Sunday, April 19, 2020

Mid-April Snow Storm in Provincetown Actually Brought a Pleasant Tranquility

Looking beyond the clothesline to gardening pots at the edge of the snowy forest.
About 6:15 this morning I awoke to about an inch of snow on the ground and in the trees, giving a sort of surreal, black-and-white look to the patch of forest where my back yard ends. The only bits of color visible today, in this normally verdant scene of green grasses and treetops against a bright blue sky, were now just the row of big clay pots and the barely-yellowish birdbath at the back of my yard, which lies just along the edge of a lovely, tiny patch of conservation lands.
The sun was up, but invisible behind the thick layer of clouds that were slowly dropping huge, wet snowflakes over Provincetown and beyond. I watched for about 40 minutes as snowflakes the size of tiddlywinks, (remember those?) and even a few poker chips, drifted silently down to cover my back yard in about an inch of whiteness that felt a bit surreal, but somehow kind of comforting, even soothing.
I knew I wasn't going out in it, so I didn't resent this mid-April (and hopefully the last) snowfall in PTown till next winter. It actually made my day a little better somehow, and I'll take all of these little bits of serenity I can get these days.
Stay hopeful, stay safe, and, please, stay indoors. You can still enjoy the view.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

April Fools Day in Provincetown

What's wrong with this picture? Enter to win a great prize from a great PTown eatery.
There's something odd about this photo, taken on a busy summer day along the streets of Provincetown. If you can spot what's wrong with this picture you'll win a prize from a great Provincetown restaurant, deli, takeout, clam shack, pizza joint or other fine eatery..
It's easy to enter; all you have to do is leave a text or voice message with your name and phone number, along with your answer, by dialing 617 283-1003, or e-mail, or send by snail -mail to TheYearRounder, P O Box 1632, Provincetown, MA, 02657 before the deadline. Entries must be received, by any of these means, before 12:01 AM Eastern Daylight Time on April 30th, 2020.
Don't worry… you will never end up on an e-mail list or land on a telemarketer's clipboard by contacting TheYearRounder. You'll just be notified if you win something.
If more than one correct answer is received before the deadline, the winner will be chosen in a random drawing from ALL CORRECT ENTRIES received ON TIME. Then all on-time entries, even those with the wrong answer will be combined in a big hat, and another prize will be awarded! Any entry judged(by me!) to be really funny, will count as a correct answer, and be included in that drawing, as well as any possible random drawing. That means you don't even have to be right to win this April Fool's contest, you just have to enter, unless, of course, there's only one correct answer submitted on time, which would automatically win, and then be entered into any possible random drawing as well. You can enter as many times as you'd like between now and the deadline.

I think my all time favorite April Fools joke is still the BBC effort above, just 1:30 in length, so take a look. it shpild be followed by anothe brief film about how they did it. You can also see it by clicking on this link: Penguins April Fool - The Making Of - BBC

  Click this link to the see BBC 1957 "spaghetti tree"

The program Panorama, BBC's public affairs program, was broad cast as an April Fools joke in 1957, still worth a giggle today when you think about how many people believed it, or were offended by it.


Sunday, March 29, 2020

As Coronavirus Cases Begin to Show up in PTown, This is NOT the Time to Visit Us!

Ironically, our Chamber of Commerce was just getting our new invitation ready
to welcome visitors back to Provincetown once this is all over, just as our
first virus cases were being reported. And we were doing so well ....
Folks, we will joyfully welcome visitors to Provincetown once again, after
this extreme health emergency is all over, but for now, friends, please don't come.

We who have chosen this spot to live, or who were born here, certainly understand the appeal of Provincetown, and we can't blame people for wanting to hunker down in this gorgeous, serene setting filled with warm, wonderful people who normally embrace all who want to visit, but right now, we simply can't do that. Our governor has issued a stay-at-home order throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He has declared that anyone coming into Massachusetts MUST self-isolate for a period of 14 days, including residents returning home from a trip. A parking ban is in effect in order to further discourage visitors from trying to come to Provincetown. There's NOWHERE to go out to dinner. Dining rooms are closed in all 92 of Provincetown's restaurants. Eggs are being rationed at the supermarket, and there's not a jug of spring water to be found.

You know we love all of you guys, but this
is NOT the time for a trip to PTown. 

All non-essential businesses are closed. There are restaurants offering meals to take out, and the Stop&Shop supermarket remains open, but it is short on many items and completely sold out on others. With so many of us staying home and cooking our own meals all day long, and most folks trying to stock up on enough groceries to last at least a couple of weeks at a time, some are panic-buying when they find the stock on the shelves getting low, and that leaves very few grocery alternatives for so many of us who can't afford a 48-pack of Charmin.

UPDATE 3/31/22: Our governor has announced a short-term rental ban on accommodations.
That means that no hotel, motel, Airbnb or similar rentals are currently available to the public anywhere on Cape Cod. Any short-term rentals still permitted to operate will be serving medical or emergency workers only,  along with some satellite facilities being authorized and adapted in various locations throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,
in order to care for medical patients.

We are all making sacrifices in order to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus. As New York zooms toward the peak of its infection, and people leave that city in great numbers, it doesn't make sense to travel to Provincetown, from anywhere! Our numbers are rising here as well. They will rise exponentially faster and higher if we have an influx of people coming to stay indoors here rather than staying indoors at home.

In the summertime we have extra police officers, paramedics, ambulances, doctors 
and sanitation staff on hand, to make sure this little village can look after all of the 
extra people coming into town. In the wintertime, we don't have any of that.

We all know that a certain percentage of people traveling anywhere throughout the nation at this particular time will be carrying the virus, whether they know it or not, and whether they
feel fine at this moment or not. Our closest hospital is 54 miles away, in Hyannis, serving many other towns as well. Boston hospitals are 127 miles away, and already feeling the crunch as virus cases are ramping up more quickly. Groceries are in short supply, and, again, there's
not a jug of spring water to be found. And we all know what Provincetown water tastes like.
We're all staying indoors and reading cookbooks, trying to figure out what we can
make for dinner with whatever we could get at the grocery store this past week,
and doing our very best to keep our little town from blowing up.

We're not saying you can't come here. We get it. But at the same time, if we get
big influx of people, a greater number of us will get sick, and it will take us much longer to clean up and get ready to welcome everybody back again when it's all over. 
In that scenario, we would definitely have more businesses, as well as more people,
going under, literally, and permanently. The face of Provincetown could be
changed forever, and nobody wants that.

I'm just sayin' ...

This is not the time to come to Provincetown.

Stay safe at home, wash your hands, protect those around you, wash your hands,
get plenty of sleep, wash your hands, eat well, wash your hands, and wash your hands.
We love you, and we'll see you again, when it's all over.
And don't forget to wash your hands.

The stunning photo of the tidal flats along Provincetown Harbor were taken by Randy Jansen,
a frequent contributor to the Provincetown Photography Page on Facebook.
If you're jonesing for a bit of Provincetown, find many great photos in various  corners of Facebook to help tide you over until  we're ready to welcome you all back again.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Happy 100th Birthday to Provincetown Treasure Ilona Royce Smithkin!

Probably the most-recognized photo of Ilona Royce Smithkin is this iconic photo from the
film Advanced Style, by Ari Seth Cohen and Lina Plioplyte, available on Prime Video.
Today is the 100th birthday of renowned artist, beloved friend and neighbor, and one of the absolute treasures of Provincetown, Ilona Royce Smithkin! Born in Poland, and immigrating to the United States in 1938, she has been a fixture in our town for, ummm, I'm guessing, more than 70 years, dividing her time between winters mostly in New York’s West Village, and the rest of the year in her beloved apartment and studio in PTown.
In between times she has regularly taught painting classes in many other locations, where she is just as beloved as she is here. She also taught art through her acclaimed television series lona’s Pallette, which became a PBS staple. She has also taught extensively here in town, at Provincetown Art Association and Museum. Her classes are jammed with students as eager to hear her speak about life in this world as they are to learn sketching and painting from this most remarkable artist.

Ilona has performed around the world , as captured in this
photo from an article about her in Passport magazine
In her early 80s, Ilona went through a sort of renaissance, finding a certain freedom in her advancing years, along with a sense of joyshe had never fully experienced before that time.
Infact, she felt free enough to begin performing a sort of "cabaret" with a bit of song in the style of Marlene Dietrich, among others, along with wonderful stories from her very colorful life.
Such literary luminaries as Ayn Rand and Tennessee Williams had asked her to do their portraits. In fact, Ilona has sketched or painted portraits for many well-known actors and entertainers over the years, some of which are displayed at the Karilon Gallery in Provincetown, at 447 Commercial Street.

Ilona’s life changed quite a bit again a number of years ago when she met a man on the streets of New York. For years, Ari Seth Cohen had been drawing stylish older women, and later began photographing these women “of a certain age” as he came across them. At one point he had been told about Ilona and her flaming red hair and eyelashes, and her penchant for bright colors, and he ended up looking for her on the streets of the West Village for about a year-and-a-half, wanting to include her in a project he called “Advanced Style.”

Poster for the film Advanced Style
He had begun putting his photos and written impressions of great numbers of captivating older women into a blog, and eventually into a book, and then into a film, collaborating with first-time director Lina Plioplyte. Ilona became an audience favorite in that wonderful film, which you can find on Prime Video. Click here to watch the trailer for Advanced Style on IMDb.

In honor of Ilona's 100th, I also watched Ilona Upstairs again. It was made by Hammil, who became Ilona's neighbor when she moved into the apartment below the one where Ilona had lived and painted in the West Village section of New York City for, at that time, at least 60 winters.
Hammil had become fascinated by this small, relentlessly cheerful woman who maintained a real sense of joy in her life by holding at arm's length the horrible sadness of her earlier life. Click the link above to watch the movie for free on Vimeo.
See the terrific article and photos in the Passport magazine article titled Ilona Royce Smithkin: Artist, Writer, Chanteuse, Raconteur. Get to know Ilona a bit when you watch "I'm in love with life" - Advanced Style Icon Ilona Royce Smithkin on YouTube.

Those Eyelashes!
You'll also want to see the YouTube video Eyelashes! by Zoe Lewis, capturing Ilona's ebullient spirit in videoclips of her making her way around town, celebrating life at the edge of the beach, and performing in the annual Eyelash Cabaret benefit for PAAM. She sings and dances as she creates a sketch for some lucky recipient in the audience, while Lewis sings the song she wrote about Ilona's most striking feature: those trademark, inch-long, fiery red eyelashes cut from her own hair and pasted into place on her lids. You can't watch this performance without dancing out of the room, singing yourself.
We in Provincetown have been enjoying Ilona's colorful style and infectious "joie de vivre" for many years, and we celebrate the wonderful occasion of her 100th Birthday!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Provincetowners Find Ways to Keep our Sanity in the Crisis.

Peter Donnelly put on a great concert from home last Sunday, streamed
live on Facebook, and folks were able to interact through their comments.
So all of Provincetown has been officially asked to stay at home, and even though it's really only been a couple of days, people are understandably getting a little twitchy as they are completely disrupting their lives in order to try to stem the rapid rise of the Covid-19 virus throughout the US.

A lot of folks have been going to work, maybe going out for a few drinks or dinner with friends, all the while being cautious, washing their hands, and trying really hard to remember to stay 6 feet away from everybody else on the planet.
Well... that was all well and good while we were clinging to the notion that our little community, isolated from the rest of the world by sheer geography, might be spared altogether from the talons of this often mild, yet potentially lethal, new virus.
That little pipe dream ended last week when two of us here in PTown tested positive for coronavirus. Today I was told that there are now two more new cases here in our little burg. We're in the stage where we can really help to keep the number of new cases here  low, but that can only happen if we all STAY INDOORS! PERIOD!! THAT'S IT!!!

Confinement is a very difficult thing to deal with, especially in Provincetown, where many people already feel isolated in the off-season, when our fairly deserted streets show a sharp contrast to the busy, boisterous display of  a PTown summer. We're used to being in a crowd of people happily walking arm-in-arm, greeting friends with a kiss, or at bare minimum a big, heart-felt hug and a warm conversation lasting several minutes, ending with another lingering hug or kiss goodbye. That's how we do it around here, even among the few of us who are here year-round, but all of that must change, and right now, even if only temporarily.

We all know that we're responsible not only for our own health, and for doing all the things that we know are helping to slow the spread of the virus, but we also know that we each have a duty to our friends, loved ones, and to strangers as well, to keep them as safe as possible by doing what we know are the right things, challenging as that might be.
We have to get a little creative to come up with ways to amuse ourselves while shut away from friends and even relatives, and there are lots of folks who are finding ways to entertain us, on TV, in print, and particularly online. On Sunday afternoon I just happened to stumble onto Facebook at the right moment to catch local singer/songwriter/musician and all-around good fellow Peter Donnelly, putting on a concert from home, entertaining all of us who are in great need of connection with our fellow humans. "Aunt Steve" was on hand to amuse us as well. This wonderful bit of entertainment was so greatly appreciated, by me, and by so many who watched it live on Facebook, their comments rolling up on the screen in real time.
You might be able to look this up on Facebook. I hope so, because I'd really like to see it again. I couldn't find it on YouTube, but I did find a number of short videos of Pete singing some of his great original songs, a lot of which paint vivid pictures of life in Provincetown. I also found an amazing "America Strong" moment on network television...
Click to watch Dr. Elvis Francois singing, accompanied by Dr William Robinson on the piano, after they had finished their hospital shift at the Mayo Clinic. You can find some remarkable performances all over the internet, and I'll share more of these as I find them. By the way, Pete said something about legendary Provincetown entertainer Zoe Lewis  doing a show tomorrow night, Thursday, March 25th, at 6 PM. Check Facebook to see if I got this right.
Do the right thing: Be safe, watch out for your fellow humans, and live well as we all weather this storm.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

There's Soooo Much to Learn About Women in US History

1921 photo of Suffragettes, New York Times
Today is International Women's Day, with events, celebrations, and probably a fair number of protests also taking place in various locations the world over. In addition to this world-wide holiday held every year on March 8th, March has been declared Women's History Month in the United States, with special tributes and tidbits featuring little-known women who have shaped US history showing up on TV programs like ABC's The View and in other relevant spots in American News.
I'm going to begin to put up a photo or a quote about women or girls, something that I find interesting or provoking, as often as I can through this month, and maybe beyond that time as well. When I went to look up some facts on this world celebration, along with the convoluted history of America's still-uncompleted Equal Rights Amendment, I read various accounts of the ERA still  short of becoming the law of the land. Pages and pages and pages!
Even after all of these dozens and dozens of years in which good men and women have fought to put in writing the most basic protections for women, and to secure real rights equal to those routinely expected and afforded to men, there were so many pages to absorb that I had to give up as the afternoon slipped away from me.
On their website, at, the  National Women's History Museum begins their timeline of women's suffrage and activism in 1840. I'm woefully unprepared to enlighten on these events, but will study up for future posts (or at least tidbits) during the rest of this month. In the meantime, I heartily recommend playing today's Google Doodle, dedicated to International Women's Day. Just go to Google, or click here and then click on the "start" arrow.
Happy Women's Day!

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Leap Year Brings a Bonus to Saint Mary's: One Last Winter Community Luncheon!

Left to right are Cathy Hatch, Jean Sagara, Robin Comins Unger and Chris Keenan.
Live music is a big part of the popularity of Saint Mary's winter community luncheons.
The best part of having an extra day added to this Leap Year calendar might just be the chance it offers all of us to enjoy one last terrific “bonus” meal at Saint Mary of the Harbor Episcopal Church on February 29th, 2020. That’s tomorrow, Saturday, from noon till about 1 PM or so, with a lovely meal prepared and served by some dozen or more volunteers, mostly from the church’s congregation. There is no charge for this wonderful meal, and all are invited.

This is a community luncheon intended to welcome absolutely everyone for a congenial meal among friends, both new and old, with Saint Mary’s stunning view of Provincetown Harbor as a backdrop, and live music for all to enjoy. It runs every Saturday during the Cape's two most challenging winter months for many of us: January and February. It’s easy to become a bit isolated when the weather might keep us from getting out and being among the humans, and this welcoming, community luncheon creates a great atmosphere for a little socializing, a lot of music, and something good to eat.

John Carroll and John Luftin made the best ratatouille I've ever tasted!
I hadn’t made it to a single lunch all season until this past Saturday, and had been missing a lot of the folks that I’ve always enjoyed spending a little bit of time with over the winter months.

Boy, did I luck out by catching a ride to the church that day...

Walking across the courtyard I could smell the divine aromas of this homemade meal from 50 feet away, and wonderful, live music was wafting on the air.

My nose led me to big baskets of crusty, really good garlic bread and a beautiful salad of mixed field greens, accompanied by the greatest ratatouille I’ve ever tasted! Saint Mary parishioners John Carroll and John Loftin baked several big pans of that delightful French stew simply brimming with fresh vegetables, in a uniquely flavored sauce that I hope to have the good fortune to enjoy again one day.

Dessert, as usual, was a lovely variety of baked goods such as cookies, brownies, lemon bars, carrot cake and the like, cut bite size so you could taste as many as you wanted, with a platter of these little sweets on every table.

This plate of excellent ratatouille, beautiful mixed salad greens and
great garlic bread was a real hit with last week's St. Mary's crowd. 
Besides great food, this weekly winter event always features live music, courtesy of two or three splendid Cape Cod musicians, together with friends they might bring along from various Cape towns and beyond, and sometimes featuring PTown tunesmiths as well.

Musicians from Eastham, Brewster and lands well beyond will venture out to the beauty of Provincetown on a cold winter's day, all for the love of the music. Diners and servers alike will often join in a sing-along, or dance to the music as it moves them.

This past week brought us Cathy Hatch, a dedicated regular traveling from Yarmouth to play guitar for us nearly every Saturday, along with Jean Sagara of Wellfleet, another regular, playing the fiddle. Our best wishes go out to John, another regular, at home, recovering from an injury and unable to play that day.
Cathy and Jean were joined by Robin Comins Unger and Chris Keenan, who both are frequent visitors to the Outer Cape, traveling from western Massachusetts to a little get-away in Truro as often as they can. They had brought their fiddles along. Each of these many fine musicians plays multiple instruments, and you never know which of dozens of strings, drums, percussion, woodwinds or others we’ll be treated to on any given Saturday.

We thank Saint Mary’s and the volunteers for another great season of food, music and comradery. The eclectic mix of friends and neighbors among the crowd, in the band, and in the kitchen, makes this a wonderful gathering for everyone, with the ambience completed by the view of magnificent Provincetown Harbor, seen from every corner of the dining hall at Saint Mary’s. This remarkable, homespun, weekly tradition should not be missed this winter, with your last chance for the season to join in the fun falling on Saturday, tomorrow, on Leap Day. Come join us in a good meal, live music, perhaps a bit of song and dance... all in a beautiful setting where everyone is truly welcome!