I haven't written for quite a while. My excuse is that I have been careening from one health issue to another and haven't had the strength to write. I have learned quite a lot from these illnesses. I am still struggling to reckon the past seven months.
In November I had a mild heart attack. I was at UCLA for an appointment with my neurologist, Dr. Elyse Singer. The trip to UCLA is always grueling for me. I can no longer drive so I have to rely on a disabled transit service. Since I am prone to profound weakness when stressed, I use a power wheel chair for the trip.
As I held my pruner in one hand and the guide book for pruning a bonsai in the other I read that a bonsai is pruned to promote openness. The guide book continued with the helpful hint that the trunk and branches of the bonsai are pruned so that they peek through the foliage. The bonsai I was about to prune is a western cedar whose growth was naturally stunted by a liquid amber tree. It is about four feet high and five feet across and was at one time an elegant addition to my back garden. Now, it looked like a badly pruned hedge.
On June 5, 1981, when the CDC report on mysterious cases of young gay men dying of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in Los Angeles came out I was a very busy student in my senior year of college. I had begun college in 1977 with the intention of being an English major; however, I found out soon I was rubbish at writing literary critiques. A woman I met at lunch one day told me that Actuarial Science graduates made loads of money so I switched my major to mathematics. I finished courses sufficient to take the first two Actuarial Science tests; but in May 1981 I realized the Veteran's Administration War Orphans benefits I was receiving due to my dad's 100% disability suffered in Viet Nam were due to run out before I could complete the coursework necessary to take the next eight Actuarial Science exams. I needed to have a job by March 1982 when my VA benefits ran out, so I switched my major to Business with a concentration in Accounting. To graduate, I needed to take four courses per quarter in the coming summer, fall and winter quarters. I was consequently swamped with course work that June.
I have just returned from a wonderful trip to Egypt. Fortunately, I returned home a few days before the troubles started. I am not surprised the Egyptian people are dissatisfied with their lot and are in a state of rebellion. Poverty is everywhere and around all the monuments are slums. At the pyramids the slums are within a hundred yards and the Sphinx looks upon some of the worst.
In a few days I'm off to Egypt for three weeks on a trip I've dreamt of all my life. The trip is disabled friendly I am told. My partner's doctors don't believe he's up to a long flight so I am going by myself. All of my doctors have told me that my neurological issues may flare up on the arduous trip I am undertaking. But, you just have to tuck your chin in sometimes and take a chance.
My mother died on Christmas Eve eight years ago. My partner and I had been in the south of France for a month so that I could work on the language requirement for my master's degree from the University of Edinburgh. After the end of that month, we took the train to Paris to spend Christmas and New Year's. I had not checked my e-mail for a month so I walked down to an internet café to catch up. As I read my e-mails, I was horrified to read a series of e-mails that said my mother was in the hospital, that she was getting worse, and then that she had died. I rushed back to the hotel to call my sister on her mobile to find out the funeral plans for my mom. My sister said the funeral was the next day in Orlando, Florida. I told her it was not possible for me to get from Paris to Orlando in time for the funeral and asked her to delay the funeral for a few days. My sister said a delay was impossible as the plans were too far advanced and calls had been made for the family to attend. I asked my sis to give my regrets to the family and we hung up. Later that same day, my partner and I visited Chartres Cathedral where I lit a candle for my mom and said a Rosary for the repose of her soul. My sister and my family have never forgiven me for not attending my mom's funeral and we have not spoken since.
My partner and I live just north of Los Angeles in the slightly inclined stretch of land that becomes the foothills and then the startling uprightness of the San Gabriel Mountains. In winter, the mountains are often dusted with snow. After a snow, when the sun peeks between the horizon and the clouds, the mountains are tinted yellow, orange and pink. In the summer, the setting sun tints the mountains violet.
Beth was the most remarkable person I have ever met. I first heard of her in spring 1991 in an article in the Sunday section of the Marin Independent. At the time, I was living with my partner, Jim, in an apartment in Tiburon, California, on the edge of Richardson Bay with a view from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge. In the evening we could sit on our deck and admire the view of San Francisco while waves lapped against the beach beneath our feet. Life was good for Jim and me. We had satisfying work and a wonderful group of friends. Yet with all this, I remained angry that I had been infected with HIV.
I knew from an early age that I liked men's bodies. In central Florida where I attended junior and senior high school in the '60s, chain gangs regularly scythed the tall grass that grew alongside the state highway that intersected the road I lived on. I spent many afternoons hidden in tall grass looking through my father's army binoculars at the sweaty, shirtless convicts in striped prison pants as they toiled in the hot sun. When I went to the circus, I loved to watch the male trapeze artists in their tights and bare chests. Gym class was only bearable because of the showers afterwards. I still remember a blond god of a boy who caught me looking at him and took his dick in his hand to show it to me.
I am not a researcher -- I can only speak from my own experience -- but far too many people mistakenly believe that HIV no longer causes chronic illness because of the potent anti-retrovirals available. Over the last five years in particular, I have become aware that both doctors and the non-infected public have the ill informed opinion that HIV/AIDS is completely controlled by medications. The belief that HIV/AIDS is no longer a health threat has caused many to become complacent about avoiding infection and has also caused many to view the illnesses of the HIV infected as unimportant.