvedere, a Venetian castle built in the ‘50s out of former stage sets. It sports more statues of David than a Florence souvenir shop and trompe l’oiel everything. The first hotel in the country exclusively for gay men, their website states no woman has ever crossed its threshold. This is not true.