Survivors of 1980s AIDS crisis reveal what happened to them | Gay Star News

An honest discussion of times hopefully past and of experiences no one should have to endure.


Apologies for Silence (Post-Laptop Reality 2.0)

It’s been months since I’ve posted anything of length here.  In the interim, I ‘ve done a lot of traveling, a good bit of introspection, and as I have  moved back towards writing and posts of real substance I’ve hit a small speed hump that means regular posts are still, for now, a thing of the past and future but not something I can commit to now.  My laptop is officially on life support, having been resuscitated temporarily by a computer-savvy friend and returned to me with instructions to retrieve anything I have not backed up ASAP or risk losing it forever.  It turns out laptop video cards, at least in the case of my model, are soldered to the motherboard, so when they go out your options are replace the motherboard (which is expensive) or replace the laptop, which is (apparently) only slightly more expensive.  The DIY temporary fix involves covering the intake and exhaust ports of the machine and then turning it on for half an hour so that it overheats.  Sounds dreadful but it is simply a dire patch for a permanent situation.  Apparently, the intended result (and the result that my friend achieved in my case) is that the heat causes the solder points to expand and fuses the cracked solder back together however temporarily.  This fix, he says, can last for a day, a week, a year, two years, etc., but that when the solder cracks again, as it likely will now that it is weak, you will have to undergo the overheating process again.  Which may fix it again, or may not, as overheating the computer may cause other problems.

With that as my new reality, I have ordered another cheap back up drive to archive and possibly image my laptop before stripping it of substance and consigning it to the role of guest computer, I suppose.

So here I sit, at a Memphis Public Library  public computer, hammering out this place-holder for real prose (not lovely but certainly long overdue).  The guy next to me just left (finally!) after playing video games, punctuated by game-over sounds and repeated, more-than-audible, exclamations of, “Oh! My! God!” after each termination.  When his session ended (they have patrons on a two-hour timer here), he started singing (terribly and nearly tunelessly, of course) about computers and video games.  I believe the tune was “Deck The Halls,” but with more nasal delivery than strictly necessary for someone who wasn’t actually striving for obnoxious.

The going forward plan is that I will continue my lack-of laptop until after Christmas, so that we can take advantage of after Christmas sales to pick up another cheap laptop for regular internet use, bill-paying, ordering online, playing DVD’s outside, etc.  In the mean time, we will set up my study/office in our old bedroom (when we finish the floor of our new bedroom), and I will bring a much older desktop model out of mothballs and set it up again as my writing and blog-only computer.  I will in the meantime look around for a cheap (used) flat screen monitor to use with it, as the only monitors I have left from the old days will swallow half of my desk.

Until all of that happens, I have only these fleeting moments to log on and post, so that is the state of things for now.

How to Date a Gay Novelist Who Is Older Than Your Dad : Hugh Ryan

Here’s a blog post that has several elements that appeal to me.   First of all, it’s written by a friend,  Hugh Ryan, so I am predisposed to like it, and if I do like it, to enable it to spread.  Second,  as I mentioned,  the post is very well written,  and finally,  it provides a glimpse into the life of someone of both personal and historical/cultural interest.

Anyway,  read on and enjoy.

Next Stop – Goa, India – A New Generation of Pilgrims Hits India’s Hippie Trail –

In case you missed it… here’s a terrific piece from the New York Times back in 2006.  I know that I was only dimly aware (if at all) with Goa’s hippie history when I was becoming of age. Certainly, if I had been more aware of Goa’s role in the formation of the culture I claim as my own, I would have made sure to do more than touch down there en route to somewhere else when I was “in country.”  If you ever wondered why Goa, India has such a hold on the more Bohemian-minded among us, this article has it all.  It even references a DVD documentary I own called, “Last Hippie Standing,” which dates from about the same time period. If you ever wondered why India in general and Goa in particular hold such power among the more “artistically” (raver) inclined folks, this is why.  I may still write more about this or my experiences  at a later date, but I did want to pass this link along now.
Anyway, check it out if you like:

In Case You Missed It… Sasha Shulgin Has Left The Building

Although I am always sad to hear when a culture warrior has passed on, I am also secretly thrilled to see the New York Times obituary because it’s exciting to me to see my  counter-cultural heroes celebrated in the mainstream press, even when that exposure is post-mortem. In this instance, I heard a few days ago of the death of Alexander Shulgin, a psychedelic researcher, chemist, “neuronaut” of the psychoactive frontier, and synthesizer of more than 200 psychoactive substances, including MDMA and many related compounds.  (MDMA was originally produced by Merck pharmaceuticals in 1914, but when the company failed to find a way to monetize the substance, they allowed their patent to lapse, thus allowing Shulgin to re-synthesize the substance about half a century later.) Although I would not describe myself as a drug user per se, I have been long fascinated by the effects of psychoactive plants and chemicals on the human (and animal) psyche, by the variety of the chemicals and plant substances that have been traditionally used to alter reality, and by the lengths to which humans and even other animals have gone for eons to chemically enhance or alter their  reality, whether for spiritual, therapeutic, recreational, or other reasons.  (Among the more unique small books in my collection is the aptly titled, Animals and Psychedelicswhich anecdotally explores “the natural world and the instinct to alter consciousness,” according to its subtitle.) Most people who know me at all, even superficially, know of my fascination with herbs, supplements, and other natural substances, both with the rainbow of available options and the effects of these substances on the healthy functioning of our brains and bodies. What is less well-known — and really, this is partly by design because of the stigma that usually surrounds such subjects — is how I came to the study of herbs and medicinal substances at all.  I never set foot in a health food store, that I can remember, until the day I went into one to apply for a job.  As a child I was a student of the outdoors, and I always enjoyed learning about wild things.  In summer camp, I had a healthy fascination with outdoor crafts and learning survival skills, but really none of those experiences properly prepared me for my later encounters with wild foods, foraging, or the immense power of some innocuous-looking flowers, trees, etc. to heal or harm when used correctly or incorrectly.  At camp, we pressed flowers and butterflies, learned how to start a fire without matches, how to shoot a bow and arrow, how to make rudimentary shelters, even how to make crafty things out of plants, rocks, etc., but I don’t remember a single syllable being uttered about how I should feed myself or give first aid if I found myself in the wild without food or a first aid kit.  Truthfully, our instructors geared any early preparedness training  more toward what we should bring from home to properly protect ourselves from the elements until help could get to us, not how we should feed ourselves if we became separated from our food supply or first aid kit. So how did I  come to the study of medicinal and edible wild plants?  Partly as a function of all the reading I did in high school about cultural upheaval in America in the 1960’s, I fell down a number of literary rabbit holes, digressing to dig deeper into various subjects and into the lives and literary works of  culture warriors and iconoclasts.  I read extensively about the lives and lively interactions of the Beat poets, spending a lot of quality time on Allen Ginsberg (an early gay hero of mine), William Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac.   Kerouac led me to Neal Cassady, who led me to Ken Kesey and the Acid Tests.  Ginsberg led me to the gay counterculture and to Bob Dylan.  I was already listening to the Grateful Dead, the Doors, and other bands, and it was thrilling to me to read about how Ginsberg, Cassady, Kesey, Dylan, and the Dead collided in psychedelic space and helped to catalyze one sphere in an already chaotic countercultural universe.  Reading a biography of The Doors’ Jim Morrison, I learned about Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, and the French literary counterculture that swirled around them.  Everywhere woven  through these literary conversations was the creative use of plants, absinthe, alcohol, or other substances.  In many cases, as early as high school English, I learned how substances like these influenced the life and creative output of artists, writers, and other cultural icons.  (Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s use of opium springs to mind; reputedly, “Kubla Khan” was reputedly written under its influence .) Throughout my early forays into these controversial subjects there was always the background chatter from  Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No campaign.  The chatter suggested that no matter how many writers and artists produced great works while under the influence, their success was almost accidental, and their work was of dubious value because of how they created it. Imagine my surprise when I had my first psychedelic experiences in college and realized that not only do a lot of these substances “work”, but they work well and there is not necessarily anymore likelihood that you will die the first time you try them than if you over-consume alcoholic beverages, which are legal.  In some cases (weed, for example), there is even less chance that you will overdose than with alcohol.  True, they aren’t for everyone, and there is a chance of psychological damage or physical injury if one is too casual or doesn’t pay proper attention to what is known in the psychedelic world as “set and setting.” (1) In any case, I was sad to hear that Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin had passed on but glad to see The Times give his life and work a nice review and give him a final send-off.

(1) Note: [Set is short for mindset.  In other words, how is your attitude?  How are you feeling?  Are you mentally prepared to ingest the substance you are about to consume?  Are you ready to face whatever personal demons you might stir up?  If you can’t face these questions, proceed cautiously, if at all.  Then, there is the other part of the equation, setting.  Are you going it alone or hanging out with friends?  Would you prefer sitting on a quiet starry hillside, playing frisbee on a sunny day in the park, or dancing all night at a banging dance party in a crowded, high energy club?  Not every altered experience is micro-manageable to this level, but learning that your preferences or safety needs are different from what you expected or planned for has consequences, ranging from seriously inconvenient to even downright dangerous under some circumstances.]

Smithsonian Folkways has reissued Mickey Hart’s Dafos, an out of print classic

Smithsonian Folkways has reissued an out of print classic

This looks like it would be well-worth hearing.  I have always been a fan of Mickey Hart’s world music forays, and this album is supposed to be a classic.  Featuring Mickey Hart (the Grateful Dead’s percussionist), Airto Moreira (“Brazilian sound master and Miles Davis alumnus), and Flora Purim (exceptional vocalist), this album featured a very ingenious sound-capturing technique that preserved the intimacy of closely miked recordings while capturing the expanse of a performance hall live recording.

To get a copy for yourself, you might try here:

In Case You Missed It… Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Sent Off By Salman Rushdie

So as some of my regular readers may have gathered, I have a fairly active mind and a lot of reading interests, many of which overlap somewhere between thirty years of personal journals and my regular reading of the New York Times.

I had just read the cover story of the “Book Review” insert in The Times from a couple of weeks back.  There was a lovely and generous send off of Gabriel Garcia Marquez by another master of “magical realism,” Salman Rushdie.  I got excited because I remembered an essay I wrote when I was applying to college.  In my memory, the essay was about how I related to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and so would have made great fodder for my take on Salman Rushdie’s send off of Marquez.

Only thing is, when I tracked down that essay (which I do still have, archivist that I am, in my “high school essay” folder), I was somewhat mortified to discover that it wasn’t about how I related to Gabriel Garcia Marquez at all but how I related to Mario Vargas Llosa.  Three names, from an older generation, from the Americas, and an author but not a lot of similarity beyond that.  According to Wikipedia, Vargas Llosa “writes prolifically across an array of literary genres, including literary criticism and journalism. His novels include comedies, murder mysteries, historical novels, and political thrillers.”  Garcia Marquez, however, started off as a journalist but was most well-known for popularizing a writing style known as “magic realism.”

Oh, well, such are the vicissitudes of memory and time.

In any case, the article is well worth reading.  Go here to check it out.

The “perks” of writing and the compulsion to create revisited

One of the blogs I follow regularly is by a writer named Cristian Mihai, who often writes about creativity and the art (and business) of writing.  Although I’m not yet in his league as far as earning money for my writing, I do think this guy hits it spot-on about the “perks of being a writer.”  In a lot ways, reading this I found myself thinking, “oh, this is what I have to look forward to if I persist in writing regularly to the point where more people notice.”  At the same time, a big “perk” for me is one that he didn’t really mention: one of the best parts about writing, for me, is the ability to regularly and reliably stretch my creative and intellectual muscles. Why am I a writer?  I am a writer because I have to write.  The need to create and transform language and  thought compels me, and has for as long as I remember.  When I write, I am engaging with my world and my environment, while when I don’t write I feel like I am treading water and not making any progress at all really.  Here’s one of my favorite parts of this piece, which is worth reading in total as well:

“Okay, now on a more serious note. The perk I like most is that once in a while someone tells you they love your story. Whether a five-star review on Amazon, an e-mail, a blog comment, it doesn’t matter as long as someone genuinely loves your writing. Money can’t buy this mixture of admiration and envy that people feel when they read something really, really good. A paragraph or just a few short sentences that describe exactly how they feel in the world.

Two strangers, the writer and the reader, locked in this strange dance… there’s nothing that can compare to it. And you, as a writer, realize that you’re not as alone as you thought. Someone else feels the same way as you do.

As Tennessee Williams once said, you’re not lonely alone.”

For more on my thoughts about creativity and writing, you might check out these earlier posts from Greenfae’s Leaves (tagged “Creativity”).  Here are a few to get you started: 

The Recommitment

Not Writing Easily Now, I Find Myself Watching Old Movies And Trying To Stay Focused…

Another Great Article On The Origins and Practice of Creativity

A Universe of Its Own (this one is a perennial favorite of mine)





Two Vignettes: Studies in Dominance & Submission

English: The Eye of Horus, done in photoshop

English: The Eye of Horus, done in Photoshop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

22 September 1998

I was thinking just now about this ring I used to have, the one with the Eye of Horus on it.  It was just a cheap metal thing, seemingly entirely forgettable, and yet it was my first ring, and I really liked it.  Curious about what it looked like?  I Googled Eye of Horus ring and found one almost just like it, except mine was sheet metal.

I lost my original ring in a parking in Arizona in 1992, when I was on a pilgrimage to see the Grateful Dead at the Sacramento Speedway.  I was with one of my best friends and his then girlfriend, who we’ll just call Bella.  My friend, Gene, could be a real  dick, but he could be sweet and was, in any case, attractive and a real cock tease, especially with his friends.  I was really hung on him, but he was one of my best friends, and we were on a buddy trip with his girlfriend to see the Dead when we happened to stop in a parking lot in Arizona.

I no longer remember why we stopped at that point, but it was such an intense trip and even though we had a destination, we had a bit of time to get there, so we were probably just tired of driving.  I remember it was nearly dusk, and we were just hanging out, talking shit, and kicking the dirt.  At some point, Gene started teasing me, which was a favorite pastime of his.  He grabbed my key ring and began throwing it up in the air, blocking my attempts to catch it, letting it hit the ground, and then snatching them away when I tried to pick them up.  If his girlfriend hadn’t been there, we would eventually have gotten to wrestling for control, and if the ground wasn’t too rough, we might even have ended up rolling around in the dust until he had me pinned.  Knowing him, Gene would rub in the fact that he had the upper hand by pinning me with his crotch or his pits in my face so I could feel how fully in control he was and smell his dominance.  I can even now remember many times in our room at college when he would pick such a “fight,” and we would wrestle for control.  We’d roll around, knock over furniture, twist the carpet into a ball, and nearly always we would come to an impasse.  Gene would pin me in a wrestling move.  I would twist out of it, he would pin me again, and many, many times, I can remember feeling how excited pinning me had made him.    Gene wasn’t bigger than me, but he had played competitive sports for most of his life, so he usually had the upper hand.  We occasionally had these wrestling matches when he had a girlfriend, but mostly I think they occurred when he was in between girlfriends and needed to work off some sexual frustration by dominating a friend.

But back to my ring and that parking lot in Arizona.  His girlfriend was there, and he couldn’t really properly torment me in public anyway, so he was taking it out on my key ring.  He threw it up, blocked me, and caught the key ring, or the key ring hit the ground while he was blocking me because he was, after all, not superman and sometimes he couldn’t control both the ring and me simultaneously.  Anyway, the second or third time the ring hit the ground, there was a little flash of metal, and when I retrieved my keys, the ring was gone.

Truly, it was just a sheet metal ring, but I can remember being really irritated.  It didn’t help that Bella said, “Well, maybe you weren’t supposed to have it, ” as if cosmic forces instead of common rudeness might have been to blame.


[This next bit originated when I still did a radio show on a community supported radio station, which I is something I did for about a decade between 1996 and about 2006.]

Last night I had a “grandfather moment.”  What happened was, in the last half hour to forty-five minutes of the show, I got in an increasingly discordant mood.  I finished the show with ten minutes of a fourteen minute piece featuring rusty hinges.  About six minutes before two AM, this furious older gentleman called and hissed through clenched teeth that he was a card-carrying member of the station and that he did NOT like what he was hearing through his radio.  Then he hung up on me.

I let the track go on for another three to four minutes (I am not one to let go without a fight) and then eased into “Coil” by Robert Rich off of his album, Seven Veils, a stunningly sinuous album of experimental electronica and percussion that is well worth hearing in its entirety.  As was my habit, I slowly faded out of the rusty hinge track while gradually blending in the Robert Rich track and in my best, soothing radio voice, I described “Coils” as soothing to the savage beast and ruffled listener.

Later, after I had signed off, I realized why the incident had both upset and unsettled me.  It’s not just that I don’t like upsetting people.  There was more to it than that.  I was flung back into my childhood, when my family was visiting my Cape Cod grand parents one summer.  I was still a kid but had developed a habit of locking myself in the restroom when I needed to use it.  (Don’t ask me what that was about — maybe bathroom shame, I don’t know.)  Anyway, my grandfather tried the door and found it locked.  I guess maybe he was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get out, and he’d be left to figure out how to unlock the door.  Instead of going away and leaving me to poop in peace like any normal human would, he hammered on the door with his fists until I fumbled it open, and then he stood towering over me yelling without explanation until I ran sobbing to my parents’ bedroom and hid behind my mother.

I had  forgotten about that moment right up until that old man yelled at me and I had my “grandfather” moment.  For a drawn out, discomforting instant, I was back on that pallet on the bedroom floor with my mother kneeling at my side trying to comfort me.  Sobbing, I saw over her shoulder, through the partly closed-door, the reflection of light off my grandfather’s glasses.

Aiken in the afternoon (Journal Entry)

Sandwiched among the dreams and remembrances in my old journals, there are quotes that stuck with me from things I was reading at the time.  Here’s one from Conrad Aiken’s poem, “A Letter from Li Po,” which is well worth reading in its entirety:

“Exiled are we.  Were exiles born.  The ‘far away,’

language of desert, language of ocean, language of sky,

as of the unfathomable worlds that lie

between the apple and the eye,

these are the only words we learn to say.

Each morning we devour the unknown.  Each day

we find, and take, and spill, or spend, or lose,

a sunflower splendor of which none knows the source.”



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