Friday, January 20, 2006

Has it really been eleven days? Looking at the date, yes one would say it has.

Officially, this week kicked my ass. I didn't even have to bend over. In fact, the week didn't even feel the need to ask me to grab my knees and assume the position. It knew it could take me standing up.

I juggled my full time job and two copywriting jobs, and yeah. We published a script this week, too. Oh yeah. And published rewrites. Hell yeah.

Is there a cosmopolitan with my name on it? Fuck yeah.

Even so, I did manage to squeeze in two movies last weekend. One was Casanova, which was very charming and exactly what I was in the mood for. The other, Brokeback Mountain which I've been wanting to see ever since I heard of it a few months back. Talk about seeing two sides of Heath Ledger. Or, shall I say all sides in this case. If you're going to go see Brokeback Mountain, bring plenty of tissues. I found myself without and my sleeve had to suffice. Classy, I know, but it was that or the guy's coat hanging over his seat in front of me. Fantastic, moving movie.

The really weird part was that Ledger's character Ennis sounds EXACTLY like one of my cowboy cousins. Freaky, because Heath Ledger is Australian. He just nailed that accent and mumbled way of speech. And yes, I have some cowboy cousins. One runs rodeos and fishin' competitions, the other is a fireman and fish farmer. Their father, my uncle, has a game room which isn't the kind full of board games like Monopoly and Parcheesi. The rest of the family has dubbed it the Hall of Death. It's an entire large room that could be a taxidermist's museum, and rivals the New York Museum of Natural History in its collection of species. Needless to say, those of us in the family who don't support his hobby have given him a lot of grief over it.

When the cousin that speaks like Ennis got married, I flew down for his wedding. I had just finished six years in New York City at the time and flew to Melbourne, Florida for the ceremony. Yes, Florida I found out, is a haven for cowboys. It had been several years since I'd seen my cousins. I got off the plane, dressed in the latest New York fashions, and looked for my cousin. I saw two young men dressed almost identically in white cowboy hats, belt buckles large enough that they resembled sterling silver tea trays, pressed Western shirts, black jeans and steel toed cowboy boots approaching me with smiles on their faces. I turned away from them, scanning the room, then heard my name. I looked back, and those two grinning cowboys were my cousin, (the soon to be married cousin's older brother) and his friend who had come to pick me up. The friend grabbed my luggage, my cousin grabbed me and lifted me off the ground in a bear hug. I think I heard three vertebrae crack.

As we walked through the airport, I looked at their ten gallon hats and Western wear and asked them if they had just come from a ceremony or something. I knew their family had several years of clogging under thier belts, (think Riverdance with a Western flare), so maybe they had just come from a recital. I wasn't being sarcastic. I really thought that they had. They looked at me curiously and said that they drove from a restaurant and were taking me there where all the family was meeting. It was then that I realized they dressed like that for real. I followed quietly as they led me to the parking lot, and watched as they put my luggage in the back of my cousin's large truck. This was before the day when they were called SUVs, and were very associated with rednecks. Helped by the men in gentlemanly fashion, I climbed into into the rear seat next to a gaggle of fishing rods that stretched the entire length of the truck, the reel ends of them rested on the arm rest between the driver and passenger seat, extended over the rear seat, over the cargo area and jutted out the back window. Several large lures were attached to the small metal rings, and hung like spiders clinging to a web. I pressed near the door to avoid snagging my clothes on them. My cousin started the car and country music blasted out of one hell of a sound system, startling me out of my haze. Yes, I really was here and this really was my family. We drove to the restaurant, country music on, the two cowboys singing loudly to the songs that were completely foreign to me, occasionally turning around to ask me if I liked this singer and completely shocked when I'd never heard of them. The rods and lures shook like cadenas as I looked out the window, expecting any moment for the candid camera to be revealed.

After dinner, at my cousin and his brother's request, we went to a Country and Western bar where people were line dancing. My cousin Katherine and I said we wanted to try it and stood up. The soon to be married cousin, Ennis, I'll call him, got a horrified look on his face and rushed over to us. He took us both under each arm and pulled us so close that our waists touched each side of his enormous belt buckle.

"Ya'll," he said, and looked at us like we should know better. We stood silent, and he looked us each in the eye, cocking his head from one side to the other, "Line dancin' is for fairies." But, he didn't say fairies. He said the other two syllable F-word for homosexual men.

We both blinked, and he continued, "Ya'll go up there and line dance, people will think you're a fairy." Again, it was the other word.

Technically, both of us being female, we both kind of were um...what he said. But, I didn't want to embarrass Ennis on his home turf, and neither did my cousin, so we sat back down and watched.

It sounds horrible, what he said, in fact I can feel the judgments as I type that sentence that he's some redneck homophobe. But, he's not. Ennis is a good person, and now the father of three children whom he loves more than anything in the world besides his wife. He was very young then, not very exposed to certain things at the time, and entrenched in a world that celebrated red blooded males. I know that those words wouldn't come out of his mouth today, and when I tease him about it he cringes and asks if he really said that. "Yep," I say, "You said it."

The wedding was an absolute trip. I brought my video camera to get some shots of family at the reception but was so fascinated by the scene that I spent most of it filming people I didn't know instead of filming family. It was a Country and Western reception, with a full ensemble C&W band, fiddle and all, over which spontaneous shouts of "Yee-haw", and "Hot-damn" were heard. Everyone was dressed country in white or black felt hats, and stomped to the beat using fancy clogging steps. When I watched the video afterward, I realized that I had an entire video of cowboys and cowgirls, but very little of Ennis and his bride.

When I saw Brokeback Mountain, I couldn't help thinking of my cousins and remembering all that. The last time I saw them was when my grandfather passed away. All the cousins sat in the limo at the cemetery just after the burial and chatted about Pop's generosity to us with his Christmas gifts over the years. Then, the cousin who had picked me up from the airport and just about put me into traction almost ten years ago, turned around from the front seat and quoted verbatim a letter I had written to my grandfather seven years ago, thanking him the first time he decided to send all the grandchildren that very generous gift. He told me that my proud grandfather had shown the letter around to family and he had read it.

As we drove off, tombstones nestled in rolling lawn drifting by on each side of us, my cousin told me he was blown away by my letter and remembered wishing he could write like that. He said it made him feel guilty because he'd just sent a simple thank you note. He didn't know that at that exact moment, I had been feeling guilty for not being a better grandchild. I was the most distant from family and a self admitted terrible correspondent, mostly because I wanted to express in gratitude the equivalent of what their gifts were to me. Because of that, sometimes the thank you wasn't sent at all. I was cringing from guilt over that, thinking how I should have written more regularly to my grandfather and how I'd missed a couple of thank you notes. Then here my rodeo'n cowboy cousin turns around and tells me that.

Talk about being blown away.

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