by Kathleen George
Author of Hideout
I was on a mini book tour—Cape May, Brooklyn, Provincetown—and when I hit Provincetown I walked around for a few days puzzled at signs that said things like “Bears Welcome Here.”
One night it poured. Through our window my husband and I could see a party next door, men shoulder to shoulder under, oh, fifty umbrellas in the torrential rain. We hopped over puddles and two buildings away to a restaurant (Pepe’s) for dinner. From our table we had an even better view of the partying men and what appeared to be a large martini bar. It was still pouring. I asked our waiter, “Is that another restaurant next door or a house?”
“A house,” he said. “Those are bears.”
“Does that mean large men?” I asked, for there were certainly a good number of large, very large, men about.
He said, “Large and hairy. Supposed to be hairy.”
That’s when I realized that the two men who rented the place above us were bears. We heard them crashing around and lumbering down the steps. Oh, and the two guys looking for the JP in order to get married on our deck, they were large, too. And going up and down Commercial Street I could see many bears. Every once in a while a medium-sized man edged in on the group and I thought I could sense his wanting to be bigger.
I learned more as the week progressed. My friend Betty explained that it was Bear Week in Provincetown. There were other designated weeks. Family week, etc. I learned that bears are amazing. They’ve formed an organization and they keep up a clear set of postings and they sponsor events in Provincetown and other places.
“Provincetown loves the bears,” Betty told me. “The store owners and the gallery owners are always happy to see Bear Week. For one thing they are the nicest and happiest people you will ever see.” This seemed true on simple observation. I’d seen a lot of happy large men walking down the street holding hands. Often they were muscular but also often they were overweight. I was reminded that dieting sucks. “They’re cheerful, they tip well, and they like to hold hands.”
So the town was filled with good spirits and good will. “Why are they so especially happy?” I asked my husband. “Do you think it’s that they eat whatever they want?” Me, always back to food.
My husband answered me after a thoughtful pause. “They’ve done what all people need to do. They’ve organized. They’ve identified themselves and made a community that makes them feel good, that gives them support and makes them belong.”
Of course. I gravitate to writers. I even married one. That’s the club I most want to belong to. I am never so happy as when I am with a group of writers. Art colonies are great for this reason—that immediate understanding of each other. I also love my lunches with writer friends who happen to be writing crime fiction. We are always eager to see each other and everybody has a lot to say. One of our number burst into a restaurant one day and announced happily, “I had a great morning. I just killed someone with a rake.” The other people in the restaurant looked up, alarmed. But we ignored them and burbled along, feeling happy for our friend who’d had such a good morning.
What is your other “family?” What is your “Okay to be big, hairy, and gay?”
To learn more about Bear Week, go to: http://www.ptownbears.org/faq/faq.asp
Kathleen George is the editor of Pittsburgh Noir and the author of Taken, Fallen, Afterimage, The Odds (Edgar finalist, best novel), and Hideout, just released. For more information about Kathleen and her work, visit her website at http://www.kathleengeorge.com.