Monday, December 11, 2006
Sunday, November 12, 2006
There were a few more friends I felt warranted being told face to face, but after that I just expected the rumor mill at my tiny (1100 students) college to take care of the rest. That didn't happen so much, and I don't know why. I was almost offended at the time that no one seemed interested enough in my life to speculate, but maybe I just had good friends, who didn't see any need to turn it into juicy scuttlebut.
This did not usher in a wonderful new world of dating, however. There were hardly any out gay men at my school, and most of them were annoying as hell. The one gay adonis on campus (also a nice guy) never took any interest in me, unfortunately. It was another full year before I had any gay male friends, and it was well after college before I had much of a social group in that sense. (New York has seen a reverting back to college for some reason.) But that time of my life involved a blossoming in all sorts of ways. I first learned how to make and perform in masks that fall (and it is NO coincidence that I came out later that same term), I declared myself a theatre major that Spring, and went off to Ireland (my first overseas trip alone) that Fall, to have a whole lot more life-changing experiences. So I've been thinking about my nineteeth and twentieth year a lot of late. Seems like I should have some sort of celebration, doesn't it? Come to think of it, 95-96 was a pretty eventful time as well. Hmmm.
Anyway. Any thoughts on how this auspicious occasion should be observed? I'm pretty sure there ought to be cake. There should always be cake. Other than that though, I'm at a loss. As always, I welcome suggestions from my gentle readers.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
I want to be excited about the elections. I am certainly more heartened by these results than I would have been by the opposite outcome. I was flabbergasted (and cheered spontaneously) when I learned about Rumsfeld's 'resignation'. I am glad the Democrats gained a majority in both houses.
But I'm wary, I have to admit. Things have been deteriorating BADLY for a while now, and it's as if the Democrats only just woke up in the last few months. Sure they've been starting to speak up about some of the problems in recent months, but it's felt very small, and very late. Maybe this sea change will give them heart again. Maybe they will actually hold some people accountable for their actions. Maybe Bush won't be able to ignore dissent with that shit-eating smirk of his any longer. But I don't think that will happen by itself. We're going to have to hold people's feet to the fire, and I'm just not sure I know how to do that. Keep squawking, I guess that's really my only tool at present. I'm not a multimillionaire who can make my pleasure and displeasure known with gargantuan contributions. Part of the problem for me and the Democrats of course is that we all can agree things are bad right now, but alternate solutions haven't really been proffered. I know that my radical Quaker policy of no war at any time isn't one that will garner much support from this or any Congress (at least not any time soon). I find myself toying with a 'you break it you buy it' feeling about Iraq, yet also taking note of how many Iraqis don't want us there. Not sure what kind of percentage we're talking about (does anyone know?), but when they don't want us, and we don't have a good plan for being there, it's pretty hard watching the death count rise.
Is this just a whole lot of cynical whinging? Maybe. I know that change never comes as quickly or dramatically as we want it to. I also know the slow, imperceptible changes that do make a difference come from diligent efforts of people who often never see any progress. It too over 300 years for slavery to end in this country, and there were brave, principled people working to end it from the very beginning. Their work made a difference, even if they never knew it. So, I'm taking some pleasure in these election results, including (I freely admit) some gloating over the uncharacteristically furrowed brow on Bush. Santorum is out. Rumsfeld is out. Those two facts alone are cause for celebration. But I'd like to be a lot more enthusiastic about the whole affair. What am I missing here? Anyone have thoughts they want to share, ideas I should examine more closely? I'd love to hear them. Who is rejoicing out there right now? And what are you rejoicing about?
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
I've noticed that part of my evolution in dealing with New York has a lot to do with my relationship with space. That is to say, getting used to having a lot less of it. I'm not just talking about living in shoe-boxes (though I readily admit I'm better off than a lot in NYC), but just dealing with the way people take up space out and about. On the train. Walking on the street. Standing in elevators. Standing in line. I realized recently that I had begun slouching in a way I never had before (causing myself all kinds of spinal trouble, or at least exaserbating previous problems), largely in response to sitting on the subway, trying to make myself as small and unassuming as possible. I've begun responding to that, figuring out how to sit up properly, while still not taking up two/three seats as so many people in this city are fond of doing.
But I'm just coming to accept that there are different expectations when it comes to personal space. I think it's culturally based to some extent as well. It took me several months of riding on the subway before I realized that other people (even guys) wouldn't get violent if my leg happened to brush against theirs. Growing up in the Midwest, there was never any need to touch a stranger, so if you did, it was noteworthy, and risky.
Even by New York standards though, I think my neighborhood may be exceptionally cozy. It's mostly Dominican, but generally Hispanic, and I've just come to accept that when people stand close to me, they're not being disrespectful or pushy. I noticed it first with children, how they would walk past me intruding on what I considered my personal sphere far too much, but I've come to see it happening with people of all ages, and both genders. Today I was standing in line at my local grocery and I kept getting whiffs of cilantro (mmm) because the woman behind me in line kept brushing a bunch of it against my ass. I don't think anything hostile was involved. That's just where she was standing.
There are still adjustments to be made on my part; I realize I'm often breathing rather shallowing (thus raising my stress levels) when I'm in close proximity to strangers. I still don't LIKE it very much, truth be told. I haven't been rehearsing or taking dance classes which used to be good ways for me to be in open spaces on a regular basis. But I've also crossed over to the NYC mode enough to get really annoyed, I mean REALLY, when I'm in the Times Square region, dealing with groups of tourists standing around in large bovine clumps, NOT GETTING OUT OF MY WAY. It's really quite striking, they just don't seem to realize they're blocking traffic as effectively as if they had parked an SUV in the middle of the sidewalk. There they are gawking at the sights, or their map, or whatever, and I just can't get around them. When they make me miss a light, whoo boy, do I get grumpy. I usually snap out of it (it was a WALK sign for god's sake, I can wait for 60 seconds for it to change again), but sometimes it can get close. I don't really see this as progress necessarily. I'd rather not turn into a cranky local bitching about all them furriners and the bridge and tunnel crowd gumming up the place. But it seems like something is shifting in my world.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Okay, so I was still feeling fairly silly about it all. Even calling myself a 'brunette' feels silly. Can boys be brunettes? Why does that word seem more sissified than blonde or redhead? The word brunette makes me think of Jacklyn Smith for some reason (who?), I don't find myself picturing George Clooney. So even buying the stuff was a bit awkward. I know the cashier couldn't care less about my purchases, I'd buy condoms with nary a shudder from the same person, but hair products? FUSSY hair products? Fussy EXPENSIVE hair products? "Yes dear, I'm not even a metrosexual, I'm a big ole flaming homo."
I've been openly gay for twenty years, was never what you'd call 'macho' and this sort of thing still slows me down. I have an easier time buying eye-liner, frankly. Though I pick my neighborhood carefully for that too, I suppose.
Once the gauntlet of the cashier was passed, I was still feeling silly about the price. I've tried various shampoos over the years and I have to say I've rarely noticed much difference. Okay, the volumizing stuff (which I always have bought by mistake, needing more volume like I need another hole in my head) does seem to frizz my hair out like nobody's business. But for the most part I want my hair to feel clean and the 99 cent Suave seems to do that just fine. What could be so much better about this stuff. Then I read the label; "low-ph formula with tea leaf infusion and crushed pearls."
Goodness. Suddenly twelve dollars seemed cheap. Crushed pearls? Seriously? Like the real deal? Not the plastic ones you can buy for a dollar? Farmed no doubt, but still, real? Wow. Okay, tea leaf infusion, that starts to bug me again; I mean, I know what the word 'infusion' means, so they brewed some tea and threw some pearl powder into it. I could do that myself, if I knew where to get pearl powder. I wonder if mica flakes would work just as well?
But wait a minute, I can see how pearl powder MIGHT make my hair shiny and glossy looking, if it got left in my hair. But I rinse this stuff out after just a few minutes. Even the conditioner. Does pearl powder magically bond with one's hair so it doesn't rinse away in the shower? Is that what the 'tea infusion' is for? It claims not to add color, which is what I would expect the tea to do. It stains teeth, why wouldn't it color hair? Oh, and the label on this stuff says it's safe for 'color treated' hair. People DYE their hair brown? Really? Who does that? Blondes who are tired of being called 'dumb'? Redheads who just want to fade into the woodwork? I don't get it.
Oh yeah, grey. I forgot about that. Gotta say one thing for us 'amber to maple' types, grey doesn't show up intil there is a LOT of it. I've got more grey in my eyebrows and chest hairs than on my head.
Too much information? Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, throwing money at my hair. Okay, so nowadays I'm spending about 40 dollars on haircuts, as opposed to the 15 dollar (plus tip) I used t spend, I'm using products, most days TWO of them (one for shine, one for 'manageability, since I'm sporting a longer style and my hair is curly), which also opens up a whole new category of expense. Is the fifteen dollar 'pomade' really going to be that much better than the four dollar stuff? How can one tell? Is it all in the level of alcohol involved? Am I throwing good money after bad by using expensive 'moisturizing' shampoo and glossy stuff that fries my hair like a potato chip?
My head hurts. But for now, I'm using tea and pearls on my hair. I'll let you know how it's going. I'm sure this is all rivetting.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
I met Kate at a diner in Williamsburg today. It looked like it had been staffed out of Central Casting. There were the willowy, nerdy-hip servers, male and female, and the sharp-tongued older woman, clearly the owner, who rules her domain with a no-nonsense attitude and a heart of gold. "You want coffee?" she asked me in a thick Brooklyn accent, once I had been seated for a bit.
"Thank you, yes please."
"Look at you lot, five you standing around doing nothing, give this guy some coffee! I guess you're supposed to send up a flair."
"I'm in no rush, that's what Saturdays are all about for me."
Once she ascertained I was waiting for someone, the owner realized she didn't need to kick their asses about getting me food. She then proceeded to tell me all the people whose asses she DID need to kick, starting with the son and brother who had, between them borrowed her car and wracked up $1800 in parking tickets, resulting in her car being towed that morning. "Do you know how many cups of coffee I'll have to sell to pay $1800?" I made the appropriate clucking noises. It's amazing how much of my time in NYC, on the train, in restaurants, on the street, is spent making appropriate clucking noises in sympathy. Gets me through a lot. Her brother 'has a union book' (haven't heard that expression in a long time) and her son is similarly flush with cash, so she had plans for banging on their doors until she got the money. I wished her luck, as she headed off to buy champagne for the restaurant's evening meal. This was only the beginning of a great day, and the third one I've had in a row.
Thursday night I had dinner out with a three good friends, including one I haven't seen in seven years, I saw a play last night with ole buddy Jeff, had brunch this morning with ole buddy Kate, then dinner tonight with ole buddy Melissa. I'm spending money like it's water, and I couldn't be happier about it. Whenever my family and I reminisce about our fond memories and adventures together, a striking number of them circle around great meals. This reassures me as I gad about seeing these friends, having conversations about things that matter, gossiping, laughing, scarfing down chicken pot pie, mac and cheese, bagels and lox, salmon, mushrooms and rice, rich red wine, wild berry crumble with custard, dark coffee, multigrain toast with raspberry jam, black tea, comfort foods all over the place. The weather in NYC is cool and rainy, so all these cafes, restaurants, tea-houses and diners are becoming the havens of coziness they'll be for at least the next six months. I seem to be padding up like a bear preparing for hibernation, but again, not so much with the regret so far (at least not until I have to get naked in public again on Tuesday).
I can't really afford to live like this, and perhaps I'm going to regret it in a few weeks when the work peters out for the holidays; right now though I'm feeling pretty lucky, like I've collected more of those memories I'll be glad I have when lying on my deathbed. Loved ones, good conversation, and good food. Gets me through a lot.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
(This is going to be one of those "working it out while I write" postings. Just to warn you.)
Not too long ago I found myself waxing rhapsodic to a bemused friend on the subject of compost. My sister and brother-in-law have a composter in their yard, so I was able to examine it closely this August, and for the first time see the end result. This one has a particularly nice design, because you can see all the stages of the process, like looking at layers of geology; at the top you see all the refuse you threw on it that morning, the coffee grounds, vegetable peelings, moldy bread, fruit rinds etc, and at the bottom you see the rich black, undifferentiated soil. If you didn't know better you'd think it was just a whole lot of garbage sitting on a pile of dirt. I just the love the fact that organic refuse will, with the right mix of elements and time, turn into a rich topsoil that then grows more fruit rinds, vegetable peelings etc. Circle of life and all that. My friend listening was on board with me so far, but when I explained that somehow this was evidence of divinity for me, he tilted his head at me like a confused dog. It's the same look I get from people when I say that the theory of evolution feels like evidence of divinity for me as well. I'm a firm believer in evolution, I recognize that its ability to predict present and future realities just makes it too compelling (not clear to me how anyone can know anything about genetics and NOT at least entertain the theory of evolution; but that's another post). I know that random selection is a central issue to the theory, and that's perhaps the point where atheists and believers most often part ways. I get it. And even if I'm seeing the delicate balance of the earth's resources and residents as evidence of God, then I'm really talking about the divine watch-maker view of the divine, the being who sets up this elaborate interlocking, self-sustaining structure, then leaves it to take care of itself. There are times in fact when I do think of God in this way. I mean, I love the central role sow bugs play in composting, but I don't think any individual sow bug wakes up of a morning and say "hmm, what shall I do today? Shall I run a whole lot of waste through my digestive tract in order to break it down into its component nutrients, or shall I fill out that grad school application? Oh fuck it, let's see what's on the tube." In the same vein, anytime I find myself asking for help from a divine source, a little voice in my head (which I'm pretty sure is NOT the voice of god) says "yeah, sure god can help ya out with this piddly-ass problem ya got goin' on, too bad he/she seems to be dropping the ball on the whole AIDS thing in Africa." (This little voice in my head is frequently a sarcastic little shit. I hate this fuckin' voice.) I know more than one person who looked at this exact dilemma, and found him/herself deciding that atheism was the only sensible response. And I respect that. I don't really have any desire to refute it... yet I don't make the same move.
I don't have a clear explanation why not, but somehow at the heart of the issue for me are words like 'soul' and 'love'. I don't know that I'm ready to attribute a soul to the above mentioned sow bug (maybe I just haven't spent enough time with a single one, you know, having coffee grinds and shitting nutrients or something), but I have many times felt like I've experienced a force of beauty and love that was both powerful and conscious. Frequently I've felt like I was seeing a soul in another's eyes. Nor have those eyes only been human; more than one dog, cat, horse, and even bird has made me believe there is some sort of deep current of somethingness that flows in and through all creation. Strict evolutionists would say that the reason everything is so well balanced and interlocking is because the stuff that doesn't work gets eliminated. And I buy it, I really do. Yet somehow, the sheer elegance of the world, of the universe, the closed cycle, constant rebirth, the nothing-in-nothing-out beauty of it is impossible for me to examine without feeling a welling-up of love and thanksgiving.
Maybe evolution IS my image of god. Maybe I'm a true pagan in that I worship nature in all its ruthless efficiency. Maybe I'll find myself a firm atheist in another couple of years. I don't have any good explanations for why things are so fucked up in the world, that is, why god would allow it. I don't believe in hell frankly, not sure if I believe in heaven or an after life (kind of handy to have hell out of the picture but still keep heaven a possibility, don't you think?), but the acts of selflessness I have witnessed from human and non-human actors, the connections and creations I've seen or been a part of, those moments of beauty that have stopped me in my tracks... I'm just not ready yet to see them solely as the random firings of hormones intent on propogating the species. Funny, but I'd say empirical evidence, that is to say my experiences, is the reason I'm not quite ready to give up on faith.
Just to be clear, I'm not claiming that atheists are all pure materialists with no interest in or explanation for soul or love. I have seen far too many atheists create glorious things, and perform acts of love (starting with my own mother) for me to think such a thing. I just don't feel able to explain MY reactions and experiences in other ways. Even if I were interested in convincing someone of the existence of god, I know this argument wouldn't do it. 'Argument' is probably too grand a word frankly. 'Vague meandering attempt to articulate my own questions', that's a much better description. Some days these questions cause me great despair, but most of the time, like now, they merely make me stop in awe at the mysteries I see around me.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Nonetheless I have known for a while that I am not done with this place yet. I'm still here, with no plans to go anywhere else, and I think that's because there is something I need to do here. So, maybe it's time to buckle down and do it. No, I don't know what that means. Career stuff seems like the most obvious choice, and it's certainly where my focus is these days, but I'm open to the possibility that there are other things to be done, lessons to be learned, etc.
What can you, dear reader, do to help me in this process? Well, maybe nothing. Maybe you can gently point out to me when I've gone on an anti-NYC rant, though chances are that won't garner you much affection at the time. But maybe you can tell me what you love about living here. Where are the places you go, the things you do and see, that are rejuvenating and inspiring? How do you navigate the lack of money in a place this expensive, without feeling deprived? What do you do when the place has you worn down? Or does that never happen? I'm sure some people thrive on the frenetic energy of the place, whereas I'm usually looking for its antidote. I'd really love insights from you about how you make this place your home.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
When I've seen the commercials though, I frequently found myself focusing on T.R. Knight and thinking a) what a babe and b) I wonder if he's gay? I was pretty sure he was, but of course was assuming I'd never know one way or the other, Hollywood being what it is. But whaddya know; turns out he is, and because of a nasty little cat fight between two of his co-stars, he is now out. Out in a big way. Like an interview with People out. Apparently my gaydar works through TV. I'm so tickled.
Cute Little TR might be less than thrilled to know I pegged him as a fellow 'mo on the basis of a 30 second promo, however. I'm assuming, since I haven't heard any buzz about a gay character on Grey's Anatomy, that his character is straight. I'm sure he plays that very convincingly, with nary a flinch or flaw. And I'm all in favor; I don't mean to suggest that he is unconvincing as a straight man, I just want to point out that my gaydar is just that good.
I feel for him though; this can't have been the way he wanted to come out to the nation at large, assuming he had any interest in doing so. His comments to People lead me to believe he would have been just as happy to avoid the whole issue. I can't say this episode endears Isaiah Washington to me either. Apparently on one occasion he called Knight 'a little bitch' and the fight that occasioned TR's outing was one between Washington and Dempsey, where Washington said "I'm not one of your little faggots, like TR." Nice. I'm sure that if anyone protests this kind of behavior, Washington's publicist will make a big statement about how his client is not homophobic, has all sorts of gay friends, and doesn't mean anything by the word 'faggot' other than "people who are presently pissing me off." Yeah, you see how long it takes, especially now that his job is on the line (though that is more likely because he actually grabbed Dempsey by the throat, also behavior I don't find impressive) I hope no one buys that crap, but I ain't holding my breath.
Okay, so I'm not thrilled with Mr. Washington, but I am with TR. He said he hoped there were more interesting things about him, and I'm sure there are (like is he single? Over the age of 36?), but sad to say, this one little fact does make him more interesting, at least to me. I don't know what that is about. I'm forty years old. I've met lots of gay people. I've even dated some. I know I'm not the only one in the world. But for some reason, I'm always pleased when someone in the public eye comes out. Okay, I didn't really need MacGreevey or Foley, those two creep me out, and god I don't want to deal with Senator Craig. He looks like a cadaver. Scary. But TR honey, you're a total babe, and because of your gayness alone, I might actually start watching your show. No promises, but it could happen.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Just in case there are people out there reading this blog who didn't already get this flyer, I wanted to let you know I will be dancing this Saturday, October 14th, in Women in Motion, the dance evening of Estrogenius 2006, ManhattanTheatreSource's annual celebration of women's voices. They have a special category in the dance evening for "Honorary Chicks" and I was accorded that honor again this year. It looks like quite a line-up: the choreographers and performers include Karen Bernard, Jessica Bonenfant-Odanata Dance Project, Ezra Caldwell- The Leverage Group, Sharon Estacio, Sara Joel, Linsey Dietz Marchant, Morocco, Lynn Neuman- Artichoke Dance, Jennifer Nugent- Nugent+Matteson, Jule Jo Ramirez, and Melissa Riker-Kinesis Project Dance Theatre.
Oh, and me too. I'm performing in a mask that hasn't been onstage since 1985, so I'm wondering what that will stir up.
This is all happening at 8pm, Saturday October 14th, at:
Morocco's Academy of Middle Eastern Dance,
6 West 20th, on the Second Floor.
Tickets can be purchased at www.theatermania.com, or call 212 352-3101.
It's gonna be great. Bring your friends. You're gonna be able to say "I was there that night!"
Monday, October 09, 2006
You're a very funny guy, there is no denying. You're charismatic, expressive, and your brain is going all the time. But the fact that you have a gazillion ideas doesn't mean that we are squelching you if we, in the moment, end up going some other direction. Following someone else's lead, say. Telling a DIFFERENT performer "yes, AND" perhaps. Hell maybe even, god forbid, trusting our own instincts and connection with the crowd.
While I'm handing out random unsolicited advice, I want to mention that sometimes you seem to forget how big you are, and how many tiny tiny children there were around us yesterday. Improv, particularly the kind we were doing, is often barely contained chaos. That's part of the fun and excitement for us and the audience. Nonetheless I felt your awareness oftentimes was a bit too much on on "how do I make sure people are looking at me" and not enough on "how do I make sure not to crush great crowds of little children." Maskwork complicates things even more by limiting our peripheral vision. All the more reason to calm the fuck down just a bit, dontcha think? It's not really limiting your impulses if you check around you once in a while.
I might also point out that telling the director (your wife) repeatedly how you think things ought to be done is not really improv either. It's being a control freak. Prefacing each iteration of your objection with "well, it's your company, you're in charge" doesn't really mean anything if you make it clear that you won't stop bugging the shit out of all of us until you get your way. I've seen you and she have the same argument all three times I've worked with you both. I'm curious if after yesterday, when you finally wore her down and she gave in, you will now relax a little, but somehow I doubt it. I suspect you're just going to get worse.
I'm not terribly concerned however. I won't ever find out because I'm never working with you again.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Haven't heard from you, but I know how exhausting it is to have a newborn at home, so no worries. I'm just wondering how things are going with the financing of our film, in particular the funds for my plastic surgery. Obviously we want to get that out of the way early, so I have time to recover fully. Wouldn't do to have Billy Sive running around with unexplained stitches now, would it. But all of that is just nuts and bolts stuff (boy, I sure hope they don't use nuts and bolts in plastic surgery anymore. We'll end up having to shoot Frankenstein instead, ha ha! Though I think the relationship between Frankenstein and his monster is just screaming with homoeroticism; plus I would be much more believable as the monster, we're remembering my whole 'twenty years too old for the role' thing with the Front Runner, right? Just checking). No, what I really wanted to talk to you about was how BRILLIANT it was for you to make that statement in Details magazine about how you and "Angie" would consider tying the knot only when everyone who wants to do so is free to in the country.
I don't have to tell you how the gay press, blogs, bars, gyms and tea-rooms just exploded with joy at that statement, do I? You didn't even have to say the word 'gay' for everyone to get it. Really incredible. This, combined with the constant feeding frenzy the tabloids are having about your love life is doing wonders to generate interest in our upcoming feature. Seriously, I don't think a week goes by that I don't see another headline about you going back to Jennifer, or moving to Sri Lanka with Angie and the kids, or how you're getting a new tattoo just like Angie etc. Seriously, this is some primo publicity action. Do you guys plant those tabloid rumors when things get slow, or is it all self-sustaining now? Neither would surprise me, but either way, you're a genius. Here you are being regularly linked in the press with two of the most gorgeous, sexy women in Hollywood, and you even make living in sin with one of them into a moral stance in support of my people! I doff my hat to you sir. I only hope I can be half as creative in my efforts at creating buzz. I know, maybe once we start filming, you and I can hit a few gay bars together, so I can tell the world that I'm 'showing you the scene' as research. Then maybe you, Angie, and I can hit the town, maybe a Lesbian bar or two, and get photographed dancing in suggestive combinations. Or maybe you, Angie, Jen and I can all double date! Is she still seeing Vince? I've lost track. Well, he can come too. Actually that's a great idea... maybe you, Vince and I could all be seen out doing stuff together, sort of like McConnaughy, Armstrong and Gyllenhal; you know, something that will have us always in bathing suits or biker shorts (this will have to be post surgery in my case, ha ha). I can't tell you how much attention the gay rags gave those guys just for going out on their bikes. This could be gold, pure gold.
Okay, I'm just brainstorming here, don't let me keep you. But I do need to know what is up with the plastic surgery, as soon as you can tell me. If it could happen before the holidays, that would be good, plus my sister is getting married in November, but hey, do what you can and we'll make it work.
Smooches to Angie (or whichever) and the kids.
Monday, May 22, 2006
So, I don't know what this is about. But it's fun to think about, and I've got a most uncharacteristically hopeful sense about it. I think something is brewing. In the past when I've had this sense, something has usually turned up eventually, even if it didn't look at ALL like what I was picturing. So maybe I'll find myself teaching English in Sri Lanka in a few weeks time. But I really hope I'll be performing. In Scotland.
Any advice is welcome. Have people done the Edinburgh Fringe Festival? Was it worth all the headaches of going over, finding a venue, finding housing, getting an audience etc? Does anyone know a great website for arts jobs around the world? Does anyone have a Scottish cousin who runs a theatre, say in Inverness? Tell me everything.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
So I haven’t heard back from you regarding my thoughts about collaborating dated February 9th; I know you’ve been really busy, with the UN goodwill ambassadorship, the baby on the way and getting the Tibetan prayer tattoo on your back for little Maddox, but not to worry, my sources have been staying abreast of the developments. I hear you’re considering doing The Frontrunner, a decision I whole-heartedly support. I loved the book when I read it, though I’ll admit that was some time ago. I’m assuming you’re planning on playing the ex-Marine and -hustler turned College track coach Harlen Brown. Your hotness will be well utilized in that role, especially if you’ve kept the physique you developed for Troy. Seriously, you looked like you’d been built from a kit, I had straight guys telling me your Achilles was giving them some sleepless nights.
I assume this means you’re not planning on taking my advice of making a story about a love affair between an Adonis and a normal shmoe, since the only character I can see playing would be Billy Sive. Wow, you’re giving me quite a challenge with this one, aren’t you. A college track star described as "handsome despite his mop of Hippie hair and his granny glasses." Where to start? The hair is the least of my concerns, hell if I just refrain from cutting it while you get the financing in order, by the time we’re ready to start shooting, I won’t need hair extensions. Think of how much that will save us right there on make-up (or is that wardrobe?). The granny glasses, okay, that’s tougher, I think even someone as gorgeous as yourself would find them a bit of an obstacle to overcome, but I’m ready to give it a whirl. But college-age track star? Well now. I am on the scrawny side, so we’ve got that going for us, and in fact I ran cross country in school, so I’m familiar with the subtleties required to portray a person running like hell, but Billy Sive is what, twenty years old? Twenty-two at the most? People tell me I look young for my age, but here we’re talking half my age. Then there’s the whole ‘handsome’ thing. Okay, like I said, I’m not Quasimodo, but a handsome twenty year old? I think that may be beyond even my abilities, especially if we’re going to make the sex scenes between you and me as explicit as I think the story requires. So, I think there’s really only one answer.
Plastic surgery. And lots of it.
I’ll probably need a face-lift to start with, I could use some serious dermabrasion to help with the acne scars, and while we’re in the neighborhood, why don’t I get a chin too? I’ve always wanted one, so this could be a great opportunity, and I’m sure we could write it off as a business expense. It's for the good of the project.
In terms of my body, I suppose I could just start training hard now so as to be in tip-top shape for the first day of shooting. Thank god he wasn’t a football player, right? I do have this incipient spare tire however that we might as well get rid of while I’m under the knife for all the other stuff. I don’t think it really adds much to the bill, and losing it will certainly jump-start my journey to looking like a Olympic gold medal winning, barely out of his teens, long distance runner. I suppose we can use a body double for some of the shots, such as the ninety million times we have to see Billy running around a track at practice and whatnot, but we’ll have to use me in the love scenes if we want to maintain the integrity of the film. Even if the rumors about your questionable hygiene are true, that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. That’s just how much this story means to me.
So those are my thoughts; can’t wait to get to work. I’ll check into surgeons and fees here in New York, but feel free to give me any names if you have someone you like (not that YOU needed any surgery, but maybe Jennifer did at some point). If he’s in LA then I’ll need accommodations of course, but it needn’t be fancy; I’ll be perfectly content to stay with you, Angelina and the kids. That way we won’t have to waste a moment getting right to work exploring our characters’ relationship. My process is really best served by using a lot of improvisation. With enough pain killers, we can start the minute I come out of anaesthesia.
So just let me know when you’ve secured the funding for my surgeries. And don’t be a stranger! Call me day or night.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
One of my new favorite blogs is Joe. My. God. (http://joemygod.blogspot.com). There’s lots of great writing, with a wit and concision I hope to emulate when I grow up to be a big blogger. There are many entries I might point you to, such as "Withdrawn!" (April 12th) where he suggests a policy I and Melissa of A Choreographer’s Blog (http://kinesisproject.blogspot.com) would like to implement into our lives. The entry that occasions this writing however is inspired by Exodus International. (See my previous entry entitled "Stop Helping.") Joe reports on a lawsuit they filed against someone who posted a photo (while I’m learning blog editing, maybe I could learn photoshop too, ‘cause damn, that’s some cool shit) satirizing a billboard Exodus had planted outside a gay establishment that said "Gay? Unhappy?" then it listed the web address for the organization. The parody said simply "Straight? Unhappy?" with the address for a gay dating website. Thanks to the ACLU and laws recognizing satire as protected speech, Exodus decided not to proceed with the lawsuit. (Go to Wikipedia for more information on this whole situation, and organization. Find that link yourself, I’m getting tired.) This prompted Joe to suggest a contest where people send in their own ideas for how to satirize the billboard. For a picture of the billboard see Joe’s entry entitled "Parody-licious!" (April 18th).
I love this idea but seem to lose my sense of humor over these people. The best I can come up with is:
"Bigoted? Hate-filled? Self-righteous, sanctimonious, judgmental, pseudo-Christian homophobes masquerading-as-compassionate fuckwits? Change is possible, but fat chance morons like you who don’t have the brains god gave a barca-lounger would be able to see it."
Then I start barking and have to be sedated.
I think we can all agree my approach lacks a certain satirical elegance, no? So I invite you to come up with your own ideas for this parody contest. Joe is accepting submissions at his blog, and said he will post the funny ones. You can also post your ideas on your own blog, tell Joe about it, and maybe he’ll link to your blog. Unlike me, Joe knows how to do that cool linky thing.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
I attend a meeting of Lavender and Green, an Irish and Irish-American GLBT group. The members are almost exclusively gay men, mostly second generation New Yorkers with a scattering of immigrants. (There is one former nun who is fabulous.) I think quite a few of them, had they not been born gay, would have been conservative Republicans. A few of them are anyway. My earrings are noteworthy to some, though they make sure to tell me they like them.
In greeting and parting, we all shake hands, firm and manly.
After the meeting I head over to a party of friends who are fellow actors. There are quite a few women there, but funnily enough the group is again mostly men. I am the only gay guy present.
In greeting and parting, we all hug and kiss on the lips.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Most of you know I model for art classes, studios, and artists as my bread labor. On Tuesday I was going to a new place for the first time. An artist named Tara had gotten my name from the Columbia listings, and asked me to model for her single student. She mentioned he was a theatre director, but hey, who isn't, this is New York, so I didn't think anything of it. Of course Tara knows nothing about me other than the fact that I model.
So I arrive, meet Tara, then her student. Both of them are quite pleasant, we work for a while, the student mentions a role he played in a very prominent film by a prominant New York director. Immediately my insecurities rise to the surface; I have a pretty good guess who he is now, but unlike most of the English speaking world, I haven't seen this movie, I'm really pretty much film-illiterate, and I get embarrassed about that. Later he asks me what kind of theatre I do, and after I answer I ask him if he mainly does film or theatre. "Both, really," he replies, which doesn't help my investigation at all. Later he hears that I lived in Seattle and mentions he helped found the Seattle Rep. Okay, now I'm 99% sure he's who I think he is, but dammit I don't know enough about the Seattle Rep to be sure even still. Why don't I know the history of the Seattle Rep? Why haven't I seen his movie? Why haven't I seen more movies? And while we on the topic, why haven't I read more plays? I still have reams of classics to catch up on, I've barely read any O'Neill, Williams, Miller, or Stoppard, I don't even know all the Irish plays I should, and oh yeah, why don't I have at least one good Irish dialect, I look as Irish as Paddy's Pig, people are always calling me in to read for Irish plays and I routinely suck, I really need to take a dialect class, and maybe a stage combat class for those Shakespeare auditions, oh yeah, I still haven't read all of SHAKESPEARE, what the hell is THAT about, sure, it's not like every one of his plays is brilliant, but I should at least have read them, oh, and people keep asking if I do voice-overs, I really ought to look into that, get a tape together, what's the matter with me...
So this is all brewing in my brain as I model for him (and we all remember I'm naked, right?) for the three hour session. It's all very pleasant, he's charming and appreciative, she's charming and appreciative, I'm doing good work, having a fine time. It isn't until I leave the studio that I get Tara alone so I can finally say "That was Andre Gregory, wasn't it."
"Yes, I'm sorry I didn't tell you, I didn't mean to obfuscate the information."
Fuckity fuck fuck fuckerson.
"He must think I'm a moron," I reply, thinking to myself, "theatre or film?" Jesus Christ on a bicycle!
"Don't worry, I'll tell him I didn't tell you."
Okay, maybe I don't need to feel too ridiculous. Maybe he appreciated me not fawning on him, or getting stiff and weird. We really did have a lot of fun stuff to talk about, shamanism, drawing, trying new things, it was a nice afternoon. He had originally tried to bail out of the class that day because he was feeling insecure about drawing a person, he told Tara he had a sore throat and she had wisely called him on it, so he was more nervous about this encounter than I was, at least at first. He said it had been a real pleasure to meet me, it's all good. So why do I still feel moronic? My Dinner with Andre had a profound effect on me when I saw it, though since that was about twenty years ago, I couldn't tell you many of the specific reasons. I was in college, had just decided to make theatre a central part of my life, then I saw this movie where theatre was treated like a serious and spiritual pursuit, just like I needed. He also directed the beautiful Uncle Vanya on 42nd St, which among its many pleasures is also where I first fell in love with Julianne Moore. Other than that however, I don't have a clue what else he's done, which of course now goes on the list of reasons why I suck at my career. Oh, if you're wondering, the movie he did was The Last Temptation of Christ, with Scorsese. He played John the Baptist. But you knew that, didn't you. Of course you did.
I'm scheduled to go back to model for them again in a week, so I've got a little time to do some homework, not to make things weird, mind you, but just so I'm not talking to one of the giants of independent film and experimental theatre like he's some shmoe.
I've been somewhat reassured by the fact that of the handful of people I've told about this incident, only one of them had heard of him before. I think it was an age thing, since the only other guy who didn't need me to explain who he is, was also over thirty. Once I said My Dinner with Andre though, everyone got it.
So yes, I've been feeling pretty lame, but the animist in me is also thinking "it's an omen! I'm on the right track! The universe, in the person of Andre Gregory, is telling me to stay true to my calling! Huzzah!" No, I don't really know what that means either, but hey, encouragement is encouragement. I'll take what I can get. I suppose it's always nice when someone who previously was just a symbol in one's personal mythology suddenly becomes a breathing, living, friendly, normal person.
Now I'm off to google him.
Later: if you want to know more about Andre Gregory read the interview at this link. http://www.tcg.org/am_theatre/at_articles/AT_volume_22/March05/at_web0305_gregory.html I just read this and not only did it remind me of a few of the reasons I've valued this man, it reminded me of things I've needing to remember for at least three (if not ten) years. This may not be the kind of theatre you want to create (and lord knows there's no money in it) but I'm feeling incredibly inspired and rejuvenated right now. I will refrain from kissing Andre Gregory when I see him next. Especially when I'm naked. That might be awkward.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Pratt has been on Spring Break all this week, and since it has become my main source of income of late, the result was I too was on "break" like it or not. Oh let’s be honest, I liked it just fine. I can entertain myself for months at a time, boredom is rarely a problem, lack of income is the problem. The odd thing about my life in NYC at this point though is how easy it is for me to go days without having real contact with another person. My roommate has been gone a lot, and when he’s here, he’s usually with his girlfriend or on the phone with her, so my one expected bit of human interaction isn’t very interactive.
I had made sure to go out each day this week to do something in the larger world, just so I didn’t spend the entire week in my jammies, but even so, I’d say I was pretty isolated. Sitting next to a stranger on the subway, or at an adjoining table in a café isn’t really contact.
So I decided tonight that I would go out to eat at a nice restaurant, one of my favorites, Café Loup, in Chelsea. I never mind eating alone, and thought it would get me at least around other people in a slightly more relaxed, social environment. I went early enough in the evening (it being a Saturday) that a one count table wouldn’t be hard to squeeze in, or annoy anyone. The staff was as kind as always, though I have to admit my waiter was more than a little flaky, but he got the job done. My complaint doesn’t lie there. Soon after I sat down, the hostess seated two men at the table directly to my right. This is New York, so all the tables are just a bit closer together than my small town sensibilities would prefer, but I’ve come to accept this without too much trouble in my twenty odd years of living in cities. This did mean however that I was more privy to this couple's behavior than I would have liked. One of them immediately asked the hostess if they could have a different table, and she said that she needed the three count for three people. I thought she answered briskly, but politely, but the man questioning her (after she left) let it be known to his companion that he didn’t care for... the situation, her attitude, not getting his way, I’m not sure. I was trying not to listen, because I could tell I had already taken a dislike to him, but something had his knickers in a twist, he had suffered quite the outrage apparently. Then when the waiter came, they asked if they could have the table on my left, which was in the corner (less exposed, I guess), the waiter checked and found it out was already reserved, so no. He then took the initiative to see if he could put them in a different corner table, but when he went to check, the man doing all the asking (whinging, sniveling, getting on my wick) let his companion know this was not acceptable either, and they might as well just stay where the hell they were. Goody for me. The waiter came back, told them he could seat them there if they liked, and they declined, reasonably politely to be fair, thanking him for taking the trouble, but it was clear that at least one of them felt the evening was now shot. After that they didn’t really do much else to piss me off, though snitty guy did ask for a glass of Chardonnay with ‘rocks on the side’, which wouldn’t have bothered me if he hadn’t already pissed me off, but seriously, what the hell is that? Get the damn wine with ice or not, you pretentious twit. I should admit that these guys came across as very effete, stuffy, snotty individuals, the kind I used to think gave homosexuals (me) a bad name until I realized what a stupid thing that was to say or think about a person. Assholes cut across all demographics.
But yes, some internalized homophobia of mine was momentarily triggered by them, then I just accepted that they were condescending complainers who I could be annoyed by without it being an affront to homos everywhere. I’ve been particularly impatient of late with this kind of patronizing arrogance, people behaving like their every want or (stupid, affected, supercilious) need was not being sufficiently catered to, but I was pretty sure I now had it under control.
Then the couple arrived who had reserved the table to my left (the corner one coveted by snitty guy and friend). They were an older couple, a man and a woman, I’m pretty sure from out of town, and I think this was their first French restaurant. The woman went to the ladies first, and when the waiter came to see if the gentleman wanted a drink, he went into something of a panic, thinking he should order for his lady friend, but not sure what she wanted, he was pretty sure she would want a soda, but he wasn’t sure which kind... but yes, he’d like a glass of wine, oh, this one looks good, how about that? When his friend returned, he anxiously called the waiter back over, but at least was polite and kind when he arrived. She ordered ‘a diet soda’ which after quite a bit of discussion turned out to mean diet Coke.
Once it became time for them to order food, however, there was again a certain amount of anxiety and uncertainty. The lady didn’t know what Mesclun salad was, and the waiter’s explanation left her even more mystified, another salad on the menu had cold beets which she loathed (she said this several times after the waiter left with their order), so she and her companion each ordered a simple house salad, and fairly risk-free entrees. When the salads arrived, the waiter left the pepper grinder for them, a habit which Café Loup seems to have introduced recently, and which I heartily applaud; I’ve always found the whole ritual of someone applying pepper for me just a little weird; "would Monsieur care for some sugar in his coffee? Shall I butter Monsieur’s bread?" This momentarily stymied and disgruntled Ms. Out-of-Towner however, and she was even more stymied by using the damn thing. Christ on a crutch lady, it’s a wooden pepper grinder, how exotic is that? Then she buttered her bread to discover to her displeasure that the butter was unsalted. THEN SALT THE DAMN BUTTER FOR GOD’S SAKE.
This was when I started to face facts. Affected, complaining Chardonnay guzzlers on one side of me, awkward yet harmless rubes on the other side of me... they weren’t really the problem here, were they. My first thought was, Daddy needs to get out of TOWN, but the real answer is probably, Daddy needs to work. If we don’t count the art modeling (and believe me, I don’t) and some odd readings (and I do mean odd) it’s been eight months since I’ve really done any acting. This is part of the boom and bust cycle of the business, I’m not expecting sympathy (I swear), but wow, I hadn’t fully acknowledged what a misanthropic jerk it seemed to be making me. The thing that kept me from behaving completely inappropriately, telling Chardonnay snorter to put his ‘rocks’ where the monkey hid the nuts, say, or offering to find a CHIMP who could show Madam how to use the DAMN PEPPER GRINDER, the one thought that kept me from misbehaving was "I can write about this on my blog, I can write about this on my blog..."
Monday, March 20, 2006
So let's recap, shall we? On St. Patrick's Day, 2006, I started the evening with Mexican food and a margarita, watched an English play about WWII Germany, then ended the evening with coffee and disappointing cake at a vaguely pan-Asian restaurant. I have no one to blame but myself. That said, it wasn't a bad evening.
I think part of the reason I always have high hopes for the day is because when I was a kid growing up in Indiana, there was a local retired college professor spinster lady named Undine Dunn who would always leave a little present for me on our front p0rch on the day. She left presents for lots of kids in our college community on their birthdays. I'm not entirely sure how wide-spread her net was, but I believe pretty much any child under the age of twelve with any connection to the college was remembered on his or her day. But as far as I know I was the only one who also got a gift on his Saint's Day. Did I mention that Undine and my family were/are also Quaker? Not really big on the Saints, you see. But St. Patrick's Day has always had a special place in the hearts of Irish folks regardless of religion (do you hear me you Ancient Order of Hibernian FUCKS? It's not just for Catholics), and Undine and I definitely shared a bond on this issue.
Undine was a very quiet, gentle soul, quite shy with adults, a life-long spinster, back in the day when that was what we called them, but very comfortable with children and animals. She put cat food out every day for all the 'strays' in the neighborhood, which of course meant there were some mighty fat housecats living nearby, as well as some pretty happy possums and at least one skunk. She always had mints and dog biscuits in her bag, and would hand out the former to any child she met, and the latter to any dog. She was one of the few adults outside the family circle with whom I and my siblings used the plain language (the second person singular pronouns thee, thy, and thine), in accordance with older Quaker tradition. (My family still uses it amongst ourselves.) As I and my siblings got older, she became more shy with us, shown by her changing to the formal second person singular, but we three refused the switch, and firmly addressed her as 'thee' until the day she died.
I think about Undine every St. Patrick's Day. I can't remember a single one of the gifts she left me, they were undoubtedly quite modest (I'm sure books played a significant part) but I was always pleased and excited to go out first thing in the morning (she must have left them no later than 6am) to see what she had given me. Looking back, I marvel that she did something that might have been construed as favoritism, given her great sensitivity to the feelings of children, but I don't remember either my older sister or (more significantly) my younger brother resenting the fact that I got an extra present each year. Perhaps the situation was aided by the fact that my father (also quite proud of his Irishness) would give everyone a present on the day, as he does still on Valentine's Day, Easter, and any other holiday he might think of. Now that I think of it, did Undine also leave easter baskets for each of us every year? I think she might have. Maybe something on Valentine's Day too? I'll have to check with my family. Nonetheless, St. Patrick's Day was my special occasion. She may have set a standard that adult celebrations have failed to match, but she gave me some very fond memories.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Friday, March 10, 2006
There is something about this that still sticks in my craw, however. Not only are sexual minorities the only marginalized group who are routinely portrayed on film by non-members, in fact a strong attitude still prevails that it is preferable for non-members play us. The reasons why tend to be pretty vague; it’s more of an acting challenge according to some, gay films are risky ventures to begin with, so it’s necessary to involve big name performers to pull in audiences, are just two of the arguments I’ve heard. And in return for this, we are expected not to squawk, but be grateful that our stories are being told at all.
Let’s think about this; if a white man was cast as Ray Charles, if men were cast as Thelma or Louise, because "they were the right actors for the roles" many people would be up in arms, me included. I accept that the glbt experience is not necessarily analogous to that of race or gender, but I’m still not sure why not. Do we HAVE to be portrayed by straight people? Then if we throw in the argument frequently voiced by producers that openly queer performers won’t be accepted as straight characters (at least in romantic roles) it becomes evident that if a gay performer wants to be work in Hollywood, he or she better stay closeted.
Perhaps this is the single biggest difference we have from women and people of color, the closet. Most of us have had to go through a period of self-discovery and identification, then we have to decide if we want to ‘pass’ in the dominant culture. Since we have the option not to rock the boat, or disturb the status quo, there ends up being great pressures both external and internal (yes, our own discomfort can’t be ignored) to stay under the radar.
Yes, I know it’s tricky to talk about Hollywood as if it’s a monolithic entity, with some secret cabal setting casting policy, but we do have some gauges for noting trends. When looking at the situation for actresses and performers of color, we count the roles available for them to begin with, then we examine how well their stories are told. We also look at awards; it is seen (quite rightly, I believe) as noteworthy that we’ve only just had a black actress win a best actress Oscar. These measurements, when applied to the glbt situation reveal similar findings. "The Year of the Queer" notwithstanding, glbt characters are still pretty rare in film, and still primarily presented as jokes and stereotypes. To date there has been exactly one openly gay actor nominated for an Academy Award, and he didn’t win.
I only see one solution at this point, and it’s the one modeled by women and people of color before us; we need to forget about Hollywood, and make our own movies, tell our own stories. Yes, we’ve been doing that, and it’s started to pay off for some people, mostly directors at this point (John Waters, Rose Troche, Gus Van Zant to name a few). The handful of openly gay actors in Hollywood mostly work in (cable) TV, as character actors (often on hiatus from Broadway), or they’re British. God bless ‘em, they’re still making a difference, but I don’t think they’re going to be able to do much more than they have. No, we’re going to have to work on our own, outside the Hollywood system. History has shown us that if good work finds its audience, Hollywood will be gladly step in to take a piece of the action. It may be tapped into the ongoing debates of our culture, but the fact remains it is a business first and foremost, with huge amounts of money at stake. It isn’t interested in taking any risks, or doing us any favors. We’ve got to stop expecting it to. Individuals may have noble agendas, I for one don’t question Ang Lee’s sincerity or support one bit for example, but we’re not doing ourselves any favors if we wait around for acceptance. I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on these matters.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
I had lunch yesterday at my new favorite cheap Chelsea eatery, Sammy's Noodle Shop. While the food was great, I have to say that city-wide (maybe nation-wide), fortune cookies are pretty uniformly disappointing, however. Too often they're not even fortunes, they're advice or just observation cookies. Yesterday mine said "Handsome is as handsome does." I don't have the slightest idea what I'm supposed to do with that information. I've only had the most general of understandings of that phrase to begin with. I've interpreted it to mean "don't be taken in by a pretty face." Sound enough advice I suppose, but how is it a fortune? And how am I supposed to utilize it in my life at present? Is my interpretation of this phrase accurate in the first place? Handsome is as handsome does, what the hell does that really SAY anyway? I think the people in charge of fortunes aren't really trying anymore.
My second bit of randomness is a follow-up on "Do I know you from Somewhere?" The fact is, people constantly tell me I bear an uncanny resemblance to someone from their previous lives. A disturbing number of these people tend to have died young. I haven't found out the causes of death in most cases (one guy died of AIDS) so I haven't been able to ascertain if there is a pattern I might want to watch for. The first time this happened was probably also the most striking. I was living in Seattle at the time, and early on a Sunday morning was walking downtown to a rehearsal. I was passing through a fairly industrial part that circles the downtown area, hardly anyone else on the street, when I noticed a guy walking towards me on the opposite side. He called across to me, "Hey, do you have the time?" I looked at my watch, and gave him his answer. "You look exactly like my younger brother, " he said. "Really?" I replied. "Yeah, but the thing is, he died three years ago." I made general sounds of condolence, and we both kept going in our respective ways. Later it occurred to me to wonder if he had actually cared what time it was; I wonder if he asked me a question just so he could talk to me, hear my voice, know for certain that I was NOT his dead brother, walking towards him on a deserted street on a quiet Sunday morning.
Monday, February 20, 2006
There is freedom from homosexuality.
Call (206) Seattle Number
The number was for the offices of Exodus in Seattle. Initially I was furious. Apparently this 'friend' had anticipated such a reaction, because he or she was too cowardly to sign a name. Then I thought, hmm, maybe this would be a great way to meet guys. I wonder what sorts of things they do to 'cure' you? Maybe whipped cream and paddles would be involved. My college doesn't have fraternities, so I had missed out on the whole sadomasochistic/homoerotic hazing rituals that seem to characterize college for some. Maybe this was my chance.
Then I got over it, tried to believe the person meant well, and I threw the letter away. A few months later over Christmas in Indiana, I happened to see my sort-of-former boyfriend from college. For some reason I started telling him this story when he stopped me, saying he got the same note, with an Indianopolis phone number. The only link he and I had was college, so it seemed pretty likely that was where the anonymous friend had met both of us. That sent my brain to racing, considering some possible candidates. Everyone and her pet monkey at school knew I was gay, but my ex- was more or less closeted, whatever that means at a school of 1100. So the letter writer knew both of us, knew my ex- was bi, and had managed to get our present mailing addresses. Did he or she get them from the alumni office? I wonder how many more schoolmates got this note, or if my ex-and I were singled out for some reason as more promising. That possibility really makes me snort. I never pursued it, never heard if others were similarly ministered to.
So, seeing Alan Chambers (oh, he's an ex-gay, by the way, and very well groomed) and Exodus in the news has reminded me of this incident. It long since ceased bothering me, now it just intrigues me. I do wonder where that person is now, and if he or she still a member of Exodus. I suppose it's possible this 'benefactor' was just a straight person with high octane homophobia, but I've always assumed he or she was queer, and had found 'freedom' at Exodus. The success rate of those places is typically around 30%, 'success' is often only achieved by living in chastity, so the rate of people returning to their sinful ways is quite high. Chances are good this person has backslid or recanted, but whatever the case, I hope he or she is happy, and living a fulfilling and honorable life.
I know I am. Though I really need to date more.
I sure put a lot of words in quotes in this.
Friday, February 17, 2006
"Yes, you've seen me before. You probably spent about three hours studying me closely. You're not remembering because I was naked at the time."
My favorite occurrence of this happened in a Seattle restaurant years ago. An absolutely gorgeous man came up to ask me this, then before I could answer him, his eyes lit up and he said "OH! I didn't recognize you with your clothes on!" There just happened to be one of those weird silences in the restaurant, so this statement echoed nicely. His girlfriend looked perplexed, and I left the restaurant feeling like I had just earned a much more interesting reputation that I deserved.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Clearly they were both raised in cultures where silence was seen as a virtue, particularly for men, and their work demanded long hours away from human contact. Add to this the fact that my grandfather, Irving Smith, was a Midwestern Quaker and you have many reasons why he might have been a man of few words. It’s worth noting though that even among other Quakers and farmers, Irving was regarded as exceptionally quiet. During their first year of marriage, my grandmother (herself not really given to chatter) wondered if he was angry at her, since months might go by where all he said was "pass the butter."
The fact is I think the biggest thing Ennis Del Mar and Irving Smith shared was a deep misery and a complete inability to talk about it. No, I don’t think Irving was gay. Nor was he completely unemotional. I think he loved his wife Mary, his four children, and many other people. One rare memory I have of interacting with him as a child is when he showed me a photograph of his brother who, dissenting from the Quaker (and presumably family) view, went off to fight in WWII, dying as a fighter pilot. Though I never witnessed this, it was not uncommon for Irving to cry when he spoke in Quaker Meeting. My mother also says he occasionally succumbed to rages (though never physical violence) even going so far on occasion as to swear, breaking a significant Quaker taboo. (The worst thing Grandmother Mary ever said was "oh my stars and garters!" That should give you some idea what it was like when Irving said "hell" or "dammit".) I also saw him laugh on occasion. Over all though, my impression of him was of crippling silence, and strong feeling trapped under the surface, unable to get out.
I can’t really say what the cause was of his misery. One possibility is work. As I understand it, he never really wanted to be a farmer, but ended up doing it when his father-in-law became too sick to run the family operation. It’s not clear to me why it fell to him; Great-Grandfather Emmons had two sons (and an unmarried daughter, though one has to assume no one believed she could handle the farm alone), but I guess they had good reasons not to take it on. Maybe Mary felt compelled to care for her senile father. Maybe she loved the farm, and didn’t want to leave it. Maybe Irving was simply the only man available when the need came. I don’t know how it happened, but for whatever reason, responsibility for Emro Farm fell to Irving and Mary. My mother thinks he had hoped to do relief work, or social activism of some kind, but if there ever had been another plan besides farming, it never materialized. Once he was in, he was in for life. A cruel child at grade school once told my mother "your dad isn’t a very good farmer, you know," presumably parroting something heard at home. This disapproval might have been rooted in the fact that Irving and Mary were the only democrats in the county, or the fact that he had made a very public appeal for the farmers union to protest against WWII. But it’s also possible the statement was true. There seems to be evidence that his heart wasn’t in the job. Was this source of his misery?
I think a life-long depression is another possibility. Irving exhibited many of the signs of clinical depression throughout his life. Several of his descendants have also suffered from it, most of them benefitting from changes in social mores and science that allowed them to get treatment. I wonder sometimes how his life, and the lives of his family members, might have been different if he had been able to seek treatment, but I doubt it was ever really an option. Men (well, at least WASPS) born at the turn of the twentieth century weren’t really supposed to have emotions; if they had them, they weren't supposed to talk about them and certainly weren't supposed to be crippled by them. Quakers probably wouldn’t have been much help either; for them the goal of life was to seek the truth and live by it. Considering the sorry state of the world, a bleak view was probably seen as a sensible response. And if I’m right in thinking that Grandfather’s depression was at least partially inherited, then chances are the men in his life might not have modeled any other way of being.
In his later years I think he found a way to greater emotional expression, at least for him. His groovy California son began insisting on endless hugs; this may cause me to roll my eyes, but to be fair they may have had a positive effect on Irving. More significantly when Grandmother and Grandfather moved to a retirement community, I think they both enjoyed being around lots of people, especially since that included lots of their siblings and old school friends.
Nonetheless I never connected with him in any real way. After Grandmother’s death, he spent two Christmases with my family. I was living in Seattle at the time, and Christmas was often the only chance I got to see my parents and siblings. Time with the Laceys is generally a raucous, noisy, even intemperate affair, so Grandfather’s silent presence (not to mention his disapproval of alcohol) was viewed by all of us, I fear, as mostly a weight on the festivities. Mom got him all his Christmas presents since none of the rest of us had the slightest idea what he might like (another drawback if you never talk). I look back on that occasion with some guilt and a lot of regret. I was in my twenties, certainly old enough that I might have thought to draw him out, ask him stories about his life, just make some small attempt to get to know him better, but it never even occurred to me. He seemed like a known quantity to me, neither of us looking for a change in our relationship.
Could things have been different? Did he regret his life, or did he have the same mix of joy and misery that most of us have? Did he want things to change? Did he even think that was possible? If he had pursued a profession he loved, if he had gotten treatment for depression, would Irving Smith have become a chatterbox? Would he have seemed at home in his body? Would that incredible weight have lifted, that strangled feeling been let loose? Would I have found a way to know him? Seeing Ennis Del Mar is making me sad that I never even tried. As he left after one of his Christmas visits, Grandfather told us "I think I’m only just starting to see how much this visit meant to me." Since Brokeback that statement has been echoing in my head. It seems like he was making an attempt to let us know who was in there. Only now am I wondering what I could have done to reach him.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
So it pretty much frosts my cookies when people get huffy because speakers at Mrs. King's memorial directly addressed the fact that, hey, you know what, a lot of the problems she spent a lifetime challenging are still huge. And hey, what do you know, some of the people responsible for perpetuating and worsening those attacks on human rights and civil liberties are right here in this room, wearing their best sad faces. Pointing out that, hey, maybe it's a little weird to come to a memorial for someone whose legacy you've devoted your career to destroying, well, apparently that's just bad manners. Wire-tapping, starting a war on false pretenses, authorizing torture, seeking to enshrine discrimination in the constitution, allowing criminal neglect to finish what a hurricane started, apparently that's all fine, sound policy even, but, heavens, bringing up that stuff at a memorial of a life-long pacifist and civil rights leader, well that's just rude.
Spare me this weird WASPy sense of decorum. Celebrate the woman definitely, but recognize her work is far from over, and there are people in power working hard to dismantle her achievements. If they want to celebrate her too, well okay. They just can't be too surprised when people snort derisively.
Rest in Peace Mrs. King. You continue to be an inspiration and beacon of hope.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
I was delighted to read recently that, after seeing the success of Brokeback Mountain, you asked your representation to find you a "gay project." I applaud this step. A case could be made that you came pretty close with Interview with a Vampire though you’re right not to consider it truly gay; the passion may have been vaguely homoerotic, but the sex was metaphorical at best. Still, it was the first movie of yours I had ever seen, it was surprisingly hot at times, and it was probably the best way to win me over. I’d previously not found myself particularly attracted to blondes, so your darkened tresses and silver-green eyes grabbed my attention long enough for me to notice your many other gifts. It's thanks to you that my attractions have now expanded to include people like Matt Damon and Jude Law (to think I might have skipped The Talented Mr. Ripley, were it not for you).
While we’re on the subject of hair, I have to note that you had a particularly good relationship with the hairstylist for that movie. She didn’t just settle at making you look great, she also seemed intent on making the other two stars look bad. Tom Cruise was a mere ukele away from looking like Tiny Tim, and Antonio Banderas, who really has to work to be anything but breathtaking... well, what was the deal with that wig? Why was he forced to wear a dead beaver on his head? To his credit, he rocked that look as well as anyone could; when you and he shared the screen the sparks flew, and the desire was unmistakable. But you were the uncontested beauty of that film.
So I think it’s fair to say you have already put one toe in the gay-for-pay world. It undoubtedly helped to be doing it with Banderas, who had previously played several gay characters by that point, including one we see deflowered in the missionary position. If a young up and coming actor (in macho Spain no less) is willing to be filmed with his ankles on another man’s shoulders, I think it’s safe to say he’s not particularly frightened of this issue. I’m sure he was a great help and comfort to you as you tested the waters. I understand why you two didn’t actually kiss, it was dramatically much more powerful to leave it unresolved, but now it’s time to explore a little farther, as you have decided yourself.
So again, I’m very pleased to read that you’re ready to take this next step. Sure it may look to some like blatant capitalizing on the surprising success of Brokeback, but you’re a great actor, and a total babe, so no one is really going to object for long. However, one has to point out that Brokeback set the bar pretty high. If you’re wanting to make your mark on this supposed openness in Hollywood, then you’re going to have to work some new angles. If you were actually gay, a gay movie would be a great opportunity to announce the fact, but that only works if it were true. The same is true if you were bisexual, though it’s riskier. Most people don't really know what the term means, so a lot of folks might think you were using one drunken kiss with your High School best friend (or George Clooney) as an excuse for shameless publicity seeking. So let’s just assume you’re a straight boy at home with his desires, open to artistic exploration. What can we do to make your film stand out from the soon to be pack of Brokeback wannabes?
I have a suggestion. Why not cast yourself opposite an up and coming actor who actually is gay but (and this is the clincher, stay with me here) of average looks, and body? Your beauty alone can carry a film, that has been proven time and again already, so no worries there. And yes, you could probably find plenty of pretty boys willing to play your lover (though Hollywood is constantly telling us about all the gay actors who are still afraid to read for gay roles), but then what do you have? Two gorgeous guys making out on film, face it, it’s been done, not only with Brokeback, but also Longtime Companion, The Broken Hearts Club, and Velvet Goldmine just to name a few. No, I think the real drama will come from seeing you fall madly in love with someone for his personality. He needn’t be Quasimodo, I understand we can’t strain credulity too much, but seeing an Adonis like you fall for an average, even plain guy, well, that would be a new story, don’t you think? The beautiful woman falling for a plain guy is a story as old as time; we have even seen the beautiful man falling for a plain woman done, at least in theory. If we accept the premise of Janeane Garofalo as ugly, then having Ben Chaplin fall in love with her in The Truth About Cats and Dogs has broached that territory already. (I will not acknowledge the film adaptation of Frankie and Johnny; they took the plain girl role away from Kathy Bates? And gave it to Michelle Pfeiffer?)
So, that’s one suggestion for how you make your mark. And I think I know just the guy; enclosed you will find my headshot and resume. As you can see, perhaps I’m not ugly, but I am definitely Hollywood ugly, Janeane Garofalo ugly, I think I could be just the look you need as foil to your beauty. And it just so happens I am also openly gay (bet you didn't see that coming), have been for twenty years now, and if I ever was tempted to go back in the closet, a wide network of friends, family, college classmates, and random strangers would be on hand to call me on my hypocrisy, going to the National Enquirer if necessary. We could even work that angle, if you think it would be helpful.
I really think this arrangement could be mutually beneficial. You could show me the ropes of a Hollywood movie set, I could show you the ropes of playing a believable gay man. I might not be able to tap you into any new press; you’re already the darling of the gay mags, but they would rally behind you even more if you were seen as helping a gay actor break into Hollywood, thereby increasing the number of openly gay American actors almost to an even dozen.
Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this further. I’m available to read sides with you at your earliest convenience. For the record, I am also happy to shoot anywhere in the world. In fact we could combine the gay thing with an epic adventure, thus giving us an added angle for claiming new artistic terrain. I’ve always wanted to see New Zealand. Do you know what Peter Jackson is up to?
I look forward to hearing from you,
Sunday, February 05, 2006
And now the challenge: I misread a headline in the New York Times yesterday and before I realized my mistake, the Rube Goldberg machine that is my brain had invented a line. I'm sure you've all heard "he puts the fun in dysfunctional" (or the version I love from the movie Naked, "putting the fun back in fundament"); well the line that came to me was "he puts the stab in stability." Having come up with it though, I couldn't for the life of me find a context where it would make sense. Is there some horrible reference to hidden domestic violence in this statement? (Hey, it's Superbowl Sunday, the biggest day of the year for domestic violence in this country. Beers and adrenaline for everyone!) If I change the 'he' to 'she', would it become some sort of bleak Lorena Bobbitt joke? I don't think so, what she did was more of a slicing or snipping action, right? And at no point before, during or after said slicing could the situation be characterized as 'stable'. Can this line possibly be amusing?
So I ask you, dear readers, to send me any justifications you can come up with for this line. I'm hoping for funny, obviously, but don't let me cramp your style. I Can't wait to see what you come up with.