Summer Shares at Chance drinking sunset beer that they brewed themselves.
SUMMER SHARE CONFIDENTIAL: A novel look at an age old tradition
By John Blesso
While One Ocean View, Fire Island's "reality" series has proven to be dreadful, our lush island has inspired others to write about their Fire Island experiences. The following is from an enterprising young man who impressed me from the moment we met when he first came to Kismet.
When John Blesso bought Echo Beach (formerly known as "Apples") in 2004 and renamed it Chance, he threw out the time honored A-B weekend series and created third shares on an A-B-C series. We knew his house was going to be different, but no one knew just HOW different his house was going to be. Next May, we'll all find out the real story when Citadel Press publishes "Summer Share Confidential," his memoir about his transformation from a 31-year-old unemployed nanny to becoming the owner and manager of (as he describes it) "Fire Island's Premier Epicurean Sharehouse Experience."
No one schleps the way John does and most Kismetians have grown used to the sight of him dragging his garden cart from the ferry dock to his house for his twice-weekly run to Costco (where he spends more than $600 a week) or they've seen him wheeling kegs and crates of booze from the dock on Saturday mornings. He describes his house as less of a share house and more of an eating club for epicurean singles.
JL: How did you ever become a nanny?
JB: I became a nanny when I was twenty-two and living in Paris. I was working a bunch of odd jobs and living outside the city in a run-down Arab housing project and I kept meeting these young women who lived in the city center and I realized that nannying was the best way to upgrade my meager living situation. And I loved doing it. Then I came back to New York, worked in offices for almost six years, when, late in 2000 (a few months before the tech bubble burst). I was reading an article in New York magazine about how much money nannies were making in New York City. I couldn't believe it. And I had previous experience. So I did another two-year tour in New York City, until my employer's company went belly up just when I had stalled out on a novel that I had been working on for more than seven years.
This also happened to be when the NeoCons were creaming in their pants to invade Iraq, a move that I always felt would be a catastrophic blunder. All of these things kind of came together in a perfect storm. A perfect shitstorm, really. I no longer knew what to do with my life while our country was about to embark on this disastrous course of action. I was pretty bummed out but eventually I started working again, started doing some freelance editing, some bartending and then, in 2003, I wanted more than anything to be at the beach.
JL: How did you end up in Kismet?
JB: At the time, I was one of the many people who thought that all of Fire Island was gay, and I never bothered looking into it, until I found an ad for Bicycle Bill's house. "Kismet" literally means fate or destiny and I feel more than ever that I was fated to come here.
JL: Did your experience as a nanny help in running a sharehouse?
JB: Well, in a way it's not that different. You've dealing with a bunch of people who just want to have fun all of the time. Only adult singles require a different kind of juice box.
JL: So what is your book about?
JB: It takes place during the course of the 2005 summer. There's a lot of eating and drinking and-
JB: Why, yes, Jeannie. Funny you mention that. What would a summer sharehouse be without sex?
JL: What would anything be without sex? How revelatory is the book? Do you tell all? Do you name names?
JB: No. Names and physical descriptions have been changed and in the end, most of the characters are composites. The only people who'll be able to pick apart the characters are the people who were actually in the house that year.
JL: So what happens?
JB: I always thought it was funny how in singles' sharehouses, no one ever mentions that the primary reason that they have joined is to meet someone. While searching for their soulmates, however, quite a few people were willing to settle for just another Saturday night. So a lot of the book is about those rather dramatic Saturday nights, only at Chance, the lead-in to those Saturday nights might be ceviche followed by roast pork tenderloin and homemade green tea ice cream. Or a 90-pound pig cooked in a Cuban roasting box. So there's the soap opera, but it unfolds amid a true Epicurean experience.
JL: How does the "Epicurean experience" relate here.
JB: Epicurus was a Greek philosopher who believed that a life of continuous pleasure was an existence that rivaled that of the gods. This pleasure came from an indulgence in great food, drink and comfort. He believed that what prevented people from enjoying this life of continuous pleasure was not acknowledging our fear of death, and that this creates irrational desires--like maybe invading an oil-rich country when you're already a billionaire many times over. While other philosophers like Plato and Aristotle set up their schools in Athens, Epicurus bought a house outside the hustle and bustle of the city, taking people out of the stresses of city life and enabling them to live and enjoy life communally. I didn't learn about Epicurus until after I bought my house, but when I did, it was a pure holy-shit moment. Because what he did was exactly what I was doing. I wanted to take my friends out of the stresses of their overworked lives in the City and treat them to an unhurried experience of ongoing pleasure with elaborate eating and drinking and-"
JL: That sounds very noble but isn't sex the motivating force?
JB: Well, Epicurus would have said "comfort," but I think we have similar ideas of what brings us the greatest comfort. Anyway, I began to see a parallel. In our post-9/11 world, we've never been more afraid than we are now, while our overall quality of life has been getting shittier every year. Stuck under this boot of fear, we've been slowly--almost imperceptibly--squeezed, too scared to notice that our coffers were being looted by Darth Cheney and his billionaire buddies. It's gotten so bad that we didn't even have the resources to rescue our own people in New Orleans last year. They've gutted our country and we're all being squeezed, working longer hours, having fewer benefits, less job security, less time with our friends and families and I want the people in my house to slow the fuck down and get back to what's important. I think that the first step in getting our country back on the right track is for all of us to take our lives back and get our priorities straight again.
JL: What do you think those priorities are?
JB: There is nothing more important than regularly spending time with your friends and family. In the City, you've got all of these people working ridiculous hours and then coming home to eat takeout food by themselves in front of Law & Order reruns. It's not healthy. For thousands of years, people have sat across a table or around a fire and eaten together and now a majority of American families actually don't eat dinner together on a regular basis. So I wanted to create a sort of alternate family out at the beach where my single friends can truly unwind and get out of their heads and eat and drink really well and then.well.do the things that single people do.
JL: So you describe how other people do the things that single people do. What about you? Are we going to hear about your love life?
JB: (Laughing.) You're going to have to wait for the book to come out.
JL: Am I in it?
JB: Jeannie, baby, writing a book that takes place in Kismet and not mentioning you would be like writing about Fire Island and not mentioning the lighthouse.
"Summer Share Confidential" will be published by Citadel Press in May, 2007. For more information about John Blesso and Chance, go to www.chancehouse.com