Tribes of Summer
This summer’s Beach House Challenge has focused attention on the young beach house families reinvigorating the Rehoboth group house scene. That happens every decade or so, and our community depends on it for continuity and revival.
This year’s Sundance 2010 theme is Rainbow Rites 23 – Tribal Revival, and working on it has gotten me thinking once again about the clans, the families, and the “tribes” who gather here every summer.
Many of us who began our Rehoboth experience in group houses know the importance of the friendships and bonds that grow out of them. Even today, many years after our last beach house experience, I’m glad every time I see friends who have been a part of our Rehoboth history from the beginning. Even when we don’t see one another for months at a time, nothing can take away the magic of summers’ past.
At the same time there is a wistful regret that many of our dear friends are no longer with us, and I can only hope that this new generation never has to face anything like the onslaught of AIDS that devastated our beach house clans in the 1980s and early ‘90s. It was intense, and terrible, and re-forged us into the people we are today.
Some of those missing friends still walk with me today. I can’t work on Sundance without seeing John Van Meter worrying over the finances. I can’t walk by Lori’s Café, without remembering Chris Monismith and Randy Weaver, who created the first incarnation of that coffee shop the same year we founded CAMP Rehoboth. I can’t walk by 24 Christian Street without seeing John Moore, Dick Sewell and Michael Brossette sitting on the front porch. All of them part of the circle of friends we identified as “family,” all of them a part of our Rehoboth tribe.
Much has been written over the years about the bumper sticker that appeared in Rehoboth in the years preceding the foundation of CAMP Rehoboth. “Keep Rehoboth A Family Town,” it read. Oddly enough, we have kept it a family town, though not in the way the authors of that sticker intended. Steve [Elkins] is fond of reminded reporters that “families come in all colors, shapes and sizes,” and that in celebrating the diversity of our families, Rehoboth has become a very special place to live.
On July 2, Steve celebrated his 60th birthday. On the same day, we stopped by Brian Galm’s beach house to wish him a happy 21st birthday. Brian has had some great ideas about how to make CAMP “cool” for the next generation. But that day, thinking about the two of them, I was reminded of the importance of cross generational sharing of wisdom, of experience, and of creativity. AIDS wiped out a large swath of my generation. None of us can really know what impact losing so many creative people has had on the world. What we can know is that it is vital for us to find ways for multi-generational interaction—that youthful creativity and energy combined with experience and wisdom will change the world in ways we can’t even imagine.
The great blessing of resorts like Rehoboth Beach is that they attract people from many different places and with many different experiences—big city and small town become one; gay, straight, young and old, merge on the dance floor and on the beach. Everyone gets thrown in the mix, and the outcome is something wonderful and unexpected.
Watching the crowd at Love and Sundance, it’s easy to see the loose circles of friends forming and reforming all across the dance floor. There are definite clans in evidence, sometime in matching outfits, sometimes distinguished only by the comfortable and loving camaraderie surrounding them.
My hope this year is that our “tribal revival” will be a celebration of who we are as a community—our tribes exist whether we name them or not and there are many layers to our Rehoboth culture. Just think how amazing it would be to see everyone decked out in tribal markers at Sundance!
From our perspective here at CAMP Rehoboth, we can turn full circle and see in every direction the many groups and families that make up our town. Some are very insular and never venture much beyond their own rigid boundaries and beliefs; others are so adventurous they cannot be long contained in any one place. Sometimes events and activities separate along gender lines, but much of the time we get a great mix of men and women.
This past week, two of my nephews, one 18 and the other 21, came to visit us in Rehoboth. Both, in my very biased opinion, are brilliant in their field of study. Steve and I are very much a part of there lives, and I’ve written about both of them over the twenty tears that I’ve contributed to this magazine. Their presence reminded me of the importance of being honest about who we are—and about sharing our friendship circles with our biological ones.
I have long believed that gay people have a role to play in society. Gay men and gay women, straight women and straight men are all part of the big picture of who we are as human beings, and each one is vital to maintaining a healthy balance in our world and in our culture. Perhaps accepting our role and learning what it means is the real work of our times.
In places like Rehoboth Beach, our clans and families are united—our tribe is brought together—for the sake of fun, yes, but in the process we share information, dreams, and transformational visions that are then carried back to cities and towns all up and down the East Coast.
In some unexplainable way, this sharing—this connection—has always been at the heart of the CAMP philosophy. It is, I think, why we felt so compelled to build a home in this community: a place where all are welcome.
Murray Archibald, Founder and President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, is an artist in Rehoboth Beach.