The last week of April the better half and I celebrated 29 years together by treating ourselves to a east coast trip to both New York and Philadelphia. The kind lady that the check in desk of New York’s Marriott Marquis Time Square surprised us with a room upgrade. We found ourselves blessed with an unbelievable 35th floor view of Time Square eye to eye with the famous clock.
New York was wonderful. We made it to the Guggenheim, the Frick, MOMA, the Vessel, Bergdorf’s, the Fashion Institute, Mood, a Metz game, Rockefeller Center, Macy’s and of corse Tiffany. We saw To Kill a Mocking Bird, The Cher Show and Dear Evan Hansen. A whirlwind it was, a good one in fact.
Fearsome met a rather inspiring politician at Penn station awaiting his train to Philly.
In Philly we were greeted by three wonderful friends and bloggers. Bloggers known as Mistress Maddie, Arteejee and none other than the famous Anne Marie in Philly. We had a great dinner with the three of them. Fun conversation and lots of laughter. Blogging really does have its benefits. The bloggers I’ve met in person over the years have all become treasured friends. I’ll be back to see these three!
The next day was spent with family as a Fearsome’s niece lives just outside of Philadelphia . We attended a Phillies game with the whole crew.
The highlight of our trip? Well there were many and you know what? The whole trip was a highlight. I’m blessed with a husband I love, friends I love and family I love.
While driving to the gym today, a treasured song from my past found it’s way from the satellite airwaves through my car speakers onto my eardrums. As my tympanic membranes vibrated to the rhythms, and the vestibulochoclear nerve impulses transferred the information to my brain, my emotions became full of overwhelm. The flood of sadness, grief, warmth, joy, hope, gratitude and rage resulted in a stream of mixed emotional tears into the softness of Fearsome Beard.
Memories enveloped me.
I’m a survivor. I never contracted the HIV virus.
I graduated high school as a very sexually active young homosexual male. I had a ball. I even attended an all night orgy the night before my high school graduation. It was the early 1980s after all and I was a young adult. I was 18. I was one of 4 students who spoke on that graduation day before our class of 500 students. I give you, my dear reader, such a graphic example for a reason.
There was an unknown threat surrounding us males of the homosexual persuasion. A threat unknown to any of us. Even unknown to men 10, 20, 30 or more years my senior.
Apparently sometime during the sexual revolution of the 1970s a virus had turned up in our population. An undetected virus that was just about to reach a critical mass infection that would soon wreak havoc on our community.
We didn’t know. We had fun. We loved. We partied. We fucked.
Love is Love is Love is Love.
It was then. It is today. Yet then we had no idea what was about to happen, and then it did happen.
Those rare cases of an immune deficiency ticked up. They ticked up in the gay community of the U.S. and suddenly we had a syndrome. It was first named GRID. Gay Related Immune Deficiency they called it. GRID was rare. GRID was seen only in large cities. GRID didn’t affect us in smaller towns. Yet it was there, we just didn’t know it yet.
Keep in mind this was the early to mid 1980s. Safe sex wasn’t yet a known practice. Gay men didn’t use condoms. Two men can’t get pregnant. No one yet knew that the virus was spreading nor how it was spreading.
As this virus did spread it showed up in a few other populations, but not in the numbers it did amoung gay men. Researchers soon discovered that it was transmissible, probably from a virus, and thus it was acquired. The name changed to AIDS or Aquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It was still rare, but starting to scare us. Then it started to happen. People around me started to get sick.
One of my favorite sexual partners, Jerry, came down with it. Jerry was 38, I was probably 20. Jerry was in his prime. Jerry was succesful, owned several homes and was stunningly handsome. Jerry became very ill. I was scared. I went to visit Jerry. He was thin, pale, had wierd dark cancerous spots on his skin and was short of breath. Jerry looked like hell. He offered me a drink. I said I wasn’t thirsty. I was actually afraid I would catch it from the glass. I couldn’t wait to leave. I never saw Jerry alive again.
Within about 5 years of the night of that orgy celebrating my high school graduation, with the exception of me, every single other person that was there had died. I can still see each of their faces and remember each of their names.
The 1980s for me was a war zone. It wasn’t “if” I would catch AIDS and die, it was when.
In 1990 I fell in love and moved away. Far away. Even though I moved far away, that virus was still here on the west coast. I never contracted that virus. I still haven’t today. I don’t know why I didn’t as I was never, nor did I ever become, no angel. Today the virus is called HIV. The deadly disease that is a result of HIV is AIDS.
My flood of emotion was gratitude that I am here. Gratitude that I ain’t never contracted HIV. Gratitude that I knew those wonderful men I lost, who were not only sexual partners, but mentors and friends. Grateful I loved. Grateful that I could hear Bruce Springsteen’s words. Grateful I could feel. That I could feel all the emotions pouring from me of grief, sadness, love, anger, joy, warmth, disappointment, hope, fear, gratitude and rage.
Fearsome Beard absorbed my tears. I made my way into the gym as a healthy, grateful, loving, kind and hopeful 50 something gay man. A man who was now far removed from the 1980s and far removed from the origin and experiences of the song and memories that had just overwhelmed me.
I will never forget those men whom I lost. I will never forget the times I went through. I’ll never forget the joy, laughter and tears. Those men and those experiences made me who I am today. I look forward to what is to come. I am forever grateful.
I love life. I love who I am. I have been blessed. I am blessed.
This morning on our way to Philly we had a stopover and as we landed at San Fransisco International SFO we had the honor of seeing United’s last 747 on the tarmac before it’s final farewell flight today from San Fransisco to Hawaii.
I love 747s and thankfully have flown several of them over the years. Godspeed my friend.
Then after arriving in Philly we, Fearsome & meself, had the greater honor of re-uniting with an old friend and meeting a new one face to face for the first time. It’s been a wonderful day.
Today we fly to Philly to stop on our way to join Mom, Brother, sister-in-law, a niece, her husband, their two kids and a nephew for a train trip into the Big Apple. Mom has always dreamed of seeing The Rockettes, so we are all taking her to Radio City Music Hall for The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular!
WooHoo! We is gonna have a blast!
The Boss stands with equality again. We knew he was a man of quality and honest good morals back when he recorded this song for the groundbreaking film Philadelphia.
Today he cancelled a concert scheduled for this Sunday in Greensboro North Carolina.
No one should be so discriminated against that is living a life where their body of birth didn’t fit who they were and now that their body does resemble who they are….they are left with no bathroom to use in public. No one. Nor should a state government take away protections in place in localities only to mandate discrimination.
Mr. Springsteen is taking a stand that must be taken. I fully support him. I will stand with him by buying some of his tunes on iTunes today. Will you join me?