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We all like to make a difference in lives, to think we're hip and tolerant creatures, to pat ourselves on the back for being such wonderful, understanding beings. It's not always necessary (or welcome).
Sometimes it's better to let nature take its course.
I had both lessons reinforced on my recent journey to Cape Cod. The first required a ride out to Provincetown. The second took place virtually outside my back door.
It takes a lot to nudge my butt off the private beach at Linnell Landing in Brewster (shared mainly with a large family reunion whose weeklong bocce tournament is as competitive as any Cape Cod Baseball League game I've ever seen), but an overnight storm blew in a brisk wind from the north and the only real break we've had from the heat and humidity this month. My wife and I decided it was a good day to drive out to P-Town.
The sky was cloudless, the waves at Race Point were spectacular, and downtown was packed with visitors, including quite a few families. There was absolutely nothing to be afraid of on this day. I could even picture the Bachmann clan enjoying some ice cream out by the dock, or the Santorum kids begging their parents to let them take home the large, fluffy black cat crashed out on a pile of T-shirts and scarves at Shop Therapy (I'd be willing to block their view of the rack of bumper stickers near the entrance).
I have one major issue with P-Town, however: that its largest parking lot requires one to cross or creep down Commercial Street. I just wish the town's founding fathers, when they laid it out, had ensured it was wide enough for two horse-and-buggy contraptions, let alone two cars.
And that led to a mini-confrontation.
After crawling around a van parked halfway up a curb, I finally reached the right turn that would take me out of downtown. A middle-aged female couple, however, did not watch where they were going as I slowly made the turn and practically walked into the side of my car.
In most places, that would prompt one or both parties to engage in a little name-calling, middle-digit waving or a few words unfit for general interest print publication. Instead, it prompted this sniff from one of the women:
Now, I've been called the gay F-word a time or two in my life, but this is the first time I've heard â€śheterosexualâ€ť as a perjorative. My mind raced with choice replies like â€śThank you, Madame Obvious!â€ť or â€śSorry, my wife's not switching teams!â€ť, but thankfully, I had enough room ahead to drive away. (And I would've been lucky to get away with only a â€śShut up!â€ť from the passenger seat.)
It did leave me a little shook, though, hearing people whom I accept as they are attack me for what I am (although I could pass for a bear â€“ P-Town has a lot more of those these days than the stereotypically young, ripped, fastlane-type gay male party animals). After all, they were old enough to have dealt on numerous occasions with being attacked for what they are (at least beyond the town line).
What I would like to tell them most, after some consideration, is that their behavior was right in the wheelhouse of those who exploit mistrust and dislike of the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community for political gain or broadcast ratings points.
By the time we returned to our studio on Cape Cod Bay, the air had warmed enough for some beach time, although we were just past low tide. At low tide, I could walk over the dune to the beach, stroll nearly a half-mile past the high tide line, and barely be up to my ankles in water.
It was strange to see small signs out in the mud flat, at a 50-yard perimeter around what looked like a piece of driftwood, perhaps something left from the previous night's storm.
Only, that piece of â€śdriftwoodâ€ť on the sandbar which usually featured bocce for blood had some protection from two women warning kids to stay away from it. Good advice â€“ the dark gray seal, one of several species that inhabit the waters around the Cape, is known to scare easily, bite humans and often perceive them as unfriendly.
Walking around the perimeter, I wondered if the little guy was alive. I could see him laying on his side, occasionally sticking his head up to see what was going on. The poor thing had been beached, and would have to wait awhile for the tide to come back in.
The women, local wildlife and conservation volunteers, had called the state Department of Environmental Management to notify them of the beached seal, and kept it under observation until help arrived.
Human help never arrived, but the ocean's cycle did lend a hand.
Not long before sunset, the tide arrived. With the signs having been removed, I cheated a bit, getting close enough to photograph â€śBuster,â€ť as the kids named him, but still keeping a respectful distance. Finally, the water crept far enough over the sandbar to sweep him away.
Instead of turning around to rejoin his marine mammal buddies, though, he bobbed with the tide back into the beach as the kids kept yelling â€śBuster! Turn around! You're heading the wrong way!â€ť
Buster reached the shore, but either out of regaining his senses or fear of those noisy kids who had closed within less than 10 yards of him, he finally turned around and bucked his way back toward the sea and the setting sun. He did spend some time lurking around a small sailboat that had been anchored on the sandbar, though (Buster may be wary of humans, but doesn't mind playing with their toys). As for me, I spent the final moments of daylight swiveling back and forth between Buster and the sun's farewell.
While I usually treat vacation as a time to relax and vegetate, I never stop observing and learning, either, It was fun to interact up close with Cape Cod's wildlife.
(Thank God those women in P-Town didn't say â€śStraight tourists.â€ť They put more style and creativity into their insults than most Rhode Islanders do.)