Thursday, April 19, 2007

Worlds Collide

Friend Jeff's most recent entry (go read it now, it's fun) reminded me of an experience I had last weekend. No, I didn't kick anyone in the head (though, OH the times I've considered it recently), but I had a moment where I realized my impulses have been shaped just a tad by doing circus-like stuff.

I was working at an all night art event (no really), where from 7pm Friday to 7am Saturday people came to draw from live models. Ten dollars gets you admission, all the pizza you can eat, and access to various rooms where two or three models pose for varying lengths of time, anywhere from one minute to six hours. The final hour of the event, everyone gathers in one room, all the models get on one stand, and we just... move. The idea is to give the artists the challenge of drawing movement, or catching things quickly, or whatever they want to make of it. For the models, it's a little surreal, I have to say. It's not unheard of for us to be asked to move continually for a class, but it's pretty rare, and what's REALLY rare is to be doing it with twenty other people. Most of us have at least met one another before, but it's pretty unusual to work together, generally a class only wants one model at a time. I know the faculty, even some of the students at this school better than I know the models, and most of the time I'm okay with that because art models are often crazy. More on that in another post, but now you know why I'm not naming this event, or the school where it happened, since both are fairly well-known. Google has gotten me in trouble once already. (Hi Uncle Steven! I'm sorry I called you a groovy California guy fond of twenty minute hugs! In my own defense, that entry made me look worse than you, right? And what's wrong with twenty minute hugs, right? Right?)

Okay, so are you with me on the visuals so far? Twenty-plus naked people of various ages, races, genders and body types all writhing around on a platform that is meant to hold maybe three people comfortably, all of this at 6 in the blessed a.m. when we've been up all night and are just a little bit punchy, possibly in a trance-state due to the African drumming that has been playing since midnight... got it? So, in the middle of this, a guy asks if I want to sit on his shoulders.

This is where the circus impulses come in. I spend a fair amount of time in a world where this question comes up quite a bit, along with others like it. "Will you balance me on your feet? Can I balance you on mine? Would you hold my legs while I do a handstand? If I do a back-flip off this spring-board, would you catch me in mid-air?" Then you answer according to your abilities. Actually I'm making these occasions sound a lot more Noel Coward than they are; most of the time we don't ask, we just say, "I'm gonna do this, ya ready?" So this tall stranger says "wanna climb onto my shoulders" and I say "sure", because that's usually my response to this question, frankly sitting on a person's shoulders is small potatoes, hell, I'm used to STANDING on people's shoulders these days and even that is beginning to feel like small potatoes, even for someone like me who is a rank beginner in the circus world, anyway, sure, let's go, upsy-daisy.

It's not until I'm actually sitting on his shoulders (rising from the center of the writhing mass to a satisfying gasp from the room) that I think, "hmm. Hadn't really thought this through." It's not that I'm generally wearing a huge amount of clothing when I do tumbling or acro-balance, but somehow that small bit of cloth between his neck and my crotch is feeling noteworthy in its absence right now. No, nothing awkward or humiliating happened for anyone involved, it was just weird. At first I thought, "I've never sat naked on another person's shoulders before" then I remembered that time in the swimming pool on Fire Island when we were playing chicken (J. and I TOTALLY RULED), so I amended it to "I've never sat naked on a stranger's shoulders in front of clothed observers before." And funny thing, you'd think that once you've crossed that line, arranging yourself so you're not crushing your testicles wouldn't seem any more outrageous, but somehow at the time it just did. So I didn't. If you follow.

I stayed up there for a while, appreciated the view that I bet no one else has ever had of this room, or this event, then when we'd both had enough, I got down without mishap. No harm, no foul. The rest of the hour we all continued to writhe and periodically touch each other in safe, socially acceptable albeit occasionally suggestive ways. It's amazing what becomes suggestive when you're naked.

There's no real point to this story, other than to echo Jeff's recognition that I too have an impulse to climb or jump on people, and I might want to watch it a bit more carefully. Especially when nudity is involved.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Why Am I Thinking About This Today?

When a couple breaks up, the one who moves out has it much harder. There's the hassle of finding a place, packing, purging and moving your possessions, which is no fun at the best of times, and is worse when one is also heartsick, and having to separate out things from the ex's possessions. Who gets that? Did we buy this together? Is this mine or his? Did he give it to me for my birthday, or did I give it to him for Christmas? Then when you have moved, you have to get used to a new neighborhood, find a grocery and laundromat. You have to remember not to take the old train to the old place at the end of the day when you're exhausted and on autopilot. You have to face the new place, maybe new roommates, the empty bed.
But being the one who stays behind has some unexpected problems as well. You don't anticipate the change in your own routine as readily, and even after you discover it, you don't seem able to hold onto it. For months you'll find yourself wondering at six pm "Where is he? He's usually home by now. Should I start dinner, or is he going to be really late? He usually calls if he's running late. Is he all right?" You'll be all the way to the end of these thoughts, ALL of them, with your full, conscious mind, before you notice them, before you remember oh yeah, he doesn't live here anymore. He probably IS home. Probably eating dinner right now. You don't need to wait. Go make dinner.
Coming home to an empty house is hard, but it's harder to get a new roommate because now when you hear a key in the door, your heart leaps as it always used to when he came home, right up until the day he left, then you realize it's not him, but this new, perfectly nice roommate coming in like he thinks he lives here or something, and your heart sinks, hard and fast. After a few months you're no longer expecting him to come home anymore, you know who it is when you hear the key, it's the roommate, this new guy you really like; nonetheless you feel your heart plummet, just for a second, everytime.
You're too reasonable to hold it against the roommate. Or so you think. Somehow you always need just a few minutes to yourself when he comes home, even if you've been home alone all day. Maybe especially then. When he starts to tell you excitedly about his wonderful day (and god, new roommates are always always having wonderful days, and they're so damn CHIPPER about it), you breathe deeply and recognize you're being an asshole (but my GOD, does he have to be so cheerful?), so you force yourself to listen, smile and ask questions like a normal, sane human being with some shred of empathy. It may only take a few seconds before you're genuinely enjoying him, not merely playing at it, but somehow you still need that prep time.
Maybe without realizing it, you've allowed this to become a new routine, and you realize it will take some strong step to break it. You do so, and for months, even years, it works, but then every once in a while, for no reason you can ascertain, you relapse; you hear the key, your heart leaps, then plummets again, and you try not to be disappointed that it's just your roommate.
Time does tell, though. As the years pass, you find yourself grateful for this experience when it happens, for the jab of pain and the flood of memories. You're grateful for the years you had with him, for the friendship you managed to salvage after the break-up, even if it still feels tentative. You're grateful that you still miss him, and have lived a life that includes love, pain, loss and learning. You're grateful that the sadness is just a small ember now, glowing quietly but still there. You know it was all worth it, and you wonder if you're strong enough to fall in love again, someday. You can't wait to try.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Reading the Signs

I think I'm something of an animist. If I am, I'm a fairly agnostic one. While I mostly believe in some sort of guiding spirit to existence, my rational mind dismisses the idea that it takes an interest in my daily world, and sends me little communiques from time to time about it. I totally understand the impulse though. When I see a wild animal unexpectedly, I feel the urge to believe it means something, and the more exotic, rare, shy or majestic the animal, the stronger the impulse.

I did not grow up near a national park or anything; Richmond is a small city or large town, and the surrounding area is almost completely cultivated. Nonetheless I would occasionally see creatures that would inspire a sense of omen. Deer, hawks, egrets, herons, even raccoons occasionally would appear in my life, and I'd wonder if they were harbingers of something, secretly hoping so, because whatever it was, it would have to be good to warrant such an amazing messenger.
I remember the awe I felt as my family and I ate in the dining room of a B&B in Scotland. The experience started out pretty special even at the beginning; the dining room had a huge picture window that overlooked the Atlantic, and we were enjoying the light of the moon shining a road across the water. Suddenly the light began to pick out glinting bodies leaping through the waves. It was a pod of dolpins swimming by. All the Laceys gasped in wonder. The next table over was less impressed; they were a group of men there for some sport fishing. "Eh, they eat all the fish," one of them grumped.

As recently as this Summer I had a couple of these experiences. On a beach in New Jersey, at dusk, I and a man I was seeing at the time witnessed a flock of birds flying over head; they were either egrets, but probably herons. Just seeing one of them, on the ground, is usually enough to color my whole day with a sense of portent. Seeing one flying, looking so improbable with its neck pulled in and long legs trailing behind, is even more captivating. Seeing nine of them, flying in a V, well this was almost impossible NOT to see as a grand sign. It is moment of beauty in a relationship that was confused and difficult, a fond memory despite whatever else happened between us, at least for me. I hope he's able to remember it similarly.

Then on a visit to my childhood stomping grounds, one hot late afternoon I watched several Eastern swallowtail butterflies dance from bush to bush, while overhead a flock of goldfinches in full Summer plumage played, then still farther up (and mercifully disinterested in the goldfinches) soared a red-tailed hawk. I was overwhelmed that day with the sense of witnessing wonders.

Not all the omens have seemed benevolent however. Once in Seattle I was wakened in the early morning by a seagull sounding distinctly distressed. I looked out my window to see it flying as hard as it could, being chased by several smaller birds. That seemed like a good a day not to get out of bed.

What have these signs meant? To date, absolutely nothing. Not one of them has ushered in any amazing new wonders into my life, for good or ill, or if they have, I haven't noticed. This doesn't seem to change anything however. Whenever they occur, I still feel the pagan in me spring up, trying to interprete the sign.

Life in New York involves quite a bit fewer of these sorts of things, as one can imagine, though my years as a dogwalker in Central Park did include at least a few of them. I would see egrets and herons there, and in the Spring I would see a red-tailed hawk almost weekly. I wondered in fact if he (she?) was taking a special interest in two of my charges, a pair of miniature beagles. They were roughly the size of squirrels. Maybe a bit smaller. I wonder if the only thing preventing them from being hawk-food was my presence.

If nature is less likely to provide me with omens here, what seems to have replaced them is celebrity sightings. Here again, the degree of excitement varies in relation to my feelings for the person as well as my intuitive sense of how rarely he or she is in New York. Late last Summer my friend Melissa and I, in the space of an hour, saw Julianne Moore (whom I refrained from kissing), Jake Gyllenhaal (ditto) and Matthew Broderick (meh). Mr Broderick intrigued us both because he had one arm in a sling. Having this happen on a warm Friday evening in the West Village really isn't that surprising, but I could feel the impulse deep in me to pray, sacrifice a goat or SOMETHING to let the powers-that-be know I had seen the signs and was prepared to accept the bounty they predicted with humility and gratitude.
Recently however, I had a more depressing set of omens. Artists of all stripes acknowledge that a loss of faith and confidence in oneself is just part of the career cycle. We don't ever dispell it, we just get better at weathering it. I've been deep in one for some time now, and it seemed to be reaching some sort of crisis point this week. I was definitely wondering if it was time to give up these crazy wacky dreams, and move on. So imagine my delight when I get on a subway train and see the words "BE AN ACCOUNTANT!" emblazoned everwhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE. Accountancy in fact is the job I always jokingly mention as my alternate career, because it's the job I am probably least suited for intellectually and emotionally. Spending all day meticulously computing and checking numbers, yeah, not a job that would be playing to my strengths.

So, I hated that subway car. Hated, hated, HATED it. OH so much hate.

Then, I bought a copy of Backstage only to discover their feature article was on actors who grew tired of the profession and changed careers. If that weren't enough, I decided it would be a good idea to read this article at three in the morning (awakened by insomnia) which of course is a dandy time to ponder one's failures and general worthlessness. After reading the article, the only thing keeping me from turning on the gas was the fact it was in the next room, would have involved actually getting out of bed, and I just couldn't be bothered.

So as you can imagine, while I was much better later that morning, I did not greet the next day with a skip in my step and a smile on my lips. Spring is often a hard time for me in New York anyway. I am aware that trees and flowers OUT THERE IN THE REAL WORLD are starting to bloom, while here in the city, warm weather just means there are more people making unnecessary noise outside my open bedroom windows and standing in my way in enormous bovine clumps. So I was less then cheery as I stomped around the city, thinking it was very good I didn't own a flame thrower because if I did I'd be using it right now to clear a path for myself until the constabulary deemed it necessary to detain me... when suddenly, there, standing outside the Chelsea Cinema on 23rd and 8th, looking anxiously at his watch, was Ralph Fiennes.

Ahhhhh. My. This was unexpected. I stared at him just a shade longer than I usually do, because, this, this was indeed a celebrity sighting of mystic proportions. I love Ralph Fiennes. I think he's beautiful, incredibly talented, and even though I know he just did Faith Healer on Broadway, his presence in New York seemed noteworthy if not actually shocking. I looked at his large, gorgeous features and blue blue eyes, took note of the fact that yup, he's shorter in person than I thought, then I recalled my New York cool self, and pretended I had no idea who he was. I think he did notice me staring at him, but fortunately my big city instincts were still intact enough that I didn't break my stride, and kept moving past him.

This means nothing. I know it means nothing. There is no significance to this event whatsoever. But suddenly I felt much better. I headed out to Jersey City to have dinner with Melissa, and stood on the crowded PATH train, smiling kindly at the surly hordes around me.
Accountancy school can wait.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Patrick Lacey

So I googled my name recently, just for the hell of it. Oh like you've never done it. There were lots of listings, but distressingly few of them were me. The first one that WAS me was for a performance at CBGB's four years ago, a one night event that I was actually unable to do. Rules about public nudity and alcohol, you know how it is. Farther down the list there was a review for a show I did at PS 122 back in 2003, then on the second page there was a listing for this blog. Then I realized it wasn't actually for the blog, but for one entry on it, the one about my debut as a Dutch journalist, and the only reason it was there was because I had written my full name. Patrick Lacey. Right. Just that entry showed up. So, I wondered if I could artificially up my status on google, maybe even make it into the first ten, if I wrote my name, that being Patrick Lacey, lots. Google probably doesn't go for quantity, but I thought I'd give it a go anyway.
To be clear, I am not the Patrick Lacey who plays basketball. I'm not the Patrick Lacey who is a published author (no, we really can't count the Dutch article). I'm not the Patrick Lacey who is an animal trainer and already has a listing on because he trained the pig for those Babe movies. I'm not even one of the 493 billion Patrick Laceys presently living in Limerick, Eire which is doubly impressive, since the entire population of Eire is about 5 millon. As far as I can tell, I'm not even related to any of those Patrick Laceys. Nope, I'm the Indiana-raised, Earlham College-educated, New York by way of Seattle residing actor and occasional dancer, writer, mask-maker, and art model. Or dilettante, if you prefer. Also go to hell. That photo above? That's me. If you've ever taken a figure drawing or painting class at the Pratt Institute, Columbia University, Seattle Community College, The Academy of Realist art, Cornish School of the Arts, and any number of small private studios, then you've probably seen me naked. Quite a few of you probably have several nudes of me kicking around in your portfolios. Hell, if you saw productions of The Incubus (NY), Innocence, or The Swan (both Seattle) then you saw me naked as well, and were probably much less prepared for it. Sorry about that, it was in the script. Really. Oh yeah, if you ever attended a Searchlight; An Evening of New Works (fundraiser for the company Ghostlight) you might have seen me naked there as well. The only time I've been arrested, the charge was for public lewdness, but all I did was go skinny dipping in Lake Washington in the middle of the night. You might assume all this public nudity is due to either great vanity or maybe really high self-esteem, but nothing could be further from the truth. I guess once you've been naked in front of strangers a few times, it just ceases being a big deal.
This experiment in shameless self-promotion would be more interesting if I had something I wanted to promote other than my name (or nudity, apparently), but at the moment that's all I got. But maybe YOU have something you'd like me to do? Just for the record I was born to play Puck, am desperate to work with Joss Whedon (Joss, are you reading this? Did you google your name? Call me!), John Barrowman (sorry- I mean glad to hear about your wedding, Handsome), Sir Ian MacKellan, Helen Mirren, Julianne Moore, Neil Gaiman, Tom Stoppard, Douglas Hughes, Daniel Sullivan, Brian Friel, Stephen Rea, Liam Neeson, Neil Jordan, Patrick Stewart, Merchant/Ivory (well, the living one) and more names as they come to me. I've been offering Brad Pitt a lot of advice on his search for a 'gay' project, but that seems to have stalled. I also would love to travel more, perhaps living for a time in places like Scotland, Eire (again), lots of little islands, New Zealand (oh, would love to work with Peter Jackson too, and wouldn't say no that motion capture thingy), Bali, Spain, New Mexico, Maine, and the San Juan Islands. Again, more places as inspiration hits. At this point, just getting out of New York City before the Summer is my main goal.
I think that pretty much covers things. If you came here looking for me as opposed to one of the other Patrick Laceys, drop me a line. I'd love to get back in touch with old friends. Again, that's Patrick Lacey.
Patrick Lacey.