Jack McCready: Nantucket has a year-round population of roughly 10,000. In the summer that increases to 50,000, and someone once told me on the 4th of July it’s closer to 100,000. That added 50,000 that come out for the 4th tends to be every kid that attended a New England boarding school and shot-gunned a beer at a Trinity frat. Against all of our better judgment, my friend and fellow BlackBook writer Hari Nef and I decided to head out there with my family to see the spectacle and escape from the city. We packed up our looks, booked our buses and ferries, filled our music libraries with Lana Del Rey and Sugar Ray, grabbed our friend Chloe Mackey, and headed into the belly of the beast for some fun in the sun.
Hari Nef: When I told Jack that I’d spent many summers on Nantucket, he was surprised. Jack and I had known each other growing up in neighboring Massachusetts suburbs, but our friendship really bloomed after we both moved to New York. In our past lives, we were both wiley gay teenagers, stylish but polite, outgoing but anonymous, gay but not queer. In New York, we reappeared to one another in new skin, he a dashing party boy in head-to-toe ACNE, me a browless actress two months on hormones and 22 awkward snaps into her tag on BFA. Jack and I created new mythology for our selves and our lives: a pair of hot young things who had cut lines and booked gallery spaces since the dawn of time.
When Jack invited me to Nantucket, I was surprised.
To stay in New York would have been a white flag.
To go to Nantucket would have been a battle cry, a guerrilla attack on a past life we never really felt was ours to live.
True to form, we chose the latter.
Hari: Jack, Chloe, and I have fun with clothes. We dress abrasively, bombastically, elegantly–committed to nothing and no one but our personal brands. When Jack picked us up in this look, he set the bar. His weekend style fell somewhere between “alleged heroine addict” and “Jasper Johns goes to Amoeba Music.” We were eager, perhaps too eager, to impress our style on the locals–and to document the ensuing fallout, madness, and fury.
Jack: At one point during the weekend I had titled one of Hari’s looks “Keg Ryan” but soon realized due to my penchant for beer and my less-than-polished looks I was probably the real Keg Ryan of the crew. The outfits became really important to the entire weekend, especially for Chloe who was turning about five different looks a day.
Hari: “So,” Chloe murmured. “What are we actually doing tonight?” This is one of those special Nantucket Questions asked over centuries of Nantucket sunsets (I knew this to be true because my aunt had a house near Squam Pond while I was growing up). No matter where you are or who you’re with, there’s nothing to do in Nantucket. Ever. But this weekend, we’d hoped, would be different: a deep cut from Ultraviolence come to life. We went over someone else’s house. There was tequila there, and a jacuzzi.
Jack: Luckily a couple of our friends from the city happened to be shacked up at a really beautiful house with a whole crew and were nice enough to have us over for a classic Nantucket night of King’s Cup and skinny dipping. In one round of King’s we had to quickly think of something we would never eat and Hari, in tribute to Gia Gunn, declared she “would never eat fresh tilapia because that would be cannibalism.”
Hari: By 4 a.m., I’d had a few beverages, one bad burrito, and a thorny exchange with Joe, some local guy I met Tinder. I love Tinder, but it’s not very intuitive for trans women. I toggle my Tinder Gender once every few days: a bid for equal opportunity between gays and breeders. Joe had some pointed words for my “delusions” and “deceptions.” Before I blocked him, I told him that he would die in a world ruled by trans people.
Jack, Chloe, and I spread out in a clearing and looked at the stars–which you can’t do in New York. We talked about how traumatic it can be to make unpopular life decisions for your own good. After a good cry, we went inside and attacked a pint of chocolate gelato. We were asleep by dawn.
Jack: The pum-pum-tun-up was ready to turn down for the night. I took my half drank Stella up to bed with me and it remained there on the bedside table for the rest of the weekend, warm and flat.
Hari: When we woke up, it was the 4th of July.
Jack: Despite predictions of storms and all hell breaking loose we decided it was pertinent for us to make our way over to the nefarious annual 4th of July day rage at Nobadeer beach. I was certainly excited (maybe a little worried) to see Hari Nef at a 4th party, where instead of BFA you have Barstool Sports.
Hari: Jack’s friend James picked us up and drove. He played some fabulous music, and I decided he was hot. I didn’t know where he was driving us, and I didn’t care. At several points, I stuck my head out the window and screamed, “Where’s the pum-pum!! Where’s the turn up!!” trying my best to locate or manifest the Independence Daytime Adventure of that I’d dreamed.
Suddenly, this man appeared on a horse.
Jack: At first I thought this might be Shania Twain on her way to grace us all with a surprise performance at the beach, but the outfit wasn’t glitzy enough and upon further inspection he was no lady.
Hari: We drove down a dirt path lined on one side by ticketed cars. Shirtless youth bore American flags on poles and bathing shorts. Packs of preteen girls squatted by the side of the road puking. Local police stood idly by, some on foot, and others in off-road SUVs. The clouds sat low in a gray sky.
“Why did we come to Nobadeer Beach on the 4th of July?” moaned Jack.
Jack: Part of me instantly regretted coming out to “Nobes”. Another part of me would’ve had crippling FOMO had we not stopped by. I’ve been coming to this same 4th party for a few years, and while I’ve never really had the time of my life it has always been it’s own brand of fun. However, growing up around Boston I realized over time that culturally there is a pattern of people going out less to find someone to sleep with and more to find someone to fight. The crowd that day seemed like it was ready to pop-off one way or another and I didn’t want to be around when it did.
Hari: What we discovered on the beach looked like the promo vid they would have shot for the Spring Breakers clothing line if the producers had partnered with Polo Ralph Lauren instead of Opening Ceremony. It was the kind of beer-crunching, chest-thumping, tongue-thrusting turn-up that would have terrified me as a queer teen, but which now seemed exotic, Bacchic–even a little tender. Some drunk bros crawled up to Chloe and gawked her hair. Jack frowned and paced around on his phone, taking breaks to greet the Beckys and Charlies he knew from summers past. The music got louder. The sky got darker.
Jack: The combination of overcast skies, anxiety induced by riled up drunken bros, and amazing American novelty clothing all made me feel like I was in the America that Lana Del Rey is always singing about. About five minutes after getting there, saying hello to all of New England, and snapping some photos of Hari sprawled on the sand with a backdrop of wasp debauchery, I was ready to head out.
Hari: By the morning July 5th, I’d found my way to this pool at the Summer House Inn.
It was a treacherous journey.
On the 4th, around 4:00 p.m., came Hurricane Arthur. We retreated to Chez McCready, where things took a dark turn. Siblings stumbled up stairs into cavernous bedrooms; the gale-force winds blew closed French doors ajar, Japanese horror movie style.
We’d expected the 4th of July on Nantucket to be an East Coast Fantasy: sun, sand, and salmon shorts. Lemonade and uppers! When Rosemary, Jack’s mom, came to the top of the stairs, the dream had clearly died. She announced that everyone–everyone–had to leave by tomorrow.
The power went out. My ferry was on Sunday.
I was homeless in Nantucket.
I called my aunt, the one who used to have the house. I asked her if she was on the island. She was. I asked if I could sleep on the floor of her cottage at the Summer House Inn. She said I could.
Jack: Just as as quickly as the nightmare began it subsided and we found ourselves in Sconset. Gone were the broz, babez, beerz, and bluntz. We were in the only part of the island exempt from the fratty bedlam of the 4th weekend, and it was sunshine, blue skies, and cable-knit sweaters.
Hari: I thought I’d seen the last of Jack after his mom kicked me out, but it turns out we were both invited to a garden party for Boston Common on the Summer House lawn. I was watching my cousin, who took this photo. There was an open bar from a vodka brand I’d never heard of. There were also bite-size lobster rolls.
Jack: At this point in the weekend my outfits had finally gotten more Nantucket appropriate, but less age appropriate, and I was going for a waspy toddler look. I wanted to crawl on the beach in little polo shirts with a sippy cup of beer. Despite being at a magazine party with a liquor sponsor, we weren’t back in New York yet. I was relieved to be rid of the storms and chaos, but starving for more than a penny-sized hors d’oeuvres. The weekend, for better or worse, was just about done. I stayed an extra day, got a sunburn, paid $40 for a $12 cab, drank a couple margaritas, finally read Monica Lewinsky’s piece for Vanity Fair, and found my way back to the city feeling cooled-down and hyped-up.
Hari: Jack and I had had it by 9 p.m.
We reclined in lawn chairs and sighed into the sea air. Trees, seas, and sand: Nantucket scenery is so quaint it’s perverse. I always associated it with the Hundred Acre Wood from Winnie the Pooh: a woodland paradise sprinkled with cozy little homes. One stumbles into a Nantucket cottage expecting to find Rabbit himself, or Piglet maybe (definitely not Eeyore). What one finds are liquor cabinets, seashell applique bathroom mirrors, and WASPS with their pants down.
Perched on the shore of this pretty New England limbo, I stared at the sea. First, I thought of New York. Then I thought of Nantucket. Had I spent more than a handful of past 4th’s on Nantucket? Probably. Did I remember them? No.
This one wasn’t the weekend I wanted.
I took a deep drag of my cigarette.
It was definitely the one I needed.