Loving the Sacred through Word and Image. A WordPress Production.

Homosexual

On Being a Tired Old Queen

mustoHello, My name is Jeremy and I am a Tired Old Queen !!! 40 is the new 30, and in a few days I will celebrate my 47th birthday. I survived AIDS and I am in a place I never imagined or dreamed of. I am in new territory and I don’t quite know what to do with myself these days, so we are figuring it out “on the fly!” by the seat of my pants… just the way I like it …

BY Michael Musto – Advocate.com

July 24 2014

The hookup atmosphere in nightlife may have died off, but now there’s room on the dance floor for an older generation. And you don’t even have to know who Liza is to have a good time with them. (But look up Liza, by the way.)

One night, at a nightclub where I was extremely popular, I tried to get into a VIP section, thinking it would be a piece of cake, as usual. But there was a new, 20-ish guy guarding the rope there and he was quite open about not wanting to let me in. As I walked away in dejection, I heard the guy mutter to a friend, “Tired old queen!” I was so horrified I nearly fell over and reached my inevitable death state. I was 29 years old — hardly ready for the glue factory yet. But in the gay club world, where aging seems to be particularly abhorred, I was already heading toward an AARP-like milestone and clearly not eligible for VIP status anymore.

And that was nearly three decades ago! By now, I should be a “tired old queen” times 1,000. I should be shipped directly to the Elmer’s factory on a no-return basis. I’m a walking billboard for the “It Gets Older” campaign, and someone young clubbies probably need to avoid, since older people are generally a reminder of mortality, not something anyone wants to think about when they’re drinking, dancing, and enjoying their own freshness.

But fortunately for mankind, it hasn’t worked out that way. I happen to have good genes, so I look younger than I really am — no, really. Also, all these years of immersing myself in creative scenes and writing about them have given me a certain cachet, so I’ve actually been getting more appreciation than revulsion these days. And I think there’s also been a sea change in the world, a “40 is the new 30” (and so on) feeling that people get better, not older — and gays, as usual, are on top of the trend. As people live longer and garner more visibility for it, there’s not as much ickiness surrounding the fact that they’ve survived. And survived. And survived.

I haven’t had anyone — even club kids — call me a “tired old queen” in years, and I’m thrilled about that. Of course there’s still a downside to being close friends with Father Time: For one thing, you don’t always get offered opportunities because the sense out there is that you’ve shown what you can do and it’s time to let other people try it. But it’s gotten better to be a TOQ, as long as you try to stay relevant without being too needily obvious about it. You need to keep up with the upcoming gays and their references without coming off like grandpa in a scrunchie. It’s important to not lecture too much or offer Sophia Petrillo-like stories of the golden days; they’re boring, even to other old people. (Except for the delightful 29-year-old story that I started this piece with, naturally.) But you also shouldn’t go out of your way to try to sound hip, unless you want to remind people of their grizzled aunt who insists on wearing bikinis by the public pool. In general, oldies should never act like they’re on the same plane as the young, unless they’re Madonna — the only one who can possibly get away with that sort of thing.

Unfortunately, sticking to my aged references may keep me in my comfort zone, but not in others’. Not long ago, I mentioned Liza Minnelli to a 21-year-old woman, who looked as blank as if I’d mentioned Russian composer Alfred Schnittke. She’d never heard of Liza, Cabaret, or even Judy Garland. Granted she wasn’t a gay man, but still, I thought for sure there’d be a little recognition bell ringing, even if just on the order of, “Wasn’t she in the Sex and the City sequel?”

But within the gay world, even preschoolers have heard of Liza, so things are OK. And as gay marriage becomes increasingly prevalent and paves the way for more people looking for partners who’ll love them when they’re old, I think the community will focus less on the vanity, self-consciousness, and fear of aging that has often plagued us in the past. We’re not as shame-based and superficial as we used to be — for the most part — and that carries over into the way we treat other members of the community and, ultimately, ourselves. Meanwhile, my own vanity has prevented me from joining groups like SAGE, which for 46 years has provided valuable support for older LGBTs, because that would be an admission of my wizened state that would be hard to turn back from. (It’s sad, I know, but getting older is complicated.) But I’m still ready to embrace many aspects of being an old gay, as long as my brothers and sisters make room for me and my hanging flesh. 

And they have been! Even in bars! These days, the younger gays don’t go clubbing to get picked up — they know they’re going to take care of that via various sites and apps — so the sight of a senior on the dance floor is no longer considered a horrifying cock blocker. More inspiringly, there’s also an open-mindedness about different types of people and their right to coexist, thanks to increased savviness, so the presence of an old queer no longer seems like a visitation from the Ghost of Christmas Future. If anything, the sight of Larry Kramer, Edward Albee, Harvey Fierstein, or maybe even little old me might perk up just about any party.

So when you see me coming, don’t start cringing and yelling “tired old queen!” Don’t even mutter it to your friend. Try instead to think of me as a welcome opportunity for some wit, insight, and Liza talk, as well as a source of information on the more oppressive (yet wilder) days of being gay. We finally woke up and were able to celebrate fat people as “bears,” why not treat older gays as pioneers and wisdom spouters? I won’t go so far as to say “Without me, you’re nothing,” but let’s face it, I definitely helped. 

Illustration by Paul Tuller


July 8 2014 retrospective from July 8 1994

world-aids-day

Here is the story of that week from my journal.If we are to start anywhere, here is the best place.

July 4th 1994

it was a nice day.Josh and I prepared the house for company; we were hosting a “friendly” BBQ in Ft.Lauderdale. Alan and his hubby and other friends from the complex were coming, a veritable who’s who of my social circle back then. It was a great day. We cooked and ate at the picnic table out back – the drag queens in the adjacent area were entertaining, and the conversation was light and campy. The day wore on into night, and fireworks were going to be shot off over Ft.Lauderdale beach. So we piled into the convertible and headed out for the five-minute drive across the bridge to the beach. Parking was a nightmare, but eventually we found a spot to sit in. I remember that things were happy and there were no worries; we were out celebrating the holiday. After the fireworks we came home and imbibed a great deal, and sat down to watch the new film out on video, “Philadelphia” with Tom Hanks. Little did I know how much life would…?

Imitate art that week?

I watched with a certain attention, as if saying to God, “I know what’s coming so please be gentle with me, because I am not sure I am ready to do this or die.” It had been a year since the first time I was tested at “Planned Parenthood” and that test came back negative.

The second test was done in a city hospital lab, and those results came back negative as well, but six months later we found out on the news that the lab had switched our (100 gay men’s) HIV tests with a retirement home lab list. It was freaky when 100 elderly folk got positive HIV tests back from the lab, OOOPS – someone made a HUGE mistake.

Anyway, that was that.

Around 8 o’clock I called my parents to wish them a Happy July 4th; there was another piece of information I needed to get across to them, and this was not going to be very easy, I had been feeling pretty sick since January, and checked 7 of the 9 symptoms off the list from “If these things are happening to you — you might have HIV” wallet card.

The conversation started light and airy, then all the air left my lungs and I could not breathe. And this is how it went

Hello…

Hello…

Pleasant conversation, then I dropped the bomb!

I have some news for you.

Yes, what would that be?

I’ve been feeling a lot sick lately and tomorrow I am going to see a doctor…

I could hear the wheels spinning in their heads. My mother had been working in Home Health Care for a number of years and she had seen what AIDS can do to a human being; couple that with what they were watching on TV and she was having worse case scenario visions in her head!!

They were watching “Philadelphia” at their house at the very moment I called. Suddenly my mother must have looked at the TV and she screamed. Yes, that’s right, I am sick, and I need to go get tested tomorrow, it’s time. My father was listening in on the extension, and I am sure he was beside himself; his fag son was sick and putting two and two together led to only one conclusion.

Josh was sitting in the living room while I had this conversation, he didn’t say a word. I had to prepare him for what was coming; Josh and I would never see the end of the week together. In the end, I would never see Josh again.

After a bout of hysterics, I told them that everything would be all right and I ended the phone call. That night I did not sleep at all, and Josh was all over the place. He was such a quiet and calm young man; we were both young then. We had only been dating for a couple of months by that point. Tomorrow’s test was just a formality; I knew already the answer I would get confirmed in a few days’ time. I did not tell any of my friends that night. Todd and Roy were in Provincetown on holiday. But I would eventually call Todd.

Tuesday July 5th, 1994

I got up this morning, with one item on my list of things to do today, and Josh did not sleep all night and was restless and upset. I got him up and ready for work and I drove him to work, and then proceeded to the clinic where my friend Ken was working.
It was in a little “medical mall” type building.The offices were on the second floor of the suites. I parked the car, put up the top and sat in silence and I prayed. “If there is a God up there, please, whatever happens, I am not ready to die.”

I find it peculiar that certain prayers at certain times remain locked in my memory on certain days of my life. I locked the car and walked the fifty feet across the parking lot and went into the office, where I was asked to take a seat and wait. Do you know what it feels like to be told “hurry up and wait?” I just wanted to get this show on the road.

You see, where I worked, at the nightclub, Ken, my friend, was the nurse for the masses. He worked off hours at the free clinic, he donated time to events, and he did home visits and took care of all of our friends who are now dead, at that time, so he had seen a lot of friends die in the five years we lived in Ft.Lauderdale. He was a very emotional man, who wore his heart on his sleeve and I knew that.

This was a hard week for him; any new diagnosis is hard when you are such close friends and part of a dynamic community where everyone knows each other intimately. We had seen each other over the weekend at the bar; I worked all weekend long. He knew that I was sick; because he was the one I went to when things got dicey. I think he knew as I did, but I think we both wanted things to be different. Alas, they weren’t.

Ken was preparing himself to do what he had to do and keep a straight face and be strong in front of me, you know, be positive about things, and keep up appearances so that I would not crack under the pressure.

It was time. Ken came and got me and escorted me to the lab, and he did not look me in the eye the entire time I sat there, tears falling from his face. It was quick, and painless. Afterwards he sent me off into my day. I signed the papers and went for the door; Ken was right behind me. He walked me to my car, and stopped and he sobbed in my arms. I was relatively calm. You see I was only 26 years old, and many of our friends had been gruesomely sick and died long drawn-out deaths. It was NOT pretty; many of my friends had KS, and cancer and some of my friends lost their minds and many of them died alone, because friends, lovers and family had thrown them out on the streets to die. Ken and I were people who cared for these people from the day they were diagnosed until the day they died. It was sad.

He said that he would call me in a few days and let me know when the tests come back…

And he tried to leave it at that.

I grabbed him and looked into his eyes and I told him,

“I know, and when you call I will know, just by the tone of your voice!”

He kissed me goodbye and I went on with my day.

I don’t remember what I did to pass the time until Josh got off work, but we tried to live normally and not get too upset over things. All I remember is that once the word went around that I had gone for the test, my friends started pulling away. It was the longest week of my life.

Friday July 8th 1994

the week passed by without incident. Thursday I waited impatiently for the phone to ring, and every time it did, I would jump through the roof. Alas, Thursday night I went to bed, knowing that tomorrow it would come.

I got up in the morning and drove Josh to work and returned to the house. It was around 11 am that the phone finally did ring. It was Ken. His voice was shaky on the phone, and all he said was “Jeremy, you need to come to the office, and you need to come now!” Then the line went dead. I got dressed and headed over to the clinic. I already knew the answer, but you never know, right? I parked the car, and said my prayers, and I rested for a moment.

I went up stairs and logged in at the reception desk. Ken was nowhere to be found. After a little while they escorted me into an examination room; it was blue in color, very sterile and cold. I sat down on the table and I waited. A few minutes later the doctor came in, file in hand. I guess he wanted to make sure I was prepared for this.

“Well, no better time than the present,” he said.

Let’s get this over with. “Jeremy, you have AIDS and that’s the bottom line. “

“You are going to die.”

The words rolled off his tongue with the flair and style of a practiced doctor. He sat with me for a few moments while I considered my fate. I think he was hoping that I would say something.

“Thank you for that information,” I replied.

He said that we would need to do a few tests to get started; those labs would show just how compromised my immune system was, and what the next course of action would be.

I did not know how bad things were, but I would soon find out. Back then, who knew from death or life? Drugs were hard to come by, and there surely was no system of treatment in place for me to go to.

He dismissed himself and said that when I was ready, I could leave.

So I gave him a five-minute lead on me, then I gathered up my soul and I walked out the exam room door and out to the car. I looked down from the second floor and Ken was sitting on the hood of my car, waiting for me. When I got down to my car, Ken stood up opened his arms and embraced me; he was sobbing. I stood there; I guess I was in shock. I stood there and held him, while the wave ran over both of us.

I guess I was not prepared to show my cards just yet. We talked for a little while and we set out a plan of action for the next week. I would return to this lab and get some baseline labs drawn to get a more total picture of my immune system and figure out how I was going to proceed. (That’s what eventually happened in the coming days.)

I drove home. I was relatively calm. It’s funny that I was totally prepared to stand up straight and tall and accept my fate, but watching my friends and coworkers and family crack up was very disturbing. People with AIDS were pariahs! You did not touch them, you did not hug them, and you surely did not want your neighbours or family members to know that you socialized with or employed someone who had AIDS, God forbid we infected someone you knew or even transmitted our disease to you by touch or breathing in the same space!

I got home, and I sat in my space and I tried to make some decisions. Who do I tell and when? I don’t remember what I did that day, but I kept myself busy. I called Todd and Roy, and they were on vacation. When Todd got the news, he was sad, and immediately he stepped up to the plate and became the man who would save my life.

That evening, Friday, I went to pick Josh up at work; I forgot to clear the tape deck in the car. The soundtrack to “Philadelphia” was still in there. It was around 5 o’clock when I picked him up; the sun was setting in front of us as we drove east towards the house. I tapped the tape into the deck, and it started to play…

I watched Josh convulse in the front seat, and throw up out the car door. He was hysterical. I did not have to say a word to him, but he knew. When we got home, he went into the bedroom, he packed his duffle bag, without a word, he looked at me, said goodbye, and walked out the door, got into his car, and drove away. That was the last time I saw him.

Whoa, OK, one down … two more to go.

I had some dinner and proceeded to call my parents. You would have thought that an atomic bomb had been dropped on my parents’ house. My mother, having worked in the health field, said to me that I had gotten what I deserved. She and my father had had a week to consider this topic. We discussed my plan of action, and I called a family meeting that would take place in a week’s time. I wanted everyone to be informed and I wanted to know that I was not alone.

That visit did take place. And it did no good to ensure anything but the disdain and ignorance by my family to step up and get involved in taking care of the future. I had made my choice, by doing what I had done, and I got what was coming to me. My father had made that perfectly clear.

I still do not know, to this day, if James was the contact point of HIV. All I do know is that James was a diabetic and was suicidal. That he was sick those last few months that we were together, and I did his blood tests with his pen. I handled the strips several times a day. And that they tell me was the transmission point. I did not know he had AIDS until well after his death, when a friend of mine called me at work one day back in ’93 to tell me he was sick and had AIDS. I guess it took me a few months to “seroconvert.” This is the process the body goes through when it’s finally hit with viral replication and inception of a virus that the immune system cannot fight alone.

Over the next week, I chose my battles wisely, I told my inner circle of friends. The ones on the inside of the AIDS circle (that I was part of at work.) On the other hand there was the other circle of my “social friends” that had partied with us just a few days earlier.They would never set foot in my house ever again, in fact, and it was as if I had walked off the face of the earth, because I never heard from many of them ever again. The stigma of AIDS back then was deadlier then the virus itself.

Todd eventually returned to Ft.Lauderdale. My landlord and his lover were notified.

Interesting that many years later, I was at a Pride Celebration in Ft.Lauderdale, and my landlord’s partner was in a wheelchair and sick with AIDS. When we were friends at the time of my diagnosis, they were a happy couple, with all the promise in the world. I had no idea. I did not lose my apartment, my rent was frozen where it was, and they helped me pay bills and buy food. Within days Todd had returned and he came over and we talked. (God, we spent a lot of time talking!)

I was in self-destruct mode. And the stress of being sick with AIDS took its toll. I drank around the clock, I drank at work, I drank after work, and all I wanted to do was die. Todd did what he could at the beginning to keep me on the straight and narrow. He outlawed drinking while on shift, (I was working in a nightclub then) so that kept me sober while I worked.

I would then head out after we closed to the “after hours” club called the “Copa.” It was down the street from where our club was, and they served alcohol till 6am. So I had at least two to three hours to get inebriated nightly. That lasted until the end of August.

One night, I decided that the pain was too intense that dying was a viable option, seeing that I knew what all of the men I knew went through. I was at the Copa one night, and it was hot and I had drunk myself into a very nice BUZZ. The problem here was, I wanted more, and I got more. That night, I collapsed on the dance floor in an alcoholic overdose of gargantuan proportions.

I woke up in my friend Danny’s arms. The ambulance was there and oxygen was administered. I was still alive. That was the last night I drank. That morning, Danny brought me home and he stayed in my house for a week. I could not go anywhere except work. Todd was worried that I was going to try and kill myself again. So I had babysitters when I was not at work. I hit my first meeting on August the 23rd, 1994. By that time, most of the bar staff was all sober, and three-quarters of us were sick with AIDS.

Todd had a safe rule in effect. We had jobs, and we got paid. If we got sick, and could not come to work, our shifts were covered by someone on staff. We did not get fired for being sick. The bar secured for us medical treatment through the local clinic, where one of our friends named Marie ran a community clinic/drug farm.

Ken came to my house weekly to check on me. My world got A LOT smaller.

Everyone outside my work circle walked away. It took me a long time to get over that. They were punishing me for getting sick. Like I needed any more punishment!

The religious fundamentals were making their cases for eternal damnation for gays and people with AIDS, and speaking out whenever we went in public. Funeral homes stopped giving services to people with AIDS and their families because of religious and social pressure.

Life was difficult, But, I survived, because of the community I lived in and the grace of Almighty God.

In retrospect, “it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.” and if God gave me a choice to go back and repeat any area of my life over again, it would be that exact period of time, and I would not change one single thing.

For years after my diagnosis, my friends died left and right, 162 people. The Names Project Quilt is a reminder of all the lives I touched and was a part of, and all the men whom I knew and loved.

All the men who were CRUCIAL to my survival (our survival) all the gay men who collected money for People with Aids, the drag queens we loved and admired and partied with over the year, the diehard supporters, are all dead now.

So many boys, so many men, cut down in the prime of life. We were foolish then, and uneducated. It was only after the storm hit that the reality start to sink in. When our friends started dying and we realized that “something serious is going on” did the community got smart.

We built infrastructure. We created homes and safe spaces. We cared for those on the streets, we collected money and food. We cooked and fed people, we washed clothes and in some cases we even changed diapers.

A year later, in 1995, I moved back to Miami, after Todd and Roy moved out west to San Francisco. I did not go with them, I was too young, and I had been banking on the fact that my S.O.B father would die and I would take back my mother. Well, he is still alive, all these years later, and I did not get my mother back. Do I have regrets? Sometimes I do. I sometimes think, “what if?” but that’s all they are, thoughts. You know what they say about living in “what ifs right?” So I don’t think about what ifs anymore, just what will be.

From my diagnosis date through the first eight years of my life with HIV/AIDS, I lived in the United States, and I speak about navigating a U.S. program of medical, social and government system. I immigrated to Canada in April of 2002.


Crossing that Invisible Line …

wine statement

Today the sun came out. It was a very pleasant day. The warmth is being received by the millions, grateful for it. Snow is melting and there is even grass peeking out between the swaths of ice and snow that is still piled up at the church. Along with the warmth comes rain … to start washing all the snow, salt and muck away.

And you know what comes after that, right? The BIG CLEAN.

As is usual at the end of winter, all the garbage, paper, cigarette butts, and all the shit that has been trapped in layers of ice and snow over the past six months will have to be cleaned up.

Today my new Passport was delivered. YAY for that.

I departed on time and arrived at the church about 6, with the bells ringing in the bell tower. The Angelus rings every night at 6. We sat a small group. We were missing a few guys, one of my sponsees was getting an award at school and the other was playing the piano for the event. But because I am the only key holder, I could not attend. Booo !!!

We read from the Big Book, There is a Solution, and pages 21 and 22.

Somewhere in there it mentions that “Invisible” line we all cross, when one is not enough, social drinking goes out the window, and we wind up with the obsession of “MORE.”

For some, they don’t even see the line. Or don’t know that it exists.

A particular visual came to mind as we read tonight.

My parents always encouraged us to drink at home. It was a food group in our home. Nobody ever mentioned alcoholism, even though it was right there in front of us, and nobody dared speak those words. God Forbid the neighbors found out that someone was an alcoholic.

They found out. They did know. Nothing was ever said. Not a word.

After work my parents would come home from work and dad would hit the liquor cabinet or the bar, and mom would pop a beer, and usually, work colleagues came with them to commiserate.

My mother worked in healthcare and hospitals. At one point she was working for a company that supplied medications and medical assistance to people who were sick and home bound and those who had just been released from hospital and needed a little extra T.L.C.

Some of those people were gay. Many of them sick with AIDS.

I am a teen ager now. I’ve begun to drink. I was NOT out of the closet yet. But I was well on my way. This story is the trigger that I vowed I would never come out to my parents, Ever …

My mother would come home and talk about those poor “Faggots” who were sick and how sickened she was that she had to enter their homes and give them meds and actually help them survive, when she thought that they should be dead. That happened day in and day out for months, while she had that contract.

It was very sad and sickening.

Everybody would laugh.

I wasn’t laughing. At all.

My shrink, at some point, later on, was speaking about integration into the Gay Community. And the way that that was going to happen, was for me to go to a gay bar, and drink… And wait for the fireworks.

I drank at home, at parties. But this green light meant that I could drink without impunity to what end I wasn’t quite sure. I never drank one drink.

By the time I was of age, I had run through my beer days. Once I discovered the thrill of hard liquor, I never touched another beer again.

I remembered all those derogatory things my parents said about The Jews, The Niggers, The faggots … I was ashamed …

Growing up I had a friend from South East Asia, we were friends for a very long time, AND he would show up later on in sobriety the second time, (he was always not that far away), but I digress.

He had dark skin. But he was not black.

My father decided from the first day he met that boy that he would never allow a dark skin boy to cross our threshold and enter our house, God forbid the neighbors saw a dark skinned boy, (who might have just crossed the tracks) enter a white house.

Hence the bigotry and racial sickness in my family.

I would later come out, far far away, and only when I was diagnosed did I ever speak about it to my family, to my detriment. I was an abomination.

So would you blame me if I began to drink that hatred away?

Anyways … where was I ?

From the get go, There was Never just ONE. One what? One Beer, One Drink? The would be preposterous. How do you just have one and that’s it?

Being a third generation alcoholic, that invisible line had been crossed. I am sure that the women in the family saw that line and watched their spouses walk up to it, look at it, then confidently walk across it, as if it did not exist.

Because any real alcoholic, would never admit they have a problem or admit that they themselves crossed that invisible line.

And that became my life. The rest they say is history.

I suffer from the obsession of More. In many other areas of my life, and it has taken me almost 13 years to learn that I don’t need MORE.

I am good with what I have. I don’t drink, well, I didn’t drink today, as my sponsor would remind me, so that’s a good thing.

All is well in my world.

More to come, stay tuned …


Sunday Sundries … Go Somewhere else, You Aren’t Welcome Here !

san francisco gay pride 2011 aids sfaf

It snowed last night. There is a lot of snow piled up all over the core. Many are hoping that this was the last round for the season. In the past we have had snow all the way into May. The temps will moderate and rise over the next few days, so I am not sure they will spare the expense to clean it up off the streets.

It was a quiet weekend.

I departed on time and when I got to the church, there was three feet of snow piled up in front of the church doors, covering the stoop and out into the walkway. The shovel was inside the door, and I had to get the door opened to get it, which took some serious pulling and shoving a door barricaded by snow. It took me a couple of passes to remove all the snow, which is piled up at least three feet on either side of the doors, where the bushes are covered with ice and snow.

It is the last Sunday of the month, and we sat a fair number which was good. Several of my friends whom I haven’t seen in a while came and that was a good sign. We read from the Twelve and Twelve and Tradition Three …

“The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.”

Many talked about finding similarity when they got here, and over time realized that they were not that different from their fellows. Secondly, the word God popped up in conversation. Step Three and Tradition Three kind of go hand in hand.

Every time we read this tradition I zone in one one specific passage from the reading:

“We were resolved to admit nobody to A.A. but that hypothetical class of people we termed ‘pure alcoholics.’ Except for their guzzling, and the unfortunate results thereof, they could have no other complications. So beggars, tramps, asylum inmates, prisoners, queers, plain crackpots, and fallen women were definitely OUT. Yes sir, we’d cater only to pure and respectable alcoholics!

Emphasis added …

The first time I got sober, was in an LGBT room catering to gay sober folks. It was not a cake walk, as I have shared before that newcomers were regarded as race horses that should be bet on to see who would go back out and drink first.

I stayed sober, in spite of them, and on my first anniversary, I told the crowd to go fuck themselves. In my second year of sobriety, I moved from Fort Lauderdale to Miami. I was still counting the days to my death date doctors had given me when I got sober. I was on the bubble, to say the least.

I got connected to a club room in South Miami, (The Coral Room). The room was open all day and hosted meetings all day and night. Around the second year of sobriety, someone asked me to speak at a speaker meeting. It would be the first time I had ever spoken at a meeting in sobriety.

The room was packed. At least more than a hundred were in the room. And I got up to the podium and began to speak. Getting around to my diagnosis and my living with AIDS came up and as I started this phase of my share, all the men got up and left the room and went outside to wait until I was finished speaking.

At the end of the meeting I went outside and one of the men stepped up and said to me

“We don’t support or condone people like you, so please go somewhere else to get sober!” Needless to say I was floored.

I remained at that room for another two years, but I went to other meetings where I felt some sense of belonging. I pulled back, I stopped reading the book, I did not have a sponsor AND I trusted no one. Which directly led to my slip.

I went out on my fourth anniversary. Following all the men who went out at the four year mark. When I came back, I was on the beach, and went to Sober on South Beach for my return. They welcomed me and did not judge me.

A few months later, I ended up here in Montreal. I was five months sober the second time, and I was hitting different meetings all over the city.

Here in Montreal there are invisible lines drawn between the different Burroughs, and sections of the city. For the most part, people who live in one section of town, never cross that boundary to go to other meetings in other parts of town.

So one night I was in the West End. And hit a Friday night meeting. I was new in town, Did not know anyone and I hit this particular meeting. At first they welcomed me and then drilled me with twenty questions. As we talked they got an idea of my situation and my status.

Once again I heard those words … “We don’t condone people like you, please go somewhere else to get sober, you aren’t welcome here!”

That is something you don’t really hear about. People being told that they are not welcome and to go somewhere else. Especially if a particular group follows the traditions.

I never went to that meeting again, and for many years I never went to NDG for a meeting for a long time. On my tenth anniversary I spoke at a West End meeting and I told this story. People were shocked but some were not. This only solidified for me the fact that there are sick people in the world, and I should stay away from them. I haven’t spoken at a meeting since that night.

Tonight we read Tradition Three, and I shared this story once again. Many of the old timers at the Sunday meeting have never heard me tell that story before. We are a welcoming meeting. There are several LGBT folks at the meeting.

The only requirement for membership is a desire to Stop Drinking.

One of my sponsees was sitting right next to me, he was moved.

This lesson runs deep, because we must treat everyone who comes in the door kindly, compassionately, and with care. If we judge and are careless with our words, they may leave and never come back again.

No matter who you are, what age you are, what orientation you are, man, woman, boy or girl, everyone is welcome at our meetings, well welcome at ALL the meetings I go to.

There are assholes here and there. Sick alcoholics who can’t see past their own prejudices. Sadly, that is part of the times.

We transcend those barriers in many meetings, and that is a good thing.

It was a good night. Jobs are taken for the month of April. Painless…

Everybody checked in, everyone is well and good to go.

More to come, stay tuned …


Some Days I Feel like This …

tumblr_libzh0GjqF1qeohomo1_500

There are some days, like today, where this image is appropriate.

One day the sun comes out, the next, it is shrouded in cloud.

One day it is cold, the next a bit warmer, and tonight going into tomorrow calls for rain, only for 12 to 20 hours we will rise above zero, enough to give us rain, then it is back down into minuses.

More snow will fall the middle of next week.

I got up early today after having a dream about Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge. It was a sweet dream, in the dream we were very close.

Then I woke up … I hate when that happens !!!

Hubby has left the job that was such a godsend, and paid the bills, because not all political aspirations can succeed. So he is home with me during the day, and I am getting used to him being here when I have my daily routine and ritual. Now that has to run with him present.

I am two steps away from completing my passport application. One, I need photos and Two, I see my guarantor on Monday for lunch.

Had my old passport NOT been so expired more than a year, I could have used the One Click form which was much easier to complete. I had to use the old method, the one where you have to jump through several circus hoops and get all kinds of signatures and legal proof of cit and recommendations and a legal guarantor.

The ease of which this has come to completion is a reminder that on any given day, I get what I need. And that I have all the people I need in my life. My cup is filled.

Tonight I purposely left later than usual, because of the fact that particular people are setting up, that I try not to interact with. But from point to point took 40 minutes. I arrived first, besides the set up guy.

He was almost finished. And we had 45 minutes to wait for the meeting to start. It is a good thing that my sponsor tells me to be kind and to be wary and to do the right thing in all situations. It was not as intense as I was fearing. Since I held out my hand it was empowering and kindness in action.

Today’s Topic, “Daily Acceptance.”

I cannot blame anyone else for the fact that I am an alcoholic. I don’t ever remember pouring liquor down my throat in an act of defiance or anger.

The old adage …”You hurt me so I’ll show you, I’ll hurt me!”

In the end my drinking was all self centered. All I cared about were the magical qualities that the drink was supposed to give me, but didn’t. It wasn’t about others, it was all about me.

On a daily basis, we have a daily reprieve, based on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake, so why tonight, am I sitting in the pity pot bemoaning what I don’t have?

One of my friends sitting next to me tonight, after I spoke, tilted his head over towards me and said “well, in this case the word is Fuck them.”

Succinct.

Blood is not thicker than water.

Sometimes we must build the family we need.

And in the rooms, as well as my tight social circle, I have everyone I need.

There is that small space in my heart that breaks because there are living human beings in this world bound by blood, who want nothing to do with me. And like a good alcoholic, I want to make it all better. And no amount of words or energy I put into these thoughts, is wasted time and energy.

Determining long ago that I would never become my father, or treat people the way he did all the time I was growing up, All those folks he alienated, I worked so hard at making it better behind his back.

I have those people in my life, who are active and supportive.

How can one live with themselves knowing that you hate so deeply?

I just cannot understand, 46 years now, and I still don’t get it.

I may ask the questions of God, and to this day he is mum, on the subject.

So my friends are right – Fuck Them.

It was a very quick ride home. The bus came right away, the trains came one after another, and in a flash I was back in my burg.

I got to see my friends. What a blessing.

I have everything that I need. So some gratitude.

I don’t need anything more than what I have in my yard.

Life is good.

More to come, stay tuned …

 


Robert Donald Logue

Logue_Robert_D_DOB_1943

I want to share a story with you tonight. A life story, of a man I never knew, but he was the man my father named me after, the day I was born on July 31, 1967.

He looks so much like my father did at that age. It is uncanny !!!

.

Robert and my father fought in Viet Nam together. Robert was killed and my father survived. My father brought the ghost of the war home with himself, and with the family he would later create, the abuse of war became clear.
.
I visited this man at the Viet Nam War Memorial in Washington D.C. in my teen age years. I knew where he was engraved. I heard the stories, but there was just something missing from the picture. My father created a shrine in his Sarasota home to this dead man. A connection I could never pin down as somewhat .. homoerotic …
.
When you fight in war, your comrades are family and you go above and beyond to care for them and make sure they survive.
.
Alas, Robert was killed.
.
My father gave me his name. I guess he thought that he would honor his dead friend with his name going to his first born son. That honor only lasted a short time.
.
For many years, my father would chase me through the house with bats, axes and anything else he could find to hit me with, saying that I was a mistake and should never have been born. It was a good thing that my grandmothers, and my aunt stood in between him and me several times because he surely would have killed me as a child. My mother never stood in the way or told him to stop. Because if she did he would go after her worse, and it was his rule that she never engage a beating …
.
In my childhood I figured out who I was, and what I would become, far younger than when I learned what those words meant.
.
Gay … Homosexual.
.
I studied it, I read about it, from the various library my father had collected and left around the house for me to read, including the library that was in the garage for me to find.
.
I knew I was different.
.
I always said to myself that I always wanted to be like my father and that if it was good for him THEN it was good for me.
.
I was like him.
.
However, he thought I was an ABOMINATION and that I was a MISTAKE and should never have been born.
.
Gay was unacceptable in our house.
.
A good Catholic family could have no room for a gay son.
.
Yet my father had Gay secrets in the house, by his hand and his decision.
.
For all the years I was living under his roof he would abuse me heavily.
.
My father was an alcoholic. It was a family disease.
.
Alcoholism IS a family disease.
.
He would go after my mother and my brother and I would invariably egg him on to hit me and not them. Was that chivalry?
.
I played the organ, and quite well. I had achieved new heights in my musical repertoire. Until the night my father took my organ bench and THREW it at my MOTHER.
.
That night I said to my father that after that alcoholic episode I would NEVER play another note as long as I lived and I never touched another organ in my lifetime.
.
When I was introduced to gay men in the form of Elton and Garcia at my step mothers, home over dinner parties, my father got more brutal with his abuse. It got worse.
.
I spent more time living at my friends homes than I did in my own to get away from my father and his abuse.
.
I never came out to my father. I just moved away to be gay.
.
A decision that dogs me to this day because when I moved away I was woefully UNPREPARED for the world at large. I made mistake after mistake. I drank my money and fucked over my father by getting my car repossessed. He paid off the dealer and I got the car back, but I know my father never forgot my lapse in judgment.
.
When I was diagnosed with AIDS, I called a family meeting. And rallied the troops to make sure I had support.
.
I did not get it.
.
My father would say that I GOT WHAT WAS COMING TO ME AND THAT I SHOULD DIE BECAUSE I WAS A FAG !!!
.
At a family Christmas dinner, my mother had a young friend in a neighbor that took care of her and took care of the house and the land while my father was about his work out of town.
.
That weekend I shopped and bought Chris cd’s and gifts out of thanks. On the way home we delivered these things to his house not far up the block.
.
My mother had a heart attack and accused me of many things.
.
That night at dinner, in front of guests, my father sat me at a card table separate from the guests, with plastic plates, forks and cups because he did not want me using his utensils, and he HUMILIATED ME in front of a house full of people.
.
The next day the family invited me out on their boat because they felt so bad for me. I never saw them again after that holiday, and it was the last holiday I ever went home to visit family.
.
My father continued to come visit me in Miami when I was so sick. He would demean me and belittle me. And the physical abuse he heaped upon me as a child became emotional abuse.
.
He never had a good word to say to me, so much that one night on the way home from dinner, he was berating me in the car, and I asked him to stop the car on the highway and I got out of the car on the highway and walked all the way home and I said to him to never come visit me again.
.
On my thirtieth birthday I was sick. I was sure I was going to die. I used to watch Touched by an Angel. On that one night I was sitting watching tv and I had my Bible and a Pearl Jam cd in the other hand and the world changed and I heard the voice of God…
.
It became clear what I was going to do.
.
“Jeremy’s spoken … from my bible and that cd.”
.
I called legal aide and set forth to change my name from Robert Kalan to Jeremiah Andrews. Jeremiah was the beginning and Andrew would come get me when I died, hence Andrews.
.
I sent that name change decree to my parents. I had once again, nailed another nail in my father’s casket, so to speak.
.
I had dishonored Robert and I had dishonored my father.
.
And the sacrifice that has existed within me from the day that I was born. I killed that part of me that for so many years, my father wanted dead by his own hand.
.
I got sober on August 23rd, 1994. And stay sober for four years. I went out and got drunk and high and regained sobriety on December 9th 2001.
.
I was working in a bar as a light man on New Years Night 2000/2001.
.
I worked until 9 am that next morning, January 1st, 2001.
.
I got home and got into bed. My phone rang and it was my mother. Little did I know that my parents were in Miami for a weeks time and were on their way back to Sarasota that morning and wanted to stop by and see me.
.
I had a lump of cash in my wallet. From my work shift.
.
When they arrived I offered to take us all out for breakfast so we could spend time together. My father said NO that he was in a hurry and gave me twenty minutes … TWENTY MINUTES… to visit with my mother.
.
We walked around the block, I don’t remember what we said, but my father waited in the car with the car RUNNING …
.
She got back in the car and that was the last time I saw my mother.
.
I moved to Canada in April of 2002. I had really dishonored my father by leaving the country of my birth to follow my maternal heritage. I became a Canadian Citizen in February of 2003.
.
I nailed a further nail in my father’s coffin.
.
My father married a woman and told her the rules. It was by his hand she was alive and that he would dictate the rules of marriage and life. He had knocked her up before marriage, and in those days that was tantamount to sin. So he was forced to marry her. We wonder what he would have done, had he not been forced to marry, hence, I was the mistake that should never have been born! Lies were told in a child’s life. Never LIE to your CHILDREN because one day those lies will come up and woe to you who said those lies, because they may one day come back to bite you in the ASS… One of those lies led to my Citizenship. They at least did one thing for me in a good way …
.
The last thing my mother said to me after a year of trying to keep up communications with Sarasota was this … “IF YOUR FATHER OR MYSELF DIE, NO ONE WILL CALL YOU AND YOU WILL NEVER KNOW WHERE WE ARE BURIED ….”
.
That was the last conversation I had with my mother more than 12 years ago.
.
Fuck me for living …

Twas the Night Before Christmas

pope-francis-gives-first-angelus-20130317-094939-992 L'Osservatore Romano).

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis lauded Jesus’ humble beginning as a poor and vulnerable baby as he celebrated his first Christmas Eve Mass as pontiff Tuesday in St. Peter’s Basilica.

.

Francis has dedicated much of his nine-month-old papacy to drawing attention to the plight of the poor, of children, and other vulnerable members of society.

.
The bells of St. Peter’s rang as Francis, who turned 77 a week ago, walked briskly up the main aisle of the basilica for the ceremony, which began Tuesday 2 1/2 hours before midnight.
.
Keeping with the theme of humility he has set for his new papacy, Francis carried the statue instead of an aide, and kissed a knee of the figure of the newly born Jesus.The occasional wail of babies in the basilica contrasted at times with the sweet voices of the choir.
.
The Argentine-born pope has also encouraged his flock to be a joyful church, and he called Jesus’ “the light who brightens the darkness.”
.

In the world’s history and our own personal history, Francis said, “there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. ” He added “if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us.”

.

At the Vatican during the homily, Francis quoted the Apostle John, saying “‘whoever hates his brother is in the darkness”‘ and “‘does not know the way to go, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”‘

*** *** *** *** ***

Wow, Pope Francis really knows how to hit it hard. I so needed to read this passage reported from his first Christmas Eve Mass.

“whoever hates his brother is in the darkness… Because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

So true So true…

It is the Holiday before the Holiday. And as usual, traveling in the night was problematic. There were more buses going East, than buses going West. So on the way out we waited and waited …

We sat a humble group of folks, who came out of respect for the meeting and also, just for the chance to spend time with each other, before we all wandered off to fulfill family obligations this Christmas Eve.

The chair double dipped tonight, on a topic that, for many, is on the front of many brains during these days, Anger and Resentment.

“Anger is the dubious luxury of normal men, but for us alcoholics it is poison.”

I have been a bit angry and resentful.

The one thing I pray for every year, has not come to pass for me, again this year. And they say that if you pray for something, you must take the next action, thereby giving God an IN to help along that which you pray for.

I opened the holidays with a great effort, out of kindness and love. I took great pains to act in kindness, and once again, it was ignored.

Fuck me …

With all that is going on in the world, the lack of respect of each other from certain celebrity and certain family and politicians, is unnerving and upsetting.

And this week I reached a tipping point.

I culled my twitter account, now only including a handful of folks I want to follow. It bothers me to high heaven, the lengths some will go to denigrate and disrespect other human beings just because we are gay.

I am sick to death of politics.

I am sick of reading, watching, and focusing on people who do nothing but drink, get drunk, and fall down. So I have culled all those folks off my social media platforms. Maybe I am getting old in sobriety, but I just can’t stomach folks who drink alcoholically. Over and Over and Over … And think it is good video to watch on a daily basis.

The same went for Facebook. The only reason I keep it open is to stay in touch with friends here and there. I have culled all that shit that has gone too far and makes we want to puke.

We are Here, We are Queer, Get Used to It.

For Fuck sake …

God damn the celebrity with vile and unacceptable word of condemnation. And fuck the politicians who support them, and the media who give them time on their front pages and on news casts.

God Damn them all to hell.

It’s Christmas for Fuck Sake. Can’t we all get along for one day?

No, that would be too fucking difficult.

Thank the Baby Jesus I live up here, above the Northern Border.

I don’t give a shit about U.S. politics, celebrity with foul mouths, and all those people who rent them free space, because of the First Amendment.

Bullshit … Take them fuckers off the air for good.

Read your God Damned Bibles and try for some compassion and love.

And Jesus Wept !!!

It was good to see my friends. It is the one space on a regular basis that I get to spend time with people I care about and who care about me.

Tomorrow is Christmas. We shall cook and serve others.

I was promised a good story to read after presents tomorrow, so YAY for that. Thanks to a good friend.

I hope you all have a blessed Christmas filled with Light, Joy and Love.

More to come, stay tuned …


The Lesson about Approval – Let us revisit shall we

we_were_here_full_size_wb

The past is but a memory and all those memories I want to remember today must be written down. Trying to recall certain memories take more strength and brain power. There are periods of time that have faded from my memory, looking at pictures from my past is difficult because in many of them I am young, before I began to suffer from drugs and alcohol and those snap shots of life tell me about a time before the suffering began.

But the time that stands out in my head most importantly was all the years I spent learning to live and learning about life under the sharp eyes of my Master Todd. Those years at the Stud were very instructive and some of them were downright painful. But I had to learn these lessons or else I would fail at life.

This is where you suspend your morals and think outside the box because the rest of this story falls under the “leather Speak” portion of my story telling. You can stop here or keep reading. but be warned … i move from one space to another quite easily….

For every action and chore ended with a lesson about why I had to do that specific action or chore. It all had to do with some aspect of my life and how I would cope with that specific issue had it arisen later on in my life. If that lesson had to do directly with myself or how I would get along with others and also how possibly others could and probably would treat me. You never knew if you had good people or bad people in your life until it was too late. Sometimes you had to take what you got, and then other times you could pick and choose who would be in your life.

Where we worked – we were hand picked. The entire staff was built from the ground up and we all became family over the fourteen day “build” when we were building the bar from the ground up. We all worked day and night, sometimes without sleep. I paid my dues and proved myself worthy to be part of the team by picking up glasses and bottles and cleaning up after people, through blood sweat and tears I earned my place.

But it was all joy in the beginning. I would hold off on my own tragedy for a while those first few months working at the Stud. I faced my own demons and issues with others in my life. And I was a crash and burn alcoholic by the time that ended. I was drinking myself sick night after night because of what was going on in my life, I tried to drink away the pain.

I had to face my diagnosis with courage. I had my Master who listened to me speak, who cradled my head on his chest as I cried. There was nothing I wouldn’t do for him. But I was still a drunk, I had to complete my journey to death with the drink. And that is what happened.

Then one day I was told a piece of information that I had to take to heart and use every day from that point on. You have a life outside the bar, and you have a life inside this building. What you carry to the door stays at the door when you cross the threshold. Do not bring it in here with you. Leave it outside.

You come to work and you do what you are told without question. Do you understand?

Yes, Sir.

Every night there was something new to be learned. Every week I battled with my demons getting sober and dealing with the cascade of emotions coming from inside of myself. I just did not know what to do with them.

With every shift I worked hand over fist. It was some of the hardest times of my life. I would work happy hour from 5 to 8 p.m. by myself. At eight I would go into the kitchen to change up for the night shift. I was expected to prepare all the wells with beer, ice, liquor, fruit and cups. Then at 8 the bells would ring and the music would begin in the dance hall and the bar would open.

I worked like a dog. Throwing trash, filling buckets of ice, cases of beer and truck a shitload of trash out to the bin every night. And every time I completed a task I went looking for approval. I keep hitting lower case (i’s) i’m in bottom space.

You got to know what that means to understand the speak.

i would seek the approval from my Master to make sure i did something right. And it went on like that for a long time. Todd had them blue eyes like Jesus, that could bore into you from across the room. All i had to do was look at him and i would know what he was saying without a single word. But that was not the end of that. If he got angry his eyes would turn a stormy grey. You knew whether or not to speak to him by the shade of his eyes.

All it took was one look.

At some point, Todd caught on to what i was seeking. and he decided to teach me one of the hardest lessons i ever had to endure, which comes up as the one day that i would return to if i had the chance. i would come on shift and enter the office, kneel and i would get my marching orders for the night. i knew everything that had to be done for a particular shift. i was under Todd’s protection and guidance.

So the work began and the shift would come and go, and Todd and i had a special relationship of love and commitment. i needed him and he knew that i needed him in ways that no mere man would ever need another human being. And i worked for every word of praise and support that i could get. i thrived on that instant gratification. but that would end very quickly.

At one point, Todd took a tack, and did not tell me what was coming next. So i would get to work and work through my shift and the night would come and go, we had the best bar service team that ever was between Kevin, Tom and myself.

At the end of the night i would gather with the rest of the folks in the bar and the first night came as a shock, Todd would not look at me nor would he say a word to me. And that broke my heart. i would go home and sob. If you knew where i was in my head at that time of life, being ignored was detrimental.

The second night i would get to shift and Roy would give me my orders for the night, it was strange that Todd would not give me a word and that went on for days and nights. i knew he was watching me from the sidelines and i was not going to fail at my tasks, i would rather die than be told i did something wrong.

The third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh nights would come in succession and i would work through my tears and the pain that i was living through. This period of time came to pass not long after i was diagnosed.

i was working through all the things that had to be done. And nobody knew what was going on with Todd and myself except Roy. i don’t know if you know what it feels like to work day and night and know that the man you love is ignoring you and you don’t know why, but to complain was not my place. i had to take it like a man and do what i was told to do, no matter what came up. unless i was going to die or something i was never to complain, and i did a lot of complaining until i was back slapped into submission.

Finally the twelfth night came up. I don’t remember what day it was or what date it was, all i know is that i was wearing thin on being ignored by the man who meant everything to me. i would catch him watching me from across the room on several occasions but as soon as he noticed i was watching him watch me he would change tacks.

The shift came to an end and i was besides myself. i had gone twelve nights in a row working like a dog doing everything that i was told to do by any of the bar staff at any hour of the night. To disrespect someone in the bar was to disrespect my Master. That community saved my life and every drop of sweat and tears that i shed were worth every minute of it.

Todd called me into the office and i knelt before him, my head was hanging and i was sobbing. Whenever i would go into the office for shift start my role was boy and i knew my place so on my knees was where i would start.

He knew that i was in pain. He watched me struggle for those twelve nights. It was the harshest lesson he ever taught me. He got up and came round the desk and grabbed my chin with his big hand and raised my eyes to his, i was still sobbing…

“Well Done Little One …”

Those four words were gold.

i broke down and cried like a baby. He hugged me and held me while i cried. i don’t remember how long that lasted but the next thing he said was this …

“do you know why you were taught this lesson? no Sir. Sometimes we seek approval for things that we do and sometime later on in your life you might go to work for someone else who may treat you like shit.”

They may not appreciate the work you do and they may ignore you or treat you less than.

After that teaching, i never sought another word of praise from Todd ever again. i did my work and was proud to have work and a place to call home. The bar remained open for another sweep of seasons and we were all still alive. But people were dying left and right. i worked every night with pride in my heart and love on my lips. You’d have to know something about Leather Pride to understand this aspect of my life and why it was so important to my life.

Just reading this brings tears to my eyes …


Mourning Death and Dying – Let’s revisit shall we

we_were_here_full_size_wb

Mourning, Death and Dying

One of the areas that set us apart from the healthy man or woman on the street is that when we are diagnosed, we are faced with the fact that this disease just might kill us, Which brings me to the following point, death and dying.

After I had been diagnosed in 1994, the doctors told me that I had 18 months, tops to live, so I better take care of what I needed to and enjoy the time I had left, then I was dismissed to do that. What did I know about death and dying? Not a thing.

I look back now and I can see why this point is so important to stress. When you are diagnosed with a terminal disease, well now, HIV and AIDS has moved from the position of a death sentence to a possible long term management project for living. That does not mean that this is any less important.

Death and dying is not dinner or coffee table discussion, until it directly affects someone or a family member by any degree of separation. I had an opportunity to study death and dying in a university class setting my first year at Concordia University, and my HIV was one of the topics raised in class because I was the token HIV positive student.

One thing that sets the normal human apart from those of us who have been diagnosed with a terminal disease is this, they do not have to think about their mortality until the end of their lives, we have to deal with it from the day we are diagnosed. Once the words are passed to you that you have HIV or AIDS, your life has just changed forever. Nothing will ever be the same. The mantle of responsibility for living has just been laid on your shoulders. Our normal notion of living a rich and full life has eternally changed. What you do with that knowledge is incredibly important.

When we experience a death in our family, or when friends pass on, we either stuff the experience or deny the feelings of grief, or we deal with grief in the ways that so many writers over time have talked about. Unlike the death of someone we know or love, mourning them is different than mourning your own life and death. This idea of the mourning process became important to me “after the fact” because I did not have this tool in the beginning. I could not articulate what I was going through, because I did not have proper education to do so.

Here is the idea, in order to process where you are going, you must first look at where you came from. Looking back at the path you are walking is important because it illustrates two very important ideas, one, that you have traveled so far already and that there are miles to go before you finish your journey. And you do know they say that “It is not about the destination that we should be concerned with, but it is ALL about the journey.”

Each stage of the “journey” is not something you rush through to complete in one weeks time, but I encourage you to give it some thought. Mourning ones own mortality is a totally different experience, as I said from mourning the loss of someone we knew or loved.

There are 5 stages in the grieving process, and they are:

  1. Anger
  2. Denial
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. and Acceptance

We have this list of stages, but these emotions come in various different orders when one is faced with the words “you are going to die!” I know for myself that I did not get angry at first. It was more like utter fear. I froze for a long time, I had no idea how to feel or how to express it, and there were not many wise men or women to teach me about mourning, and so what did I do? I drank, and drank and drank so that there would not be any “feeling.” I was depressed for months in the beginning, then I got angry, and I stayed angry for a long time, but in hindsight that negative anger did me no good, until I learned how to take that anger and point it in a positive direction to help me deal with what I was facing.

Holding on to negative anger about ourselves or the past or where we are or other people is only destructive and serves no purpose but to bring us down and to make us miserable. This was an incredibly helpful tool which I use even to this day.

We all have issues to deal with in our lives, and right now I am concerned with giving you some necessary tools to help you cope with things from here on out. Had someone told me these things in the first few weeks after my diagnosis, I would not have wasted so much time spinning my wheels, “staying crazy in my head.” Into my head is not a place I like to visit very often and not alone or without a hardhat. The only thing negative anger did was to keep me focused in my head, and I could not see what was in front of me, I was blinded by my anger. And that anger directed negatively almost killed me.

There was no denying the very real fact that I was going to die. I had a daily reminder of that for months. I thought I had been prepared for this, I was wrong. The stampede of emotions came on so fast, all at once, that it seemed like a tidal wave hit my beach and I was floundering in water that was too deep for me to hold my head above the water.

I did not shed a single tear in the beginning, because as a young person in my family, we were taught that “feeling” was not something we did at all. Those emotions never leave us, eh? They follow us, through the rest of our lives. It is your job to learn how to manage them properly.

 

You see, all the issues that we had with self and family prior to our diagnosis are only magnified and the past will directly affect how we deal with our own personal and medical issues in the present and if you don’t get a handle on these truths now, they will affect how you deal with your medical diagnosis and life in the future.

Time is linear and everything that happened to us earlier on in our lives stays with us, no matter how hard we work to either stuff or forget those memories. I have learned in as many years that if you don’t deal with your baggage and if you let it pile up you will be sitting in a therapist’s office until you die.

That’s why it is important to learn that one should not create memories for yourself that you are going to spend the rest of your life trying to forget. Issues from childhood are a major theme in the writings of many people I know today. So let me say this to you, whatever choices your parents made when we were children, we NOT our choices, were they? Everyone has choices, so issues of the past will follow you forward, and if you had not dealt with them before, they will still exist after a diagnosis.

It took me years to figure this out and work on what needed to be worked through. Nobody escapes their childhood, or the sins our parents committed. I know very few adults in my life these days who did not escape having issues with their pasts. It is what you do with those memories and how you choose to let them affect your future that is the key to successful living.

I guess you could say that my addiction to drugs and alcohol was the first sign that I was and had been in denial for a long time, because there was not going to be anyone or anything that would stand in between me and my using. If there was something going on in my life, in order to deal with it, I had to drink and drug that was a very key problem from much earlier in my life.

For that first eighteen months of that portion of my life, I bargained with God to let me live, even though at the same time I was trying to kill myself with drugs and alcohol. I was walking a very fine line between life and the abyss. I didn’t want to die, I was still so young, and I had not even begun to live yet. For the last 5 years I had been on the razors edge. I got involved in relationships that ended terribly, I was broke, James was dead and I was trying to find myself. The one good point to remember here, I had a safe job, in a safe space, with all the safety I needed to help me live.

I was in self destruct mode in those days. A few of my friends had gotten clean and sober before I did in August of 1994. The dominoes were falling in a specific order, my boss had to step in and order me to help myself, and he forced me to deal with what I was going through after James’ death. Now a year later he knew that I was in trouble and he did not want me to die. I got help, I got sober and I started to climb uphill, and I must tell you that it was the most painful and in the same vein, the most wonderful period of my life.

If I could have one thing before I died, it would be a second run through this two year period of my life, not for the bad parts but to relive the good ones.

I have battled depression since well before I was diagnosed, and it is a manageable condition that is part of my daily life. There were times that I felt like I was drowning in misery and negative thought. I began to see a shrink just after my move back to Miami in 1995, and I have been on a few depression medical regimens. They ploughed me with all kinds of pills in those first few years, it was insane.

I had to come to a point that I wanted to deal with my personal issues and not just take a pill and “voila” those issues that were in the front of my brain would magically disappear! wrong!

There is not a pill or treatment on earth that will remove issues or memories from our hearts and minds. And I do not condone nor believe in electro shock therapy. For so many years all I did to escape the present and run from the past was to drink and drug. So long as I stayed in the fog, those issues would be masked and kept in the dark. But what I had to do was a three fold decision.

I had to decide that I wanted to live

  1. I had to stop using and drinking and
  2. I had to build up the courage to look at the past and deal with it

Those decisions did not come immediately and it took a long time to build up my self esteem and courage to look at what was bothering me in the present and what issues were dogging me from the past. I have to tell you that many of my problems in my life stemmed from the abuse that was heaped on me as a child and young adult. From the age of 26 through my present age of 38, I have worked on dealing with my past like an adult. And that is no small feat, growing up for me has been a trial and error journey of faith, prayer and hope.

Finally, we look at Acceptance. They say, in the program that “Acceptance is the key to all of my problems.” It has taken me a very long time to work on acceptance, because this key step has been a constant companion in my life. Accepting that I was going to die was an extremely bitter pill to swallow, seeing that I had no family to walk with me to the gates of hell. I mean, that’s where they would have walked me, not to heavens gates.

Getting sober in August of 1994 helped me greatly. The drawback of getting sober brought with it its own pressures. Have you ever tried to get sober in a “gay room” of alcoholics anonymous? Holy shit, queens are vicious when it comes to competition. I had to manage my sobriety, keep up a positive outlook on my life, I had to work to make a living and I had to deal with all the emotional issues that were looking me in the face, and I have to tell you that it was NOT easy by any stretch of the imagination.

My job was secure and my coworkers, my boss and his partner became the family I needed to help me begin to start rebuilding my life, because I had lost a lot in the preceding years physically and emotionally. We were all part of a very tight bar staff at a Levi Leather Bar called the Stud, in Ft. Lauderdale circa 1992-1995. It was the most awesome place to work, and I had the best time.

One day at a time, I walked, I reached the eighteen month mark and I was still breathing on the 560th day. Ok, I lived past my first “death date.” What the hell was I supposed to do now? I had no contingency plan set up in case I lived. I was totally prepared to die. I had accepted my fate and I was going to walk off the living plane with my head held high. From that day forward I have not looked back.

The happy bar existence was coming to a close as 1995, was passing us by, and by that summer it was apparent that things were not working out. The bar owner had, by then, lost his partner, many of our customers and patrons were dead, people and personalities were starting to clash. It had been decided by some that Todd and his partner were to be forced out of the bar, against all of our wishes and hopes. It was a very trying time for me, because if Todd and Roy had left, I was no longer safe and neither was my job. Alas, finally that day came, where Todd and Roy were forced out the door as I watched his friend Ray take control of the bar, and get rid of the one man who helped me and many other successfully fight this disease and live hopeful and prosperous lives.

Soon after Todd and Roy’s departure, we dismantled his house and they packed up the U Haul and left for the bright lights and big city of San Francisco, where they currently live. Many of the bar staff who worked at the stud made the westward journey. I was the one who stayed in the city. I was too young to make a leap that far away from the only place and life I had ever known. The other reason that I stayed in Florida was because I had hoped my father would drop dead sometime soon, I had spent many a night praying for him to drop dead, so that I could reclaim my mother and have her to myself for a few years before I died. I hated my father for many years, but like they say, “things change” and they did for me, I worked through that hatred, and now all I feel is indifference.

Here I had lost my mentor, father and guide. That broke my heart, and I became a holy terror at the bar, my anger knew no bounds, and I was out for total revenge and annihilation of the man who caused this rift in my life. This was a personal affront, and was going to stop at nothing to make him pay. I played the game for a few months, until I got a referral for a job in Miami come Labour Day 1995. I went down for a weekend to interview for a job at another bar, “playing lights.” By that time I was multitasking at the Stud. I was a really great light man. My knowledge of music from an earlier stage in my life helped me along in the profession that I had chosen for that period of my life.

Acceptance! I hated acceptance.

I had lost the stability and structure that I so badly needed during those first years. Now I was on my own. I had to make things work. I was literally “on my own.” I was sober now a little more than a year, I was moving to another city, I was starting a new job, and I had to find medical assistance to stay alive. Miami had begun to build infrastructure to help those who were sick with HIV and AIDS.

I made a few inquiries and visited the Mercy Hospital Immune Deficiency Assistance office. This interview was my saving grace. Every need that I had from that point on was taken care of through this office. I was forced to accept where I was in my life, and I had to make it work for me. I was forced to grow up again. Living with HIV is continual growth process. As you mature you learn and as you learn you evolve. Living with HIV / AIDS is not in any sense a “cake walk.”

It was not easy, but I had an excellent team of people and doctors who helped me along the way.

Acceptance is a daily practice. It comes over time and will make sense the more you work on it, choosing to live, is the first step in the art of acceptance.


The Diagnosis of AIDS – Let’s revisit shall we

we_were_here_full_size_wb

Here is the story of that week from my journal. If we are to start anywhere, here is the best place.

July 4th 1994

it was a nice day. Josh and I prepared the house for company; we were hosting a “friendly” BBQ in Ft. Lauderdale. Alan and his hubby and other friends from the complex were coming, a veritable who’s who of my social circle back then. It was a great day. We cooked and ate at the picnic table out back – the drag queens in the adjacent area were entertaining, and the conversation was light and campy. The day wore on into night, and fireworks were going to be shot off over Ft. Lauderdale beach. So we piled into the convertible and headed out for the five-minute drive across the bridge to the beach. Parking was a nightmare, but eventually we found a spot to sit in. I remember that things were happy and there were no worries; we were out celebrating the holiday. After the fireworks we came home and imbibed a great deal, and sat down to watch the new film out on video, “Philadelphia” with Tom Hanks. Little did I know how much life would…?

Imitate art that week?

I watched with a certain attention, as if saying to God, “I know what’s coming so please be gentle with me, because I am not sure I am ready to do this or die.” It had been a year since the first time I was tested at “Planned Parenthood” and that test came back negative.

The second test was done in a city hospital lab, and those results came back negative as well, but six months later we found out on the news that the lab had switched our (100 gay men’s) HIV tests with a retirement home lab list. It was freaky when 100 elderly folk got positive HIV tests back from the lab, OOOPS – someone made a HUGE mistake.

Anyway, that was that.

Around 8 o’clock I called my parents to wish them a Happy July 4th; there was another piece of information I needed to get across to them, and this was not going to be very easy, I had been feeling pretty sick since January, and checked 7 of the 9 symptoms off the list from “If these things are happening to you — you might have HIV” wallet card.

The conversation started light and airy, then all the air left my lungs and I could not breathe. And this is how it went

Hello…

Hello…

Pleasant conversation, then I dropped the bomb!

I have some news for you.

Yes, what would that be?

I’ve been feeling a lot sick lately and tomorrow I am going to see a doctor…

Silence.

I could hear the wheels spinning in their heads. My mother had been working in Home Health Care for a number of years and she had seen what AIDS can do to a human being; couple that with what they were watching on TV and she was having worse case scenario visions in her head!!

They were watching “Philadelphia” at their house at the very moment I called. Suddenly my mother must have looked at the TV and she screamed. Yes, that’s right, I am sick, and I need to go get tested tomorrow, it’s time. My father was listening in on the extension, and I am sure he was beside himself; his fag son was sick and putting two and two together led to only one conclusion.

Josh was sitting in the living room while I had this conversation, he didn’t say a word. I had to prepare him for what was coming; Josh and I would never see the end of the week together. In the end, I would never see Josh again.

After a bout of hysterics, I told them that everything would be all right and I ended the phone call. That night I did not sleep at all, and Josh was all over the place. He was such a quiet and calm young man; we were both young then. We had only been dating for a couple of months by that point. Tomorrow’s test was just a formality; I knew already the answer I would get confirmed in a few days’ time. I did not tell any of my friends that night. Todd and Roy were in Provincetown on holiday. But I would eventually call Todd.

 

Tuesday July 5th, 1994

I got up this morning, with one item on my list of things to do today, and Josh did not sleep all night and was restless and upset. I got him up and ready for work and I drove him to work, and then proceeded to the clinic where my friend Ken was working.
It was in a little “medical mall” type building. The offices were on the second floor of the suites. I parked the car, put up the top and sat in silence and I prayed. “If there is a God up there, please, whatever happens, I am not ready to die.”

I find it peculiar that certain prayers at certain times remain locked in my memory on certain days of my life. I locked the car and walked the fifty feet across the parking lot and went into the office, where I was asked to take a seat and wait. Do you know what it feels like to be told “hurry up and wait?” I just wanted to get this show on the road.

You see, where I worked, at the nightclub, Ken, my friend, was the nurse for the masses. He worked off hours at the free clinic, he donated time to events, and he did home visits and took care of all of our friends who are now dead, at that time, so he had seen a lot of friends die in the five years we lived in Ft. Lauderdale. He was a very emotional man, who wore his heart on his sleeve and I knew that.

This was a hard week for him; any new diagnosis is hard when you are such close friends and part of a dynamic community where everyone knows each other intimately. We had seen each other over the weekend at the bar; I worked all weekend long. He knew that I was sick; because he was the one I went to when things got dicey. I think he knew as I did, but I think we both wanted things to be different. Alas, they weren’t.

Ken was preparing himself to do what he had to do and keep a straight face and be strong in front of me, you know, be positive about things, and keep up appearances so that I would not crack under the pressure.

It was time. Ken came and got me and escorted me to the lab, and he did not look me in the eye the entire time I sat there, tears falling from his face. It was quick, and painless. Afterwards he sent me off into my day. I signed the papers and went for the door; Ken was right behind me. He walked me to my car, and stopped and he sobbed in my arms. I was relatively calm. You see I was only 26 years old, and many of our friends had been gruesomely sick and died long drawn-out deaths. It was NOT pretty; many of my friends had KS, and cancer and some of my friends lost their minds and many of them died alone, because friends, lovers and family had thrown them out on the streets to die. Ken and I were people who cared for these people from the day they were diagnosed until the day they died. It was sad.

He said that he would call me in a few days and let me know when the tests come back…

And he tried to leave it at that.

I grabbed him and looked into his eyes and I told him,

“I know, and when you call I will know, just by the tone of your voice!”

He kissed me goodbye and I went on with my day.

I don’t remember what I did to pass the time until Josh got off work, but we tried to live normally and not get too upset over things. All I remember is that once the word went around that I had gone for the test, my friends started pulling away. It was the longest week of my life.

Friday July 8th 1994

the week passed by without incident. Thursday I waited impatiently for the phone to ring, and every time it did, I would jump through the roof. Alas, Thursday night I went to bed, knowing that tomorrow it would come.

I got up in the morning and drove Josh to work and returned to the house. It was around 11 am that the phone finally did ring. It was Ken. His voice was shaky on the phone, and all he said was “Jeremy, you need to come to the office, and you need to come now!” Then the line went dead. I got dressed and headed over to the clinic. I already knew the answer, but you never know, right? I parked the car, and said my prayers, and I rested for a moment.

I went up stairs and logged in at the reception desk. Ken was nowhere to be found. After a little while they escorted me into an examination room; it was blue in color, very sterile and cold. I sat down on the table and I waited. A few minutes later the doctor came in, file in hand. I guess he wanted to make sure I was prepared for this.

“Well, no better time than the present,” he said.

Let’s get this over with. “Jeremy, you have AIDS and that’s the bottom line. “

“You are going to die.”

The words rolled off his tongue with the flair and style of a practiced doctor. He sat with me for a few moments while I considered my fate. I think he was hoping that I would say something.

“Thank you for that information,” I replied.

He said that we would need to do a few tests to get started; those labs would show just how compromised my immune system was, and what the next course of action would be.

I did not know how bad things were, but I would soon find out. Back then, who knew from death or life? Drugs were hard to come by, and there surely was no system of treatment in place for me to go to.

He dismissed himself and said that when I was ready, I could leave.

So I gave him a five-minute lead on me, then I gathered up my soul and I walked out the exam room door and out to the car. I looked down from the second floor and Ken was sitting on the hood of my car, waiting for me. When I got down to my car, Ken stood up opened his arms and embraced me; he was sobbing. I stood there; I guess I was in shock. I stood there and held him, while the wave ran over both of us.

I guess I was not prepared to show my cards just yet. We talked for a little while and we set out a plan of action for the next week. I would return to this lab and get some baseline labs drawn to get a more total picture of my immune system and figure out how I was going to proceed. (That’s what eventually happened in the coming days.)

I drove home. I was relatively calm. It’s funny that I was totally prepared to stand up straight and tall and accept my fate, but watching my friends and coworkers and family crack up was very disturbing. People with AIDS were pariahs! You did not touch them, you did not hug them, and you surely did not want your neighbours or family members to know that you socialized with or employed someone who had AIDS, God forbid we infected someone you knew or even transmitted our disease to you by touch or breathing in the same space!

I got home, and I sat in my space and I tried to make some decisions. Who do I tell and when? I don’t remember what I did that day, but I kept myself busy. I called Todd and Roy, and they were on vacation. When Todd got the news, he was sad, and immediately he stepped up to the plate and became the man who would save my life.

That evening, Friday, I went to pick Josh up at work; I forgot to clear the tape deck in the car. The soundtrack to “Philadelphia” was still in there. It was around 5 o’clock when I picked him up; the sun was setting in front of us as we drove east towards the house. I tapped the tape into the deck, and it started to play…

I watched Josh convulse in the front seat, and throw up out the car door. He was hysterical. I did not have to say a word to him, but he knew. When we got home, he went into the bedroom, he packed his duffle bag, without a word, he looked at me, said goodbye, and walked out the door, got into his car, and drove away. That was the last time I saw him.

Whoa, OK, one down … two more to go.

I had some dinner and proceeded to call my parents. You would have thought that an atomic bomb had been dropped on my parents’ house. My mother, having worked in the health field, said to me that I had gotten what I deserved. She and my father had had a week to consider this topic. We discussed my plan of action, and I called a family meeting that would take place in a week’s time. I wanted everyone to be informed and I wanted to know that I was not alone.

That visit did take place. And it did no good to ensure anything but the disdain and ignorance by my family to step up and get involved in taking care of the future. I had made my choice, by doing what I had done, and I got what was coming to me. My father had made that perfectly clear.

I still do not know, to this day, if James was the contact point of HIV. All I do know is that James was a diabetic and was suicidal. That he was sick those last few months that we were together, and I did his blood tests with his pen. I handled the strips several times a day. And that they tell me was the transmission point. I did not know he had AIDS until well after his death, when a friend of mine called me at work one day back in ’93 to tell me he was sick and had AIDS. I guess it took me a few months to “seroconvert.” This is the process the body goes through when it’s finally hit with viral replication and inception of a virus that the immune system cannot fight alone.

Over the next week, I chose my battles wisely, I told my inner circle of friends. The ones on the inside of the AIDS circle (that I was part of at work.) On the other hand there was the other circle of my “social friends” that had partied with us just a few days earlier. They would never set foot in my house ever again, in fact, and it was as if I had walked off the face of the earth, because I never heard from many of them ever again. The stigma of AIDS back then was deadlier then the virus itself.

Todd eventually returned to Ft. Lauderdale. My landlord and his lover were notified.

Interesting that many years later, I was at a Pride Celebration in Ft. Lauderdale, and my landlord’s partner was in a wheelchair and sick with AIDS. When we were friends at the time of my diagnosis, they were a happy couple, with all the promise in the world. I had no idea. I did not lose my apartment, my rent was frozen where it was, and they helped me pay bills and buy food. Within days Todd had returned and he came over and we talked. (God, we spent a lot of time talking!)

I was in self-destruct mode. And the stress of being sick with AIDS took its toll. I drank around the clock, I drank at work, I drank after work, and all I wanted to do was die. Todd did what he could at the beginning to keep me on the straight and narrow. He outlawed drinking while on shift, (I was working in a nightclub then) so that kept me sober while I worked.

I would then head out after we closed to the “after hours” club called the “Copa.” It was down the street from where our club was, and they served alcohol till 6am. So I had at least two to three hours to get inebriated nightly. That lasted until the end of August.

One night, I decided that the pain was too intense that dying was a viable option, seeing that I knew what all of the men I knew went through. I was at the Copa one night, and it was hot and I had drunk myself into a very nice BUZZ. The problem here was, I wanted more, and I got more. That night, I collapsed on the dance floor in an alcoholic overdose of gargantuan proportions.

I woke up in my friend Danny’s arms. The ambulance was there and oxygen was administered. I was still alive. That was the last night I drank. That morning, Danny brought me home and he stayed in my house for a week. I could not go anywhere except work. Todd was worried that I was going to try and kill myself again. So I had babysitters when I was not at work. I hit my first meeting on August the 23rd, 1994. By that time, most of the bar staff was all sober, and three-quarters of us were sick with AIDS.

Todd had a safe rule in effect. We had jobs, and we got paid. If we got sick, and could not come to work, our shifts were covered by someone on staff. We did not get fired for being sick. The bar secured for us medical treatment through the local clinic, where one of our friends named Marie ran a community clinic/drug farm.

Ken came to my house weekly to check on me. My world got A LOT smaller.

Everyone outside my work circle walked away. It took me a long time to get over that. They were punishing me for getting sick. Like I needed any more punishment!

The religious fundamentals were making their cases for eternal damnation for gays and people with AIDS, and speaking out whenever we went in public. Funeral homes stopped giving services to people with AIDS and their families because of religious and social pressure.

Life was difficult, But, I survived, because of the community I lived in and the grace of Almighty God.

In retrospect, “it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.” and if God gave me a choice to go back and repeat any area of my life over again, it would be that exact period of time, and I would not change one single thing.

For years after my diagnosis, my friends died left and right, 162 people. The Names Project Quilt is a reminder of all the lives I touched and was a part of, and all the men whom I knew and loved.

All the men who were CRUCIAL to my survival (our survival) all the gay men who collected money for People with Aids, the drag queens we loved and admired and partied with over the year, the diehard supporters, are all dead now.

So many boys, so many men, cut down in the prime of life. We were foolish then, and uneducated. It was only after the storm hit that the reality start to sink in. When our friends started dying and we realized that “something serious is going on” did the community got smart.

We built infrastructure. We created homes and safe spaces. We cared for those on the streets, we collected money and food. We cooked and fed people, we washed clothes and in some cases we even changed diapers.

A year later, in 1995, I moved back to Miami, after Todd and Roy moved out west to San Francisco. I did not go with them, I was too young, and I had been banking on the fact that my S.O.B father would die and I would take back my mother. Well, he is still alive, all these years later, and I did not get my mother back. Do I have regrets? Sometimes I do. I sometimes think, “what if?” but that’s all they are, thoughts. You know what they say about living in “what ifs right?” So I don’t think about what ifs anymore, just what will be.

From my diagnosis date through the first eight years of my life with HIV/AIDS, I lived in the United States, and I speak about navigating a U.S. program of medical, social and government system. I immigrated to Canada in April of 2002.


One Night in Heaven – Let us revisit shall we

we_were_here_full_size_wb

Cue the music, fog the room… Time to write

M People, One night in heaven…

Shift change has started and I am off the happy hour shift that I used to work. Off to the kitchen to change for the night shift that is going to start soon. Farkle is in the booth and he fires up the first song of the night.

Jeans, t-shirt and chaps. The hot little stud is going to tempt the Temple of Earthly Desires once again tonight. A little tug here, and a zip there, I am ready for action. In the grand scheme of things I am a jack of all trades. Larry is in charge of liquor distribution, Kevin is in charge of incidentals, beer, ice, stock and supply. I am following up my fellows with the same.

But I have other responsibilities.

Open up your heart…

Aside from bar responsibilities, I am in charge of taking care of special guests and entertainers. I check them in at the door and escort them through the maze into the back stage area where all the real action is to take place. Nobody has access to the backstage area except employees and management. I am to make sure that they all have what they need, and that means, everything.

We are hosting the Leather man contests that are very common in the Leather community at that time. The schism of the Ft. Lauderdale leather men has not yet taken place, between the Old Guard and the New Guard. I am of the Old Guard group. I was born into this life by my Master Todd on that fateful night some time ago at the old location.

Someone to count on in a world ever changin’.
Here I am, stop where you standin’.
What you need is a lover, someone to take over.
Oh baby don’t look any further.
Strange when you think of the chances
that we’ve both been in a state of mind.
Too cool to be careless. Looking for the right thing.
Oh baby don’t look any further.
Tonight (tonight) we’re gonna taste a little paradise.
Rockin’ all night long. Rockin’ all night long.
Daylight (daylight) I’ll still be looking in your heavenly eyes.
Oh we rocked on and on and on.

I am in the position of leadership. Part of my education in those early days is obedience and respect. The hierarchy is set in stone and I know my place, I report to the Master, the guests report to me. I am in charge of taking care of their supplies and to make sure that they are treated with respect and the position that they hold in the greater community. This job, I take very seriously, because what the guests tell my boss later will reflect on my future as a man to be trusted and it will also either permit me further access or punishment. To be removed from community or silence is the greatest punishment in my world at that time. I learn that lesson the hard way at one point in the story…

Kevin has just walked in the door. He is young. He is a Leather man of the highest degree. I spent a night with him at the Caribbean Resort a few nights ago. I was caught in a moment of rapture. He is the finest specimen of a man I have ever seen and after the first introduction, I was taken. I was “Taken!” Sitting in the bar with him and his crowd was worshiping God. Kevin has my full attention and then some. There is nothing I would not do for him, and many things I would like to do for him.

He is competing tonight for the crowd, and I am going to make his competition the best of the night. In the grand scheme of things, he who is represented outstandingly is going to win this competition. But first they must prove themselves worthy of the award. A little conversation and a little performance that is going to knock to crowd off their high and mighty pedestals. This is where we separate the real men from the boys. That he is younger than most he is automatically at odds with them.

After all of my settling in work is done and everybody is checked in and I’ve seen to their comfort, I am off to take care of the rest of the bar. Everyone of our guests has a handler, and I am only to take care of Kevin. The lights are swinging at a fast pace, the music is pounding and I am dressed to the nines’ so to speak. I have rounded up all of the young leather men and we have discussed strategy for the night. As representatives for the young leather community, it is our job to look out for the interest of our club and the community at large.

As part of our education as a group, the bar has had weekly meetings of the Young Leather men. There are about 30 members and several Leather MEN to guide us and teach us about protocol, respect and personal safety. We have attended lectures and demonstrations and spent hours discussing situations and life experiences. When the bar is called on to host events, we are the first line of representation and service. I am the closest one to the center of the universe, by my position “to” my Master.

I am in charge of cleaning up the club all night. I am the one who is going to take up bottles and glasses and garbage on the main floor. It is my job to always keep the bar in a condition worthy of proper presentation. In addition to picking up refuse, I am the one who is going to keep the bathrooms up and running. Nasty pig men can be nothing but a head ache because while they are adults, they do not know how to clean up after themselves. They stop up toilets with glasses and mounds of toilet paper and this must be kept an eye on. Running toilets are detrimental to a proper nights business. This is one of the serious lessons that I must learn about because if I cannot clean up shit and dirty toilets, then I won’t be able to do it for myself.

I though about this last night after I wrote my last entry. I was dating a particular man at one time in this life. He was arrogant and yet I liked him. He did things for me that no one else had done. He made me feel things that I had never felt. He had room mates that were sick and could not go out in public without a diaper, because they were struck so hard by illness. It was very sad. They did not make it. but I digress…

The nights fly by one after the other and the job is the same. I am visible to everyone in the bar, because I have planned it that way. Part of my mystique is to get the right men to notice me. I have amassed quite a collection of gear to wear. I have collected it and some of it is custom made. This was the age of “High Leather” and I was at the center of the universe. I would troll the crowd as they came in looking at all the signs that were being flown. The hankies in the right or left pocket, what color they were, and what arm the armbands were being worn on. After a good hour of trolling I could go to my locker and replicate whatever “response” I was going to give back. It always worked. I could play the game just as well as the heaviest hitters.

Nothing pleased me more than to walk out of the kitchen in my chaps and usually by the late hours of the night, I wasn’t wearing a shirt. I could do that then and get away with it. I would be carrying a bucket of ice (they were small garbage cans) full of ice, over to a particular bar, where the heavy hitters would be gathered. I would bounce behind the bar, dancing to the music that was being played and I would fool around with a bar tender, we were all family.

What the ‘lookers’ were very cognizant of was that I knew that many of them were flying red or red brick HANKIES in their left pockets. I had responded with the same hankie in my right pocket. And we would stand there and I would watch them look at me and then they would make a fist and hold it up in front of their faces, pondering the thought, look at me, well, at my backside, and then back at their hands and then they would shake their heads, in disbelief. That was the most excellent feeling…

To know that they noticed me. I played the game and I usually won…

The music would change as mixes were played…

One night in heaven.

I’m on the dance floor, Farkle is in the booth, he is dancing as I look over to the booth from where I stand and I can see him pointing towards the speakers above the booth. He is in a good space tonight. He is playing “up” music and everybody has escaped into that place of utter bliss. It is all well tonight. We have done our jobs. The bodies are gyrating to the same beat, bodies move in unison. Sweat is falling down all around me, I fell arms around me. Hugs and pushes, tugs and tweaks. I set down my bag for a moment on the bass speakers lining the wall and I am engulfed in the arms of some of my friends, and we dance for all it is worth. I am watching the lights swing from one side to the other, and I am in heaven.

From my days at the Stud, I wrote this reflection many years later, at the end of the QAF series as it happened here in Montreal. (Mark) I refer to in this later piece is the same (Farkle) who DJ’d at the Stud during these years I have previously wrote about in the Temple of Sin.


Crazy S.O.T.B. Let’s visit shall we

we_were_here_full_size_wb

In Memorium and to remember where I came from … I will be sharing with you stories that need to be remembered, because if we forget, they all died in vain … November 2013 …

*** *** *** ***

Cue the music – start the fog machine – blue light GOBO slow pans across the floor through dimly lit space, and the first beat comes…

I am alone, it is early, the bar is not yet open, but I am there alone. Just me, the music and the spirit of God. Well, what little spirit of God there was at that time of my life. It is mid-summer in Ft. Lauderdale. I have just told Todd that I was going to die…

He wept.

Over the next few weeks, the teaching would begin. The team rose to the call, one of the boys was sick and was left on the side of the road with nothing but what little dignity was left in his soul. All I needed would be provided come hell or high water. Wild Horses would never stop the charge for life. We were all sick, we were all dying. Save for two people in the entire organization. My champions would save me, if I wanted it or not. Death was not an option and I would either get it or I would die…

So it began…

At that time, the temple of sin was alive and things happened so quickly that if you blinked you would miss it. The temple was filled with every earthly delight, Dante would have been pleased with our Garden of Earthly desires, carnal, profane and truly sinful. I loved every minute of it.

The rule was set…

You have a life, outside the temple. When you come to work, you leave your baggage at the door, do not bring it in here. No exceptions. Come to work, and you will serve me your Master and do whatever you are told without question without complaint, is that clear!

Yes Sir…

I took that time of my life as sacred and profane, but that is another story. You can read about the Sacred and the Profane over there in Pages… This is another thread to a long running story of how this boy was made a man, a saved man, a profane man, and in the same vein Sacred. You never know where your lessons are going to come from, and you are grateful for the wisdom and time people took out of their lives to care for you and teach you lessons that nobody else was going to teach you. So pay attention Little One.

This is your life we are talking about…

The gobos are tracking across the floor slowly through smoke and mirrors as the music plays just for you. I learned very early on, in that space that music would identify particular moods, paint particular pictures. Farkle and I had a ritual. He IS the only one left from the fray of men who lived and died from the temple of sin. We began each shift in our own way, begging god another night, another day, another minute. I was surrounded with warriors fighting their own significant battles with AIDS. I was not hit by the KS demon. I was not plagued by things I saw and witnessed, thank the creator. It was ugly. It was brutal and it was most importantly the fight of the century for all of us. Many men went to their deaths in our arms. We bathed them, clothed them and in the end we buried them.

Angry Larry…

When I got sober there was a man with AIDS named Larry, he was a drunk like me. But he was unique. He sat with a bottle on the table and a loaded revolver to shoot himself. He carried that gun with him and showed it to every one of us, and he told us relentlessly that he was going to kill himself. He got sober with the rest of us. Over the years following his spiritual awakening, he did something that no one else thought to do.

People with AIDS were being left in the streets. Mortuaries would not process sick people, they would not touch a body that had been infected with AIDS. Families would not bury their children. We did that. Larry opened his services to the community and he became another champion of the cause. I knew him. He eventually got rid of the gun, so I heard.

For a few minutes during transition, I would warm up the smoker, fire up the turntable and start the computer so that I could worship my God to the music of my soul. I did that every night. I worshiped whatever was going to save me.

I was servant to the men. I was servant to my Master. I was a slave for God, be he dressed or undressed. You never saw God until you witnessed true beauty of the soul in all its carnality. There is something sacredly profane about this part of my life. What went on inside the temple stayed in the temple. Many months would pass and I battled my demons of alcoholism before I finally fell into the pit of death, and there happen to be somebody watching from the sidelines.

Danny saved me that night. He was the man who cradled me in his arms, oxygen mask on my face and had called the paramedics to try and revive me. Danny took me home that night, and did not leave my apartment for a week. He fed me, bathed me and cared for me, under that watchful eye of my Master Todd. When the word was spoke, action was taken, and hell hath no fury if you did not jump when told to. Todd was very protective over his boys and men.

We were reminded that Todd had lost love to AIDS. Bob was buried across the street in the cemetery that faced our building. It was hard – it was painful, and it was sacred. Kevin and Larry did things for me that no man ever did for me in the real world. We were the three musketeers. We were the team to beat in bar management and service. We ran a tight ship and we were accountable, respectable and reliable. We proved a mighty force against the odds we all faced.

Let’s get it on…

Shift was begun at eight. The wells were filled the beer was stocked and the ice bins were full. Put your money in the drawer and let’s get the music thumping. Like clockwork at the strike of eight bells the first note hit the turntables. They were lined up around the building. Cars were parked all over the place. The temple worship had begun. Heaven was found amid the souls of suffering men who knew they were all marked for death, but for tonight, whatever you desired was fulfilled. You could drown away your sorrow and dip into the well of living water if you wished as well. You have never lived until you party like your dying with crowds of undulating flesh as far as they eye can see. The ghosts of those men now inhabit the fantasies and dreams I have still to this day.

One by one, two by two, they died in our arms. We held them until they took their last breaths. Memorialized in the careful and blood soaked threads of quilts, as the years went by, they started collecting by the dozen, then by the hundreds. If you’ve ever seen the entire quilt unfurled, all the men who were part of my life in those first years of my epidemic life, they are all together in death, as they were in life. Memorialized until the end of time. And we remember each of their names.

So many young boys torn from life before they knew what hit them. Men who infected them had died as well. Many of my friends were taken on trips that were detrimental to them, and just robbed them of life that was still left to live.

Todd saw to it that I would never go there…

You come to work, dress as you will, you obey me and do not waver from my eye, for I know your carnal desires and you are too young to tempt the devil with his dance. Because I surely did not know what could befall me if the right charmer enticed me into his web of desire, and they all knew I was fair bait. But in order to dine from my buffet, you needed explicit permission of my Master, who never allowed any man to defile me like many had been. I was off limits. I never crossed the line provided because that meant disrespect and I could never bear to break my Master’s heart with disobedience.

I loved Him, and He loved me – I had many problems. I was depressed and angry and resentful. I had the scars of traumatic visions of my dead lovers corpse in my head, and the words of his mother still ring in my ear today “I hope that every night until you die, that you see the corpse of my dead son in your field of vision.” That curse still lives with me and will go with me to the grave. Five day old corpses are not pretty. I had to identify the remains when all was said and done. Save that he was wearing jewelry that I could identify and part of him was still recognizable – God forgive me…

I remember that day, it was early afternoon the morgue called me from work to come and do the deed. I drove in and looked upon him in that room, I wept tears that burned into my soul forever. I just could not imagine – the pain was so hard to bear. I drove over to the bar. Bill was working behind the bar. I drank until I could not stand up on my own. I drank for a week, straight…

Todd and Bill needed to find me a solution and quick, because I was on the outs.

I started suicide therapy in a group setting that lasted 32 weeks. Nothing like rehashing death week after week, until the pain was purged from your soul, but is it ever? Months went by until I got my news.

But they cared for me in all my brokenness. A young angel would earn his wings back. Come hell or high water. In the end, when all was said and done, at the end of the day I survived, but so many did not. And each night I offer them prayers in hope that when I meet my death that all of them will be waiting for me in the Temple Of Earthly Desire in the promised land of the Kingdom of God, where the sacred and profane are mingled with the blood of the Almighty and the blood of my friends who have gone before me, on that day we will be cleansed of our sins.

And forgiven by God…

Amen

Goodnight angels of men

In a church,by the face,
He talks about the people going under.

Only child know…

A man decides after seventy years,
That what he goes there for, is to unlock the door.
While those around him criticize and sleep…
And through a fractal on a breaking wall,
I see you my friend, and touch your face again.
Miracles will happen as we trip.

But we’re never gonna survive, unless…
We get a little crazy
No we’re never gonna survive, unless…
We are a little…

Cray…cray…cray…

…Crazy yellow people walking through my head.
One of them’s got a gun, to shoot the other one.
And yet together they were friends at school
Ohh, get it, get it, get it, get it no no!

If all were there when we first took the pill,
Then maybe, then maybe, then maybe, then maybe…
Miracles will happen as we speak.

But we’re never gonna survive unless…
We get a little crazy.
No we’re never gonna survive unless…
We are a little…
Crazy…
No no, never survive, unless we get a little… bit…

Oh, a little bit…
Oh, a little bit…

Oh…
Oh…

Amanda decides to go along after seventeen years…

Oh darlin…
In a sky full of people, only some want to fly,
Isn’t that crazy?
In a world full of people, only some want to fly,
Isn’t that crazy?
Crazy…
In a heaven of people there’s only some want to fly,
Ain’t that crazy?
Oh babe… Oh darlin…
In a world full of people there’s only some want to fly,
Isn’t that crazy?
Isn’t that crazy… Isn’t that crazy… Isn’t that crazy…

Ohh…
But we’re never gonna survive unless, we get a little crazy.. crazy..
No we’re never gonna to survive unless we are a little… crazy..
But we’re never gonna survive unless, we get a little crazy.. crazy..
No we’re never gonna to survive unless, we are a little.. crazy..
No no, never survive unless, we get a little bit…

And then you see things
The size
Of which you’ve never known before

They’ll break it

Someday…

Only child know….

Them things
The size
Of which you’ve never known before

Someday…
Someway…
Someday…
Someway…
Someday…
Someway…
Someday…


Dr. Bob’s Nightmare Part 1

dr_bob_portrait_2

The weather is holding. It was a beautiful night to be out and about. I departed early for the church and my helper lady friend was waiting for me. We cranked out set up and coffee and then sat and chilled before the meeting.

We are finally at the stories in the back of the Big Book. This first chapter The Pioneers of A.A. speaks about these 10 stories that show that sobriety is A.A. can be lasting.

Pioneers of A.A. …

Dr. Bob and the nine men and women who here tell their stories were among the early members of A.A.’s first groups.

All ten now have passed away of natural causes, having maintained complete sobriety.

Today, hundreds of additional A.A. members can be found who have had no relapse for more than fifty years.

All of these, then, are the pioneers of A.A. They bear witness that release from alcoholism can really be permanent.

We began reading Dr. Bob’s Nightmare.

A co-founder of alcoholics anonymous, The birth of our society dates from his first day of permanent sobriety, June 10, 1935.

To 1950, the year of his death, he carried the message to more than 5,000 alcoholic men and women, and to all these he gave his medical services without thought of charge.

In this prodigy of service, he was well assisted by Sister Ignatia at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio, one of the greatest friends our fellowship will ever know.

Through the beginning of his story, we learn where Bob came from how he did as a young child and teen, and into his adult life. And at some point he crossed the invisible line into uncontrollable alcoholism.

He became somewhat functional when applying himself. But there at the came time, we read, when alcoholism stunted his growth both emotionally and academically. But in the end he pulled out the stops and finished his schooling.

We stopped at this point in the story till next week.

It seemed everybody fixated on academic stories and how alcoholism made it into our lives as young people.

I guess I will share some stories with you about that time in my life as well.

Bob was an only child, he speaks about it.

I was the first of two children, and had three years on my brother who came later. And I was thinking about this tonight and what I had seen as a small child being raised in the homes of die hard alcoholics. My grandfather was much farther gone than my father.

He had to have alcohol – all over the house. He was a bottle hider. He drank around the clock and especially before bed, as there was a bottle under the kitchen sink.

My father was a heavy drinker, yet, he was functional. In hindsight, I don’t remember him ever being taken away from work because of drinking, in all the years I lived at home. He seemed to skate through unscathed.

I on the other hand, was raised in a “nobody speaks of it” and there “is no solution and you lived with your lot” mentality. Alcohol was a major food group and was a daily ritual.

I began the task of bartender for my father when I was able to reach the kitchen counter and be able to mix him his nightly highball after work. Growing up and moving house in grade school, we bought a huge house with bedrooms, a yard, in ground sprinkler system and a POOL !!! We had hit the big time.

My father had two cabinets for alcohol. And a standing bar in the dining room. My brother and I grew up not far from alcohol. My drinking started in high school and it was a big part of socialization.

It was beer, that I found satisfying. Until my friends introduced hard liquor into the mix. We would have binge and purge parties where we would serve copious amounts of alcohol to party goers. For the girls we had a fail proof system to bring them to a party, get them drunk, and then get them home sober after our tried and true sober work after the fact.

The girls would bring two sets of clothing with them to the party. We would all drink, and they would get sauced over and over. One of us drove the first sober car, driving around town until they puked up what they drank and sobered up.

Then we handed them off to a second house for them to wash and redress, before the third car would finally bring them home.

I drank heavily in high school. And it showed in my work. I was an athlete and swam in junior and senior year and finally lettered.

Two significant occurrences in high school come to mind.

One, our final S.A.T. test. By this point we had taken that damned test twice and in my senior year, we had to take it again, a third time.

The night prior we all got drunker than drunk. I remember my friends bringing me home, BOMBED !!! Telling my mother that I was just a little sick because of the test the next day.

The next day I went to the school and my test location was in the library, which was in the biology wing of the school, there was a bathroom and gym workout hall in the same wing.

The module would start and I would begin bubbling in my answers, eventually I would get the heaves and have to rush to the bathroom and purge and get back into the library to finish each module in the time allotted.

I know, when all was said and done, my third score was higher than the first two.

Two, in my senior year I was drinking heavily and my studies were paying the price. I was passing, albeit, by the skin of my teeth. I was no mathematician and hated the subject. No matter how hard I tried I could not “get it.”

I was not part of the “in crowd” that partied together and cheated together. I ran in another social grouping. On my last math exam, I knew I was not going to pass, but in a “Hail Mary” kind of motion …

The cheat sheet had gone around prior to the exam. And I was not privy to that cheat sheet. I took that exam, however impaired I was at the time, on the last page of the exam I offered this to my prof …

“The exam is complete. I would also tell you that I am the only one in this room that did not cheat on this exam … “

I passed math, therefore, I graduated with my fellows.

My drinking career began in earnest after graduation. I knew something about myself that others did not. I am sure my parents were picking up on it. And my racist, homophobic, bible quoting, but never went to church father, continued to “beat it out of me, because I was abhorrent.”

When I finally moved away, I could drink without impunity. I have stated in the past that when I moved out on my own, I knew NOTHING about responsibility.

Paying rent, buying food, and making a car payments came second and third to my drinking. To the point that my car got re-possessed. That was a clincher for my parents. Probably, resentfully, my father bailed me out. We never spoke about it, but I am sure he never forgot nor forgave me about allowing alcoholism take something away.

I am sure they thought that I could not hold my alcohol in check like they did, and they would have been correct. I was a step beyond than my father.

That period of my life from 21 to 26 I was sunk in the drink. I got sober once, and became responsible. I had a really good job. And men who loved me. They saved my life.

The story does not change. I went out and stayed out a number of years, until I returned in 2001. God moved heaven and earth. And I decided to grow up and become a man, finally, whatever that meant.

I would not figure out what my manhood meant to me until much later. That is another story.

Moving out of the country was the best move I ever made in my life, however hated I was for leaving the country of my birth, it was an absolute break from the misery I was living at the time.

Coming to Montreal sober began the next leg of my journey. I was 34 years old. I had failed out of junior college and could not afford University in the U.S. so I didn’t go on. I had a place to live and meetings to go to.

And at my First Anniversary, I was asked what I wanted to do next, by my aftercare counselor, and I said, that I wanted to go back to school. By then I was hitched and living with my then boyfriend. That was a nine year academic career which I graduated with two degrees, Religion and Pastoral Ministry.

I have not had a drink in almost twelve years now. I came here sober and this is where I am going to die sober. One day at a time.

I have this hindsight to parse my life, and those of my family to figure out what made us tick, what made us drink and where that led us.

I do not know my father or mother or my brother. I am pariah still to this day and in their lives, they have shut off my light switch as punishment for defying my father’s social gospel. It has been more than 13 years.

I do not mourn them any more.

Many emotional reasons, alcoholism, lies and secrets tore apart my family, I may be the only sober member today, but who knows. I will never know.

It is a living amends to stay sober one day at a time.

More to come, stay tuned …


All men of faith have Courage …

tumblr_lvv0bkeh6J1r6unwso1_500

“The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage. They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead we let him demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We ask him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear.”

Page 68 Big Book

Thursday. Location: Montreal. 18c with clear skies

The weather has been very amenable. It was cool enough last night to open the windows for a bit. The month is quickly coming to an end. When I was much younger and quite more stupid, the run up to my birthday usually began one week out. The barhopping and drinking in earnest would begin. And each night all the way up through my birthday would entail much, much more booze.

And we all know how that ended…

July is always a tough month. But it the most important month of the year. It is not only the month of my birth, but the month that I learned that my mortality is on the line.

July 8th comes and goes every year. And I mark it with respect and dignity. People seem perplexed that I would mark an event like this openly. At a meeting not long ago, I shared this piece of info in community and got stares and questions afterwards.

In the beginning I had to learn how to live one day at a time. In fact, I had to learn this lesson more than once. Both instances were based on certain factors in my life.

I would string a few days together. And mark a week. And if I lived a week, I would mark two. And at the end of a month, I would be brave and mark another month. Such is the case when doctors give you your actual “End Date.” And tell you to go home and settle your affairs because death is imminent.

This year I kept to myself mostly. But with Pride every year, come the memorial public television shows like We Were Here and Milk. Many people I assume who have lived through the dark times of the 80’s and 90’s may have book collections that mark the tribulations in print.

Paul Monette is the consummate author of the AIDS years, having lived, loved and died from the disease. I have all his books in my library. And for the most part, I keep them as memorials. To remember how bad it was and to be ever mindful that I may go the same way.

I spent the past week of nights reading “Living on Borrowed Time.” The book details with great pain the months and years that comprised the life and relationship that Paul had with his husband/partner Roger.

It is difficult to read but important for me to pay homage to the men who were there when it all began, who died well before I came along with AIDS. But times were not much different in the early 90’s – there were dedicated drugs, nor doctors to treat us. We were treated like hazmat patients. We would be quarantined in space capsules in rooms away from general population and doctors and nurses would gown up like martian hunters to come near us.

The Christians called it God’s revenge for homosexuality.

Employers fired us. Landlords threw us out on the street. Family and friends and lovers left us because we were sick. Mortuaries would not process nor bury the sick.

But we did. All of it.

Every year I live is a great big Fuck You to the Christian Right. For all those people who left me on the roadside including my family I can only say I lived and I have lived well. I am the man I wanted to be.

Because men of faith took me in and gave me life when you turned your backs on me. And hence the thousands of men who were sick and went to their graves with what little dignity they had in their souls.

I lived … And I am still alive.

Tonight;s reading speaks about God, and no apologies. Courage and fear.

To live with a disease that is going to take your life one day is courage. Not taking a drink one day at a time, is courage. Learning how to live knowing you are going to die with certainty of a disease that is ugly and dirty is harrowing.

AIDS is not pretty. But neither is alcoholism. Both are takers.

But in today’s day and age, both are treatable and manageable.

After 19 year living this way, the fear of dying still exists in the back of my head. But every day I take my pills I earn a day of life. It is my job to take pills every day, if I do nothing during my day, the two actions I make are to take my pills.

I do what I need to do every day, every week and every month to stave off the drink. I don’t know how else to stave off dying. But I don’t fixate on dying, because if I do, I will only hasten the end for which I have been avoiding for more than a decade and almost two.

Our little men’s group is holding its own. We get the by and by visitor to come, but for the most part, it is a conversation between friends in a familiar space.

Do you have courage? How do you live it every day?

More to come, stay tuned…

 


Out of the Field they Come …

tumblr_mffw16fody1rjliszo1_500

They say the weather is going to change for the worse overnight and into tomorrow. The usual plans are now up in the air depending on whether or not the heavens open up and dump torrential rain upon us like out in the prairies.

Just thinking about torrential rain brings back terrible memories because of what happens to our city when it rains a little too much. Highways flood, streets flood. Our 1800’s drain system of the city become overwhelmed and water goes everywhere.

If we are lucky the church won’t flood like it did some time ago. Hopefully that much rain won’t fall, and we will escape the ills of the city along with mother nature.

It has been a quiet couple of days. Lots going on down south to which I am proud to witness in my lifetime. Not the balance of the U.S. states who DON’T have marriage equality, in my opinion, once the tidal wave begins will fall like dominoes and everybody will be a participant in being “equal” — still Florida does not have marriage equality so it matters not to me or my life at this point. So we can be hopeful of the future.

It was a breezy night and I arrived at the church with plenty of time to set up and enjoy the weather in the garden before the meeting. It is my belief that if we get one, or better yet two newcomers at the meeting, we get to do our jobs and do God’s work well.

As was the case tonight, new faces came and participated. As the meeting progressed and the shares began we learned a great deal about each other. And what we have learned is that there is a whole “other” group of people out there suffering in their addictions and one of our men is part of that grouping.

Sadly, I have to concur that there aren’t many open and affirming A.A. groups that openly support and welcome LGBTQ members. I have seen it in my own life.

And today I ONLY participate in groups that folks are Open and Affirming to ALL and not just Some.

I was sorry for them and inquired at the end of the meeting what I could do to help, hopefully we will see our new friend again and be able to reach out and minister to those who need it and are afraid of coming …

We shared on the run up to Step Three … “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”

The notion of changing our lives, turning it over, letting go of ourselves and become interested in others, coming to know a Higher Power and allowing him to guide our lives from this point on.

But so many people get stuck here and some never move past the log jam. And this is all down to what the world, society, and religion has forced down our throats about who God is and what he will do to us if we err and sin …

I heard something that resonates … When one of our men came in and got to this point, his sponsor said this to him … God is God is God. However it falls, God is God. Find him in your own way and come to believe that He will help you if you are ready.

Group of Drunk
Going Out Doors Good Orderly Direction

It’s all the same thing. The biggest help that Bill and Bob gave to the fellowship come in one short sentence. “God … As we understood him.”

It opens the door to those who have had such issues with God that they can’t come to believe because of the hang ups. No two powers are the same. No two alcoholics are the same. But eventually we find a power greater than ourselves.

What is His Work, and how do we do it well ???

That line shows up on page 63 of the Big Book. In the beginning it was all down to service to a group. To begin rebuilding your life, you had to give of yourself at the group level and become Part Of so that you can become One Of.

Suit up, Show up and be one of many, instead of alone and lonely.

I’ve said in the past and I repeat it often that “PRESENCE” is the greatest gift we can give each other. The meeting before the meeting and the one that follows the meeting is very important to outreach and working with others.

I come early, I set up and make coffee so that when YOU show up, we can have a coffee and chat a bit and i can get to know you better. That’s the whole purpose of community. Man is not meant to be alone. But there are those out there who are alone, and it is always my hope that one day I could walk out into the field with my fellows and welcome and affirm folks who are out there suffering.

Changing Attitudes, Tuesday Beginners, and Sunday Niter’s, Vendome Beginners and North End English are ALL open, welcoming and affirming.

We will welcome you and be part of your lives. We have all known suffering and pain, and through our groups we will help you heal your souls.

That is what I believe that Jesus would have wanted us to do. Because He always did what was right in front of him, he never really had a plan, it all played out day to day. But he welcomed and affirmed. Loved and cared for the least.

And that is what we do too … What is in front of us.

Tonight we had work come, and show up, right in front of us. Hopefully the words we shared tonight will nest and foster our guys to come back and visit us again.

A good night was had by all.

More to come, stay tuned…


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 401 other followers