Whither My Provincetown?

When we were in Provincetown, we saw this brief essay by Nicholas Messing in the “Rants & Raves” section of Provincetown Magazine (which doesn’t really have a Web site yet):

As summer draws to a close, it’s as good a time as any to look back on this past season of sun and fun at a very special beach where vacationers of all shapes, sizes and proclivities have learned to coexist in a delicate balance. Legend has it Herring Cove Beach used to be like Old Berlin except divided into three territories: straights to the right, lesbians in the middle, and gay men to the left. But today the old world rules no longer apply, and for much of the season straight tourist families with their loud and garish children have been thoughtlessly exceeding their boundaries, carelessly intruding on the lesbian love cove. This in turn has forced the Sapphic sisters who want to express the full bounty of their womanhood by going topless or even bottomless to migrate further down the beach into gay men’s territory. The guys seem to tolerate their presence partway into the gay men’s zone as a show of solidarity, but seeing a fully nude female parading out in the open can be a bit much for some sensitive men’s sensibilities. If any of these exhibitionists ventured further down to the far side of the beach, they would no doubt be equally reviled by shocking exposure to nudity of the opposite sex. The further one journeys into the wilderness of Herring Cove, the more rough and ready the men become. In this erotic hinterland, nature, by its very nature, rejects the presence of women and children as unnatural. For here, at the far edge of American turf, is a man-on-man land where only men in the buff or open to the possibility of nudity need apply. Though the old truism that only people you’d never want to see naked are the ones who choose to flaunt their folds of flesh, at least there is a somewhat protected territory where men can be among other men, an all-natural Eden free of the constraints of child-rearing and clothing. A complex system of communication consisting mostly of loaded stares exists here among the savages, but no translation is needed for the shouted warnings announcing the threatening presence of a Park Ranger. In a modern day tragedy akin to the plight of the American Indian, the gays are steadily losing ground to the predominant group of heterosexual families who continue to selfishly reproduce and heartlessly encroach on their land. Where orgies were once rampant, now children play Frisbee, as a tear runs down the unshaven, sweaty cheek of a lone, balding, 55-year-old, 300-pound grizzly…

This reminded me of an article by David Colman that was in the New York Times just before our vacation (which the people we spoke to up there suggest is accurate), the basic point of which was:

Friendly, flamboyant, overwhelmingly gay: Provincetown is still all these things and first impressions are not wrong. But stay for a bit and you’ll find a less happy picture. A real estate boom has spread unease, pitting wealthy newcomers and developers against the townies, artists and free spirits who give the enclave its bohemian character and who now fear it is being gentrified out of existence.

Friction between new money and old ways is nothing new in summer retreats. But what makes the battle for Provincetown unusual is that it is largely a class struggle within a gay world. For nearly 30 years, Provincetown has attracted the spectrum of people that the rainbow flag represents: gay and lesbian, old and young, rich and poor. Now, many people here say, with its widening gulf between the haves and the have-nots, a town that prided itself on its inclusiveness is beginning to resemble the rest of the United States.

Though I’m no three-hundred-pound grizzly witnessing the loss of his beloved habitat (in fact, I’m more likely contributing–at least indirectly–to the gentrification and homogenization of Provincetown and its environs), this nearly caused me to shed a tear:

The simmering tensions in Provincetown boiled over in July, when a local newspaper, The Banner, published a letter by Brian Farley, a mortgage broker, criticizing [George] Bryant’s cluttered East End yard and referring to Mr. Bryant as “undeserving of homeownership.” Mr. Farley said that the town’s newly vested homeowners deserved better, adding, “The pride of Provincetown is reflected in their real estate.”

Mr. Bryant has refused to remove the rubble and says he feels persecuted by those telling him what to do with his property.

Tia Scalcione, a 32-year-old painter and printmaker who has lived here year-round for four years and who works four jobs to make ends meet, said a real estate agent woke her the other day insisting that she move her surfboard and wet suit from outside her apartment. The condo next door was being shown to buyers, she said, and the agent considered her equipment an eyesore

That’s not the Provincetown I grew up with and always try to get back to. But in the end, it all comes back to community:

But [John] Waters, who has himself gone from underground filmmaker to household name, said the changes here have happened all over America. “We live in a much less bohemian time,” Mr. Waters said. “Outsider is such a tired word. There’s no great youth movement happening; there are no hippies today, no punk rockers. The world has changed. Some gay people are straighter than my parents.”

Still, he said, he finds it encouraging that the unapologetically flamboyant Provincetown is not giving up easily. The fact that Miss Ellie is still belting out “My Way” in front of Town Hall is enough, he said. “To me,” Mr. Waters said, “it’s still the P-town I like. You still see families come here to have their pictures taken with drag queens and to stare at gay people. I find that hilarious.”

Others are more wistful. Patrick Lamerson, a high school teacher in Boston who has been coming to Provincetown for nearly 10 years, said that the rift in town was less between rich and poor than “between gays who need community and gays who don’t.” And those who don’t, he said, will probably prevail in the end and the Provincetown that he has known will go the way of other bohemian bastions that had their moment and then faded.

It is, I suppose, nothing more than a recipe for suffering to become attached to a version of Provincetown (or anything else) at a specific point in its history. Everything will change, but that’s especially true of a town that has been so many different (and seemingly incompatible) things to so many different (and seemingly incompatible) people.


I’m becoming a fan of Michael Silverblatt‘s Bookworm podcast. His guests tend to run the gamut of writers of contemporary literary fiction, which is to say that some are more interesting than others. It’s Silverblatt himself who makes the interviews consistently interesting, regardless of the guest. He talks a lot, which usually isn’t very effective for interviewers, but the range of his references and the depth of his insights are without apparent limit and always seem valid. His guidance of the discussion can make even the dullest of subjects interesting (including Bret Easton Ellis, whom Silverblatt got to admit that by the time he, Ellis, sat down to the process of actually writing, he’s already emotionally detached from his material). At least once in every interview I’ve heard, Silverblatt has offered an insight into his guest’s work that had never occurred to the guest, but which the guest found very compelling.

FIFA Rankings

FIFA has released their world ranking for September, and I’m puzzled. These rankings look even stranger than the BCS college football rankings. The United States is consistently ranked in the top 10, yet I don’t think anyone actually sees them as a lock for the quarterfinal of next year’s World Cup, which is how I’d interpret being ranked 7th. Certainly no one would expect the United States to beat England (who are ranked 11th) just now. And as you look closer, the results get stranger.

According to FIFA’s article, the ranking “is heavily shaped by the 89 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and nearly 40 friendly matches played last month.” Interesting then that Mexico, who was beaten soundly by the United States in one of those matches, maintained its 5th ranking, while the United States slid from 6th to 7th. And in beating Mexico, the United States qualified first from the CONCACAF region for the World Cup, ahead of Mexico, who, by the way, haven’t beaten the United States outside of Mexico City in close to a decade. Why then is Mexico consistently ranked ahead of the United States?

My Favorite Meals

There are four meals to be had in New York of which I cannot get enough, of which I can’t stop thinking once the thought of them has first occurred to me. They are (in no particular order):

I claim no sophisticated culinary superiority for any of them, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that better versions of each could be found elsewhere (especially of the fish and chips, which are hardly native to New York), but they’re my favorites here in New York, and I recommend trying them should you get the opportunity. What are your favorites where you live?

I’m Morgan and I’ll Be Your Moderator

I got my first comment here today (thanks Karen), and discovered that, in order to control comment spam, I have to approve comments as they’re posted. I had no idea. So if you post a comment and it doesn’t show up right away, please be patient. I’ll approve it as soon as I become aware of it and can remember my password.

Alexi Lalas’s Challenge

Gothamist has an interview today with Alexi Lalas, the President and General Manager of the New York MetroStars (to whom Eric and I hold season tickets). He certainly seems to understand the challenge he faces:

It’s hard enough to get people to come out and watch soccer, we don’t want the additional burden of having a mediocre team.

My question is, in a league with nearly absolute parity as both an intention and a result, how does he expect the MetroStars to stand out? And how will that affect soccer in other markets at whose teams’ expense the MetroStars will be constantly winning?

Rebecca Turner’s Land of My Baby

Ah, to be in and only in the presentThat state and what’s experienced through it is Buddhist enlightenment, stripped of all explications and elaborations. I’ve had instances in my meditation practice that have indicated this, but the most reliable means to this experience for me so far is music.

The live interplay of musicians, preferably of stringed instruments (guitars, bass, maybe a mandolin or a lap steel) and some drums, can lead to a moment outside of time–an instance of time not as container, but as medium. I seek this wherever I can find it. I like to imagine that there are as yet unknown recordings of the album with which the Rolling Stones were supposed to follow Exile on Main St., or of Keith Richards, Mick Taylor, and Charlies Watts playing with R.E.M. during the making of Out of Time, or of Gram Parsons, back from the dead, working with Lucinda Williams on Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, all of which I’ll find at a tag sale someday, take home, and revel in until I’m entirely open to the present. But until I discover that terma, I take the momentos de la felicidad where I can find them.

Last Wednesday, we went to the release party for Rebecca Turner‘s new album, Land of My Baby. My wife and I have known Rebecca for years, but her evolving musical accomplishment keeps surprising me. Seeing her with just her guitar at a little bar for the first time years ago, I was astonished to hear a fully formed artistic voice emerge so convincingly from someone I knew. Then, years later, hearing that voice fleshed out by a band on her CD, I was astonished anew. Yet neither of those experiences, much as they should have, prepared me for hearing her play live with that full band. The Slipper Room, where we saw them, is a great room with great sound. The band was fantastic–looser and more muscular than the album, while sacrificing none of its focus. And there were moments when I was pulled by the intertwining rhythms and vibrations fully into the present. And as the Buddhists do, I bow to the experience.

Writing Maintainable Code, Episode 1


This is in a medium-sized EJB-based application that uses bean managed persistence. An interface is defined to perform a set of searches of a certain type, with different implementing classes being used at runtime depending on what’s being searched for and what criteria are being used. Among the interface’s methods is one the returns a SQL sub-query based on a given collection of values. One implementation of that method is discussed here. The developer was awaiting help from the database group and never got back to this method to implement it. That didn’t cause any trouble at initial deployment, because this particular implementation wasn’t used by any of the code that could be called from the application’s client, though given that the decision as to what implementation will be used is made at runtime, that’s not apparent from the code.


    public String composeSqlStatement(Collection ruleValues) {
        //Talk to the DBAs and get help...
        return null;


A few years after initial deployment, this application was to be significantly revised to reflect substantial changes in the business it supported, and the revision was to be done by an entirely new team of developers. In seeking to test new functionality, one of the developers wrote a unit test that, through the search interface, called the method above. However, since that method was only returning a piece of a larger SQL statement, the method calling it didn’t throw the NullPointerException that you’d expect with a method that’s meant to return a value returns null instead. When the resulting SQL statement was finally executed by another method elsewhere in the application code, an exception was thrown indicating that the SQL statement was invalid. Given that the SQL statement was more than a dozen lines long, it took some time to determine that the null, which appeared in the statement as an ordinary string (with a value of “null”), was causing the problem. And given that it was being called through an interface with more than a dozen implementing classes, it took more time to determine which method was returning the null. In all, it took more than one full day of developer time to resolve this.


    public String composeSqlStatement(Collection ruleValues) {
        //Talk to the DBAs and get help...
        throw new UnsupportedOperationException("composeSqlStatement()  " +
            "method not implemented in class TypeASearchDAO");

Had the initial developer written the method to throw an exception if it was ever called, the problem would have been discovered the first time the method was called by the unit test. The cause of the problem and the appropriate solution would have been immediately apparent.

Writing Maintainable Code, An Ongoing Series

Much of the software development that I do is the maintenance of existing code (as opposed to writing new applications from scratch). Having done this for a number of years now, I’ve begun to see things that can be done during initial development to make code easier for subsequent developers to maintain years later (or more precisely, I’ve seen all of the things that are done to make code more difficult to maintain). Usually these techniques come down to following the coding techniques described in any good computer science text (careful design, proper encapsulation, following valid naming conventions, adequately commenting code, etc.).

It seems that most developers who write new applications tend not to end up maintaining code, so they tend not to see first hand the consequences of decisions made in the name of expediency. I don’t mean to say that they’re necessarily being sloppy or lazy. The code I’m talking about works fine at deployment–the results of these decisions aren’t bugs. But they can make subsequent maintenance more difficult and error-prone. So for such developers, I offer this ongoing irregular series of examples of why–even though it doesn’t make a difference in the current functioning of your application–you should make the extra effort to follow good design and coding techniques. I’m also hoping to document my experiences as background to inform the design and development discussions I participate in. In those discussion, I often find myself arguing against hacks that seem harmless, but that I suspect will cause problems later. I hope that with enough examples, I’ll be in a better position to make my case clearly and convincingly.