AIDS

sunday kind of love…… sinead oconnor

Posted on Updated on

immersion

 

the late 1980’s and early 1990’s were a hella time for me. i left chicago in 1987 landing in orange county looking for respite but realizing i had landed in quicksand.  my mother was immersed in a toxic relationship and it felt as i had overdosed on jimson weed. in spite of my hopes for that move, my nature pulled me further down into the drink and i managed a last ditch “beam me up scotty” which transported me to denver. after all every day could have been the last day of my acquaintance with everthing. i jetpacked to denver with the single intention of dying. but damnit! i got so much more than that.

the pace of life was so much slower here that it provided the “breathing into a paper bag” solution to my life which was in hyperventilation mode. i relocated to denver in 1988 with every intention of dying from aids. it turns out that expecting to die at the age of 29 is not as emotionally tumultuous as not dying and not having a plan.

with the passage of 25 years, i have had the grace to come up for air a couple of times and catch my breath on firma terra. letting go, acceptance, forgiveness, recovery, inspiration, education, sharing, and teaching have become integrated in my daily routine. i work at integrating gratitude for this on the real.

during those first five years i became acquainted with another bright soul on a bold trajectory in life by the name of sinead oconnor. that introduction was like meeting an aurora borealis for the first time. it was a spiritual experience. she will always be a spirit guide to me.

This is the last day of our acquaintance
I will meet you later in somebody’s office
I’ll talk but you won’t listen to me
I know what your answer will be
I know you don’t love me anymore
You used to hold my hand when the plane took off
Two years ago there just seemed so much more
And I don’t know what happened to our love
Today’s the day
Our friendship has been stale
And we will meet later to finalize the details
Two years ago the seed was planted
And since then you have taken me for granted
But this is the last day of our acquaintance
I will meet you later in somebody’s office
I’ll talk but you won’t listen to me
I know your answer already
But this is the last day of our acquaintance
I will meet you later in somebody’s office
I’ll talk but you won’t listen to me
I know your answer already
I know your answer already
I know your answer already

unwind, unbind, rewind, remind

Image Posted on Updated on

last friday i flew to chicago and promptly drove to union pier michigan with a couple of friends to spend time in a cottage here that they have adopted as their home away. i spent the 1st 36 hours unwinding, rewinding, unbinding, and unbending all the knots and twists and broken places that i have barely noticed have taken place since this part of my journey began nearly 10 years ago.

it seems so simple now with hindsight to see that most of what i have experienced may well have been about patching holes i had in my life rather than creating new space and adventures. it seems funny and almost bittersweet to think that i have been refinishing and re-upholstering these last 10 years to try to bring my being to reflect the empirical value of my experiences and my life to be emblematic of a metaphor with the value of all the experiences, tragedies, and triumphs that any life may hold.

these next years just may be about seeing what this old but polished up vessel may still have left in her with regard to sea-worthiness. i can’t guarantee she will sail around the world, but i am confident there will be new ports of call. this is cause for hope.

i plan on connecting with a former neighbor who has relocated to a town about 10 minutes from here. it seems strange that life can be so connected that my past can intersect with my present in such a randomly concise way. but that is life as i know it.

i typed out a post which seemed perfect earlier here. then with one random stroke trying to properly place my little pic of the beach stairs, i erased those 8 paragraphs. i don’t have it in me to recreate them. i know better than to be angry about it. i can only move forward in the here and now. letting go of what could have been and what i intended. what i am left with is what actually from 1 perspective. no doubt it is as good as it gets. loving this rewind.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11T8qRgum0g

world aids day 2013

Posted on Updated on

world aids day is preceded by thanksgiving by just a few days. i am publishing a post from my former blog “kickintina” which describes the footprint that connects both of these very significant days in my life. the emotions and the intentions of remembrance and gratitude, loss and illness have shaped my psyche, my heart, and my perception. i wrote on facebook that my friendship with paul was very influential in the structure of my adult personality. this cannot be truer- caring for my friend matured me. feeling helpless around making him well right-sized me, and feeling blessed by knowing him has helped me feel protected – almost cocooned from danger (if only that were real 🙂


i am working on my thanksgiving post a bit early as i have a full day on thursday. i am supposed to jog with my buddy first thing in that morning, but it is also supposed to be very, very cold and i don’t know if i will make it. i am cooking a turkey for the rocky mountain roundup speaker/dinner, dropping it off, and going to my cousin and his partner’s home for my actual meal. my mom, aunt and uncle are going and they haven’t done a home dinner in the last few years. they have eaten out because they don’t have to cook or clean up after which makes some very good sense to me.I am looking forward to the whole day, and i’m spending tomorrow night at my cousin’s house. i’m sure we’ll hear some of the same old stories that usually get told at family functions. we were a pretty close knit crew in illinois and that has carried over to most of us here. it’s not the same, but it’s very familiar and that is a blessing. 

one of the stories i will not hear this year is my last thanksgiving in chicago. i am going to write about it here and hopefully the tale will unravel itself a bit differently than it has in the past. i have spun this yarn on a few occasions, but i have always kept the focus the part where i am the victim. and honestly, thanksgiving still is a challenging emotional trek because of the drama on this day. it really is the day i stopped dancing. the last day that is until i started channeling velvet- but that’s a tale for another day.
in 1985, i had gotten an apartment with my best friend paul the previous year. we had shopped and hunted for 3 months for that beautiful soon-to-be condo on logan blvd. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, full kitchen, dr, front and back balcony. it truly was stunning. but on the day we were moving in, paul was completely tuckered. i remember him sitting on the back of the rental truck, saying he just couldn’t move any boxes. He was exhausted. and before we finished, he insisted he go to the hospital. we complied, and he was admitted and was in the hospital for about a month.

i went to visit him in that place every day. the first couple of days, i donned a hospital gown, mask, and gloves, but soon decided to put them aside after that. i wasn’t going to be looking at him dressed like an alien, or like i was afraid to be near him. i wasn’t. i loved him. still do. and i wasn’t going to cause him any extra anxiety. i would bring him meals from some of our favorite restaurants. the hospital food sucked, of course, and i knew he needed to eat. we had a very pleasant time being food snobs in there and would laugh together and became closer, without ever really discussing the elephant in the room. i couldn’t go there emotionally.i now know it’s called denial, but then i thought of it as survival. i remember one day going to visit him, and finding him in his room alone, with a fever so high that his body was convulsing, jumping up and down on the bed with no assistance. it scared the shit out of me, watching him jerking up and down like darryl hannah losing life in blade runner. i left in horror and came back a couple of hours later, never speaking a word to him about what i had seen.

my drug use started to escalate after this. the cocaine use was incessant and i drank vodka to counteract the effects of the cocaine. numbing became my priority. this actually caused paul to move back in with his parents, and my friend robbie (foxy)moved in. poor fox- he had no clue as to the mess he was entering. but that’s another story. 

fast forward to thanksgiving 1986. paul had been living with his family for a few months now. he had been in and out of the hospital. i had invited about 8 friend over for a holiday feast. i spent all day preparing the food. turkey rubbed with butter and tamari, baked with apples, onions, and cranberries, stuffing, brussel sprouts, home-made cobbler, etc. as the day progressed, the weather took a turn for the worse. a thunderstorm took hold. one-by-one calls with cancellations started to come in. it had become dark outside, and the last call came from my friend blue. i think he really had waited until he absolutely knew he couldn’t get there. no cabs were running etc. i remember sitting at the head of the table, looking at the fitz and floyd and the crystal candle holders and feeling stunned. the phone then rang again, and it was paul’s brother on the phone. he wanted to let me know that paul had passed a few hours earlier that day. he had gone peacefully and was no longer suffering. i returned back to my seat and looking over the empty but well laid table, clutched my wine glass and took a big swig. a huge lightning bolt back lit the entire sky, was followed by an earsplitting crack of thunder, and the power in my apartment was knocked out. there i sat in the dark, and found myself feeling more alone and more confused than i could remember. and i was a victim. and i had imprinted that pained mask onto myself and held it there for a good 20 years. 

i have managed to let go of that branding i did. i honestly loved paul, and was completely a mess having lost him. i laughed so freely with him, and he understood so many things about me that i always felt shame around, and never did anything but expect me to succeed. we dined a lot, and we read a lot of books- mostly the classics, and the “gay” authors. we participated in a salon of a sort with a few other friends, and would drink wine and read aloud from books like “To The Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf, “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac, and my favorite “Orlando” by Woolf as well. We talked about Vita Sackville West and Virginia, about Paul Bowles and his entourage, Kerouac and his mary-men lol, Stein, Toklas, and the ex-pats….

today, i am thankful i have let go of that old albatross that was choking me through the years. i have moved on to another perception of that time and that day. i am not frozen, i am living and participating again. i am again among the living, and am not in the throes of the walking wounded. i can celebrate today without anesthetizing. i can struggle and maintain. i can look forward and think of a future in practical terms, in lieu of living in a fantasy and only seeing the future as a sparkling illusion. i am so very glad paul was in my life. i am so blessed that he saw me for exactly who i was and loved me because of it. this is something that will never be replaced. and something that will never be lost.

today i see that life is a banquet, and i spent way too much time 
starving myself. there is more to life than one singular sensation.


seasons of love – and fear and rage- and change

Posted on Updated on

vito russo at an actup demonstration

i am starting this post the morning after i saw the film “how to survive a plague”.  it brought back so many remembrances of just how terrifying the 80’s became for us. the uncertainty was palpable and in larger cities the anger was like a cloak that kept the gay community warm.  i am humbly amazed at how synchronicity encircles my life.

i called a friend from sin(strength in numbers) and asked him to go with me. we ended up with 10 people going to see it- many of whom i hadn’t seen really for a year or more.there is a scene in the film where mark carrington on doing a film diary and is making a big deal about lighting a cigarette and looking cool. the filmmaker at the time tells him to forget the cigarette after he blows his line and he seems non-plussed because his cool stogie lighting bit won’t be included. the guys i was with laughed out loud in unison at the vanity of it all. it was even funnier because we all laughed and no one else in the theater did- actually we laughed at several bits in the film without accompaniment.

the shots of aids patients of that time are still haunting and rang in that personal nightmare without fanfare or fuss. actually i found the documentary experience utilitarian and cathartic. it gave me the opportunity to reframe some of my terror and uncertainty into something less fearful and maybe even hopeful. to really experience the effects of high-pitched  fear and anger that were focused and targeted changed my landscape. it is sad that it took 20 years for me to catch up with peter staley, larry kramer, mark carrington, and the rest of the bunch. but i am very grateful i have had the opportunity to understand.

before this, i knew well that the actions of actup coalesced in a change of the systems we live with. the medical system, the research protocol, and the fda approval process. what i didn’t know what how well planned and well executed the strategies for change were by this rogue band of frightened and angry men and women.

and just like these lgbt heroes from the film. maybe the change can be for the good. all our lives have been touched and tweaked by the demands of those brave and angry individuals. patient-centered care, fast tracked new drugs, open nih board meetings, peer representatives are just a few of the improvements we’ve seen in our healthcare world. absolutely nowhere in my mind is there doubt that the actions taken haven’t saved lives. i know they saved mine. just how many they have touched may never really be known.

 i continue to be completely mad for peter staley. it is an unrequited crush that i will carry to my end of days. he did all that was documented in this film, plus he shape shifted the consciousness of nyc gay culture around crystal meth in the early 21 century. he grappled with the drug himself, which was no doubt a side effect of living with the terror of looming death for so long. it was mentioned that there were/are issues for many of the long-term survivors. this is part of my experience, too, and is a blessing (albeit very mixed). to survive is a gift even if it has a costly price tag.

currently i have found myself very angry in my life. my sponsor/friend has passed and  i spent many hours volunteering for a friends organization and have walked away feeling empty and burnt. i have removed myself from the fray which has turned down the heat abundantly, but i still have work to do in this arena. this film has lovingly reminded me that my anger can be of good use to me if i allow it to do so. i share in a meeting today that anger is really a signal that something needs work and i might look at anger as an opportunity to change. change takes time and almost everything changes with time. or so i pray.

Denver Sneak Preview- How To Survive A Plague

Posted on Updated on

GIVEAWAY: Enter to win an admit 2 pass to the advance screening of HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE!
IFC Films presents HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE, the story of two coalitions—ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group)—whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition. HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE opens at the Denver Film Center Colfax on October 12!

Be one of the first to see the film on Wednesday, October 3 at 7:00PM in Denver! Enter to win by texting the word CHANGE and your ZIP CODE to 43549. (Entry deadline: 10/1 at midnight; Example Text: CHANGE 80246). Winners will be notified on Tuesday, October 2. There is no charge to text 43KIX. Message and data rates from your wireless carrier may apply. Remember, movie companies overbook previews, so arrive early because seating is not guaranteed.

true

Posted on Updated on

hereafter image credit fxguide.com

I bought a ticket to the world, 
But now I’ve come back again 
Why do I find it hard to write the next line? 
Oh I want the truth to be said

august 26 2012 i will have my 54th birthday. it seems very surreal to even be walking in this truth. i am living well today and manage to find contentment most of time. i am happy and at peace. i went to the wedding of a friend (alone) and was reminded that deep in the recesses, there are some things i believe will never be part of my journey. for some reason i have found myself a little weepy this week.

in 1984 i was at the precipice of something remarkable in my life. i lived in chicago and held court at an after hours dance club in chicago. the party had been going for a decade, but some unexpected turns had begun. boys were disappearing like cattle in the darkness being abducted by aliens. in my world, it started with john bennet. i remember him talking with my friend blue in the loading dock recounting his fears of this virus thing. john was gone within a few months. and soon it was almost like he was never there. then there was hot rod- a dj friend of my friend mark stephens. hot rod left earth early on. i will never forget the night that mark spread his ashes on the dance floor at medusa’s per hot rod’s request. it was at once pagan, macabre, as well as celebratory..

a year or so later my best friend, paul pfohl, who was living in nyc and going to columbia was unexpectedly returning home to chicago. when he arrived back in town he had lost so much weight it was shocking. for so long we had spent so much time trying new restaurants and basking in conviviality, but upon his return and a gnarly case of  thrush, food made him cry in discomfort as his tongue was unable to take the stimulation.

he continued to deteriorate over the next 13 months or so. he died on thanksgiving in 1985. but one month before he did, after nearly fainting in an aerobics class, i was diagnosed with that new virus and dr. bernie blau put a check mark in a column next to my name just in case quarantine might somehow become reality. i went numb that year. not until these last few years did i realize that some old trauma was reignited and new trauma was unleashed. but paul’s death that next month really sealed the deal.

i had been dating a young man named todd thennes from mchenry through about 6 months of this 1985 drama. he was sweet and definitely a welcome distraction. my drug use had already begun to morph from fun to frightening. todd was sweet and a rascal- which was kinda perfect for me. but of course with the diagnosis and the terror that came with it, i cut that relationship out just like a benign mole at the dermatologist. it sealed the deal as he informed that he had tested positive as well.  he had befriended my entire social circle by that time though and he became part of the family of choice that was ours at medusa’s.

1985 signaled the onslaught of the tsunami that was the holocaust of our time. hot rod, mark stephens, todd thennes(who did a lot of the holiday decor at the club and for david), neil adams (nealina), bruce bliss and rick(who did much of the styling for the club the first couple of years), paul pfohl, sugar(medusa doorman), michael hamburger, jc, chicky are only a handful of the medusa boys who went to carousel. there’s a scene in the beginning of “hereafter” where a tsunami hits a beach town in thailand and washed over people and takes them with it. some are gone and some miraculously are not touched. this is precisely how it felt. once we were all there, but in what seemed an instant they were gone. and there i stood in a holding pattern.

it took awhile for the fear to recede – about 12 years actually. research, science, and advocacy changed the course of that story. after i started meds, i found myself really angry. angry because i didn’t have a plan, i had spent 1/3 of my life waiting for that tsunami to take me. and it fucking didn’t. out of that anger came a decision to move to san francisco. albeit an incredible city without compare, it took me on a darker path than i had traveled. and it left me like wicked witch of the east, crumpled up silently by the weight of a dark empty house.

in my recovery- which started in september 2004, i have made a conscious decision to not be like some men i know in my long-term position. i don’t want to be bitter, burnt out, sarcastic and cranky queen. it wouldn’t seem respectful to all those boys that got swept away. what would it say if i was a complete asshole when i had been granted an opportunity that they were denied? no better to embrace joy and work for happiness and to give care and love to others. besides, with all my experience in the darkness i can understand  fear, denial, and drug abuse in a real and connected way. so that is what i do.

i was 27 years old in 1985. that was exactly 1/2 my life ago. i have traveled the world, laughed out loud, cried in silence, made messes and cleaned them up, engaged in 2 careers, gone broke, started over more than once, and still i am here.

i have been weepy this week, mostly thinking about those boys i loved that went missing 1/2 my life ago. i don’t ever want to forget them. it is by grace that i am still here. that is the only explanation that makes sense. and believe me boys- i haven’t at all forgotten about you. this much i know is true.