'Our goal this year,' said my best friend, Dan, 'is to find a boyfriend with a share on Fire Island.' I was brand-new to New York and looked forward to my first summer on Fire Island. A slutty summer. 'You find a boyfriend,' I told him. 'I'll crash on his couch.' 'It doesn't work that way,' answered Dan. 'They've got rules.'
Fire Island time-shares come with a whole crop of rules. First off, only one guest is allowed at a time, and then only on a preordained rotating schedule. In order to see each other out on the island, Dan and I would conceivably have to find a boyfriend apiece and then crack an algebraic code to configure the weekend.
Without an expensive time-share, you can spend a crisp $350 for a night in a musty room with a semiprivate bath at the Hotel Ciel. That's French for cinderblock dump. Since when did the gay getaway get so exclusive? Dan and I once met a guy on the island who couldn't understand why we weren't attending the Pines Party. 'It costs $150,' we said, to his palpable scorn. 'What, are you world travelers or something?' Because only world travelers can't afford such a bargain.
Fire Island Pines is the safe homo haven we all dreamed of as kids. It's all men all the time, but mostly they're the same well-connected whites from the city last week. No wonder there aren't any world travelers, or that the only ones under 30 are serving the drinks. Where are the campgrounds? The dollar menu? Without alternatives, a place that should belong to all of us will never see most of us. Miraculously, sex is still free.
Cruising the car-less paths, bouncing from deck chair to hot tub, making the rounds in the meat rack'it's all part of Camelot. Sex is the great equalizer, but it's no fun if my buddies aren't around. That's why there are time-shares'to be among friends'but how does one experience our beach if his only resource is resourcefulness? Dan and I found out. We voted ourselves onto the island, and Survivor Weekend was born.
Unlike with time-shares, there is only one rule to our annual Survivor Weekend: no sleeping in a bed. Hump whomever you want, just don't sleep over. Each July we pack a duffel bag of stamina and head to Fire Island Pines. After a big night, but before first light, participants head at separate times to crash on the beach together, in survivor solidarity. We're bringing trashy back.
Many have taken the challenge, but few can wear the badge. Most of our friends would rather bump uglies than sleep with the sand flies, but that's just laziness. Anybody can hook up; it's Fire Island physics'jump, and the mattress will appear. This is not the point.
Survivor Weekend is proof positive: Camaraderie doesn't require cash. Though frankly, at times both would be nice. Sleeping on the beach isn't for sissies. The predawn beach is frozen, and sometimes it's only Dan and me cuddled up and shivering. When the sun rises we thaw out like a half-dead Blanche Hudson.
Over the years people on the island have conspired to help. 'I've heard of you guys,' someone may say. 'Do you want to take a shower?' Hell, yes. Locals get into the spirit and sneak us into parties or supply Vicodin and bug spray, and during Survivor Weekend the Pines feels less like a clique and more like a community. At pool parties we'll hear 'You guys look pretty good for being homeless,' and all are curious, 'What do you win if you survive?' Glory, we say.
Last year glory was especially brutal. Dan and I were the sole survivors. It rained, forcing us to crawl under the boardwalk to pass out with the rubbish and deer ticks. In the morning beachgoers paced above us, knocking sand through the cracks and into our faces.
It's not all glamour, but Survivor Weekend is all-inclusive. You're welcome to join us on your beach July 1. No invitation necessary.