writing

marilyn in the moon

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I went off with my hands in my torn coat pockets; 
Becoming My overcoat too was ideal, 
I Travelled beneath the sky, Muse! and I was your vassal; 
Oh dear me! what marvelous loves I dreamed of!
My only pair of breeches had a big whole in ’em. 
– Stargazing Tom Thumb, I sowed rhymes along my way. 
was at the tavern My Sign of the Great Bear. 
– My stars in the sky rustled softly.
Listened to ’em and I, sitting on the road-sides 
On Those pleasant evenings while I felt September drops 
Of dew on my forehead like vigorous wine;
And while, rhyming Among the fantastical shadows, 
I plucked like the strings of a lyre the elastics 
Of my tattered boots, one foot close to my heart!
Arthur Rimbaud
i can remember writing with intention for the 1st time at 16. i was engulfed in melancholy about leaving home and making hard decisions although that is hindsight describing them. at the time- i was just puffed up like a blowfish reacting to a fearful situation and i penned a simile poem  about the vastness of the once-seen ocean as it reflected the enormous terra i had stumbled upon in my world.
i didn’t write again for about 8 years. i did however, craft a number of drug inspired song lyrics sung to the tune of “i can’t really sing” and performed on the front steps of brownstones along chicago’s near-north side. these were seldom heard by anybody else but me. however there was a time i deciphered an image of marilyn monroe in the face of the moon. on many warmer weather nights, i crooned unabashedly to her image and bled some poison from my soul somehow feeling connected to the tragic quality her life represented. 
i journaled for awhile from 1983 until 1985- sporadically at best, and i got a taste of the relief that this activity could provide. life, however, hadn’t provided me with the surety required to make syncopated entries. at best there were scribbles and partial cave drawings which upon revisit conjure up ghost fragments which are both chaotic and sublime. 
since my hiv diagnosis in 1985 until 2005 after finding recovery, i had mostly  hidden this specific part of me from the world and worked hard to deep it separate. this certainly fueled my addiction. the darkness that settled in those years left scars and pockmarks that still  have memory. but i picked up writing again in 2006 in the form of blogging and have been adding entries without fail since then. this is the 2nd generation blog and a style may have begun to emerge. i have found peace, distortion, friendship, inspiration, trauma, challenge, freedom, and fight through the tip-tapping of the keyboard as my musical instrument crafting my lyrics and music to my inspirational  marilyn in the moon. 
i am very clear that i write because i am able and because it pets my soul like i might caress a chinchilla collar. it keeps me warm and feels like a hug. there are many times when i can’t feel my muse. this is overshadowed always by the times that there is clearly a constellation of the points of light in my world. 

life imitates art

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image credit… ddmag


INTERVIEWER:

When and why did you start to write?

BURROUGHS:

I started to write in about 1950; I was thirty-five at the time; there didn’t seem to be any strong motivation. I simply was endeavoring to put down in a more or less straightforward journalistic style something about my experiences with addiction and addicts.
INTERVIEWER: You regard addiction as an illness but also a central human fact, a drama?

BURROUGHS: Both, absolutely. It’s as simple as the way in which anyone happens to become an alcoholic. They start drinking, that’s all. They like it, and they drink, and then they become alcoholic. I was exposed to heroin in New York – that is, I was going around with people who were using it; I took it; the effects were pleasant. I went on using it and became addicted. Remember that if it can be readily obtained, you will have any number of addicts. The idea that addiction is somehow a psychological illness is, I think, totally ridiculous. It’s as psychological as malaria. It’s a matter of exposure. People, generally speaking, will take any intoxicant or any drug that gives them a pleasant effect if it is available to them. In Iran, for instance, opium was sold in shops until quite recently, and they had three million addicts in a population of twenty million. There are also all forms of spiritual addiction. Anything that can be done chemically can be done in other ways, that is, if we have sufficient knowledge of the processes involved. Many policemen and narcotics agents are precisely addicted to power, to exercising a certain nasty kind of power over people who are helpless. The nasty sort of power: white junk, I call it – rightness; they’re right, right right – and if they lost that power, they would suffer excruciating withdrawal symptoms. The picture we get of the whole Russian bureaucracy, people who are exclusively preoccupied with power and advantage, this must be an addiction. Suppose they lose it? Well, it’s been their whole life….. reposted from an interview with Conrad Knickerbocker in the Paris Review on NYE 1965 and re-pusblished at dangerousminds.net

i am not clear how much change the new year will see. however i am sure i have changed. having been at my workplace for 4 years has afforded me some peace of mind. i have become familiar with not using for several years and my emotions don’t seem to run the risk of sabotaging me any longer. don’t get me wrong- i am still overly impulsive at times-more than i would like- but my recovery process with regard to those impulses has become like a well-rehearsed swat team. 
in moving forward this year, i hope to regain a sense of security that i misplaced a few years ago. i hope to work the steps again with a new sponsor and gain additional insight as well as let some further unneeded baggage go. i hope to pay off some debt that has been haunting for a few years and become a little less dependent on 2nd and 3rd incomes for entertainment. at this point, i am not sure i will ever write a short book, as i might have incorporated “confidentiality” to a fault in my writing that is public- or perhaps i should just be writing for myself with a privacy setting so no one can read. i know that somehow my spiritual connection to this online journaling has altered.

 i registered for school last fall, however i never did follow up with it further and i would very much like to pursue this. i have considered painting as a form of expression. i have no idea if it is even something i can do, but i am very aware that paintings move me – and abstract and neo-expressionist works seem to grab my gut. 

i spent nye day painting the office in the suburbs where i facilitate a meth recovery group. i enlisted the help of 2 persons whom i have worked with over the years and they came through with flying colors- pun intended. i sincerely hope that the metaphor of putting a new face on life for the new year somehow takes hold on them both. 
i have made a new friend who appeared in my life almost like magic. uncertain of where we might land, i am very grateful for a new set of eyes and ears. and i am very blessed when i meet a new friend in recovery- it’s culturally competent. my intention is that a new relationship or two will continue to flourish within my world.  i am hoping to head to chicago to be with friends and perhaps see “the book of mormon”. i will be ready for a break by that time. i would like to catch up with my cousin who lives in rogers park as well.

these are plans i have and 

viva la online vida

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I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own
I used to roll the dice


Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing”
Now the old king is dead!
 Long live the king!”

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand…Coldplay



since about 1995, my life has consistently included computers. they have become integral with my daily living. since the early 2000’s, i traded the dating sites for information and networking sites and this propensity to live online has taken flight.  i am a complete facebook cling-on, i have a profile on linkedin, i have both a twitter account and manage one for TEN. We have a TEN facebook page, and i have 4 blogs including one for TEN  (oh and we are looking for additional bloggers for the TEN blog). in all this i have made friends, confidants, and supporters across the globe.

 mark olmsted

in 2007 a local gay men’s HIV networking organization names SIN (strength in numbers) came under my charge.  i called on a friend i had met online to help me throw the 1st big party. his name is mark olmsted and he is a quirky artist and an insightful writer with a blog (how we met) called “The Trash Whisperer”. mark was in some very similar circumstances as me and his friendship offered me support and guidance when i was struggling to find it at home. i actually went to a sober roundup in provincetown to meet mark face-to-face. later he flew to Denver from LA (along with Bryan Sutherland- SIN founder) and Denver’s HIV community had a giggle and kick at Lannie’s.

absolute willie

another gentleman i met online goes by the name “willie”. willie was in his late 20’s when our paths (blogs) crossed. i was writing a blog called “kickin tina” about my early journey of recovery from addiction (specifically crystal meth). willie had been out on a particular new years eve and had been drinking heavily. he crashed his car into a tree and to my recollection – totalled it. he woke up on new year’s day and decided it was time to do something different and so he quit drinking. he has remained sober since. willie has lived in south africa, in taiwan, in missouri, and again in south africa through the years. his blog “enjoy your life cafe” has kept me informed of his whereabouts and his progress over the years. he remains charming and good-hearted to this day.

chris mecham- last chance texaco
the very first comment i got on my 1st blog was from a man who was getting ready to go to residential treatment for a while. his tone was drastic and his tempo was tweaked. he shortly thereafter shared that he had used at the bus station while he was waiting so he could hit for the last time. he created a blog of his own  called “last chance texaco” and has been a bright light of recovery and personal insight since. we continue to share quips on fb, and i will always owe him a debt of gratitude. i remember being floored that someone was reading what i wrote. 

jim pickett

through a fellow blogger richard kearns (now passed) i was introduced to jim pickett of chicago. jim is an ambassador for the chicago aids foundation and has become the microbicide czar for the planet. jim is a gay man who loves and respects other gay men and has been advocating globally for gay men’s health issues through his work with irma and their blog “lifelube”. richard sent jim a copy of a blog post i wrote in 2008 and jim published it. i have been an ardent and faithful admirer of his since then.

brian finch

any hiv positive gay man with much online presence cannot miss the sensation that is brian finch from canada. he is a complete and total scream. he has been advocating for the rights of hiv positive folks in canada since at least the 90’s and has become an ambassador to other nations for his views and his savvy. he co-founded an hiv information and networking online magazine (“positive lite”) with several colleagues and  in recent years taken up comedy and keeps himself and the people around him amused. (very much so i would bet). bryan has graciously allowed this newsletter to reprint several of his articles over the years. and he always keeps my heart light and my perspective tilted.

mark s king

also through my kickin tina blog, i came to know a devilish actor/writer named mark s king of atlanta. mark is also in recovery from meth addiction and has an amazing ability to deliver his ideas and experiences to readers in a sort of down-home let-me-tell-you-a-story sort of way. mark penned a book, writes for several sites including thebody.com, hosts his own blog- myfabulousdisease.com, and even does a drag queen in recovery act (quite smart actually) named anita mann. mark has also graced our newsletter with columns through the years of our publication and he has a small but really lovely set of vids on youtube. he remains one of the more entertaining online presences i can name.

tony radovich

finally, through facebook and a program called “strength over speed” i became acquainted with tony radovich . we don’t speak often, but we do share musical selections now and again on facebook. he has been actively involved in a 4 year samhsa grant for peer coaching for gay men (both poz and neg) who are looking to get their meth use under control. this still seems such an admirable venture, and tony is so very spiritual and full of kindness, that i am almost honored to have made his acquaintance.

these are a handful of individuals who have changed my life over the last 10 years. i needed support and i needed a change.  i hadn’t met any of them, yet became very connected and shared ideas and support. there are many others- like frontiers la (hiv site), hivster, towleroad, ed negron and the work-in blog, bilerico, white crane, nelson vergel, thebody.com, and  lady bunny to name a few. the internet – and online living has been part of a metamorphosis for me. somehow i have grown my life, stretched my heart, and fed my brain. and i did it all without an m4m site or a profile which asked my favorite sexual position. in no way, do i compare my self to my heros. their talent far outweighs what i might have. and these guys don’t comprise my dinner partners, or my movie dates. but they do remind me i might not be that crazy and that i am not alone as i work towards bettering my life. and they help me believe that it is okay to want a “better” world. here’s to 2013 my friends. i hope it’s a better world for us all.

Mary Tyler Wells

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When Thomas moved into the coach house behind me he hung a “w” next to his front door on the outside. It always made me laugh and I called him Mary Tyler Wells. He brought with him his own brand of “tales of the city”.

He was a heavyset guy with a pretty established relationship with alcohol. He used to get drunk 3 or 4 times a week with regularity, I didn’t notice much out of the ordinary at first, probably because I partied just as much. But I did notice the “w” next to his outer front door. I saw it every morning as I left my apartment and every evening as I came in.

All seemed normal in our uptown version of Barbary Lane, until one summer evening. It was like most evenings. My cousin from Illinois had been staying with me for a few months and we were watching “Showgirls” on my tv in the bedroom. We were laughing out loud at some of the bits- the Gina Gershon bitch rants, the Elizabeth Berkley naiveté, and the very flat and one-dimensional ” Keanu Reaves School of Acting” techniques that permeates the film. It was a spontaneous evening of delight.

There was an unexpected pounding at the door. She and I looked at each other and wondered whether we should be frightened.  The knock repeated and we made our way to see what the matter was. Outside stood an unknown shirtless guy looking very nervous and saying that our neighbor had fallen and wasn’t responding.

I went over to Thomas’ apartment to see if I could assist. There he was laid out, eyes shut, on the 2nd floor with a green cast to his skin and what could be interpreted as a bit of foam slipping out of the side of his lip as it pressed against the carpet. I shook him a coupla times and called his name over and over. The shirtless guy was going on about pain meds and good intentions and I decided to call 911.

I went back to my pad to put some shoes on.  I waited about 15 minutes and the paramedics arrived. They struggled with carrying him because of his size and had to wait for backup to assist them in getting him out.  The 2 others arrived and I remember being in my house, looking out my back window and seeing the EMT’s hoisting the gurney up over their shoulders to carry him from the door to the truck. It looked almost like queen tut being transported at the end of a royal procession.

As I watched this impromptu parade, I knew I needed to be a good neighbor and deal with the next agenda item- the shirtless visitor. My intuition had me believing that the phrase “hustler” could best describe the mold from which he emerged. I went into Thomas’ apartment and spoke with him. He had put on a t-shirt by this time thankfully, and he displayed no intention of vacating the apartment. He insisted that Thomas had invited him to spend the night. I assured him that I believed him, but that didn’t affect the responsibility I had as a neighbor and friend.

He protested, and even presented his Driver’s License with the intention of verifying his authenticity. The Kentucky document had the name Johnny Outlaw printed across the front. I chortled a moment and proceeded to request that he go to the hospital where Thomas was and get the house keys from him directly. Johnny then asked if I could spare a piece of cardboard on my floor for him. Sadly, I was unable to comply.

la avispa

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two things have taken place in the last 24 hours which hopefully have cracked my world’s dull veneer. firstly, i am taking a break from facebook. it almost feels as if i have been breathing carbon monoxide. i have been attached at the wrist and undoubtedly need time away. and secondly, i had a conversation awhile ago with my friend alex about jump-starting the creative juices. perhaps he doesn’t need it, but i most definitely do. i have been struggling with posting and this has previously proved to be an amazing outlet for my brain. anyway, the idea was that my friend and i might continue writing a story bit by bit. a few paragraphs sent for an addition and then sent back… and  so on. here is what i came up with to perhaps start that process.
La Avispa
The honeybee has somehow been a recurring theme in his life. Definitely not the more visible bumblebee with its yellow and black armor, or not the more potentially bothersome wasp which travels in gangs and can be provoked without warning,  but  the delicate and single-minded honeybee designed and contented to flock from one bloom to another sustaining itself for another day as it loses itself in it daily grind.
La Avispa (the honeybee) might be said to be his totem. 
When he was 5 he was walking across a lawn dotted with clover and felt a sudden piercing fire in between his toes. The burn was intense and he fell to his bum and curved ‘round his foot to inspect the source. He pulled at a dark spot and in his fingers was the culprit- a honeybee curled up on his foot. He pulled his thumb apart from his finger and the lifeless bug dropped directly and indisputably to the ground beneath him.  The sting lasted only a short while longer, but the surprise the surrounded it stays to this day.
When he was 16, he often ran away from his apartment in suburban illinois to downtown chicago to be among his tribe. he would go to the bath house and met other boys with whom he would chase nectar. on an early adventure he went to a house party in lakeview. it was at a small apartment with the furniture pushed to the sides of the room and all 20 or so people there were drinking beer and the lights were off. he remembers distinctly two songs from that night in 1974- “Doctor’s Orders” by Carol Douglas and “Honeybee” by Gloria Gaynor. These were both new artists at the time… frankly so was he.

About 15 years later, he was watering his lawn on a very hot summer day in Colorado. He was using a garden hose as there was not a sprinkler system around. He had guests in from out of town and they were on their way over to pick him up to go for a barbeque. He was hurriedly moving from section to section and sprayed a strong stream of water from the hose onto a rose bush. Without a seconds notice, a honeybee flew directly up to his left eye and planted a stinger into his lid. It was fast, it was succinct, and a spot-on hit. It would seem it was instant messaging prior to any that today’s operating systems have provided.  But just what was the message?

Later that same year, he found himself in Costa Rica for a week with a friend touring around. The last 2 nights they spent in San Juan and they went to a rather famous bar named “La Avispa”. It was toted as the premier lesbian disco of the country. There were only a handful of women present on the night they visited, but there were twice as many men.  The two travelers were approached only minutes after they arrived by 3 quite young and very handsome boys. The conversation and the liquor flowed, they laughed  quite loudly and danced quite madly and soon they were stepping through the doors again as La Avispa closed its doors for the night. The two boys had added three and now had 5 more all going back to their hotel.  The quickly became a room full of strangers with an ancient and macabre rhythm.  Certainly they were honeybees waiting for nature to have its way. it was mayhem, it was instinctual, it was ambrosia. it was real and it did not last more than a day.