medusa’s on sheffield
“I have a friend dying of AIDS. Before I was leaving for a trip, we were talking. He said, “I didn’t want this, and I hated this, and I was terrified of this. But it turns out that this illness has been my greatest gift.” He said, “Now every moment is so precious to me. All the people in my life are so precious to me. My whole life means so much to me.” Something had really changed, and he felt ready for his death. Something that was horrifying and scary had turned into a gift. Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
― Pema Chödrön,
A little TBT and a nod to Pride Month. This is me having a little lunch cooked by my friend Bruce Fortner at Nunzio’s Chicago 1984…
Red Hot Chili Peppers t shirt… they played live at Medusa’s that year… as did Violent Femmes , ESG, Ministry, and Front 242.. I helped a friend open an after hours club in 83 and we were all surfing a big one.
This photo popped up on Facebook from a friend and it took me by surprise.I think mostly because this was just before the tsunami hit. It felt like the Renaissance here. 84 seemed golden.
I was 26 that year. Nunzio (owned the cafe) was still healthy and tickling his muse. Bruce (who posted the pic) was still living with his partner Joey well before Joey was snatched into oblivion. The next year all sorts of hell broke loose. My best friend withered throughout the year. I tested positive for HIV in October. My friend died on Thanksgiving. Nunzio disclosed that he was frantically and maniacally injecting himself with vitamins to combat the virus. Many of us dabbled with macrobiotic diets (see george kushi). louse hay’s los angeles hay ride was making history and a cultural and generational trauma happened at our doors.
I knew so many brave warriors at that time in my life. Many of them helped me survive. LGBT Pride doesn’t just exist because people come out of the closet. It also is real because people endure and make sacrifices without losing their will to be true to themselves. Just as our LGBT predecessors, many paid incredible prices for the choices they made. They danced to their own music and they followed the muses that are theirs. And our world and our collective culture is richer and more beautiful because of them.
Please take a moment to celebrate LGBT Pride Month. So many have gone before us to make it possible. They would demand that you find joy. They demanded nothing less of themselves.
It was certainly a time…… you can read about some of our little enclaves experiences at this resident advisor article…. interview with me begins just after Ministry ad if you click here.. https://lnkd.in/b8pG4Ke
i am still adjusting to having mondays off work. it is strange, but it is becoming part of the routine. i went to cardio class this morning, fell during class and sprained my foot. i hit the cleaners, the grocery store, and watched a really sweet gay hip-hop film titled “bashment”.
we are having a pot luck at the peer recovery group on wednesday so i bought the goods to make sausage, peppers, and onions. i may need to cut everything tonight as i have theater plans tomorrow. strangely, i will be going with a catering friend to see “priscilla” at dpmc with dinner first. thought i would do the cooking in a slow cooker on tuesday night.
i worked a hella lot last week. regular work week plus 4 parties. i was pooped today really. i trimmed some bushes, did some laundry, and am planning on re potting about 10 plants i got at paulino gardens. i have a busy week finishing with 2 parties this weekend. rosh hashana on saturday signals the end of the crazy holiday month. but i do love spending time with other communities and circles. i prolly long for a life that includes these circles, and this may be as good as it gets.
september is recovery month and this will be the 7th year that i actually recognize this.. in 2006, i spoke at a rally for recovery in downtown denver and have been involved in some sort of recovery celebration this year, is kinda special as i have been working with people in recovery on campus. the pr department seems to have taken a liking to our efforts. they produced a 9 foot banner to hang in our entrance way, have produced brochures for the peer recovery network- with some mention of treatment options, and are featuring one of our group on the company intranet each week throughout the month. so much to do and it’s only september 9th.
last week, i posted jacob arnold’s article about medusas music hall. please read it if you get the chance. it happened 30 years ago and i still find myself musically travelling down memory lane.
below is a written piece by jacob arnold recently published in resident advisor and reposted here. jacob was even kind enough to quote me a couple of times.
august 26 2012 i will have my 54th birthday. it seems very surreal to even be walking in this truth. i am living well today and manage to find contentment most of time. i am happy and at peace. i went to the wedding of a friend (alone) and was reminded that deep in the recesses, there are some things i believe will never be part of my journey. for some reason i have found myself a little weepy this week.
in 1984 i was at the precipice of something remarkable in my life. i lived in chicago and held court at an after hours dance club in chicago. the party had been going for a decade, but some unexpected turns had begun. boys were disappearing like cattle in the darkness being abducted by aliens. in my world, it started with john bennet. i remember him talking with my friend blue in the loading dock recounting his fears of this virus thing. john was gone within a few months. and soon it was almost like he was never there. then there was hot rod- a dj friend of my friend mark stephens. hot rod left earth early on. i will never forget the night that mark spread his ashes on the dance floor at medusa’s per hot rod’s request. it was at once pagan, macabre, as well as celebratory..
a year or so later my best friend, paul pfohl, who was living in nyc and going to columbia was unexpectedly returning home to chicago. when he arrived back in town he had lost so much weight it was shocking. for so long we had spent so much time trying new restaurants and basking in conviviality, but upon his return and a gnarly case of thrush, food made him cry in discomfort as his tongue was unable to take the stimulation.
he continued to deteriorate over the next 13 months or so. he died on thanksgiving in 1985. but one month before he did, after nearly fainting in an aerobics class, i was diagnosed with that new virus and dr. bernie blau put a check mark in a column next to my name just in case quarantine might somehow become reality. i went numb that year. not until these last few years did i realize that some old trauma was reignited and new trauma was unleashed. but paul’s death that next month really sealed the deal.
i had been dating a young man named todd thennes from mchenry through about 6 months of this 1985 drama. he was sweet and definitely a welcome distraction. my drug use had already begun to morph from fun to frightening. todd was sweet and a rascal- which was kinda perfect for me. but of course with the diagnosis and the terror that came with it, i cut that relationship out just like a benign mole at the dermatologist. it sealed the deal as he informed that he had tested positive as well. he had befriended my entire social circle by that time though and he became part of the family of choice that was ours at medusa’s.
1985 signaled the onslaught of the tsunami that was the holocaust of our time. hot rod, mark stephens, todd thennes(who did a lot of the holiday decor at the club and for david), neil adams (nealina), bruce bliss and rick(who did much of the styling for the club the first couple of years), paul pfohl, sugar(medusa doorman), michael hamburger, jc, chicky are only a handful of the medusa boys who went to carousel. there’s a scene in the beginning of “hereafter” where a tsunami hits a beach town in thailand and washed over people and takes them with it. some are gone and some miraculously are not touched. this is precisely how it felt. once we were all there, but in what seemed an instant they were gone. and there i stood in a holding pattern.
it took awhile for the fear to recede – about 12 years actually. research, science, and advocacy changed the course of that story. after i started meds, i found myself really angry. angry because i didn’t have a plan, i had spent 1/3 of my life waiting for that tsunami to take me. and it fucking didn’t. out of that anger came a decision to move to san francisco. albeit an incredible city without compare, it took me on a darker path than i had traveled. and it left me like wicked witch of the east, crumpled up silently by the weight of a dark empty house.
in my recovery- which started in september 2004, i have made a conscious decision to not be like some men i know in my long-term position. i don’t want to be bitter, burnt out, sarcastic and cranky queen. it wouldn’t seem respectful to all those boys that got swept away. what would it say if i was a complete asshole when i had been granted an opportunity that they were denied? no better to embrace joy and work for happiness and to give care and love to others. besides, with all my experience in the darkness i can understand fear, denial, and drug abuse in a real and connected way. so that is what i do.
i was 27 years old in 1985. that was exactly 1/2 my life ago. i have traveled the world, laughed out loud, cried in silence, made messes and cleaned them up, engaged in 2 careers, gone broke, started over more than once, and still i am here.
i have been weepy this week, mostly thinking about those boys i loved that went missing 1/2 my life ago. i don’t ever want to forget them. it is by grace that i am still here. that is the only explanation that makes sense. and believe me boys- i haven’t at all forgotten about you. this much i know is true.
How did it happen? If I have asked myself that question once, I have asked it a thousand times, and I still don’t have the answer. By now you are probably asking yourself, how did WHAT happen? How did a reasonably intelligent, hard working guy like myself get hooked on drugs? More specifically, that nasty bitch we lovingly, at first, call Mz. Tina….
Oh, it started innocently at first when I stop and think back on it. Out for the weekend at a club and a friend says, here try this, it’s great you’ll feel like a million dollars and we can party on ALL night!!! And the sex is going to just be Fabulous…with a recommendation like that, I thought, I’d be a fool to not try it. At least once, I said.
I tried it, just a small “line” at first I mean its not like I was one of those “druggies”, or one of those low life homeless guys…I had a job and a car and a house. I wasn’t like them. That could never happen. Guess what? I DID feel like a million bucks and sex WAS fabulous…even sex with people I would not normally even speak to let alone have sex with!!! It just made me incredibly horny and sexual and I just felt like every one was my friend…there wasn’t always a cute guy around who was my type but with Mz. Tina around, I didn’t care…I’d just “snort” them pretty and go ahead and do the deed anyway…yes the standards definitely got lowered a bit…at first it was just once every couple of weeks or so…I was only partying on the weekends, Friday night and Saturday night. I had to work on Monday so I stopped partying Sunday so I was good to go on Monday morning. By this time Id been doing Mz. Tina for about 6 months, but only “recreationally”, meaning on weekends. I told myself it was okay because it was only 2 days a week and I did have a job and a car and a house…and it WAS the weekend I deserved to have some fun…
I managed to always get to work on Monday and get thru the week in good shape…. I soon found myself daydreaming and wishing that Friday would hurry up and get here…hey I was ready to have some more fun again, as so often happens with Mz. Tina, the weekends began to start on Thursday and end on Sun night…I started to show up at work looking like the wrath of God has been thrown at me. BUT I was still at work on Monday so how bad good it be I told myself…and I did have fun, I think, hmmmmm parts of the weekend are awfully fuzzy. I just did not always remember the whole weekend…I knew that Id had fun and id made some new friends…now if I could just remember what his name was. Did he give me his phone number? Did I give him mine?
I wrote it on a scrap of paper somewhere. Ill find it later. He liked me, I could tell…but what the hell did he look like? Did we have sex? Was it fun? Better yet, was it safe…?
No time to worry about it now Id tell myself…I’ll be better next weekend…..
quoted and reposted from tweaker.org
i was scrolling through an fb page for the club i used to manage back in the 80’s and savoring many of the songs that the dj/vj’s posted. bands like skinny puppy, nitzer ebb, front 242, and even rights of the accused. but then all the way at the bottom was a band i had nearly forgotten about- vicious pink.
ccccan’t you see was such a complete anthem in my eyes. it had so much of that quintessential crossover sound of that decade. and it opened up a floodgate of feelings and memories when i heard it.
at the same time i noticed that a friend was celebrating his birthday at the same time, so i posted it to him with a short and sweet (hopefully) note of good wishes.
i got back a quiet message which was a bit of a surprise. it was about his new relationship and how they have been slamming T a coupla times a week. Also detailed was how that part felt like it was getting outa hand and going south quickly. he wrote about shaking so much he doesn’t get a good hit, and maybe it’s a good day to say “done with it”. the note was finished with a tender bit about me being a safe place to drop a random note like this because i could understand after having been through what i’ve been through.
quite a birthday note eh? and it does lead me to consider where my life has led. he is correct- i do understand. i have honed my understanding to include never going back. it’s odd that i have about 3 or 4 really close friends (from those days) who all continue to engage in serious dance moves with getting high. for this one it’s iv crystal, for one it’s iv crystal and crack, for the 3rd its crack. they maintain (something i could never do) but i wonder if they grow. i know i feel my life has really opened up since throwing down the sword and walking away from the battle. and i also know i cannot live my friends lives.
there are not so many people left who hold my history in their hearts. it’s important for me to love them, albeit from a distance. too close would be toxic. perhaps for each of us.
when i was in a gala chorus in the 90’s here in colorado, i remember an introduction by one of the gala organizers describing lgbt people as those who said “yes” to pleasure in ways that others were afraid to do. that has resonated with me all these years and still does. there is a lot to be found in the idea that denied inclusion, acceptance, and visible demonstration for so long might just lead to a determination of having pleasure after the coming out process.
that day held some quiet and remarkable reminders about my life, my friends, my culture, and my journey. i numbed out for a minute after the note, but felt empathy almost immediately. i felt allegiance for the trust that was given me. i cannot help really other than hold good thoughts for my friend and the situation. it continues to be a twisted web we weave and it’s remarkable the challenges we traverse in the name of love.