Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Longest Mile

I’ve already written about the Rear Window view from my porch through the alleyway entrance and onto the street. Of the endless parade of tourists and daytrippers, pedicabs and shirtless muscle men (and not-so-muscle men.) But the activity back here in the parking lot itself is not to be dismissed. From the (way too) early morning sorting of the recyclables bins to the periodic gentle thuds as the restaurant workers drop empty cardboard boxes from the second-storey kitchen landing. (The “bombs away!” is implied.)

But the image that has really tickled me over the summer is brought on by the surface of the lot itself; a medium-size gravel. It’s not my beloved Item 4, which eventually compacts into a solid mass. It’s a loose, gray stone roughly the size of Kraft Caramels. It shifts here and there based on the 3-, 4-, 5- and 6-point turns that vehicles must make to facilitate driving forward through the narrow alley rather than having to back precariously into the very busy street.

Sometimes, if I’m not really paying attention, I’m fooled into thinking there’s a light rain falling outside when the gravel is trod upon.

But beginning in the late-afternoon—every day—when I can often be found reading on my porch, I get to witness a lovely and unique procession: The Art House Drag Queens. Many of the acts booked here at The Art House are, in fact, drag acts. For that matter, a good percentage of the shows all over town feature male performers in fabulous female garb. Clearly, it’s one of the things visitors expect when they come to this last town on the Cape.

Since all of us performers have to promote our shows by handing out fliers on the street (“barking” is what we call it) the drag acts have to spend countless extra hours in makeup and costume. God bless ‘em, I say.

So ‘round about 5 o’clock, depending on the lineup that evening, the Ladies start to trickle out from the dressing rooms, which are behind my apartment near the stage door. And this is the part of which I’m so enamored: most of these gals sport precariously high heels for optimum dramatic effect. But high heels + gravel doth not a happy marriage make! So I drop my book to my lap and peer over my (2.00 strength) dollar store reading glasses and watch unseen as the queens traipse across the expanse of gravel to the brick paved sidewalk at the street end of the alley. It’s about 50 feet from the dressing room area to the bricks and depending on the heels (and the confidence of the Ladies) the voyage can be tricky or, well, trickier. I hear them as they march confidently up the concrete ramp from behind the theater and step onto the loose stones.

And at that point the pace slows to a crawl. They focus their gaze on the ground ahead. Weight is shifted from the heels to the balls of their feet. Ankles wobble. Hands are deployed to the side--highwire-like--to achieve balance. Some delicately arc one foot in front of the other like great plumed birds. Others glide their feet mere centimeters above the ground. But no matter their individual techniques, they are all Elizas on the ice crossing the river of gravel to the distant brick-paved shore.

And here is the glorious part: the instant those size 12 slippers hit solid ground, these wary creatures (that up to this moment very distinctly resembled nothing but men wearing dresses) swan out into the street as poised, regal, confident, fabulous Drag Queens.

And all’s right with the world.


  1. Thanks for another great behind-the-scenes look at your summer in Ptown. (What a great writer you are, Tom.) Those drag queens are some amazing...um, women. ;)

  2. That's absolutely entertaining. I wish I could see it! Nothing is as exciting as the possibility of seeing a toppled drag queen.

  3. Any chance of video evidence?

  4. LOL. Love this imagery. Who knew all this was going on while we're traveling up and down Commercial! (P.S. I've seen you barking, and want to come up and say hello, but I've been sort of starstruck.) :)

  5. 'Elizas on the Ice' what a perfect counter-image to a summer in 'the last town on the Cape' You write better then you look, which is saying a lot!