A Monumental Provincetown Story

Let no one declare that I don’t follow up on my threats, for here I am at my writing desk penning another story about Cape Cod, just as I intimated I might do in my previous essay (click here). For those of you who have read more than enough about the Cape on these pages over the last two years, now’s a good time to turn your attention to a different sort of activity, such as sending one of Hallmark’s What The Hell Is Wrong With You? cards to Donnie Trump. But please promise to return to check out what I have to say next time around . . . unless it too turns out to be a Cape opus. In which case I give you my permission to send one of those cards to me.

Provincetown’s village section (as opposed to Provincetown’s enormous and mostly uninhabited areas of beaches, woods, marshes, sand dunes and sand valleys that separate the village from the Atlantic Ocean) — that’s what I had in mind to write about after strolling along many of its streets for several hours a couple of weeks ago. I was in P-Town, as those in the know call it, during my wife Sandy’s and my annual Cape Cod vacation. Our home base was Orleans, about 25 miles away.

I meandered very contentedly, snapping a bushel or two of photos and figuring I probably would have little problem turning the excursion into a blog-worthy piece. But as one and then two and then three days following the jaunt went by, no satisfactory story slant entered my mind.

Remarkably, panic-prone me didn’t panic. Instead I took a few deep breaths, dropped to my knees and prayed to the blogging gods for assistance. “Get up, you schmuck, before you hurt yourself! Did you forget that you’re about as flexible as a baseball bat?” they immediately shouted at me. I rose slowly, creaking like an ancient wooden chair. “Okay, that’s better. Listen, you definitely should write about your Provincetown amble. But put the Pilgrim Monument near the center of the story, because you’ve always loved the Monument more than anything else in Provincetown. That’s the best advice we can give you.”

Hey, they were right. The Pilgrim Monument, located just two blocks from Provincetown village’s central area, is a stunner. And when I’m Cape-side it’s in my thoughts or pleasing my eyes a fair amount of time. That’s because I admire its enormous size and equally enormous aura. I mean, it’s got presence up the wazoo and seems almost supernatural to me, so unlikely is it in appearance compared to all that surrounds it. The Pilgrim Monument is the stolid, solid and protective alien creature that Provincetown and the rest of Cape Cod didn’t know they needed until it was erected in the early 1900s.

Provincetown village is charm personified. And it was made for strolling. Lovely, sea-sidey houses abound. As do more-polished abodes with beautiful gardens, and art galleries and food venues ranging from grab-a-bite to haute-cuisine. Not to mention funky stores of one kind or another that, with the galleries and eateries, run along Commercial Street, P-Town’s main shopping drag, and to a lesser extent along the village’s other lengthy artery, Bradford Street. And you’d have to possess a heart made of granite not to be beguiled by Provincetown Harbor, whose waters are fed by gargantuan Cape Cod Bay. The harbor is but a stone’s throw from Commercial Street.

The small and smaller streets in Provincetown, which occupies the far tip of Cape Cod, never cease to amaze me. Some are half-hidden, some little more than cubby holes — good luck ever finding those again if you fail to jot down exactly where they’re located. All of that suits me just fine, as I’m a fan of the whimsical. I’m also a fan of  peace and quiet, and things were real tranquil during the day in question. Artsy, open-minded and gay-friendly Provincetown, population around 3,000, is overrun with visitors and vacationers during the summer, but not so in autumn, which is when Sandy and I plant our temporary roots on the Cape.

Fifty minutes into my exploratory venture, I caught a glimpse of that which the blogging gods suggested I focus on. Despite its being 252 feet from toe to head (it’s by far the tallest structure on vertically-challenged Cape Cod), and perched on a hill to boot, you can’t see the Monument from everywhere in town. Trees and buildings, though nowhere near as tall as the Monument, commonly obscure the view. But as I got closer to the old soul, I sought out perspectives that partly or fully brought it into my field of vision. I especially liked the way the Monument, three or four blocks away at that point, stretched its torso above a Gulf gas station’s sign on Bradford Street.

Funny thing about the Pilgrim Monument. It was created to honor the Pilgrims who voyaged in 1620 from England aboard the good ship Mayflower and helped colonize these here United States. They made their first landfall in what would later be known as Provincetown, before moving on soon after to a permanent home, across Cape Cod Bay, in Plymouth.

You’d think, then, that the Monument’s basic design or at least its adornments would acknowledge the Pilgrims or the Mayflower or the European settlement of the States. A plaque near the Monument takes care of those matters, but not the Monument itself. The decision was made to pattern the Monument after a bell tower that was built in the 1300s in the hilly, landlocked Italian town of Siena. Huh? Wha? An Italian tower in a bohemian New England fishing village? But as it turns out, for me anyway, the Monument’s fish-out-of-water aspect, not to overlook its stateliness, makes it the brightest star in town.

There are other reasons why I enjoy the Monument as much as I do. I find it more than cool that the tower is visible from miles away along certain sections of Cape Cod Bay. Though it’s only twig-sized from those vantage points, I feel good knowing that it’s there. And more than once I was gassed to see the big guy poking up its head while I was scampering in the aforementioned Provincetown sands just outside the village.

But more than anything, I get kind of weak in the knees when I’m near the Monument at night. When the Sun goes down, lights illuminate the giant. I don’t know, I guess I’d have to say that the nighttime Monument is one of the finest sights I know of, not only beautiful but curiously otherworldly. As my afternoon in Provincetown segued into night, I stared more than once at the Monument. And took a couple of pictures. One of them is the money shot.

(Don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing this story)

(If you click on any photo, a larger image will open in a separate window)

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41 thoughts on “A Monumental Provincetown Story

  1. George November 3, 2017 / 2:04 am

    P-town looks charming. I can see why you’re enrapt.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. gerard oosterman November 3, 2017 / 2:22 am

    A nice and well-told and informative tale of admiration for Provincetown. I am curious now to find out more.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 3, 2017 / 8:54 am

      Hello Gerard.
      If you do any googling, look up some info about the dune shacks. They are outside the village in the sands/dunes area. People live in them.

      Like

  3. Anabel Marsh November 3, 2017 / 4:44 am

    We’ve stayed here a couple of times at the other end of the season – March / April – when it was also quiet(er). I agree, a magical place.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 3, 2017 / 9:00 am

      Hi Anabel.
      Provincetown is pretty unique — not only is it a beautiful village, it also has an amazing lunar-like dunes area.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. joyce hamilton November 3, 2017 / 8:11 am

    I always enjoy your Cape stories. Ptown is always a fun spot!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. alhenry November 3, 2017 / 10:34 am

    As a recent follower, I have not yet burned out on your Cape Cod saga, so quite enjoyed this little trip through P-town. Have you ventured as far north in your travels as Gloucester/Rockport, MA? As is true of the Cape, they are better/easier in the off-season. Nothing like fresh lobster on a warm September afternoon.
    I am also quite intrigued by the idea of a Hallmark “What The Hell Is Wrong With You?” card, and feel quite definite that no one deserves it more than The Rump.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The Artist's Child November 3, 2017 / 10:39 am

    What a gorgeous town that has not been spoilt by development. The monument is very dramatic and does look like the tower in Siena. It is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and photos of such a fascinating place.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 3, 2017 / 11:55 am

      Hi.
      I suppose that Provincetown (the village, the huge area of dunes, the beaches et al) is my fave location on Cape Cod.
      You’d love it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ann Coleman November 3, 2017 / 5:20 pm

    I’ve never been to Provincetown, or anywhere else in Cape Cod, but I’d love to go some day! And it sounds as if the Fall is the best time? Also, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who occasionally depends on a little help from the blogging Gods. They steered you right on this post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 3, 2017 / 5:59 pm

      Hello Ann.
      Either fall or spring is when to go. Too many vacationers in summer. And it’s too cold in winter.

      Thanks for stopping by. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. tanjabrittonwriter November 3, 2017 / 8:46 pm

    It sounds and looks like an idyllic setting and settlement. I can completely relate to your attraction to Provincetown, even though I have not visited yet.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. andrewcferguson November 4, 2017 / 6:15 am

    Your opener about the Hallmark card made me laugh out loud – I must have a look for one of those… great piece Neil. This kind of lightly humorous but informative writing’s one of the trickiest styles to do. I should know, I try often enough myself with mixed results!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Alyson November 4, 2017 / 6:33 am

    As a relative newcomer to these parts all very interesting – What a great idea to visit in Autumn however as with hordes of visitors it would lose its charm. Love how you panic if an angle for a story doesn’t emerge in the course of the week! I know that feeling but with subject matter like this, it didn’t take you long.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 4, 2017 / 7:48 am

      Hello there, Alyson.
      If you ever visit Cape Cod, I’m pretty sure you’ll have a better time there in spring or fall rather than summer or winter.
      Thanks for stopping by, and have a good weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Aunt Beulah November 4, 2017 / 3:11 pm

    From your photographs,I can understand why you are so fond of the monument.I’m sure I’d like it as much. How did the two of you discover Cape Cod in the fall and adopt it? What a glorious thing you did for yourselves. It’s nice to have a soul-placing site to return to. This was my favorite line: “I’m a fan of the whimsical…” My mother imbued me with that same condition. No matter where we went, she pointed our things others might consider odd an explained why she found them whimsical.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 4, 2017 / 4:43 pm

      Hello there.
      We’ve gone mainly in spring or fall. Both are a-ok. Beaches, restaurants etc. aren’t too crowded in those seasons.

      Thanks a lot for dropping by, Janet. Much appreciated. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Still the Lucky Few November 4, 2017 / 5:14 pm

    You had me with your blog about Cape Cod—now, I REALLY want to go there! But just a minute, haven’t you heard greeting cards (Hallmark or otherwise) are on their way out? You’ll have to send the Trump an e-card (cheaper, too)!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 4, 2017 / 6:45 pm

      Hi Diane. I didn’t know that card sales are down. Stands to reason, though.

      Anyway, I’m positive that you would love Cape Cod. It’s got a lot going for it.

      See ya’ —

      Like

  13. greenpete58 November 6, 2017 / 11:43 am

    Thanks, Neil. Yet another bucket list destination! Aside from the Pilgrim landing, I associate P-Town with the ’60s garage band The Barbarians (and their hook-handed drummer, Moulty). Last I heard, Moulty’s still there!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 6, 2017 / 1:11 pm

      Hello there, Pete.

      I’ll have to do some googling in re Moulty. I don’t recall ever hearing about him before.

      Like

  14. Carmel Bendon November 6, 2017 / 9:36 pm

    I loved this little amble through P-town. As I’m unlikely to ever get to Cape Cod, I’m happy to visit it vicariously with you and Sandy (especially in the autumn – I hate those summer crowds!).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 6, 2017 / 10:21 pm

      Hi Carmel.

      From what I hear, the roads on Cape Cod get ridiculously clogged with vehicles in the summer.
      I’ll take spring or autumn instead!

      Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be seeing you . . .

      Like

  15. America On Coffee November 7, 2017 / 10:30 pm

    I love Cape Cod and sll the areas of Maine and Nova Scotia. I may have missed your enjoyment of the prized foods: clam chowder and big, delicious lobsters. Maybe I’m just imaginjng myself journeying and living about Provincetown.😅😕

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 7, 2017 / 10:57 pm

      Hey there.

      Speaking of lobster, I’ve become a big fan of lobster salad rolls. They’re a lot easier to deal with than whole lobsters!

      Like

      • America On Coffee November 7, 2017 / 11:10 pm

        Well, I’m with you, whether small or large, w/wo salad, as long as it’s a Maine lobster with delicious butter sauce. Oh and if it is a whole lobster, it has to be manicured. Hate those ugly claws!

        Liked by 2 people

  16. artdoesmatter November 9, 2017 / 4:07 pm

    Neil, what an enjoyable read! While I’ve been to only the cities in MA (like Boston or Springfield), I’ve not yet found an excuse to visit Cape Cod/Provincetown. I’m glad I’m not the only person who can find a piece of architecture as the main reason one enjoys a locale (as opposed to just beaches/beautiful water!) Did Sandy in fact take all of these incredible photos on your post? Or did you? The photos weave sooo well within your narrative. I hope to visit sometime and see for myself!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 10, 2017 / 7:03 am

      Hello there, Patricia.
      You’d have a good time on Cape Cod.

      I took these photos (I got an iPhone last year, and since then I’ve been snapping away!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • artdoesmatter November 10, 2017 / 8:04 am

        Well, your pics look fantastic!! I’m the same way now – really no need to drag a big camera around anymore since getting an iPhone!

        Liked by 2 people

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