Friday, August 31, 2012

Get Out for a Swim While the Water is Still Warm

A gentleman stretches out in shallow waters near the breakwater in the
Far West End, bobbing on the slowly rising tide. Notice the darker water
beyond him, where the water is suddenly much deeper, and likely cooler
As we find the weather cooling down, maybe a bit early this year, it's time to get out for another swim before cooler water temperatures set in and make it too chilly to swim. Each summer, the last few comfortable days to swim come at a different time. In an exceptionally warm summer many years ago, I lasted all the way into October, swimming in the harbor every day at a spot where a wide mound of sand baked in the sun at low tide, warming the water slightly as the tide rolled in. If I could catch it every day just before the water got deep enough to go over my head, there was a pocket of slightly warmer water where that heap of sand made the depth of the water a couple of feet shallower, and the warmth of that sandy mound transferred to the slowly rising water.
I could feel a difference of a couple of degrees if the tide rose very calmly. If the water was a bit choppy, it all blended together and there was no warm spot. It took a bit of dedication to follow the tides, swimming every day roughly an hour later than the day before, but it was worth the trouble to be able to stretch the swimming season by a few weeks. When the tide inevitably began reaching this depth in the pre-dawn hours, I had to just gut it out, plunging into cooler water for a few days, at a more reasonable time of day, until my warm water cycle kicked in again.
You can do some good in the world by swimming, by the way, in the upcoming Swim for Life and Paddler Flotilla, a 1.2 mile open water swim, or paddle, across Provincetown Harbor on September 8th. Swimmers, paddlers and volunteers of all stripes are needed, so click the link above for more information and to get involved in this fundraiser for a number of local health organizations and non-profits. Watch for an upcoming post about the 25th anniversary of this wonderful community event.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Edie, at the Art House Tonight Only, is This Week's Hot Ticket

Provincetown audiences are very lucky this summer to see the return (although much too brief) of one of the most entertaining performers ever to have graced the stage of the Art House, at 214 Commercial Street. It seems to me that it's been about five years since we've seen Edie on stage in PTown, and that is far too long a time without this special, classy brand of drag theater. Edie is first and foremost a dancer, classically trained, extremely talented, and it doesn't hurt that she happens to be a knockout!
Edie's alter ego is Christopher Kenney, who began dancing at the tender age of eight years old, then traveling the world with the ballet company that hired him upon his graduation from high school.
One Halloween, Christopher joined some friends in dressing up, and that night "Edie" was offered her first job as a performer. It sounded like fun, and Christopher decided to give it a try, and soon found the blossoming character of Edie moving in and taking over his life. He says he has rather enjoyed watching Edie's personality develop and mature over the years, taking on new challenges as they come along.
Edie is currently starring as the Mistress of Sensuality in the ultra-sexy Cirque du Soleil extravaganza Zumanity, at the NewYork-New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Having a brief break from the show, Christopher has returned to Provincetown, one of his favorite vacation spots, and when asked to perform as Edie while here, he consented to doing just two shows during the limited time he has before he will return to performing in Las Vegas.
Patrons at the Art House this past Monday were treated to the high-kicking, high-class performance that has made Edie a standout in the world of drag entertainment over the years. One more performance remains, tonight, August 30th, at 10 PM at the Art House. Get tickets online, or visit the box office at the theater, at 214 Commercial Street, opening at 2 PM. Don't miss the playful, zesty and thoroughly entertaining performance promised as Edie takes the stage tonight.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

PTown Residents and Visitors Venture out Despite a Bit of Rain

A little rain doesn't stop us from getting out and about in Provincetown. These folks are strolling the breakwater in the West End despite the off-and-on rain on this August afternoon. We tend not to listen too much to the predictions of the weather man, and since most TV weather is reported for the shoreline of Boston, most of the predictions really don't have much to do with us. Provincetown sits about 25 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by deep water, which often changes the weather as it rolls over us. The majority of the time when rain is predicted several days in advance, it usually dissipates by the time it reaches us, or it goes to the north or south as it gets nearer, most often missing us, or sometimes just nicking us with a few drops of rain, as on this day when a major storm had been predicted long in advance.
 In Provincetown we stick our collective head out of the window,  and if it comes in dry, we go out. If it comes in wet, we put on a jacket, and go out. We don't let a little rain stop us from enjoying the day. Watch for an upcoming blog post about a number of rainy day activities, shops, museums and other attractions to enjoy even in a real downpour, which doesn't really happen here all that often.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

By Popular Request, More PTown Carnival, Parade and Drag Bingo Photos...

This year's Carnival theme "Space Odyssey" obviously meant many different things to all the participants. See my August 15th blog post about  Aliens Roaming Commercial Street, and my August 16th post about sights seen on the day of the 2012 annual Carnival Parade. The costumes seen on Commercial Street both before and after the parade often rivaled those seen in the actual parade, with many celebrants obviously spending hours, and often a good bit of cash, on their outfits and props.
Drag Bingo also brought out a lot of costumes worn by most of the players, and by many who weren't actually playing Bingo in the Annual UU Meetinghouse fundraiser.
A striking costume found on Commercial Street, completely silver with a peacock headdress

"Sissies on Parade," strolling Commercial Street before and after Carnival Parade

A close-up of the alien and his spaceship on Marc Jacobs' float

Miss Mars rides down commercial street during Carnival parade

Phoo op for a visitor with Drag Bingo "cheerleader"

Party dresses come out of the closet for Drag Bingo

On their way to Drag Bingo these ladies are continuously asked to pose for delighted visitors

Every seat is filled for Drag Bingo

The glasses really make the outfit, don't you think?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Provincetown's Commercial Street Long Ago, and Very Long Ago

This old-fashioned linen finished postcard seems to have originated with a photograph taken at the corner of Standish and Commercial streets, looking east. Notice that in this photo the First National Store was where the Governor Bradford stands today, and today's Lily Pond was the A&P of that day. At the same time there were other grocery stores in Provincetown besides these two neighborhood markets.
Who out there reading this page knows their vintage autos? What year would this have been, when car windshields still were built in two pieces? Late 30s? Early 40s?
The Lobster Pot is seen just past the intersection. The big tree in the center of the photo would appear to be the old elm tree that stood in front of the original public library, at he corner of Freeman Street. Beyond that, the spire of today's public library, at that time the Center Methodist Episcopal Church, rises 100 feet above Commercial Street, having been reduced from its 162 foot height after it was seriously damaged in the Portland Gale, in the autumn of 1898.
Below is the same intersection in a photo from the 1890s. At this time the railroad, built in 1873, came through this intersection, and there was an enormous tree a bit farther up Commercial Street. Notice the old wooden four plank sidewalk, built in 1838. It's fun to look at these old photos and try to recognize a few of today's landmarks.

Friday, August 24, 2012

West End Racing Club Teaches PTown Kids and Visitors to Swim and Sail Safely

Kids splashing in the harbor at the West End Racing Club
For about 60 years the West End Racing Club has offered kids from 8 to 16 years of age the chance, and the place, to learn to swim and sail.
When a bunch of kids, all aspiring sailors, began regularly turning up on "Flyer's Beach"
in 1950, a group of parents soon realized the need for not only more sailboats to accommodate the growing number of young sailors, but also for a real club house where they could gather.
Local painters and sculptors were tapped to provide artwork as prizes for raffles that would eventually raise the money to buy the waterfront property at 87 Commercial Street. Boat kits were purchased and fathers of some of the children spent a couple of winters building small sailboats called "weasels" as construction was begun on the club house.
A non-profit organization was formed with the goal of providing Provincetown kids "an opportunity to learn how to sail and enrich their lives with nautical knowledge and experience." Soon five "Blue Jays" were built to augment the fleet of small sailboats available to the kids. "Flyer" Santos and many others were instrumental in starting and running the organization.
Richard Santos became the first beach counselor, establishing regular hours at the new West End Racing Club, living up to its name as races were held several days out of the week, as allowed by the weather and the tides. To participate, kids have to first be able to swim, and that is sometimes the first skill that has to be mastered. Knot tying is also an essential skill kids will learn in the summer program, and kids who are visiting Provincetown during the summer are welcome to join in as well. A registration fee is collected, giving kids access to instruction and the use of equipment for the entire summer season.
Most of the boats used here these days are Sunfish, with very colorful sails, and it is a great sight to see these young sailors zipping back and forth, navigating around each other out in the harbor. Kids are paired two to a boat, and can often learn as much from each other while they are sailing as they learn from their instructors. So when you are assaulted on the street by a group of bubbly, excited kids selling raffle tickets, or when you walk by the old Firehouse near Town Hall and find it is the Racing Club's turn in the booth, fork over a few bucks for a couple of raffle tickets. You may win a nice dinner in a PTown restaurant, or a piece of work by a Provincetown artist, or any number of other possible prizes, and at the very least you'll be helping our kids to continue a great Provincetown tradition while learning to swim and sail safely. Get yourself a West End Racing Club Tee-shirt, and proudly wear a very cool symbol of your support for the youth of Provincetown. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Lobster Scampi at Native Cape Cod Seafood is a "Best Bite"

Native Cape Cod Seafood's Lobster Scampi is a bargain, and a Best Bite.
As I was sitting out on the deck behind the old aquarium having supper one night, I noticed a man who was quite intent on gobbling down his dinner, pausing for nothing except the occasional breath
of air between bites.
I asked him what
he was having and
he said it was the Lobster Scampi from Native Cape Cod Seafood, found just inside the big barn doors on the back of the building as you walk out to the waterfront deck. It was his opinion that this was the best seafood bargain in Provincetown. I put it on my mental list of things I needed to taste around the town, but that list is pretty long what with all the people I talk to every day about their best-loved meals and favorite spots in town. So when I finally got around to having this dish last night I wished I had tried it earlier in the season. I could have eaten it several times by now!
There's nothing fancy about it, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better scampi at the most posh restaurants in town. You'll order at the counter, and it'll be served in a large throw-away plastic bowl that you'll carry on a tray out to your table on the patio or on the waterfront deck behind the building. It's a hearty serving of perfectly cooked linguine, just a bit al dente, with a generous serving of tender, sweet lobster in a creamy garlic sauce turned a bit orange from all the lobster meat swimming in this wonderful sauce. It's served with freshly grated Parmesan, a wedge of lemon and a thick slice of crusty bread on the side, with fresh herbs sprinkled over the top.
Native Cape Cod Seafood is tucked away inside the Aquarium Marketplace, at 205-209 Commercial Street, near the corner of Carver Street. It's all the way at the back of the building, right across from I Dream of Gelato, where I'm going to send you for dessert after your seafood lunch or dinner. It is definitely worth the effort to find this little takeout joint. They also operate a great raw bar out on the patio, and you can get a cold beer or a glass of wine to go with your seafood at the Aqua Bar on the harborside deck.
Whatever variety of seafood you order here, it is absolutely fresh. Talking with Andrew (the owner) I found out he raises his own oysters. He's been a fisherman for at least a couple of decades, so he really knows his stuff. With Andrew at the counter and Kevin doing the cooking, orders roll out of the tiny kitchen at a good clip. Both of these men are deeply invested in the quality of the food they serve, and it certainly shows. The fried clams I had there were the best I ever remember, sweet and pump and obviously right out of the water.
I wrote in a post a few weeks ago that this place seemed to have really hit its stride this year, in its second season, and the more I eat here, the more it becomes my favorite little seafood shack, right on the edge of the harbor. The Lobster Scampi at Native Cape Cod Seafood takes its place among the dishes in Provincetown named by TheYearRounder as a "Best Bite" for it's wonderful flavor, skillful preparation and its excellent value.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dennis and Joe, Frequent Provincetown Visitors, Celebrate 50 Years Together

Joe and Dennis in front of the spot they chose
to exchange vows on their 50th anniversary
Walking past Town Hall I noticed two gentlemen sitting on the bench, wearing hats with an inscription reading "50 years." I stopped and inquired, and, indeed, they had been together for fifty years. I sat and talked with Dennis and Joe, who met in a movie theater in 1962 when Dennis was 22 years old, and Joe was just 18. Each felt like they had really hit it off, and they made plans to spend the next day together.
The following day, as Dennis grew tired of waiting for Joe to show up, he called the phone number he'd been given and Joe's mother told him that Joe had gone out to help a friend and wasn't expected back anytime soon. Naturally, Dennis was irritated and a bit hurt, and decided to go out himself. As he was getting ready there was a knock at the door and there stood Joe, who had made up a story to tell his mother so he could get out of the house. The two spent the entire day together, and that was it for both of them. They became fast companions, and they moved in together on the day Joe turned 21.
On their hats, Dennis and Joe each have a photograph of themselves taken in the first year they were together.  Back then, all their friends were saying their relationship had no chance because they were too young to know what they wanted, and would inevitably break up when one of them met someone else. As you might guess, as these two watched the relationships of their friends crumbling over the years, Dennis and Joe clung together, and their relationship deepened over time as they faced life's challenges and tragedies together, along with the joy of each having the other for a lifetime of love and support. In the pocket of his shirt, Dennis carries a couple of photographs taken in their early days together.
Each of their hats displays this photo from their first year together
After many years as a couple, a friend brought Dennis and Joe to Provincetown on a brief vacation, and they have been visiting frequently ever since. They returned this spring, and on May 30th they stood in front of Town Hall, at the Rose Dorothea plaque pictured above, to exchange vows, along with the new rings they had bought to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Each ring has five diamonds, each one celebrating a decade of their lives together. As a lesbian minister happened to walk by, she sensed something important going on, and stopped to talk for a moment. She then asked if she could say a few words, blessing their rings and officiating as they exchanged vows each had written for the occasion. Dennis, the more easy-going counterpart to Joe's more stoic personality, told me that he became misty-eyed that day as he heard Joe say things he'd never before expressed in all the years that they had spent together.
The two have been considering having an actual wedding, checking with their lawyer on how that might affect provisions already long in place in their wills and in several other arrangements made many years ago, before the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would legally recognize such a marriage. If they do decide to tie the knot, they will ask this same minister to perform the ceremony. Dennis told me that the old adage about never going to bed angry has been one of the secrets to keeping their relationship intact over the years, each at some time allowing the other to think he had been right when a disagreement arose, giving the relationship priority over petty grievances.
Longtime employees of the Bank of Boston, one for 18 years and the other for 35 years, both are now retired, and they return to Provincetown about three times a year. They always stay at the Breakwater Motel, in the same room every time, and as they check out today the staff will reserve their room for next year's visits. We take inspiration from Dennis and Joe, and wish them many happy returns.

Joe and Dennis were married December 12th, 2012.
Update: About a year after this original article was written, Dennis and Joe made the decision to actually get married. The ceremony took place a few months later, at Christmastime, in their own city hall. Massachusetts proudly claims the title of first state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriages.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Your Spare Change Feeds Hungry Families in Massachusetts Towns, Including PTown

This odd looking barrel is helping to feed Provincetown families as well as many others in a dozen Massachusetts towns. In the autumn of 2007 Plymouth resident Wendy Hindon came to two very stark realizations: that there were many people going to bed hungry in Massachusetts, and that the pennies that most of us find annoying to deal with could add up to provide meals for many hungry people. Wendy began a project to gather those annoying pennies and put them to good use, and American Pennies For Hunger was born. In their first year they raised $10,000 dollars to fight hunger in southeastern Massachusetts.
In this country, more than one person in six lives in a household where someone goes to bed hungry. According to the USDA, more than 16 million American Children face the prospect of hunger on a regular basis. On their website, the APFH quotes Mother Theresa, who said "Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you."
APFH is a non-profit 501 (C) (3) organization run entirely by volunteers. There is no paid staff, and all operating expenses are met with private donations, so virtually every penny raised goes to help feed people who need a little assistance to make ends meet. Last year they raised $12,000, making a total of over $40,000 raised and donated over the years to more than 20 emergency food providers such as local food banks, soup kitchens, warehouses and emergency pantries. Donations have gone to a dozen towns including Provincetown, Plymouth and Boston.
This coin collecting barrel is on the sidewalk in front of Womencrafts, near the corner of Pearl Street, at 376 Commercial. There are two coin slots at the top, so you can roll a coin down either chute and watch it roll many times around this big red cone, finally dropping into the barrel below. Roll a coin down each chute and one will roll clockwise while the other rolls counterclockwise around the cone at the same time. It may sound pretty hokey, but it's actually kinda fun to watch them rolling into the barrel. Release several coins at once and see what happens.
 Many people throw away pennies, but now you have a place to put them, and other coins, and you can help raise the next $40,000 to help the hungry, some of them right here in Provincetown, where the seasonal unemployment rate is more than five times the national average, and the poverty rate is 15.5%. So as you walk by this spot reach into your pocket and throw a handful of change into this contraption. You could also push some paper money or a check down the hole, or you could mail them a tax-deductible contribution. Visit the website for American Pennies For Hunger and find out more.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fish Flakes and Trap Boats are Part of Provincetown's Rich Fishing History

This photo of fish flakes is in the collection of
Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum
This old photo shows the fish laid out to dry on one of the 118 wharves that, at one time or another, lined Provincetown's shore, just off of Commercial Street, along the beaches of the harbor. In the early days here the fishing industry employed several hundred fishermen, and hundreds on the land as well. In fact, at one time Provincetown was the wealthiest town on the cape, and, arguably, the wealthiest town in the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Cod and other species were caught and brought to shore in great numbers, being caught in various ways over the years. Mackerel is a "schooler," a fish traveling in great numbers of its kind, or in schools of fish that could be hauled out of the water in sizable amounts. Mackerel helped to fuel the early economy here.
Another fish flake photo in the PMPM collection
Cod was also caught in great numbers in the early days of the PTown fishing industry. Once the cod was cleaned it was salted and laid out to dry on "fish flakes," large open-air racks on the wharves. This was the method of preserving the fish when these photos were taken. The fish had to be carried indoors each night and carried out again the next day so the dew wouldn't collect on it overnight and spoil the fish. Nearly everyone in Provincetown in those days somehow owed their living to the fishing industry, whether they were out in the boats bringing it in, or on the land looking after the fish once it was unloaded on the wharves.
Photo of trap fishing found on the
Library of Congress website
By the 1930s and 40s, the cold storage operations were in full swing, employing people in a variety of jobs as these companies caught, processed, froze, packaged and distributed enormous amounts of fish. Atlantic Coast Fisheries Company owned the Cape Cod Cold Storage, located where the U.S. Coast Guard Station stands today, at the sharp bend of Commercial Street in the West End. This plant alone operated three trap boats, each with a crew of five men who went out in the wee hours of the morning to scoop up the hapless fish who had made their way into the "purse." There was a net attached to tall, upright hickory posts pounded into the floor of the harbor in a straight line out from the shore and curving into a circle with a "gate" left open so the fish could swim in, guided by the straight line of netting that led the fish from the shoreline out to the purse. The fishermen would then come out in small boats and enter the purse, closing the gate behind them, and scoop the fish into the boats. This was one of the greatest methods of fishing ever devised, because it had virtually no impact on the environment. It didn't tear up the ocean floor the way dragging a net behind a boat does, for example.
In 1935, Provincetown fishermen landed 30 million pounds of fish, with 20 million pounds being brought in by trap boats. At that time there were seven "cold storages," as they were called, with the Cape Cod Cold Storage in the West End employing 50 to 100 workers in the cold storage itself, along with the crews operating their three trap boats. The site also had a wharf, power house, pump house, machine shop, blacksmith shop, fillet plant, freezer and cannery.
Trap fishing here ended around the 1960s or 70s, and today we have just a handful of Provincetown boats still fishing in other ways.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Carnival Parade 2012 Was a Big Hit

The annual Parade for  Provincetown's Carnival week was a big hit, as always, with all kinds of groups in costume wandering Commercial Street before and after the parade. This year's theme was "Space Odyssey," so we began seeing aliens and other space-related costumes a few days ago. See my blog post for yesterday, found below this one. Some of these folks had costumes as elaborate, or as entertaining, as the official parade participants. Here's a look at a few sights seen today in the parade and on the street...

It wouldn't be a parade without the famous Hat Sisters
Marc Jacobs elaborate spaceship crashing to earth was a hit
Miss Uranus drew applause, along with her sister planets
A group of friends from Connecticut, New York and Boston dressed
up as the Jetsons. I found them at Captain Lavender's, the upstairs
deck looking out over Commercial Street at the Waterford Inn
One of the most elaborate costumes in the pre-parade
stroll was this blue man with his stunning headdress
Pre-parade marchers pose for a photo
Some floks even got into costume to watch the parade
Even very simple costumes add a lot to the fun of the day
Everybody gets into the spirit when they don a few strands of beads
Nelson, in the green hat, visiting from Connecticut, had these shirts depicting
The Jetsons, from the 1960s TV show, made for all the friends he brought to Carnival
Photo ops abound as costumed revelers happily pose for pictures
The aftermath. We thank the Department of Public Works
for all the work they do to clean up after Carnival every year

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Aliens Roam Commercial Street as PTown Gets Into Carnival Spirit

Aliens brandishing laser weapons were spotted this afternoon on Commercial Street, just at the edge of the Gallery District.  Even though they were aiming their intergalactic sidearms at passersby, they didn't seem threatening, and in fact seemed eager to meet the inhabitants of Earth, and to pose for photos as well. It is suspected that their appearance on the planet has something to do with the annual Provincetown Carnival celebration, running through Friday, August 17th, with many events scheduled all over town each day. This year's Carnival theme is "Space Odyssey." You can check out the Carnival schedule online, or stop by the old firehouse near Town Hall to find out what's happening each day. There you can also get Carnival T-shirts and various other supplies and paraphernalia, including the ubiquitous (and some will say mandatory) Carnival beads. By mid-afternoon on Thursday, tens of thousands of people will be gathered all along Commercial Street, waiting for the parade to start, and nearly everyone will be wearing strings of beads ranging from simple strands of round glass baubles all in a single color to elaborate ones made of blown glass and painted by hand. Kind of like at Mardi Gras, you'll want to have several strands of beads at the ready, so you can pass them along to folks you meet who have no beads, or to anyone else who strikes your fancy as you stroll through the town. This usually means wearing them all around your neck, unless you are sporting a very special strand or two yourself, in which case strands of beads to be given away can be carried with you in a bag and passed out to others until you run out of beads. You'll also find a few non-profit organizations selling strands of beads as a fund raiser, and convenience stores and other shops will have them for sale, too.
The parade is scheduled to begin in the Far East End at 3 PM, moving down Commercial Street to Franklin Street. The procession of floats, vehicles and marchers generally reaches the center of town around forty minutes to an hour past the scheduled start time, but can vary a bit in either direction. People will start bringing out lawn chairs and lining the curb along Commercial Street at least an hour or two before the parade.  This is where it comes in handy to have a friend in a second floor Commercial Street apartment. Absent such a friend, you'll want to pick a spot on the street early and defend it against the encroaching crowds. Don't forget your camera. Happy Carnival!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Change of Season Changes Flowers All Around Provincetown

This beautiful display found in the garden at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, at Bradford and Ryder Streets, is a great example of the lovely blooms and blossoms to be found all around PTown every spring. But, unfortunately, many seasonal flowers only bloom for just a few weeks or so and then begin to disappear as the season rolls along.
These lovely yellow blossoms, found in quite a few spots along Bradford Street, were among the early bloomers this spring, as usual, but most of them have vanished by this time of the summer.
The fragrant pink and white, blossoms of the rose hips have all but disappeared for the season as well.
We can take some consolation, though, in the flowers that are beginning to bloom this past week, and in those that have yet to make their annual appearances. Hibiscus have begun to bloom in several varieties and colors all around the town.
I think my favorites may be these very large, deep red ones found growing every summer on Commercial Street, across from the Boatslip. Get out for a stroll around town and enjoy the flowers that can be found only at this particular time of the summer.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"3 Under 35" Series Finds a Whole Day of Great PTown Meals for Under $35

If you've been following my blog, you know that I have said I would show you how you could find three meals a day, and eat well, on less than $35 a day. The combination of meals on this page actually totals $36.55 for the day, including tax and tip, but I just couldn't resist putting my very favorite bargain breakfast, lunch and dinner together on one page. I'll make up for it later, by sending you on a picnic at the beach for four people for $20. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about my favorite full breakfast in town for only $6, which includes the tax, at Red Eye Coffee, at 258 Commercial Street, right next to Town Hall. When I wrote that post this meal was only available on the weekends, but a few days later, Jeremy decided to serve it every day, and it's still available, along with breakfast sandwiches and other breakfast goodies, right up until closing time each day, which is anywhere from 11 PM till 1AM, depending on the crowds every night.
Red Eye Coffee is a little take-out joint, with tables out in front on the patio, so you order at the counter, your meal is served on a paper plate, and you carry it out to the patio. The breakfast shown here is two fried eggs, home fries, sausage, and a toasted bagel with butter, and a few slices of cantaloupe garnish the plate on this particular day. Have your eggs scrambled instead, or have ham or bacon, or have it with Texas Toast, or with an English muffin, or with a Portuguese muffin, which is made with a slightly sweet dough. However you order it, this full breakfast is just $6, and since the tax is included, just throw a buck into the tip jar next to the register and you've got a great, filling breakfast for $7!
OK, on to lunch...
El Mundo, at 269 Commercial Street, is right in the center of town, right across the street from Town Hall. They have a daily lunch special that you can't  beat, and it is just $8.95. You'll choose a taco or a burrito, filled with your choice of shredded chicken, pulled pork, sauteed vegetables, ground beef, or black beans.
For my lunch the other day, pictured at the left, I ordered the veggie burrito, stuffed with sweet corn, zucchini, summer squash, peppers, potatoes and onions. It's smothered in a mild green chili sauce, drizzled with sour cream, and served with rice, beans and salsa fresca. Delish! Add tax and a 20% tip and you're out the door with a smile on your face and a full belly for just $11.55. Like I said, you can't beat it.
For dinner we're headed to the Seafood Grille at the Waterford Inn, at 386 Commercial Street. They have an early dinner special offering three courses, ordered by 6:30 PM, for just $14. Start with your choice of clam chowder or a nice garden salad. There are four different main courses offered, featuring seafood or chicken. Dessert is included, too. See my July 12th post Early Dinner at the Seafood Grille... to read a full description of the excellent meal I had, and will have again before the summer is over. I love this dish with mussels and Asian vegetables served over linguine noodles. The mussels are perfectly steamed, and the delicate, slightly sweet sauce with a bit of ginger makes this one of my very favorite seafood dinners offered in Provincetown. Dessert on my last visit was a large sundae of vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate sauce. Add the tax and a 20% tip and your dinner tab is just $18, making the total for an entire day of really good food just $36.55. That's not much to spend in a town where a dinner entree alone can easily cost you that much.
Each of these meals has been chosen by TheYearRounder as a Best Bite for the quality of the meal as well as the bargain price. Watch for a number of future "3 Under 35" posts where we'll indeed find many great combinations of three meals a day for under $35.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Varla Jean Merman "Tops Herself" in PTown 2012 Summer Season at Art House

In the photo at the left, Varla Jean Merman beats on a tambourine, with her own surprised face on the front, during her hilarious show Topping Myself, at the Art House, at 214 Commercial Street. New for the 2012 summer season in Provincetown, the show features an elaborate array of props and costumes, for which Varla has become well-known over the years, but she definitely "tops herself" this year with a couple of gags and outfits that must have cost a pretty penny only to be used on-stage for literally just a few seconds of this wonderful, fast paced and highly entertaining show.
Jeffery Roberson's first PTown appearance as Varla Jean Merman, the illegitimate daughter of Ernest Borgnine and Ethel Merman (who actually were married for about 10 minutes in the 1950s, weren't they?) was as an "opener" for Lypsinka at Town Hall in 1996. Roberson, at six feet, two inches, cuts a dashing and impressive figure himself, but when he ads a few more inches of hair and heels, Varla becomes truly statuesque, with a personality that is also larger than life.
After Varla's first appearance here, Roberson remarked on his genuine surprise that in Provincetown, of all places, he was mistaken for an actual woman by quite a number
of theater patrons.
The 1998 summer season marked the beginning of what would become several years of appearances at the Post Office Cabaret, each summer bringing a new show and another amazing array of costumes and props, to the delight of a steadily growing league of die-hard fans who would never miss a season's performance. Moving to the larger stage of the Art House in 2008, Varla is now accompanied on the piano by Gerald Goode, and she now has enough space to occasionally add another body or two to the stage, this year spoofing Miss Richfield 1981.
Varla has appeared from one end of the country to the other, including Carnegie Hall, and internationally as well, with performances in London and in Australia. She has been seen on television and in films both large and small, recently making a very funny cameo appearance in BearCity2, where in typical Varla fashion, she wedged herself into a number of scenes while other cameo actors got only seconds of screen time.
Upon the recent death of Ernest Borgnine, Varla responded to all her Facebook fans' concerns thusly: "Thank you all for your kind words. The loss of a parent is devastating, and my love for him was unrestrained. He was a quiet man, but his lawyers often conveyed his true feelings for me, and at least reassured me that he did know I was out there, especially when I came within 400 feet of him."
Make sure you don't miss Varla Jean Merman in Topping Myself. The show goes on at 9 PM nightly except Sundays, through September 1st. Get tickets online or at the box office, open every afternoon at 2 PM, inside the Art House Theater, at 214 Cimmercial Street. Be sure to go early to the show, and enjoy a number of videos of Varla compiled over the past 10 years, playing before each performance as patrons file into the theater. TheYearRounder chooses this show as this week's Hot Ticket.

Friday, August 10, 2012

TheYearRounder's "PTown Quest for the Best" Leads to the Mews for Striped Bass

Chef Laurence deFreitas' pan seared Striped Bass over a summer slaw
During the brief season for Striped Bass every summer,
I will eat out every night, ordering this wonderful fish in every restaurant where I can find it.
The commercial fishermen are very limited in the amount of Striped Bass they can land during the summer, so this beautiful, meaty, juicy white fish is found on Provincetown menus for only a short time, maybe for just 3 weeks or so every summer. So each night when the stripers are running, I go from one restaurant to the next, as long as they have the bass on the menu, and order it wherever I can find it, regardless of what other delectables might be listed as entrees that night.
On this particular night I had returned to The Mews Restaurant and Cafe, where I had found a delightful bass the week before, and I knew I would find a different preparation, equally as creative as the previous one. On this night this noble fish was pan seared and finished in the oven, served on a bed of summer slaw made from shredded red and Chinese cabbages, fennel, heirloom tomatoes and pineapple, dressed in rice wine vinegar. The slight crunchiness of the cabbage and the fennel was perfect with the fork-tender fish and its crispy skin, and that bit of sweet flavor from the pineapple balanced out the slight acidity of the tomatoes. The modest sweetness of this mild vinegar dressing pulled all these flavors together while still letting each one be distinguished, and the fish was cooked perfectly, making this a faultless dish, and a Best Bite. Chef Laurence deFreitas has the inborn ability, and a natural talent, for combining ingredients and flavors, often with a bit of an Asian influence in his dishes.
The Mews is a ten-minute walk from the center of Provincetown, in the Gallery District in the East End, at 429 Commercial Street. You'll find two waterfront dining rooms, a very welcoming, professional staff, and a wonderful bar with a collection of more than 280 vodkas from around the world. I had the delightful Pomegranate Martini this evening. Parking is sparse but occasionally possible, along Commercial Street. In the summertime you can also take the Provincetown/North Truro shuttle bus along Bradford Street and
get off the bus at Bangs Street, which will lead you south, toward the harbor and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum at the corner of Commercial Street. Spend some time there before or after your dinner at The Mews and enjoy the wonderful Motherwell exhibit, which runs through September 30th. From there you'll walk less than a block to the west, along Commercial Street, to The Mews. You'll find a bike rack there as well. In fact, chef Laurence deFreitas bikes to work. Ya gotta love a town like this.
The Mews is open yearround, with reservations recommended even in the off-season. Phone them at 508 487-1500.
Watch for another post soon about the best striper dinners I've found in PTown restaurants over the past couple of weeks.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Catch Yourself a Striped Bass in Provincetown Waters

The Striped Bass is the most prized fish in these waters, being caught from the shoreline or by boat, with lures or with bait, by experienced fishermen or by novices...
Striped Bass season is upon us, with stripers beginning to show up in greater numbers on the shoreline in spots along Cape Cod and Provincetown beaches. These fishermen were spotted walking on the breakwater in the far west end of Provincetown, wearing some serious gear. You don't have to go to this extreme to get started fishing for stripers. Some basic equipment can be found at Lands End hardware store at 337 Commercial Street, and everything you really need, along with advice to get you started, can certainly be found at Nelson's Bait and Tackle, at 43 Race Point Road. To get out on the water on a chartered fishing boat, Nelson's recommends Beth Ann Fishing Charters, found on MacMillan Pier, running fishing and whale watching charters from early May all the way to late October. Phone them at 508 487-0034.
For the really serious fisherman, Nelson's can hook you up with fishing guide Steve Kean, a die-hard fisherman who spends nearly every moment of his life in the pursuit of big fish. If you are prepared to walk several miles in soft sand, trekking through inlets and hiking over hills to remote locations, Steve will guide you to the spots most likely to produce that big fish, in a different spot every day, of course. Sunrise, sunset or overnight trips can be arranged. These are fairly strenuous hikes, and are not meant for the beginner or the casual fisherman.
For most of us, picking out a rod and reel and stocking up on lures, lines and bait is probably the way to go, and Nelson's will help you with all of that. If you are going to fish from the shoreline or from your own boat, don't forget to get your recreational saltwater fishing permit from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, required to fish anywhere other than from a properly registered fishing charter. This can be had online, and you can use a computer and print out your permit at the public library, at 356 Commercial Street. It will cost you about $12 by credit card.
Look for an upcoming post about the very best striped bass I've found in PTown restaurants in the past couple of weeks.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The PTown Treat to Beat the Summer Heat...

In this evil, hot, sticky weather we've been having there's one thing that has kept me going... I dream of gelato.
At 205 Commercial Street, near the foot of Carver Street, tucked away in the back of the little food court in the old Aquarium, you'll find the finest gelato on American shores. It's well worth the few extra minutes you might spend  finding the place the first time you visit. Once you find it, you'll definitely be back. This is quite likely the best gelato you'll ever taste.
I Dream of Gelato is now in its 7th year, serving up the most delectable frozen confections, specialty coffees, fresh fruit smoothies, custom milkshakes made to order, and more. Of course, the real star here is the gelato, homemade Italian ice cream made right here, every day, one small batch at a time. Over the years Michelle has absolutely perfected more than 160 flavors of gelatos and sorbets, ranging from the creamy smooth Pink Grapefruit to about three dozen different chocolate flavors. At any given moment you'll find two dozen flavors in the display case, with each flavor rotating into the spotlight several times over the summer. Actually, you could just close your eyes and throw a dart to choose a flavor, and you would walk out happy every time. Try the Caramel Apple flavor, or the White Chocolate Coconut, or the more exotic flavors like Rose or Jasmine.
Gelato is actually a lot better for you than conventional American ice cream, which can have a butterfat content of as much as 26 percent! Gelato is made with milk rather than cream, and no eggs are used, so the fat content is cut way down, and the flavors in the gelato really shine through without all that butterfat clogging up your tastebuds. But the texture of gelato is still incredibly creamy because of the way it's made. It doesn't have nearly the amount of air whipped in the way ice cream does, so it is denser and smoother, giving it a creamier feeling in your mouth. Without all that air whipped in, gelato also lets you taste more of the flavor of the fruit, or whatever ingredients are used to flavor it. Gelato is also made and frozen at a temperature a bit less frigid than ice cream, so your tongue and your tastebuds can actually discern more of the flavor of gelato.
My very favorite of all the choices is the Pineapple Basil Sorbet. Did you know that sorbets are made without any dairy ingredients? So there is even less fat in a sorbet, but you wouldn't know it from the taste. Each one I have tried has been absolutely delicious. By the way, you are invited to taste a couple of flavors to help you choose the one you want, or order your cup or cone with more than one flavor. And then you can come back the next day for different flavors.
I don't look forward to the next streak of hot, humid weather predicted for the next few days, but as long as I can dream of gelato after a long day working in the heat, I'll survive this weather just fine.
By the way, I Dream of Gelato has a brand new sister shop across Commercial Street and a few doors closer to Town Hall. Look for Sips and Lix at 212 Commercial Street, where you'll find fresh juices, a smoothie bar, wheat grass shots, frozen yogurt and modern soft-serve ice cream. Look for an upcoming post about this terrific new shop.

Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum Breathe Life Into PTown History

Photo of signing of the Mayflower Compact
was taken from PMPM website
The Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum can be found on High Pole Hill, Behind Town Hall, and beyond Bradford Street. Walk up High Pole Hill Road, right next to Alden Street, or you can walk or drive up Winslow Street, with paid parking available on the grounds.
The diorama at the left, found in the Provincetown Museum, at the base of the monument, depicts the signing of The Mayflower Compact, which was the first document in the history of the world to lay out a democracy of the people and by the people.
This charter gave rights and responsibilities to the 41 men who drafted and signed it, establishing rules that would help them govern their lives together in the New World, as they called it. All of this took place in November of 1620 aboard the Mayflower as she lay anchored in the far west end of what we know today as Provincetown Harbor, following an arduous 67 day voyage across the Atlantic.
This is just one of many fine exhibits found in the museum. A favorite of mine is the cut-away section of a ship showing the captain's living quarters on a typical ship of the whaling era. In those days, a man much over five feet in height was a very tall man, and these captain's quarters show us a very tiny bunk where the captain would have slept.
The museum contains many rooms full of wonderful exhibits, with a room or two entirely devoted to exhibits which will change for each new season of visitors.
The Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum are open daily, with summertime hours from 9 AM to 7 PM. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and students 15 and older with ID, $4 for children 4 to 14, free for members and children 3 and under.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pirates Strolling Commercial Street Amuse Provincetown Visitors

These two fine gentlemen, who each live in the Harwich area, come to PTown on the odd weekend to walk the streets in costume and in character as pirates of the early 18th century, to the delight of all who meet them. Their costumes are impressive, down to the finest detail, and their banter sounds as though they had actually spent some time on the high seas, transporting us all back to the swashbuckling era of the 1700s with their good-natured humor about the life of a pirate and their quaint manner of speaking. As the heat and humidity rose today to staggering levels, they had to cast off their coats, but they still completely looked the part as they wandered Commercial Street, carrying their small pirate's chest where people they've amused or posed for photos with can deposit a tip.
They've performed at many events such as the Cape Cod Maritime Festival, the Chatham Fourth of July celebration, and others. They've done various parties and events, and, yes, even weddings. Visit their website if you should need to rent a pirate, and in the meantime, continue to enjoy them when they visit the streets of Provincetown. And don't forget to tip your pirate.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Whoopie Goldberg and Bruce Vilanch to Appear One Night Only in Provinceown - This Week's Hot Ticket

Town Hall poster announces appearance of
these two comedy legends this Sunday night
We all know Whoopie Goldberg from various performances in movies, on television, on Broadway and for a host of other displays of her talent as an actor, MC, producer, and as a comedienne extraordinaire. She is one of just a handful of entertainers to have garnered an Emmy as well as a Grammy, a Tony (as producer) and an Oscar. In fact, make that two Emmys, and throw in four People's Choice Awards, a British Academy Film Award and a star on the fabled Hollywood Walk of Fame.
And we all know Bruce Vilanch, too, whether we know it or not. He has written the majority of witty remarks and bon mots you've heard come from the mouths of nearly every host or presenter at the Academy Awards over the years, and probably on any other award show, celebrity roast or TV comedy special you can name.
Vilanch was the subject of a feature-length documentary called Get Bruce, which was spotlighted in the Provincetown International Film Festival a few years back, showing us so many of the nation's biggest stars calling him for a quick line or a zinger they could plug into their various appearances on numerous award shows and celebrity roasts over the years. He is the go-to-guy for quick wit and snappy remarks for any gathering frequented by the Hollywood elite. Once he had visited us to do Q & A following screenings of the documentary, he began making occasional comedy appearances of his own on PTown stages during the summers, and his is always among the funniest performances of the season.
Whoopie and Bruce appeared together some time back on television, when both of their extremely quick wits bounced off of each other in a brisk, comic staccato which considerably raised the entertainment quotient on the Hollywood Squares, which Goldberg was producing at the time. The two will appear together again at Town Hall, at 260 Commercial Street, for one night only, in two shows on Sunday evening, August 5th, with a show at 7 PM and another at 9:30. I'm told that each will do a solo performance at both shows, appearing side by side at the end of each show to interact together and to take questions from the audience.
Tickets are $75 for general admission and $125 for VIP seating, and can be found in a kind of make-shift box office at the top of the stairs at Town Hall, or you can get tickets online. This promises to be one of the great shows of Provincetown's 2012 summer season, and is TheYearRounder's pick for this week's Hot Ticket.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Perfect Weather Brings PTown Beachgoers to the Far West End

Sunbathers, kayakers, sailboaters and motorboaters flock to this
Far West End oasis for some quick sun before the tide rolls in
This little haven in the Far West End of Provincetown Harbor, just next to the West End breakwater, is a great spot where you can catch a little sun, have a picnic, go for a swim, haul your kayak out onto the beach, go snorkeling, hike out to the lighthouses or fish from the breakwater. Even the occasional Striped Bass, the most prized fish in these waters, has been hauled out of this spot. With a $10 permit issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (now required for both residents and visitors) you can try your hand at surf casting anywhere along the shoreline, or you can fish by boat. No permit is required to fish from a properly licensed fishing charter boat. Click on this Massachusetts Recreational Fishing page to find out about permits for fresh or saltwater fishing. You can go to our public library, at 356 Commercial Street, and use a credit card online to print out your saltwater fishing permit. It will cost you about $12, including the processing fees.
You can look for basic, inexpensive snorkeling equipment at our local hardware stores at 337 Commercial Street or at 21 Conwell Street, or you can rent more serious equipment at Venture Athletics, at 237 Commercial Street, at the back of the Whalers Wharf, if they have any left to rent by the time you get there. Phone them at 508 487- 9442. You can also rent kayaks and stand-up paddle boards there, or at Flyer's Boat Rentals at 131A Commercial Street, which is down a little alley called Good Templar Place, next to Lorraine's restaurant.
You have to time your visit to this little beach with the rise and fall of the tides, which will occur at a different time each day. Today's high tide reached its peak of 9.8 feet at 12:18 PM, and this evening our low tide will occur at 6:18 PM. That might give you the idea that things happen in an orderly fashion around here, but that is not the case.
Tides in Provincetown Harbor typically rise and recede by about 8 to 10 feet, twice in roughly a 25 hour period. For a very rough estimate, you can figure that about every 6 hours and 15 minutes or so, the tide will begin slowly rising around you, or the water level will start gradually dropping until the tidal flats of this little neighborhood beach become exposed, which is the perfect time to go beach combing and looking for shells and other little treasures revealed at low tide. Click to read my previous post on beach combing in this spot, and read my post about hiking out to the Wood End Lighthouse.
With this difference in the tides from day to day, you can figure a ball park estimate on your own, but actual tides can vary from this unscientific formula by about 30 minutes. The tide tomorrow afternoon will reach its peak at 9.9 feet at 1:07 PM, but I only know that from looking up a tide chart online. Keep in mind that even a tide near 12 feet is not that unusual in PTown, and will put this little beach under water, and Boston tides given on the news don't match the depth or timing for Provincetown. Your best bet is to get a tide chart, and you can usually find a free one at Lands End Marine Supply while you're picking up your snorkeling gear, cooler, flip-flops, suntan lotion, paper plates, sunglasses, hibachi and sun hat, along with your beach umbrella, chair and towel, and anything else you'll need for a day at the beach. And don't forget the trash bags to pick up after yourself when you've had enough sun.