Saturday In The Park With The Poz Men ....
So last Saturday I got my shaved white ass up after 5 hours sleep to attend what was being called New York Poz Picnic 2004. It was being put together I found out later by people involved with a group called The HIVE. They're a group of HIV+ people and their friends/boyfriends that meet informally once a month or so at various bars and restaurants or to celebrate holidays. The idea being that meeting in social settings with other HIV+ men eliminates the need (in theory) to be concerned with disclosing your HIV status or getting a negative reaction to that information. And while I don't intend to surround myself with HIV+ men exclusively I thought it would be nice to make some new friends outside the bar where I can just be me and not Boss-me or Manager-me. So I posted a notice about the picnic downstairs in the employee area (thereby effectively outing myself as HIV+ to the rest of the staff that didn't already know) and tried to make plans to attend with Neo. I had no illusions that anyone else would be joining us as my staff rarely attends anything during the day and especially if alcohol isn't the focus.
Neo ended up begging off but I was determined to attend myself. The way it was built up on the website it seemed to be a big event. They provided directions to the city from the airport, tips about the new non-smoking laws as well as hotel and other travel information. It seemed that people would be attending from up and down the east coast at least and I was excited at the possibility of meeting a bunch of HIV+ men. On a picnic no less! So, after closing at 4am and then finishing up at 5 I cabbed it home and got 5 furious hours of sleep only to get up, hit the Food Emporium for supplies and head up to the meeting place by Tavern On The Green. I felt like someone had bashed my head in with a shovel, but I was there.
Upon arriving at the designated meeting place, I was greeted right away. I guess the new "Pink Posse" buzzcut and the over groomed goatee are a dead giveaway. The guy doing the greeting as it turns out was one of the organizers of the group and in fact, put up the website I had responded to. It was then that I found out it was a HIVE affiliated event. It should have thrown up a flag but I guess I was too tired. I had been to one other HIVE associated "event". Sometime in the fall/winter of last year they had announced an outing on a Friday night at a club in the West 30's called Escualita's. Now normally, Escualita's draws a heavily Latino crowd and they love the drag show there. In theory,this was a triple base hit for me: I like the drag show, I would like meeting other HIV+ men and my love of the browned skin men knows no bounds. Perfect, no? Well, no. While it seems there was a HIVE event taking place and a small cover charge was collected and there was a bar open playing videos of nights from Escualita that looked like a lot of fun, this particular night didn't look as if the light from fun would reach it in a thousand years. Maybe 15 people in a dimly lit nightclub doing ....nothing. Not talking, not dancing, certainly not mingling. I know mingling I've been mingled, a mingle was not imminent.
So when myself and three men were introduced and given vague verbal directions of where the actual picnic was taking place doubt had already begun to creep in. We wandered through the park until we came upon a grassy ridge where about 12-15 men in lesbian picnic attire seemed to be gathering like a rag-tag gay militia.
"I think that's them," I said.
"No, it can't be," one of my new companions offered. But I think he was in denial.
"It most assuredly can, come on."
As we approached we were greeted by some of the men and invited to set up shop anywhere. I began to scope out the crowd. How do I put this? Oh well, out with it. I was almost the youngest man there. I know! The new face of HIV is middle aged with a pot belly! Why isn't this being covered? I mean, if you think of it it does make perfect sense. The epidemic in this country is 30 yrs. old by now and everybody didn't die and some of them are getting on now. I guess along with getting older and being HIV+ comes a desire to meet and talk with other HIV+ men which I guess explains the turnout and the type of turnout they got. Younger HIV+ guys were still on the dance floor at Roxy. Because they can.
So I unpacked my knapsack and took a sip of water and watched as men straggled up and set their things out, or didn't. Some of them pulled up a piece of rock and just sat there. It became apparent to me rather quickly that absolutely nothing was about to happen and I was fucking freezing. I had worn my own lesbian picnic attire and while flannel, it was pretty flimsy and a very chilly wind was blowing pretty steadily through the park. As I hadn't eaten yet I decided to have a nosh and see if it "warmed up" in any sense of that expression. I chowed down half a roast beef sammich and some seafood salad and tried to stay in the sun. After a half hour or so, a thought began forming in my mind. The one place in all the land I wish to be right now is NOT HERE! You don't ignore a thought that forms that clearly. I gathered my things and threw a smoke pellet to cover my escape. I set off through the park, headed for anywhere but where I was. I snapped a few pix near the fountain made my way to a #6 train and high-tailed it back to Gramercy Park. The rest of the afternoon spent thrift shopping for artwork and at the Union Square Market for plants and veggies.
So apparently, this HIVE group, while clearly a well meaning bunch of people, have left a crucial component of the fun equation out. Whereby people + X = FUN, with X being something to do. Anybody can host "an event" at a bar. But something has to happen, some entertainment, something to spark conversation something to get people involved. You can say you're "hosting a picnic" but if you're not providing any food, and you're not coming up with any stupid/fun games and you don't even bring a freakin ' frisbee then all you're hosting is a bunch of middle aged HIV+ guys who eat lunch on a rock. And that's no fun at all.
Give It To Me Till I Get Rugburns.....
In case you haven't figured it out yet, every one of my messages this week relate to an aspect of being HIV+ and what that means (for me at least).It's all in an effort to get you to sponsor me for this Sunday's AIDSWalk NY hopefully, a much more successful day in Central Park. I will be writing a personal thank you (if that's an attraction) to all who take the time to make a donation. Since you have already generously surpassed my original $100.00 pledge goal, I decided to boldly push it to $300, and I thank you already. If it stops now I am humbled and joyful. I'll have my trusty digicam to take lots of pictures of me and mine ruining our pedicures for a good cause.
You can follow the link: Sponsor A Walker on the AIDSWalk menu bar or just click here.Participant's First Name: Tom ... Last Name T. I'll be reminding you every day until the walk so I apologize in advance.