My Big Gay Birthday
Tim is the first friend I made as an adult. He is the Will to my Grace, the Rupert Everett to my Madonna and the Harry Potter to my Hermione Granger. Our friendship is full of adventure, conversation, laughter and an ever constant show of reciprocal support.
You know how Oprah, Brene Brown and every other self-help guru say to only hang out with people who bring you up, people who are not jealous of you, people who can remind you of who you are and only want the best for you? Check, check, check and check. Tim is all that and a bag of chips (maybe dark chocolate chips from France mind you, never anything as pedestrian as a potato chip).
Of all our adventures together in the city, one of my favorites took place just outside of Manhattan. I refer to this infamous weekend as My Big Gay Birthday. Tim had invited me to celebrate my 36th birthday at his beach house in The Pines on Fire Island. The Pines is famous for its gay community, its beautiful and pristine beaches as well as its lack of commercialism. There are books, poems, songs, stand-up routines, TV shows and even plays written about this iconic gay paradise. As a straight person, I knew I was lucky to have the opportunity to experience it.
Arriving in The Pines
To get to the Pines, I took the Long Island Railroad about two hours to Sayville, New York. I got off the train and hopped on the $3 shuttle to the ferry. Happily on the boat with Long Island in the rear view and a pleasant sea breeze on my face, I crossed the Great South Bay.
As the ferry approached the docks, we were welcomed by no less than 100 men waving in tank tops lining the entire side of the port at a little bar having what they call Low Tea (happy hour). Tim was there to pick me up rolling a little red wagon behind him.
There is only one grocery store in The Pines, so that’s where we headed for provisions. As soon as we entered the front doors of the Pines Pantry a woman shouted, “Tim Williams, I want to have your baby!” It was Tim’s friend Colleen who worked the checkout. She was the first woman I had seen since leaving Sayville. Obviously, there were many people in the world that loved Tim Williams. However, Coleen’s expression of it was the best I’d heard. As we strolled down each aisle, Tim greeted every worker and shopper. After our little red wagon was full, we checked out and headed next door to the liquor shop.
The Pines Liquor Shop was owned by two brothers. I immediately noticed that they were straight. They were the only men on the island not wearing tank tops and they noticed me as I entered like only two straight dudes can. The Brothers immediately started a conversation with us and filled me in on their mission statement. These interesting, smart and savvy entrepreneurs only opened their shop during the summer and traveled all over the world for the rest of the year learning about wines for their store. A man that had been browsing overheard our conversation and noticed my accent. He asked me where I was from. “Atlanta, GA” I answered. “Me too,” he said. “What part of town?” he asked. “I am from Fayetteville,” I said. “That is NOT Atlanta,” he said with a big snarky eye roll. Pointing out that Fayetteville is not considered the Atlanta area is the equivalent of a Manhattan snob pointing out that people from the suburbs of are NOT from New York City. My fangs came out and I sarcastically replied, “Only a Queen from Atlanta would say that.” I held my breath until I heard him laugh. I made another friend.
Invasion of The Pines
There are no streets on The Pines and no cars. Only emergency and delivery vehicles were allowed and they were restricted to a singular sand pathway which hardly qualified as a road. All the boys get around by a highway of wooden boardwalks that connect the neighborhoods to the port and the beaches. As you enter the little neighborhoods, the boardwalk wanders through modern homes made out of wood and glass. The houses are built to blend into the landscape of pine and holly trees, seagrass and bamboo.
Tim rolled the red wagon and I rolled my suitcase down the boardwalk to his house. Each group of men that we passed knew Tim and stopped to talk to us. Tim has been going to The Pines for as long as I have known him. He could have run for local office if he had wanted. Every person I met would initially delight in my name (Hiii, Laura Loving!), then at my accent (I was referred to as Suzanne Sugarbaker by one person) and every encounter seemed to end with an invitation to their house for cake. I am not kidding. Three different groups had invited us over for cake. As soon as we were alone, I asked Tim if cake was code for something else? I thought it might be some kind of gay drug lingo. “Nope” Tim said. “These guys are just really into baking.”
We finally arrived at Tim’s corner of the boardwalk - Sun Walk. We turned the corner and I swear I saw Anderson Cooper and Kurt Russell sunning themselves in front of a house. Alan was Tim’s next door neighbor and Anderson Cooper’s doppelganger. Alan’s best friend Mark looked just like Kurt Russell in his 30s. They were funny, engaging, and extremely playful. Like everyone else I met that day, they immediately hooked on to my name and sang it out like a song, “Laura Loving? Laura Loving! I love your name Laura Loving. Nice to meet you Laura Loving. See you around Laura Loving.” I felt an instant connection with them and referred to them as Anderson and Kurt in return. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
Tim and I put our stuff down and relaxed for a bit. We were going to dinner and then on to the Sip and Twirl (The Pines disco). I could not get over that genius name - Sip and Twirl. I got dressed in casual beach chic with my hair in a slicked back bun on top of my head. We left Tim’s house and as soon as we got onto the boardwalk, I heard a window forcefully slide open. “Ohhhhhhh. I love your hair like that Laura Loving,” Kurt Russell shouted out from his kitchen window. “Thanks Kurt. Hope I see you at the Sip and Twirl.” I desperately wanted Kurt as my next door neighbor in real life.
Dinner and the Sip and Twirl were fun. We danced until it got too crowded and I started to feel like a 3rd wheel to about 400 men. We headed back to Tim’s place to hit the hay so we could go to the beach in the morning.
A Great Day for a Birthday
The Beach was the first place I encountered something that made me feel uncomfortable. Tim and I were walking down the wide beautiful beaches of The Pines on the way to meet friends for a picnic. We walked for about 10 minutes when Tim looked at me and just whispered, “Prepare yourself.” I looked up and about 10 feet away from where I was standing was the Brawny man wearing nothing but tattoos and piercings. Nothing else! He greeted Tim and my presence did not phase him. Tim introduced me and I struggled to make eye contact only. I worked really hard not to look anywhere else. Of course I saw everything. I wanted to get away from this situation and its huge penis as quickly as I possibly could. Their polite conversation was moving at a snail's pace. I couldn’t think of anything appropriate to add. “Did it hurt to get that metal loop shot through your fine arts? Do you work in an office? Are you up to date with your shots?” were some the things moving through my mind to ask. I was so uncomfortable that my fight or flight was kicking in and I almost just bolted away without explanation. Finally, I was rescued by the end of the conversation and we moved forward.
The Brawny encounter did a number on me, I was talking 100 miles a minute as we moved down the beach to our picnic. “I hope these next dudes wear clothes,” I said to Tim and I wasn’t joking. Tim’s friends Patrick and Barry were a couple. I was happy to see that they were wearing super cute bathing suits and of course, tank tops. You could tell by the perfect execution of our picnic how well they worked together as a team. I asked Patrick if he had been at The Sip and Twirl last night. He playfully responded,”I wasn’t there,” (short pause) “but Paige Turner was.” “Who is Paige Turner?” I asked. Tim interjected,”That is Patrick’s drag name.” LOL. These guys were drag queens. I would never have guessed. Barry had the best drag name: Hellofa Bottom Carter. I loved the way these men had their alter egos that they would take on at night. Patrick was an accountant at a big firm in Manhattan and Barry was a lawyer. However, on Saturday night, Paige Turner and Hellofa Bottom Carter were the Queens of Fire Island!
On Sunday, we rolled my big suitcase back down the boardwalk to the port. I waved goodbye to Kurt Russell and Anderson Cooper. I thanked Paige Turner and Hellofa Bottom Carter for a wonderful picnic and gave Tim a big hug for a fun and wonderful birthday weekend. I boarded the ferry and headed straight back to the city.
*If you enjoyed this blog, let me know in the comments section. Please share with your BFF. Thank you for reading. xoxo LL
Happy Pride to our 4 million visitors in New York this weekend! Wishing a fun and magical weekend of making friends and memories.