It was an unseasonably warm spring day when the city people began returning. Mrs. Farragut watched the helpless creatures disembark from the ferry boat with their bags and flowers and dogs. Frantic and noisy, they headed towards their cottages.
Mrs. Farragut was a seasonal landlord. Every summer season she rented out her little Cherry Grove cottage to the city people and went to stay in another of her Fire Island houses. Last autumn’s big hurricane hadn’t damaged her places too bad. Others hadn’t been so fortunate. But it hadn’t stopped the city people from returning.
That same evening, Mrs. Farragut had just tossed another piece of driftwood into her fire when someone knocked on her door. It was one of the men from the city, wearing tortoise glasses, a fur coat, and a regular mess of scarves and handkerchiefs around his throat. He was looking for ice. Ice! The freak wanted ice for one of those everlasting cocktails they always have. But Mrs. Farragut had no ice. She didn’t feel she needed it.
The next afternoon, she went for a stroll. The ocean was bright blue and though the sun was blazing you’d need a sweater at night. If pressed, she would admit that she looked forward to the city people returning each spring. Their eccentric behavior amused her. She nodded to the elderly woman with the umbrella and the man’s haircut. She stopped to speak to the man who had been searching for ice and who was now scratching out a flower garden in the sand where no real garden belonged. A daffy woman wearing a big diamond ring told Mrs. Farragut that she was searching the beach for old fishing rods to tie together and make a curtain pole. City people. Each one crazier than the last.
These words were penned back in 1938 by John Mosher, a gay man and a homeowner on Fire Island. He liked to chronicle the lives of his eccentric friends in the pages of The New Yorker. When I read Mosher’s story about “city people” – a code word for gays if I ever heard one — returning to Fire Island for the summer, I realized how little has changed since Mosher’s time. The gays are still rushing the summer season.
You should have seen ‘em in Rehoboth over Easter weekend. Picking pansies at Tomato Sunshine and purchasing paint at Home Depot. Why, there was more cruising going on at Lowes than at the Blue Moon. And, speaking of the Moon, it was festive. Yes, a scent of summer was in the air – or maybe that was just too much cologne? The age of the cocktailers had dropped twenty years; waist sizes two to four inches. Bold cabana stripe shirts were prevalent, as were those cockeyed checked numbers that are starting to look more International Male than Tom Ford. Lots of sandals and flip flops. And, I even saw one pair of red Bermuda shorts adorned with little blue sailfish, which in my opinion was just a tad too hopeful.
Yes indeed, the “city people” are returning, even before all the daffodils have faded and ahead of the yellow pollen drop, which I’ve always considered the real beginning of the summer season because after the drop it’s safe to take to the screened porch for cocktailing and conversation.
Now, lest you label me a killjoy, let me assure you that’s not the case. I’m merely making some observations and pointing out what I think are some amusing parallels between gay Rehoboth in 2006 and gay Fire Island in 1938. And, if you’re the least bit interested in knowing what I did over Easter, well, I’ll tell you. I planted a window box with orange Portalauca, unpacked the cut-offs and summer blankets, ironed up my Lacoste shirts, and made the switch from whiskey and auto-bronzers to tequila and antihistimines.