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  • This town, so old and beautiful, teems with life. Commercial Street is thronged with teenagers, dogs, drag queens, couples, old time home-owners, Jamaican summer workers. This week, it's the Bears and their cubs with beards and bellies; last was Circuit Boys with smooth bare chests and everything tight. But P'town can hold it all- the gardeners and the leather queens and the butch girls of a "certain age", the year 'rounders, the mixed, blended, and chosen families of all kinds.

    The fast ferry's my favorite way to come and go. There's an anticipatory energy on the way out, and a sadness on the way back to Boston. This time, the boat is packed tight with gangs of boys ("hey gurl heyyyyy!") fueled by cocktails all the way. It's a pleasure to ride, enveloped by the joining-in, to be a part of P'town- an early artists' colony, a village of bikes, parties, performance, nature, and oysters, of safety no matter which way you were born.

    But I'm a relative newcomer, these last few years, and as we cruise (and cruise!) I wonder what this boat was like in 1996. Now, the boys glow with tans and laughter and life. No one is attending weekly funerals. Perhaps there are those nursing a partner through the last days, but few on this boat look frail or sick.

    The young ones are carefree, but there's a point in the journey when the boat settles down a bit. I'll see an older man stare off into the distance of the water, and there is it - a gaze that lets me know that he has lived through the hell that few outside their community can grasp. There was a time when every ferry held men taking their last trip to P'town, leaning on canes and their partners to make it up the gang way. Today, some bags are still filled with bottles of pills, the ones that finally came to ease the pace of the slaughter, if not end it.

    What was this boat like in those days? What were the P'town nights like then? How did a community revive, renew, grow strong, after so many funerals, so much utterly heartbreaking, senseless death?
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