Paula Hendricks

Author ~:~ Writer ~:~ Book Designer ~:~ Book Producer

Milk is about all of us

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I’ve seen Milk. Twice. The first time was opening day, Wednesday before Thanksgiving and it was raining. I went to the Castro Theater by myself.

I sat in this old movie palace in a crowd of men and women, gay and straight, old and young. Quiet. Waiting. I loved this movie, Both times. The first time, it was more about the story. I didn’t know much about Milk – oh, I knew he was one of the first openly gay men elected to public office and that he had a big big smile and that he and Mayor Moscone were murdered in City Hall and that Diane Feinstein was then President of the Board of Supervisors. I knew there were marches and still are. I think I knew there was a book about him. I knew there was a restaurant on Castro Street called Harvey’s.

I saw the movie twice because there were pieces I didn’t get the first time. There were side stories and complexities that I only caught glimpses of the first time. Why did I like it both times?

The top layer story is interesting and it’s about where I live and the people who have shaped this city. The next layer is about courage. Personal courage – to be who you are, say what you think, take a stand. The next layer was about how you get stuff done in life – how messy the process is; how long it can take; how important a single voice can be.

I came out of the theater wanting to know those people – Cleve Jones and Anne Kronenberg. I wanted to know more – about how they got involved and why. Maybe I’d find out why I seem to be so slow on the political side of things and so far ahead on technology. I have avoided politics almost all my life – my mother was a political junkie and until this year, I certainly was not.

What I saw in Milk was how important politics is. How important the whole process, and it is a process, is. One of the phrases that stands out for me is “It’s not about winning.” It’s not about winning. It’s about standing up. It’s about speaking out. It’s about taking a stand and having conversations. It’s about messy relationships – personal and political and economic.

Now I know for sure I want to add my voice to the discussion – about sustainability, and the multiple bottom line – profit, people, planet. And I see now that I must get more involved… in politics. I must be willing to live a far messier life than I have so far. I must be more vulnerable and more courageous and not worry about winning. Just being in the conversation is critical.

Harvey ran several races before he won. He developed alliances with labor unions and beer distributors. He figured out a way to connect to those not like him. He kept speaking and reaching out and running even as he recognized he might be stopped, killed, for doing so.

I don’t face those kinds of threats. I don’t want to run for office. I’m not good at the small talk and glad-handing. But there are places I want to go and things I need to say, and I have my own fears. Of looking foolish, shooting for the stars and falling far short, of going after something many think is too high, too big, too far away.

So, not only was I looking at the movie itself, but I was thinking about those he touched, those he got involved, those who carried on and who still carry on. And how important, how powerful, how utterly human this all is.

After the movie, I walked in the rain, went to the grocery store and the Castro Cheesery to pick up coffee and then to Orphan Andy’s for comfort food. I took the old trolley down Market, back to Powell Street, and home.

It was an early Thanksgiving gift to myself. I remember thinking when I was looking at the movie listings – I didn’t care about it being opening day, but I realized I did want to go see it at the Castro Theater. Because it was raining, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go out, but I did – I said, I want to see this movie, I want to see it at the Castro, it’s starting in half an hour and I can get there, it’s 12:30 so there may not be crowds…. just do it. And I did.

The second time I went with a group my friend KZ put together. 7 of us. 4 gay men and 3 women. Met them at the Kabuki. And afterward we sat and talked… some about the movie. And some about whatever.

Three self-identified loners, an actor, an architect, a writer, a picture editor, a couple of marketing pros. At twilight. And I sank into the comfort of hearing real stories about the man we had just seen. About times long ago and still current. About carrying whistles to call for help and now gay marriage is legal in some places and being challenged in others. And how it’s about all of us. I remember my mother saying when JFK was running that she was afraid the Pope would run the US. I was thinking how lucky I am to live in a place where outsiders are welcome.

No one who meets me for the first time would think I’m an outsider – but that’s how I feel, often. So, a story like Milk’s, about otherness, and desire, and authenticity, and messiness, and courage appeals to me. I want more stories like this one. I want to be part of stories like this one.

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Written by phwebnet

December 8, 2008 at 6:30 pm

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