Provincetown Life Information

Provincetown and the outside world

Published: Tue March 14, 2006
By: Straight Dope in Life > Relationships
Tools: Tell-a-Friend | Email this author | This is | Add to Yahoo! MyWeb By Steve Desroches (original title Provincetown’s troubled soul)

Nathan Miksch was one of the first people I met when I moved to Provincetown in 2002. It was an incredibly foggy night in early May. I went to the Atlantic House, a 200-plus-year-old bar that was a favorite watering hole for the likes of Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill and the literally hundreds of artists, actors and writers who came to Provincetown over the years.

The fireplace was lit. The bar was crowded. I think the jukebox was playing an old America song, either “Ventura Highway” or “Sister Golden Hair.” And Nathan came up to me, rather boldly, and introduced himself. We chatted briefly and I learned he was a year younger than me, that he was a waiter at a popular restaurant and that like a lot of people he drifted around the country before landing in Provincetown.

I remember the meeting so well, because when Miksch left the bar, someone came up to me and said, “Stay away from him. He’s a sweet kid, but a mess; drugs, alcohol. Trouble always seems to follow him.” And then he walked away.

This week Miksch was convicted of murder. As anyone who met him can attest, and newspaper reports and court transcripts attest, Miksch had a hard life first by circumstance and then by a series of bad decisions. And Provincetown, known for its unique brand of unquestioning compassion, tried to help him.

This trial might be over, but another has begun. All of Provincetown is really on the stand, in a way. Look, the town is weird. Always has been, and I suspect always will be. I think someday some sort of magnetic vortex will be discovered in town that will explain why things are just different in Provincetown. And for the most part those differences - in a world paved over by bland suburbs, Wal-Marts and McMansions - are celebrated by those who live in and visit the town just because it is so rebelliously unique and over-the-top.

But being different can also come with a price, one that usually results in some scorn and harsh judgment.

Many in Provincetown, including myself, read the coverage of this murder trial holding our breath and cringing. It’s not just because the story is so macabre and the details gruesome. And it isn’t just because the victim, Timothy MacGuire, seems to go unremembered, largely because he was unknown to most everyone in town. It’s that the town is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

When, or if, it does, Provincetown knows the drill. Basically, Provincetown, with its large gay population, gets painted as Sodom and Gomorrah-by-the-sea, filled with godless heathens with an insatiable appetite for drugs, sex and now, murder. Then come the preachers and politicians, and then the jokes, and then quite possibly a de facto boycott by those afraid to visit a town where such things happen.

Provincetown often gets judged differently. A drug overdose in Orleans is a tragedy, while one in Provincetown is expected. School enrollment shrinking in Truro or Eastham is because of a lack of affordable housing; in Provincetown, it’s because of gays and lesbians who don’t produce children and don’t care about the schools. A critical and unfair court of public opinion can sentence Provincetown to crimes it not only didn’t commit, but that are actually present in other communities across the Cape.

Are there gay men who live in or visit Provincetown who have sex with multiple, largely anonymous partners while abusing drugs and alcohol? Yes. But in a few weeks flip on MTV to see large amounts of young straight college students having sex with largely anonymous partners while abusing drugs and alcohol. It’s called Spring Break.

It was made clear in the opening statements of this murder trial that this crime represents the actions of an individual, not a community. All the town is guilty of is reaching out to a troubled soul, who, despite the community’s best efforts, no one could save. But the question is whether the world outside Provincetown will realize that.

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