Friday, June 20, 2014
Provincetown: It Is the Best of Burgs; It Is the Not-So-Great of Burgs
Both a mixed bag of experiences during a 10-day visit to Provincetown, a.k.a. Ptown, Massachusetts and the benefit of the perspective of living in a quasi-comparable small city has prompted this lengthy diversion from TV and movie reviews.
The overall conclusion is that Ptown is a nice place to visit but sadly does not live up to the hype. Further, many Ptown veterans admit that 3 days there is ample to enjoy all that the community offers.
One disclaimer is that this review is written with full knowledge that 100,000s of folks consider Ptown a utopia and would sell their soul, sacrifice a limb, and/or give up their first born to live there. The positive aspects of the community merit that level of devotion; the problem is that the numerous shortcomings moderately tip the scales in the other direction.
These musing additionally are a follow-up to a review of the terrific live-stage performance "The Golden Gals," which ran in Ptown throughout the summer of 2014.
On a general level, the proverbial miles of unspoiled beaches in Ptown are uber-awesome. They offer incredible views, always friendly dogs and their often as cordial human companions, and surprisingly clear water. Further, folks who opt to take the walk or bike ride from town to the shuttle and car-accessible Herring Cove Beach will get good exercise and a chance to contemplate the large and not-so-large aspects of life.
Additionally, the dining lives up to the hype. The chances are very good that your repast will be excellent, be it a lobstah roll at a take-out joint or a truly five-star meal at one of the many gourmet restaurants. It is equally nice that the numerous mid-range places offer a wide variety.
The Box Lunch is an especially terrific mid-sized local chain that provides sandwiches that are worthy of your soul. There are veggie options, and carnivores will enjoy the most tender meat possible expertly prepared and served with a genuine smile and witty conversation.
Concern regarding putting a hot and a cold sandwich in the same bag if they were going to co-mingle for more than a few minutes was a nice touch. Additionally, owner Julie provides as much of a sympathetic ear and warmth as the best bartender when time allows.
Pepe's offers numerous vittles and potables on a deck that is literal (but untested) spitting distance from the ocean. Again, the food is terrific and the service friendly. Bantering with the jovial hostess regarding box wines adds to the fun.
More upscale places for special meals include Ross' Grill and the Mews. All that is stated above applies to these places.
Ptown additionally lives up to the hype regarding the retail establishments. The roughly one-mile concentration of galleries, gift shops, souvenir places, and handful of VERY tasteful places that sell sexy lingerie and fetishware truly has something for everyone and offers a welcome break from a stretch of national chains (no pun intended). In fact, the not-so-good folks at the Kiehl's body products outlet were the only surly ones in the bunch.
A highly annoying downside to this is that a large percentage of merchants impose (and heavily enforce) a minimum amount on credit-card charges. This seems to average around $8 but can be very irksome to those of us either looking to conserve our cash or who are not carrying much of the green stuff.
An especially ugly incident at gelato shop/bakery The Purple Feather, which came to personally be known by a similar six-letter word that also begins with "f," was particularly bothersome. The manager was adamant about enforcing a $7.50 credit card minimum regarding a $5.34 cupcake. Alternatively, opening my wallet to show that I only had a $5 bill on me did not prompt a break regarding the 34 cent shortfall.
The owner ultimately stepped in and begrudgingly offered a concession; conversely, the good folks at the uber-awesome Far Land provisions (which has a large parking lot) happily accepted my credit card for a uber-tasty $2.50 cookie and a 74 cent container of apple sauce.
As an aside, the cheese tortellini and the Jamaican meat pies from Far Land on another occasion were the best of either that I have had. Additionally, the clerk made sure that we knew how to heat them. The other prepared foods looked just as awesome.
A more serious downside of Ptown is the parking situation and related traffic headaches after potentially sitting in 30 miles or more of stop-and-go traffic on the secondary highway to reach this vacation spot.
Roughly 90 percent of people who drive to Ptown and stay in the downtown Commercial Street area must park in a municipal lot on the edge of town. This requires feeling like an Ellis Island refugee as you lug your possessions a half-mile or more from your vehicle to your lodging.
Personal experience regarding this involved arriving almost at the crack of dawn on a Friday morning in the early June pre-peak season and parking in the nearly empty lot of the business, which shall remain nameless, next to the condo. that would be home for the next 10 days. The plan was to rapidly unload the sedanful of clothing and supplies and then go to the proper lot.
The man whom the business owner actually put on the payroll merely to police the lot immediately demanded moving the car; agreeing to buy something in the store bought us the required few minutes to dump out stuff in the dirt and rush back in forth to get it inside. Needless to say, we physically went quite a bit out of our way to not shop at that store during our stay.
The related issue of traffic involves pedestrians competing with the cars, skateboards, pedicabs, and bicycles that clog the narrow (and not very well sidewalked) one-lane Commercial Street. It makes one wonder why the town does not close off Commercial Street to cars at least during peak hours.
The aforementioned 100,000s of Ptown devotees will likely assert that the ferry from Boston is a good option. The $88 round-trip fare, somewhat limited schedule, aforementioned Ellis Island experience, and these not-so-little boats not sailing on-and-on-and-on when the sky gos dark and the seas grow rough are considerations. The long and tedious bus ride to Boston that acts as a substitute during these times is not a great option.
Further, Ptown is as gay-centric and (generally) homo-friendly as advertised. However, there is also a surprisingly large number of straight couples and families. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but the press strongly indicates that the town is an almost exclusively gay community. Folks looking for that will be greatly disappointed.
A few insiders have shared that heteros have validly be coming in large numbers over the past couple of decades after homos did a quasi-fabulous makeover of the town.
The fact that easily 75-percent of the straight men feel the need to firmly clutch their girlfriend by the shoulder, hand, or buttocks is very silly and puts a mild damper on the mood of the town. These (mostly young) guys strongly communicate both which team for which they bat and that they do not look kindly on what they would perceive as a recruiting effort for the other team. All this occurs before another fellow even offers a smile.
On a happier note, gay folks happily (but much less assertively) also stroll hand-in-hand with their significant others.
A related note relates to the heavily acknowledged fact that Ptown remains true to its roots as a working-class fishing village. These locals are generally cordial and never nasty but make it clear that tourists and summer residents are not the most welcome species that migrates to the area each summer. This is VERY understandable but also prevents Ptown from being the advertised ideal vacation spot.
Anyone with thoughts regarding this analysis of Ptown is strongly encouraged to either email me or connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy. Please do keep things civil.