Walking through Ptown at night: LGBT civil rights symbols and the Sultan of Nutcrackers

Image of the Provincetown monument at night

The wood upon wood sound of the lazy susan rotating dominated the tiny white house as I made ready for bed in our Provincetown perch.That lazy susan was carrying the tiny Karagöz puppets as they spun their goodnights to the universe as a silent group.  As if suddenly inspired by Madonna’s “vogue” they had all seemed to strike an early 1990s pose versus adopting the Sufi spinningstance of my roadtrip dreamscape.  Imagine tiny wax paper puppets, striking cool poses, flying around on a wooden lazy susan at about 11 at night in Provincetown– yup, that’s my life.

Madonna, "vogueing"

Click clack, another sound was back, and I noticed that our pup was walking anxiously back and forth, ready for his walk, his nails indicating the time for grooming was upon us and that we had totally forgotten to take him on his night walk.  The puppets – a few of them – broke their “vogue” pose stances a bit to see if they could gather my attention – but no.  Donning coats over our pajamas – as anything goes in Provincetown – we headed out the door for a walk around our quiet end of town with just enough time for the puppets to join hands and jump at the last rattle of the lazy susan onto my coattails before climbing up to nestle themselves into my moss green, magenta and satsuma green scarf with turkuaz flecks.  There will be no peace from the puppets, most of the time.  Karagöz rode herd on the top of my head, crying “giddyup, cowgirl!”  The little chorus of dancing ladies burrowed themselves deeply in the scarf now – looking out between the wide woven spaces to check out the scene.

We passed Angel Foods, it’s halo signage painted on the window, stacks of gourmet cheese and chocolate spilling off of the shelves, and the broken china driveway glowing ghostly pink in the holiday lighting.  Khadijah was perplexed.  “Why, m’lady, is all of this broken china not in the rubbish, but in the driveway?  The housecleaners must be very lazy”  As usual, I entered teaching mode.  “Well, Khadijah, it is a style of driveway that mimics the broken shell driveways on the coast here – it is a way to re-use something that is broken, a green concept.”  Khadijah pointed out that green was the color of the Ottoman flag – what did this have to do with Islam, and a conversation ensued about the various meanings of green as we ambled down Commercial Street.

Red saplings installation in front of PAAM – the puppets were very curious about this!

We passed the painted-red sapling installation at the Provincetown modern Art Museum.  Kenne and Zenne were wide-eyed through my scarf – “What strange place is this where trees grow in bright red shades – and have no leaves?”

We passed pink and rainbow-light lit houses galore…with the puppets wondering about the choice of colors.  I explained that pink is a color that has been adopted as a result of re-claiming the negative use of the color in Nazi GermanyAs wikipedia says: “Originally intended as a badge of shame, the pink triangle (often inverted from its Nazi usage) has been reclaimed as an international symbol of gay pride and the gay rights movement, and is second in popularity only to the rainbow flag.” The puppets expressed outrage at the story of the pink triangle – and talked about how to some extent, Gay and/or Bisexual men  were accepted in the Ottoman court…so why was this an issue?  As our dog pulled us along in our sleepy, pajama’d state, we had a long talk about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender history re: oppression and civil rights movements.  As we spoke, the puppets pointed out the rainbow flags, pink triangles and pink lights they saw along the way.  Hacivad proclaimed: “This must be a very open place, this Provincetown, from what we can see!”  I nodded my head, indeed it is.

The Nutcracker Species of Puppets/Dolls caught the collective eye of my very own in-house puppets – – in a window in Provincetown

And then we walked by a brightly-lit window…and all bets were off.  Apparently the puppets have better eyesight than I do, as they all leaned forward and nearly choked me with their collective weight pulling the scarf down around my neck…”Look…at…that!”  Hacivad cried.  “It is people, well, dolls, our size – all together!  Why are they all standing at attention in that window like that?  This must be a different puppet species…”  The collective gasps, oohs and ahs flew around my head while the puppets led me via my scarf (as if I was a horse with reigns) towards the window.  “Oh, this is a group of Nutcracker dolls, for Christmas!” I said, proceeding to explain about Tchaikovsky and The Nutcracker Suite and the hilarity of a Nutcracker collection here in Provincetown given the double entendres that could ensue.  Pulling me close to the glass, they practically plastered themselves to the window – and I realized for the first time that the puppets had breath – as I could see little foggy patches where they were pressing themselves to the window – calling out to the Nutcrackers in all of their various Ottoman era languages to see which one would work – Armenian, Arabic, Turkish – and finally settling on the commonality of English.

The Sultan of Nutcrackers in Provincetown, Massachusetts

The Nutcrackers didn’t move, at first.  And then a few of them started to move their eyes.  And then I noticed the Sultan – resplendent in his blue velvet cap, with a diamond on the front – a diamond the size of a golf ball.  He shook himself a bit, as if to shake of the stiffness of standing in a window for so long – and issues his greetings! “Welcome, puppet people – from where in my kingdom do you hail?”  A hushed silence fell on the shadow puppets, as Hacivad Bey was pushed forward to speak for the group.  (To be continued).

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7 Responses to Walking through Ptown at night: LGBT civil rights symbols and the Sultan of Nutcrackers

  1. Jack Scott says:

    P Town is high on a long list of ‘must dos’. Maybe if the book sells and I do a signing tour across the pond (yer, right), we’ll pop by. The pink triangle has a darker history than many realise. It was worn by gay people in the Nazi death camps in the same way as Jews wore the Star of David. This was part of an elaborate collection of badges that were used to designate those destined to be murdered – gypsies, political prisoners, communists, anyone the Nazis wished to eradicate. No one really knows how many gay people were gassed, tens of thousands certainly.

  2. Liz Cameron says:

    Hi Jack,

    You are welcome in our Ptown place anytime! It is a great place that has been really welcoming to us – we are not always welcome as a cross-cultural couple around these parts (or sometimes in Turkish parts) – so are very happy to have our retreat there! I am sure we could help you to figure out a Perking the Pansies book signing over there…
    Thanks for writing more about the pink triangle, I should have given it a more thorough treatment than I did here!

    I hope the reunion with Liam is a happy one!


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