Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The New Phone Book Is Here!

Actually, it's just the latest issue of Patient 2 Patient. The newsletter I edit and contribute to for the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. You can view the PDF here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ever Hear Of Gratitude?

Lux Living is a blog written by and for the residents of nearby Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. It is a WWII era housing complex that up until a few years ago, was run as if it were a private gated community in the middle of Manhattan. The residents, many of whom were born in the complex and have lived there for decades, have been spoiled rotten by years of over-indulgent amenities including private security, landscaping and all manner of rules and regulations, are now losing their minds as the complex was sold in one of the largest real estate deals in history. Hundreds if not thousands of the long-term tenants are paying as little as $600 in rent, despite the fact that they are successful professionals, doctors, lawyers or well-to-do retirees and new management has set about renting apartments to students, young professionals and non-whites. The following is lifted from a comment thread, in a post ostensibly about noise complaints lodged at other tenants. This is why I hate them:

Ah, Donalda... here's a nice fresh example of her inability to be helpful.

On Wednesday morning I submitted a maintenance request online to have one of the wee halogen light bulbs in the fixture over my kitchen sink replaced. By 9 AM this morning I'd not received a phone call to arrange a handyman visit.

I phoned Donalda and left v.m. (Does she *ever* answer her phone?) A couple hours later someone named Teresa (?) called to schedule an appointment for NEXT TUESDAY.

I chuckled and said, "Really? *I* can install the bulb; I just need a handful of replacements because they keep burning out."

"Is Tuesday at 4:15 good for you? Will you be home or does the handyman have permission to enter the apartment?"

"Wait a second. It would take all of thirty seconds for a handyman to stop by and give me the bulbs. Seriously, this cannot be accomplished until almost five days from now?

"No."

"Can I go and pick them up from the workshop or wherever?"

"No."

Trough clenched teeth I said Tuesday was fine and hung up. I immediately called Donalda for the second time this morning, left v.m. for the second time this morning, asking her to please call me back ASAP. That was around noon-ish. I've yet to hear back. She knows why I want to chat.


Here's an idea. How about you take some of the tens of thousands of dollars you don't pay in rent every year, get up off of your lazy spoiled ass and take a walk across the street to the hardware store and buy the fucking bulb yourself? You obviously (judging by the multiple phone calls) have plenty of free time.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Washington D.C.



A couple of pics from the Rally to Restore Sanity. I made a quick trip down to D.C. followed by an excruciating long trip back up to NYC. Was stuck on a bus in several traffic jams between there and here. Proof if you ask me that travelling by car is woefully inefficient, given the amount of cars forced to use an aging infrastructure. In short, I think there are far too many cars on the road, and the time to come up with some alternatives to the traditional travel methods we use is now. It's only going to get worse.




In any case, I enjoyed being in Washington D.C. as much as I thought I would. Wonderful buildings, landscaping and people of interest to photograph and usually slightly better, warmer weather than we have in NYC. I will definitely be going back for a longer visit in the near future.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Vagina Song

Willam Belli of Ticked Off Trannies With Knives and Nip/Tuck re-works the "Billionaire" song, imagining what life will be like after the old *snip* and tuck. You can follow Willam's cheeky humor and in-your-face exploits on the blog we've been following forever, here: as long as there's sidewalks, I'll have a job.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ticked Off Trannies


After unexpectedly getting a night off due to anemic ticket sales, I suddenly realized I would have an opportunity to check out what turned out to be a controversial entry in to last year's Tribeca Film Festival. Ticked Off Trannies With Knives, after initially receiving some positive support from more "mainstream" gay media groups like GLAAD, suddenly found itself the focus of a lot of negative notices after a group of actual "trannies" found the title alone to be offensive.

There ensued much wailing and gnashing of teeth, as much of the LGBT press on both coasts took sides. Ultimately, while the protesters failed to get the film pulled from Tribeca, The New York Times ended up censoring the title, and Ticked Off T****ies was listed on movie clocks and some press coverage.

I really wanted to see the film myself before I made up my mind, a craaaaaazy concept in this day and age I know, but I ended up working through most of the screenings. So when I saw a notice that it had returned to the major markets this week, I looked for a chance to see what the fuss was about.

The theater is on 12th street in between the East and West Village, very near NYU, and this was a Thursday night. While I didn't expect the screening to be sold out, I did think there would be some like-minded people, this is NYC, that would be there. If nothing else, I assume there are people that literally go to everything.

So imagine my surprise when I arrived at the theater about 10 minutes before showtime and I was the only person in the entire place. Still thinking there would be at least a smattering of people wandering in I took out a magazine and my crackberry and started reading and cleaning out my email. The movie started and I settled in, quite comfortably with no one to block my view or take up my armrest.

After seeing the film, I confess I don't agree that it was exploitative, nor do I think it promotes or encourages violence towards transsexuals. I also know that I've met many many trans women that support themselves performing in gay clubs as well as stripping or exotic dancing. I understand many trans people have everyday "normal" jobs, but this film wasn't about them, and these people, the ones in the film, do actually exist. I suspect all the protest was as much about an opportunity to get some press for people with a larger agenda as much as it was actual outrage over the actual content of the movie.

In any case, the movie really needed another screenwriter more than it needed to be more politically correct. The acting was OK and some of the line readings rang true, but most of those seemed like they might have been improvised, which is more a testament to the actors than the director. But there was a beginning a middle and an end, which I was always taught is the most important requirement for a story, it's just that the middle got quite a bit messy and really would have benefited from another edit. Or two. Overall, I've spent $11 on much worse.

As the credits rolled and before the lights went up I took a look behind me to see who had come in last-minute. It was then that I realized that I had just experienced a first. I was the only one there. My first private screening. Just me in a 150 seat theater. I wonder if they would have actually shown the film if I hadn't bought that one ticket?

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Verizon Sucks. No, They Are Evil.

Last week I received a bill from Verizon which I assumed to be a final bill after discontinuing what was, especially the last year, truly horrible DSL service. I finally opened it at the end of last week and found that it was a bill for internet service. For this month. And to add insult to injury, the bill was $5.00 more than I had ever paid for internet service, which had been slowly increased without notice for over two years.

Still thinking it was a clerical error, I called Verizon earlier this week. After going through their maddening set of phone prompts, I finally connected with someone who I thought worked in billing. After explaining the situation, I was told that I wasn't even speaking to someone in the DSL/ Internet "department" but she would connect me. Click. Again, I explain the situation, at which point this person looks up my account.

According to her, I did not, in fact, call Verizon in early September and discontinue my service. Verizon discontinued my service in late September because I was delinquent in payments. According to their records.

The truth is I spoke with a total of four different people the day I canceled my service. And every single time I used the words "cancel my service" or "disconnect my service" with each one of them. The first three claimed that in order to do that I would have to be shunted to a different department. Again. And Again. But I hung in there and finally spoke to someone who could flip that switch for me. As I mentioned before, she inexplicably tried to sell me on Fios, even though my building isn't wired for it. But we very clearly had a conversation where there was no possible way anyone would misconstrue that I was discontinuing my status as a Verizon DSL customer.

So this notation and allegation that I was disconnected by them is an outright lie. Aside from the fact that I have not been delinquent in payments to Verizon in years, even if I had missed it, it would have been one payment. And it would have been less than a month overdue. Everyone knows damn well that wouldn't be enough to have your service even interrupted, let alone disconnected.

I suspect that what actually happened is that Verizon, or a department at Verizon, is trying to cover up the fact that there are (more than likely) other people like me who are dissatisfied with the quality of the DSL service, as well as the infuriating customer service, and are leaving Verizon in rather large numbers. I'm quite sure that every termination in service initiated by the customer, is sent somewhere along the bloated chain of bureaucracy to a department that reviews them and makes a report. Too many terminations will eventually cause some data-checking monkey to throw down his banana and sound an alarm. And nobody wants to answer to an angry monkey, so best not let the customer terminate the account. Let's just say we terminated him and send out a bill. I'm further assuming they hoped I would pay it and move on. Some people surely do.

Instead I called them on it. At which point I was shunted from department to department. I was disconnected and booted from the system twice after speaking to live operators. I just kept calling. It took almost two hours. And I was decidedly not nice. But I've been really working hard the last couple of years to stay on top of my bills, get caught up on all my out of control credit spending, pay down my debts. And I've been really proud of how well I've done. So it was doubly insulting to have them accuse me of not paying my bill. And I'm wondering if that kind of thing gets reported to the credit bureaus, since I've also been trying to repair my poor beaten down FICO score.

Aside from the fact that the reason I terminated the service is because, for the most part, my DSL service was largely a nightmare, the only thing worse than Verizon internet service is Verizon customer service.

As I've said many times. Verizon sucks.

Friday, October 08, 2010

What Do You Do?

I was about to write a post about something that happened at work this weekend when it occurred to me that I haven't posted about work in a long long time. Looking back on the old posts, it appears I haven't written a work piece since the spring. Surprising, considering that "work" is one of the most-used categories for post labels I have. And believe me, I thought that spoke volumes about my inner workings that I had way more to say about work than I did about "relationships" or "sex".

I am currently a freelance bartender. Now while I realize that sounds almost like a euphemism for "unemployed", I am very much employed. NYC is one of the few cities in America where freelance bartender can actually be a viable work option. Basically it works like this:

I'm currently employed at three different companies. One of them is a staffing service and the other two are banquet and event spaces, where I'm technically an independent contractor. Every week, usually around Thursday, I get a set of text and phone messages inquiring about my availability for the following week. Occasionally, they will ask as far ahead as two weeks. The trick here is to respond to the messages as quickly as possible. I usually take each booking as it comes in, even though the temptation is to wait and see which is the best offer. There are variables, one company pays more for an hourly rate, another is usually better for cash tips, and the third provides me with the bulk of my work. But in my experience, playing one off the other can blow up in your face. You run the risk of pissing off a booking manager and then the calls could stop or become of a lesser quality. So I (usually) operate on a first-call first served policy. It also doesn't hurt my reputation as a desirable employee to have to turn down booking managers because somebody snatched me up first.

The calls and messages can last through the weekend, and usually by Sunday night I know my schedule for the week. If the week isn't already full, you can sometimes book a last minute shift. In that case, it's equally crucial that you respond to the call as quickly as possible. The booking manager is looking to fill a slot and be done with it, so they won't wait on a call back. The person who calls first gets it.

I usually don't know what event I've booked for, unless it's at a concert venue. Obviously, those are based on ticket sales and advertised. I find out when I arrive if it's a wedding, a corporate dinner or an industrial. Industrials are showcases that a company puts on for a new or revamped product. Phones, cars, watches, electronics.

I usually wear a tuxedo to most events, and I have two complete tux outfits. If I'm not in a tux it's all black shirt, shoes, pants and tie.

Basically, what happens is I arrive at the venue, change into my work clothes and report to a banquet manager. He or she gives me a verbal or written rundown of the event including start times, end times and any special requests. This can include specific drink requests, to signature cocktails created just for the event. I also need to know how many people are expected and what kind of bar package they are paying for. It can be open unlimited, beer and wine, of occasionally just a juice bar. I recently worked an event where the bar was just champagne and bottled water. At that point, I go off and move a bar on wheels in to place, fill up a beer bin on wheels with beer and ice, and wheel in all the rest of the supplies I need.

At the end of the event, everything gets wheeled back where it came from. I do an inventory if it's required and clean up all my empty boxes and bottles. I check out with the banquet manager, then I punch out and go home. I usually make between $100 - $200 per event for this work. Once in a while I make less, and I often make more. Figure on average $125, and if I do 5 shifts a week, that's about right. A very very good week is double that. Rare but sweet.

I love the unpredictability of it, I love the variety. I love working with different people and meeting all the different guests. I love talking to people from all over the country and the world. I usually love seeing all the live shows for free, even better, I get paid for it. I don't love the fact that it's feast or famine. I can be crazy busy for weeks and then only book one or two events for an entire month. (Although this is where having 3 jobs mitigates that problem fairly well.) I don't love working a lot of midweek corporate events and not making any money above my hourly rate. And you would think I would love getting my regular rate and only being asked to run a "bar" that serves juice, soda and water but that's actually the worst. It usually makes for a boring event and it's guaranteed there are no tips. So while I'm horribly overpaid for pouring Diet Cokes, I earn my hourly rate by plastering a smile on my face and pretending like it doesn't suck.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Get Tested


Today is National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness day. While I have always maintained that HIV is not a "Gay disease" and I don't believe that sex or sexuality really should have much to do with HIV awareness, the facts as they are today force me to acknowledge that HIV/AIDS is and continues to be a cause for concern among American men who have sex with men.

The most important tool we have in the fight to diagnose, treat and prevent the spread of new infections is testing. If you'e never had an HIV test, go and get one today. If you are sexually active and you haven't been tested in the last year or two, go and get tested. You do not know your current HIV status if you are basing it on a test from two years ago. If you are a sexually active young person, the best way to protect yourself is to try and engage in "safer" sex practices. If your doctor doesn't offer you HIV testing, it doesn't mean you don't need it, it means your doctor is an idiot. Find a free HIV testing facility and schedule an appointment.

If you end up testing HIV+, there is widespread treatment available to get your viral load under control. This will insure your continued good health, and protect other people from being infected by you.

Protect yourself. Protect your partners. Get tested. Live.

Friday, September 24, 2010

On A Great Adventure

I'm leaving in just a few minutes to join thousands of NY and NJ area gays for an evening of dancing, eating and mass consumerism, with roller coasters, as we descend on Six Flags Great Adventure theme park.

Group outings still make me very nervous, which is why I'm going. This is mitigated by the fact that I'm riding up and down on a luxury coach bus with members of SIN. So it's not just a group of gays but a group of HIV+ gays. With snacks. And drag queens.

Which will hopefully make it an enjoyable outing. As an aside, I have very little experience with giant theme parks. Never having been to Disney anything. Neither Land nor World. So as a result I have a certain amount of fear about getting on all these newfangled roller coasters and such. Which is another reason I am going.

There will be pictures.

UPDATE:
While I did manage to conquer my fears and get on a few coasters, I couldn't get muyself on the big ones (Superman, Nitro, Kingda Ka). I was pretty much rolling on my own and I probably would have worked up the nerve if I had a "partner". But I did good, bought some T-shirts, watched a pretty elaborate drag show and saw scads of hot boys. Had fun.

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's All About Maintenance

I had a very "I'm an alcoholic" day. I'm not one of those drunks who lives and breathes AA. I don't go to a meeting every day, but I do notice when I have skipped quite a few days in a row. And it's not always enough to just go. It's helpful if I participate. Talk when it's time. Stay after and talk with other AA's. It's even better when I do some service. Meet someone for coffee or do some volunteer work. Last year I chaired a meeting for 6 months, and that really helped me be active. Sitting in a meeting like a lump doesn't work for very long. Especially if I nod off repeatedly.

I've managed to step up my game and attend a few more meetings of late. But I'm still not participating enough, I don't talk about anything of substance. And the lack of commitment, the lack of focus, has started to spill over in to how I feel.

I'm on a short fuse. I'm impatient and itching for a fight. I'm falling back on behaviors that I know are just attempts to adjust my mood. The way alcohol used to do. The things I would do when a drink wasn't available or appropriate. This afternoon I bought a pair of sneakers I absolutely did not need. Only $40, but that's not the point. It's not always the what, it's the why. And the why was I was feeling out of sorts, and I fell back on looking outside myself, buying something, anything, that would make me feel different.

Not good. Not a healthy choice. Some might say that's a sign I am not "spiritually fit". They would probably be right. But I guess it says something about how far I've come that I'm aware of it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Foot Soldier

I spent the last two afternoons in a conference room talking about HIV. In my volunteer role as a member of the Community Advisory Board for the local health center, we had a two day "retreat" with a rep from HRSA. He had been sent down to work with us to make sure that the CAB was organized, proactive and functioning at a level that will meet the requirements that many of the federal programs insist be in place. This is a direct offshoot of some of the great work that GMHC and ACT UP achieved in the areas of compassionate and interactive and effective treatment models for people living with HIV/AIDS as far back as the mid 1980's.

Before then, doctors and other health care professionals simply told patients what to do, where to go and, in effect, how to be sick (and die). The early pioneers in the fight against HIV/AIDS decided that they wanted a voice in what medicines they took, what doses they might take them at and when to avoid the available treatments all together, as was ultimately the case for many HIV patients when it came to AZT. In it's original form, at it's original dosage, AZT proved to be just as deadly as AIDS. I've met many HIV+ individuals that are alive today because they ultimately decided to ignore the medical community and the conventional wisdom at the time and decline treatment with AZT.

One of the results of these new treatment models was the creation of Community Advisory Boards like the one I currently serve on. Patients, and the community were encourage to form advisory groups that had a direct pipeline to both their peers (other patients) and medical providers. They acted as a voice for those who previously had none, solved problems, recommended changes in privacy standards. Early ACT UP members even won the right to "fast track" promising HIV treatments, offering their own bodies up as lab experiments, as they insisted on the right to die as bravely as they had lived.

It's why I am alive today.

My work with the CAB the last two years is my own small way of honoring the work and sacrifice of those who fought the fight before me. I should have been lying in the streets in the 80's. I could have been protesting the drug companies in the 90's. But at least I'm here now, and I try to do what I can.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Miles And Miles And Miles Of Art


Sent this photo from a shoot last year off to the printer and got back a gorgeous 24X36 print that I framed for the bedroom. I bought a poster sized frame from Bed Bath & Beyonce that felt kind of flimsy, so I broke down, crossed the boycott line and bought a sturdier frame at Target. I know. We're not supposed to be shopping there. I try to be politically correct, although I loathe knee-jerk political correctness. I tend not to just react to every boycott or letter writing campaign or Facebook posting that pops up on the Internets, as I find that frequently the whole story, with the correct facts, doesn't come out for a few days. I also find that things that outrage other gays many times don't bother me at all. And I often find them quite amusing.

So while I support the boycott Target kerfluffle in the abstract, if I really need something at a reasonable price that I know Target sells, like a sturdier frame, I will put on a pair of sunglasses and a hat (to avoid the paparazzi) and do what needs to be done.

I ended up hanging the picture up late one night last week. Then I took Riley out for his last walk. When I returned, the sturdier (heavier) frame had fallen off the wall from where I had badly secured it and shattered into several pieces. So I ended up spending an extra $25.00 at Target with nothing to show for it. The picture is back on the wall, in the flimsy original frame, which I have grown to actually like better.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Brought To You By Time-Warner Cable

I'm nothing if not loyal. I've been getting my Internets access through Verizon DSL ever since 2003. For the most part it's been a glorious marriage, but sometime last year we hit a very rocky patch. My download speed would slow down to the point that I couldn't even get a page to load. But it would happen gradually, until I would suddenly notice that I was sitting in front of the PC screen staring for longer and longer periods of time. Video's would take forever to load, or you would get that maddening stutter-stop, load, start-stutter-stop over and over again.

Eventually I would start to crack up and finally call Verizon. At which point they would usually take me through a series of "fixes" all designed to get me back up and running at full speed. Sometimes it worked. Often it didn't. But in either case, I would be on the phone with someone from tech support for up to 2 hrs at a time.

This past year, the same scenario played out every few months, and then every few weeks. It would frequently result in a service call from a Verizon technician, that would eat up 1/2 a day from another afternoon. Many times the service technician would leave before the problem was fixed, but after determining that there was nothing wrong with my PC or routers, he would assure me that the problem would be addressed in a day or so. It always was, and then my internet service and speed would be back to normal. For a while.

As I became more and more exasperated with not having reliable internet service, I started trying different tactics in order to get quick attention from the phone support people (who may or may not have even been in this country when I called them). I tried being nice, I tried being extremely nasty, I tried being sarcastic, i tried being pathetic and helpless. None of my personalities could seem to get the problem identified and resolved. And as I called tech support at least 6 times in the last six months, I began to meltdown a little faster every time they told me "not to worry" and they "would help me out". This always meant I was going to be led on a merry chase of turning off and on routers, re-booting my PC, running command prompts, and various other time wasters. The last few weeks I could only last an hour before flipping out on the tech support person, telling them they didn't know what they were doing, that they couldn't help me, and that I didn't have time to waste several hours on the phone and then another 1/2 day with the live repair tech.Then I would hang up.

And while they were insisting that the problem was definitely not outside the house on their network, within a few hours of those tirades my service would be restored and back up to speed. I finally reached my breaking point and signed a new deal for Time-Warner to provide internet service. At a cheaper price and a faster download speed to boot.

The new cable wiring is already installed and this morning I had the distinct pleasure of calling up Verizon and telling them to take a hike. They tried to talk me in to letting them try to resolve the problem, but I had no intention of turning on and off routers all afternoon. In one last bit of weirdness, they seemed to try to sell me on a Verizon Fios upgrade, right after letting me know that my building isn't wired for it.

"So how would that work exactly?"

"Well it wouldn't."

"Just cancel the service right now, please."

Verizon sucks.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Editorial

For the past couple of years, I have been a member of the Community Advisory Board at the LGBT Community Health Center in Chelsea. It's where I go for all my health care, including periodic counseling and all of my dental work. My work on the CAB, aside from being rewarding on it's own, is my way of paying back all of the wonderful care I have received over the years, before and after I was diagnosed as HIV+.

Last year during the annual elections that are held for the meeting chairman position ... I didn't win. I did however become first runner up (Miss Congeniality was not something I aspire to) and was elected to be the Vice-Chair. Coming in 2nd in a group of 8, third if you take in to account the previous chair was out of the running, only diminishes an already dubious honor slightly.

One of the projects I ended up spearheading last year was a patient newsletter. Previously, it was published in a very basic, two-page, black & white copy machine version. It had a very grassroots, low-budget look to it, and I thought we could do better. I originally started the project with another CAB member who had a lot of experience in graphic design, as my abilities are limited and self-taught. Halfway in to the first issue, my co-editor quit, leaving me to finish the first issue and take charge of the project.

Right after Gay Pride Weekend (end of June) I submitted the final draft for our 2nd (summer) issue. It was published late in August, distributed throughout the Health Center and published to their web site. In addition to supplying all the photos for this issue, I also wrote an editorial of sorts, to coincide with Gay Pride Weekend.

Lately I've been doing a lot of reading about the stigma that is still attached to HIV. Many gay men, after being diagnosed, are further traumatized when they experience being ostracized from their own community. As I say in the article, being HIV+, even in the gay "community", is the dirty little secret everyone would prefer just go away. Many HIV+ gay men feel damaged and alone.

I am attempting, through my work at the LGBT Community Health Center, and my contact with various HIV+ support groups, to address and hopefully eradicate that stigma. Here's the article reprinted:

This issue of Patient 2 Patient is
being assembled during what has
become known as Gay Pride
Month, June of 2010. Amid all the
parties and benefits, parades and
celebrations that take place in all 5
boroughs throughout this time of
year, there are many issues that
are relevant to the LGBT
community that have taken center
stage. High profile issues like gay
marriage, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and
the passage of a transgender
inclusive Employment Non-
Discrimination Act have all
received the lion’s share of the
media coverage of late.

It seems to some within the HIV+
LGBT community that amidst this
cacophony of protests, marches and
demonstrations, the voices of HIV+
Americans are no longer being heard. To
some, it seems as if we are being actively
shut out.

Consider these sobering statistics:
According to the latest findings by the
CDC 4,762 New York City residents
contracted HIV in 2006. That’s three
times the national rate and an estimated
72 new infections for every 100,000
people.

Nearly two-thirds of the city’s new
infections occurred in people 30 to 50
years old. Minority groups were
hardest hit among young people. For
example, of new HIV infections
among men under age 30 who have
sex with men, 77 percent were in
Black or Hispanic men.

In another study conducted by the
CDC, over 50% of young Black gay or
bi Southern men that were diagnosed
HIV+ had engaged in high risk
sexual behavior, but still had not
thought they would ever become
infected with the virus.

HIV+ men feel that we have become
the dirty little secret in the LGBT
community. The equivalent of the
crazy relative with a room in the attic
that only gets trotted out during big
celebrations. If we don’t sit quietly in
the corner and enjoy the plate of
sponge cake already provided, eyes
get rolled then its back in the attic we
go.

Gay men who seemingly lack
education or compassion think
nothing of unleashing bigotry, stigma
and shame upon newly infected HIV+
men who have sex with men. After
all, HIV is “preventable” and those
engaging in risky behavior should
simply “know better.” Nowhere is this
more glaringly evident than in the
halls of our own LGBT Community
Center. Where you won’t find a single
sign, poster or notification welcoming
HIV+ gay men and women nor will
you see any large scale permanent
signage advocating or directing
anyone to HIV testing and treatment.
Worldwide there are approximately 33
million people living with HIV and over
25 million people have died.

Why then has HIV become a seemingly
back-burner issue? That’s if it’s talked
about at all. Certainly this country’s
legendary short attention span and a
certain amount of “grief fatigue”
explain some of it. As does the
supposition that HIV is thought of as
more of a chronic disease, survivable
and treatable, and not the frightening
and alarming death sentence it once
was. Happily that’s true, assuming you
get a diagnosis and treatment in time.
Not everyone does. And not everyone
responds well to the available
medications.

The fact remains that unlike other
chronic and treatable diseases, like
diabetes or depression, HIV still carries
a stigma that sets its patients apart.
Often resulting in HIV+ men feeling
shunned or ignored by their uninfected
(or undiagnosed) gay brothers. Many
So as Gay Pride week is about to begin
and Gay Pride Month draws to a close,
as the celebrations wind down and the
streets are swept clean, the next time
you write a check or turnout en masse
for the latest cause celebre, consider
this:

HIV doesn’t know or care who you are.
It doesn’t worry about how much money
you have in the bank or how much
education you enjoyed. HIV doesn’t
know who you’re sleeping with, and
doesn’t care if it’s one person or a
hundred. HIV doesn’t know if you’re gay
or straight. HIV can’t tell if you are a
homeless teen or a dancer in the New
York City Ballet. HIV doesn’t think of
itself as a punishment. HIV doesn’t
worry about causing you
embarrassment or shame. In short, HIV
doesn’t judge or discriminate.

So why should you?



You can check out the entire (PDF) newsletter by following this link.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Can See Clearly Now

I'm thinking I should probably update you as to the recovery from my eye surgery. As you undoubtedly don't recall, when last we spoke of it, I had been about 2 or 3 weeks into my recovery from PRK laser surgery. My vision was obviously so much improved from where it started. I don't know what my exact prescription was in corrective terms, but "blind as a bat" works fairly well. I rarely even ventured to the bathroom from bed without putting a pair of glasses on.

At 3 weeks, I wasn't using glasses for anything at all. Day to day, I could see people, buildings, cars, billboards. I was missing all of the smaller detail. The smaller type on street signs was still a blur. Ditto for newspapers except in bright light. Even then, my vision would be in and out, blurring unexpectedly halfway through an article. Also, my distance vision was definitely lagging behind in the recovery. I saw little or no improvement after 3 weeks, and a subsequent visit to the surgeon confirmed this. In layman's terms, I couldn't see shit far away.

I tried not to get discouraged. I read and re-read all the on-line articles and blogs that said PRK recovery takes time. I gave myself an imaginary line in the sand of 6 weeks. If I didn't see some noticeable improvement by then, this would start to well and truly suck, and I began rehearsing how forceful I would be in complaining to the surgeon.

Sometime between week 5 and 6, my reading vision seemed to stabilize and improve. I was reading my computer screen without leaning forward in my chair, and I could snatch up a newspaper right on the street and start reading just like ... well ... I could see. I couldn't tell if my distance vision had improved as well. It seemed so, but I was wondering if I had just grown accustomed to not seeing very well far away.

My last visit to the surgeon was at 9 weeks. The vision in my reading eye was clocked at 20/25. The vision in my other (distance) eye was 20/40. NY State considers 20/40 in both eyes to be sufficient for driving without corrective lenses. So technically (and practically) I can see.

At this point, my vision seems at least comparable to what it was, with contacts, before the procedure. I could make a case that in some ways, it's better. My reading vision seems to be better than when I started. Most importantly, I can take photos. I never realized how much I tend to study a shot before I actually take a picture. Not having good distance vision prevented me from getting a feel for what I was shooting. It was like running on one gimpy leg. Do-able, but not fun.

My eyes are still very dry in the morning. But I've pretty much eliminated using the lubricating drops during the day. I'm still on the eye drop steroids they put me on after the surgery, and I will continue as scheduled through the end of November. My vision will blur unexpectedly, usually when I'm focusing on something detailed, but it often comes back in a few seconds. Over all, as it stands now (and I told the surgeon this on my last visit), I am completely satisfied with the surgery, the expense and the outcome. If I continue to get more improvement (and that's entirely possible according to my reading) it will just be gravy on the meatloaf.

If the weather holds this week for one more day, tomorrow I will go to the beach for the second time this year. I'll be taking only a pair of sunglasses, purely to leer at the hot boys in private.

Monday, August 30, 2010

And We're Back

A month without blogging. It wasn't my intent. I admit, I had been getting tired of keeping up on the blog. Plus, I discovered the magic that is Facebook and that seemed to satisfy one of the main reasons that I kept up blogging, long after I felt as if my original reasons for creating and maintaining From The Ashes had run it's course. I said that I wanted to give people a glimpse in to the life of a middle aged HIV+ person, and I did that. And while I still have things to say and work that I'm doing related not only to my own life as an HIV+ individual, the nuts and bolts, as it were, of my illness have pretty much been worked out. I'm in a maintenance mode that finds me pretty damn healthy, and no reason to think that will change anytime soon.

I also obviously (in retrospect) had a lot of other "issues" that needed working out too. Many of them, as it turns out, were linked in some way to alcoholism and all of the emotional and psychological damage that causes. But I've been sober for 3 1/2 years now and a lot of those issues have been resolved as well. No more panic attacks. No more General Anxiety Disorder. No more roommate troubles. No more surrounding myself with addicts and enablers. I finally feel balanced, relatively sane and at peace. In other words, I feel kind of boring.

And a boring sober middle-aged gay man doesn't necessarily have all that much to write about. At least, that's how I've been feeling. I didn't write 'cause I was happy. Which I guess means that the last 7 years could in fact be viewed as one long primal scream. In a way, I guess it was. I was lost. I was alone. I was confused. I was scared. And I poured all of it out on the page. Eventually I also poured it out to a couple of competent therapists and several hundred AA members in the last several years of meetings. Slowly, I got better. Things settled down. And I felt like I had less and less to say.

The last year maybe, certainly the last few months, I felt like I was struggling for posts, and struggling to find content. And I certainly thought about shutting From The Ashes down. I suppose I still might. But I'm not ready to walk away from it yet. And I think that this blog still has a purpose. For me, it's a creative outlet. and one that I need. I do love to write. It's only the struggle I couldn't identify that had turned it in to a chore instead of a pleasure.

So I took some time off (that lasted longer than I intended) and let things percolate for a while. I thought about what I wanted, what I had to say, and where I wanted this blog to go. I have no idea if that's what will actually happen. That's the thing about creating something from nothing - it frequently becomes something else. To me, the end of the journey is not what's important, it's the road you take along the way.

I definitely plan on writing some longer postings. Stories from my life, my childhood, as well as a chronicle of the 20+ years I've spent finding my way in a city that allows you to constantly, repeatedly reinvent yourself. Ultimately, that's what From The Ashes has always been about. I have loved the story of the phoenix from the moment I first heard it.

Rebirth. A new life rising from the ashes of the old. Renewal. Redemption. A fresh start. It's where we are today.

In the future, we'll see where it takes us. "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

Let's go.

Monday, July 26, 2010

I Swear I Still Love You

My Verizon DSL line is down and whatever is wrong is beyond my ability to figure out. It's also beyond the dubious skills of the Verizon tech support by phone. So I await a repairman for tomorrow morning. I hold out no expectations that they will be able to fix the problem I've been having for over two years.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Annie Lennox Explains It All

Annie has been spotted and photographed many times sporting her "HIV POSITIVE" T-Shirt. At the opening day of the 2010 AIDS conference in Vienna, Ms. Lennox gives the straight poop on why and what the shirt actually means. I was cleaning out my closet the other day, and watching this video made me run out to the hallway and rifle through the bag of clothes I was preparing to throw away. In it was a baseball jersey I had purchased a few years ago. It had a parody of the old Intel logo on the front, only my shirt was "HIV Inside". I was thinking that since I frequently sport my own "POSITIVE" T-Shirt, that perhaps the baseball jersey was overkill. And a bit dated. But I decided that until the stigma attached to being HIV+ in this country is talked about openly and dealt with, I should probably get a few more miles out of that jersey. It's what Annie would do.

Be Right With You ...

Monday, July 12, 2010

On The Road Again

Actually, I just returned. Was visiting family and friends back in Buffalo and the surrounding Indian-inspired named towns. I have plenty of stories to blog about and will get to it ASAP, but for now the fridge is empty and I need to hug and kiss my dog.

Monday, July 05, 2010

HIV+ Canadian Charged With Attempted Murder

"OTTAWA — A 29-year-old man accused of failing to disclose his HIV-positive status to sexual partners has had his charges upgraded to include attempted murder.

The four counts of attempted murder were laid against Steven Paul Boone in relation to four of his alleged victims. Boone has also been charged with four counts of administering a noxious substance — HIV — to the four men.

It now brings the total number of charges against Boone, who is still facing 14 charges of aggravated sexual assault as well as multiple counts of sexual assault and breach of probation, to 31. Boone also faces seven charges in Waterloo on similar accusations.

Boone was arrested in early May after an 18-year-old Ottawa man contracted HIV after the two had unprotected sex several times in January. A bail hearing for Boone, which began Tuesday, is expected to continue next week. The evidence presented during that hearing is subject to a publication ban."

Thursday, July 01, 2010

ADAP Funding In Jeopardy, Waiting List Soars

"The weak economy is crippling the government program that provides life-sustaining antiretroviral drugs to people with H.I.V. or AIDS who cannot afford them. Nearly 1,800 have been relegated to rapidly expanding waiting lists that less than three years ago had dwindled to zero.

Eleven states have closed enrollment in the federal program, most recently Florida>, which has the nation’s third-largest population of people with H.I.V. Three other states have narrowed eligibility, and two of them — Arkansas and Utah — have dropped scores of people from the program.

Last week, because of swelling numbers here in South Florida, the nationwide waiting list surged past record levels set in 2004, to 1,781 people, according to the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors. The growth is expected to continue when Georgia starts deferring enrollment in its drug assistance program on July 1. Illinois may soon follow, and New Jersey plans to cut eligibility on Aug. 1, removing 600 of the 7,700 people on its rolls.

Louisiana capped enrollment on June 1 but decided against keeping a waiting list. “It implies you’re actually waiting on something,” said DeAnn Gruber, the interim director of the state’s H.I.V./AIDS program. “We don’t want to give anyone false hope.”

Ten states’ programs have stopped covering drugs that do not directly combat H.I.V. or opportunistic infections. Unless money is found by Aug. 1, Florida plans to pare 53 of 101 medications from its formulary, including those for conditions that are often related to H.I.V., like diabetes, high blood pressure and anxiety."
via The New York Times

Here's a sampling of 138 comments posted about this article:

Point blank, I don't care what a person did: no one deserves a death sentence because they had unsafe sex, too much sex, gay sex, anal sex, adulterous sex, sex on the down low, etc. etc. etc. And refusing to give AIDS medications is a death sentence, make no mistake about it.

and

As a gay man that came out of the closet at 18 years old in 1993, I was terrified of HIV and vowed to protect myself from contracting it. Back then, gay men in particular were dropping like flies! For guys my age (straight ones too), there was never a time where sex was tantamount to freedom and liberation with zero consequences like in the 1970s. Sex could KILL you. We had that message drummed into our heads ad infinitum. However, in the last decade or so, the safe sex massages have dissipated, and people have resumed their old ways. Society can't protect people from catching an illness that no longer scares them. Why should society promise to fund the health care of people who took risks, knowing the consequences, but preferred living dangerously? And the one thing you almost never hear HIV+ people own up to is that possibility that he/she might have passed it on to someone else. HIV is entirely preventable, with very few exceptions. The only thing that can stop its death march is each individual protecting himself or herself. All the funding in the world is, for the most part, misspent.

and

Even if HIV is transmitted because of behavioral choices... so what? "Behavioral choices" are bad decisions, moments of weakness, made in ignorance, made drunkenly (and it's not exactly illegal to drink), made when people are lied to about a partner's status, made irrationally because of addiction, made from places of desperation.

It doesn't matter to me why or when a bad decision was made. We all make them at one time or another. Why do people's whose decisions lead to HIV deserve to die, when the rest of us get to scrape by thinking "God, I'll never do *that* again..."? Providing health care is the empathetic, kind thing go do.

Additionally, people on medication are less likely to transmit the virus (fewer cases in the future!) and are less likely to be hospitalized and require *even more* expensive treatment.

We're talking about something where the kind response is also the cheaper response and a way to prevent future problems. I'm not seeing a downside on my tax money going to help here.

Full disclosure: ADAP is the program that has been keeping yours truly alive and well these past 7 years. Just so you know.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More! NYC Pride 2010



This was our section leader. I would have followed him off a bridge.
Spectator that caught my eye.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

NYC Pride 2010 (Part 2)

I almost jerked off right there on the street when I saw this one...




Stair Bears



Monday, June 28, 2010

NYC Pride 2010 (continued)




Chicken ordering ... chicken.

NYC Pride 2010

I've taken about 150 or so photos of the parade and the Pride festival. Some of them are for the new issue of the newsletter I'm putting together for Callen-Lorde. A few of them I've edited and sent out to a couple of on-line publications in the hope I'll get another photo credit under my belt. Some of them suck and won't be seeing the light of day anywhere. And because you, my tens of readers, have remained faithful for the last 7 years or so that this here blog thingy has been in existence, you get the first, and in some cases exclusive look, at the hottest guys and the greatest photos before they go on to my Facebook page and before I put them in a Flickr album. Enjoy.








More to come ...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

If It's Friday's It Must Be Gay Pride


Just got back from a hot (in more ways than one), humid Gay Pride parade. I joined the group marching from Callen-Lorde at around 11:30 this morning and we were penned in to our holding area until we joined the parade close to 2 hours later. I snapped some pictures of the parade as it moved past our barricaded side street, and the police, who couldn't have been nicer, offered to let me move in to the street to get closer, but I decided to go snap some shots of other groups waiting their turn. In case you can't tell from the pictures I post, I prefer more candid, "in the moment" photography. More voyeuristic, which appeals to me on many levels. I marched with my group until around 14th street and then decided I was missing too much and broke off running ahead. Considering it was about 1 million degrees on the street I was a sweaty mess in no time.

I ended up "setting up camp" as it were on a stretch of Christopher Street between 6th and 7th Ave, were I got some great shots. As I finally started to wilt in the afternoon heat and the parade appeared to be winding down I moved over to the Pride festival, which seemed bigger and better organized this year. I refueled with a sausage and pepper sandwich, free ice cream courtesy of Ben & Jerry (thanks guys) and free hydration courtesy of Fuze. It's good to be gay.

I've already started editing pictures, but I literally have upwards of 150 to look at. So this could take a while. But I had to show you the sign under the awning at the brand new Friday's that opened in Union Square. As I walked by this morning on my way to the parade they had set up a big round table outside and a staff meeting was going on. I overheard something about "getting ready" and "shirts off" (I swear!), so apparently that's one more corporation that has decided a little pandering goes a long way. And who am I to argue with shirtless wait staff?

Real pictures throughout the next day or so as they are finished.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mommie Dearest- Interactive


Went to an "interactive" screening of Mommie Dearest in honor of Gay Pride week. Interactive meaning the film was cut with sound effects (farting), boring exposition scenes were fast forwarded, and all the fighting and classic lines, the good stuff, was re-wound and repeated for maximum camp. Two slaps became 10, and the living room fight scene came with ringside commentary. It was a blast. There are two more showings tomorrow and Saturday if you're so inclined.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Look Into My Eyes

It's been a week since I posted about it and a full week since my eye surgery. In case you've just dropped by, I had decided to have LASIK (laser) eye surgery after thinking about it for over 20 years and secretly saving for it for months. But at the last moment, two days before my surgery, my pre-operative appointment revealed a scar on my cornea. My eye surgeon claimed that LASIK was not a good option for me and recommended PRK. What I was told, and what I remember, is that there was a certain amount of post-operative pain with PRK, and the recovery was slower. What I hadn't counted on was just how slow.

I won't re-create the actual procedure in detail, just Google PRK and you will be taken to a host of blogs and web sites that will describe it. It involves burning off or (in my case) scraping the membrane over the eye to clear away a spot for the laser to shoot through and re-shape your lens. Sort of a mini-Hubble repair job. I was in to the Dr. in the afternoon and on my way home by 4:30.

The discomfort they warn you about after PRK is just that. Very uncomfortable. I ended up the first night sitting in my bedroom in the dark, with the TV on in the next room. I couldn't keep my eyes open to watch it, just listen. Fortunately I had some Ambien friends about and slept. First for 5 hours. Then I ate, then slept another 7 hours. By Saturday morning I could open my eyes but my vision was horribly blurry. I could see objects, certainly buildings, rooms, my dog. I could walk around the apartment and even the block but I wasn't comfortable enough to go further. I popped some Percocet, nothing stronger, and dozed all day and ate periodically. By Sunday my eyes felt much better, as advertised, and on Monday I went in for a follow-up.

It was at the Monday visit that I started to get disappointed. I assumed since I was in no pain, that the blurriness I was still experiencing was due mostly to the contact lens bandages they put on your eye for protection. Right before the surgeon removed them, he told me my vision wouldn't improve much as a result. It was then, for the first time, he talked about the weeks, even months, of recovery I was likely to be facing. What the hell? Nowhere in the discussions we had about the procedure or the literature I was given did anyone mention this lengthy recovery. I had no idea my vision would be impaired for this long.

I went home feeling a little dejected and with a serious case of buyer's remorse. Unfortunately, there was no option to return my eyes. I waited another day or two and then began to seek out other information about PRK, I guess it would be pertinent to mention that I was finally able to see and focus enough to actually read the pages I brought up. It was then I was confronted with the reality of the situation. PRK is a legitimate procedure, and an alternative to LASIK. There is, and was for me, a more uncomfortable post-operative result. Although I am happy to report my discomfort was really quite mild. One day really. There are first-hand accounts that have people feeling pain and irritation for up to a week, and then extremely dry eyes for weeks after. I feel completely normal and have since Monday.

But I can't see good. And all of the accounts of real people that have had the procedure as well as medical pages confirm that my vision won't stabilize, I won't have a real result, for a month to 3 months. As it stands now I have good and bad periods. When I first wake up, I see quite well. The blurriness returns very quickly and then gets progressively worse. Eye drops help. Occasionally my vision will just sharpen up to the point where i feel it's almost comparable to what my contacts were, but it doesn't last and I'm not sure I'm not just projecting.

I'm definitely doing more that I was after the weekend. This entire post was fairly easy to put up. Not nearly as time consuming or as tiring as the one right after the surgery. I'm reading the paper in the morning, watching TV at night, and this afternoon I read a magazine in bright sunlight pretty comfortably. So there's progress. But walking down the street my distance vision is still awful, and it gets worse at night. I can't make out anyone's face unless they are a few feet away.

It's frustrating.

But at this point, what's my alternative? I'm "seeing" this (HAR) as an exercise in patience. A quality I don't posses in abundance.

Hot Enough?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Real Estate Porn

Interesting article and great pictures from a property nearby on 14st. For years the top floors had been vacant while the bottom housed a grimy check-cashing joint. Several years ago the space was gutted and re-done. The street level facade was interesting and mysterious. I always wondered what was behind it. Turns out it was a ridiculously cool brownstone project where the entire second floor wall facing the street opens up. I'm assuming you need to at least wear clean undies at all times. I would. Probably. Here's a shot of the outside and the gorgeous living room. I love that couch!


-via New York Magazine

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Denver Man Charged With Murderous Spitting

An HIV positive Denver man has been preliminarily charged with attempted second-degree assault with a deadly weapon by the Denver district attorney’s office for allegedly spitting on another man during a dispute. A spokesperson for the DA’s office said staffers are currently examining the case to determine whether the charge is appropriate. Read more

No, it is not.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fun With Lasers

I had my laser eye surgery yesterday afternoon. Every indication is that it was a success, but it will be at least another day or two before I have a follow-up and know for sure.

I ended up having to have another procedure rather than LASIK, basically am older version known as PRK. This was due to the discovery of a scar on the cornea of my right eye. How it got there is a mystery.

Although I'm feeling no pain and very little discomfort, my vision is still pretty blurry, so I need to cut this short. Will update a full report as soon as I can see better.

Monday, June 07, 2010

On Mass. HIV Rates And Young People

For eight years, new infections have been stuck in the mid-300s in the state’s gay community. That’s one every day.

Why? It’s partly lousy sex education, and public health policy that’s still unaccountably squeamish about condoms.

It’s partly that younger gay men didn’t see the most horrific stage of the epidemic, when legions died awful, visible deaths that scared others into better protecting themselves. And treatments over the last 15 years have made HIV seem more like a chronic disease than a deadly one. It’s also harder to reach gay men with prevention messages now that many socialize online rather than in the bars where condoms and counseling were plentiful.

But (he) says none of that mattered to him. The only thing that did came into his life outside a theater district dance club two Octobers ago: Crystal meth
-via The Boston Globe


I don't know that it's is self esteem. I think it's psylogical fatigue. Most young gay men have known about this disease for their entire lives. They have never lived in a time where HIV wasn't a possibility. It seems logical that some, albeit not terribly bright, people would say "fuck it" to the condom after hearing the same message and feeling so scared for so long.

Of course the whole "HIV doesn't look so bad anymore" issue plays into it too.
I guess my point is that Its a myriad of issues not just one and will take more than just scare tactics (not that scare tactics can't be useful, they just are not the only answer).

The fact of the matter is it's not the 80s anymore and we are not dealing with the same instant death sentence we were, nor are we dealing with the same people. We are going to have to deal with this generation in the now, not with what is in the past and not with what might happen in the future, but with the reality of the aituation today. -Brandon H.


Read more

Sunday, June 06, 2010

My Eyes!!

It's something I've been thinking about for years. Almost as long as when they first announced the procedure. For the longest time I was too invested in my drinking career to give it any serious thought. Then I was always too broke.

But,as they say, a whole new world has opened up to me with sobriety. And with it, comes new opportunities to do some things I always wanted to do. Like fix my eyes.

I started wearing glasses in the second grade, and my vision has gotten progressively worse over the years. I switched to contact lenses sometime in junior high or high school. So long ago that there were no soft or gas permeable options. Just hunks of brick you had to develop a callous under your eyelid to tolerate.

My last eye exam resulted in new glasses, new contacts, as well as the addition of reading glasses over my contacts to fix the fact that I could no longer read in dim lighting. Too labor intensive and I was always forgetting the readers when I needed them. Also, Riley ate the first pair of new glasses, so I had to immediately replace them with a cheaper pair. Hundreds of dollars out the window plus the cost of new contact lenses twice a year.

Enough.

I've been squirreling away money whenever I had a particularly lucrative shift or some unexpected cash was available. It added up. Enough for me to seriously consider, and then schedule, laser (LASIK) eye surgery for the end of next week. I may still end up needing reading glasses. Maybe not. But if it works out well the prescription eyeglasses and the contact lenses will be history.

Will keep you posted, as next week promises to be nuts!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Check Up

Weight: 163

Liver, blood sugar, blood pressure: check

Cholesterol: 167

Viral Load: Undetectable

T-Cell count: 999

This unit is functioning within acceptable parameters.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

No Lucy, You Can't Be In The Show


So I decided to try and cross a few things off my bucket list, and I've always wanted to be on a game show. But not just any game show. I have no interest in any show where I have to jump up and down, mindlessly applaud myself or fall on the floor when I'm offered a car. I want to be a contestant and hopefully win some money, but escape with my dignity, or the illusion that I have some, intact.

So I arranged for an audition to be a contestant on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. By arranged, I mean you go to the Millionaire website and find the link for contestant auditions. Basically , since I live in NYC where the show is taped, all I had to do was request a couple of days for an audition when I was available and they answered within 24 hrs via e-mail.

So Monday evening at 6:30 was my audition date and time. And I got lost. In NYC. Where I've lived for 20+ years.

The ABC studios are located on W 66th street. And I've absolutely walked by there on many occasions. But I didn't really "know" know where the studio was located? Y'know? So when I got on the subway I was planning on getting out at 57th and 7th, which would have put me about 9 blocks and 15 minutes away from where and when my audition was. But at the last minute I second-guessed and stayed on the train until 59th & 5th. And when I got off the train I was outside Central Park. Somehow I ended up heading west instead of north, and when I started to panic at the thought of being late, I tried to cut through the park and found myself completely opposite where I needed to be, on the east side of Central Park. I finally had my bearings but realized I was screwed.

So I ended up running and walking up 5th avenue to 66th street and then across the park to the west side. By the time I arrived at the ABC studios I was sweating like a pig, gasping for breath ... and late for my audition time. I was put 1st in line for standby at the 7:00 audition. Which was actually a blessing as it took the full 1/2 hour before I stopped sweating buckets and my shirt was reasonably dried out.

I got in with the 7:00 group of auditioners, about 30 people in all. And the audition is actually a test. You are handed a souvenir magnet, a manila envelope with the test inside, and a scan-able answer card with a No. 2 pencil. The test is 30 multiple choice questions, and you have 10 minutes to answer them. It goes by fast.

I thought I did well on the test, which is a mix of pop culture questions just like on the show. I only struggled with about 7 or so out of the 30. By my reckoning, I got about 22-23 out of 30 questions correct. But I guess that's not good enough, as right after the time is up they collect the scan cards and feed them in to a computer. About 2 minutes later they are announcing by number who has passed and will go on to a taped interview with a producer, and who has failed. About 3 minutes later you are out on the sidewalk where you started.

Or rather, I was.

You are, of course free to take the test another day, and as many times as you like. I overheard one gentleman talking on the phone that this was his fourth attempt, And his fourth failure. I suppose I might someday, as I abhor being told I can't do something. I at least would like to pass the test, even if I get rejected at the interview. I don't like feeling too dumb to be on Millionaire. It makes watching the show and screaming out the answers infuriating instead of fun.

I threw out the souvenir magnet.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What Dreams May Come

I had an amazing night's sleep, and this morning I had the most vivid, creative, powerful dreams I've had in a long time. Full of ghosts and characters and imagination, hidden doors and secret rooms. I loved it. As I started to wake but found myself in that twilight in between slumber and waking, I had the profoundly good manners to tell all the people and animals I had gathered in one room, "I had a great time. Thank you, this was so much fun."

Manners, even in dreams, count for something. Learn it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ow.

No idea how it happened, but it appears I've scratched my eye. It's pretty painful, and my eye is irritated. I'm incredibly sensitive to bright light and sunlight makes my eye watery cause it burns. Last night even the PC monitor hurt if it was on a white page. It was worse last night, but it still hurts and it's making me tired. All I want to do is take a nap.

No contact lenses until it heals. Staying indoors until it's time for work.

How was your Sunday?

UPDATE: The eye is better. Still feels funky in the morning and I can't stand bright sunlight. Healing though and not in any pain.

Have some posts prepared but no time no time. Working. So far, I'm off on Saturday AND Sunday which will be heaven if it holds up.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dreams Can Come True

NEW YORK, May 11, 2010—Placing the search for a cure for HIV/AIDS firmly at the center of its research efforts, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, on Tuesday announced the first round of grants to a consortium of leading researchers to develop strategies for eradicating HIV infection.

“amfAR has a long history of funding breakthrough research, and developing this consortium gives me great hope that we will catalyze the research for a cure for HIV/AIDS,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “We believe that a collaborative research effort has the potential to dramatically accelerate the search for a cure.”

The initial round of funding for the newly constituted amfAR Research Consortium on HIV Eradication (ARCHE) includes projects in each of three areas that are widely considered central to HIV eradication:

The search for a sterilizing cure that would eliminate all HIV from the body;
The search for a functional cure that would achieve permanent viral suppression without therapy; and
The characterization of viral reservoirs, the barrier that must be overcome to achieve a cure."


amfAR Consortium To Speed Search for HIV/AIDS Cure

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Trouble On W. 24th

Gay Men's Health Crisis co-founder Larry Kramer posts a lengthy and scathing letter regarding the impending relocation of GMHC from it's long-time home on W24th to a new location. Reportedly without some vital services many of their clients need and most certainly want. I've linked to the entire page as it also contains a companion reaction from Famous Lesbian Urvashi Vaid, as well as a call to protest and an open letter from the GMHC Community Advisory Board (CAB).

Somehow a building was eventually located that GMHC's leadership felt they could afford. It is in the Associated Press building on 33rd Street and Tenth Avenue. For people with AIDS it will be an awful and unsatisfactory home. It is an indication of the board's desperation that it has been willing to accept terms and restrictions that are out of another era.

Here are only some of them:

No kitchen or cooking facilities will be allowed. GMHC is famous for its daily hot meals, which, for many clients, is the only food they get. I repeat: for many of their clients this is the only food that they get.

Clients will be forced to enter through a specal entrance and use a special elevator,lest the regular tenants see them. Staff will be allowed to use the regular entrance and elevator. This represents an institutionalized apartheid that past leaders of GMHC would have denounced and refused to countenance.

No medical facilities or activities will be allowed. This could literally be a real killer. Most clients come to GMHC for regular testing, counseling, clinical trials, to see their doctors, and to receive related services, all under one roof. The medical and testing facilities are located on the ground floor of their current West 24th building. These services, which provide grant funding for GMHC, are financed by generous contributions by the David Geffen Foundation and the Michael Palm Foundation, and are administered by New York Hospital/Weill Medical Center. Without these facilities located in the same place as their daily hot meals, (which they will now also not be getting) what reason would clients have to come to GMHC at all?"

Monday, May 10, 2010

Infidelity

I confess. I am cheating on you. I have been focusing all my free writing time on my new relationship with my Facebook friends.

What I intend to do is use this blog to continue to update all the significant (to me) HIV news and treatment issues that I find. I also find Facebook far too limiting when I want to post something that requires a little depth or I need space to put something down in writing to better clarify what's going on in my head.

And I plan on returning this blog to it's semi-dirty, frequently NSFW, roots in the coming months. Not X-rated, but certainly a solid R.

Plus, I've been working pretty much every day for the last two or three weeks, so I really only have time to dash off the quick quip rather than the witty and thoughtful remarks I prefer to put here.

But the bottom line is I have been unfaithful. I apologize. Do I have to sleep on the couch?