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Before they called it AIDS...

by Izzy Fri Dec 1st, 2006 at 02:26:46 AM EST

In my memory, all the Reagan years have a taint--a texture almost -- of cruelty. I particularly hate 1982. In 1982, Nancy hadn't just said "no" yet, and the drug war wasn't officially announced -- but it was on, let me tell you. The neighborhoods I lived in then were "those" kinds of neighborhoods. They were full of junkies and in 1979 they were full of ambulances.

By 1982 you only saw coroner's vans. No one called the police anymore, not with so much brutality and fear. Reagan's presidency heralded the outdoor overdose, the corpse on the lawn, the curbside hospital drop.

A few minutes is an awfully long time when someone's not breathing. The time it takes to pause and wonder if it's as bad as all that, if it's worth the risk -- that uncertain minute can make the difference.

So many people died in those minutes.

And that's why I hate 1982. In 1982, I knew about AIDS. It was a year of despair, disbelief, hopelessness. A year holding your breath. 1982 was the life or death minute, stretched to eternity.


1981 wasn't like that. It was wild and thoughtless and angry. For me it was breaking up with the drummer and running off with the artist. It was nightclubs and concerts. It was no place to stay and nothing to eat, but who cared. It was going to gay nightclubs and dancing to Pete Shelley's "Homosapiens." It was excitement and wonder when my friend Dennis told me we could travel the world by stealing credit card carbons out of dumpsters in Beverly Hills, but then not having the nerve or ambition. It was breaking my engagement to the artist and marrying the drummer. It was turning 18.

I didn't think at the time that I was hopeful or optimistic. I didn't think I was naive or trusting. But I'd think all that later, looking back on the last year I didn't know about AIDS. Looking back, I'd think that we'd all been innocents.

At the end of 1981, my friend Rob got sick. He had a cold or an infection or who knew what. He went to the free clinic a couple of times. One of the doctors admitted him to the hospital. They said he might have the gay flu, which is what they called it before they called it the gay cancer. They said there was no cure, that it could kill you.

A year is an awfully long time during a deadly epidemic. An awfully long time to let it spread. That's what I kept thinking in 1982. Why aren't they saying anything? Why aren't they making announcements? How many people are getting it right now? When will someone tell them?

They named it in 1983. Ronald Reagan didn't mention AIDS publicly until 1987, the same year my artist died of it. I imagine he caught it in 1982. Dennis and Rob are dead now, too, and I remember them today on World AIDS Day.

I remember being told that my shy artist's last words were "I worked for Andy Warhol." I remember thinking it's odd what you'll say when you want someone to acknowledge that you're worth their notice.

I remember Dennis regaling me with tales of his world travels. I remember Rob at the bus stop, going to the clinic, wearing a suit. I remember 1981 and the dancing. I remember 1982 and the silence.

Display:
Thanks.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 1st, 2006 at 03:19:58 AM EST
Thanks Izzy.

Money is a sign of Poverty - Culture Saying
by RogueTrooper on Fri Dec 1st, 2006 at 04:09:43 AM EST
Amazing.

To me 1982 recalls turning 7, and the landslide election victory of the Socialists under Felipe González, and the Football World Cup in Spain.

The sheltered live I lived.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 1st, 2006 at 05:05:15 AM EST
I saw this morning that it was AIDS day - don't know why I did not put a link up. But now I am glad, yours is so much better than what the Independent wrote. Thanks!!!!
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 1st, 2006 at 05:15:35 AM EST
Thanks so much Izzy!!!

And still so much to do...

UNAIDS

Report on the global AIDS epidemic 2006 (in English, French, Russian and Spanish)



"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Fri Dec 1st, 2006 at 06:03:59 AM EST
Thanks for the links, Bob.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 1st, 2006 at 12:08:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for reminding us that it is about real people and not numbers.

Very powerful.

The only thing necessary for the persistence of evil is for enough good people to do nothing

by deviousdiva (thedeviousdiva@gmail.com) on Fri Dec 1st, 2006 at 06:14:04 AM EST
I'm with Fran, I read much of what the Independent wrote and it wasn't about people, it was about the politics of inaction and indifference.

I wasn't emotionally invovled. You made me cry about it Izzy. Thank you.

On September 8th, 1986, Dr Paul Monty died in New York hospital of complications arising from AIDS. His Ph.D thesis had been completed on April 29th of that year and his doctorate was conferred upon him at his bedside on the day before he died.

It was entitled "Serena, Ruth St Denis and the evolution of Belly dance in America (1876 - 1976)". It was and remains, an invaluable study into how middle eastern dance first came to the attention of the American public, faded from view except as a mythological licentious orientalist fantasy in Hollywood and then, after WWII re-established itself as a part of the fabric of dance in the West.

He was gay and his parents were virulently homophobic. His death from AIDS brought shame on their family and, as the copyright of his Ph.D passed tothem on his death, they refused that it be published. Only three copies of it existed until this year, when they launched a lawsuit to have even those three copies destroyed.

Fortunately, those of us who love this dance were in a position to act and a copy was taken secretly and other copies made. They are now all over the world and only one person knows where they are, and I'm not telling.

which is all to say, AIDS was a "gay plague" and it was awful to see the sneers of those who are whose  religious values seem to have missed out on compassion. The revenge of god was one phrase I remember. Hatred that led parents to want to not just bury their son, but bury his very memory.

Thank you Izzy, for reminding me what this day means.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 1st, 2006 at 07:39:32 AM EST
Yes, thank you Izzy.

Helen,
the horrors of copyright after the authors dead. I would digitalise it (if written analogeously, their are many scanners that can quite well transfer text on paper to digital text nowadays) and put it on Pirate Bay and other file-sharing sites. Information wants to be free!

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Dec 1st, 2006 at 08:52:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would digitalise it (if written analogeously, their are many scanners that can quite well transfer text on paper to digital text nowadays) and put it on Pirate Bay and other file-sharing sites. Information wants to be free!

Yes, someobdy {cough} is working on it.


keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 1st, 2006 at 10:21:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well if that were to happen, it might accidently end up being printed, and then those printed pieces might get bound by well meaning people, If that were to happen, then the copies might end up in several libraries. Librarians tend to take a rather dim  view of people who want to destroy books.

If it was to end up being digitised, and turn up in my email, you never know what might happen ;-)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Dec 1st, 2006 at 05:54:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
which is all to say, AIDS was a "gay plague" and it was awful to see the sneers of those who are whose  religious values seem to have missed out on compassion

That's one of the things I remember most, too -- it was shocking how easily a callous attitude was fostered.  Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell were big on spreading the revenge theory.

Thanks for telling this story -- I'm really glad that a copy of the paper exists.  

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 1st, 2006 at 12:13:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Short but so full, Izzy.

I remember thinking it's odd what you'll say when you want someone to acknowledge that you're worth their notice.

Boy that one cut me up. I had to wait a while so I could get to the end.

Thanks.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 1st, 2006 at 11:19:20 AM EST
<grimace>

Of my gay friends alive and well in 1982 there is one still alive in 2006.

I can't comment further.  I just wanted to 'Ack' the diary.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Fri Dec 1st, 2006 at 12:37:28 PM EST


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