colorado

the past is practice

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image credit…. reneweveryday.com

last july, we (the staff of a small agency)  visited the 18th precinct probation office to discuss a new meth recovery group (MRP) we planned to start at a small agency in englewood. it would consist of 3 evening groups m-w-f which would focus on 3 different parts of recovery- MET- motivational enhancement therapy, CBT- cognitive behavioral therapy, TSF- twelve step facilitation- more realistically connection to sober communities.

we were received with reservations and went on our way. in august we received our 1st referral from a different probation office entirely. since that time we have had 10 referrals, we have 1 client (our 1st client) has been clean since his 4th week. the 18th precinct has sent us several of those and their dui referrals have increased as well. englewood is a small suburb of denver which has a reputation and a history of substance abuse especially meth. when i was starting the mile high meth project (now the mile high recovery project) in 08, we consistently got a volume of calls  from englewood’s social services about individuals (specifically parents with small children) who had ongoing and agonizing meth issues. i was well aware of this unmet need going into beginning our MRP.

last night as we talked about what recovery means for each of us, i talked about the real miracle that comes with sharing experience with others.and i also talked about the idea that i get to do “this” meaning working with others who find themselves on a similar path. a participant indicated somewhat sarcastically that “get to” might be disingenuous. but as i consider it all, it is real. i do feel incredibly lucky to spend my time with an activity that holds meaning for me. damn, it has been a journey, with loadz’o twists and turns, but i am certain i am here and i am with enjoyment. life continues to move forward, definitely sometimes with more twists and turns.

the vibe of the agency that my friends had purchased left quite a bit to be desired in my opinion. it has been part of my mission to help it leave the 70’s and come into the 21st century. brown faux wood paneling everywhere and rust/beige carpeting.  finally the makeover is underway- we have painted the bathroom, the main group room, and just finished the main office areas. and we acquired some show room carpet tiles that will be a welcome relief from the rust and brown. there is certainly quite a lot more to do, but i am thrilled at the prospect.
me circa 1980…

my cousin gave me a journal that i left at his home after i moved to colorado in 1988. the 1st entry is dated 4/2/1981 and it goes through 1989. i didn’t do a very consisted job of writing entries, but it did take me on a trip back in time… there is an obvious void from 1984 until 1988 as that is when hiv really starting hitting my friends and my own life. my drug and alcohol use became its own animal and went on a nasty tear.moving to colorado in 1988 seemed to change the course of my journey. i drank heavily for 12 more years, but drugs were not as accessible here as they had been.

 following is an excerpt dated…10/12/1983… (it could be titled “morning at the golden nugget”.

i wonder if it really is as much a time of restraint as it seems.outwardly people really do seem to be much calmer and more conservative yet they remain the same. what is to become of pent up emotions? they surely do not just fade away, do they get put on the back shelf and collect dust? perhaps they were in the window but faded to pale and matter little. just memories. either way time continues. so i sit at the counter at the pancake house at 5:30 am after having walked here in the rain. what really brings me here? it’s entertaining certainly, but i am sure that’s not why. so up walks Regan- a very bold and sassy trannie, to say hey, ask for my phone number and a few spare dollars. she drinks my water, takes it with her, drinks some of my coffee, leaving magenta beeswax behind like pigeon droppings.

fairplay

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some friends from chicago came into town over last weekend. some other friends let us use their vacation home outside fairplay to have a getaway. it was pretty magical. we arrived on thursday evening and spent the night. the house has 3 bedrooms with a total of 6 beds, we all slept in the same room the first night – kinda like a dorm. laughter and storytelling were the easiest way to start to catch up with each other.

in the morning, it became apparent that the views from the house were pretty extraordinary. very large picture window on all 4 sides revealed snow-dusted mountain scenes behind blue skies in each direction with aspens that held only memories of gold on them created a sense of wonder that we don’t quite feel everyday.

friday we had breakfast at the brown burro in fairplay. good green chili and a welcome air for travelers gave us a great start. we drove through buena vista and stopped to take photos along the way. we then headed to mt princeton and sat in the pools created by the hot springs for most of the afternoon. the waters were 80 and 100 degrees while the air was about 60. it was at once relaxing and invigorating. many of my cares and worries got left in those pools.

we then headed to salida which is one of my favorite small towns in colorado. there are bohemian art galleries and restaurants galore and each time i return, i discover something new. this time we found a gallery called art and salvage. the owner paints sweet folk paintings on old windows that are sweet and charming. one of these paintings  will probably be the gift we give to my friends for their generous gift to us.

there is a remarkable photo of the arkansas river as it flows through highway along salida which i used as a banner for this blog. so picturesque. the  entire day was a delight for the eyes. we headed back to the house and spent the 2nd and final night outside fairplay. as we drove up to the home, there was a family of 10 or so deer munching on the grasses of the lawn. they disappeared into the aspen grove as our car drew near, but it was another amazing aspect of our visit away from the city.

the next day we drove up through breckenridge, dillon, frisco, georgetown, and idaho springs before we got back to denver. our friend eddie, remarked that he had never seen the john waters’ film “female trouble”, so we opted to rent that. we laughed and napped and finished the saturday with an incredible dinner at rioja. the most outstanding was an herbed ricotta cheesecake with pickled apples and candied orange peel. the trip was winding down and the friendships were warming up.

on sunday, it was mostly packing and readying for home for my guests. we stopped at parallel 17 for a quick  brunch before the flights. friendship is a staple for a healthy diet and my visitors reminded me of this.  i laughed and i opened my heart this weekend. and found myself realizing how much i had needed to laugh. it had been awhile.

recovery is my double helix

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i wanted to just give an update on the things happening in my life. i have realized that this blog has become a bit watered down. i journal here now and again about some personal process but with a vague quality because i am an addiction counselor and there is necessary confidentiality. sometimes my days are challenging with the people i counsel- maybe more than sometimes. but i also find that i have just as many challenges (if not more) with the structure of my workplace and the colleagues and policies i work with. these are day-to-day challenges that i often need to process, but when i blog about them i am as vague as possible so as not to implicate anyone in particular. this style waters down my posts and i assume they seem bland and hazy. certainly they do not mirror the frank qualities of my early posts before i entered counseling or healthcare. i used to have the freedom to write my truth. i have spent the last couple of years trying to develop a style that will convey a perspective as well as the “zoom out” quality that my spirit and my life have taken on with ongoing recovery.

opportunities have made themselves available to me on a steady pace since i got clean. and challenges have made themselves unavoidable in tandem. these seem to co-exist in my recovering life just as a double helix is part of my dna. as opportunity and success careen forward, it becomes necessary to address character defects and re-examine old wounds and current motivations regularly in order to avoid meltdowns. i have begun to share in meetings that one of my greatest barriers has been my own ability to be ordinary. so much of me carries a belief that i am less than (or not as good as) others. since this has been a lifetime belief developed from the times i was 9 or 10, fatherless and yearning for male companionship, sexually active with older peers and publicly humiliate by those same peers for the same activity, i also developed a keen ability to tune out or shut down my feelings in order to keep going and not fall apart. it seems no wonder now that i chose getting high as an alternative to living in truth. it allowed me to transcend  the brokenness i felt.

you know- the funny thing is that i didn’t understand any of this about myself until i was 4 or 5 years clean. the denial was so embedded that it took time to bubble up to the surface. and believe me when i say there was not a party when i first encountered these ideas. it was reliving the trauma of it all first and then finding a way to climb out of the ancient emotional  hole i had again crawled into. doesn’t this sound like a hella lotta work? it is. and i can’t be anything but grateful because i had no idea i had carried that crap around all those years.

so here’s the flip side of my sober life experience. while i am helping myself grow emotionally from the 10 year old boy who was riddled with self-esteem issues and enough defense mechanisms to keep palestine safe, i also came to understand that the emotional landscapes i had traversed such as having a mental health diagnosis, being hiv positive, being gay, being fatherless could become assets and sources of support for others. and i now believe that the reason that i survive all the things i have is because i have experienced all the things i have. my challenges and tribulations have become my assets.

and while all this ancient history is rewritten and re-edited, i have managed to accomplish the following:

i am part founder of an organization called TEN – i started a newsletter in 2008 for HIV positive individuals in Colorado and it is still being published.
i author 3 blogs – The Climb, TEN, and After The Pop!
i am board chair for AFR- Advocates For Recovery.
i have chaired AFR’s annual Rally For Recovery for the last 2 years.
i am on the BHPAC- Colorado Behavioral Health Planning and Advisory Council.
i am on a team working on BRSS TACS– Bringing Recovery Support Services To Scale in Colorado
i co-chaired the Denver HIV Planning Council for 3 years.
i have introduced peer coaching and peer mentoring to a large Colorado Public Hospital SA clinic

for me this seems a solid amount of service work. not amazing, but solid. and when i couple it with the internal work that has been done, i am reminded that i am not in charge at all and that i am so grateful i have a spiritual program to keep me somewhat balanced. i have developed a buddhist sensibility somehow- probably because the buddhists are so sensible when it comes to drama. recovery has become a lesson in letting go of drama for me. or at least not being caught up in it.

Anthem

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The Star-Spangled Banner

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
’Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

celery root salad… quiet delight

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reprinted from www.maatikaarts.com
this weekend i am headed to the mountains and will be making dinner and breakfast. i have been looking forward to it especially because i will be cooking 2 meals. i plan on making pork tenderloin with pomegranate and apricot accompanied by celery root salad for tomorrow’s dinner. i haven’t had this salad for at least 5 years and it has always been one of my favorites. i decided to put the recipe here for any of you. for my money, this is regional cuisine at its best. happy halloween.


Some things are so classic, so perfectly right as they are that it seems like a total disgrace to “reinvent” them. There is a reason some dishes have been around for a long time, on and off restaurant menu’s, but always there. There is a tricky knife edge here though. You can fall one way in to classic stardom of a recipe – something so good, so simple that it should never be changed. A quick shake on the edge however and things can fall drastically apart. The dish can be flat, boring, dated.
Celery root (or celariac as it is often called) remoulade when done with care falls head first into the first category of classic stardom. But like all things simple, the devil is hiding in the details. If you coarsely chop a celery root, mix it with store bought mayo, season with table salt you are going to think I am a grade A idiot for even suggesting this dish was a classic never to be changed. If, however, care is taken to create perfect little matchsticks of clean tasting celery root, and mixed with just the right amount of characterful homemade Dijon mayonnaise, spruced up with fresh lemon and herbs the you are on to a winner.
I first got thinking about celariac remoulade towards the end of last year when we had a family vacation to southern California. We rode bikes along the strand, all the way to god knows where (well at a guess close to LAX, given the fact I nearly fell off my bike being buzzed by a 747). We stopped and were hungry. There was a dicey looking “Italian” joint, a dive bar (we had our son with us..) or this crusty old French place that looked like you could blow the thing down.
Everyone knows how much the English love the crusty French, so we obviously headed straight there. Locking the bikes up next to the outside toilet one thought was going through my mind – “this place is either going to be fucking good, or I am going to be hoping to god that I can cycle back to out apartment in time before the lunch really hits home..” No fast cycling was required that afternoon I am happy to say, quite the contrary in fact.
The place was genius. I don’t think the decor or menu had changed since the 30s. Nor had the server (most likely the owner too), who must have been well in to her 80s, walked with a huge stoop, and berating the other younger waiter for not doing things right. The whole place just oozed old French. Sitting down I still had the same thought I did when we locked the bikes up. We ordered. Danika had some salmon, I had a roast lamb open sandwich, and a salad.
This was seriously one of the most perfectly prepared meals I have ever eaten. The salmon was ridiculously perfect. The lamb sandwich was fantastically balanced – rich, a little sweet, then a pop of cornichons. Nice. The highlight however was the side salads. A perfectly simple green salad, with just the right amount of fines herbs, dressing and salt. It was so fresh, clean and perfect. Just like the little heap of Céleri Rémoulade that sat unassumingly next to the roast lamb. You know they had been making these for decades, could do them in their sleep and them down right perfect.
A couple of hours over lunch (80 year old hunched over servers aren’t fast), a glass of wine, and a tired 4 year old meant that we rather reluctantly had to leave the place and cycle back past the noisy airplanes, and in to the rush of city (well, OK.. vacation) life again.
So back to the celery root. Whilst you might think it is the root of the celery stalks we all hate to eat raw(seriously, who enjoys chewing on a stringy celery stick?) it is different. It is a kind of celery, but harvested for the root, not stalk. Often I end up either roasting them in a bit of duck fat, or making a puree from them, with a little potato for body. Celeriac soup is lovely too, especially with a tiny dice of fresh tart apple and pancetta.
The French would absolutely argue that the classic of chopped celery root and mayonnaise cannot be improved upon, and I pretty much agree (as per my first statement in this blog post – keep it simple, don’t muck it up). I do however like to add just enough chopped fresh parsley and tarragon to make it even fresher. This time I finished the plateful with a sprinkling of Piment d’Espelette really just because I had bought a new jar and wanted an excuse to try it out.
Turns out it is great on this remoulade.
So there you have it really. A very simple clean French winter raw vegetable salad.
Raw celery root salad recipe
NOTE: this salad uses a lovely pungent homemade mayo based on a recipe from Anne Willian’s lovely “Country Cooking of France” book. It uses raw eggs. People get squiffy about raw eggs, mainly thanks to poor quality eggs from chickens on an incredibly cruel battery farm. Use good quality farm fresh eggs. The taste difference is incredible, and they are safer too.
Be sure to use a good quality Dijon mustard, and clean olive oil. Personally I like the Dijon from Trader Joes very much.
2 medium celery roots
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
3/4 cup olive oil (scant)
small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, hard stems removed
a few stalks of fresh taragon, leaves picked
Piment d’Espelette to taste (optionalish)
salt and pepper
Start by making the mustard mayo. Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature. Whisk together the egg yolks, mustard and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. Whisk until this thickens a bit. Slowly start adding in the lemon juice, pretty much a drop at a time, whisking constantly. After you have added about a tablespoon of oil this way, it can be added a little faster – in a slow stream – but whisk that arm of yours off. If at any point it looks like you have oil to whisk in, then slow down adding the oil, and whisk like mad. Now whisk in the remaining lemon juice. Season well with salt and pepper.
Trim the skin off the celery root. A wash to remove any excess dirt. Slice the celery root into 3mm slices. This is best done on a mandolin or deli slicer. Stack some of these slices up and now slice them in to thin matchsticks.
Cover the unused pieces of celery root with a damp towel, to stop them from going brown.
Once sliced put in a large bowl. Add the mayo a tablespoon or so at a time, mixing the celery root in well. Add just enough to liberally coat the celery root.  Finely chop the fresh herbs and toss enough in to make things interesting. Season well with good sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Let this stand, covered in the fridge for a couple of hours to let the celery root soften a bit. When it comes time to serve, dish it up, and sprinkle each plate with a little Espelette if you like.
and so a friend on facebook (who actually posts more music than i do) shared this link. i hadn’t heard of her before. but i know i like the retro sound and i like the quality of her vocals. 


peaches

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i worked a birthday party for an 89 year old woman last evening. Her home is a 1949 Craftsman bungalow that has been changed little since its construction and is nestled on a 25 acre parcel of what was undoubtedly a much larger piece of land originally in an exclusive part of old moneyed denver. the view was astounding and the age of the caterer and the guests was impressive to say the least. as i pulled up around 5p, the matriarch was just returning from her rounds checking the pets and the horses on the farm which is a daily routine.

it was old denver money at this function and it was definitely intoxicating. the woman who trained and raced secretariat was there. 2 state legislators were in tow as well. i found myself completely enamored with the ambiance and impressed with the survivorship.

i was asked this week to chair the committee that will produce the ‘rally for recovery 2011″. it’s an annual event in colorado which highlights the benefits of recovery and celebrates some of the “gifts” that come with it.
it’s not my usual after hours activity, but i am looking forward to a new challenge. you can learn more about the rally at www.advocatesforrecovery.org

a couple of good friends are planning a visit from chicago in august. i am thinking i will take them to the western slope for the pallisades peaches festival.  i am looking forward to checking it out as well as getting outa dodge for a coupla days.

in a meeting tonight, i realized that i have become comfortable with accepting that life is forever changing and is far from perfect or easy. i think i used to get caught up in the challenges of change and the difficulties in that. but i am coming to understand that this is the nature of life. last night we had a torrential downpour and the streets and drains flooded all the way up to the sidewalks. there was relocated mulch all over the sidewalks and the stairs up to my house and there was a fencepost from i don’t know where sprawled out as well. i could have gotten mad about it, but it really is the nature of life to shift. i honestly hope i am learning to work with this.

loving the simple things

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i have an aunt and uncle that live in idaho springs- a small mountain town just this side of ski country. for years i have been hanging with them for a weekend here and there- getting some r and r and getting outa dodge. this weekend was no exception.

the last 5 years or so, i have been spending much of my time there cooking for them. grilling, sauteing, baking, boiling, chopping, and seasoning. it has become an immense sense of release for me. i look forward to seeing them 4 or 5 times a year, and i think they have looked forward to seeing me perhaps just as much.

my last visit i had mentioned pasta and so my aunt has had that in her mind ever since. my plan didn’t formalize until friday when i went shopping. i decided to make bowtie pasta with peas and pesto, chicken piccata, and roasted pears with caramel gelato. but my favorite surprise this year (mine-not theirs) was fava bean spread. fresh favas with parmesan, lemon, mint, garlic, and seasoning blended into a refreshing and  earthy tasting concoction that spread beautifully onto crackers and whetted our appetites for the rest.

i also made a strata for breakfast this morning with artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers that seemed to be everyone else’s favorite thing. there were an unbelievable amount of ooohs as we had breakfast this morning.

i admit i love this part of my life. i really love cooking and i love doing it for people who want to experience it. it makes for a fantastic weekend…

basic fava bean spread recipeapproximately 1 cup of shelled fava beans
1-3 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp. lemon zest
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 to 1/2 cup shredded parmesan or pecorino
2 to 4 Tbsp. of olive oil – add until desired consistency is achieved
fresh herb of choice – mint is standard, but basil is also a great choice
salt & fresh ground pepper to taste… recipe reprinted from paris and back

so long so long

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image credit… nick knight

i first met laura when i was doing advocacy for a small community based organization in aurora named “itav”. laura was a sex worker and smoking a lot of crack. i drove over to her boyfriend’s apartment in west denver and brought her to the agency so she could go to a women’s group, get something to eat, and get away from her life for a minute. i remember very well the conversations we had in the car on the ride to and from.

fast forward to 2 years ago when i ran into her again. she had now become the house manager for a program for plwa’s in athmar park. she had slowed way down on the crack use and had gotten into medical care-even consistently taking haart medication. she was much more grounded and again we talked often and repeatedly about the direction of her life. she was with her boyfriend who was intermittently quite abusive. it appeared he had a mental health issue and refused to take medication reliably. when he would drink alcohol or use cocaine, his mean streak would especially arise and her physical injury rate would escalate.

shortly after i ran into her again, the two of them had a volatile altercation and he picked up a tv and threw it at her, breaking her leg and some of her spirit at the same time. because of her position at the housing program, a police report was filed and chargers were drawn. he ended up spending about 10 months in jail being released sometime late last fall. 

naturally, what followed were conversations around self-care and responsibility to the residents under her watch. she started to smoke crack more frequently, smoke pot more frequently, and engage in some other odd behaviors. but she was able to reel in it for the most part. many of the residents that she looked after had their own serious life issues going on and i will never really know if she was able to truly present for them because of her own internal drama. but certainly this is how it is with almost everyone. i somehow always felt that she was lost in a current that taking her somewhere quite a distance from here. but i also understood that she was doing much better than when i first met her, so harm reduction rules the day.

this morning i heard the first report of a small tragic story unfolding in the small neighborhood that she lived and worked. as the day unfolded, it became somewhat clearer that there was just a continuation of this same story. i have been both saddened and numbed most of the day. i wish i could have done more.

the following is from the local paper..

Police are investigating after a woman was killed last night at group living facility in the 2400 block of W. Wesley Avenue in Denver.
Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson said officers called to the scene at 2:20 this morning found a woman dead of knife or stab wounds. Her identity was not released.
Neighbor Anita Rich said that around 2 a.m. a man who she knows only as Carlos came pounding on her door and screaming.
“He was saying, ‘…she’s dead, she’s not waking up,'” Rich recalled this morning. She said Carlos, who lives in the group home, was in a panic.
They went across the street to the single-story group living home, while Carlos called 911, Rich said.
“She was laying in the hall,” Rich said. “There was blood everywhere.”
Rich knew the woman only by her first name.
Rich took the phone from Carlos so she could talk to the paramedics.
“What do I do? How can I help her?” Rich said she remembers thinking.
Paramedics told her to put on gloves before doing anything, which she did.
Rich said she checked for a pulse and found one. She didn’t see any visible wounds, but said there was a lot of blood.
Emergency workers showed up a short time later and took over from Rich.
The coroner’s office and crime scene investigators were on the scene this morning.
Jackson said a suspect has not been identfied.

 written by kieran nicholson and reprinted from www.thedenverpost.com

dancing

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A dance of shame was something that seemed an integral part of his being. He learned very early on that he couldn’t trust people-especially guys. And that was always the real irony of his life. He couldn’t resist flirting with boys, being with boys, sexing with boys, and he was always reassured that boys wouldn’t reciprocate and they would betray somehow. And if that wasn’t the case, somehow he would twist himself into a position that the guys who didn’t fit his mold, would have no choice but to help him play out his self-deprecating scenario.

When he was in the 5th grade, he started having sex with older boys. They were mostly in high school and willingly messed around. They would also talk about him and make fun of him when they weren’t too busy using him for other things. He knew this to be his truth and he carried this with him as he moved forward. And he was always moving and always ready to move again.

He had lived with shame for as long as he could remember. And he was sure he couldn’t remember anything prior to that because it was too terrifying to want to recall. It felt normal for him to be the object of someone’s derision. And looking back, it  seems he played the each session of his life with this template of shame.

He found that being high relieved a lot of the pressure of his life’s ballet and so he was high often.  This practice also led him through some labyrinths that emptied out onto the same familiar place. And a pounding head and a dehydrated soul simply underlined and set in bold the shame which shadowed his every move.

He met a boy in 1977 and sort of fell in love. The guy was a bartender named Peter who worked in a place called Cheeks. He was a go-go boy in that same place and worked the early shift. He and Peter partied together at first and then they shifted to playing house and playing racquetball when the closed the bar at 4am. They moved in together and shared an apartment with 2 nurses named Liz and Maryann. The couple of years that he and Peter were together seemed very happy times. Glimpses of a future were designed and the drumbeats of his past kept getting fainter.

Peter had worked at a restaurant and then gone out with some guys for a birthday celebration after the shift and he stayed home. He was headed out to buy cigarettes very late at night.  As he headed back to his apartment, he noticed a car parked on his street with two lovers in it. It seemed quite sweet and romantic until he realized that the sweater that one lover was wearing was the very same sweater that Peter had worn that night. He felt capsized by this surprise. He walked around to the driver’s side and knocked on the window. The culprit looked up and our hero wished the driver a happy birthday.

The very common nature of this episode only echoed the thoughts once buried In his head. He was now sure that it would never be any different for him. And what followed was his determined, directed and very decadent dancing with himself. It was symphonic. Completely shameful and completely without care, he silently vowed to not open his heart again. Dancing would be enough.

Season’s Greetings

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Wrap Yourself In All The Holidays Have To Offer This Year. Here is the image on this year’s cards and the letter included.              Defnitely SWAK!!!!

I continue to work with private chefs at small dinner functions throughout the year as well. This pays well, and gives me a peek into a world that is both fantastic and ordinary. I am allowed to be around great food and some amazing ambiance, and find that much of this seems to come quite naturally.


After all these years living in Denver, this summer I started taking road trips around Colorado this year. Places like Salida, Buena Vista, Estes Park, Grand Lake, Trinidad, even Taos and Santa Fe, and the family-famous Idaho Springs have provided the backdrop for an incredibly beautiful summer in what so many refer to as God’s country. I hope to continue this trend in the coming years. Feel free to plan a trip with me in the spring, summer, or fall.


I  visited Chicago once again this autumn. Blue and I had dinner with Laura at a fantastic tapas restaurant in the newly remodeled Blackstone Hotel. Good call, Laura. She reports getting a delicious promotion at her workplace and seems more content and at peace with each year. I still love that city and get a warm and fuzzy feeling when there. I was able to catch up with about 15 or so cronies and definitely had a hoot. The new wing at Art Institute is amazing and is recommended for your next visit there.


I was introduced to a book this year written by a Canadian physician named Gabor Mate called ” In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.” Since I work in the field of addiction, both this read and his philosophy have had a profound impact on my approach. I am reminded that our behaviors do not define us as human. Our souls do. People always have a reason for doing what they do- we just don’t always agree or like the reason. But that’s why we need to walk a mile in their shoes so to speak. This change of perspective is a work in progress for me. Every day I practice letting go of my judgments. Some days work better than others.


Many of the LGBT issues in the news this year have stirred some echoes in my heart and mind and I would ask you to indulge some thoughts I have around some of those. When I think of DADT, Gay marriage, Teen suicide, and Bullying, I feel very close to these issues. Growing up and feeling different can be extremely challenging, especially for young people. I don’t remember hearing so much that my “behaviors” were unacceptable, but more that I was less than acceptable. And growing up feeling that way causes a lot of invisible destruction. I find that I am still working through this internalized self- judgment started so many years ago, even after 6 years of being substance free.


Mind you, I am not complaining. 25 years of living with HIV, I know I am lucky to be here. 2010 was never part of my plan. 52 was never an age I expected to walk around. Yet here I find myself undeniably happy, inspired, and full of life. I write this in hopes that you will feast on just as much from your life’s banquet this holiday season. May joy be abundant and keep you warm. It’s the giving , not the getting that matters.

Happy Holidays….