Time Mattachine: Provincetown’s Last Lesbian Bar

hand touching various photos
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The Pain Of Breaking From The Mold

One of the big things I learned at Transom is that “a story” often requires a compelling character doing something right now. And that the thing they’re doing relates to a larger trend or phenomena. Ideally something surprising happens. My story doesn’t fit into that model. Most of the action happens in the past; I couldn’t go inside the bar and record the sound of glasses clinking.

I learned that it’s difficult to pitch stories where all the action is in the past. Rob and Erika pushed me to articulate my vision and justify my choices. That made me nervous. I considered pursuing another story altogether. But ultimately, pushback compelled me to work harder for this story. I gathered inspirations I could point to. I listened repeatedly to “A White Horse” on The Memory Palace and “Riis Park” on The Heart. Around that time, Zoe Chace came to class as a guest. She suggested I structure the story by era, If These Walls Could Talk 2 style. That inspiration stuck with me and I began planning a story structure that mimicked that of the film. My finished product is hardly a recognizable descendant of If These Walls Could Talk 2, but in the early stages of story planning, it was extremely helpful to have a model.

Finding A Fresh Angle

While making this story, I was following news coverage about a historic lesbian bar closing in Norfolk, VA. I was also reading articles from the past decade about “last lesbian bars,” thinking critically about what was missing from these stories. I noticed that some of the coverage singularly romanticized the past. That seemed irresponsible to me. I wanted to tell a story about queer history that complicated the nostalgia I feel for the past. That was something I hadn’t heard before.

Putting Yourself In The Story

The most difficult part of making this story was deciding to put myself in it. I worked on the story for weeks before writing myself in. There’s a standard, masculinist critique of personal stories — that they’re self-indulgent and somehow less rigorous. Even though I don’t subscribe to this thinking, putting myself in the story still felt uncomfortable. One trick I used to get over this discomfort was to make the thing I’d want to hear. That meant trusting myself, which turned out to be the hardest part of all.

I couldn’t have done this story without my friends at Transom and many other friends who gave feedback and encouragement.

About Mo’s Sonic ID

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Listen to “Mo’s Sonic ID”

I captured this sonic when our Transom class took a day trip to Provincetown. We were hiking on the dunes and we ran into Cynthia Packard. She was so talkative and poetic, a sonic machine. We were all standing around with the same look on our faces like, “I wish I was recording this right now.” Then I remembered I had brought my kit! I scrambled to get my gear before she said goodbye. I caught this sonic. The lesson here is always keep your kit on you!

Listen to more pieces from this Story Workshop class here.

Monique LaBorde

About
Monique LaBorde

Mo is an audio producer from Asheville, NC. She’s interned with WNYC's On the Media, North Carolina Public Radio WUNC, and the podcast Gravy. She’s a graduate of the Duke Center for Documentary studies. Mo loves stories about identity, place, and intimacy. Her work has aired on West Virginia Public Broadcasting and North Carolina Public Radio. More can be heard on PRX and on her website.

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  • Robin Kampf

    2.16.19

    Reply

    Fascinating historical look back at a lost time in which I was a part of. Thanks.

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