Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Why All This Blogging? ran a little squib about being HIV+ and open about your status on the 'Net. It was actually pretty much just a link to a larger article that ran in that was about HIV+ bloggers and vloggers and the various ways we are using social networks and digital communication.

But I found myself compelled to respond in the comments at Queerty about my own reasons for blogging, and why I ultimately decided to be open about my identity:

"I started blogging right after my HIV diagnosis 7 years ago. It was a way for me to document what I was going through and most certainly it was cathartic. At the time, I felt that I had no one else to talk to and poured my heart out in the blog. As time went on it became much more therapeutic in general and I was able to recognize that I needed to make some major changes in my life. 3 years ago I finally got sober.

I wasn't always completely open about my identity, until another "blogger" and horrible soul decided to post my HIV status and name without my consent. It was then I decided to go ahead and start being completely open about being Positive, and I have since encountered many instances where there is still quite a bit of stigma, even from other gay men. That just makes me more determined to live out loud and in the open. My goal is to see the time when HIV+ people are treated just as you would anyone else with a chronic and survivable illness. No different."

It's always a crapshoot what kind of a response you will get when you post in these open forums. But I actually only got one response:

I wish I didn't have to ask this, but I hope that when you write about your experiences as a HIV+ person, you also take the time to remind your readers to do everything in their power to avoid ending up in your place.

Now on the surface, I suppose it was an innocuous enough comment. But something about it- the tone of it- I found instantly a little irritating:

"I'm not sure how I feel about your characterization that I have "ended up" anywhere. While I certainly don't advocate becoming HIV+ or engaging in reckless behavior, my life has become richer and more fulfilling in the last few years than it has been for decades. Far from ending, I feel my horizons have expanded and my options are limited only by my desire and ambition to continue to grow.
And like it or not, as Dennis said above, while I try not to limit my writing to HIV or HIV+ issues only, my first concern is to try and help myself and others to navigate a difficult, but by no means tragic, road. If negative men get a prevention message out of that, that's fine too."

And actually, I am sure how I felt about that characterization. That is exactly the kind of attitude many HIV+ people encounter, both from straight people who don't know any better and gay people who should. As if the HIV diagnosis is the end. The end of the story, the end of planning for a future, the end of your sex life, the end of your dreams.

Almost as if I no longer have a right, or an expectation, to any of it.

Which would only be true -if I let it be.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bit Of A Disappointment

I've decided I will not be posting any more entries expressly for the University of Central Florida HIV studies course. I had hoped that it would provide something akin to a pen pal or blogger pal relationship with at least a couple of the students. I envisioned they would be writing blog posts that dealt in a meaningful way with HIV and how it impacts and affects young people in this country. I also assumed I would be able to take on the mantle of experienced mentor. At least providing them access and info to the life and experiences that are more typical of someone who has been "recently" (meaning not 10 or 20 years ago) diagnosed, and what treatment is like today in this country.

Unfortunately nothing even remotely like that occurred. While I attempted to leave a few comments on their posts in the beginning, it was most definitely not reciprocal. I have not seen any evidence that they are reading this blog, not even the posts I tried to compose expressly for the class. And it's becoming increasingly obvious, as I've been following what they are attempting to communicate, that I really have nothing to contribute to whatever the hell they are talking about.

Nothing ventured ...

But the upshot of all this is that I will be putting back links to some of my more "adult" content. Some of them I removed (voluntarily) in an effort to protect the burgeoning and possibly delicate sensibilities of impressionable students.

In other word, I'm dropping out of school and will re-dedicate myself to my chosen field of studies, naked Latins with impressive cocks and hot asses.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Washington D.C. Studies The Gays

An HIV study highlighted in The Washington Post yields a few surprises.

-14% of gay men in the District are thought to be HIV positive, a rate that is five times higher than that found in the overall adult population.

-more than a third of the 500 or so sexually active gay men who participated reported not knowing the HIV status of their last sex partner.

-according to this study, men over 30 are reporting that they are being tested for HIV less frequently, they are having sex without condoms more frequently and had more sex partners.

-from the silver lining dept.: cases of full blown AIDS and AIDS-related deaths have declined.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Coming Soon To Photoshop - Amazing!

Here's a video that the people at Photoshop Labs have posted, showing some unbelievable photo editing software that will be rolled out in a future version of the program.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

No Like!

Today I:

Went to credit card court for an account that frankly, I don't actually remember having. Which is not to say that I didn't but it was during the years before I got sober and things are a little ... vague. Anyway, the case was adjourned until June so maybe there is a way to outsmart the collection agency that I will discover in the interim.

Went to the dentist for a cleaning and had to sit in the waiting room for over 45 minutes, so bored I ended up falling asleep. They usually come out after 20 minutes just to say sorry you are waiting and such but they just let me nod out in a chair. RUDE.

De-friended my first Facebook "friend", who posted a link to (and proudly joined) some organization vowing to "take back" the country from that evil black devil Obama and all those Democratic tools of Satan who had the nerve to pass a bill that will aid 10's of millions of Americans for years to come. I have no intention of suffering that kind of nonsense with Facebook, and if you post blatantly offensive (to me) content (which is saying quite a lot, actually) I will bounce your right-wing, paranoid, hateful ass so fast it will make your vagina spin.

Monday, March 22, 2010

It's Official

I now have two, count 'em two part-time jobs. It's a bit of a juggle but money has improved dramatically already. Also, I've lost 13 lbs. since starting to diet the first week of February or thereabouts. I'm definitely going to 15, and then I'll decide about going for 20.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I downloaded a bunch of pictures from my camera and was pleasantly surprised to find a few more shots from the last winter storm. Including this jaunty fellow contentedly watching the world go by from a park bench. Although judging by the way the sun is bearing down on him, his world-view seemed about to get quite a bit more fluid. After the last four or five days of sunny and unseasonably warm weather we've enjoyed here in NYC, it already seems strange that this was only a couple of weeks ago.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What Have You Been Up To?

That's the question I get from a lot of the Facebookians that have popped back in to my life as a result of my finally deciding to go over the cliff. Unfortunatley, many of them I haven't seen since 1980 or so, which makes trying to encapsulate three decades of "life" rather daunting. But I tried. Here's what I sent to the wife of a teacher I was very close to in High School. Pretty much sums it up I guess:

Woooo ... that's a can of worms. Well I didn't just move to NYC as much as I ran away from home. I had done it several times when I was much younger but this time I had money and a way to book a flight. Not that I didn't have big plans for NY but mostly it was really about getting away.

The other thing I hadn't counted on was that I was running right in to the epicenter of HIV/AIDS in America, and at that time, people were literally dying in the street. I always said that if I had been alive in 1945 I probably would have rushed out and rented a condo in Hiroshima. So it was scary and confusing, and I had a lot of emotional baggage that I needed to sort out. I knew a lot of what I was taught wasn't true, but the real truth took me quite a while to uncover.

Of course it probably took significantly longer as I spent a good part of the last 20 years soaked in alcohol. I was either drunk or recovering from being drunk almost every day. Towards the end I started throwing lots of different pills in just to complete my entire homage to Neely O'Hara (Valley of the Dolls).

The entire time I was working full time, running some of the biggest , busiest venues in Manhattan, first as a bartender and then as a manager. There was no time (or desire) for auditions as my life pretty much consisted of drink and partying with other alcoholics I met through work. We would lose touch when the place ultimately closed and repeat with new people in a new venue. I bounced around Times Square, Greenwich Village, South St Seaport, whichever neighborhood was hot at the time.

I did manage to create one cabaret show that I wrote and performed at the Duplex on Christopher Street, but by then my confidence was shattered and I actually wrote a part towards the beginning of th show where I mix a martini for me to drink on stage. It was real and I needed it. I had developed awful stage fright and figured I was done performing.

Of course, mixed in to all that are disastrous love affairs (I would run, RUN! towards a cute drug addict with a hot butt - so I could save him!), friends and co-workers getting killed in accidents or murdered by lovers, losing my sister mysteriously and unexpectedly until I really became a walking Lifetime Television for Women script.

And of course it includes recovery and redemption. In 2002 I decided my 40th B-Day was a good day to give up my 2 pack a day smoking habit, and about 3 years ago I went to AA for help and got sober. So far, it stuck. I've had a few rounds of short-term therapy and many many walks and bike rides all over Manhattan convincing myself it was OK to stop running away. Finally. And I've met a lot of people just like me who give me encouragement and strength when I can't find it inside myself.

So it's not all that surprising that I was finally ready to resurface after 30 years and re-connect with a pretty happy time in my life. Because I'm at another very happy time, where I have found a measure of peace, and a large swath of contentment in a life that I feared for a while was going to end in a whimper, all alone.

I don't have that fear anymore. As a matter of fact, I don't have much fear at all anymore. I'm in a good place, and I'm thrilled to talk to you and ### again after all these years.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An Embarrassment Of Riches

Two, count 'em two job offers this week. One of which is actually quite crappy which I will decline and one of which I accepted. Although it is part time, I guess two part time jobs equals one actual job. In a roundabout way. Dunnit? I also got a call from a recruiter looking to fill two other positions. One I declined immediately as it would involve an emphasis on beer. And since I never cared for beer even when I was actively alcoholic, and I certainly don't give a rats ass about beer and hops and barley and all that crap now, it seemed silly to even put in for it. The other is actually a new direction for me, and one that I may not really pursue, even if I thought it could go somewhere, but I'm interested in the possibilities so I am more than happy to "take a meeting". One never knows ... do one?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Facebook 'em, Danno.

All right, so I decided to go ahead and jump in to this Facebook pool. The Kool-Aid had a little bit of a bitter "almond-y" aftertaste but besides that it was ... *gak*.

Well as expected everyone I ever met is on and I spent about an hour or so adding friends and then friends of friends. More and more people that I hadn't counted on finding so quickly, most of them from Buffalo and my post High School years. Although finding my old music and voice teacher from my High School was an amazing surprise. Come to think of it, the old bastard hasn't returned my friend request. Hmm.

Needless to say I'll be spending a lot of my free time reading other people's pages and getting caught up. I haven't decided yet whether "From The Ashes" will be meeting up with Tom's Facebook page. That might be over-sharing, but you know how I love attention ....

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Low Battery

I slept until almost 1:00 pm today. Haven't done that in probably a year or more. But it is very cold and very dark and very rainy today and I was under the comforter with the shades drawn and Riley underneath the blanket at my feet. I woke up many times to hear the cars running across the rain-slick road and just rolled over. I didn't think it was almost 1:00 however. But I have been working every day and interviewing for work almost every day, as well as all my other "things to do". As they say, I must have needed it. But now I'm off to work with only this blog blurb to show for it. It will have to do. There may be news on the full time job front. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Way Back When?

Here's something new. I've decided to horrify or delight you (you pick) with some pictures that no one has seen for decades. This picture is me from a production of The Lion In Winter, where I played King Phillip. Oh, she loved her faux fur collar and big puffy sleeves.

This was when I still lived in Western New York, and according to the bio in the program, I was a student at SUNYBuffalo at the time, which would make this about 1982-83 or there about. Here is the Wikipedia description of the King Phillip character from the play:

(Male, 18) He has been King of France for three years. He is not initially as accomplished as Henry in manipulating people, but seems to acquire greater skills at this during the play. He is impressive and handsome without being pretty.

I have always loved this play, and if you ever get the chance to see the movie version, it's wonderful, with exceptional performances by Peter O'Toole and Katie Hepburn. It was nominated for 7 Academy awards including Best Picture.

The reason I even have the scrapbook out is because I'm trying to decide if I should join the lemmings going over the cliff and get a Facebook account. I recently found a Facebook page dedicated to my upcoming 30th High School reunion, but I can't decide if I want to go or even to contact the Facebook page with my info. And then just the other day I stumbled across a Facebook page dedicated to a nightclub revue called Bravo Broadway that I appeared in during my early 20's. The cast rotated in and out periodically as did the band members, and I occasionally look back on those days with a wince and a smile.

Part of me wants to reach out and re-connect, even if only through The Internets, with some people, but part of me is afraid to find out just how much, and how many of them, I really don't remember.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Monday, March 08, 2010

Oleta Adams - Live

Just because I felt like it. This is music kids, and what the nice lady is doing is called singing. You know what you don't hear? That damn tinny ringing underneath from the auto-tune. Oleta don't need no friggin' auto-tune. Learn it.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

New Study: HIV+ Life Expectancy

Two European studies presented at a recent Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections seem to show that recently diagnosed HIV patients, as well as those with high CD4 counts when beginning treatment, can probably expect normal to near-normal life expectancies.

I'm paraphrasing wildly, and you can read the whole article here, but in essence they are claiming that people who have been diagnosed later than 1998, don't have other issues like IV drug use and failure to adhere to treatment, and are able to begin treatment before their T-Cell counts drop severely below 500 can pretty much expect to live as long as anybody else.

Barring falling air-conditioners and runaway buses.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Work, Bitch

Compared to what I've been living through in January and February, my phone is ringing off the hook. I had a job interview on Monday that was horrible. The rude fucker actually took two phone calls while we were meeting and stifled a yawn right in my face while I was answering a question. I swear, the next interviewer that answers his phone after asking me something is going to get his Crackberry snatched out of his hand and hurled in to a wall. Not that it will get me a job but I doubt he'll ever do it again.

Yesterday I had a much better interview that I am hopeful about, and I have another set for tomorrow afternoon. They are both part-time, temp work doing parties and events which is what I'm doing now, but if I have to string together two part-time jobs to make one full work week, well then I'll count myself lucky versus all the people who still can't get any work at all.

And just this afternoon I got a schedule of bookings for next week for my current temp job and I'm booked every day next week except Sunday.

It will be nice to make some good money.

UPDATE: Holy crap! I don't know what changed but I now have two more interviews set up for the next few days. That makes 5 in one week. Up from zero for months now. Months.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

When It Hits 180 Sell!

Let's not sugar-coat things, in the three years since I got sober I have also got fat. I only gained about 5 lbs. after I quit smoking (8 years ago!!), but I put on a full 25lbs. (more or less) after I quit drinking. And that is why you stopped seeing my in my next-to nothing pictures, because there was soooo much more of me to see, and the internets are already chock full of pictures of flabby, middle-aged pervs.

Now, I was really thin in my early twenties, and barely cracked 150 when I was drinking and started seeing Dr.'s and getting weighed fairly regularly. After I got sober, I was too preoccupied (at first) to notice that the scale was inching higher and higher. Once I did notice, I kind of thought "fuck it, I have no vices left, leave me be with my ice cream". That attitude quickly extended to entire loaves of garlic bread. And cookies. And all manner of sugary goodness. As well as 1/2 a pound of pasta.

And you can see where this is going and how, can't you? But I did finally start to panic when I crossed the 175 mark and was spending time flirting with 178. 180 was lurking just around the corner and considering the most I had weighed up till then was 160 pounds right after high school, 180 lbs. felt like the point of no return.

True to form I always push things right to the edge, almost daring fate to take a disastrous turn, only to pull back at the last minute. And it appears that my ever-expanding waistline is no exception. Right around the beginning of February I went back on the South Beach diet, and by my birthday I had lost about 5 lbs. Tonight at the gym I crossed back over the 170 mark and came up around 168 or so.

I've been on the most restrictive part of the SB diet -Phase 1, for three weeks. No bread, no pasta, no rice, no fruit, lots of protein and tons of green leafy things. I'm supposed to move in to Phase 2 this week, but considering I aim to lose 8 more pounds I am reluctant to do so. I couldn't stand having eggs for breakfast one more day so I switched to a bran muffin (fiber) and I added yogurt to my lunch and an apple for fruit the last two days. That is all Phase 2 food but I don't feel it's a problem since I still haven't had any pasta or bread. At all. And the french fries, although missed, aren't really a problem, but I do find that I miss my dear friends pizza and ice cream. My beloved ice cream.

How I long for you...