Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Ode to the Belvedere

 On Monday, I decided to head to Fire Island on a reconnaissance mission. I had heard that things were open there, but I wasn’t sure how things were functioning in the midst of the Covid pandemic, so I thought I should investigate myself to see if taking a vacation there was even a possibility.
As soon as I got off the ferry, there were signs everywhere about masks and social distancing being required. (I later discovered that there was even assigned seating at Cherry’s.)
I soon settled into a table at Sand Castle for a lobster roll, and I couldn’t stop smiling. “Where do they find these boys every year, with their short shorts and big asses?” I asked myself. I immediately posted on my Facebook page, “I’m already more gay than when I got here!”  

Sand Castle: "I'm already more gay than when I got here!"

After lunch, I set myself up on the beach with the new beach umbrella I’d bought at Goodies. It kept falling over and getting blown inside out (did I mention that I’m not really a beach person?), so I decided to check out the Belvedere to see if a room was even available. They told me that there was a Basic, Standard and Economy room available, as well as a Luxury room, so I proceeded with my usual walk on the beach from the end of the Grove to the end of the Pines. Returning to the Belvedere exhausted, I thought, “Fuck it, I might as well check in.” They said I could have an Economy Room for the Basic rate (because the Basic room wasn’t ready yet) and, besides, it had just been renovated!
Just as a piece of architecture, the Belvedere is beautiful. The fact that it’s also a functioning hotel is almost beside the point. But lately I find that I’ve become one of those grizzled old-timers, telling people about my years on Fire Island.

Even the Belvedere lions are wearing masks!

I’ve been coming to the Belvedere since at least 2000, but my first time on Fire Island was July 4, 1986, when I decided to take a day trip and accidentally stumbled upon The Invasion of the Pines, an event where drag queens from Cherry Grove “invade” The Pines.
Now when I go to the Belvedere, it’s like a trip down memory lane and there are stories associated with each room. Coincidentally, the room I stayed in this year (The Violet Chapel) was the subject of one of my previous blog posts (http://thegaycurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2014/07/fire-island-you-cant-go-home-again-or.html). That room is next door to The Seasons, the first room I stayed at in 2000, which at the time was a $90 Economy room overlooking the pool and is now a Deluxe room with a staircase that was added outside for fire safety reasons (but which I feel is architecturally inconsistent).
Then there are the stories of my various sexual conquests at the Belvedere, including the staff member in a red jockstrap who brought me a strawberry margarita.
One time I brought back a guy who was so drunk (or high) he tried to take his pants off over his head, and I made him walk up (and down) the Belvedere’s spiral staircase.
I’ve been going to the Belvedere so long, I remember the original owner of the Belvedere, John Eberhardt. He was a pencil factory heir, and one of the things I remember about him is that he always had a much younger, blonde boyfriend. (I’m not sure what the twenty-something blonde saw in his eighty-ish partner, unless he hoped to inherit his fortune.)

Obligatory sunset.

By the time I’d finished my “investigation,” my day trip had turned into an overnight stay. Fire Island had once again cast its magic spell.