Bigots Make Lousy Sandwiches
I practically spit my vitamins across the room this morning when I realized that this coming Labor Day weekend will be my 20th Sundance Auction and Dance in Rehoboth Beach. Time really does fly, or FRY in my case. It seems impossible to me, but here it is, 20 years later, savoring my Sundance anniversary as well as my 20th anniversary writing for Letters from CAMP Rehoboth.
In 1995 Bonnie and I had just cruised into town via a two-day boat trip up Chesapeake Bay, through the C&D Canal, down Delaware Bay, into Lewes’s Roosevelt inlet, and up the canal to Rehoboth Bay. Friends who also weekended here stood along the Rehoboth Avenue bridge, waving at us as we came through. Most of those folks are still our dear friends, and eventually came to live in Rehoboth Beach full-time as well.
That first summer we spent weekends living on our boat at the marina in Dewey, watching sunsets, occasionally plucking my first Schnauzer Max out of the water, and writing my first few columns for Letters.
Bonnie and I, in our mid-forties, lived in suburban Maryland, where we both worked and stayed pretty much closeted except for our families and gay and lesbian friends. I’d been writing for the Washington Blade but I worried about losing my job, so I wrote under a pen name. Lesbian and gay couples had great fun in those days but it was often at strictly gay events.
Even in Rehoboth, as we danced into the wee hours along Rehoboth Avenue at the Strand, The Renegade off Route One, or the Nomad near the Indian River Bridge, name calling and overt homophobia still raged in this area. The mere thought of gay marriage was laughable.
In fact, in 1995, homophobic t-shirts could be seen in store windows and public name calling of gays, although declining, was still popular. On one of our first weekends here, Bonnie and I went to a small hamburger place in Dewey called Colonel Mustard’s. While waiting for a take-out sandwich, we overheard the owner crudely insulting the young women servers with sexist smears and making viciously cruel jokes about Rehoboth Beach gay boys.
Stunned and angry, I told Bonnie I was going to write a letter to the editor of that publication Letters I’d just discovered. So I did. Within a day, I was contacted by editor Steve Elkins, who told me he was printing the letter, and also meeting with the Mayor of Dewey, and they would both go have a talk with Colonel Mustard. They did, and although there is no data to connect the two incidents, that business went belly up soon after.
During our brief conversation about the name calling, Steve discovered I was a writer and asked if I wanted to write a story about our boat voyage to Rehoboth. I did, and have been writing a column in Letters, each issue, for the past two decades.
As a columnist I watched a lot of the world go by from the mid-1990s through the turn of the millennium and into 2014. And I had the privilege of being able to comment on it all. From the Unibomber and his newspaper screed to that ridiculous Y-2K scare where survivalists stored water in their water beds and the world waited for computers to turn into two slot toasters. I got to opine about Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress, the whole Clinton impeachment circus, the Bush-Gore election debacle, and the horror of 9/11. I covered Delaware’s eight-year quest for a LGBT anti-discrimination law, followed in remarkably short order by a Civil Union bill, and then the snowball rolling downhill to marriage equality.
Less globally, I covered splattered gourds at Pumpkin Chunkin’, the first and now 17th Rehoboth Independent Film Festival, surviving summer traffic, a sugar high at Chocolate Fest, and the vision for, planning, and realization of the dream for a CAMP Rehoboth Community Center.
Readers said they related to my grappling in print with real estate travails, technology, AARP, various phone companies, call centers in Bangladesh, health care, applying for Social Security and Medicare, recreational vehicle trips, cataract surgery, and the whole process of aging gracelessly by zip-lining.
Personally, I have written of living in one boat, two condos, two houses, one RV, and with one pet BMW and four Schnauzers. I’ve been sprayed by a skunk, cultivated a bat colony, transported rescue dogs, and reported on innumerable do-it-yourself disasters. Oh, and chronicled our two marriage ceremonies.
I’ve loved every minute and I’m not done yet. I just think it’s appropriate, at this 20-year mark, to thank my editor, and the Board of CAMP Rehoboth, for the marvelous privilege of penning approximately 300 CAMPout columns. It’s been grand and I hope the best is yet to come.
So too, about the Sundance Auction and Dance. It’s always a highlight of the Rehoboth summer season and it’s been grand. There have been many memorable auction nights for me, none more memorable than the one where I tried bidding up an expensive painting for CAMP and wound up its owner. Luckily, I adored the piece!
I suspect, this year, it’s 27th edition, will be the best yet. I cannot wait! I will be bidding on many of the silent auction items I am sure, but I will try to keep my hand down at the live auction (not easy!) as now that we’ve downsized I am totally out of walls. On the other hand, the artists are so generous in their donations and the auction prices so reasonable, somebody better keep an eye on me!
So yeah, twenty years. And like the It Gets Better campaign for gay youth, life in Rehoboth Beach keeps getting better and better too.
Who’s laughing now, Col. Mustard?
Fay Jacobs is the author of As I Lay Frying—a Rehoboth Beach Memoir; Fried & True—Tales from Rehoboth Beach, For Frying Out Loud—Rehoboth Beach Diaries, and her newest book Time Fries—Aging Gracelessly in Rehoboth Beach.