Monday, February 20, 2006

Stop Helping

So I see Alan Chambers is in the news again. What, you don't know him? Yeah, I'd never heard of him either, but he's the head of an organization called Exodus International. This is one of those places that 'helps cure' gay people by bringing them to Jesus. I have never availed myself of their services, Jesus and I are just fine thank you, but I first became aware of them about sixteen years ago. I was living in Seattle at the time, and one day in late Fall/early Winter of 1989 (?) I got a letter. There was no return address, the postmark was from somewhere out west, don't quite recall. The message it contained was short and simple:
"Dear Patrick,
There is freedom from homosexuality.
Call (206) Seattle Number
A Friend"
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

Do I Know You From Somewhere?

I get asked this a lot. I think I have a pretty good memory for names and faces, so I can usually provide an answer, but if I'm uncertain, I always have one answer, and it's usually right.

"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

I was trying to get this photo up in the upper right corner, where my profile goes. I still haven't figured out how to get blogger to do that; I see where the info is supposed to go, I know it's supposed to be a URL, I just haven't figured out what that means exactly. So for now, here's a picture of me canoeing off Mount Desert Island in the Summer of 2003. That place is gorgeous. I wish I could figure out a way to live someplace like that and still be an actor. A boy can dream.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Silent Men

One of the oddest reactions I’ve had so far to Brokeback Mountain is the way it's made me think about my maternal grandfather. He and Ennis Del Mar were men cut from the same cloth in many ways. Both worked all their lives at demanding outdoor physical labor, Ennis as a cowboy, my grandfather as a farmer. They shared physical similarities too, both being physically strong but awkward, as if they weren’t entirely at home in their bodies. Above all though, these two were silent men.
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

I'm Just Saying

Okay, so here's the deal. Coretta Scott King was a great hero of mine. I think her contributions to peace and justice in this country are only just beginning to be seen in full, separate and distinct from her husband's work. He of course is well on the way to being considered a national saint. Everyone admires them now. But this only works as long as people don't pay attention to what both these giants were actually saying. The rigors demanded by their challenge are not slight. War is not an answer. Ever. Discrimination of any kind is not acceptable. Ever. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." So you challenge injustice. All the time, everywhere.
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

Just a Thought

Dear Mr. Pitt,
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,


Patrick Lacey.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A Challenge and an Invitation

The invitation first: Brian (Peace of Cake) informed me that this journal was previously only letting other blogger account holders leave comments. So I found the switch I needed, turned it to "on" (that is to say "anyone") and now all are free to leave comments without selling their souls to the blogspot cartel. You will be asked to identify and retype a random collection of words and numbers to verify that you're a person, not a spam generating machine, but when that is done, your comments will get posted. My apologies to anyone who thought she wasn't invited to the discussion.

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.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

We're Rolling Now

Okay, so after a great deal of struggle, I have successfully managed to add some links to this site, and am feeling more than a little pleased with myself. Pretty much everything I know about computers was either taught to me by Brian, or I figured out on my own. I'm sure this template is small potatoes by most programming standards (if it even warrants the name) but I was initially quite stymied. So it's something of a victory when I decipher which backslash, divot, dot, lesser-than, xxx quotation mark I HAVE to include, and which I don't. And of course NOT including stuff is just as important as including stuff, as anyone who works with computers knows.

This is not how my brain works, you have to understand. I think my general approach to life is a bit more loosey-goosey, scattering backslashes and semi-colons with gay abandon like confetti. Ampersands for all! I try to keep in mind that I'm dealing with code, which is to say a very specific language, so getting the symbols in the right place at the right time is no more unreasonable than getting the word order in Shakespeare's lines memorized correctly. I know this, but then I'm looking at little spike marks I didn't even notice were on my keyboard (I mean, really, who needs one of these ^ on a regular basis? No, really) and I start thinking, just give me a break. I know what I want to say, it's all text anyway, I am not putting dot dot backslash squiggley thing asterix on my website, I'm putting WORDS. We all agree on this, you're going to put words on my page too, that's where all this code crap is going, let's cut out the middle step and just let me do it.

Computers don't really respond to reason though. Yeah yeah, I know, it's me who is being unreasonable, problems with computers are almost always human error, the code is pure reason, systematic, orderly and unchanging, the computer can't work any other way, yada yada yada. I get it, I do. But bite me. You, the computer, your favorite programmer, step right up, take a number, form an orderly line, and bite me.

Well, this is going directions I hadn't expected. The fact is, I started this entry feeling rather pleased with myself. Not only had I finally figured out how to replace the template link with my own links, I'd even managed to add another link past the alloted number in the template. No, it wasn't really that hard, once I'd figured out what the data was and where it needed to go, it was just a question of doing it. Nonetheless, I'm feeling victorious. Is this considered programming? Did I just program? Certainly there were more steps and esoterica involved than is the case with my friendster account, for example, which is very much structured simply to provide gaps where one puts in one's text, as text. No doubt that's why I was a bit spoiled, computers are becoming more and more user-friendly, which I know to most programmers means they're becoming ridiculously moronic. I'm okay with that, and I renew the offer for them to bite me.

I'm making progress though. I might not be quite the Luddite that my mother takes pride in being, but the fact is I was dragged kicking and screaming into cell phone ownership, it took me years to switch from cassettes to CDs (still in progress, to be honest), hell I can remember when answering machines were cutting edge, and I wasn't the only one they made nervous. Now look at me, loving my cell phone (about to celebrate our one year anniversary), unable to contemplate life without an answering machine and voicemail, frankly addicted to email/internet (I'm thinking of starting an online support group for people who websurf too much) AND making use of the portable CD player my friend Jeff loaned me. And now programming.

Sky's the limit, baby. Next thing you know, I'll be creating new technology. I can't decide which to work on first, the teleportation device a la Star Trek (where the hell IS that stuff already), or the universal pocket remote control that turns off loud stereos playing on the street at three in the morning, with the option to fry the circuits if one is silencing a machine for the third time.

Hmm. I think the teleportation device may involve less litigation. And maybe I have some hostility issues.