For Uncle Merlin -
I haven't seen the movie, but I have read the story on which it is based. The text is making the rounds pretty aggressively, and that's good for an 8-year-old tale - it's robust, and it's powerful enough to explain why it would have become a project in the first place, and why it might move a broad audience.
Still, you and I have to take it more personally. It's about people very like us - as you say, "a living moment for me...I see scenes from my life and I can't stop looking back over my life." As isolated in mountain and plain (and driven, and brave and scared) as these two guys are, they are not that distant from your buddies in NYC, or mine in PDX. Word I was getting here was,"Good, not Great," which is fine with me as a critical judgment, but nobody was talking about much beyond that.
Let's face it. We are a minority, always have been and always will be, and this will make our lives difficult, no matter how tolerant the majority culture becomes. I came out late (and with great sighs of relief on the part of my dear straight friends - they'd been twiddling their thumbs for years), but doing so gave me some perspective on that, "Are you really gay?" question from my gay brothers who had announced much earlier. Well, yeah, of course, I can say, but are you trying to stereotype me, honey?
This can become a pain.
But it is nothing compared to the pain and joy of love, and there may have been more than the ordinary obstacles for gay men (I speak for no one else) to have overcome them. I have enough close straight men and women friends to know that the landscape of love and commitment and possible fracture are just as imminent for them as they are with us. If Brokeback Mountain resonates with them, that's why. What is not universal is how you and I got there, stumbled there, in the first place, and what the stumbling and struggling did to us - doubt, defiance, bravado - and that's just assuming no severe trauma along the way. And then maybe we got some perspective, some wisdom, some balance, and - hmm - still tipped over. Lots of very attractive, deeply insecure guys out there - just very bad for us.
Merlin, just do not give up hope on this score - and don't start adding saltpetre to your oatmeal.
BTW - I drove over some of that country when I moved west from Chicago - it is as spectacular and astonishing as Annie Proulx's list suggests:
"Years on years they worked their way through the high meadows and mountain drainages, horse packing into the Big Horns, the Medicine Bows, the south end of the Gallatins, the Absarokas, the Granites, the Owl Creeks, the Bridger Teton Range, the Freezeouts and the Shirleys, the Ferrises and the Rattlesnakes, the Salt River range, into the Wind Rivers over and again, the Sierra Madres, the Gros Ventres, the Washakies, the Laramies, but never returning to Brokeback."
Never returning. Moving on.
I see, today, at Wolcott's, more dismay and bile spewing because this fucking movie is looking like a success. I mean, if we want to see a couple of real gay cowboys, let's just go rent a DVD of Giant.
I mentioned in my comment above driving through the western mountains on a move from Chicago. I did not say anything about my encounter with sheep. That happened a few months later, on the last leg of my transfer to Los Angeles. My brother (the rock on whom I lean for big moves - just ask him...) and I were one day out from LA, had driven hard through a lot of rain, and we stopped in Tracy for the night. It's a town noted for its prison and for its confluence of highways.
We got a cheap motel after dinner, parked the van as the sun set, carried our gear to a second floor room. On the other side of the chain link that fenced the parking lot was a field, really, a meadow, and it was full of sheep. They all had numbers tagged on their sides (something I'd never seen, not being a country boy), and they were doing what sheep do - clump together, be dumb, and make lovely sheep noises.
Understand, I was throwing my life into the air at this moment, stepping into a void. As I went to sleep, those sheep voices in the evening dark seemed a benediction, had a real - if inchoate - music, and insofar as I could, I blessed them back. Just ask my brother.