$2,064 of Awesome; and Why Flaming Red?

On Friday, Sept. 21, my friend, fellow admin assistant and teammate, Sandie, walked in the door to our department, past my cubicle, and the first thing I said to her was, "We're awesome."

She's known me about a year, and is well aware of my abiding love of sarcasm and penchant for jokes, especially on Fridays, so she hesitated a moment before tentatively replying "... how awesome?"

My answer? "$1,994 of awesome." That's right, as of 8:30 a.m., Friday, Sept. 21, with two days to go until the Scotiabank AIDS Walk for Life, we had exceeded our goal, and probably our expectations too, by $494.

Thanks to the amazing generosity of our family, friends, coworkers and complete strangers, by the end of that day, we had raised a grand total of $2,064 to benefit the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia.

The experience of actually walking was amazing -- last year, I severely sprained my ankle a week before the walk and was out of commission for over a month afterward. I am privileged to have been joined this year by some amazing friends, Sandie, Margaret and Lori. I am so proud of, and grateful for, my teammates without whom none of this would have been possible. I could not have picked better people to be on my team, and of course, to walk with, and I hope they'll join me again next year.

"Why Flaming Red?"

Something that came up quite a bit while fundraising, and at least twice at the Walk itself, was "Why Flaming Red?" And it occurred to me that, although I'd certainly meant to, and it's been on my to-do list forever, I haven't told you the story behind Flaming Red.

In preparation for being a blogger here, in a process that coincidently came to an end on Oct. 8, 2010 while sitting in Second Cup, there were five questions I needed to answer. One of them was what I wanted to call this thing. I had no idea which is why it took so very long to begin.

I put the question to my Facebook friends, who suggested among other things, Red Ribbon Love (what?), Red Passion (I'll have to remember that one for when I decide to become a romance novelist ... or not), Crazy Red Ribbons, and the list went on. Needless to say, although I love them dearly, they weren't much help.

As those of you who've read my World AIDS Day pieces can probably guess, I read a lot of AIDS literature, with a strange focus on drama. Some of my favorites from drama include The Normal Heart, Angels in America, and the seemingly under-appreciated As Is, by William Hoffman.

In 2009, I discovered the interlibrary loan service offered by my local library, which involves them scouring libraries across Canada, including university collections, for the book of your heart's desire. Fast forward to the spring of 2010, and my heart desired As Is. Which they found a very dusty copy of, six weeks later, in a university library at the other side of the country.

For those who don't know, Wikipedia tells me As Is was one of the first plays about how HIV/AIDS was affecting LGBT Americans and that it was produced shortly before The Normal Heart. It was even turned into a television film in 1986. And if you haven't read it, you should. A limited number of copies are available used from Strand Book Store, which is one of my favorite places in New York City.

So, I sat on my bed surrounded by every book about HIV/AIDS I owned, including two of my favorite non-drama books, Like People in History by Felice Picano, and Geography of the Heart by Fenton Johnson (which also got a mention last World AIDS Day). I leafed through my many dog-eared pages looking for the perfect name and came up empty. It wasn't until that night when I was reading through As Is that I found my inspiration on the last page.

The character known only as "The Hospice Worker" says: "The other night Jean-Jacques -- he's this real queen, there's no other word for it -- he told me what he misses most in the hospital is his corset and high heels. I mean, he weighs all of ninety pounds and he's half-dead. But I admire his spirit."

And she ends with "Last night I painted his nails for him." Here the stage direction says: "She shows the audience her vividly painted fingernails." "Flaming red. He loved it."

And in that moment, reading that line, I was reminded of my favorite line from Angels in America, and Harold Bloom's translation of blessings as more life, and Jane Kansas's article about her friend Wilson Hodder who died of AIDS a few years ago, that exuded so much life I could not write or even think about HIV/AIDS without being crushed all over again for months afterwards, and I knew that that was it. My blog was going to be about life, and it was going to be called ... Flaming Red. I continue to think it was a wonderful choice.

What's Next?

The best time to start planning for next year's AIDS Walk, is of course, immediately after this one. Lori dropped Margaret off at her place, and then we started towards mine, and I was already thinking about what to do next year. A friend said to me, "It's a pity you surpassed your goal by so much this year" and went on to ask how we were ever going to one-up ourselves next year.

As I recounted this to Edward via email later, I told him the answer is of course to be bigger and better. Were we really going to be happy only exceeding this year by $500 next year? I don't think so.

Next year, we're going all out. And we are totally going to replace MAC as top fundraiser. That sounds like a pretty good goal. :)