i have come to understand yet another layer of how i operate in my part of the world. maybe i knew this before, but with the latest turn in the road, my nature drifts yet again from the mists. i feel gratitude for this renewed awareness, but i would trade this gift for one of unknowing- sadly even if for only a short while. but the decades have rescinded my right to deny.
the week of thanksgiving has become a very strange time for me. years of numbness have begun to unravel. am working hard to change what had become the tradition. it involves patience and awareness. but it really takes faith. i came back to the place that all that happened. i didn’t realize it when i was making plans, but i wonder if i also was hoping to begin to see this holiday with new eyes.
but what i hadn’t expected was to also see that pain and sadness are not unique to me. i don’t have sole ownership of those emotions. i have traced a footpath here in my former hometown and discovered that all those i love carry their own share of such burdens. lance armstrong said “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” i am beginning to understand his meaning. it has taken me so long to understand this. i am thankful i am beginning to get it now.
i am re-publishing a post from Nov 21, 2007. i can’t write about it now. i can however, attest to the shift in my perception of it. it no longer causes me to close myself off. i don’t automatically withdraw. instead, i am venturing out and trying to make new traditions and doing things differently.
one of the stories i will not hear this year is my last thanksgiving in chicago. i am going to write about it here and hopefully the tale will unravel itself a bit differently than it has in the past. i have spun this yarn on a few occasions, but i have always kept the focus the part where i am the victim. and honestly, thanksgiving still is a challenging emotional trek because of the drama on this day. it really is the day i stopped dancing. the last day that is until i started channeling velvet- but that’s a tale for another day.
it was 1985, and i had gotten an apartment with my best friend paul the previous year. we had shopped and hunted for 3 months for that beautiful soon-to-be condo on logan blvd. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, full kitchen, dr, front and back balcony. it truly was stunning. but on the day we were moving in, paul was completely tuckered. i remember him sitting on the back of the rental truck, saying he just couldn’t move any boxes. He was exhausted. and before we finished, he insisted he go to the hospital. we complied, and he was admitted and was in the hospital for about a month.
i went to visit him in that place every day. the first couple of days, i donned a hospital gown, mask, and gloves, but soon decided to put them aside after that. i wasn’t going to be looking at him dressed like an alien, or like i was afraid to be near him. i wasn’t. i loved him. still do. and i wasn’t going to cause him any extra anxiety. i would bring him meals from some of our favorite restaurants. the hospital food sucked, of course, and i knew he needed to eat. we had a very pleasant time being food snobs in there and would laugh together and became closer, without ever really discussing the elephant in the room. i couldn’t go there emotionally.i now know it’s called denial, but then i thought of it as survival. i remember one day going to visit him, and finding him in his room alone, with a fever so high that his body was convulsing, jumping up and down on the bed with no assistance. it scared the shit out of me, watching him jerking up and down like darryl hannah losing life in blade runner. i left in horror and came back a couple of hours later, never speaking a word to him about what i had seen.
my drug use started to escalate after this. the cocaine use was incessant and i drank vodka to counteract the effects of the cocaine. numbing became my priority. this actually caused paul to move back in with his parents, and my friend robbie (foxy)moved in. poor fox- he had no clue as to the mess he was entering. but that’s another story.
fast forward to thanksgiving 1986. paul had been living with his family for a few months now. he had been in and out of the hospital. i had invited about 8 friend over for a holiday feast. i spent all day preparing the food. turkey rubbed with butter and tamari, baked with apples, onions, and cranberries, stuffing, brussel sprouts, home-made cobbler, etc. as the day progressed, the weather took a turn for the worse. a thunderstorm took hold. one-by-one calls with cancellations started to come in. it had become dark outside, and the last call came from my friend blue. i think he really had waited until he absolutely knew he couldn’t get there. no cabs were running etc. i remember sitting at the head of the table, looking at the fitz and floyd and the crystal candle holders and feeling stunned. the phone then rang again, and it was paul’s brother on the phone. he wanted to let me know that paul had passed a few hours earlier that day. he had gone peacefully and was no longer suffering. i returned back to my seat and looking over the empty but well laid table, clutched my wine glass and took a big swig. a huge lightning bolt back lit the entire sky, was followed by an earsplitting crack of thunder, and the power in my apartment was knocked out. there i sat in the dark, and found myself feeling more alone and more confused than i could remember. and i was a victim. and i had imprinted that pained mask onto myself and held it there for a good 20 years.
i managed to let go of that branding i did a few years ago. i honestly loved paul (and the rest of the veedubs), and was completely a mess having lost him. i laughed so freely with him, and he understood so many things about me that i always felt shame around, and never did anything but expect me to succeed. we dined out a lot. we danced. we went to the theatre, we saw films. and we read a lot of books- mostly the classics, and the “gay” authors. we participated in salons of a sort with a few other friends, and would drink wine and read aloud from books like “To The Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf, “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac, and my favorite “Orlando” by Woolf as well. We talked about Vita Sackville West and Virginia, about Paul Bowles and his entourage, Kerouac and his band of mary-men lol, Stein, Toklas, and the ex-pats….
this was my posse in the late 70’s. a band of marys (and lulu) just making our way. you can find myself and paul in the upper left corner- me pretending to have a mustache and paul with glasses.
thanksgiving has begun to represent a new direction for me. i remember each year (and post this) but have realized how lucky i have been. not so much lucky for living or surviving when my best friend didn’t. no, more because i have been fortunate enough in my life to have cared so fully for such a person. i was able to see the selfless side of myself early on in my life thanks to caring for paul. i found strength in myself i never knew existed. i learned how much better it feels to give than receive, although it was too short a lesson. i may never love anyone like that again.
today i see that life most certainly is a banquet, and i spent way too much time starving myself. melancholy somehow gets in step, but i have come through some deep merde.
i now sing a new song… brighter days have come… thankfully..
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”…Rabindranath Tagore
i spent the morning reading texts from a friend who is angry. not at me per se, but at life. he has struggled with his art, his work, and his finances for the last several years. my belief is that it is taking quite a toll.
he has always had a tendency to be critial of others and sharp witted with his criticisms. but this once very entertaining leaning of his seems to have shifted into toxic territory. members of his inner circle have left the building and are staying as far away as they can. getting close somehow gets them under his silver-tongued knife and who wants to live like that?
not surprisingly, he messaged me with diatribe that was intended to surprise and stir up doo doo about them and with me. and on a small scale, it worked, but i didn’t want to give rise to that energy. some of what he said was no doubt true, but certainly not all of it, and his intentions didn’t merit respect.
but i’ve known him for 30 years or so. i care about him and have made a few attempts to share my new direction with him, and he listens although i am not sure he hears. i know he is hurt by this seemingly endless struggle, by the loss of his nearest and dearest, by the insistence of his family that he let go of some of his dreams, and this hurt has become a virus that has taken hold of his heart.
i am sad. i rebuffed his shit-stirring attempts and highlighted the posture of assuming the best, making room for good in life, choosing peace. but i don’t know if i’m heard. i don’t know if i can help. i know i don’t have to to judge or set free. i can try to understand and hold a light. i can remember that i have loved him and understand he may need it now more than ever.
carly simon.. 1994… grand central station…. i haven’t got time for the pain..
finished packing this morning and will be heading to chicago after work. i go there every couple of years just to clear some of the cobwebs out of my head. i lived there until 1986 and met the individuals who really shaped much of my adult brain (what little i had then). i moved there in 1974 and spent the next 12 years immersed in a culture and a city that still stirs memories.
the fact that i have been living in denver 20 years seems quite unbelievable. this city has been very good to me. it has helped me find grounding and stability – both emotionally and financially. my health has really thrived. but for as long as i can remember, i have always missed the array of “communities” and diversity that Chicago boasts- culinary, the arts, jazz, classical music, theatre- and i have especially missed the matter-of-fact honesty and up-front friendliness of midwesterners.
so i will immerse myself into an updated version of this city once again. i have plans for 6 of the 9 nights i am there. dinner, 2 plays, 2 parties, etc.. much, much more than i normally do in a week. plus i am attending a conference for work and have 4 full days of activities with that. i will be learning much more about opiate replacement therapy- i.e. methadone, suboxone- and the parameters and pitfalls of that therapy. this is the godfather of all harm reduction models as hiv and hep c are understandably spread through the sharing of needles. reducing that particular practice by individuals indeed cuts back on the chances of infection as well as the wear and tear that iv drug use takes on a persons body, mind, and soul.
iwill be staying at my best friend’s condo on north lake shore drive. i am still considering a last minute cancel of my hotel downtown for the 3 nights of the conference and just commuting from lakeview. it could save about 1k and be less transient for me. i need to make a decision today. but i know i am going to have some really big moments that my heart opens a bit more this week. my friends there have really stuck by me during the darkest and most difficult times i have had. of course, they did not have to be around me either, which i am sure has an influence.
no doubt i will post once or twice from there. there are many giggles and ghosts that still swirl around me there. and i hope i will remind myself and my hometown friends that some things really get better with time.