Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Memories of Growing Up Gay

This TV memory popped into my head tonight for some reason.  Probably because I was looking at the blog "My First Gay Crush"

I had just turned fourteen in 1962 when a TV show aired called "It's A Man's World".  (The link has a few short clips that I could find nowhere else).

It was one of my favorite shows, even though it was all very heterosexually oriented (as was every other TV show back then).  But the situation of four young men living together on a houseboat (with no parents) just seemed so ideal, so sexy, so right somehow.

The show starred Glenn Corbett (Route 66) as Wes Macauley, a college student raising his younger brother Howie (Mike Burns) after their parents were killed in an accident.  The two other boat-mates were Ted Bessell (later starred in "That Girl" with Marlo Thomas) as Tom-Tom DeWitt, a fellow college student and Randy Boone as Vern Hodges.

At fourteen, I definitely knew what I liked.

How sad that two of the stars have passed away, both barely past their 60th year.

Glenn Corbett (1933-1993)
From the internet without attribution
Mike Burns (b.1947)
From the internet without attribution

Randy Boone (b.1942)
From the internet without attribution

Ted Bessell (1935-1996)
From the internet without attribution

Monday, December 26, 2011

Very Nice Gift From Santa Leon

I've been using a Canon Powershot SD1100 IS camera for several years.  I've been happy with its performance overall.

Sometime last year my photos began showing dark spots that were especially noticeable against a blue sky.  The spots are always in the same area of the picture - except when using the zoom feature - then the spots are larger and more centered.  From what I could learn, there may be dust on the lens inside the camera which cannot really be opened for cleaning, or there is a problem with the pixels.

I've been using the touch-up feature on iPhoto to take out the spots and blend the sky on many pictures, but on pictures with clouds, the touch-up was difficult to get without making the clouds muddy.

This shows the spots, two in upper left and one in upper right
 Against the blue sky, the spots are noticeable but can be "fixed".  When they occur on people's faces they look like leprosy or some other skin disease.  I always had to be careful of my aim so as to make sure the spots were not located on a face, and then crop out the areas where the spots showed.

I was quite surprised to get a very nice new camera for Christmas.  This is a Canon Powershot ELPH 310.  (Canon has a few dozen Powershot models and I don't know much, except that this one is highly rated.  Santa Leon said he did the research (and he got a very good deal at one of the Big Electronic Stores that we LGBT folks are supposed to be avoiding).

Compare the two cameras taking similar shots today; I'm not sure the settings were set the same, and the picture quality seems comparable, although in some other shots there was a noticeable difference (improvement) in color quality with the new camera.

But I won't have to doctor up every picture.
The dark spots are somewhat less noticeable here
because of the zoom-in 
The New Canon is Crisp and Clear
I purchased Leon an update for his Garmin GPS.  When I hit download I didn't realize that it would take about six or seven hours to download; keeping Leon out of the guest room while it was downloading was quite a challenge.  That's a whole other story, but suffice it to say I was able to complete the task without him having a clue.

Remember a world without electronics, except maybe a transistor radio?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I Can Say Nothing Of God Except...*

Last year my sister, who is a Sister of Mercy, sent me a prayer she had written about the things and people in her life that gave meaning to the celebration of Christmas.

Each line began with the words, "I can say nothing of God except..."

This prayer reminds us, whether theist, atheist or agnostic, that we can really say little meaningful about God.  That perhaps our belief in God's existence is about as meaningful as another's belief in God's Non-existence.

The fact that so many people today claim to know "God", the "will of God" or who or what or which country has "God's favor", is, if nothing else, awfully self-righteous and arrogant.

Perhaps we can say nothing of god except ... what is available to us in our own unique, concrete, quotidian experience.

This year I offer my version of my sister's prayer:

I Can Say Nothing of God Except

I can say nothing of God except the serenity of a walk in the woods on a clear December morning

I can say nothing of God except the surprise that the Bird of Paradise gave me when, after fifteen years, it bloomed in the sun room one February

I can say nothing of God except skiing down a mountain on a sunny winter day

I can say nothing of God except the good food we have to eat and share with whoever enters our home

I can say nothing of God except the seniors who think it is a miracle to make digital photos appear on the computer screen

I can say nothing of God except the shared company of long-time friends

I can say nothing of God except airplanes have taken me to fascinating places

I can say nothing of God except the memory of my mom and grandma and aunts makes me happy when I make manicotti or escarole with beans or cookies

I can say nothing of God except the paintings on the wall that my dad made when he was seventeen

I can say nothing of God except walking up to the rim of the Grand Canyon very early one morning and being speechless for fifteen minutes while tears flowed spontaneously

I can say nothing of God except sleeping on the beach while listening to Sergio Mendes 

I can say nothing of God except the loss of loved ones and dear friends

I can say nothing of God except the delightful vegetables that grow in my garden each summer

I can say nothing of God except an old Valentine from my honey I came across while cleaning drawers

I can say nothing of God except the feral honey bees returned last summer after a long illness

I can say nothing of God except the vastness of the sea and a sailboat against blue sky

I can say nothing of God except the touch of, and touching another man 

I can say nothing of God except I am sitting in the living room with the man I love while the dog sleeps on the couch and Christmas music plays softly

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Homely Tree Has Gotten A Few Trinkets

(note: a google search has this phraseology based on the words of William J. Bausch

Friday, December 23, 2011

Our Un-Traditional Christmas Tree

Found Greens for a Holiday Arrangement
If we do a tree at Christmas, it is our tradition to find, make or buy one that is very Un-Traditional.  The rule is we don't pay for a Christmas Tree unless it is a potted tree that we can plant.

One year I used an inverted tomato cage to fasten cut greens together to make a tree.  One year we acquired the top of a fir tree that some friends had cut down.  Another time I purchased a tall skinny potted juniper which we decorated with Mardi Gras beads, then planted outside by the sun room.

I gave all my mother's tree ornaments to my sister-in-law to pass on to her kids, so we have no tree decorations (actually we have some bells, baubles, and trinkets we've acquired here and there that can hang on a tree).  We've used sumac and flowers for ornaments, and ribbons, and things we got on packages, and of course, Mardi Gras beads.

This year I found this fir tree growing in the woods just beyond our property line.  It was being crowded out by other larger trees, so I didn't feel too bad about off-ing it for our Un-Traditional tree this year.

We're not sure how or if we will decorate it.

Found Tree - Homely But Has Potential

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Interesting Proposal To Address Inequality

But It Won't Be Under The Tree This Year
A New York Times article Don't Tax the Rich, Tax Inequality by Ian Ayers and Aaron Edlin, Law Professors from Yale and Berkeley respectively, was discussed today on WNPR - Connecticut Public Radio's Where We Live.   The PodCast should be available soon.

The authors are concerned about the demise of democracy in the face of political control by the wealthy.

The gist of the plan is to have a tax on the wealthy kick-in only when the disparity between the income of the 1% and the median income exceeds a certain ratio.  They arbitrarily choose the 2006 ratio of 36 (36 times the median income, which I, and most of the callers think is too high).

The plan would insure that "All boats will rise with the tide", i.e. that the wealthy could only get richer as the median income increases - as the 99% increase their income.  The incentive would help job creation, grow the economy and be the closest thing to a real trickle down economics.

As all solutions create new problems, this plan would not be without some flaws, drawbacks or unforeseen consequences.  But it is an interesting new concept.

Many of the audience who called in cited the dysfunctional congress as the major block to making any efficacious changes in tax law, let alone one that is as creative and innovative as this.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Makes Our "Marriage" Work

You've all no doubt seen the Folger's holiday "Brother and Sister" commercial.  It's been a standard for at least three years, maybe more. If you haven't seen it, see it here:

The gist is: Brother returns home after a long absence in some foreign country, presumably fighting for freedom or just bumming around, it's not clear.

The snow is falling, and his younger sister is brewing Folger's coffee.  He comes to the door, they hug...

He takes a small gift-wrapped package with a red bow out of his knapsack and hands it to his sister.  She takes the bow and sticks it on him.

"What are ya doing?" he says.

She replies, "You're my present this year."

Well the commercial was playing on the tv the other day and and when I heard the sister say "You're my present this year," I yelled out from the kitchen with my usual sarcasm, "What a cheepo, he got her the same thing last year...and the year before!"

Silence.  And  I glance over at Leon and he has tears in his eyes!  "That's so sweet" he says, "and you go making fun."

He is supposed to be the butch one.

So we both had a good belly laugh over that one.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Elizabeth Warren on Health Care

Thanks to Truthspew for this post.  It dovetails nicely with a recent post Raulito did on Trickle Down BS The only thing I would add to her explanation of Health Insurance syphoning off billions of dollars to pay CEOs and administrative expenses is the payout to shareholders - the ultimate For Profit scam on middle America.


Thanks to Stan at Metrodystopia, THIS ITEM: the Walton (Walmart) Six have more wealth than the lowest 30% of the entire population of the US. Keep shopping Walmart, everyone. Read about it here and here. And more detail here.

NOTE: While I attempted to verify this story, I found it difficult to do so.  I found the story repeated almost verbatim in various web sites and blogs.  The so-called "source" - a government report, was indecipherable for me.  

Russ, at Blue Truck, Red State did a little more research and found the numbers questionable.  And his point that when making an argument, we should not make up "facts" is an important one.

Perhaps the only point I can make here is "obscene wealth is obscene wealth - give or take a few million dollars".

In any case, I choose not to shop at Walmart.

Monday, December 12, 2011

'Tis The Season To Make Cookies

Been busy baking...

Aunt Stella's Chocolate Cookies with her secret chocolate frosting...

and Cuccidati

See Dinner's Ready for details.

Friday, December 9, 2011

'Tis The Season To Be Careful - About Who You Donate To - And Where You Shop

The Red Kettle and Bell Ringers in front of your favorite store are a sign of the season.  The act of dropping coins in the bucket has been imbued with the sound of Christmas Carols and the warm fuzzy feelings of helping the poor and disadvantaged.  But please consider giving to charities that do not discriminate against and actively work against the LGBT community as does the Salvation Army.

Check out the article on Bilerico.

There are other charities that are not anti-gay and do not discriminate against any individuals or groups.  Charity Watch   is one place to go to check out various organizations - but not necessarily their record on LGBT issues.

As far as shopping goes, you can check out the Human Rights Campaign's Buyers Guide which rates corporations vis-a-vis LGBT issues.

However, nothing is Black and White.

As an example, Home Depot is rated 60 out of 100 and Lowe's is rated 15 out of 100.

But while Home Depot is fair on LGBT issues, the company founder and head of Home Depot Foundation which supports its own PAC is vehemently anti-Obama and by supporting conservative candidates actually works against liberal causes like human rights.    Check this. 

Best buy is rated 100 by HRC but is supporting an anti-gay candidate in Minnesota.


My suggestion: donate to reputable charities with a good record on human rights and don't shop at any of the big corporations box stores.  If you must shop, shop small, shop local.

Better yet, bake cookies.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

From My File Cabinet - 3 "1986 Gay Politics"

This is from a 1986 letter to the editor of a local gay news rag after he castigated some men who were arrested in a local "t-room" for allegedly soliciting a police officer for sex.  It was in the local news and there was a question of entrapment that was never investigated.  The paper's editorial implied that the men deserved what they got and that they should be shunned.

I share the letter here to contrast the issues then with those we deal with today.  In a sense Gay Liberation and Act-Up politics was so much more radical than the current Marriage Equality campaign or even the Occupy Movement.  And before the internet, cruising areas were frequently the only place where gay men could meet other gay men.

It seems to me that even when we read about kids getting bullied to the point of suicide or politicians treading on our rights with their heavy religious boots, we fail to get angry.  We have relinquished our indignation.  To borrow a slogan "ACT UP,  FIGHT BACK, FIGHT HATE!

18 January 1986

To the Editor:
I must respond with incredulity to your recent comments in reference to ... the arrests at ABC Mall.  
... Regarding the ABC Mall situation: 

1) The management of XYZ Store had apparently been aware of the activities going on in the 3rd floor men's room for some time.  (Certainly it was no secret among [the city] area gay men).  Several measures could have been taken to curtail activity, e.g. a lock on the men's room door with key available on request, or a sign on the door stating that security will make frequent checks of this area.  Those are two...strategies short of police involvement that could have been employed...  

2) That police were employed following a complaint might suggest that the real intent was..."to make an example of a few."  

3) The media did not report or investigate the means...whereby the arrests were accomplished, thus leaving open the question of entrapment.  Given...that such methods have been used in other instances, this possibility should not be...dismissed.

4) The media, by linking "child", "homosexual" and "school teacher" (like bringing together critical masses needed for an atomic chain reaction) intentionally played to the emotions of its audience and ... reinforced the worst myths and stereotypes...  The media must be held accountable for any misuse of its inherent power to inform public opinion.

5) Because of the nature of their misdemeanor, the men arrested have and will suffer consequences disproportionate to their alleged wrong doing, regardless of their guilt or innocence.  They deserve compassion and support for this reason, if for no other. 

Ultimately, these issues must be discussed in the wider context of oppression:  society refuses to recognize that its intolerant and oppressive stance toward homosexuals fosters and encourages the types of activities which that same society so self-righteously condemns.  Our outrage should be directed at the oppressive attitudes which have cultivated the sexual underground and which continue to indoctrinate us as homosexual men and women to see ourselves and one another as perverts...

That the men arrested at XYZ Store have made a grave error in judgement is NOT the question.  Nor should our main concern be...that the publicity about the arrests reflects poorly on the rest of us...[Editorial] rhetoric against oppression cannot cover up the [underlying editorial] belief that homo/bi-sexual men and women must endorse and model the values of the white, upper middle class, heterosexist society in order to gain "approval".  I'm not convinced that is a laudable goal for any oppressed minority.  To say that any of our brothers and sisters who cause us embarrassment are to be excluded from the community is discriminatory and [is itself] oppressive.

[The editorial statement appears to define]...who does and does not belong to the gay/lesbian community: "many men...have disassociated themselves from the gay community because they are married and/or in a responsible professional position".  [The editorial's] criteria are exclusive rather than inclusive.  While we may endorse public 'coming out' as the...most effective means of  changing societal attitudes, we must not pass judgement or exclude those who, for whatever reason, choose to remain closeted...

Talking REAL politics, the fact is that liberation, born of oppression is always radical.  For us, coming out, in its most radical sense, means being sensitized and responsive to all forms of oppression... [The editorial's] Uncle Tom attitude toward the ABC Store arrests should make us wary of [editorial] opinions in the future.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Link to Blue Truck Red State Post On Hillary Clinton's LGBT Speech

I will just refer readers to Russ's post here about Hillary Clinton's address to the United Nations on Human Rights and Gay Rights.

Link to the text of the speech - it is worth your time to read.

Read About My First Gay Crush

You can all check out my secret pre-adolescent love interest on "My First Gay Crush"

Do you know who this is?
From Internet without Attribution

From Internet without Attribution

Sunday, December 4, 2011

From My File Cabinet - 2

Early 1980's while still struggling with coming out....

Past and present
blending, fading, forming pictures
seeing kids stirs up memories
like dust when you move old books on the shelf - annoying
like finding a delightful memento while rummaging through the attic - nostalgia

I am on an expedition
exploring like an archeologist in drawers and cardboard cartons
on shelves
and stacks of records that play more than just old songs
a feeling of manic excitement and rebelliousness and independence
but mostly just movie theatre emotions

My own past - distant and removed
on scraps of paper, old photographs and in between the groves of scratchy records
most real is not the memory of what was
but the memory of what was only experienced vicariously:
the drama of life as others lived it
in the eighth grade or at the amusement park

The lack of distinction between self and other
as if I had no self
but only eyes and ears and an ability to pretend to feel
digging up memories 
sparse and fragmented
like ancient pottery and pieces of bone

I cannot yet tell a story
my fossil memories are only bits and pieces
of feelings in the synapses of my brain:
pain and longing, love and jealousy
sympathy and self-pity, guilt and shame
excitement and rebelliousness and vague sexual stirrings

An uncomfortable feeling that I was always missing something
not really experiencing the way others did
feeling like a kid all caught up in an adventure movie
and about to wet his pants
not wanting to go to the bathroom
for fear of missing something

Seeing others and pretending to feel their feelings act their actions and be like them
past and present jumbled up
a thread between then and now like a life line
to get me back to where I left something vital, something misplaced, something lost
or something which I never had
but which I sense I need desperately...

...to step into tomorrow

Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day - A Retrospective

Me, Leon, Bob at the AIDS Quilt in DC
Bob Died of Complications of AIDS in the Late 80's

Here is a retrospective of my experiences working in the HIV/AIDS "industry".  The industry now includes obscenely priced pharmaceuticals and thousands of individuals working in HIV/AIDS organizations and programs whose benefits may be questionable.

My early work at the Gay Health Clinic was during the early years of AIDS which was still confined mostly to New York on the East coast but was slowly making its way up the Interstate 95 corridor to New Haven and beyond.  My experience at the clinic got me in the door at the State Health Department's Epidemiology Division which was then in charge of tracking AIDS and conducting educational efforts.  

The Department consisted of a few epidemiologists, only one of whom, a gay man, was actually involved in educating the public about AIDS.  When the Department finally got the go ahead to hire a few people I was among the five in the newly formed AIDS Division.  There was Bill, the epidemiologist, Jane, the Nurse/Educator, Hector, the "bilingual" educator, Marge, an epidemiologist, and me, the HTLV-III Counselor.  (Both Bill and Hector would eventually die of complications from AIDS).  We were a tight group.  We went on the road to schools, hospitals, libraries, businesses, where ever anyone would have us.

My first day on the job I was handed a stack of Medical Journals and MMWR's (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports) to read.  I read about the rare cancer affecting gay men in San Francisco and New York, about opportunistic infections, about theories of transmission.  Over the next months I gained an increasingly in-depth knowledge of Mycobacterium Avium Intracellulare, Karposi's Sarcoma, Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia, Cytomegalovirus, Toxoplasmosis and of course Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus Type III (HTLV-III).

When our State finally joined the HTLV-III Testing bandwagon, I helped put together the counseling protocols that were to accompany testing.  As there was no money to purchase pre-printed brochures of which there were very few, I wrote the first Department booklet for people being tested for HTLV-III.  Sometime later it was, of course, changed to HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) testing partly to resolve a dispute with the French over who had first identified the virus in the laboratory.

A few months into the job I was informed that the hiring procedures had not been strictly followed by the Department head who hire me.  I was  required to take and pass a state "Career Trainee" test.  Then I would be re-hired as ( "demoted" to) a State Career Trainee at a considerably lower salary than I was then receiving.  I took and passed the test, got rehired and began my six-month stint as a "trainee".  After six months I was required to take another written qualifying exam in order to re-apply for my original job and classification as Health Program Assistant (HTLV-III Counselor).  I could be re-hired again provided I scored within the top five of "in-house" applicants.  That finally out of the way, I was able to earn my original salary.

My job duties, in addition to helping educate the public, included answering bizarre questions about AIDS over the phone: an elderly woman wanted to know if she and her husband could get AIDS from annual [sic] intercourse; the Greenwich housewife and prison volunteer who was worried about shaking hands with prisoners because they might have seh-men on their hands; and the countless folks asking if they could get AIDS from using a payphone, sitting next to someone on the bus or going to a restaurant where the salad boy cut his finger and bled into the salad...

In spite of what we now consider stupid questions, the work we were doing during the early days of the AIDS crisis was urgent, exciting, interesting.  Even though we worked for a state agency, we were "grassroots".  I was becoming more confident and a little less introverted.  We attended conferences and trainings.  They sent me to Baltimore for an intensive week-long training on STD's and then to San Francisco to a National AIDS Conference.  A job that required me to fly to other cities, and paid for the trip - that was so out of my reality and such a bonus!  I loved San Francisco.  I felt like I had been there before, like I belonged there.

My particular job as an AIDS Counselor was not only to develop protocols for Counseling and Testing but also to train counselors who were hired by local city health departments.  I did one-on-one training and group training and supervision.  I also saw individual clients for testing and counseling.  In the early days there were no pharmaceuticals for treating AIDS.  As HTLV-III or HIV Counselors we would have to convey the news to men and women with positive test results.  What would their reaction be?  How would we "counsel" them when there was no cure, no treatment for AIDS?  What impact would the experience have on us?

I remember delivering the news to one client.  When given the opportunity for questions and further counseling he only responded with "I know what I have to do" and got up and walked out.  Two days later I heard on the local news that a young man had been hit by a train in what might have been a suicide. All testing then was done "anonymously" due to fears of discrimination and repercussions, and I could not help but to think that it might have been the same "anonymous" young man to whom I had given a positive test result just two days ago.

Was there something more I should have done?  Something I should have said differently?  I was no more an "expert" than the other counselors doing the same job.  I thought it would be helpful for all of us counselors throughout the state to come together once each month to share experiences, feelings, and ideas.  I started and facilitated the State's HIV Counselor Peer Supervision Group - a model for HIV Counselors at the time.  There were only about 14 of us in our small State then, and we not only shared experiences, knowledge, and counseling techniques, but also our fears, tears, hopes and support.

About a year and a half into the job, the Federal Government finally allocated money to the States for AIDS Programs.  While this was welcomed, it also brought with it levels of bureaucracy that made both life and work difficult.  We were required to have a Review Council of "average" citizens to review every AIDS and HIV brochure, pamphlet or advertisement and approve them before the Department could purchase or distribute them.  That went for Safe-sex Messages, AIDS Education Curricula for various group presentations, you name it.  Luckily, in our state, the "average" citizen was more likely to approve stuff than not.  But it was another layer of bureaucracy and expense.

Because AIDS was largely affecting minority communities, outreach to blacks and Hispanics was made a priority. Unfortunately, the Health Commissioner unilaterally decided to hire an agency from the Washington Belt-way to do a large portion of this outreach - an agency that delivered staff from the airport by exclusive limousine, put them up in expensive hotel rooms, and billed the Department exorbitantly for questionable services. As "outsiders" they engendered a great deal of resentment on the part of Department staff.  Once, AIDS education was done by volunteers and a few dedicated health workers.  When Federal money entered the equation, there was suddenly no lack of entities with questionable qualifications vying for a piece of AIDS pie.

In the early days, we could easily put together an educational program based on current epidemiology and medical information to take to the schools, colleges, industries, libraries, city halls, insurance companies, hairdressing academies. But Federal Guidelines began to require a written "curriculum" for each particular audience.  The curriculum had to have goals, objectives, methods and evaluations.  Which would have been fine except for the fact that jobs were created for people who did nothing and many hours and dollars were spent and much paper was produced to achieve the same results we had before.  

The whole grassroots HIV/AIDS movement began to be taken over by those who were least effected but who had the most to gain financially.  And we were being choked by paperwork.  After a little more than two years at the State Health Department I left to get back to working with clients and to do HIV counseling at a local (city) health department.  When I left, they hired a woman with an MSW degree (Social Worker) to do my job - and at at nearly twice the salary I was getting with my worthless MA degree (Counseling).

I was hired by the local City STD Clinic to do HIV counseling and testing and AIDS education at local venues including the local rehab center, schools, etc. My former boss asked me to continue to conduct and facilitate the State HIV Counselor Peer Supervision Group, which I gladly did.  I also had to facilitate the local Mayor's Task Force which was made up of representatives from every agency in the city that provided services of one kind or another to every AIDS risk group.  

The turf wars were never ending.   When the state announced "open season" for AIDS grants - and required all agencies receiving HIV/AIDS money to re-apply for grants and opened it up to any and all organizations, every non-profit in the city began fighting over who was going to apply for the allotted funds.  Only one agency in each city would get an HIV Counseling and Testing grant.  

I knew from the outset, how it would work and that the City Health Department would naturally get the contract based on STD experience, its overall mission and because it was just the most logical choice.  But turf was defined and turf wars escalated: agencies serving blacks versus agencies serving Hispanics, drug rehab agencies versus the Episcopal Church-sponsored AIDS Project, Hospital versus Health Department.  

After several weeks of in-fighting, the dust cleared and the City Health Director informed me that I would be writing the grant application.  Tell me something I didn't know.  Weeks of valuable time had been wasted in the quarreling and the deadline was looming.  So I was promised that someone from another agency would help prepare the rather involved grant application - a promise that never materialized.

The City Health Department got the grant.  I was able to hire another part-time counselor, but I made a poor "boss".  I could never treat Orlando as a subordinate, so we got along quite well.  Meanwhile the HIV/AIDS bureaucracy was becoming more oppressive, more political.  Everything we were to do was defined, prescribed, stipulated, measured, counted, criticized, evaluated, revised and entered into a database so we could produce endless reports.  More was demanded of us while having our hands tied.  

City politics demanded we accept "walk-ins" in addition to appointments for HIV Testing and Counseling.  The required pre-test counseling could take an hour or more.  I'd be on duty alone, counseling a client.  Five "walk-ins" would be just outside my door, in the waiting room, getting antsy, demanding services.  

Next in queue would be a young woman whose boyfriend uses needles to inject drugs and who, she says has AIDS.  He "wants to father a child before he dies".  

I have to be the compassionate, rational, sensitive, and nonjudgmental counselor who takes his time to help her reason through this issue and hopefully evoke the appropriate decision.  Secretly, I wanted to just ask this young woman who was prepared to get pregnant by her dying boyfriend, "Are you crazy or what?" 

In the midst of the chaos, the State "supervisor" - the person who took over my job at the State Health Department - shows up to "observe" and "supervise".  It all became too crazy.   My time to leave this job too, drew closer.

I put in my resignation effective at the end of June, and decided to attend my last HIV Counselor meeting - which had grown to seventy-five or more counselors and educators from agencies around the state and facilitated by the State Health Department AIDS Division Medical Director.  The June meeting was always held at a conference center at the beach because, years ago, one of the local HIV Coordinators and I conspired to make it so.  We encouraged attendees to take a half day of vacation, if possible and then join in an afternoon of sun and surf.  Many did so and it became an event to look forward to.

This particular June meeting had been designated as "Award Day" and many counselors and health educators were to be recognized for their work in the field.  For some reason the Medical Director felt the need to acknowledge my presence at the meeting and after introducing me as the state's first HIV Counselor and the force behind the present group meeting, he added "We have a special award for Frank, but it wasn't quite ready for today's meeting. No, it's not a Ferrari." (Laughter)

I know BS when I hear it and this was definitely BS.  Did he suddenly realize that my contribution to the field had never been formally recognized?  Did he feel the need to "save face" because there was in fact no "award" for me?  I think awards are basically silly and was not even thinking about an award or lack of one.   But after that statement I must say I did think about it.  Needless to say, no award - special or otherwise - was ever forthcoming.

Several of my friends and acquaintances died during this period and it was a difficult time - often made more difficult by the very entities that were supposed to be helping.  I hope those of us in the trenches provided some degree of comfort, hope and direction to those who sought our assistance.


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