In Flirting with Disaster Ben Stiller plays Mel, on a cross-country quest to find his biological mother. Early on Mel describes his loathing for Bed and Breakfasts. After a series of mini-disasters, he, his wife and small child are forced to spend the night in a funky B&B. The scene with him sneaking down at night to use the off-limits kitchen phone is hilarious, probably funnier because of my complete identification.
In my years on the road in the early 1980s, producers would house me in “community housing.” In one back-to-the-woman’s-land experience, we were welcomed by our host’s free-range goats. The darling little billies somehow managed to get on top of our red van, named Ruby, as in fruit, and stomped in the sun-roof. One November in Madison, WI producers put us up in the house of a woman who was away on a three-month trip. “She has a waterbed,” they told us invitingly. They did not mention where the bed’s water heater was, and I am convinced that is when the arthritis in my hip started.
After a few changes to the rider in my performance contract, I was upgraded to local B&Bs. I never heard the recitation of house rules because the overly-pillowed beds were deafening. I could not concentrate on the lovingly told history of the house because I just wanted to get to my room. I am hostile before morning coffee despite the conviviality of fresh-baked scones. At one excruciating breakfast, overlooking beautiful Half Moon Bay, as a giant grandfather clock solemnly ticked out the time, the owner and his wife told me the sad story of their gay son’s suicide.
This is not to disrespect B&B owners. I know and admire many in Provincetown. After a season or two, a couple’s early-retirement dream of owning a B&B in Ptown hits the reality of the drudgery. Relationships suffer and they have no time for innkeeper support groups. Instead of breaking up, they sell. Several B&Bs in Ptown have been converted back to private homes. One owner of a former B&B says he still gets late night knocks on his front door. The women innkeepers of Ptown are an admirably resilient lot. In addition to running their businesses they have sponsored Women’s Week which this October celebrates its 30th Anniversary.
When I’m on the road, I really don’t need anything fancy. I am fine with the anonymity of a new, clean, chain hotel as long as it is not in a food desert, has accessible wifi and a workable remote. But like Mel, despite my ironclad anti-B&B rule, I recently stayed in a B&B in Western Mass. I might have to re-visit my own rule book.
Over an artisanal tea, a woman told me great stories about being raised in a lesbian-feminist separatist commune in the late 1970s in northern California. Her Mom was old school and lived the dream of taking down the patriarchy by ignoring it. She’d visited her mom recently, and got her talking about those old days. When she asked how she self-identified now, her 76 year-old mom thought about it for a while and answered, “Nostalgic.
This Gay Pride season finds me a bit nostalgic for the period between 1975-85 when women proudly and primarily described themselves as lesbian. I don’t want the history of that period to be lost or forced into spring, so I’m in the planning stages for a theme park called Old Lesbridge Village. Lesbians from that time period will be able to look for their roots. Visitors will be able to see what life was like back in the day. I’ve already built a model prototype of the park with curated dyke dioramas illustrating ingenious feminist governance and infrastructure. When you visit you can stay in nearby community housing or former covens converted into B&Bs. Soon available on AirB&B.