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Provincetown Tourism

Everyone Remembers Their First Time

Provincetown Pride Parade
Courtesy of Town of Provincetown

Provincetown frequenter John Dowd shares his love for the LGBTQ destination with a trip into his first time visiting.


By: Bob Keary

For John Dowd, one of Provincetown’s most beloved and enduring living painters, it was a family trip when he was 10 years old.

“I was wowed by how weird and wonderful it was, coming from Springfield,” he says.

The memory stuck. Just days after graduating college in 1983, John packed up his paints and hopped on a bus directly to town and took a job at a guest house that included housing.

“Little did I know I was being set up to live in a dungeon working for a strict lesbian who was tougher than the Marines,” he says with a laugh. “For $15 a week and a free place to sleep, I was taking the reservations, checking people in, cleaning the rooms, doing the yard work, buying the groceries at the A&P, occasionally cooking meals, cleaning up after breakfast/brunch, and I finally gave my notice two weeks into the job when she told me I had to paint the house, too!”

Despite being relatively homeless for the rest of his first summer, John did what everyone who loves Provincetown does: he found a way to make it work.

“Sometimes I slept on the floor under a desk in a gallery, or in my friend Ed’s uninsulated, unfurnished attic,” John says. “I just thought Provincetown was so amazing, an absolute paradise where life was truly bohemian with such an interesting cultural mix of people. I’ve never known any place like those years in Provincetown. It was on par with anything I’d read about Weimar Berlin or Paris after the war.”

“I knew these lesbians who’d opened up a little craft shop called Campbell’s Summer Stock next to Spiritus, and they were so sweet,” he says wistfully. “They said, ‘Oh, you make art? Put it on the wall here. If you need a place to paint you can take that back room there,’ and so I did. That’s how I really became a working painter.”

Megan Spoerndle, the owner of Stix and Stones Landscaping and the very best person to run into on any dance floor, experienced a similar feeling of love at first sight when she first came to town from Ohio.

“It was 1996. I came to visit my Great Aunt Margie who lives in Harwich,” Megan tells me. “She’s the one who said, ‘You have to go see Ptown.’ We took a day trip and I remember literally skipping through the streets under the pride flags, just in awe.”

The following summer after graduation, Megan made it her mission to be in Provincetown for the season (just one, she told herself, like so many of us). Like John Dowd, she took a job at a guest house that included housing but left time for other part-time jobs like house painting, restaurant work and landscaping.

Asked what keeps her here 26 years later, Megan cites the town’s bustling dance scene.

“It gives me life. I’m a very tactile person and I find that dancing both excites me and grounds me,” she says. “It brings me peace and joy. Nightlife and dance are a huge part of my community, and if it wasn’t for things like FAGBASH, I probably wouldn’t still live here.”

Provincetown’s nightlife has similarly meant the world to Flavio Nogueira, who just wrapped up his 21st season as an iconic A-House bartender.

Having moved from Brazil to the Cape to work toward a green card in Hyannis, Flavio’s first trip to town came in the summer of 1998.

“I drove in with my Brazilian friend and his boyfriend, and as soon as we got to the point where we could see the town and all the houses, I just thought, ‘This is so beautiful,’” he recounts. “I knew from that first moment walking down Commercial Street, this is where I want to spend as much time as I can. I just felt so much joy and happiness. I fell right in love with the people and the town.”

During those first few summers working in Hyannis, Flavio would come to town every weekend to go dancing at the A-House.

“I got to know Larry (the manager), who said if I could figure out a way to live in town he would give me a job,” he says. By April 2001, he was ready to make the move. Like John and Megan, Flavio took a job at a guesthouse to ensure his housing and began working at the A-House that summer.

“I’m charged with good energy when I’m in Provincetown,” he says. “Every day I go for a bike ride and to the beach, even if it’s just for 30 or 45 minutes. The town is so alive, and I have always felt at home here.”

Bob is a Provincetown-based writer who has lived and worked in town since 2005.

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