Friday, February 26, 2010

Have Some Numbers, Make It Last

Tuesday morning doctor's appointment was a follow up to my labs. I find myself faced with a dilemma. And I don't think I will be posting or talking about my lab results any more. Unless something happens worth talking about. You see I'm about as healthy as a person can get, and I have been for some time.

Everything in my blood work came back normal. Liver function, kidney function, red blood cells, white blood cells - normal normal check and check. The iron supplements are keeping my hereditary anemia in check. My cholesterol HDL/LDL is wonderful, my blood pressure is textbook. I'm not at risk for diabetes.

I've lost 6 pounds (intentionally) and while I'm shooting for 15lbs. total I will be happy when I get to 10.

My viral load is undetectable, and has been for almost four years. My T-Cell count is now 1053. Which is pretty fuckin' high.

And what I'm feeling lately when it comes to HIV, while not complacency, is a sense that I've fought the good fight. And won for now. I'm not proposing that I discontinue my quarterly labs, nor make any changes to my current drug regimen. I will continue to keep my appointments.

I just feel like I don't want to talk about it any more.

It's almost as if my identity, my sense of self, has been wrapped up in my being HIV+. But the fact is, or facts are, if you want to base it on my blood work, that I am absolutely fine, and I have been for quite some time. I dare say I know more about my health, the current state of how my body is functioning, than a lot of the people now reading this.

I don't walk around thinking that the lump behind my earlobe is a tumor. I don't worry that the lower back pain I get is some sort of Lifetime Television for Women spinal cancer. When I catch a cold I think it's just a cold and I know I will get better. I get a flu shot every winter because I don't want the flu. I'm not afraid I'll end up with PCP. I don't believe that writing this post will somehow rain death and illness upon my house.

Because I'm not sick. I'm not.

But I spent the first few years after my diagnosis thinking of myself as sick, and I guess I was. Unfortunately it sort of stuck, or I did. But now I'm better. And now I find myself thinking of the future, of where I want to go, what I want to do next. And I don't want to think of it, or accomplish it, or conquer it or even begin the next chapter as someone who is ill.

I'm just me. A middle aged HIV+ gay guy who is just fine. Maybe better than fine.

Thank you.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

You Go Lady!

Johnny Weir holds a press conference in Vancouver following some ugly remarks made by Quebec sportscasters calling him a "bad example" and stating that he "should pass a gender test".

And then there's this:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Gym Etiquette

The NY Times runs a complaint box column, basically an Op-Ed area for the masses, which typically just ends up to be a place were one New Yorker complains about the behavior of other New Yorkers, and then hundreds of other New Yorkers write in to second that complaint, take the opposing viewpoint, or point out other things that other New Yorkers do to drive them crazy.

Last week the subject was the clusterfuck that gym noobs, typically found in large quantities every January and February, cause for those of us who work out on a more regular basis, and have been for years. I've written before about the phenomenon, complete with brand new gym "outfits" instead of clothes, along with matching sneakers. You can spot a gym neophyte that won't be around past March if he or she is working out with makeup and/or jewelry on.

The article is pretty typical, along with an accompanying piece about the proliferation of people that insist on updating their twitter feed, or worse (IMO) making phone calls in the locker room.

What I found most amusing, as always, were the comments from the rest of New York, most of whom had an entire other litany of complaints, as well as those who basically begged for tolerance and patience, as gym novices be given the time and instruction to, you know, get off the phone and get the hell out of the way.

But there was one gem amongst all the other "Me too's":

Guys who put their shod feet on benches in the locker room to tie their laces. How witless can you get?

"Shod?" "laces?" "witless?" - where does this guy work out? A 19th century YMCA? And what is the objection/obsession I've discovered peeving New Yorkers about sneakers touching seating areas? There was a similar outburst when a subway rider was recently ticketed for putting his feet up in a car at 2:30am. People passed right over the outrage the article meant to invoke and went on and on about how filthy and nasty it is to put your sneaker on a seat. I wouldn't think twice about putting my foot on a bench in the locker room to tie my sneaker. Would you? Am I missing something?

Or is this another case where, in a city of 9 million people, someone will always be pissed off about something?

Meanwhile ... I'm having some serious connectivity issues, and I got Verizon on the phone to test my line. While at first he was claiming that everything was A-OK, my insistence that it most assuredly was not led him to run another diagnostic, which revealed that it's a miracle I can even post this blog piece. A repairman is coming on Wednesday so hopefully I'll be zipping along The Internets in a day or so.

Friday, February 19, 2010

One Year Closer To A Dirt Nap

If you haven't got me a present yet I would really like one of these.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Don't Watch This Show

Well, go ahead but I have a headache from crying for the last hour.

I just watched "Mine", a documentary film on PBS. Here's the plot synopsis:

During the evacuation for Hurricane Katrina, people were forced to leave behind more than just their homes. Thousands of stranded pets were rescued and then adopted into new homes across the United States. As residents slowly returned to try and rebuild their lives, these "Katrina pets" became the center of full-blown custody battles, with people on both sides struggling to do what was right in the midst of an impossibly complex situation.

I was crying just watching the rescues, so you know I turned in to a blubbering mess as the people of New Orleans that were forced to abandon their dogs spent months of frustration locating them, only to have, in some cases, their new caretakers refuse to give them back. Not that I fault the new caretakers, as they rescued these animals that they believed needed safe homes, and many of them were told the owners would never be found.

So sad.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gay Marriage Done Right - "Finally"

I ran across this video a month or two back, but for some reason there was no option at the time to embed it (I think). I'm on record as not being a very strong proponent of gay marriage -for me- but I certainly recognize and support that many people are, and are working tirelessly to achieve it. However, this is a very sweet video and one of my favorite songs refashioned brilliantly. And it omits one of the things that turns me off about gay marriage as well as marriage in general. The need for some big, ostentatious display to accompany your desire to legally take a partner. Namely a big wedding ceremony and reception. Aside from the fact that the wedding industry (dress, flowers, photos, tuxes, and reception among other things) is a HUGE scam that I am continually shocked millions and millions of people fall for, it would seem to me that if all you really wanted out of gay marriage was the legal recognition, it would make sense to not imitate the ridiculous "show" that straight people put on and just get married by a judge with a few close friends, or in this case, one tastefully turned out drag queen.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

We Fucked Up "We Are The World"

A great idea to make a new recording and video for WATW on the 25th anniversary, and there's no denying the need in Haiti is great. Every dollar helps. But you know there's trouble brewing when Justin Bieber opens the video.

Overall I didn't hate it. And I actually really loved the rap break they dropped in at the 3/4 mark. I thought it added a grittiness that counters what is a pretty saccharine song. But the video as a whole was ruined when they decided to try and 'modernize" it by using that fucking auto-tune. I didn't hate it when I first started hearing it, when artists were using it as a novelty for an effect, like Cher did on "Believe". But now every lame-ass out of tune untrained lazy singer is pushing their recordings through the vocoder and everything I hear now has that slightly "tinny" background that Drives. Me. Wild.

If you had the pleasure of hearing k.d. lang sing "Hallelujah" at the opening ceremonies last night at the Olympics, you would know how gorgeous, trained, unfiltered vocals can move you to tears. If you didn't get the chance, I strongly suggest you watch it here. And then you will know why I hate the auto-tune, and why We Are the World - 25 turned out crappy.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Here's Something Important is a web-site with information about PEP treatment or Post Exposure Prophylaxis. It is for people that find they have had unprotected sex (including the unfortunate breaking of the condom) with someone they know to be HIV+, or who's sero-status is unknown (read: drunken bareback hookup). It's a 28 day regimen of the same antiretrovirals that HIV+ individuals already take. The difference of course is that, provided you begin treatment within 2 hours to up to 36 hours of possible exposure, and you complete the 28 day regimen, you will likely (80% at least) not become HIV+ and you get to walk away, hopefully wiser and better informed. There's also a terrific YouTube video with a link to the web-site. PEP is not free, it has side effects, but if you think you've been exposed to HIV and you can access PEP medications, it's a pretty good line of defense.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow What?

Mr. Man loves the snow. Not so much the puddles of wet watery slush that gather at every street corner. Once he realizes they are a problem he will happily let me lead him to a drier spot to cross the street so his delicate little pads don't have to be dipped in the ice water.

But once he gets to a snow covered dog run he becomes the rough-housing teenager again, and tonight he found more than a few willing playmates. The best was this black mop of a poodle mix, well equipped to roll around in the snow for hours. Obviously, Riley is recovered from surgery.

The snow is wet and heavy, perfect for snowman making, and there are sculptures and snowmen all over both sides of Stuyvesant Park. I will see if I can document them with a camera tomorrow. Meanwhile, I couldn't resist getting someone to snap a pic of me next to this impressive fellow. Must be 7 feet tall.

For the record, this is certainly not a blizzard. A fairly big snowstorm (for Manhattan) to be sure. But I grew up in Buffalo and I know from blizzards. We had two real blizzards in my lifetime, in 1977 and in '85. After relocating here to NYC, I was well-prepared to survive the Blizzard of '96. Reports are that the high winds that would have made this a blizzard are actually behind the storm and rolling in tomorrow. Which will suck. But it's not a blizzard.

This is a blizzard.

Photo of a house almost completely buried in snow in the aftermath of the "Blizzard of '77" in Western New York. Photo taken by Jeff Wurstner. Tonawanda, New York on Parker Boulevard between Brompton Road and Elicott Creek Road.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

As I Watch The Saints Go Marching In

I'm watching the last half of the Super Bowl, and it appears at this point that New Orleans has won it. Good for them. I wanted to go down to New Orleans after they began getting on their feet after the hurricane. Since I'm in the service and tourist industry I thought booking a hotel room and spending some money in restaurants was just as good a way as donating to some fund. PS - There's a story running in today's NY Post about a State Senator and a Representative who supposedly set up a charity "fund" for Hurricane survivors that collected over $30,000 but only distributed about $1,400. Nobody knows where the rest of it went. I suspect the only things that got funded were some hookers or somebody's new pool.

Anyway, I'm officially celebrating 3 years of sobriety today. "Celebrating" being a relative term when you don't drink. Be that as it may, I've been thinking a lot about the future. The good news in that statement is I now know that I have one, and I'm kind of looking forward to it. If you don't count the part where you whither up and die. But I still have no idea what I want that future to be like. And I'm not even sure if I'm supposed to decide that, or sort of let it unfold. Allowing life to "happen" is not in my nature, but acting on things according to my nature just resulted in 47 fairly painful and frustrating years. So I'm looking for a better way.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Close The Book

After almost two years, the barback that was arrested for murdering the young lady on the roof of the restaurant/bar that I used to manage has plead guilty to the charges. This was the last full-time job that I had and the murder led to a police raid which led to the premises being closed, and everyone losing their jobs. I wrote about the story back in August of 2008, the main post I put up is here.

According to the Daily News, Syed or "Ronnie" as we all new him, will be sentenced on March 16 and faces 20 years to life in prison. The article goes on to say that Ronnie is acknowledging that he bludgeoned the young woman in the head with a pipe. At some point he cut her throat. He claims to not remember killing her because he was too drunk.

All things being possible, I guess this could be true. But as I stated in the August post, I was on the premises, off duty, the night that this happened. I spoke to Ronnie about 1/2 hour or so before he lured first one girl, then his ultimate victim, up to the roof, where he committed this crime. He appeared coherent, and I saw no evidence that he had been drinking or was drunk. I was obviously completely sober. Now it's entirely possible he may have, in fact, been drinking. And I have no idea if any other drugs were involved. I'm not being coy. I have no idea. But the idea that he went from whatever state he was in to a drunk blackout where he still had the presence of mind to lure two girls up to the roof and actually kill one of them, seems far-fetched at best.

I suppose it could be a story that his lawyer floated, in the hopes of reducing his sentence. And in the end, the details aren't all that important. Particularly not to the poor woman's family. I'll never forget that afternoon, riding up the elevator to the top floor of the restaurant. I was with the Operations Director, our security director (who was formerly NYPD) and two detectives. We honestly thought our security director was playing a practical joke. Until we suddenly realized as we were talking that the "body found on the roof" could be the young lady that had been missing for two days. My heart sank. We searched the roof and found nothing, until we opened the door to the machine room up another flight of stairs, I will never forget coming on the crime scene. On the off off chance the victim's family ever stumbled here, that's as far as I will go. But it's another image I will carry forever.

Hopefully, her family will find some kind of closure once Ronnie is sentenced and sent away. I will never understand what really happened, what went on in his mind that made him commit such an atrocity. As I said at the time, none of us ever saw it coming.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

It's Not The Virus, It's The Maintenance

I've been finding myself in a very contemplative mood of late, partly because I have a bunch of anniversaries approaching. On Sunday, I will have 3 years sober, and a few weeks from now, another birthday. In early March, it will be 7 years since I was diagnosed with HIV. I have also been very aware of time and the inevitable progression of it as I think about this blogging project for the college course.

The project has just started and most of the students I am working with have only just begun to post personal blogs as well as "Did You Know" pieces. But much of the "Did You Know" focus seems to be on other countries, and people that are far away. Almost as if the concept of HIV/AIDS can be kept at arms' length. Maybe that makes the idea of HIV less threatening. So I thought I would try to post a Did You Know piece of my own, that may personalize HIV a little for the students.

Did you know on Friday, I have an appointment for labs? I do "my labs" four times a year. They measure the viral load in my system (currently undetectable) and the number of T-Cells (CD4) I have (currently 970). If my viral load begins to rise, or my T-Cells begin to fall off dramatically, that would probably be a sign that my current medication regimen is failing. I am fortunate in that I responded well and quickly to the first set of meds I was given. Should my regimen begin to fail, I have many many combinations of drugs available for me to switch to. I also have many standard blood test results that are looked at, including liver function, kidneys, blood sugar levels and cholesterol numbers. Any of these functions could be affected adversely by certain medications. I get and keep a copy of all my lab reports, which is basically two pages of numbers. I have learned what each of the abbreviations stand for and can actually read my labs without any professional help, but we still go over all the results during a follow-up appointment. Regular labs will hopefully provide an early warning should something start to go wrong. I have only missed one lab appointment in 7 years.

The lab appointment itself is largely uneventful, once you get used to getting stuck with a needle. They take two or three vials of blood and you are out the door. The whole process from arrival to departure can be 20 minutes. I didn't have a lot of experience with doctors growing up, regular check-ups weren't part of how I was raised. Discounting my childhood inoculations, I could probably count the number of shots I was given on my ten fingers. I have never donated blood. So in the span of the first month or two of my original diagnosis, it seemed as if I was getting stuck every time I walked in to the clinic. Blood tests and flu shots and pneumonia prophylaxis and TB scratch tests. Needles, needles, needles. But the upshot to all that is I can take a shot in the arm, in the ass, even Novocain in the gum like a champion. I actually now tell the dentist to stick me again if I feel even a twinge of pain during an appointment. Needles don't bother me at all.

I take (at current count) about 16 pills a day. But only five of them are necessary to keep me alive. Those I take all at once every morning. And they make me nauseous for about 1/2 hour. I've probably missed two doses of my medication in the last 3 years.

The rest of the pills are "extra credit" as it were. I take vitamin supplements as well as extra iron and a single aspirin. I take extra zinc on top of that and Fish Oil supplements. I also take Lipitor, because something other than my diet is raising my cholesterol. It's probably the meds. And I take prescription Immodium twice a day, because the HIV meds (specifically Kaletra) give me diarrhea. Every day. I've had it pretty much daily for about 8 or 9 years (I drank a lot). The last year, I've found great relief with a combination of Immodium and Metamucil. But if I don't take either one every day, it's not pretty.

Between my meds and the supplements and the extra extras I take to make it all work, it seems that I spend a lot of time traipsing back and forth to the pharmacy and the clinic. Sometimes I get lucky and a bunch of things run out together, but for the most part I am forever filling and re-filling prescriptions. And whenever I get whiny about that fact I remember that I am blessed to have them, and doubly blessed that New York State pays for them. I am uninsured, and pretty much always have been. If I had to pay for my own medications all this time I probably would have recently died.

And it does take a bit of planning to make sure that I don't run out of the pills that keep me alive. I'm lucky that my pharmacy will call the clinic and have the prescription re-issued if I need it, and I can call the pharmacy myself for refills by phone. It's a juggle, but I always wonder about people that are less capable of keeping those balls in the air. Do they simply run out of meds and not take them until they get around to getting a new prescription? How does that affect their resistance to the meds?

There are dental appointments twice a year (although I had 14 dental visits in one year) and therapy once a week. I also attend a weekly HIV+ support group every Thursday and tie the whole thing up with a nice Alcoholics Anonymous bow with about 4 meetings a week.

Somewhere in there I need to find time for a job (currently part time), three dog walks a day, a little extra work with the Community Advisory Board, laundry, gym, blogging and porn and it's no wonder I frequently can't figure out where the day has gone.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

J'Adore Johnny Weir

Johnny Weir has run a-fowl (get it?) of the wing-nuts at Friends of Animals, all because he wore a skating costume trimmed with fox fur. Rather than bowing down to the crazies, our Ms. Weir leapt to the defense of his costume designer, boldly offering to take the heat all by himself. He also issued this statement:

"I totally get the dirtiness of the fur industry and how terrible it is to animals. But it's not something that's the No. 1 priority in my life," Weir added. He also notes the thousands of people dying in Haiti and said he prefers to focus his energy on causes related to humans. "While that may be callous and bad of me, it's my choice."

As I have always said, if the cure for HIV has to come by crawling over the dead carcasses of a thousand bunnies, I will personally start to strangle Mr. Floppytail with my own two hands.

Strike That (UPDATE): Not that I blame him, but he caved.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Medical Update: Doggystyle

I took Riley in today to have his staples removed from his belly, and I snapped a picture beforehand so you could share in the grisly goodness. He got a clean bill of health and is free to be as obnoxious and stubborn as he has always been. First thing I will do on my next day off is give him a bath, he stinks like dog. Sorry that I couldn't get a picture of his scar without also including his enormous wiener. But he has a big one.