The writer and politically active stand-up comic Kate Clinton (b 1947), whose audiences are nationwide but who can be found each summer at the Crown & Anchor, owns a building on Carnes Lane that used to be the shed for No. 3. Her partner, Urvashi Vaid (b 1958), is a longtime human rights activist and a former foundation executive. “In newer neighborhoods,” Clinton wrote in Don’t Get Me Started (1998), “roads cut into fragile sand dunes are named Pilgrim Heights, Standish Way and We Were Here First Lane. We, in the old Portuguese section, call ourselves Linguiça Gardens, and unlike other transient, rental sections of town, we are here to stay.”
For many years, members of the prominent Motta family lived at 3 Carnes. Manuel V. Motta (±1870-1943), who had been born in São Miguel in the Azores, was a fisherman and worked at Vita Fisheries. His children were Manuel V. Motta, who also lived at No. 3 and operated the trap boat Eleanor; Frank, whose son — the town’s first Korean War casualty — was the namesake of Motta Field; and Francelina (Motta) Souza. The area around Carnes Lane was once known as Pig Hollow or Pig Acres, Clinton has said, where “chauffeurs kept their cars and the hired help lived.” Because pigs were kept there, too, she told me, “Supposedly, the ground is great for gardening.” Befitting her style as a performer, Clinton’s other references to Provincetown are often affectionately tart:
• “Here’s a tip: never move to where you vacation. The reason you like to vacation there is simple — you are not working. It can be a big mistake, but if you must make it, Provincetown is a nice place to move to.” — Don’t Get Me Started
• “The Chamber of Commerce visitors’ brochures do not say so, but Provincetown is the largest open-air manic-depressive treatment center in the world.” — Don’t Get Me Started
• “The few remaining old-time year-rounders often refer to Ptown as the world’s largest open-air insane asylum.” — I Told You So
• “During a building boom in the 80s, many old Provincetown fishing families caught the quick-money-for-land fever and subdivided their three-story homes into 10-unit condominiums. People became afraid to loiter, lest they be turned into small condos.” — Don’t Get Me Started
• “The real estate boom and big money — for some, at least — have hit Ptown with a plague of gussied-up, airtight houses equipped with motion-sensor security lights.” — I Told You So
• “One of the tasks the National Seashore takes most seriously is its summer-long patrolling of nude sunbathers. There’s a job.” — Don’t Get Me Started
• “I am off to help the talented people at my summer place of employ — the Crown and Anchor — get our float ready for the Independence Day parade. Each summer we have a Codependency Float. There is nothing on it. We pull it ourselves.” — I Told You So
• “Women’s Week, sponsored by the women innkeepers, draws thousands of lesbians from all over the Northeast, many with the same haircuts.” — Don’t Get Me Started
• “The town was filling with fabulous young lesbians from colleges all over the Northeast on one last huge fling. Ptown is an unofficial party stop on the unofficial lesbian party circuit. I interviewed some of them — that is what I’m calling it, anyway — and they said it is all word of mouth. And a lovely mouth it is.” — I Told You So
• “Bear Week is over in Ptown. … I am one sad lesbruin. After I took the food down from where I had tied it out of the bears’ reach, I took to my couch.” — I Told You So
Vaid, scarcely known as a sentimentalist, wrote movingly on her blog in 2010 (“Provincetown 7.15.10“) about her complex relationship with the town, which is not the likeliest place for someone to end up who was born in India. Vaid’s description was acutely personal and yet, because so personal, universal at the same time:
There is grace in this place for me. The way it absorbs so much. I have an archive of experiences at each corner. Here is the house that Susan and Fran rented — the palace we called it, it was so grand and we were so young and poor. There is the place Kate and I had a tryst in the early years of our on and off affair. The jetty with all our dreams and promises made as we walked, the beach fires and rituals of release we have held, the many memorial services in the church, the old restaurant where we broke up once upon a time. Here is the room in which Eric died so suddenly, and the funeral parlor where we found the only rabbi on the Cape to do the service. That’s the building in which I wrote Virtual Equality, when I rented a room from Roslyn and Phyllis — and now Phyllis has passed on. And the first room I ever rented in Provincetown, at Gabriel’s, is still there, renovated a few times now, but probably just as thin-walled and filled with longing.
Is it home I feel here? A difficult concept for me, but this feels the closest of any of the places I have called home.