My Big Sister Lead The Way

Michael, Allison, Lindsey, & Ryan
Michael & Allison with Lindsey & Ryan

Everyone has someone they look up to (or should), and for me that has always been my sister Lindsey.  At just over 4 years older than me she was close enough that we could bond within the family and live completely separate lives in high school.  She’s an actress, and from very early on it was evident it was her calling in life.  She took starring roles on stage, belted out show tunes, acted in commercials, and was signed by an agent in NYC.  I watched from the back seat of the car and learned everything I could so I too could be an actor one day.  I learned everything there was…except how to act.  Thinking back on these times and my sister always reminds me of my favorite Dan Bern song, “Oh Sister.”

They say you taught me how to talk
Bet you wish you taught me how to stop
You’re far away now
Wish I could take a walk with you someplace
You explained me to our parents
English wasn’t their first language
They spoke German, hated Germans
Confusing times

victorthebearIt has been rumored that Lindsey could debate politics while wrestling a bear and in the end, the bear would understand politics.  She once ran away from home for two weeks while secretly communicating to me by phone that she was just taking a break from the grind, and in Kansas City.  She also figured out at a young age I could be a valuable resource to her as I knew how to reprogram the house alarm to allow sneaking in and out with ease.  We were thick as thieves…then she went to boarding school in Natick, MA to further pursue her acting career.  I was left to face 8th grade and high school alone.

Oh, sister
Down Midwest backseat bumpy streets
You sang my Beatles songs with me
I sang your Broadway melodies
Bad harmonies
And where would Willie Mays have been
Without Jackie Robinson?
And who can say what I’d been
Without you to lead the way

Lindsey’s High School

After my Sophomore year I made the move to Natick, MA as well to follow in my sister’s footsteps and be an actor.  I think the school was hopeful I would be another Lindsey Gates…turns out I was just a Ryan.  When the school expelled me it was Lindsey I called and not my parents.  I was convinced my folks would kill me and I called Lindsey (now living 3 hours away in NYC) to beg her to let me live with her and hide me from Mom and Dad.  She called my parents and broke the story to them.  When they flew to Boston it was the school they were upset with…not me.  Score one for the Gates kids.

After I showed some guys I could drink
You picked me off the lawn, I think
And led me to the kitchen sink
Where I got rid of it
Some nights I laid awake in awe
As squinting through the dark I saw
You peeling off your teenage bra
The door slightly ajar

1560627_10151797836236008_1941213158_nWhen I graduated high school she was in LA for pilot season.  I had left acting behind and was now working in film as a director and producer…I was stepping out of her shoes but still striving to be like her.  Then the magic happened:  I graduated college and we both lived in NYC at the same time!  I was directing children’s TV and she was acting Off Broadway.  She started The Lake George Theater Lab and hired me to work as Technical Director for the first year.  I was director of photography on a short film she acted in.  She came to all my film premieres, I went to all her plays, and we supported each other.  Life was great!

Oh, sister
You lived just across the hall
For eighteen summers, eighteen falls
Until you went away to that
Weird college in Wisconsin
And where would Willie Mays have been
Without Jackie Robinson?
And who can say what I’d been
Without you to lead the way

Kate and Linz in San Francisco
Kate and Lindsey in our San Francisco home

I’ll never forget the day she flew across country to San Francisco with her son Jake.  It was like my heart had been torn from my chest.  Her husband had taken a job there and I cried for hours as I waited for her to land at SFO so I could tell her how much I missed her.  I had been sitting for baby Jake and hanging out with them multiple times a week.  It was like half my life had ended…abruptly.  So when my fiancee told me she was looking at the California College of The Art in San Francisco for graduate school, we packed it all up and left NYC in the rear-view.

Trust yourself
And you can do anything
This I give to you

Back in Bolton Landing with family and friends
Back in Bolton Landing with family and friends

San Francisco was a confusing time.  Its a story for another time and not entirely mine to tell but it had some severe ups and downs.  There was toxicity.  Let’s leave it at that.  In the end, my wife Kate and I moved back to Upstate New York which is where the “So Long Freedom” story began.  Lindsey moved back 2 years later where her next journey began…and the toxicity ended.  Since then, The Lake George Theater Lab has grown having her full attention year round.  Lindsey began landing more and more stage roles and regaining national attention.  Then Lindsey landed a guest appearance on NBC’s The Blacklist this year.  Its one scene…but its one scene with James Spader on arguably one of the best shows on television.  I’ve seen my sister on massive stages, seen her in starring roles, seen her in TV pilots, seen her on billboards, and more.  However this scene…this scene was the biggest smile on my face because it represented victory for my sister.  It was the proof that toxicity was over.  It was affirmation that people can find strength from toxicity and rise from the ashes like a phoenix.  It was proof that she too had stepped out on her own and found her own path.  No more waiting in the wings.

May your heart purr like a bumblebee
May all your backyards have a tree
May you always be HIV negative
I hope you meet a nice guy who
Treats women better than I do
I don’t even care if he’s a Jew or not

Lindsey with James Spader on The Blacklist

Last night I bragged all over Facebook and Twitter.  Today I’m bragging all over my site…because its my damn site and I’ll promote my big sister if I want to.  I’m not going to write a review of the show or my sister’s performance because that’s not what this is about.  This is about finding who you are.  My sister knew who she wanted to be and that made me (and others) want to be around her and be like her.  Then, as life often does, we get sidetracked.  I followed my sister across country multiple times till I figured out I didn’t want to be her…I wanted to be like her.  Lindsey is a star, not because she’s on some awesome show…because she is confident in her own skin and unafraid to follow her dreams with a passion.  We should all be so lucky.

Oh, sister
I remember in the Temple hall
At our dear father’s funeral
You sang like a nightingale
One of his own songs
And where would Willie Mays have been
Without Jackie Robinson?
And who can say what I’d been
Without you to lead the way

Many of Dan Bern’s lyrics in this song are odd and don’t speak to my relationship with Linz.  There was no bra peeking, no concern for HIV, and Dad isn’t dead.  The song’s theme however perfectly captures my emotion.  I love my life and the person I have become.  I like the person I am evolving into.  I love my past too with all its ups and downs.  There are so many things to love, but I always have to stop and ask myself, “And who can say what I’d been without you to lead the way.”  If you have an older sibling, give them a call and thank them for always leading the way…and if you missed Lindsey on NBC’s The Blacklist you can catch it on NBC OnDemand or at (Episode: “The Good Samaritan Killer”).

Boom!  Promotional plug.  Had to do it!

Lindsey Gates on NBC's The Blacklist, January 13th, 2014.
Lindsey Gates on NBC’s The Blacklist, January 13th, 2014.

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