Part of me is amused by the thought of running — literally, running — into Walgreens and filling a shopping cart with triple-ply toilet paper and medicated butt wipes and Preparation H and Pepto Bismol and Tums and Kaopectate and Depend adult diapers and Windex and an eight-pack of paper towels and Playtex living gloves and garbage bags and room deodorizer and toilet-bowl cleaner and bleach and bleach and more bleach and a pack of earplugs and maybe a Yoo Hoo, then begging the cashier to be quick about it because I’m in a hurry.
I like thinking about the expression on her (or possibly, his) face as she begins to ring everything up, imagining the worst. Would she be brave enough to ask?
Another, more Southern part of me is embarrassed by what the other folks in line might think.
And yet another part of me is saddened to think that for some people, it’s not a joke. For some people, it’s their weekly shopping list.
And so I don’t do anything at all.
Next Thursday, May 9, my colleague and friend, John Voelcker, is coordinating a free community forum for those affected by HIV/AIDS — which is, at this point, everyone on the planet. (Registration is limited though, so all seven billion of us won’t be able to get in.)
“Is This My Beautiful Life?: Perspectives From Survivors Of The AIDS Generation” is presented by the Medius Working Group, which is the current iteration of the Medius Institute for Gay Men’s Health that John co-founded with his late friend, the activist Spencer Cox. Medius is meant to address a problem that many in the 1980s and 1990s never could’ve envisioned: the problem of surviving HIV/AIDS. From John’s moving obituary for Spencer, published in the Huffington Post:
[The Medius Institute for Gay Men's Health] was dedicated to improving the health, well-being and longevity of gay men in mid-life (generously defined as 35 to 65). The goal was to look in a cross-disciplinary way at all the factors affecting the physical, mental and emotional health of a set of men who had lived through the AIDS epidemic, come out the other side and were too often doing startling, illogical and very dangerous things.
Unfortunately, John and Spencer’s initial vision for Medius didn’t pan out. Funders were too interested in other things — distributing HIV drugs to underserved populations, researching cures, or addressing entirely different viruses and diseases — to care about what is, in essence, post-traumatic stress disorder. They weren’t concerned about those that HIV/AIDS had left behind: the ill, the healthy, the positive, the negative, the patients, the caretakers who lived through the worst years of the epidemic but lost so many, many friends along the way.
Ironically, Thursday’s forum might never have taken place if Spencer hadn’t succumbed to the very issues that Medius aims to address.
Who should attend? The host website has a checklist:
Are you …
• a gay man in midlife, whether HIV-positive or HIV-negative?
• a former or current AIDS activist, caregiver or service provider?
• someone who lost friends, lovers and/or colleagues to the epidemic?
This is an opportunity to weigh in on the issues facing all of us as we continue to grapple with what it means to have fought an epidemic that the rest of the world mostly ignored.
Ask yourself …
• How do I connect to those who don’t recognize what I went through?
• How do we pass along our stories and lessons to a younger generation?
• Who are the people who best understand our experiences?
• What places serve as “our Veterans Administration” to help us manage?
• Is anyone caring for the “wounded AIDS warriors” who never really recovered?
• What would help me cope better than I do now with what we went through?
• Is this the life I thought I would lead?
• How do we envision our futures?
Thursday’s list of speakers is impressive, including Jesus Aguais, Dr. L. Jeannine Bookhardt-Murray, Dr. Mark Brennan-Ing, Jim Eigo, Joe Jervis, and Peter Staley. The event’s host is actor Stephen Spinella, who starred in the original Broadway production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. (P.S. He was amazing.)
If you’re in New York next Thursday, go. Just go. Register here.
If the theory of the multiverse is correct, our universe is not alone: it’s just one in a sea of universes. If you could escape them all and look back at where you’d come from, you’d see an endless array of bubbles (or boxes or maybe doughnuts) stretching out in all directions, expanding and contracting, evolving and failing.
This is slightly different from the “many-worlds” theory of quantum physics, which believes that every decision we make shapes the universe we’re in. According to that hypothesis, every time we pull one book from the shelf instead of another, or select this brand of cereal instead of that one, we create a new universe. We live in an an overlapping network of parallel universes, universes that are constantly branching off in new directions, existing side-by-side but never touching. Timespace is like a hall of mirrors, only none of us can see our reflections.
If either of those theories is correct, then there are an infinite number of universes. And if both are correct, well, it’s hard to wrap my head around that.
But here’s the interesting part: if there are an infinite number of universes, then any scenario we can imagine is not only probable, but certain:
- In one universe, things are exactly as they are now, except I’m wearing a swimsuit instead of khakis.
- In another, my skin is green.
- In another, my dogs can talk.
- In another, I am straight, and Jonno is a leggy blond woman.
- In another, I am straight, and Jonno is a leggy redhead.
- In another, I never met Jonno at all.
- In another, I am very much alone.
- In another, I am already dead.
Religious leaders often talk about how precious life is, how lucky we are to be here. Physicists make the same point, but they do so much, much better.
Eight billion years ago, there was another.
Others came before and after.
Microscopic debris from those massive explosions spread throughout the universe. Some of the atoms arrived in our solar system, where they coalesced to form Planet Earth. Over time, they have become many, many things:
- The computer on which I am typing these words.
- The sofa on which I’m sitting.
- The house that contains the sofa and the computer and a thousand other things both necessary (food in the refrigerator) and unnecessary (a DVD of Josie and the Pussycats).
- The three hounds sprawled in front of the heater on this unusually chilly April morning and the ashes of their predecessors, kept on a shelf across the room.
- The silver in the ring that Jonno gave me after we confessed our love for one another, the ring I haven’t taken off in years symbolizing a marriage that wasn’t even possible when I received it.
Considering how long it took for those atoms and molecules to become what they are now, 16 years is a flash, a blink, no time at all. Even so, I can’t remember life without Jonno, and I hope I never have to face it.
Our love has changed over the years, matured, morphed. New elements — one in particular — have kept us on track and even deepened our relationship. But more about him later.
For now, I’ll just say: I am happy, Jonno is happy, and with luck, our atoms will live on to make others happy billions of years from now, trillions of miles from where I’m sitting.
Happy anniversary, Jonno. I love you.
Based on oral arguments that took place at the Supreme Court this week, I’m hopeful that the Defense of Marriage Act will soon be struck down. I’ve got my fingers crossed about Proposition 8, too, but if the ruling does go in our favor, it’s probably not going to be a broad win for LGBT folks who live outside California.
That said, there were some amazing moments during Tuesday’s oral arguments. Here’s a clip of Attorney Charles Cooper attempting to justify Prop 8 to Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Anthony Kennedy, Elena Kagan, and apparently, himself. At the end of the excerpt, tone-deaf Antonin Scalia tries to get a rise out of the liberal justices (and every woman on Planet Earth) by making a wisecrack about Strom Thurmond, but the only person who chuckles much is Scalia. Kagan gets far more laughs a few minutes earlier when she ridicules Cooper’s “marriage is about fertility” argument.