Loving the Sacred through Word and Image. Living Life on Life's Terms. A Word Press Production.

AIDS Quilt

World AIDS Day 2013 … Memories of People

world-aids-day

I’ve survived another calendar year. As we approach my sober anniversary, we first must stop and remember all those men who went before me. Men I knew in real life. People I met, lived with, partied with, suffered with. All of them had a story, a life and love. Every story is important. Here are some of the stories. let us take a moment and remember, to offer prayers, and our thoughts.

2007-07-06-13076

I knew Callie in Fort Lauderdale. I had gotten a job at a Travel Agency. Little did I know that the same desk I was now sitting at once belonged to Callie. The day his quilt was displayed I went to honor him and bring him flowers.

AIDS4

Vito, a well known activist and mentor was part of Common Threads, Stories from the quilt.

AIDS5

AIDS6

AIDS8

AIDS10

Dennis was the lover of the man who owned the physical building the STUD was located in. My greatest memory of Dennis was the night we got to see Patti Labelle in concert. It was one of the greatest experiences of our lives.

It is not enough that we take one day to remember. Memory is an every day event. We must keep talking about AIDS because the disease is not over. Yes, with proper diagnosis and treatment, people with AIDS today can live a normal life span just like any negative person.

AIDS is still a problem in many places on earth. Treatment is something that every human being deserves, no matter what the story. This is not the end of AIDS or our stories.

We live, we were here, and we will be heard.

we_were_here_full_size_wb


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…


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…

 


World AIDS Day December 1, 2012 …

world-aids-day

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…

This was one of the hardest days of my life. How do you tell someone you love, that you are going to die? The day I was diagnosed, July 8th, 1994 was the worst day of my life. Bar none …
My then boyfriend packed his things and left in the car as soon as he heard the news. All of my friends found out and they all took off for the hills. The only people still standing by me were Todd, Roy, and a choice few friends at the bar that I was working at.

I called a family meeting and that proved to be a failure. Because I was first gay, now I was HIV+ and that was doubly sinful and abhorrent to them.

If you were around during the height of the AIDS epidemic you would have seen employers fire sick people from their jobs, landlords throwing tenants out on the streets. You would have seen families, lovers and partners toss their sick significant others out into the street as well.

We had nothing left but the little dignity we had left. And the ones who stayed were the ones who would care for, tend to, care for and bury the rest. Because back in the 90’s, there were no comprehensive care systems. We did not have drugs that we have today. We did not have doctors dedicated to taking care of us.

The medical systems had to be built from the ground up. Many doctors didn’t know from AIDS and they had to learn how to care for so many sick people.

I bought several poster boards that I made calendars out of and stuck them on my kitchen wall to mark the days I had left to live. That was 540 days …

My friend Roy used to tear them up whenever he came over because he did not want me focusing on the day that I was supposed to die. I had bigger fish to fry. And Todd kept me on a short leash. What he did saved my life. There will never be another man in my life like Todd.

Hundreds of people I knew died. HUNDREDS !!!!

Every year the quilt was rolled out, we went to see it to mark the new names added to the list of the dead. And we also went to see who was still alive.

This is why we celebrate World AIDS Day, because those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it. This generation knows very little of what it was like for us – back in the day.

That is one reason I opened this blog. To catalog and collect my memories. So that in case I die, I was here. I left my mark on the world with the stories of my life that I have collected here for you all to read.

Gay is still a dirty word in the world. And is still met with condemnation and abhorrence. The face of HIV has changed over the last decade. New medications have come along, and many of us who are left from days gone by, are now on those powerful cocktails of drugs that we must take daily to stay alive.

I was there when it all started for me. When there were no real set drugs and I tested every drug that came off the pike from the doctors I sought out after my diagnosis.

In the beginning, we had a drug farm in Fort Lauderdale, and they would collect medication from people who had died. They would repackage those drugs and give them to us, as we could not get medication very easily. And I did that for two years. I moved to Miami because there were doctors there who were trained in care for HIV positive folks.

And from those doctors, I tested every drug that came down the pike. And this has been what I have done here in Montreal, since the day I arrived here. I have the best in medical care here and a doctor who is on the cutting edge of HIV medical treatment.

HIV is not a death sentence, unless you live in a country that cannot get medication. Where death rates are terribly high. We need to do more to get drugs to countries that so badly need them. Drug companies need to do more for the world than what they are doing today. They are NOT doing ENOUGH !!!

.
Today we remember all those who have died.
We pray for their souls and their families.
And we ask you for your continued prayers and support.
.

If you don’t know your HIV status, then I suggest you get tested. If you are an active gay man, it is your DUTY to know these things. The owness falls on you to get tested and be RESPONSIBLE for your life and also for the lives of men you have sex with.

.
HIV knows no barrier, creed, color or sexual orientation. Straight people get HIV too.
.

Nobody is immune from getting HIV if you are not careful or diligent about sex.  Doing nothing is stupid. There is no excuse for why you wouldn’t or shouldn’t get tested, it could SAVE YOUR LIFE  !!!
.

Rapid treatment after diagnosis today can be very helpful to living a full and happy life. It didn’t use to be like this. In the 90’s HIV was a death sentence. Thank God I had what I had or I surely would not be here today writing to you.
.

Be Responsible. Be Diligent and Be Smart. Get tested !!!

Take care of yourself and each other.

pedro quilt


Pedro Zamora … 40 today …

Today would have been Pedro’s 40th birthday. He died the year I was diagnosed, 1994. This is one of the many quilts sewn with love by his friends and family. I took this picture some years ago when the quilt was shown in South Florida. We should never forget the friends who went before us. Sometimes I still wonder why I am still here. And why not them ?

We remember you Pedro …