Loving the Sacred through Word and Image. Prayer and Meditation. A Wordpress Production

We Were Here

Sunday Sundries … The Elevator’s Not Working, Use the Steps …

tumblr_lyv23dDgvu1ronyvyo1_500 tyleroakley

Courtesy:Tyler Oakley

What do you do for Labor day? For many on the East Coast, this weekend is the final weekend of Summer, the last weekend to party it up, before season closes.

The weather has been up and down. Rain here, rain there. I, however, got out and back without a drop which was good. I was up and ready to go with plenty of time and sat on my hands for the last half hour before I finally hit the door.

I got to the elevator bank, and there was a woman waiting, the button was pushed. But there was silence. You can hear the elevators coming up and down the shafts, so we stood there for five minutes, ten minutes, no elevators …

I pushed the UP button because the Up brings the elevator right to the floor directly. When you push the DOWN button, the elevator NEVER comes directly to the floor you are on. It always goes up to come down. I don’t know why it does that.

Well, Up didn’t work.

Another of my floor mates came to wait with me, and the elevators were not coming for some ungodly reason. So we walked down seventeen flights of stairs to reach the atrium. I Hate Stairs …

When I got down to the first floor, elevator ONE was stuck in the basement, and elevator TWO was on its way up. A little late for an up since we walked down the entire building…

When I finally got the the church, the door was open and the lights were on, a couple of members got there before me and said that the doors were unlocked when they got there, which means the super must have opened up for me early.

We cranked out set up and sat a full house. We had a bunch of visitors from out of town and we read Tradition Eight… The main take away:

“Money and spirituality don’t mix.”

You can’t turn a profit off of a Twelve Step call. Alcoholics who suffer, some go to rehab, and then they come to us. Some come to us directly. In any case, what would it be like if we charged folks for their sobriety?

There is not a dollar figure large enough that would compensate someone for giving it away. The Book reads “…Freely received, so freely given…”

The rooms gave me everything that I ever wanted or needed. The people in my life I could not put a dollar figure on. When I give it away, to the people I work with, you could not put a dollar figure on the emotional feeling of gratitude one gets, when people you work with get better.

I’ve seen “sober coaches” recently in the news, always coupled with someone who is trying to get sober, usually a celebrity … I wonder how much money they make a week as they “coach” someone into sobriety? And I wonder if that model works?

I mean if you have to pay someone to keep you sober, I think that speaks to the effort or lack there of said effort each sufferer puts into his/her own sober journey.

Yeah, I’ll get sober, my way. I will hire a coach to shadow me 24/7 in all my public events, and I will stay sober. I might not necessarily go to meetings on top of this, or maybe I might, but we’ll see …

We heard about Humility. We heard about Gratitude.

In New York, someone has to keep the doors open in the G.S.O. And someone needs to keep our G.S.O here in Montreal staffed and working. If you read the BOX 459, that comes monthly from New York, you can read all about how the system works, who gets paid and who doesn’t, and WHY?

The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking. And Our common welfare comes first, personal recovery depends on A.A. Unity.

Each group has jobs, that rotate each month. And people do group service to give back for what they have been freely given. And you can’t put a dollar figure on that knowledge.

When a celebrity or a professional comes through our doors, who they are and what they do for a living is left at the door.

There is that separation between the human being and what they do.

However, I know of a handful of sober folks, I count among my friends, who work in recovery houses and rehabs. We know where they work, but when they hit a meeting, they are who they are. I’ve never heard someone mix business with pleasure.

In time you come to realize just how much of a pleasure going to meetings is, because you get to see the people you got sober with, the friends that you have made and we get to share amongst each other what we learn on a weekly basis. And that is a pleasure.

So that is a thing …

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

we_were_here_full_size_wb

Late night television has been hit and miss the past few weeks. The summer season is coming to an end, and we hit that [buffer zone] between summer and fall programming that always coincides with Labor Day.

Last night we got an encore presentation of “We Were Here.” It was the only worth while program on television at that hour. I guess God had a plan. This documentary has been showing an awful lot this summer. As if to say … This isn’t over, we need to think about this and remember. And we need NOT to forget.

Seriously, how can I forget?

I love one of the final thoughts in this piece about “The Ghost.”

People who lived through that era of time, either watching someone they loved get sick and die, or working on the front lines of treatment and service, Once we have gone through this crucible, we come out the other end. And for some, they never reconnect to life, or to a purpose, and thereby, become a ghost, traveling through life, not connecting, and never finding a purpose for themselves.

I as well, am married to someone younger than me. Who never saw this happen. He did not live through what I did. He did not watch all his friends die gruesome deaths like I did. But when we connected, he got on board 100%.

I’ve had two periods of sickness in the last thirteen years. But it wasn’t a death watch. And I haven’t had another AIDS related illness since.

I know how I got through that period. But I took me a long time to find a purpose in my life, rather than pissing my life away with drugs and alcohol. That point came and I found a purpose, or I thought I did.

When I got here, and was sober a year, my after care counselor asked me “so what do you want to do now?” She gave me an option to find a purpose. I was attached by that time. I went back to school. I had my meetings and good friends.

I found my purpose, and I share that purpose every day with my fellows.

There is that empty space in my heart for all my friends who did not get so lucky. I remember. I miss them. I never forget them. I think about them every time I open my medicine cabinet. The moment I forget or I stop opening that cabinet, I sign my own death warrant.

I remember What it was like, What happened and What it is like now.

How gracefully that thought crosses all the events in my life succinctly.

I have a story and that story matters.

Maya says … When you know good, Do good. When you learn, Teach.

That is what I do every day.

More to come, stay tuned …


Wisdom sets In … Motives … It takes Two to Tango

maybeThe city is humming with people coming and going. The Osheaga Festival opened tonight and runs through the weekend, The Berri Transit station was packed with concert goers this evening.

I guess I was right when I said last night that wisdom usually follows a question, and so it has. I sent an email to my sponsor last night before I went to bed, and he followed up with a call today to speak about what I wrote him. He said I did the right thing in opening communication, stating that I was long sober now and that I / we are getting old to harbor such resentments.

Every human being wants to be seen.

Every human being wants to be acknowledged.

Every human being is worthy of dignity and respect.

So looking back on yesterdays post, the question that was posed tonight was, what are our motives and why do we do certain things? Beyond simple connection, my motives are certainly self centered. To make waves, to be petulant and to point fingers.

We, as alcoholics have done damage to others, for the most part, we try to avoid and not see our part in these damages.

Children of abusive alcoholics are certainly victims of indignities beyond their control.

So that is a thing.

When you tell a child that he was a mistake and should never have been born, you damage that child. When you beat that same child into submission continuously, you damage that child.

When that child grows up, he has learned that he was a mistake. That he should not be here, and that takes a toll on that person. And when you follow up that indignity with verbal abuse that he is an abomination and that (having contracted AIDS and is mortally sick) you remind that person that they are less than and that they should die already, what do you think goes through the mind of that person?

When I got sick, I, In turn got sober. I was doing the best I could with what I had. I was young, and I was dying. So I thought. The doctors certainly thought that. When family turns their back on you and humiliates you in front of others, that is an indignity.

I made several decisions during my first sober period that were all about me. I really did not have a sponsor, Puddles had moved to California so I was on my own then. What did I know about sober decisions and correctly motivated actions? First, I made a certain decision about my brothers wedding and I was only thinking about myself. I hurt some people in this process.

I would never be forgiven for that, to this day.

My parents lived in Sarasota and my father would come to Miami on business and he would visit me, only to remind me how abominable I was and that I should die already and leave the family once and for all, because I was unacceptable and an abomination.

One particular night he was in rare form after sharing dinner together, and he started in on me and I asked him to stop the car ( On the Highway) I got out of said car and told him never to come back and visit me until he grew up.

I walked away, down the highway and walked all the way home by myself.

You see my father fought in Viet Nam, (and he fell in love). That soldier was killed in action, Who knew from gay in the 1960’s. My father named me after a dead soldier. He abused me and beat me telling me that I was mistake. I realized that I, as a gay, infected man, would never live up to the honor of that dead soldier. Hence the name change.

Some time later I had a spiritual experience. It came and I acted on it. Again, another decision made in “all about me” mode. I must have been 28 or 29. I went to legal aide, spoke to a lawyer and soon after I had legally changed my name. I was going to reclaim myself once and for all so that whatever life I was going to have, would be of my creation. I would kill that person my father thought was a mistake.

So that is a thing. 

It was a complete dagger to my parents hearts.

My father, the man who for years abused me and degraded me, telling me that I was mistake, would get his comeuppance. I would have the last word for his indignity.

I went on with my life. I survived …

A long time ago, my soldier father met a Quebecois woman, (my mother) they got it on in a drive in theatre in a Ford GTO. And she got pregnant. My ultra Catholic grandparents most likely forced him to marry her because she was carrying his child.

My father buried a secret that I learned about throughout my life. He hated Gay, because he was a heterosexual man with homosexual leanings, and that was abominable to him. Internalized homophobia …

The dog who barks the loudest has the most to hide.

She was STILL a CANADIAN when she had me and my brother.

In 1967 they were married, with me in the oven, at the wedding. I was born in July of 1967. My brother followed in 1970. My father wanted to purge every Canadian family member, ritual, tradition, and way of life from her. He would make her a God fearing, Blood thirsty American, if it was the last thing he would do.

My mother was naturalized in 1974, and became an American.

Fade to black …

Years later we came upon a lie about their actual wedding date. We were told they were married in 1965, and I was born in 1967. And we happened on that lie when on their 25th wedding anniversary, we bought a gift, had it engraved, only to learn the dates were wrong.

Hmmm…

I always say “Never lie to your children, because eventually those lies will come out.”

I stayed sober through my 4th anniversary. And followed several of my friends out the door and into my slip. I came back to Miami in 2000. I had a job that paid cash. I had a studio apartment just off the beach, on Miami Beach. My parents were really not a part of my life, unless they chose to be because I was a faggot with AIDS and an abomination.

When I got sick, they turned their backs on me. And humiliated me.

They had humiliated me in front of guests at a Christmas dinner a year before and I swore that I would never darken their door again. My mother accused me of indignities she thought I had committed on someone I met only once.

On New Years Eve 2000 – into 2001, I was working in a bar doing lights. I went into work at 7 pm on New Years Eve and left work around 8 am the next morning with a mound of cash in my wallet. I went to bed and soon after my phone rang, it was my mother on the phone, telling me that they were in Miami and wanted to see me. (They had been here for a week, but only decided to contact me on their way out of town).

I was happy to oblige. They showed up a short time later. My father parked the car in a no parking zone out front of my building and gave me twenty minutes to speak to my mother. We walked around the short block, while he waited in the car. I even offered to take us all out for breakfast, which they categorically said NO to.

Twenty minutes later, my mother got in the car, they drove off and that was the last time I saw my mother.

So that is a thing

In December 2001, I got sober the second time. I was given a computer which led to my meeting people here in Canada. One thing led to another and I received a letter from Canada stating that If I was born between certain dates, and my mother was a Canadian, that I could apply for a birthright citizenship.

Since my mother was still a CANADIAN in 1967, both myself and my brother were afforded birthrights into Canada.

You know what I did right?

I was living in a dead end life, alone, having to choose between paying for food, or paying rent, or buying medication. Because I could not afford to do all three at the same time.

A friend sponsored me into Canada, helping me pay the fees for the application. At Easter time in 2002, April or May, I traveled to Montreal. I stayed two weeks. I had filed for citizenship and went back to Miami, packed my belongings, got on a plane, and did not look back.

A few months later, I was living in Verdun. I got a call from Sydney Nova Scotia. An office worker just happened to pick up my envelope and opened it which began the paperwork process officially. Things needed to be added to the file.

It was then that Immigration Canada went after my mother.

Her paperwork was not in order regarding her naturalization papers and her birth certificate. They needed to be fixed OR they would deport her back to Canada. Needless to say my mother was not very happy with me.

I crossed the border. It was all about survival for me. I was going to have a life, or die trying.

That was the last straw for my father. I left the country of my birth, the very country my father fought to defend in Viet Nam. He told me I was spitting on my birthplace and my country.

That was unforgivable.

Once again, I had stabbed my parents in the heart.

Now I repeat … Parents are supposed to raise children into adults who make their way into the world and make something of themselves. And what ever decisions they make, whether you agree with them or not, you should at least respect them for their decisions.

Aren’t parents supposed to acknowledge their children’s successes?

My mother did in fact correct her paperwork and in February of 2003, I became a Canadian Citizen. I hold dual citizenship today.

My parents were not happy with me at all. I worked very hard for two years trying to keep communications open between us, but in the end, I eventually failed.

My Mother’s last words to me were ” If either me or your father die, nobody will call you and nobody will tell you where we are buried.”

We never spoke again.

So I ask you, who was right, and who was wrong? And who is guilty ???

I got married in 2004. I returned to university and earned two degrees. One in Religion and a second in Pastoral Ministry. I spent two years following that in Cegep, because I had those credits afforded to me by the government.

I have been sober 12 and a half years. Since my moving here my family and I have been estranged. And they say, it is All My Fault.

A few years ago, I found my brother on Facebook, and that twisted my heart. I tried to speak to him and he blocked me. And that broke my heart. I thought that we had grown up and could try and reconnect. That did not happen.

Facebook fucked with my sobriety in a big way.

On July 30th, this year 2014, the day before my birthday, my aunt calls to tell me that my father was on Facebook. And while we were on the phone I looked him up and sent him several messages hoping against hope that he would reconnect. He did not.

Once again, Facebook fucked with my sobriety.

On one hand I want redemption, and acknowledgement and finally some dignity and respect. On the other hand, I want to shoot off my mouth and incite anger and make a scene.

Not all very sober motivated actions.

I wrote here and asked the question. I spoke to my sponsor today and hit a meeting tonight.

And I got my answer.

Always Check your motives …

I did what I needed to do. I opened a door. Whether he responds, is entirely up to him, if he does re-engage or he does not re-engage, I am powerless over people, places and things.

I have to go on with my life.


It’s My Birthday …

reasonsSome people will say that Facebook is so wonderful because it connects you to people and gives you something to obsess over every day. I would add that Facebook is a double edged sword that on one hand brings me my family of choice, whom I adore.

On the other hand it opens up a can of worms that I’d rather not entertain, but I have a very sick perverse need to make a statement and get a rise out of certain people, because you know what, I am worth respect and dignity. I’ve earned it.

And some people, think I am unworthy and that I should be kept in the dark as a punishment for my choices, all of which were made because of certain people in my life, at that time.

They are the reason I became who I am today.

Hating someone because of their sexual orientation is so 1990 ! Hating someone because they made a decision to make important life decisions to stay alive, housed and fed is just so fucking selfish. I made selfish choices because they had to be made, because my life was on the line. And I wanted to live and live well, not die in a hole by myself.

Parents have children to raise them into well rounded adults who can go out into the world and make something of themselves AND when we grow up, aren’t parents supposed to be supportive and respectful of the choices we made as adults ???

Somewhere along my journey, my life became unimportant therefore, irrelevant of notice and should be scorned to the N’th degree.

To put it mildly, I would like nothing better than to become a battering ram and explode like a motherfucking bomb on certain people.

I live. I Lived. I survived.

I earned a place in this world, and no matter what you may think of me,

And they say that “what people think of me is none of my business.” I grapple with that.

I’ve earned respect, dignity and love.

It is obvious to me that certain people didn’t get that memo. And at this stage of the game at 47 years old, I want to sit on my soapbox, grind my teeth and become a very petulant faggot who is stark raving mad at injustice and ignorance.

I learned how to be petulant and sit on my soapbox when I was diagnosed with AIDS. That anger paid off when I needed it. Because when life depends on the responsibility of others to do a job, (well) that you must rely on for survival and they fail to perform said job well, becoming a cast iron bitch really pays off.

I’ve not forgotten how to be a cast iron bitch.

But they say that “Anger is the dubious luxury of normal men, that an alcoholic cannot afford.”

And on my birthday, at my Men’s Home Group this evening, we talked about anger and resentments from Living Sober.

I’ve learned in the past few years that I am a very nostalgic Queer man. In many ways.

I wax nostalgic about the past. I long for a specific period of my life to repeat itself, with all the people I knew in that life to be alive as well, knowing full well that we cannot go backwards, and the best of times and the worst of times was really, the best years of my life so far. In a way.

I have spent the last few years collecting things from my past. Photographs, memories, music, so forth and so on. The few family members who are active in my life and who love me for who I am have done wonders to help me with those collections.

I am also a very nostalgic alcoholic. Sickly and perversely,

I hold on to old anger and resentment, but they reside in a specific part of my brain, and only when poked at with a stick do I go there. Facebook gives me that stick to poke them with.

It fucks with my brain, my emotions and my sanity.

I think unclean thoughts. I think up old memories and I long to get up, get angry and become a petulant queer just to fuck with them because of the terrible way they have treated me for decades. I go places in my brain that mere mortals should stay away from. My brain is a location that without proper gear and a hard hat and safety goggles, that one should stay out of. Because I can become spiteful and nasty in a moments notice, Zero to Sixty in 2.0 seconds …

No Very Sober At All …

Wonder, I can be safely sane and spit venom from the other side of my mouth all at the same time. I learned this ability from the right people, who do this to me today.

I’ve learned a great deal about wisdom in my growing age. It began when I turned 40. It has been a long journey of learning certain wisdom, because I have enough years behind me to know for sure that I was there, then, and I learned something, and now I have certain hindsight to know wisdom, for sure. One of my guys asked me tonight what did I learn at 47?

I did not have an answer for him, wisdom usually comes after. Not before. And maybe this tirade of injustice will bear fruit and teach me some wisdom? This is how I am feeling at the moment, it is good that I have the ability to be honest and write it all out so that when I speak to my sponsor tomorrow, I can tell him what I said tonight and what happened and why.

Marines are supposed to be Tough. Strong. Honorable. Honest.

Sadly. there is one particular U.S. Marine who is a coward.

It is sad in today’s day and age that people can punish other people, family and ignore them like they do not exist. That we are unimportant. That we don’t matter.

Queer does that to you.

Hate does that to you.

Ignorance does that to you.

AIDS does that to you.

I get to sit here and pound my fist and make my mark in the world. Because if I don’t, who will?

And is it important in the end? They say you can’t get sober and keep ones ego, and that it isn’t all about me, and that I am not really all that important. And that I should accept where I am and thank heaven that I am alive and be grateful for God’s mercy and kindness and love.

It ain’t very sober but I still make the statement … Don’t you know who I am ???

Don’t you want to know, aren’t you curious? More than a decade has passed and I went on with my life despite your hatred and ignorance. Now I want to swing and scream in your face and provoke you to notice me and for once in my life, respect me. Acknowledge me …

That’s all I got. I am spent. Time for dinner.

More to come, stay tuned …


I am here, I survived, and that matters …

Do you believe in Love

Today is my birthday. Last night I got an odd call from my aunt. Strange that she called because we usually speak on Facebook. Nonetheless, she called, and I figured there was a reason for the call, hoping that she had something to give me, and she did.

It seems my estranged father is on Facebook. He had sent my cousin a friend request, which she denied, and so I sent my father one right then and there. My brother is also on Facebook as well, but he has blocked me. So I looked him up while we were talking and started a short conversation with him. I invited him to friend up, and also to come by here and look me up and also sent him my mobile number to see if he would “man up” and call and speak to me in real time.

Today I am 47 years old. And in a maudlin kind of way, I am reflective. I am currently re-reading Halfway Home by the late Paul Monette, who died of AIDS around the time I was diagnosed in 1994.

I wonder if certain people wonder who I am today, and what I have done with my life and how I have chosen to live that life? And I wonder, does it really matter? Yes, it does. For the one fact that I survived a dreadful disease and I lived and that alone should be a point of respect. I have dignity, a life and I live it fully.

I have been sober now almost 13 years. The running joke is that if I lived to see another birthday, I would live to see the next Christmas. So I made it to my birthday today, so I will make it to Christmas.

So many years have gone by for old resentments and anger to fester any longer. I am too old and sober to remain angry and resentful. And I expect that others should be grown up enough to accept life on life’s terms and come to the table, like sane adults.

I matter. I lived. I am alive. I have earned my place in this world. I have earned the respect of my friends and my peers. And I have earned the love of a good man who cares about me and my life, and cares for me like no other has or had.

You just don’t know what years of silence does to someone.You just shut someones light off and plunge them into darkness, it is cruel and unjust. And you should be ashamed of yourself.

Here I am, take it or leave it. This is who I am.

Good and bad.

I lived, God Dammit. Respect !!! You owe me that much. That I lived…


11 Years. The Past Year, The lessons learned and the next phase, Year 12 …

tumblr_l8yrf9m0gc1qb730lo1_500 thiswillnotdefineus

Courtesy:Thiswillnotdefineus (special archives)

I always try to find the right image to go with a post. This is one of those “right” images.

Monday December 9th, 2013. 12 years to the day I attended my Second First Meeting. I have said so many times in the past that up until that day I had already begun to talk to God. And surrender came when I realized that I was finished drinking, again…

We should all say a thank you to Troy for taking me to the meeting. I wonder if he is still sober today?

WHEN YOU KNOW RIGHT, DO RIGHT …

I think the theme of this past year has been “newcomer.” I may not have been a direct sponsor to anyone in particular, but I made a decision to leave my home group of 11 years to move to another Beginners Group made up of young men and women, with days, months and a few years of sobriety.

One young man in particular, one Sunday night, shared parts of his story about how he came in this last time. Struggling badly, he called his father in Europe. Our young man had been to meetings but found them not his “cup of tea.” His father flew to Montreal to see and consult.

They shared, and the question came … his father is long sober. How did dad get sober? And he confidently replied … In Meetings and A.A.

Needless to say he was floored. Our young man came in and got sober.

I did not know him very well when we met on that particular night. But something in him moved me because I spoke about him to a good friend on the way home that night. And ever since that night I have been keeping up with him, and over the last year we have become great friends.

And it is timely because that young man will give me my chip on Friday night December 13th at North End English.

All of the young men at this beginners meeting are special men. They never say NO when you ask them to do something for the greater good. And over the last year, I have had my hard times. I will touch on that later on in this post, suffice to say, when I needed a friend, they were there for me.

Like I said the theme is newcomer. And I feel like I have put my sober journey this year in the hands of newcomers. I’ve tried to practice presence. To be there for them as equally as they have been there for me.

I’ve not always been a good member. Because I have been less than forgiving with certain newcomers. And that is a fault.

A shift in my consciousness took place in May during the West island Roundup. Where we met for a weekend of talks given by speakers from New York City. My life has not been the same since. I wanted so badly to attain New York Sobriety. Whatever that means.

We don’t do sobriety like New York, here. Montreal is much more laid back. I have said in the past as well, that the women I know from Tuesday Beginners and Room of our Own, do it so much better than the men.

So I have kept my relations with them up to speed, even if we don’t see each other as often as I would like, because since leaving Tuesday’s I don’t see the women. But I call them often.

I’ve struggled with where I am going. I’ve struggled with sponsor. I felt at one point that we were both on different pages after the roundup because I went and my sponsor didn’t. He had his reasons, and I respect them.

But our relationship was changed in huge ways.

A long time ago, a friend of mine got sick with Cancer. And I made a conscious decision to be present to him in any way he needed. And I have honored that relationship to this day. We attend meetings together, and we are homed at the Thursday Men’s meeting, which we founded in May of this year.

Something happened a couple of weeks ago at another Thursday Meeting, my sponsor was there and after the meeting we chatted and he asked my friend if he was taking care of me … Now that I think on it today, my friend has been the closest thing to a sponsor as I have had. Seeing we spend a great deal of time together.

This is provident because yesterday when I talked to my good lady friend about an issue on my mind,  we touched on many issues. And I talked about my sponsor and she told me that maybe it was time that I moved on and that finding a new sponsor was important, and that once I did that, he would help me take care of my old sponsor. This is new ground here.

I’ve learned a great deal in the past year. Across many fronts.

In April of this year, one of my friends, another former member of the Tuesday meeting said he wanted to form a new meeting. And he pulled together a few hands, and I pulled a few hands together, and the six of us put together a new meeting. It was one of the biggest undertakings we had ever done in sobriety. It took over $300.00 to open a meeting, from space, to rent, to supplies, just to open the door.

The rest they say is history.

We have population. And a fine group of long time sober men. I was told that we should open the meeting and let God do the rest. He did …

I’ve had some issues with people and that has been a challenge. I did not do the right thing on several occasions, and I have learned from those lessons. I took for granted where I am at this point, and I forgot what it was like to be newly sober. As was pointed out to me recently. This is an ongoing issue that is on my plate right now.

MARRIAGE …

This year saw my marriage and my husband and I almost falling apart. That God Damned George Zimmerman trial almost killed us. Mostly because my husband finished his schooling and was homing in on his defense, and got pulled into this trial and spent every waking hour watching feeds from the states.

Our finances fell to an all time low. We were close to being broke. And I was not happy at all, and it wasn’t until the bottom of the hole was staring me in the face that I finally put my foot down and said something.

I relied on my boys like no one had. And they rose to the challenge with me and they took care of me. And I survived this test …

Yeah it went like this …

“I don’t know if I want to be married to you anymore!”

The earth shook, to say the least. And it seemed that God was watching from the sidelines, because I felt like I had been forsaken, but that was all to change. We survived his defense, and it went perfectly. And after that followed the biggest event in our marriage, hubby landed a job that has set us on new paths financially, now we have been digging ourselves out of the credit hole he put us in over the past six months. And that has been a challenge.

I’ve worked to be a good husband. And relationships are hard work, don’t let anyone tell you differently. Sometimes things go well, and sometimes they don’t. You roll with the punches and the tide.

I am not ready to surrender my marriage. Even though I came close.

Christmas is not far off as I begin writing this after 1 am on a Thursday night. Gifts are not necessary, but we do gift. Simply. We don’t spend oodles of cash on the holiday for material things. We do spend more money on my holiday dinner instead.

It is far better to cook, share and eat than be burdened by “Things.”

SUGGESTIONS TO THE CLUTTERER …

Lorna Kelly writes in a book about clutter and at some point you are long sober, that it comes time to pair down your life and rid yourself of all that shit you’ve collected over the years.

When we get sober, we are empty shells with baggage for days. We sober up, we clean up, we start meetings, and we start working our steps. And over many, many years, it seems, we clear out the wreckage of the past.

And in this eleventh year, I have read “The Camel knows the Way and In the Footsteps of the Camel.” And I think after several read throughs. I have taken to heart what I read because it made sense to me recently.

This new knowledge began the Great Purge of 2013.

This is recent information because it just finished the other day. Suffice to say that there are very few “things” we have kept, mainly because it doesn’t belong to me so I couldn’t throw those things away.

But I did toss every item that was communal. Shit from the balcony, old files, trash we kept and didn’t toss when we should have. I sorted through every piece of clothing we owned and tossed 2 boxes and 4 leaf bags full of clothing in the charity bin. Someone will have a Merry Christmas this year.

YOU MUST PROTECT THIS SACRED GIFT …

While hubby works, I am a stay at home housewife. I clean, do laundry, shop and do all those things that need to be done during the day. I have cultivated time to pray and meditate. Having the house to myself is a good thing because I can devote time to all my sober activities.

Prayer has become something I truly rely on. And I need reminders. That has been a theme in my life. Reminders… A good friend gave me a packet of prayer cards that I use every day. I have tacked the Third Step, the Seventh Step and Eleventh Step prayer on my computer So that the first thing I do in the morning is pray. And it is the last thing I do before I turn the box off and go to bed.

Sunday’s are a Big Book Meeting. Tuesday’s are Beginner’s Meetings, Thursday is the Men’s meeting, and Friday is for me, the As Bill Sees It meeting, where I will take my chip on Friday night. I have been religious about my meetings, and on those nights, hubby has his space aside from our together time.

Every day is different. The social tape that plays out changes every day. It is something that I have learned about after hubby fell sick Bi-Polar. That after he rose from the dead, the tape of the day began to play. And it took a long time to notice it, but it became very clear to me what the tape meant.

You know, the way you communicate with your husband or wife? The little inside jokes, the things only you would know? Sayings from movies, that are in common, jokes from comedians? The little things that pass between you on any given day?

We enjoy our time together. And every day there is something different. The tape is never the same two days running. When hubby got our cell phones, basically so that I could keep in contact with him while he was at Uni, communication took on a new purpose.

Many many years ago, when I was much younger I used to bar hop with my friend Ricky. We worked at R.C.I. together. And we hit up Uncle Charlies every night after work. He met his husband, on the first pass. They connected and have been together ever since.

They had a hole in the wall apartment with a card table, an old sofa and a few chairs. And over the past fifteen years built themselves quite the home.

I always longed to have what they had. And it took my coming to Montreal and sobriety to gift me that which I had so longed for. And it was on the first pass that I saw my then boyfriend, who eventually became my husband. And now nine years later we have turned that hole in the wall apartment into quite the home. We are climbing the financial ladder.

Those Pesky Ninth Step Promises were slow in coming. And just this year, the final promise of “fear of people and of financial insecurity will leave us” has come to pass, so I mention this gently and carefully, because I don’t want to jinx it.

That promise it seemed, was the one that dogged us for so many years. And I think that we have been fired in the crucible for so long, that it was finally time to get out of the heat of the oven. We have long term goals, some of which were promised to me long ago, and are still outstanding. I wrote about them in that long ago post “The State of Our Union.”

We have reached a new benchmark in our lives, and I am hopeful that the next stage of our lives will bring some good news. I hope we are on the up and we keep that momentum, because falling would be heartbreak.

MISERANDO ATQUE ELIGENDO

Translated: Unworthy but chosen.

Pope Francis translates it as “By having compassion and by choosing.”

Just like John Paul II who believed that suffering and pain was sacred, that in the suffering one’s soul comes closer to Christ. Pope Francis once wrote that “Pain is not a virtue in itself, but you can be virtuous in the way you bear it.”

Living with a terminal disease only held at bay with a concoction of powerful pills, does not mean that there is not suffering, either mentally or physically. I have survived another calendar year. Which is no small achievement. This is part of my sober message to my fellows. People do not see death until it hits them right between the eyes. Living with “diseases” is for many a difficult burden.

People tend not to look at the inside of a person, because what they see on the outside looks normal and healthy. It has been a year of remembrance for me. It seemed that quite frequently there was some kind of documentary on television (READ: “We Were Here”) reminding me that I must remember, that we must remember.

It’s been a while, two years, since the last time I spoke at a meeting, which fell on my 10th sober anniversary. You could say that I am off the speaking circuit.

EMOTIONAL SOBRIETY

I don’t know if I am totally emotionally sober. I am finding that part of me holds on to old pain. Over the past few days I have written some stories about memories. And at the moment, I am of the mind that someone owes me an apology. I bore the burden of abuse as a child, defending my mother and brother, yet they stand unified behind a man who denies my existence and has shut off my light because of the family gospel.

I have this internal dialogue going on in my life and I hear myself saying things I so want to say to someones face, to shake them and throttle them close to death … words for my father, who has kept me in the dark and silence for the last twelve years …

LOOK AT ME GOD DAMMIT. SEE ME. ACKNOWLEDGE ME FOR CHRIST’S SAKE. I AM 46 YEARS OLD. GROW THE FUCK UP AND STOP BEING A SON OF A BITCH !!! YOU BASTARD !!! FUCK YOU !!!

There are many thing I would like to say and the one thing I wish at this point in sobriety is that I am heard, and that my voice counts. And that my life has not been a waste of time or effort.

But in reality, this may never come to pass, because in this family dynamic, nobody won.

Like Nelson Mandela, he had to rise above all the hate and abuse to become the man that he did, to lead a people and a nation. And holding on to hate and anger only would have tied him down, emotionally and mentally. He had to let it all go in order to move forwards.

Sobriety is the practice of letting go on a daily basis. If it doesn’t concern me and it isn’t my problem, then don’t entertain it. And if someone irks you who is fresh in the program, but for the grace of God, folks in early sobriety don’t have the time we do to understand many things. Life took years and years to come together and we can’t expect a newbie to come in the room and grow on with “miracle grow.” It doesn’t work that way.

It has been a long haul this last year. I made it and lived it, and nobody can take that away from me. I’ve earned this day, one day at a time.

AND ON THIS LAST NIGHT OF SOBER YEAR 11,
Sunday December 8 – 2013 …

It was early, and I departed early, and set up quietly. A good friend showed up and we had a good time. And on this last night of my sober year, I was reminded why I go to meetings. It is the holiday season, and people are suffering. And as I have alluded to above, I forget what it was like to be newly sober the farther I get from my last drink.

But they say that the farther you get from your last drink, the closer you get to your next drink ! Thank God for newcomers who come, join, and tonight chaired the meeting. I am reminded of the important points: Meetings, Sponsorship, Fellowship and a connection to a Power Greater than Myself.

A man came in with a friend, I could smell alcohol from where I was sitting.

And admitted that he was in bad shape, that he was an alcoholic. In a blackout he hit his wife last night, and he doesn’t remember the rest …

I’ve been there, the darkness, the not knowing, but I know what happened to get me here. I needed life, I needed sobriety, I needed something more than I had had and the only place I could get it was in a meeting.

Before the book was published, the Oxford Group had spirituality and six steps … (1) Complete deflation, (2) Dependence and guidance from a Higher Power, (3) Moral inventory, (4) Confession, (5) Restitution, and (6) Continued work with other alcoholics.

It all sounds so simple and it is – once you get in the door, you dry out and come to.

Then the journey begins. And what a beautiful journey it has been the last year. I would not be here if not for the people I call family, in my life. I am grateful to be reminded of what matters, and why I serve my home group, because if I do not open the door, then people would have no where to go.

And for that I am responsible !!!

Christmas is right around the corner.

THERE ARE 15 SHOPPING DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS.

Thanks for your time and support all these years.


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


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…


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…

 


Crazy S.O.T.B. Revisited July 8, 2013 #19

b-down-gobo1

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.

Read the rest of the story over there in the PAGES …


Crazy SOTB … In Memoriam … 1994-2012 …

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…


We Were Here …

A Feature Length Documentary by David Weissman

“Of all the cinematic explorations of the AIDS crisis, not one is more heartbreaking and inspiring than WE WERE HERE…  The humility, wisdom and cumulative sorrow expressed lend the film a glow of spirituality and infuse it with grace… ONE OF THE TOP TEN FILMS OF THE YEAR.”        Stephen Holden, New York Times

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

Earlier tonight as I was writing “We are not meant to be alone” hubby had put on this documentary that was airing here in Canada tonight. And so I sat through this film reliving the past 20 years of my life in stark detail.

Listening to the story tellers just breaks my heart, because I was there through the worst time of our lives. You just cannot imagine what it was like. Thinking about it is one thing, listening to someone narrate that time period is heart wrenching.

You know, the further I get from the past, the less I tend to think about it today. But every once in a while, and this rings especially true during Pride Months these documentaries play as reminders to those we lost.

I want so badly to tell you that YES, we are not meant to be alone and that we are all loveable no matter what devastation or situation we find ourselves in. And I think somewhere deep down, hubby’s message in watching this film was to say, yes I remember for you and you are not alone here in this life.

Things in my neck of the woods were as frightful as they were in San Francisco and in many big cities in the very beginning. When AIDS came to Ft. Lauderdale, we were all taken aback by the horror of just what AIDS was doing to our community.

Thank God – T H A N K   G O D that what I saw did not happen to me. Because it was ugly. I have documented all these things in PAGES, but for the moment I am drawn to address this topic here and now because it weighs heavily on my heart and soul.

When I sero-converted I was so sick. I thought for sure that I was going to die at any moment. But my friends and keepers in the AIDS care circle had other plans for me.

The film speaks of finding a cure …

that there should be more than AZT…

Back in those days we were all taking AZT because there was nothing else to take. We even went the lengths to collect old drugs from people who had died, and those drugs were taken to drug farms and re-purposed for use for those who were still alive and fighting to stay alive.

God forbid you had to go to a hospital. They would break out the hazmat suits and moon goggles and scrubs. It was heartless the way that the medical community treated us, for a long time, until they got trained to be able to deal with us without all the fear that was running rampant through the cities.

There were no specialists, no real doctors at that point, it was hit and miss because there really was no social medical safety net to take care of all the sick. But there were enough people to begin with that took on the task of treating what they could with whatever they had on hand.

I know for myself. I took tons of pills to try and find something that worked. And in the beginning that was AZT. It made me sick, and we had little pocket timers that would go off every four hours to remind us to take our pills.

Eventually in Miami there was dedicated doctors who were in the loop of medical research that I got involved with and what these doctors did for me is nothing short of a miracle.

With Genotype and Phenotype testing, they figured out the strain and type of virus we were carrying, then from that they proceeded to attaining tables of drugs that we could take that had promising results in the lab. And as drug companies pushed out pills we took them.

We did not wait for test circles to form on others, we tested all those meds ourselves. So that every year we survived, we had data to share with the rest of the world as AIDS was a worldwide epidemic.

But medication was expensive especially if you could not afford your pills. There were no insurance plans designed for this – people were selling their life insurance policies and going on government disability to be able to afford treatment. I know it took me three attempts to finally get disability coverage in the U.S. I had to almost kill myself to get my social services person to sign off on my form.

Let me tell you what the government made us go through to get disability insurance. We had to be on deaths door step, sick unto death before they would finally clear you. I got so sick that on the day I finally got signed I walked into the office, not having bathed or shaven in a weeks time, hacking and coughing all over the place for someone to fear me enough to sign on the dotted line so that I could get assistance. It was heartless and cruel the things the government and the state did to those who were sick.

They made us little white boys go to places that white people don’t go to in broad daylight. Trekking from one side of the city to another taking bus after bus and train after train just to get social assistance. Needless to say that once a cast iron bitch always a cast iron bitch.

People were so afraid of the sick. God forbid you sat next to us on a bus, or a train. God forbid you had to deal with us directly.

  • I watched families throw their sons out into the streets.
  • I watched lovers toss their loved ones out into the streets as well.
  • I witnessed land lords toss sick people from their homes.
  • I witnessed employers fire and cut people off from insurance and livelihoods.
  • I witnessed so called Christians get on their hellfire and brimstone horses and watched them burn us all down to the ground with hatred and fear mongering.
  • My Own family turned against me when I got sick. They would rather condemn me rather than help me so fuck them …

It was Sick. Absolutely and Totally Sick !!!

And still today that hatred simmers in certain circles. And every year we go through these periods of time when we are raw with emotions that some fuck comes along and throws salt in the wound just because they feel righteous !!!

The One Good thing that did happen was it galvanized those who were left into care circles and care givers. AIDS separated the men from the boys and the girls from the women. You learned just how devoted your friends were to you and just how much they meant to you while they were still here.

And FUCK all you haters out there. Heartless Bastards…

So many of my friends died. All I have is a photo album of the last time I saw the Names Project Quilt show in Ft. Lauderdale or Miami I think it was. This blog is a testament and my memory for those years of my life when I thought that I too was going to die.

God in his infinite wisdom had other plans for me. There was a life to live. There were things I still needed to do, and people to meet and places to see. Today I have the best doctor in the world. He treated patient Zero, the French Flight Attendant back in the old days. I truly lucked out when I moved here to find him and get into his clinic.

It is sad that there is still no cure. But death is something of a second thought now. We are living longer. I had a doctor who told me that when I die that it won’t be AIDS that kills me. And that was a long time ago.

I’ve always said that if science ever gets to the point that time travel is possible, the time I would go back to is the period of time that I was first diagnosed, because it was the Best of Times and it was The Worst of Times. I knew then that I was loved and so cared for that I wanted for nothing. And I think that that is what saved me.

There wasn’t time to sit and wait to die. I was too busy being taught how to survive and in that time I did not sit in my shit and play with it. Time was of the essence and men nor horses were going to keep me from winning this fight.

Every day that I look in the mirror I thank God for Todd and Roy and all the others who took the time to teach me and to love me and to make sure that nothing took me down be that sickness or man.

Never Forget and Remember still that on your daily goings on, you never know who you are sitting next to on the bus or on the train, or walking down the sidewalk, you never know what battle someone else is engaged in.

It Gets Better. We are still alive. And our stories should never be forgotten.

We Were Here … I was there, and I am still here.