It was not ever on my mind to write about the forum, although some story ideas did swirl around this early experience online. I guess I may never actually capture the ideas that came as a result of my first online experiences. In relative terms, I am a late comer to the world wide web. Many of my friends had an internet connection long before I did. I was not convinced in the early days that I needed to get connected. I had a computer, but confess it was little more than a word processor and keeper of softball stats.
When I finally decided to get online I got a newer used computer, a modem which I still use, a kit to hook myself up, and I set up shop. I called the cable company, got the internet and set up an account. I still use that email address although, like most people, I have others. Once I was rocking and rolling around cyberspace, I found mention of what some where calling a “gay cowboy” movie. This is absurd, I thought. Why would anybody make such a movie? No one will ever go to see it. The advance publicity began to catch my interest as I never heard of any of these guys. The online movie trailer seemed interesting and this Jake guy certainly was good at being a cowboy. “This actually looks interesting,” I thought. Who is this guy?
First I had to get down the spelling of Jake Gyllenhaal so I could “google” him. One of the first places I found was a fan forum called I Heart Jake Community. I had never before heard of a fan forum. The fan board had a lot of interesting topics, including games, chit chat, movie reviews, fan pictures posted by an administrator and it had all things Jake. You could start a “thread” about anything to do with Jake, including any recent Hollywood gossip. After checking out the sections on a few different trips, I decided to sign up and jump into the conversations. There was a “Newbie” section for introductions, so I introduced myself. Well, actually, I gave a user name and vague details. I thought I would NEVER, EVER give out any information about myself on the internet.
I did not know anything about an avatar, but I had to get one of those. I could not figure out how to add my sig pic (signature picture) so I asked for help in a help section. Someone jumped in to help and soon I had my own signature pic, some Jake thing I stole from the main I Heart Jake site, separate from the forum. Soon I was chatting with a number of regulars, but the person who helped me originally maintained a regular dialogue for a while and we traded pictures, thoughts on movies and participated in the online games, mostly word games and stories. That online acquaintance was a young man in another state who grew up to be a friend I met years later. I still think such things are unlikely and would caution anyone against cultivating online friendships. There are too many cautionary tales in cyberspace to use a good experience as a recommendation.
Eventually, I saw many Jake Gyllenhaal movies, including Brokeback Mountain. To call it a “gay cowboy” movie is such an injustice. It was as intriguing as the trailer led me to believe. One summer together for the “cowboys” lead to unfortunately tangled lives for the families of Jake and Heath Ledger, who tried to live “normal” lives that the time period would have demanded (1960’s). It was the best movie that year, not Crash which drew far less to the box office and for good reason.
As for the forum, we drifted away from that like tumbleweed through the desert. Some of the experiences there prompted stories in my brain long before I ever thought of writing any down. Forums are an interesting past time, but there are more productive ways of spending your time. I learned about some actors and movies. I learned a little about pictures, avatars and writing codes. I made a good friend. It may not make a great story, but I guess it was worth one summer of my time.