Thursday, November 29, 2007

This Is An Embarrassment For This Country

On November 6, the Department of Homeland Security proposed even more restrictive regulations for HIV+ travelers that wish to enter the United States.

Here's the gist of things:

"The US is one of only 13 countries that completely ban incoming travel across their borders by the HIV-positive. The others, according to a list established by the leading German AIDS service organization, Deutsche AIDS Hillfe, for the most part have undemocratic regimes. They are Iraq, China, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Sudan, Qatar, Brunei, Oman, Moldova, Russia, Armenia, and South Korea.

A waiver to the ban is required for HIV-positive travelers to or through the US. Even when a travelers US stay merely involves changing planes, a waiver is needed.

Last year on World AIDS Day, President George W. Bush pledged to issue streamlined new regulations with a categorical waiver that would make it easier for the HIV-positive to receive exemptions.

Unfortunately, despite using the terms streamlined and categorical, in reality these regulations are neither, said Victoria Neilson, legal director of Immigration Equality, which works on behalf of LGBT and HIV-positive asylum seekers and immigrants."

Read the whole article here.

It's a stupid policy that has nothing to do with Homeland Security or the public health. Tell me again how people with HIV don't experience discrimination anymore ....

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Spare Any Change?

That sound you hear? That's the wheels falling off my financial wagon.

I racked up a huge amount of credit card debt when I was drinking. For most of the last 10 years I've managed to juggle it pretty well. But I was always robbing one account to pay off another, I would open new cards and charge off the balance, believing I had saved money somehow. Don't get me wrong. I absolutely knew that wasn't true. I was delusional not stupid. And as hard as I've been trying to pay down my debts, I'll never pay it all off. I feel it's my god-given right as a gay man to die with massive credit card debt. It's the trade off for not being able to catch anything thrown to us.

But as my drinking and all the accompanying mental impairment began to really take over, the amount of money I borrowed and spent increased. Meanwhile my ability to earn a living and hold down a decent job decreased. The result was tens of thousands in credit debt. I can't bear to really add it up. But I've been trying to chip away at it ever since I started my new job. And I was doing all right. I had paid off a $500 VISA card and was almost finished paying down another $1000.00. I slowly reduced other cards enough that the payments began to drop ever so slowly. I was always broke, but it started to feel like I had a little breathing room. Of course, that was a bit of a delusion as well.

For the past year, I've been behind on my rent. Right towards the end of my spiral, I wasn't working and wasn't really earning much. I was on food stamps and working a part time job in retail. The income in no way matched the outflow. The last couple of months before I quit drinking I basically used credit and my roommate's share of the rent to live on. I was a month behind, and then two months. And while I've been working and paying the rest of my bills more or less on time, I never got that back rent paid off or caught up. My landlord has been a saint, but apparently even he has his limits. The last couple of months, he has been sending me letters reminding me that my rent was due. He mentioned the 2 months as well but basically only insisted I not fall further behind. I didn't.

This month, I got another letter. He wants me to pay off the two months I'm behind. I'm confident he won't renew my lease in February unless I get this paid off soon. And he's as non-threateningly as possible threatening eviction proceedings. At first, the alcoholic in me kicked in and I got angry. At him. I've been doing so well and trying so hard, and now the fucking landlord wants the rent.

His rent. Of course, that's when it hit me. Well, not then but soon enough. How that kind of thinking was the result of my alcohol use. How I managed to view someone asserting that I behave responsibly as somehow the one who's at fault. I am so comfortable in the role as victim that I automatically cast myself in the part even when the facts don't bear it out. You see, that's the first step on the road to the liquor store. And if someone was going to come along and fuck up my life, well then I could do a much better job of that. Fuck it. Who cares?

But all the man wants is the rent he is due. The rent I owe. The money I've agreed in writing to pay. He's not doing anything to me. And up 'till now he's been beyond patient.

So I got over it. And set about figuring out how the fuck I would pay this off. I made a list. Between the back rent and the bills that would be due I will need about $4100.00. He wants it now but I'm sure I can stretch that until a week from Friday. It took me an entire afternoon to figure it out. And I'll have to almost max out every bit of credit I've built back up. I also have no idea what I'll do for spending money the next two weeks. There's nothing left.

But this isn't a complaint or a thinly veiled solicitation. If I was gonna hit you up for money I'd be much more pathetic sounding and blatant. And I'd find a way to work in a small tumor. And really, if I was about to be tossed out on the street I would swallow my pride and contact my parents or my brother, neither of whom is rich but they could certainly bail me out. I would be completely and totally mortified but I would do it.

This is me just trying to live in the truth. I haven't been writing as much and I haven't been talking in detail about my life since getting sober. And for the most part it has been wonderful. But one of the things they talk about in Gay-A is the consequences you have to face in your life when you get sober. And how just getting sober doesn't automatically solve all your problems. I think maybe this is one reason why some people get sober and then falter. They don't seem to realize that things will most assuredly not always go your way in the future. And that the past will still have to be dealt with and cleaned up. It's hard. And it's hard work.

I'm thankful I have the brains and resources to figure out what to do. I am absolutely blessed that when I needed to find $4100.00, I had managed to build up enough credit and earn enough money to cover it. I am completely aware that many people in this country wouldn't be able, and that still many, many more are much more worried about whether or not they will get a meal today at all. This turn of events ruined my weekend and stressed me out. I'll get through it.

The story goes on.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I Don't Like You

Praise the spirits! Now that you are all finished with your holiday weekend and are getting ready to get back to work, I am just about to start mine. (Ha, Ha. Suck it!)

Traditionally, in the restaurant/bar business a long holiday weekend will bring out some of the most obnoxious, unreasonable groups of people you would ever want to come across. This weekend proved that true, although quite honestly, I've been through worse. I used to remark it was as if they never go out in public more than once or twice a year, until I finally realized that it was probably a good guess. It's the people that don't know how to order their food or wait for a dirty table to be cleaned and set or why they might aggravate someone by asking me to split off a check so they can put that amount on a credit card ... unless of course that credit card is declined in which case they would like the checks put back together so they can just go ahead and put the entire amount on the original credit card they had first provided. Sure, pinhead! I have all kinds of time this weekend to do pointless tasks for you.

But at least another nightclub was kind enough to provide a fatal stabbing on Thanksgiving (nothing says happy holiday like a punctured lung!) that made the papers, thereby insuring that our little gang related beat-down with accompanying grand larceny never registered more than a blip on the police blotter.

In case you can't tell, I'm a little at a loss for love of my fellow man. Unless he's Puerto Rican. But that's another kind of love. My patience is finite and the well is dry. Fortunately, I can tell that my soul will be restored by a little cardio workout, a healthy dose of man-on-dog lovin' and lots and lots of retail therapy. I best get to work.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Saturday Spotlight (3)

I liked this performance so much that this particular video was actually posted on You Tube by me. While I wasn't particularly shocked that this employee decided to drag it up as Batgirl for Halloween, I was pleasantly stunned to see him get up and perform a funny and mildly tragic version of Britney's Slave For You. Quite deserving of a Saturday in the Spotlight.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Plus Ça Change ...

Thanksgiving pretty much came and went here at From The Ashes HQ. I did get the day off, but a single day doesn't really allow me to spend the money on a one day flight back to Buffalo and an early morning flight back to work. Besides, my bosses are so wishy-washy and passive aggressive most of the time that we hadn't really received a schedule for this week until late last week. Not enough time to make good plans. Of course, they all managed to scheduled time for a three day break for themselves either before or on the holiday. I guess that's why I make a substandard wage.

On the bright side the weather was quite nice. Temp in the lower 60's with some peaks of sunlight. I dozed in bed an extra hour and finally got licked awake by my impatient buddy. I managed to distract him by raising the window shade. The street traffic can keep him busy for over an hour.

Once I managed to down a cup of coffee we were ready to go for a walk in the park. Even with so many people traveling or visiting others, it's NYC and there were still people all around. Reading, snoozing on a bench. Having some lunch. Feeding the squirrels. Fall finally came to the city and the trees are giving up leaves by the thousands. There are multi-colored piles of nature's discard everywhere. Apparently, by the way Jet roots around in them they are loaded with quality smells as well. I expect with the weather calling for wind and cold tomorrow it will only be more dramatic. We accomplished our mission (pooped) and walked back home. I had already planned to take Jet for a longer outing later and with luck give his coat a good brushing.

I stopped at the grocery store the night before and while I had no intention of making a sad little Thanksgiving feast for one I did give a nod to the holiday and bought myself a big breakfast ham steak to go with some eggs and whole wheat toast for a delicious afternoon brunch. I also couldn't resist buying a pumpkin pie for dessert with dinner. I noodled around on line, deciding I was happy I hadn't posted the same pictures for the holiday that everyone else had by Googling Thanksgiving under image search. The cat and dog as pilgrim and indian isn't so cute the 10th time you see it.

Then it was time for a nice walk over to the dog run at Madison Park. We cut over by walking past the exclusive and key-locked Gramercy Park, which, for all it's landscaping and imposing sculpture, smells ... no, reeks of dog piss. The run wasn't too crowded but the dogs and people that were there were quite friendly. Jet got his good brushing too. By the time we meandered home and climbed up 5 flights of stairs, I wasn't too tired but Jet promptly sacked out and snoozed for hours.

After a quality Thanksgiving wank, which I totally thanked myself for, I started puttering around the apartment cleaning the floors and straightening up. I checked out all the Black Friday sale ads, making mental notes about camera prices and features. That will probably be my next big purchase, if and when I can ever get caught up on the bills. Then I decided to install the new towel bar in the bathroom that I purchased last week and unclog the shower drain for the umpteenth time. I'm surprised my roommate isn't totally bald. She looses hair by the handful every shower. That all took surprisingly long. By this point The Incredibles was airing on network TV so I took several breaks to enjoy that. Satisfied with my handiwork I ran down to the Million Dollar Deli and bought some salad fixin's and ice cream to go with my pie. Dinner consisted of leftover pasta with chicken, mushrooms and peas, fresh garlic bread and salad with lots of crunchy veggies. Hardly Thanksgiving fare but absolutely yummy nonetheless.

After cleaning up the dinner dishes I channel surfed a bunch. Everyone puts up marathons of this or that this time of year so I hopped around watching Project Runway and Iron Chef and Little People, Big World episodes. Oh, and as an aside, the whole time my day was unfolding, my former roommates, They Who Will Not Be Named, had obviously left town or at least left for the entire day. I know this because I recently noticed that they got a replacement for the late, beloved Colby. And the poor little pup spent all day and night barking and howling in whatever room he had been locked in and left. He was still at it at 1:30am when I took Jet for his last walk. I guess that's another innocent animal that can expect a shortened life span and a miserable life.

After Jet's walk I finally tucked into that pie and ice cream and then took some time to update my resume before bed. I was going to leave that little fact hanging for you, but lest you get the wrong idea, I am still gainfully employed. But I've decided to test the waters and see if I can get some better offers. Either as a back-up plan or a bargaining chip. We shall see. Won't we?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Saturday Spotlight (2)

This week's spotlight falls on R&B singer/songwirter and Grammy winning (Lady Marmalade) recording artist Mya. She appeared earlier this year courtesy of Universal Music as part of the Tuesday night R&B Live series.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Don't Fuck With Me People

So about three weeks ago I was surprised to find an invoice in my mailbox for a subscription to People magazine. At first, I thought it was a humorous mistake, an invoice somehow addressed to me in error. Until the next day, when a copy of People arrived in my mail. I was surprisingly surprised and angry. Ordinarily, I am not one of those people that thinks a business or corporation is trying to "rip me off". I don't obsessively monitor my checking account lest someone steal my identity. If you truly want to assume my identity have at it. If you can figure out how to magically make a bone-dry bank account and a couple of maxed-out credit cards produce cash flow I'd love to see it happen. Oh, and if you can get my identity laid on occasion I'd appreciate that, too.

But having said that, I do have a sense of what I've ordered or signed up for. I do, in fact, go through my credit card bills to confirm I've actually been to the stores listed on them. And while I do periodically subscribe to the occasional periodical, I am pretty picky about what magazines I read "religiously". The last magazine I received on a regular basis was Time, and that was because the trial was free. As soon as they wanted to charge me I cancelled. My absolute favorite magazine would probably be Vanity Fair. The photography is great and the articles are in-depth and well written. I usually keep a copy for a week or more as I slowly enjoy finding interesting tidbits inside. Plus, it makes you look smart if you leave your copy in the bathroom.

Which brings me back to my distress at receiving a copy of People. I hate that magazine. Perhaps hate is too strong a word. But there's nothing I like about it. The articles, when they are not soul-crushingly boring, are poorly written and largely incomplete. It's the McDonalds of writing. devoid of nutrition for the brain. Reading it just makes you fat and lethargic and hungry for actual information a few hours later. I would be mortified if someone found a copy in my
bathroom. People magazine is not even worthy of my poop. I'll be damned if I'm gonna get it in my mail every week.

So after several weeks of deliveries I received another invoice. This was obviously no fluke. I had somehow been signed up for People. I racked my brain trying to remember where I had been on The Internets that I might have accidentally authorized a subscription. I couldn't think of one. And I further suspect I hadn't as the times I do order a magazine subscription, I tend to provide a credit card for billing. I hate getting invoices and prefer to pay up front. So after finding the link on my invoice to and their subscription department, I discovered I couldn't dispute the charge, only cancel the subscription. Which I did, with extreme bitchiness:

Comments : I have cancelled my subscription. I have no idea how you got a subscription order from me. I hate your magazine and would never read it much less order or pay for a subscription. Do not attempt to bill me again.

The next morning, I received an e-mail response:

Thank you for contacting PEOPLE Customer Service.

It is not our policy to enter an order without receiving what we believe to be the proper authorization to do so. Please be assured that we have canceled the account. You may disregard any further billing notices that you receive, as we may be unable to intercept them in the mail. Since our mailing labels are prepared in advance, you may receive one or two more issues. Please accept them with our compliments.

Shane C.
PEOPLE Customer Service

Damn straight, Skippy.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

(Son Of) In The (HIV) News

"Well, the good news is your new kidney works fine ... "

4 patients test HIV+ from transplanted organs
Spread of AIDS Virus to Transplant Patients Signals Need for More Information on Donors

A troubling case in which a high-risk organ donor infected four patients with the AIDS virus and hepatitis has led medical ethicists to warn that patients need to know more about whose organs they're getting.
Public health officials said Tuesday the Chicago case is the first known instance of HIV transmission through organ transplants since 1986.
It's also the first ever known instance in which one organ donor has spread hepatitis C and HIV at the same time, said Dr. Matt Kuehnert of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention....

Initial tests on the donor for HIV, hepatitis and other conditions came back negative, most likely because the donor had acquired the infections in the last three weeks before death.
It takes 22 days from the time of exposure to HIV for antibodies to be picked up in the standard HIV test. During that time, a person can still be infectious.
Because of that lag, there's growing support for a newer costlier test that can detect the virus earlier but takes several hours longer to get results.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

In The (HIV) News ...

Here's the significant snippets:

SOURCES: Gov’t to report alarming spike in HIV
-CDC numbers may be 50 percent higher than originally thought

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is mulling over when to release alarming new statistics showing that as many as 50 percent more people are being infected with HIV each year in the United States than originally reported by the government.

According to AIDS advocacy groups familiar with the CDC, middle level officials at the disease prevention agency have quietly confided in colleagues in professional and scientific circles that the number of new HIV infections now appears to be as high as 58,000 to 63,000 cases in the most recent 12-month period....

Two sources familiar with the CDC, who spoke on condition that they not be identified, said CDC officials have said privately that the higher numbers of HIV cases appear to be driven by more rigorous and accurate HIV reporting by the states of existing cases rather than by an actual increase in the number of new cases.

New federal rules requiring states to keep track of the names of everyone who tests positive for HIV took effect in most states in January. The new rules came at the same time the CDC announced an initiative calling for widespread HIV testing of most adults in the United States during routine doctor visits as well as hospital emergency room visits.

Although mandatory reporting rules have been in place for AIDS cases since the beginning of the epidemic in the early 1980s, mandatory reporting for HIV cases did not begin until recently. In past years, CDC officials have said they based their estimate on the number of new HIV infections on projections and extrapolations from the number of full blown AIDS cases as well as HIV cases obtained by a sampling of hospitals, clinics, and anonymous testing sites, among other places...

“There has been a de-emphasis of anything gay by the administration,” he said. “They have focused mostly on testing, which is fine. But you still need education and prevention programs, and you have not seen an increase in funding for that.”

Jim Driscoll, a Washington adviser to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and another former member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, known as PACHA, said he has heard from people familiar with the CDC that officials were considering releasing the new figures on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1.

“But the word we’re hearing now is they’re leaning against releasing such bad news on World AIDS Day,” said Driscoll. “There’s some talk of them releasing the new figures during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, when the fewest possible people will be paying attention.”

Read the full article here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday Moment Of Zen

You can either live in constant fear or accept that invisible cows are always lurking nearby. Think about it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Saturday Spotlight

Now that we've been open for over 7 months, there is so much video posted on You Tube it's ridic. Some of them are well done, shot with a proper video camera and decent lighting, and some are nausea inducing shaky cell phone crap shot from the 3rd floor balcony. I probably won't be posting any of those, unless someone gives such a stupendously bad performance that they transcend the limitations of shitty cell video and distance. And that's always a possibility. Be that as it may, there are literally hundreds of videos from various events, parties and performances. So every Saturday until I run out, I'll be posting the best, the worst and hopefully the most entertaining selections from our video vault.

For the inaugural posting however, I'd like to show you some pretty good video shot during the Nico & Adrian Spring/Summer 2008 fashion show we hosted back in September. Lest you lose all faith in me, the video opens with some very attractive female models, but simply sit back until about the 1 min 30 mark and you'll be treated to a cavalcade of hot man/boys with no discernible body fat in various states of undress. Plus there's a plethora of pec-tacular coffee/cocoa colored skin to keep me happy for weeks. I'm just sayin' ...

Friday, November 09, 2007

My RealAge

I clipped off three years. I guess I can still fudge on my Manhunt profile ...

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Low unsaturated fat
Medication use
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Thursday, November 08, 2007

If You're In NYC This Weekend ...

On Thursday, November 8, Housing Works Thrift Shops will launch its fourth annual Fashion for Action event with a benefit at the Rubin Museum in Manhattan. The VIP kickoff reception will be hosted by Rashida Jones from NBC’s The Office.

Fashion for Action is a three-day sale of $1 million worth of designer merchandise, at 70-80 percent off retail prices, to benefit Housing Works, which provides services to homeless and low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS.

The sale will be held at Housing Works Thrift Shops' flagship store (143 W. 17th St, New York, NY) from November 9–11. Sale hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on November 9 and 10, and noon to 6 p.m. on November 11.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Help Wanted


Reply to:
Date: 2007-11-02, 10:36AM EDT


Ed Note:
Well, at least you'll be smarter than your boss ...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Names Sweetie, Give Me Names

Did a party tonight for the opening night of Cyrano de Bergerac on Broadway. Up until this afternoon I thought it was a movie premier and not a Broadway show. And considering I'm usually up on the general buzz in entertainment here in New York, I'm not expecting anything resembling a hit. Still, it was apparently noteworthy if for no other reason than it's the Broadway debut for Jennifer Garner. She of the lamentable movie Daredevil and the horrid follow-up Elektra.

Garner is playing the beautiful but strong-willed Roxane and Kevin Kline is playing the title role. Daniel Sunjata takes on the hapless, handsome and not-so bright Christian. And for the record, in person Mr. Sunjata has the handsome part down. Damn! The man is gorgeous!

The party went really well. Open bar, pasta and chicken buffet, relatively warm finger food etc. There was a string quartet on stage during dinner. That was a nice touch. Mr. Jennifer Garner was at the opening and the party to show his support. Kevin Kline was a no-show.

I gave Glenn Close her own plate of hors d'oeurves. And some cupcakes.