Rochester, aka “The Pit of Despair”

Let me start by saying that my research here is going great.  Living with family is as you would imagine to be (well maybe better than you imagine if you don’t get along with your family).

I haven’t lived in the east in over a decade, and the thing I’m being reminded of is how segregated, uptight, and sometimes desperate the gay scene can be.  I’ve gotten used to this sense of at least good will in communication when meeting people to date in Portland.  If you make a plan to meet in a day or two, you do about 80% of the time, and they might flake about 20% of the time.  That’s fine.  That falls on the positive side of dating economics.  Reverse the equation for Rochester.  If you’re not going to meet someone that night, you’ll be lucky to hear from them (even after a long seemingly positive phone conversation).  There have been a few one nighters, but I’d rather make a friend frankly.  I was overconfident about my ‘other’ romantic connections here.  I underestimated the powers of the dark side.  Tolerance for homos out here means that they won’t beat you up, but you’re pushing it if you want to be verbal or public about it at all.  No wonder fags are twitchy, uptight, and desperate here.

Maybe my sense of myself is skewed.  I thought that I was genuine, honest, and easy to get along with.  Maybe I’m just not adapted well for this ecosystem.  Like a brown bear thrust into the arctic where only polar bears can eek out a living.  Of course, that metaphor would relegate other gay men to the status of food items and carrion.  Sounds like maybe I do need to work on my mindset a bit.  Either that, or just get my research done, get out, and don’t look back (except for family).

I think this is that loneliness they talked about when going and doing fieldwork.  You lose your identity a bit, and that’s disconcerting and disorienting.  Must…..focus…..must…..complete…..tasks….forget….about….fags……..but….starved…..for…….companionship……AAAaaaaargh!

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On being a Jet-setter.

So Monday I drove up to Toronto to see the Catch 23 show (competitive improv with three teams that get 23 minutes over 4 rounds).  I stopped at Niagara Falls for a quick lunch.  I arrived at Kurt Smeaton’s place where Taz VanRassell was hanging out and Kevin Gillese soon arrived.  Kurt runs Catch23.  I expected to watch, but Kurt asked me to play with Taz and this woman Alana (who is a sweetheart).  The show wasn’t the best for our team considering the fact that none of us had played together (well, I had played with Taz years ago in Seattle).  Our rounds went 1) overcautious with everyone making a first move and waiting for everyone to make a second move 2) One person coming out frantic and the other two trying to figure out how to work with it 3) A decent and reasonable scene after dealing with a heckler 4) One person playing insane and illogical with the other two trying to do the most with it.

I drove back the 3+ hours to Rochester at midnight after the show, slept for 6 hours, woke up, packed, flew to chicago where I am now.  I’m squeezing in visits with the friends I’ve got out here.  I had lunch with Amanda Rountree, dinner with Erin Cunningham, and I’m meeting many Portland and Improvacadia friends out tonight for drinks and dancing.

Tomorrow and Saturday, I am the Rev. Brad, and I’m hanging out with my friend Emily, her fiance, and several other old friends from Portland.  I’m officiating her wedding on the ship the Spirit First Lady of Chicago out on Lake Michigan.  It’s a sweet gig.

This traveling stuff is getting tiresome, though.  I’m tired of sleeping on couches and inflatable mattresses.  However, i love the catching up with old comrades and making new friends.  I made some new friends in Toronto, and I think I’ll go up there a few more times before i leave Rochester.

Bee Siege at Harmony Acres!

We’re in day 5 of the great bee siege here at my parents’ place in NY.  We won some ground yesterday when we opened a wall and found a HUGE hornet nest complex.  It was like a mini-version of “Aliens” without the machine guns and explosions (but lots of chemical pesticide).

The portion that we poisoned and tore out was about 2.5 ft deep x 2ft wide x 1.5ft high, BUT we believe there is still a portion of the hive under the floorboards of the second floor.

Bees started appearing in the kitchen and upstairs bedroom about 5 days ago.  We’ve been killing about 5-10 an hour from dawn til dusk.  Thankfully, they seem to follow a regular activity schedule.

I’m praying for a frost.  My nephew hates bees, and he moved over to my sisters’ house.  He was trying to tell me the world didn’t need bees.  I told him that most plant and animal life would die within a decade of bees disappearing from the planet.  I love arguing with 13 year olds.  They can’t be wrong.

Back to swatting bees!  Back Fiends, Back!!!

Jet Setting

I just got back from Toronto where I visited a bunch of my favorite Canadians doing a show called Catch23.  It’s an improvised variety show/competition.  Kurt Smeaton hosted me, and we had a blast.  I’m going back up next Monday to catch Taz from Vancouver and Kevin Gillese from Edmonton.  They’re both totally fun and great guys.  I leave for Chicago the next day from Rochester to visit friends and marry my friend Emily to her fiance Brian.  It’ll be so nice to catch up and see everyone.

Aside from that, I’ve started my project, and I’ve observed my first show.  I’ve also got a few interviews set up already.  Woohoo.  Here we go.

Back in Rochacha

Been here for a few days.  Things are going pretty well.  I went to a Rochester Improv Community meeting last night and met some of the locals.  It was mostly members of local college troupes, but there were a few members of the more professional groups in town.  It was nice to start making the connections.  I was worried that there wasn’t going to be enough long form going on here to do my study, but it sounds like there’s more brewing.  It’s feeling pretty cool to actually be an anthropologist putting myself out there and observing and such.

On the family side of things, it’s going pretty well.  There’s some tension surrounding my nephew’s somewhat surprise inclusion into residing with my family out here.  My parents are super generous, but the kid is 13.  He operates mostly through sarcasm, and I have to admit that it’s starting to piss me off.  It comes across as pretty ungrateful, and it’s hard watching my parents endure his shitty attitude sometimes.  Then I try to remember my teen years, and I relax a little.  Patience and compassion, don’t fail me now.

On the road again.

Well, I’m leaving Portland on the 21st for a 14 week stint in NY.  It’s a mixed bag.  I feel like I’m stepping out just when some things are starting to ramp up here.  Theatersports is starting up again, and a new project that I’ve been involved in “Icarus” is going to do its first shows.  I’m pumped about both.

I’m a bit hesitant about this field study.  It’s looking like I might have to stop up to Toronto to get enough data on long form shows.  The main long form theater in Rochy only has 2 weekends of shows scheduled, but they also have a number of Sunday shows scheduled (if they can get attendance on Sundays).  I don’t mind having a legitimate reason to go to Toronto, but the people that I would couch surf with might take issue.  This is the nature of field studies, though.  You go in with a plan, and rarely is it adequate for the reality.  It’s a good thing I’m a good improviser.  This is going to work out, but I just don’t know how exactly.  Gotta love a mystery.  Stay tuned for the “Anthropology Diaries”.

Business Card reality.

So I’m leaving Portland soon for 14 weeks of field research.  I’m studying the wild long form improviser in its native habitat, an urban center.  I picked up my Portland State University business cards which read

Brad Fortier
Anthropologist

I giggled a bit picturing myself in a pith helmet in Rochester finding an interpreter who speaks Rochenese.  Getting set up in a shack outside of town like Bronislaw Malinowski in the Trobriand Islands.  I’m doing a more modern equivalent.  I’m staying at my parents’ rural homestead on the outskirts of Rochester, a little hamlet called Webster in the lovely state of New York.  Hello Lake Ontario, hello trips to Toronto.

It occurred to me that business cards are the key to someone’s legitimacy (or utter bullshit if you’re a con man, and I’m not 100% sure which one I am).  It also struck me that I’ve got a responsibility now to do this study well and deliver a reasonably good thesis.  Thanks to a snowball sampling of American improvisers, I’ve collected a good chunk of ethnographic data on the experience of being an improviser, as well as a good demographic picture from an online survey I put up a couple of months ago.

This project is so damn cool.  It’s impossible to convey in a few sentences what I’ve been learning, other than a lot about the social and cultural side of improv.  Sadly, I feel it has detached me from the artistic side a bit, but not enough to ruin the fun onstage.  I am still bringing that my friends *snap*.