A journey toward self many miles away | AspenTimes.com

A journey toward self many miles away

Alison BerkleyAspen CO, Colorado

Guess what. I am at a week-long, advanced fiction-writing workshop in Provincetown, Cape Cod, at this place called the Fine Arts Work Center.So I am feeling very artist like.I took the ferryboat from Boston to Provincetown and sat on the upper deck, even though it was cold outside, like going in would be some sort of failure. P-town is the gay capital of the East Coast, still fruity but refined, like apples and pears instead of mangos and pomegranates. On the boat it was me and a smattering of homosexual couples who took extra-smiley photos of each other with the Boston skyline in the background, gay couples who cuddled up to each other on the plastic seats in the wet sea wind, and gay couples who all seemed to dress alike. There was the urban couple in matching earth-toned blazers, designer jeans, loafers and thick-framed glasses, with matching hair cuts. There were the wannabe surfers, in long-sleeve waffled-cotton shirts with T-shirts layered over them, with the same shade of salon-bleached hair. There were the aspiring J. Crew catalog models in faded hooded sweatshirts, distressed baggy jeans and bright-colored Vans sneakers they likely bought just for the occasion. And there was me. I was on a ferry filled with fairies.I knew Id be spending a lot of time alone and that getting laid at writing camp was not very likely.The water of the Atlantic was the same color as the sky, not quite gray and not quite blue, the way puke is not brown or yellow but a combination of the two a color that does not exist in a box of Crayola crayons because its just not that pretty, or maybe because its too powerful to be turned into wax.The Fine Arts Work Center is located on a small side street two blocks from the main drag and the harbor; a cluster of clapboard buildings that surround a small, pebbled courtyard. I am staying in a studio apartment upstairs thats so funky I wish I could stay here forever, with big old windows with views of leafy branches so the sunlight flickers in and a patchwork-tile ceiling and an old stove with gas burners. The floor seems to tilt just a little, and when I mention it to the summer programs director, she says, Everything is a little off-kilter here.I can walk everywhere from here, and because I took the ferry, I have no concept of the world outside this old, old little town that has been an artist colony since the late 1800s. I swear to god it looks like not much has changed since then. I would not be at all surprised if I woke up tomorrow and saw pilgrims walking down the street in black coats and tall hats and women with full skirts and blouses with big collars and scarves tied around their heads.I take this artist thing to the extreme.I go a bar and get wasted by myself like Hemingway. I bring a book. I order a memorable meal fish so fresh you can virtually taste the ocean in every bite and eat slowly. I order beer after beer after beer. I bum smokes off the foreigners next to me, who pretend I dont exist. I survey the scene as from a fish tank, me on the outside and everyone else behind the glass. If anyone notices me, they dont show it. The Celtics are on TV, so the bar gets more crowded and louder, and is packed by the third quarter. But Im so obviously a straight girl, heterosexual through and through, with my long blond hair and frilly halter top and platform flip-flops (the ones my good friend calls stripper slippers), and not a single person approaches me.I stumble back to my little apartment thats located so close to the painters studio that I can smell that art smell. I think its turpentine or paint or something, but its very distinct. I eat pretzels with pieces of Swiss chocolate in bed without thinking about carbs and dont straighten my hair, and its very, very curly. Even though I know John likes it better straight, that doesnt matter now.Im about as far from Aspen as you can get without crossing any oceans and feel very much like Im in a foreign land, even though I grew up not far from here. I went for a long run the other day on this old bike path with cracked, uneven pavement that meanders through deep forest for several miles before cresting the sand dunes where finally, after maybe 4 or 5 miles of running in one direction, I was able to see the Atlantic Ocean. The color of these waters startled me to the same degree as if the grass had turned blue and the sky green. I didnt recognize it at all.But, then again, unless you are a miniature dog, a gay man or a gay man with a miniature dog, Provincetown could feel foreign to anyone.I woke up this morning to a sunny, clear day, to those vibrant colors and blue skies, and all I had to do was think about writing. I didnt have to stand in the mirror in a hot yoga studio surrounded by perfect women. I didnt have to wonder why the most important man in my life stopped calling me two weeks ago without telling me why the only thing Ive heard of him since was the happy drunk photo one of our friends sent me of him at Food & Wine, laughing and smiling and showing no evidence of having lost me, hopefully for good this time. But here, in this little artist colony in this little town in Cape Cod, I found something more important than all that. And that something is me.

The Princess is coming home eventually. Send your love to alison@berkleymedia.com