This week, I ran another book giveaway contest asking people to share their Memorial Day weekend rituals. One of the biggest around here is opening night at the Wellfleet Beachcomber, always the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend. Locals who show up and pay the $10 cover get a beach parking pass good for the entire season.
So it’s kind of ridiculous that in all of my life as a Cape Codder, I had never actually made it up to an opening night. Until last night.
For those who aren’t familiar, the "Comah," once a US Lifesaving Station, is located on top of a dune overlooking Cahoon Hollow Beach. It’s a legendary open air bar serving fresh shellfish and fried seafood, and offering live music. It’s a great pit stop on the way up to or back from P’town. It’s also a repository of memories for locals, a place synonymous with summer and all that’s good about it: sand, sun, surf, seafood, cocktails, friends, music. People arrive at the parking lot early in the day, head down the steep dune path to the beach with all their gear, then in the late afternoon, peel themselves off the sand and plant their sunburned selves on a barstool for the remainder of daylight, sucking down fresh shucked oysters and ice cold beers.
I was excited to attend opening night, not really knowing what to expect. I’d heard so much about it. Until this year, I lived elsewhere and a with kid in school, heading to the Cape on a weeknight in May was not an option.
So from the point of view of a 40-something-year-old Beachcomber opening night virgin, here’s what last night was. It was a high school reunion for three generations. It was people from all walks of life, from bearded fishermen to professionals to college kids to construction workers and everything in between, just happy to be through another New England winter. It was a room full of people who were accepting of one another, and who had one thing in common, the love of all that is summer on Cape Cod which, on this night, manifested as a little bar perched on a dune overlooking the ocean, moonlight silvering the edges of the clouds and reflecting on the wave caps below.
As I stood out on the deck, flanked by my own high school friends, inches away from a group of girls in sundresses, girls young enough to be our kids, and a group of weathered locals looking old enough to be our parents, this warm feeling of belonging washed over me. And really, it wasn’t just the Patron.
Before I had left the house, I’d said to my 18-year-old son, “in a few more years, you’ll be able to go too.” He rolled his eyes and said, in the nicest way possible, that he was okay with not going to a place where people my age hang out. But he’s wrong. He would have loved last night. It was one giant asterisk in the ageist nightclub world, one culture-straddling exception, one beautiful, ineffable moonlit anomaly. All on one night. All in one bar. In a few years, he’ll see for himself.