It’s a gorgeous day here on Fire Island’s gay boho enclave of Cherry Grove, where I’d been planning to spend the entire weekend. You would never know that IRENE is approaching! But she is. The volunteer fire department here, consisting largely of large Long Island lesbians you do not want to mess with, are going around the boardwalk paths on their adorable, tiny, cherry-red trucks with loudspeakers telling everyone there is a mandatory evacuation now in effect, urging people to leave between now and tomorrow at 11:50 a.m., the last ferry back to Sayville. “We haven’t been this busy since we had to put out the Xanadu fire,” said assistant fire chief Craig Williams, referring to the fire, earlier this summer, that partially gutted a house known as, yes, Xanadu. (All the cute gay houses here have cute gay names. The one we rent is called Above and Beyond, but we call it Above ‘n’ Beyoncé.)
On the clothes-optional beach, most folks said they were leaving later today or early tomorrow, but it was such a perfect day — blue skies, bright sun, big, gaudy waves — that nobody seemed very tense. “We stayed last year during Hurricane Earl,” said retail exec Jim, who lounged with his junk out on the sand with his boyfriend, architect Richard. “What a letdown!” The couple said they’d haul their cute lab, Edie, back to their Carroll Gardens home tonight, where they’d “drink” with friends during the storm. Nearby, naked friends Scott Parent and Mat Fraser also said they were leaving tonight. Did the impending ravages amid such a lovely day feel eerie to them? “No,” said Scott. “It’s just a bummer we have to leave. We’ve been out here for a week, so we’re in a very relaxed mode.”
On the way into “town” (which consists of about as many establishments as you can count on both hands), I ran into psychologist Mildred and bank executive Nereida, a lesbian couple who’d just come over on the ferry to batten down the hatches on their house. (Deck chairs and plants, inside!) In fourteen years of ownership, they said, they’d never seen a big storm out here. They were joined on the boardwalk path by shirtless, hunky Michael, who works for the local Winter Watch Service, which looks after people’s properties in the off-season but today was very busy going around overturning picnic tables and de-hanging deck chimes for absentee owners. He said he couldn’t remember a major storm out here since Hurricane Bob in 1991. Two more lesbians came down the path. They were packing up to leave but they lived in the Rockaways so they said they had to go stay with friends in Mineola, Long Island — higher ground. They were sad because tomorrow night’s benefit dinner for the fire department was canceled, as was sleaze impresario Daniel Nardicio’s big show at the Ice Palace with Sandra Bernhard, Peaches, and Amber Martin. Sunday’s big event for the longtime drag dynasty Imperial Court was also canceled.
In town, it was between ferry times, so the dock was empty. Inside the local convenience store, Homo Depot & Kinky’s Copies, which sells both gardening supplies and Rush poppers, Mary Ellen Garber, the mom of owner Charlie Balmer, sat calmly behind the counter, noting that they’d be open till tomorrow. And lo! Who was that finishing up lunch at the bay-side Island Breeze restaurant and bar? None other than Russian-Jew porn king Michael Lucas, the hair on his shirtless chest neatly manicured, with his cocker spaniel Daniel and some friends whom he identified as guests of his house in the neighboring, more A-list-y gay Pines.
Mr. Lucas is a man of controversy and contradictions, so no surprise that he was contemplating flouting the mandatory evacuation and staying until Monday. “I want to see how it is,” he said in his Dracula voice. “I will sign the papers.” Presumably, he meant the papers saying he’d been apprised of the evacuation and was taking responsibility for his own life. Even though the fire department yesterday distributed evacuation guidelines concluding: “If you are considering staying, reconsider. After the last boat leaves, there will be no way off the island … Risking your life is one thing. Asking others to live with the effects of having to pick up the pieces after you’re gone is not a reasonable request … We did not join [the volunteer fire department] to search for bodies and notify the next of kin.”
Knowing all that, I was surprised at Mr. Lucas. Especially since he has always been a very public proponent of safe sex. Shouldn’t he then always put safety before thrills?
But he didn’t quite seem to make the connection. “I will be here all alone with my dog,” he told me. “I will not be having unsafe sex with anyone.”