Hank and I just returned from an amazing time with wonderful people in ‘The City of Brotherly Love.’ I’m sure I had learned Philadelphia’s tag from Trivial Pursuit or somewhere else along the way, but I had forgotten and was ironically reminded of it when we traveled there to do three screenings of Five Friends. After all, it is probably a brotherly love movie before it’s anything else. We were greeted with warmth, enthusiasm, thoughtfulness and a surprise ending to our trip! But I probably already gave that away in the title.
To begin, we arrived in Philly (Hank by train, me by plane) just a few hours before a screening at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. BMFI is a part of Bryn Mawr College and they are a true indie art house that provides a platform for films as big as ‘The Artist’ and as small (though growing!) as Five Friends. I must say it was wild to see Five Friends in the evening on the same screen they had shown ‘The Artist’ just hours before. I’ve never considered myself a fancy director-type, probably due to the fact that I’m not. I’ve really only made this one modest documentary. But don’t tell the Bryn Mawr folks that because they treated me and Hank with such respect and attention. They were considerate in every detail and made sure we felt very much at home in their venue.
But, in spite of the warm reception, we were also greeted by an unpleasant surprise. The box office had only pre-sold 10 tickets by that point. Ugh. This was going to be one of those you-could-shoot-a-canon-through-this-place kinds of experiences and, I have to admit, it took the wind out of my sails for a moment. We remained hopeful and Hank and I took off for a bit to catch some air. We had dinner with our Philadelphia friends that we had met the previous year at the American Men’s Studies Association Conference for our premiere in Kansas City. Good food and good wine with good people always takes the edge off. And by the time we got back to the theater, just a few minutes before show time, they had sold 75 tickets! Now, that may not seem like a lot, but for a little movie in a new city, it exceeded our expectations.
The movie looked beautiful in its full Blu-Ray glory with sound to match. After the credit roll there was a warm applause, but I’m still always a bit nervous about how people actually feel about the film. I mean, they knew we were in the room, they kind of have to applaud, don’t they?
But the discussion that followed overwhelmed us with a sense of people really getting what we’re trying to do: create a platform for men to talk about relationships. And they did. Women also jumped into the mix and for over an hour we explored what it means to be a man, what keeps men from being intimate with each other, their wives, their children and how we are on the verge of what appears to be…dare I say, a movement.
The following day, we embarked on a mission to check a very important Philly box and that is the cheesesteak. As Hank and I ventured naively into some fairly, uh, ‘lively’ parts ofPhiladelphia, we passed over one spot that seemed life threatening.
Then we finally landed at ‘Larry’s Steaks’ for a taste of the local flavor. It was a sublime meld of steak, onions, mushrooms, grease and fries…so sublime that I devoured half of it before I stopped to snap this photo.
Onto Widener University for two screenings, ending in the “Deepening Men’s Relationships” Conference. The graduate students on Thursday night were insightful and intelligent, challenging us with probing questions and showering us with beautiful praise. It was humbling and enlightening. Most of these students were studying sexuality…hello? I did not know this was an option when I was in school! Two-year intensive study of sex? Outstanding. It was a sharp group and really set the stage for our final screening on Saturday.
Again, what began as 20 registrations at the beginning of the week turned into over 60 by Saturday and it was a passionate group.
At one point, we did a ‘fish bowl’ where five guys and a therapist (sounds like the set up for a joke) sat in a circle and the rest of the group sat in a circle around them. They then began to tell their own personal stories followed by a discussion facilitated by the therapist. It’s amazing when you start to see how the lives of people have been so uniquely and powerfully impacted by the male relationships in their lives. It gave me renewed vigor to keep raising awareness around men talking about these things. Why are male relationships so important? What do they mean to men? And how does it inform what it means to be a man? That last question leads me to a most wonderful final punctuation on this Philadelphia adventure.
After my trans-continental flight, I stumbled groggily out of LAX to catch my shuttle to the parking lot. My head was still swirling with a week of male relationships, men and masculinity when, low and behold, I had what appeared to be a…vision of sorts. It was a certain kind of man, a prototype one could say, and something to behold. It was Fabio. Yes, that Fabio, of 90s romance novel fame.
It was astonishing, really. I snapped this photo surreptitiously so as not to spook the fellow…he kind of looked a little spooked already. Was it a sign? Did it point to bulging pectorals and the conquest of women as the indelible picture of true masculinity? I chuckled at considering that explanation to the various feminists I encountered on my trip. My answer was, in fact, no, but this sighting was nonetheless a gift. I realized that, outside of his hulking stature, chiseled jaw-line and incomparable hairdo, Fabio and I are exactly the same. We both need the love of other men to make our life complete. Yes, Fabio, even Fabio. And so we continue. To challenge, encourage, love, live and celebrate men and their relationships with each other.
Thanks Philadelphia, may you always remain the City of Brotherly Love.