Thursday, June 03, 2010

Down, Bitch!

The new owners of Fire Island Pines (FIP Ventures) who purchased the harbor properties this past spring have been working around the clock to transform the place in time for the summer season.  We are loving their vision!  For the past several years, the former miser owner perpetuated divisiveness.  If there's one thing that I really can't abide, it's this idea that there's not enough to go around.  There IS enough to go around, and the new owners are proving it.

They've opened up the Pavilion, remodeled Bay Bar (now the Canteen), Blue Whale, and this winter they'll do something about that cinderblock dump known as the Botel.  Most exciting, they've opened up a neglected pool (who knew it was there?) in the center of the harbor and turned it into a place where anyone can come take a dip without any charge.  It's like actual community out there!

Which is, of course, exactly what it should be.  Fire Island is that mythical wonderland we all imagined as kids.  A place where you could hold hands with another man, the fantasy land where the unicorns could all assemble when you thought you were the only one!  At this new pool deck, I jumped myself between two 6' 8" black men dancing together. "Can I be the white in your Oreo?" I asked.  They squeezed me between them while the one whispers in my ear, "That's a whooooole lotta cookie."  

Later I sat around the pool watching some drunk Asian boy dancing his tits off.  He really was horrible (and horribly drunk) catwalking, awkwardly grinding his hips, using a table-cloth as a head-wrap...and at the end of each song number, everyone around the pool burst into applause as he curtsied and carried on.

That night, I was hanging with this super-fine, super-sweet Egyptian man named Eamon.  He's a dancer and once a choreographer for a major Cairo he fills out a swimsuit!  We were talking about a snatchy guy on the island we both know.  I said the guy only needs a little more love.  "His parents disowned him for being gay."  Eamon said, "That's no excuse.  I have no family either."

I learn Eamon was arrested in Egypt and spent two years in jail for being gay.  He no longer exists to his family.  A few questions later, I learn Egyptian police beat his best friend to death for the same reason.  When I ask about the police raid on a disco boat on the Nile a few years back, where 52 gay men were arrested (all their names and workplaces printed in the paper, 21 ultimately sentenced to 3 years in jail), Eamon says he was on that ship.  I don't remember if he said he hid, or leaped off and swam...but he realized then he had to leave forever.  He's been granted amnesty now in the USA.

Ironically, I used to be the officer manager of his immigration lawyer Lavi Soloway here in NYC.  Eamon's story is like so many other stories I read in that office.  Those files filled with harrowing testaments of people who risked so much to escape their government, religion; to survive attacks by their own parents  (who, in many cases, are still are hunting them down) to "honor kill" their gay offspring.  And lest we forget the Malawian couple who were sentenced to 14 years (mercifully pardoned this week) for simply holding a "commitment ceremony".  Will they seek asylum here? 

This country is not perfect, but we're so lucky to be here.  Like many others, I've been beaten by the police, bashed in the streets, spiritually and emotionally terrorized by my family, but this is nothing.  There are no state sanctioned murders as in Iran, or gay"cleansing" kill squads in Iraq. Still, there is  Marie Osmond's son, and the countless suicides of young people who don't know how to argue with Mormonism or Muhammed.

Those of us who made it through have no excuse to be bitchy or to foster divisiveness.  Especially on Fire Island, where you can let your freak flag fly without fear, and where some drunk dancer gets applause for being a queen. I've seen people cry on the ferry back to the mainland because they didn't want to leave that safe, magical place.  When I imagine of all the horror stories, true stories no author could conceive, I realize Fire Island is not a destination so much as it is a reward.


carmel said...

That's a beautiful post, Jesse. I feel lucky too.

Jesse Archer said...

Thanks, Carm. You are lucky! Look forward to meeting you in person...

Auntie M said...

You know, I just can't figure out why people care. I drove down to Santa Rosa, California this weekend for a couple of days at a Zen center. On the drive home, out in the central valley, someone had parked an old truck with a big sign on it that read, "Saturday sabbath is a sign of the Beast..." I thought, "WTF are you talking about?" Why should it matter to you which day people rest and worship? Who do you think you are anyway?" People NEVER cease to amaze me. Having just come from a place where there is no difference between daily life and "sabbath," where two of my "yurt-mates" were gay women (strangers to each other until Thursday), I was especially put off by this person's ignorance. I'll get over it.

I'm looking forward to seeing you on Wednesday!!!

Love, M.

Jesse Archer said...

Auntie M---it really is shocking to me how people seem so unable to "live and let live"...but on a happier note I love that you live in a YURT!!

Also looking forward to meeting you in Seattle. YAY!!