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!