Saturday, January 30, 2010

Welcome Students!

I unabashedly and without a second thought stole an idea that I found on Brian's site ( I am now a blogging "case study" (I prefer mentor) to four students taking a course (some are on line, some are live) in HIV/AIDS called HIV Disease: A Human Concern. The students have created blogs especially for the class. Every week they receive an assignment, I assume a topic to blog about, which they must post by Wednesday. By Friday, they must comment on their group member's blogs as well as this one. I'm pretty sure that's how it works anyway. If I've misunderstood I'll find out soon enough.

My role in this is to post content to this blog about HIV/AIDS and my experiences, opinions, social and medical issues that revolve around HIV. If you are thinking that that's pretty much what I do already, you are starting to understand why I was so attracted to the idea. If nothing else, I'll increase my tens of readership by four. Five if you count the teacher.

Besides, I would like nothing more than to have a forum and a resource to discuss HIV and the impact (or lack thereof) it has on the lives of young people in this country. What do they think today about HIV? What do they know? Where do they get their information and what do they believe about HIV+ people? Questions questions I have lots of them.

So I thought by way of introduction I would start back at the beginning. I began writing From The Ashes in 2003, about a month after I was diagnosed with HIV. I was 41 years old. At the time, I thought it would be a good outlet for some of the confusion and uncertainty I was feeling around becoming positive, as well as a place to be honest about what had gone on in my life up until then. While I thought at the time I was being completely honest, as it turns out, I was lying to myself about one or two important things. But that's another story.

I have reprinted below a (slightly edited) blog entry from April, 2003 that I think has a great deal of significance. It details the chaos and confusion that many many people that are diagnosed with HIV suddenly are thrust in to. It's a world of blood tests and doctor's appointments and T-Cell counts that most people are unprepared for. The maelstrom eventually abates, but it's an area I have been urging case managers here at my clinic to try to understand better. I'm not sure if I'm being heard.

March 7, 2003

That was the title I was originally going to call this blog. At the time, I thought that it was the most significant date in my life. Now I'm not so sure. I'm a 41 year old gay man living in NYC. On March 7, 2003 I learned I was HIV positive. That was quite possibly the hardest sentence I've ever typed. Not because of the HIV admission, but now everyone will know I'm 41! I had to do it. I made a promise to myself that I was going to really commit to this blog and use it to help me get through my new challenges. I've spent a large portion of my life obscuring, ignoring and avoiding the truth or some truths. I'd like to say I'm done doing that but I'd be lying again. I'm going to try as hard as I can to be brutally honest in this chronicle. Not just with you but with myself. I'm hoping that I can see once and for all where I came from and why. The future we'll discover together. I want to take you with me on this journey.

I'll start with the whole HIV thing since it was the catalyst for me to begin the blog and I'm sure it will come up again and again on here. It's been just over a month since I was diagnosed. I'm sure some people will tell you about how stunned they were and how they cried for a week after the diagnosis but that never happened to me. When I decided to finally be tested after all these (15!) years in New York City I was fully aware of the possibility that I could get a positive diagnosis. Of course, I was hoping I wouldn't, but still... It's like all the years of sex and sex parties and boothstores and escorts and masseurs and escort/masseurs (do I sense a theme?) was I just having unprotected sex with everyone who came along? Of course not. But I've never been at all what you would call cum-phobic either. Hey, people are, for lack of a better word "juicy" (No, that is the better word) And sex is sticky and juicy (if you do it right) Throw in a healthy dose of low self -esteem, sprinkle on a liberal dusting of depression and there you have me waking up first thing in the morning having really loud sex with a guy whose name escapes me and the words "condom" or "safe" don't come out of either of our mouths. It happened. Move on.

The surprising part so far for me has been how long it takes to know what's up with yourself after you've been diagnosed. I thought that you go in, give blood, wait a week, you're positive or negative, they give you a sucker and send you on your way. Not so fast though kitten. The diagnosis is just the beginning. Once you find out you're positive then some real fun begins. Apparently, now you have to find out how positive you are. So it's back to the lab but this time they take vials and vials of your blood. I think it was at least six I'm not sure. That day, there was a guy ahead of me who apparently turned white while he was being vamped which sent me into a mild panic as well. So I didn't count all the vials and I looked away and sang something in my head to distract me. And another 14 days go by so you can get your viral load and T-cell count. And that's it? Oh you silly silly soul! Not even close! In my case it was sort of a good news/bad news event. The good news was two-fold. First, according to my blood test, except for the death in my veins I'm healthy as a horse. (Besides that, how did you enjoy the play Mrs. Lincoln?) Second, not having a clue exactly how long I've been infected at this point my test results say I still have enough T-cells and a low enough viral load that I'm "healthy". So as it stands today my "medication" consists of multiple vitamins and trying to stay healthy. So now we know where I stand, right? You so stoopid! No! I had to wait a month and go back to see the blood- suckers and make another donation. Why you may ask? Because they have to get a few sets of tests over a few months to see if I'm deteriorating or maintaining in my condition. In other words I may stay like this for months or six months or years before treatment has to start. Or not. If my system goes wonky progressively I'll have to go on the anti-virals and oh, won't chronic diarrhea be a happy, happy time?

So there you have it. Our jumping off point. I'll tell you about my Dr. visits. I'll tell you secrets about my job. I may write poetry. Sometmes I'll just post an article I like. If I ever have one again I'll be happy to dish on my own love life. That's not an HIV thing it's a I'm a dysfunctional freak thing. Good news is I'm probably going to have to leave the house more, just to keep things interesting. Periodically, I'll post my e-mail address.( If you like what you read so far let me know, I'd love to hear from you. If you want to say something negative shut your hole, I'm not a well woman!

I hope the students get some use out of that, and I would encourage them to post whatever they wish in the comments, about anything I write or post, including questions. If you prefer, feel free to email me anything you would like as well. I will probably always respond here, unless you ask for a private response. There's not much I do that I keep private anymore. Yet another reason I'm perfect for this program.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Today On My Front Porch

Sometimes, just changing your shoes can make you so ... damn ... sleep ZZZZZZZ

Thursday, January 28, 2010

HIV News From Haiti

The earthquake in Haiti devastated the country, leaving countless dead and with limited resources to help the survivors.

You can help! Your unused ANTIBIOTIC, ANTIRETROVIRAL, AND PROPHYLAXIS medications can save lives in Haiti.

What can I send?
Unexpired Antibiotics, Antiretrovirals, and Prophylaxis medications.

What will you do with it?
AID FOR AIDS International will send these live-saving medications to the earthquake survivors in Haiti, helping to ease the strain on hospitals and saving the lives of people in need of medicine.

What do I do?
- Send your unused, unexpired medications to
AID FOR AIDS International
120 Wall st, 26th Floor
New York, NY 10005.

If you are in NYC, go here for a list of drop off centers.

There is also this news via

In the aftermath of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, GHESKIO, an AIDS organization based in Port-au-Prince, continues to provide lifesaving antiretroviral (ARV) therapy to those in need, Agence France-Presse reports.

GHESKIO (Haitian Group for Studies in Karposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections) is one of the first AIDS clinics in the world. The clinic survived the earthquake and has become a refuge site for injured Haitians.

With medication provided by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Merieux Institute, GHESKIO’s 28 centers have never been forced to interrupt treatment for its approximately 12,000 clients, half of which live in Port-au-Prince. (According to the article, in 2009, fewer than 150,000 Haitians were living with HIV/AIDS, a significant drop from the 1990s.)

Following the quake, GHESKIO used radio broadcasts to remind clients that their treatments were waiting for them, as well as organizing car pools to transport patients to clinics.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Animal Kingdom

Here's a shot of poor little Riley that they took of him at the animal hospital post-surgery. You can see his undercarriage got shaved and he's wearing the bandage on his leg where they hooked him up to the IV for fluids and such. That got shaved as well. This is how he looked at me all weekend until I got him to the hospital. "Help me, Daddy!" Is it any wonder I borrowed $5,000.00 to get him his operation?
Not to be outdone, here's a picture I snapped with my phone cam of the infamous Cat back in December when I was visiting the family. Every morning and night when I prepared to brush my teeth, Cat would jump on the sink and stare at me until I turned on the water. For a cat, he drank a lot of water, but I suspect he actually just enjoyed the service.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Cone Of Shame

Here are a couple of shots of the patient sporting the latest in Elizabethan neck wear. This was last night and he was still mighty groggy from the pain meds. I was a little concerned as he was still not very interested in food or drinking but once he got comfortable back at home that changed. Today he finished an entire can of dog food in three installments. He probably would have eaten more but I am taking it slow since I don't think he had any solid food for almost 5 days. He is already able to make it up and down the five flights of stairs without any obvious problem. He is still on pain meds and will be for at least a week so he spends a lot of time sleeping.

They also sent him home with a pain patch on his skin and I would be lying if I didn't say it occurred to me I might get really high if I slapped his patch on for a while. Needless to say that sent me out to a Gay-A meeting. Just in case. And I'm obviously not the only one that has occurred to as his post-op instructions came with a very specific warning to not handle his pain patch without gloves and to resist the urge to eat it. I'm not kidding and I'm not the least bit surprised that some (other )crack head tried to get fucked up off his doggy meds.

In other good news, my back isn't nearly as fucked up as I originally thought, although it does hurt. But it's a recurring injury, I've done it before, and after some rest then stretching then heat I expect I'll be right as rain in a few days.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

And ...

I hurt my back. Pulled a muscle lifting Riley in to bed last night. Really really hurts. I'll be fine, and I'm not one to complain normally but c'mon now, this is not fun. Not fun at all.

P.S. Riley is resting comfortably, having trouble getting him to eat, although he did have a bite this morning. I have pictures of the patient forthcoming.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

12:30 AM

Usually at this time Riley will begin whining to go out. His last walk of the night is around 1:00. Sometimes later if I'm working or I get caught up killing zombies and lose track. Sometimes he is very patient and other times I get really irritated because he's been non-stop quietly whining in the background for 1/2 hour and he knows it drives me crazy. I know it sounds like I'm a bad Daddy making him wait, but Riley has figured out he doesn't need to whine when he has to go out, he does it when he wants to. I can walk him at 10pm and he'll start the whine at 12:30 because "it's time". How he's knows it's almost 1:00 is beyond me. Dog secrets.

In the summer, that last walk is sooo nice, because even though it's NYC, my neighborhood is relatively quiet that late. Except on weekends. I love to take Riley all around the neighborhood. Sometimes we walk for blocks. On recycle nights we (I) look for good furniture being thrown out. I rarely take anything home, I just like to have a look and think about what I could turn it in to. Possibilities. Late at night, all alone with your dog, they are endless.

In the winter that walk can be downright painful. It is usually decidedly shorter. Maybe once around the block if it's too cold. We're all business. Pee and poop. Let's git 'er done. But unless I am deathly ill we always make that last walk. Even in a cold winter rain. I can't sleep if I think about him having to go out all night. I can't relax. It's become part of my routine. I need to brush my teeth. I can't go to bed without brushing. I need a couple of big gulps of cold water. I need to pee.

And I need to take my dog for his last walk of the day.

The financing I thought I had in place fell through. 100% because my credit is totally fucked. It's a holdover from my days of active drinking, and it's something that is taking forever to dig out of. I may never get out from under it. And it seems like every time I get a glimmer of hope that the mountain of debt isn't looking quite so horrific, something happens to set me back. This time, it was Riley's operation.

I scraped together whatever cash and credit I had left and then borrowed the rest from my brother. Humiliating. Worse than getting him to co-sign a credit account. But I guess in the end, the universe decided I did not, in fact, need another credit card to pay off. Just a family member.

Riley is recovering, although the after-affects of the operation have made him queasy and slow to want to eat. But I expect he will be coming home tomorrow. Mostly because I can't afford another night of hospital charges. Hopefully, he'll be feeling better and I'll have him back by late afternoon. We may or may not make our regularly scheduled 1:00am walk.

But it will be nice to know that we will. Soon.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Very Bad News

Riley is sick and has been admitted to the hospital. He is getting IV fluids and having more tests done but they are afraid that he may have some sort of intestinal blockage. If that's the case, the surgery and hospitalization will be over $5,000.00.
I don't have it and nobody I know does either.

I don't know what to do.

UPDATE: Riley is in surgery and I'm waiting to hear that he is out and recovering.

I just got back from a Gay-A "gratitude meeting". All that I could think about was that I am grateful that even though I was experiencing DEFCON 1 on the stress indicator, the first thing that I thought of once I had a free hour or two was that I needed to get to a meeting, pronto. I am grateful, as the "old me" would have poured a shot of vodka with a vodka/cranberry chaser on that problem and it would have been downhill from there.

I'm equally grateful that I have managed to repair relations with my brother enough to not only get a hug at Christmas, but to have someone to turn to in an emergency, and this seriously qualifies. He is generously arranging to co-sign a credit application that will allow me to finance Riley's surgery and pay it off in installments. And while I need another credit payment like I need a hole in my head, I would gladly get a hole in my head if that's what Riley needed to get his medical care.

Hopefully, he will be out of surgery soon and home in a few days.

UPDATE II: Riley made it through surgery and is recovering. The vet thought he had an obstruction as well as an issue with his intestines. As it turned out, he had eaten a plant or a branch of some sort that ended up to be indigestible. Part of the plant was in his stomach, and the other part, while still connected, was in his intestines and he couldn't get either part out. His innards turned inside out trying to get rid of the branch, and eventually he probably would have ended up with an infection and something like sepsis. Dead.

Fortunately I got him to the hospital and he should be fine.

For $5,000 he better come back with gold plated ear tips.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Oh. My. Goddess!

The Johnny Weir TV Show promo is gayer than a bag of glitter covered fairy cookies. My admiration for Ms. Weir is long-standing and this makes me want to give him a big kiss and maybe stick a finger up his butt. I'm assuming with his skater butt muscles he could turn my digit to diamond with one clench.

And as long as we're video blogging instead of actually writing, here's a vid of Johnny farting pixie dust all over the ice in Japan, with music by the current patron saint of gayosity, Lady Gaga. I really do love him.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Self Help Thursday

In an effort to minimize needing to take multiple days off or having to keep track of what shift I am available on which day, I decided to simplify things and put all of my standing commitments on one day -Thursday.

So Thursday morning I leave the house at around 11:30 and walk across town, about 1/2 an hour, to see my therapist. After that, at 1:00 I walk back across town to be at my Gay-A group to chair a 2:00 meeting. 3-5:00 can be errands or lunch or I may try to get in a work out. Today was lunch. Then I take Riley out for his second walk of the day. After that I walk back across town to the Gay/Lesbian Community Center and meet up with my HIV+ support group. That lasts from 6-8:30, after which I may try to work out if I haven't already, or I sometimes join the POZ guys for dinner. Then I walk back across town to my apartment, where I eat (if I haven't already) and take Riley down five flights of stairs (again) for his last walk of the day.

By this time I'm usually pretty pooped. But I'm not sure if all the walking back and forth from East to West and up and down five flights of stairs has done it, or if it's because I've just spent most of the time of an entire day thinking, talking and evaluating ME, ME, ME!

In any event, my therapy session today was particularly rewarding, and we addressed one of the reasons that I was so keen on starting this round of self-absorbed navel-gazing, and what I hoped to accomplish with it. Rather than trying to preserve an air of mystery about it, and quite frankly, there's not enough people reading to justify that kind of a rating's stunt, I will just go ahead and tell you that my plans to make use of the foster parent certification classes I completed last year are back on, if not the front burner, definitely the middle burner, and if not at full boil, something's definitely bubbling up.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Appetite For Destruction

Yesterday I had an hour before work due to an error in my call time. This is a dangerous thing, what with the hotel I normally work at being right next to a shopping mall. But I already had a mission, so there would be no wandering around the mall aimlessly buying crap I didn't need.

I had to buy a new comforter for my bed. Actually, I had to replace the new comforter for my bed that I bought sometime before Thanksgiving. That was when Macy's was having a sale and I found an entire "bed ensemble" for 1/2 off. Before I bought it, I decided to once and for all look up all the words that I have been reading in all the ads for bedding. I have a confession to make. With all my worldly sophistication, my po' white trash roots show when it comes to bedding. Growing up, we had a fitted sheet, a sheet, a pillow (singular) with pillow case and blankets for the cold. We usually all had homemade afghans that my mom knitted. I liked to keep one folded at the foot of my bed for extra feet warmth.

So up until a few months ago, I actually had no idea what a duvet, a duvet cover, a pillow sham, a bedskirt, a dust ruffle or a coverlet actually was. Now I know, but I'll be surprised if I ever actually buy and use one. But as I said, I did buy a sheet set with a comforter, and I confess that it came with pillow shams, but they are still in the original plastic on a shelf in my closet. The set wasn't terribly expensive, the thread count wasn't particularly high, but the bedding all matched and it was a deep burgundy and gold which I love for bedding.

Unfortunately, here's what the comforter looked like shortly after Christmas:

Near as I can figure, Riley had a bone or a stick hidden in the bed, and when he decided to retrieve it he found it right in the middle of the bed, albeit covered up. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he attempted to move the obstruction. But since his only interest ultimately was to get whatever was buried there, chewing a hole seemed like a very efficient, not to mention dog-like, thing to do. Rendering my new matching bedding no longer new, and decidedly less matching.

To further illustrate the power of his lust for ripping and rending, here's a picture I snapped of the aftermath a 1/2 hour after I presented him with a Christmas squeaky toy:

As you can see, there is nothing left but toy innards and bits of felt. And the squeaker, which near as I can tell must be single-mindedly located and eradicated as fast as possible, sits deflated and discarded next to his paw, never to vex another dog with that infernal squeaking.

Saturday, January 09, 2010


The Pentax K-x is a worthy competitor for the major manufacturers out there, and is probably in line for the third best with the other smaller camera companies. Since the days of the K10D and the K100D, Pentax has made affordable DSLRs with great form factors, exceptional build quality and superb image quality. The K-x does not stray from that formula. The K-x is a great younger brother to their top-of-the-line K-7, though not without a few flaws.

The Pentax K-x offers a great value for its price. It gives you total control of image processing, manual shooting, a few post-processing shortcuts, and easy-to-use automatic and scene modes that makes it an entry-level to intermediate camera. Yes it has some quirks, it can be slow at times, and it drains battery juice at the drop of a hat, but we can't deny that the K-x is top notch otherwise.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Stigma Of HIV And Aging

"On turning 50 I was perplexed about exactly how I was supposed to feel. I struggled with the feelings that I am very lucky and privileged to have survived AIDS twenty years, but in reality I still just felt ... old.

This time of my life has been thought-provoking yet confusing. Aging has sort of snuck up on me. It has been hard to accept growing older while living with HIV in our judgmental and antagonistic society. As an older person with HIV, I face the unknowns of a longer life with a virus that, despite successful treatment, continues to smolder within an aging body and immune system. There is really no precedent for the situation that many people, like myself, find themselves in. Yet, as the clock ticks on, I remain committed to my own fight against AIDS."

Great article via The by Matt Sharp. Read more here ...

As I have stated, those of us moving into their 50's and 60's are pioneers to an age that is now being researched and studied. Unfortunately, we don't have much in the way of other resources to pull from, as this is the first generation of Americans living, surviving, with HIV after 50. And the double stigma of getting older in a youth-obsessed culture while dealing with the sexual minefield of HIV is not always the laugh-riot it sounds like on the surface.

Monday, January 04, 2010

What The Fuck?

I know FOX News isn't technically, you know, news, But did Brit Hume (who I thought was a respected journalist) really just avow that the only way Tiger Woods can "recover" from his scandal depends on him becoming a Christian? Seriously? And this is broadcast on a news show? Completely outrageous.-via Joe.My.God.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

New Years Par-Tay!!

At the laundromat. At least that's how I spent the early part of my New Years Eve. I didn't want to start the new year with a big old mountain of dirty clothes so I ended up doing laundry (and I wasn't alone) until around 8 pm. After that I got caught up on my email sorting and did some cleaning around the apartment. I think I was playing Left 4 Dead when the New Year actually happened. Nothing says Happy New Year like slaughtering zombies.

I also made it to a Gay-A meeting during the afternoon, and while I planned to make one on New Years Day, I honestly wasn't feeling the need. Holidays are hard for some alcoholics, but (I assume) because I spent so many years behind a bar, I kind of see that the pressure to spend a holiday drinking is really something that people put on (or let other people put on) themselves. I mean, when did celebrating Christmas become synonymous with getting drunk? Even if you ignore the religious aspect to it, Christmas for me is about spending time with friends and family, being kind to people and all that crap.

And even before I got sober, New Years was traditionally a day I made a point of NOT waking up with a hangover. I spent far too many years looking across a bar at people absolutely desperate to get drunk. Almost like they were trying to erase all memory of the year that was, while insuring they would start the next one in misery. Not for me. Even while I was still drinking, I tried to make it a point to at least start the new year feeling good. After that I would still get drunk every day.

I also started on one of the projects I had mentioned in an earlier post, because as expected, there is precious little work. My bedroom is in serious need of a paint job, and while I am at it, the whole room needs to be re-thought. As the years have gone by and I needed storage space or shelving I basically bought whatever I could find/afford and threw it up on some available wall space. The result is a mish-mosh of shelving units located at random all around the room. I also have a queen sized bed, a dresser, a fairly large closet, my desk (PC, printer, scanner) and all the accompanying paper and books and magazines that go with it in the room. Also this is hangout central for Riley.

I've been feeling a little cramped. Getting around the bed to water the plants, open a window, or fetch a T-Shirt involves a sideways shuffle or a leap over the bed. I guess it's a good thing I'm terminally single, as another person in the bed would have to climb over a body and a dog in order to get out.

So I've pulled everything out of the room except the bed (no space). That will be covered with a tarp and as soon as I patch all the walls I will be spending the next couple of days putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls. Then before I put the shelving back up I will try to come up with a better use of the space, while giving all my "stuff" a good sort and a merciless purge.

And I only have three days to accomplish it as we are getting a new (temporary) roommate that will be moving in this week for a three month stay. One of my boys has gone to Prague for a semester abroad and has rented out his own room (with my approval, obv.) in order to have it when he gets back. Which is either flattering or a testament to how valuable a cheap apartment is in this town. Probably both.