Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Remembering Pat on World AIDS Day

Patrick has been on my mind lately, so it seemed inevitable that the picture would surface without much effort.

And there it was. A picture of Patrick and me.



There were originally three men in the picture before it was cropped. In addition to Patrick and me, another man named Bill was also in the group shot.

I am the the only man in the picture who did not contract AIDS, the only one still alive.

What is wrong with this picture?

I mean, besides my hair.

On the day this picture was taken, no one had heard of AIDS. We were working in Patrick's office. He was the lobbyist for the Florida Gay Task Force. At that time, Patrick was the only full time lobbyist in any state working for gay rights.

This picture was used in an article in The Advocate, a national weekly gay newspaper. Florida had a gay lobbyist, in part, as a reaction to Anita Bryant and her quest to repeal gay rights legislation in Miami that had caught national attention.

Anita didn't want gay school teachers molding impressionable minds in Dade County. She went on TV and told us that God didn't create Adam and Steve, He created Adam and Eve and, well, that proved it.

In retrospect, I think we owe Anita a debt of gratitude. She made a big deal about something a lot of folks didn't even want to think about, much less talk about: Gay people walk among us!

Her activism gave rise to activism on the other side, which lead to the Florida Task Force creating a lobbying office in Tallahassee, which lead to Patrick being hired as the lobbyist. Otherwise, Patrick would have never come to Tallahassee and we would not have become friends.

Thanks, Anita.

I searched through my journals—those spiral bound, blue lined angst repositories where I recorded whatever was on my mind, most often with a blue Flair pen—for references to Patrick.

Sometimes I just want to go back in time and throttle myself. "Listen, you big haired, self-absorbed nitwit," I want to scream. "Take better notes! In 30 years, I am going to want details. It is bad enough I can barely read your handwriting, but let me tell you, in the future I am not going to care one bit that you think your Irish Literature professor is boring…"

As if I would listen to myself even if that happened. So my notes are, at best, sketchy.

This is the first mention of Patrick in my journal:

4/15/80 Gay Rap Group: A new person—Pat from San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Miami. Definitely a neat person, and alas I am smitten again.

Let me stop here and explain to the young people in the audience that in the vernacular of the day "Rap Group" had nothing to do with music. "Rap" was slang for "talk". I think it was something the hippies cooked up when they were tripping on LSD. "Hey, let's don't just talk….Let's Rap!"

So, a rap group was like a support group and on this particular night, Patrick was there. We liked each other instantly. I like that in my first entry I describe Pat as being from three places. He was that kind of person, a wanderer. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh, but had lived all over—Miami, San Francisco, New York.

Another journal entry:

4/19/80 Pat is in Tallahassee as the lobbyist for the Florida Task Force. Yesterday evening he stopped by and I went to the Mikisooki Land Co-Op where he lives with a married couple, their child, a young woman and her German boyfriend who she doesn't sleep with, in a dome shaped house that is really extraordinary. Pat cooked dinner (omelets and spinach) and then we went to campus to see "Last Tango in Paris."



Pat obviously appealed to my Bohemian instincts even before I realized I had any.
Here's a good description of Pat from my journal:

4/20/80 I really like Pat. He is so genuine and good and honest. He really has a refreshing outlook, very healthy view of things. He also has a beautiful laugh which causes attractive crinkles around his eyes.

I worked as a volunteer in Pat's office. I remember that periodically he would take a break and meditate.

We handled the details for a march on the capital building in Tallahassee. Troy Perry, the founder of the Metropolitan Community Church came for the march. He and Pat spoke on the steps of the phallus shaped capital building. I remember thinking, "I love this guy, but Pat is no public speaker."



It was because of Pat that I almost got arrested. He took me to a nude swimming spot out in the middle of nowhere. I guess it was a lake, but not a terribly big one. There were several people there. Patrick was the only one I knew. This was my first nudist experience. Alas, it was cut short when someone from the Sheriff's office drove up. He told everyone to get dressed or get arrested. We all chose the former.

Patrick was the only roommate The Boyfriend and I ever had. After we returned from San Francisco in the early 80's, Patrick decided to move to Jacksonville. As I recall, Pat was something of a tight wad, but I always knew he had money. He could afford to live alone, but he didn't like it, so he always had a roommate. I think he lived with us for about a year before moving on. I think he moved to Tampa after that. Wherever it was, I am sure he didn't stay long.

Patrick was someone who always called me on my bullshit. More than any friend I have ever had, before or since. A virtue, I suppose. Still, he often pissed me off, but I still loved him.

It is funny the things you remember. Even though he didn't drink and had never been an alcoholic, Patrick went to gay AA meetings to meet guys.

Finding the journal entries from the first meeting with Patrick was pretty easy. Entries about Patrick after that are more difficult to locate. Patrick was a bit of a vagabond and he moved in and out of my life for several years.

Sometime around 1995, Pat called me out of the blue. He was living in Los Angeles. He wanted to see me. He was sick.

I was shocked that Patrick had AIDS. He was the first person to discuss safe sex with me and that had been right after the AIDS crisis hit the news in a big way. I believed he was practicing safe sex and was, therefore, safe.

But he wasn't.

We discussed me coming to visit, the treatment he was receiving. "I want to see you," he said in a way that sounded more desperate than I wanted to accept. The tenor of his voice said, "There is a deadline, I just don't know what it is."

I called Patrick a week later and was disturbed to find he did not remember our conversation from the week before. He sounded weak and disoriented. I decided to check back later concerning coming to visit him. Now hardly seemed like the time…

But time really was the issue.

When next I called, there was no answer.

Then his phone was disconnected.

Patrick was gone.

Except, no one is ever gone. Patrick was part of my life. I remember him with affection. I have a photograph. I can hear his voice in my head. Pat lingers, and I am grateful.


Patrick was on the staff of the AIDS Project of Los Angeles and is remembered on the Names Project AIDS quilt on a panel dedicated to their staff members who died.

Patrick is not the only friend I lost to AIDS. From San Francisco, there were my co-workers, Micky and Richard; my friend Konstantin, a fiercely radical activist and writer, who I met after writing him a fawning fan letter. From Jacksonville, there was Chuck, Glenn and Ronn and so many others. Too many.


Konstantin's Names Project panel from the AIDS quilt.

But Patrick was the closest friend taken by AIDS.

Now I have friends who are living with HIV. Not lost, but encumbered by a disease we all hoped would have been defeated by now.

When all is said and done, World AIDS Day isn't about a virus or potential treatments or even about politics. It is about people. People who are surviving and people who have passed on—but people who love and are loved by others.

World AIDS Day, December 1, is a reminder to never stop caring about these people.

I miss you, Pat.



Saturday, November 6, 2010

Working Out with Billy Joel

It is early and the sun hasn't yet made an appearance.

I am at the gym, engrossed in the elliptical machine.





This is pretty much what I look like on the elliptical machine except I am marginally older (ahem) and not quite so Asian.



I am skiing in place, pumping my legs, listening to Billy Joel on my MP3 player.

NO, it isn't an iPod. I am not a tool of electronic consumer goods.

I am a cheap bastard...

Billy Joel is one of those singers who was right there, writing the soundtrack of my life during some really key moments...Virginity was lost...certain drugs might (or might not!) have been taken...Billy was right there...

I try to focus on Billy and on the workout.

I try to ignore the array of televisions. The sound is off but the images are right in my line of vision. Those images are like a vortex that yanks at my eyeballs.

I work to resist the sucking force of the television screens...

Television totally sucks. I mean that literally...

TV 1 is broadcasting an episode of "Angel."

I have never actually watched that show, but because it is shown on a cable channel early in the morning when I tend to be at the gym, I am pretty sure I have glimpsed nearly every episode by now.

Something I have learned about "Angel" is, if you watch long enough, David Boreanaz is liable to take off his shirt.

TV2 is on ESPN.

ESPN is a cable channel that covers the various sports people in America like to watch. I am not really a sports fan, so I have no idea what these people are talking about. They often interview athletes or, as I like to think of them, men who are paid to play with balls. I know there are women athletes who are also paid to play with balls, but I don't see them as often on this channel. What's that about?! Also, they often run sexy men's deodorant commercials. And razor commercials in which shirtless hunks transform the shaving experience into a studly magical adventure. I find I like these commercials...


It's like some pornographic magazine
And you smile...


TV3 is on Fox News.

For some reason this is the only one of the TVs that includes closed captioning.

Let me just say, I find closed captioning to be a major rip off. Have you ever turned it on? The deaf are getting screwed, that's all I have to say about that. From where I sit (or ski, when at the gym...) the people who type this stuff are the laziest people in the world. I swear sometimes they just fall asleep on the job and their lazy heads hit the keyboard and the next thing you know you're reading:RHHHHHHHHHHWODc pusfpqu -9rutg-9&*^%$*%( 248503by

WTF?


Anyway, the Fox News network has this morning show called Fox and Friends.

In the name of full disclosure, let me just say, I don't like morning news shows with the whole chatty group of so called news professionals and an assortment of couches. I find it annoying.

I don't like Good Morning America.

I don't like The Today Show.

And I most definitely don't like Fox and Friends.

All that chatting and coffee drinking on TV. Do we need that? Really?! I don't think so...


Besides, even with the sound off, I can tell that "Fox and Friends" is one snarky program. It stars this one guy who always looks really smug. Then there's this other some guy who would be good looking if his eyes weren't so close together so no matter he says or does, he looks really dumb. These two losers are always accompanied by an interchangeable series of blond women, all of whom most certainly can trace their lineage directly to Eva Braun. Apparently the thrust of this whole show revolves around two themes: 1) Hating the guts of every Democrat who ever lived, and 2) Endless interviews with people who are doing nothing more than promoting more drivel on this so-called "news" channel.




Smug Guy, Eva, and Guy Whose Eyes Are Too Close Together. With friends like this, I'd rather be alone.


Honesty is such a lonely word
Everyone is so untrue
Honesty is hardly ever heard...

If these people are "Fair and balanced" then I am "young and thin."

And I most certainly am not...so I ski faster, waiting for a sexy deodorant ad or (Dammit) for David Boreanaz to take off his shirt!

I am preoccupied with a conversation someone recently had with me involving a conversation they had with someone else.

It would seem that a certain woman revealed that in her opinion I lack compassion and, moreover, I am WAY past the time when someone thinks about having children.

Oh, really? For your information Ms. Generation X, I hear my biological clock ticking with a most hearty beat!


No, wait...That's just my heart rate all elevated by all this skiing in place....

Never mind. Carry on.

Am I mistaken or did this woman just imply, neigh, as much as say that I am lacking compassion?

Screw that! Who cares?! Am I mistaken or did this woman just imply, neigh, as much as say that I am post-menopausal?!

Oh, really? For your information, my boys swim just fine. I could knock up three, four women this weekend if the situation called for it....

WAIT!!!!


David Boreantaz just took his shirt off....







One moment....

Do you like your life?
Can you find release?
Will you ever change?
Will you ever write your masterpiece?


OK.


So the likelihood of me knocking up anyone is pretty remote.

Damn remote. But still...the hormones are flowing, baby!


Sure, I am old enough to be David's father older brother some what older brother, but the hormones are flowing!

So STFU!


(I make a mental note to ask some young person I might encounter what STFU stands for...and I keep skiing...)

I'm sure you'll have some cosmic rationale
But here you are in the ninth
Two men out and three men on
Nowhere to look but inside
Where we all respond to
Pressure!


What I find most vexing about getting older is that I don't really feel "older" in any real sense. You young people (those of you under 45...) you'll hear this repeated often. All I can say is, Heed the word! Your brain is still stuck in whatever time zone you left it in last (emotionally speaking.) Your brain may be dressing up as Elvis or James Dean....or The New Kids on the Block...

And your mementos
Will turn to dust
But that's the price you pay
For every year's a souvenir
That slowly fades away
Every year's a souvenir
That slowly fades away..
.


As near as I can tell, our bodies and our brains are way out of sync.

I rarely meet anyone who will cop to their "real age" until they read the list of Grammy nominees and then they are all, "Who are these people?!" And then they blame the Grammy people and not their own brains...

As it should be!

At least that's the way I deal with things...

You may be right
I may be crazy
But it just may be a lunatic you're looking for...



I went to the doctor recently after a 3 year lapse...Blood has been drawn...Tests are being run....Soon, a man will stick his finger up my ass...

I remember when men used to buy me drinks to get me to go along with this sort of shenanigans and now I am paying a co-payment to Blue Cross Blue Shield for this very same privilege...

None of which proves I am post-menopausal, by the way...

That was so many years ago
Before we all lived here in Florida
Before the Mafia took over Mexico
There are not many who remember
They say a handful still survive
To tell the world about
The way the lights went out
And keep the memory alive.
..

Ski! Ski! Ski! Ski in place!

I ignore all of the televisions...and I notice that the sun is rising.

A new day.

Who can ask for more?

I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
Sinners are much more fun...
And only the good die young...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Vision Thing

"Greetings, my friends. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives."

- Plan 9 From Outer Space


I have been thinking about the future lately. What lies ahead? I think this was triggered by a 401k meeting at my office which convinced me the best retirement plan is to die young. When I was younger I think I thought I would be dead by now.


So much for goal setting and long term planning.


I think it is only natural that we want to know what is going to happen in the future. From Nostradamus to Madame Cleo, people have always looked toward prophets and psychics for advice about what is to come.


The Amazing Criswell

The quote at the top of the blog was delivered in the film by the Amazing Criswell, an American psychic who is famous for making outlandish and inaccurate predictions. He predicted that the world would end on August 18, 1999. It didn't. Yet in March 1963 Criswell went on TV and predicted that President Kennedy would not seek re-election in 1964 because something was going to happen to him in November 1963.


In the movie Ed Wood, Criswell, as played by Jeffrey Jones, admits that he is merely a showman. However some who were close to the real Criswell quote him as saying, "I had the gift but lost it when I started taking money for it."


Jeane Dixon

Another famous psychic was Jeane Dixon. She allegedly predicted the assassination of President Kennedy as well. She also predicted that World War III would begin in 1958 and there would be world peace by the year 2000. In retrospect it appears that Jeane was more hype than prophet--although she did make a fair amount of profit during her life. I remember when she passed away someone made the joke, "Didn't see that coming did she?"





Books about Biblical prophecy are very popular. Hal Lindsey who wrote The Late Great Planet Earth about the End Times foretold in the Bible has been making a good living off of his "the Antichrist is on the way and Jesus won't be far behind" books for 30 years now. One of his books was called The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon. (Apparently it is a very slow count down. Maybe they started it at a million.)

Then there is the Left Behind book series. There are something like 100 volumes, plus spin-offs like movies, board games and for all I know, chocolate bars. Any way you look at it, End Times Bible prophesy is big business. Why else would someone have felt a need to do a remake of The Omen?

I remember when the psychic hotlines were all the rage. Celebrities who hadn't worked much in a long time hosted infomercials extolling the wisdom of calling Psychic Friends for sage psychic advice. I am not sure who it was that decided to market these hotlines by using has been and never was celebrities. I mean who would look at La Toya Jackson and say, "Yeah! I want to get advice from whoever is telling her what to do!"


I went to a psychic once. She was a middle aged Southern lady of some renown. She once predicted a plane would crash and it did, so the FBI followed her around for a while. She insisted she was psychic but her flaw was that she wasn't so good with time frames. So when she told me I would get a promotion, it didn't necessarily mean I'd get a promotion any time soon. It meant I would get one eventually. And you know what? Eventually I did! Are you getting goosebumps?


I don't mean to suggest that I am a total skeptic. Truly I'm not.


My college girlfriend was into both astrology and the Tarot. When we first met (when we were still "just friends") she did a Tarot reading for me. She told me that I would soon (as opposed to eventually) meet someone who would change my "lifestyle" forever.


After we became involved, she consulted her astrologer in Miami about me and was told to beware because a high percentage of Virgo men born in 1958 are gay. Soon thereafter, I met my boyfriend, took up the gay "lifestyle" and proved the astrologer was correct--at least about this particular Virgo born in 1958.


Besides psychics and prophets there are people who are visionary, who without any claim of special powers or without using a Ouija board, can imagine things that are coming in the near future. I guess sometimes it is just a matter of seeing which way the wind is blowing.


Andy Warhol


Andy Warhol predicted that in the future everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. Given the 24 hour news cycle, reality TV and the Internet, he is dead-on correct. William Hung, the runaway bride, Octo-Mom and all those Real Housewives come to mind.


Andy didn't say how famous mind you, he just promised we'd all have 15 minutes of fame.


If you haven't had yours yet, just wait.


Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky gave us the prophetic 1976 film, Network. I highly recommend it. This movie foresaw network news packaged as entertainment, and predicted reality television decades before it became all the rage. Chayefsky thought he was being outlandish and satirical.


Or it could be that he just saw what was coming.


It could be that some people are born psychic and some people just have a keen eye. Maybe we just want to believe someone can predict the future so that the future doesn't seem so scary and, well, unpredictable.

I don't know if I really want someone to tell me what is going to happen in my future. No matter how good it is, eventually something is going to go awry. No need to get depressed about it in advance.


However, a psychic really might be helpful with retirement planning. I wonder if any of the people who are handling my money at T. Rowe Price are psychic?


Maybe a better question is, who do I have to consult to get some winning lottery numbers?


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Missed Connections

Have you ever encountered someone in passing and wished you could see that person again? Maybe it was someone you brushed up against at a club or exchanged polite words with on the street. It could be someone you made eye contact with across a subway platform. You know, the whole "some enchanted evening, you might meet a stranger across a crowded room" thing?
Later you find that you can't stop thinking about that moment and wish you could make that connection again.

What to do? How can you reach this person who slipped through your fingers like a ghost?
The solution? Place a Missed Connections advertisement on Craigslist.com or in your local newspaper.

I am fascinated by the Missed Connection personal ads. They seem crazy and romantic and even a little bit cosmic to me. I find them irresistible.

I have a friend who also finds them irresistible.

Every week when she gets the latest issue of the local weekly paper she turns to the missed connections ads.
"Is someone looking for me?" she asks out loud in the voice someone might use when consulting the Magic 8 ball.
After she has read over the ads, I ask, "Was anyone looking for you?"
"Not this week," she sighs.

In truth my friend checks the missed connection ads with the same level of seriousness she checks the Horoscope column. For her it is a moment of wistful fun but there is still a whisper of possibility…
In that same paper my friend checks every week there is an ad that has been running for about a month. Perhaps you can see why it caught my eye:

I saw you at (a local topless bar and grill) You: hot, tall, white lady; I think you're in love with me. We talked about you going to nursing school. I'll help you fund it. Me: short, big, white guy in tank top with Jheri curl mullet.

I have to wonder if the lady in question has seen this ad. If so, why hasn't she responded? He is pretty sure she's in love with him after all. The hot, tall white lady needs to jump on this one. Let's face it. Short, big, white guys in tank tops with Jheri curl mullets don't grow on trees.


I have another friend who placed a Missed Connection ad on Craigslist after locking eyes with a terribly handsome man in a restaurant as she was walking out the door. Amazingly enough, the man in question actually responded. They got together a few times. Ultimately it didn't work out. He looked good on the outside but….
Let's just say the last time they saw each other he bit her. Not in a good way either. The man actually bit her.
I guess some missed connections are better left missed.

Yet even though things didn't work out for my friend, I still see each of these ads as a tiny monument to hopefulness.

The missed connections ads frequently tell a story—sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometime lurid, and sometimes even a little scary.

Here's a local "man for man" missed connection ad:
Wandered into the bathroom at the exhibition hall and saw you leaning back at the last urinal by the wall...I tried not to look, but just couldn't resist your incredible good looks and your huge c*ck. I've never seen one that big! You were on your cell phone and holding your huge c*ck with your right hand. Once you finished, you shook you c*ck a few times at me and then continued talking on your cell phone in the handicapped stall. I wanted to follow you in there…but there were others in the bathroom. I'd love to run into you again...please respond to this email and let me know where we can meet.

Wow. There's a lot of c*ck in that ad.

I think we can all agree this ad is appalling. Why would anyone talk on his cell phone while using the bathroom? Was he raised in a barn?


On a somewhat different note, here's a man for man missed connection from Washington, DC:
You are damn hot. I'd like to get to know you. I see you taking metro daily at Dupont. I am your secret admirer. I even take the orange line just to follow you…

Think about the story this one tells. Every day this man waits at the Dupont Circle Metro station where, instead of catching the train he should be taking to get to work or school, he follows the subject of this email onto the orange line train. He does not make small talk or even speak to the object of his affection. He rides until his beloved disembarks. Then he has to backtrack and catch the train he should have caught in order to arrive at his original, intended destination.

This story is a gentle reminder that the only thing distinguishing a "secret admirer" from a "stalker" is a restraining order.


I love the variety of emotions expressed in these ads. Some of them are almost poetic:
Am starved for human connection; you once fed me.

Here's poignant one from San Francisco:
Nevermind.
I saw you, but now you're gone.

And here's a troubling one from San Francisco:
Saw you standing there in your piss soaked panties. We might as well hook up and make it a fun time.

Some missed connections seem nearly hopeless. From London:
About a year and a half ago we met at the UCL locker room…I lost your number, tried to just move on and not think about it, but you keep popping into my mind. Would love to meet you again sometime… You will probably never get this, but just in case.

You have to wonder why he didn't jump on the lost number situation a little sooner. This one is a missed connection within a missed connection. I fear it will take a miracle to bring these two together.

But it could happen. That is one of the things that makes missed connection ads so fascinating—anything is possible even if it isn't likely.

Sometimes people use the Missed Connection ads to make contact with someone with whom they already have a relationship. I guess they just aren't sure how to take things to the next level.

Here's an example:
I think you're great. Just what my Mom would love for me to take home. I love the way that white coat looks on you. Your smile is so comforting. It's so embarrassing that you have to treat my feet. I hate it and I love it at the same time. Do you have a girlfriend, Dr. Lee??

Gee, I hope things work out for the girl with the foot issues and Dr. Lee, don't you?

Here's another one:
Dear Bipolar Girl at Work
So I'm starting to suspect that you read the "Missed Connections"…I've noticed a slight change in the way you act towards me. The way you smiled at me makes me think that something is up... Anyways, I hope that you are reading this because this is how I really feel about you. The truth is that I can't get you out of my mind and I love having you there.... I want you to know that I do care about you and I hope everything is going good in your life outside of work.
See ya tomorrow...

You can't help but be curious about what happened at work the next day.

I see these last 2 ads as an adult version of the junior high note-passing brand of courtship:
I like you. Do you like me? Check one:
( ) YES
( ) NO

There are times when I read the Missed Connection ads and think: Gee, you already had your chance. Like this one from Chicago:
You ate my nachos, I ate your pretzel.
You took my picture for me, spit on my arm, and left just before the game ended to meet your friends. Wish you had asked me for my name, or number, or both. But you can email me now
.

Spit on his arm? Help me understand—this guy was able to collect DNA from some gal but not her name or number?

As far as I know no one has ever written a missed connections ad about me. Sorry to say, if they did I missed the ad and, well, we never connected.

Maybe I should take matters into my own hands like this missed connection ad from Portland:
I read this daily to see if someone wrote about me.
Don't you realize how bored I am at work, and could use something to read?
Do my white teeth smiles, charming retail flirting, sarcastic sense of humor, and snappy fashion sense need go unappreciated by craigslist readers?
For god sake write about me!!!

Actually this gives me an idea. How can I expect anyone else to be looking for me if I haven't found myself yet?

Perhaps I should consider the metaphysical possibilities of the Missed Connections ads.

Being in the throes of a midlife crisis and all, I am perpetually in search of myself. Then, just when I think I've found myself, I slip through my fingers like a ghost.

Who am I anyway? Am I my resume?

I've been to paradise but I've never been to me.

Oh sure, generally speaking, wherever I go, there I am. But sometimes it's like I am a million miles away…

What about those days when I am just not myself?

Last week at the gym I made eye contact with myself in one of the mirrors while I was working out. Was it my imagination or did I have "a moment"…and then some sweat dripped into my eyes and I turned away. Can that moment be recaptured?

When I ride my bike on Sundays I sometimes catch a glimpse of myself in the windows of the buildings that I pass but I am too shy to say hello…

What to do?

What else can I do? I placed this Missed Connections advertisement:
I see you riding your bike most every Sunday morning. You--40 something man with blond/gray hair. I love your Keith Haring t-shirt. Me--similar to you in many ways. You seem to be searching for something. I hope it is me.

There, that should certainly catch my attention. Maybe I'll connect with myself soon. I know the odds are slim but there is still the whisper of possibility…
So tell me: Do you read the Missed Connections ads? Have you ever placed one? Has anyone ever been looking for you? What happened?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Overdose



It began innocently enough. Doesn't it always?


I got into my car after working out at the gym. Still a little breathless and all hopped up from the "natural high" of the endorphin afterglow from exercise, I reached into my backpack to extract the vitamin supplements that I take after working out.


That was my intention anyway.


But my mind played a trick on me see? It was a mistake I tell you.


Somehow I reached for the wrong bottle, took out a pill, and tossed it into my mouth. Then I took a swig of water and swallowed.


Then it hit me, "Oh my God, I've overdosed on my blood pressure medication!"







I am supposed to take one pill a day and I took one before I left for the gym. (I don't want to stroke out on the elliptical machine now do I?) Now I had taken one after my work out as well.


Just an innocent mistake, I swear it!


My mind raced, "What to do?"


"Induce vomiting," came back the reply. That's what it says on all the labels!


I leapt from my car and ran back into the gym.


"Can I help you?" asked the chipper young woman behind the reception desk.


What is the best way to induce vomiting? What do all the warning labels say?


"I need mustard!"


"What?"


"I need mustard!"


She looked around behind the desk in an attempt to be helpful. "Sorry. I don't have any mustard. I have a Powerbar, would that help?"


"I don't think so…" I replied.


"Gatorade?"


I gave her a panicked look and ran to the men's room.


I stuck my finger down my throat. Nothing happened. I tried again. Still nothing.


I should have known my lack of gag reflex that serves me so well in certain, um, situations would come back to bite me on the ass one day.


I simply could not make myself vomit.


I guess I can scratch bulimia off of my list of potential weight loss plans.


There's nothing to do but face the fact that soon I will be tripping on my blood pressure meds.


Somewhere in the twisted recesses of my brain the song White Rabbit by the Jefferson Airplane begins to play.


One pill makes you larger

And one pill makes you small…


I return to my car. I need to quickly drive the quarter of a mile to my office before the meds kick in. Those drug warnings don't caution against driving or operating heavy machinery for nothing.


I lock myself in my office and sit down. Got to think! Got to think! Once the drug kicks in no telling what will happen!


I know! I'll just keep the door closed and locked all day. No one will notice. Except…. Damn me and my "Open Door Policy!"


What was I on when I implemented that cockamamie idea?


Maybe I should just admit to everyone that I accidentally took an overdose of blood pressure medicine. But who would believe me. Accident? I can hear them scoffing now.


No. I have to somehow maintain and pretend that nothing is out of the ordinary…


But can I function while I am tripping on blood pressure medicine? I have visions of people asking me how I am today and me responding in a strangely slow voice, "Oh man, my blood pressure is so low…"


What is it about overdosing on pharmaceuticals that makes me think of the 1970's?


7th grade Health class: I was hoping the class would be more about sex and not so much about the dangers of cigarettes and drugs. I get it! Drugs are bad. Now can we see pictures of naked people? But no, the teacher just wants to talk about topics like "gateway drugs" and such.


Gateway drugs?! What was it she said? Something like marijuana is a gateway drug to heroin…What if blood pressure medicine is a gateway drug to something else? Like maybe cardiovascular drugs?


I start abusing this stuff and then I'll be wanting antithrombotic drugs, maybe even something antiarrhythmic. God forbid I start using that antianginal stuff—Nitro glycercerin! Then things start blowing up—just like those meth labs I read about in Time magazine.


I am starting to feel…something. Am I getting "high"? Or, considering the nature of the drug I have taken, am I getting "low"?


What if after today I have a craving to get "low" everyday? I'll start doubling up the dosage. Then I'll develop a tolerance so I'll have to add a third and fourth pill to my sinister vasodilator cocktail. Then I'll go through my prescription two or three times as fast. When Walgreens won't give me a refill I'll have to start getting my blood pressure drugs on the street!


And the ones that mother gives you

Don't do anything at all…


I flash on an image of myself in one of those seedy neighborhoods with drug dealers on every corner you see in anti-drug commercials. As I walk slowly down the sidewalk, the dealers who loiter on the bus benches and under the lampposts mutter in my direction,


"Crack?"


"Horse?"


"Meth?"


"Lisinopril?"


I lock eyes with the seedy dealer.


"Oh, the dude wants to get low," he says with a knowing chuckle.



I shudder in an attempt to shake off this prophetic image. It is just like they taught me in junior high school. I should have made more of an effort to pay attention.







Go ask Alice

When she's ten feet tall...



I remember the book Go Ask Alice. All the kids in my junior high read it. It was supposed to be the real diary of a high school girl. Later I learned it was actually one of many novels written by an adult named Beatrice Sparks as a cautionary tale for teens and then marketed as a true story.


A few years ago James Frey took that same concept and applied it to adults. Look where that got him.


Meanwhile Go Ask Alice is still in print and is still taught in schools as a true story.


There's a lesson here:








Make up whatever you want, just don't piss off Oprah.


The Movie of the Week version of Go Ask Alice came out in 1973. The movie includes the memorable line:


He's getting high just talking about getting high, and you're getting high off of his high, and I'm getting high
off of your high. And it's one big contact high.


In the movie, William Shatner (after Captain Kirk but before T.J. Hooker) plays the clueless father of the protagonist—a girl named Alice. When Alice's grades start to slip and she starts hanging out with glassy eyed kids who look like refuges from Woodstock, it never occurs to her parents that their daughter might be experimenting with drugs.


It is safe to say they are the only parents in 1973 that wouldn't have leapt to that conclusion.


All of the parents I knew at the time were extremely paranoid about their kids doing drugs. If you so much as looked at your mother sideways she would start in with the "Are you on drugs?" If you looked sad, happy, mad or tired, one of your parents would inevitably query, "Are you high on something right now?"


Not so William Shatner and his made for TV movie wife. They didn't figure anything out until it was too late.


When logic and proportion

Have fallen softly dead…


Still, Alice's drug problem wasn't really the fault of the parents. It all began when someone slipped LSD in Alice's soft drink at a party. From there life spiraled out of control—more drugs, promiscuous sex, drug dealing boyfriends, running away from home and living on the streets.


After hitting rock bottom Alice seeks assistance from a priest played by Andy Griffith.


She's lucky he didn't throw her in the drunk tank with Otis.


Andy reunites Alice with her parents, she kicks her habit and things start looking up. Then someone slips her drugs (again!) while she is babysitting. When Alice feels the stuff kicking in, she locks herself in a closet in order to protect the baby.


For a moment I wonder if maybe I should lock myself in a closet. When I remember that Alice in the movie freaked out and hurt herself trying to claw her way back out of the closet and wound up in the hospital, I think better of the closet idea.


Where's Andy Griffith when I need him?



And the White Knight is talking backwards

And the Red Queen's "off with her head!"


After getting out of the hospital, Alice really cleans up her act. Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there. I don't want to spoil the ending in case anyone wants to rent this or read the book but let's just say Go Ask Alice has a sad ending.


That ending seemed a whole lot sadder when we all believed Go Ask Alice was a true story.


Go Ask Alice, like Reefer Madness before it, is intended to scare kids straight. It actually worked on the kids I went to school with—no one at my junior high used drugs.


Everyone waited until they were in senior high school. Some even waited until college.


Remember what the dormouse said...


I guess by now you've figured out that I did not die from my reckless overdose of pharmaceuticals since dead men do not blog.


Despite the all of the warnings I received in junior high school, I did what so many children of the 70's would do---I turned to another drug for help.


I decided coffee was the answer.


If caffeine elevates blood pressure then I figured drinking more coffee would give that extra pill something to do. Apparently it worked.


Let this be a lesson to us all.


Feed your head!


Feed your head!


Feed your head!







Sunday, February 14, 2010

Flirting with the Clueless


I got my haircut on Saturday and I swear the woman who cut my hair was flirting with me. Of course this didn't occur to me until sometime on Tuesday when it suddenly hit me—"I think that stylist was flirting with me!" I suppose the flirting can be considered to be less than effective if the flirtee doesn't catch on until 3 days later.



It really wasn't this woman's fault. I am sure she is a very competent flirt. I am just a little slow sometimes.



According to an article on romantic-lyrics.com, women are more subtle about flirting and most men need "a larger clue" to figure out what's going on. In other words, as most of my women friends tell me, men are clueless.




The woman who became my college girlfriend had to take her top off before I got the hint that she was trying to seduce me. Even then I wasn't sure if maybe she was just feeling a little warm. In my defense, she was a tad more worldly than I. Let's just say, I was a bit worldlier after that evening, I tell you what (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge! ) At the time I was hoping that evening (and the nine months to follow) meant I was straight. As it turns out, I was just bi-curious. But I learned a lot from that experience.




I am now aware that when a woman introduces her breasts into the situation you'd better pay attention because something is up! Word to the wise.




The hair stylist may have just been making conversation. I mean, she didn't take her top off so maybe I misunderstood the signals. She was talking about my hair, my "beautiful hair" and running her fingers through it as stylists will. It got all tussled in the process she said,"now I get to see what you look like when you first get out of bed…"




A more alert man—a heterosexual man on the prowl—OK, A Guy, would have seized this opportunity to say something suave like, "oh baby, if you really want to see what I look like when I first get out of bed maybe you should spend the night sometime."



I thought of that comeback on Tuesday. Not that I would have actually said that to her. I already share a bed with my boyfriend, my dog and my cats. There just isn't room for another person.


You may think the fact that I am gay makes me extra clueless in determining whether or not a woman is flirting with me and you may be right. However, I am proud to report that I am an equal opportunity dullard when it comes to being the object of flirtation—I miss clues when men flirt with me too.






July 25, 1979. My relationship with The Boyfriend was newly minted. He was in Jacksonville and I was in Tallahassee attending the summer quarter at FSU. We did not at that time have an exclusive relationship.




I was taking a creative writing class that met in the evening. One of my classmates was a young man we will call "Jeff." As a matter of fact "Jeff" is his real name. (What are the odds Jeff is going to read this blog and recognize himself after 30 (ouch) years? And if he does, "Hey, Jeff—email me!")




If you have never taken a creative writing class this is pretty much what it entails—the students write stories. Your story is either duplicated so everyone in the class gets a copy or the story is read to the class, sometimes by the professor and sometimes by the student who wrote it. Then the class critiques the story. This can be a scary process.




I generally liked the stories Jeff wrote and he generally liked mine. One evening after class, Jeff invited me to have a few beers with him at a watering hole close to the campus. We will call the bar "Poor Paul's Pourhouse" for that is what it was called. Not only that, but as far as I know the bar is still there.




I would like to mention that the drinking age was 18 at the time. Another reason the 70's was such a decadent and wicked time. Not only were college kids taking illegal drugs they could also drink alcohol legally.



Good times.




I don't remember a lot of the details of that evening but what I do remember has haunted me all of these years.



Jeff was an attractive man. He had long, thinning brown hair (I'd wager by now he is quite bald) with sun bleached blond highlights. Jeff had a great tan—not a George Hamilton scary kind of tan but a nice healthy tan and good skin.




I remember Jeff wore these weird mesh slip on brown shoes without socks. He usually wore shorts. Of course it was summer and if you have ever been in Tallahassee in summer you know that it is wicked hot so who doesn't wear shorts?




Jeff also touched me when he talked. I don't mean he moved me, I mean he put his hand on my arm or my shoulder while speaking. I don't always like that but I liked it when Jeff did it.




We drank beer and talked about life and writing like we knew what we were talking about. I learned that Jeff was from Jacksonville Beach. His parents divorced when he was young, he had some issues with his mother, he wasn't very athletic, he was lonely, he was a writer.




I found I could relate to Jeff.




At one point Jeff looked around the bar, sort of waved his hand and said, "There are a lot of attractive women here," or something to that effect.


I responded with something lame like, "Yeah."




I had not been out of the closet for very long. I had not yet marched on the capital building or done volunteer work for a gay rights organization. That would come later. At this moment in time I had come out but it wasn't something I was all that comfortable talking about.




Then Jeff said, "What kind of women do you like?


Blond women? Dark haired women? Do you like women?"




There is was, Door Number 3. That's the one I should have picked by simply answering honestly, "I love all women, but not the way you mean…"




It is all too clear to me now. However at that moment, in a noisy bar crowded with college kids on a hot summer night in 1979, I was not prepared to open that door. Instead, thinking of the girlfriend I had recently broken up with (OK, technically she broke up with me but that's another blog...)—the one who had to take her top off to seduce me, I answered, "Dark haired, I guess."




I don't remember what Jeff said after that. I assume he told me what kind of women he liked although it was clear he did not have a girlfriend. Or maybe the conversation drifted to other topics. We were English majors so perhaps we discussed literature. ("How about that Great Gatsby!") On second thought, maybe not.




I lived about a half mile off campus. Jeff shared an apartment somewhere with a graduate student. I did not have a car. Jeff had a pickup truck. (Well, he was from Jacksonville Beach…) Jeff offered to give me a ride to my apartment. Again, memory fails me. I am not sure what we talked about on the way there.




I guess it was late. I had a roommate and perhaps I did not want to disturb him. For whatever reason I did not invite Jeff up to my place. Instead we sat in his truck and talked some more.




Somewhere along the way Jeff pulled out a cigar. No, that isn't a euphemism. It was an actual cigar.




A big cigar. Jeff didn't light it, he just played with it, passing it between his fingers. "Have you ever smoked one of these?"



No one had ever asked me that question before---at least not about a cigar. "No."



"It is so big," Jeff said. "It feels so big in your hand and between your lips. You can play out all of your homoerotic fantasies with one of these."




I know. I know. This is where a more alert man—a homosexual man on the prowl—OK, A Guy, would have said something suave like, "Dude, if you want to play out your homoerotic fantasies we won't be needing that cigar but we will be smoking!"




Isn't that a cute comeback? It took me thirty years to come up with that one.




Instead, at the time, I just laughed. As did Jeff.




Eventually I went upstairs and Jeff drove away. We saw each other on campus, we had classes together, we even happened upon one another outside the governor's mansion one evening at an anti-death penalty protest but we never got together again outside of class.




My last memory of Jeff happened shortly before I graduated. I was at the pool, attempting to get a tan. Jeff wandered over. I was sitting up on a towel, Jeff was wearing a pair of shorts. He squatted down as we spoke. He told me he intended to join the Peace Corps after graduation. I couldn't help but notice, as he squatted in front of me, that the leg of his shorts opened up affording me a very clear view of the fact that my friend Jeff had gone commando.




Thanks for the memories, Jeff.




Of course I don't really know what was on Jeff's mind. After all, it was Freud who said "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."






The hair stylist from last Saturday was probably just being friendly. She does, after all, work for tips. I remember this bartender who used to flirt with me and he wasn't trying to get me into bed. (Oh, actually he was. Bad example.) All I am saying is, sometimes people are just friendly.




I used to work with a woman who was convinced that scores of men were flirting with her all the time. She would read erotic significance into the most mundane, polite small talk. She even decided someone had parked his car in a certain spot because it was close to a window in a room she often worked in. That was more than 15 years ago. As far as I know that woman is still single.




I guess it is better to be someone who misses a flirtation or two than someone who imagines a flirtation where none exists. It is the difference between living a life filled with little surprises versus living a life of ongoing disappointment.




And just in case you're wondering…yes, that was "a look" I gave you…



So tell me—are you a good flirt? Do you notice when people are flirting with you? Any flirtations that got away you'd like to share?