First Contact

Cape Cod and The Norman Mailer Writers Colony.

I’m originally from San Francisco where brick buildings are an earthquake hazard.  Our famous rock, Alcatraz, was a prison. For two hundred years the fog hid the bay from Spain. In 1769 Gaspar De Portolá first saw the Golden Gate from land while aiming for the shores of Monterey.

Although the Mayflower reached Cape Cod in November 1620 rather than the Hudson during spring, the enterprise initiated by the Pilgrims and Conquistadores wasn’t a happy accident. Writing, like freedom, doesn’t occur as my On the Road workshop instructor Andrew Meier says, “by default.”

The brick house at 627 Commercial Street, #48 on the Historic Provincetown Walking Tour is my Plymouth Rock. It could have been the house where Marty, my imaginary eighth grade boyfriend lived.  A fortress of mystery, a provincial East Coast colonial house of secrets intoxicating me with curiosity of what he’s doing inside. Is he thinking of me? Marty was plotting new dimensions of complex manifolds. No amount of circling around his house could distract him from geometry. He was out of my league.

If Marty looked out of the second story window, he’d see me through a twisted trellis-vine of draping white Wisteria. The knotted tangled roots climb to a canopy of flowers that bring to mind a lace-gloved hand shielding the front door from the sun or a ladder for a midnight escape. Even the black Land Rover parked next to the imposing hedge was the dream car of my twelve-year-old-self, when freedom came with Memorial Day and the ticking spokes of a bike ride without training wheels.

But this address isn’t a fantasy; it’s Norman Mailer’s. I don’t have to spend the day riding out in front waiting for someone to notice me and maybe come out to play – I have the key.  Standing on the deck, space and time, boy meets girl, Facebook and Twitter are lost to the tide, pulled away by The Cape the way a baker twists frosting into a swirl with a spatula. Arrested by the sight of water evaporating from sand, I’m thrust into a dimension that I’ll call Cape God: where imagination and reality meet. The plotting is up to me.

Writing is my quest for independence and new territory; I’m adrift. I’m naïve. I get dizzy, word-sick and lost. I don’t have centuries to find the right shore, I have one week at The Colony. Writing under Norman’s roof, absorbing the floral papered walls, framed book covers, “The Executioner’s Song”,  “The Armies of the Night”,  “The Naked and the Dead” – I find my sea legs. My circles become lines I navigate through a New World where I must be brave. Norman Mailer’s house is the landmark of my discovery.