Atlantis Alumni

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Brigadoon on this Side of the Atlantic

Lerner and Lowe's famed musical Brigadoon is about a town in Scotland that comes to life for one day every hundred years. Many of us who spend the summers on Fire Island believe that this place is another Brigadoon--only we're luckier, because we're able to spend more than just one day, and we migrate back here from elsewhere, every year.
When I moved back to Cherry Grove for the summer months a few days ago my life partner Jim asked me if the island was as I remembered it. Absolutely! In some ways Fire Island never changes. There's the beauty of the dunes and beach, and the sky touching the sea; these wonders may change with the seasons, but not in our hearts. Sure, there are new houses being built where old ones were torn down, repairs are constantly made, and some important larger buildings are being constructed. (For example, see Jim's photo posted today that shows the magnificent new John Whyte Hall in the Fire Island Pines.) People come and go, some move away or others die and presumably land up in a different paradise in the heavens. We, the denizens of this special place, consider ourselves lucky to still be here.
Like many other locals, we started out as "day-trippers." A day at the beach led to a weekend, and then a few week-long vacations. In the 1990s Jim and I rented various houses in the Pines for a month at a time and finally for an entire summer. Then one day in 1999 we decided we were lucky enough to be able to buy a house. The house we own in the Grove isn't large, but it has a wonderful garden that Jim created, unique for the toy train layout he installed. If he didn't have responsibilities back in the city (i.e., yours truly and a winter home) Jim would spend seven months a year on Fire Island. There's no place he loves better.
What happens in Brigadoon on the American side of the Atlantic? Well, some people come here to paint or write, sing and dance, act, take yoga classes, sail sailboats, paddle a kayak or run on the boardwalks. Many more simply swim, read or snooze on the beaches. The island is only a half mile wide, but it's also 32 miles long and full of small towns, houses and docks. Yet there are no cars here, because we're living on a National Seashore; the exceptions are vehicles owned by the police and utility companies. Some of the towns have cement sidewalks but in the Grove and Pines (and in Davis Park) we're lucky enough to have wooden boardwalks. And for those of us who live as a minority in places like New York, Long Island and Philadelphia, the Grove and Pines are unique for another reason: where else can you live where 99% of the town is gay?
Despite the bickering that sometimes occurs in small towns like this one, I like to think the majority of people here realize there's no place else like Fire Island. We know this is a Brigadoon well worth coming to year in and year out. Come visit us and you just might fall in love with this small barrier island yourself.

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