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Twenty Years Ago


Boston Guy
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I couldn't reply when I first read this thread; it was too sad and too painful.

 

I was in Boston and P-Town and partying like crazy when the world started to fall apart. I had this great circle of friends, guys who were beautiful and fun and funny and loving and sexy and smart and young and full of life. I have so many memories -- a lifetime of memories, it seems, sometimes -- so many wonderful memories, so many bittersweet memories.

 

They're almost all gone now, except for a few, all of those wonderful guys, my friends, the love of my life, some of the best and brightest friends I've ever made, all gone... gone, but not forgotten. I think of them frequently and there are so many who no longer walk with us that almost anything can bring up one memory or another.

 

And I remember those incredible times and then the painful times. How it started as something in the newspapers, the gay cancer. And then it was GRID. And then how we talked about it hitting "friends of friends of friends" and then it became "friends of friends" and then it was "friends". And we were very afraid. And we spent too much time in hospital wards, too much time watching our friends curled up in fetal positions, too much time helping these incredible guys die.

 

And I remember when the quilt would come out and I would be afraid to go view it again because I knew that each time I would find one person on it, one more person who had just disappeared.

 

Time heals and when I think of my friends now, I mostly smile. And life goes on and we make new friends who don't replace the old ones, but simply take a new place in our lives. I sometimes think losing a friend is like having a room in your house that now has a locked door that cannot be opened. You know what's in that room, everything in there, can picture it well. But you can never, ever open the door again.

 

Sometimes now it seems like I'm rattling around in a big old mansion with locked doors on every hall and a couple of wings completely shut off.

 

I am not unhappy; on the contrary, I am reasonably content. But I miss my friends, I miss the love they brought and the light they shared and the good times and good conversations over good meals that meant so much and passed so fast. I miss them and I will never be able to talk to them again and, sometimes, late at night I find myself wanting to pick up the phone and call one of them, just for a moment.

 

But, of course, it's not possible. And life does go on and I'm thankful that I have the opportunity to be alive and be healthy and have a chance to try to make a little difference in the world. Sometimes I think I have to live a little more, smile a little more, laugh a little more, dance a little more, love a little more because my 53 friends cannot.

 

So thanks, Will, for giving me a chance to write this. And to remember. And to smile at those memories.

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On the way home from work just now I listened, as I usually do, to "All Things Considered" on National Public Radio. I learned that today, June 5, 2001, is the twentieth anniversary of the CDC's published report of what turned out to be AIDS. I took a slight detour in order to rent AND THE BAND PLAYED ON at my local video store, came home to turn on the radio, and am writing this while I continue listening to Linda Wertheimer's piece.

 

Twenty years ago I had yet to hire my first escort. But surely there are contributors to this site who were active patrons -- or even escorts themselves -- in 1981. Can you tell us something about it? I don't write this to be morbid. On the other hand, if we can't recall, remember, and memorialize here, I don't know where we can.

 

In any case, locally I don't have anyone with whom I can share the sorrow for those who've died, the rage for the homophobia that has killed and continues to kill so many of us, and the frustrated bewilderment that still, twenty years later, there are gay men who think it's cool to risk their lives while they enjoy having sex. To my way of thinking, sex is for enhancing life, not for diminishing it. I think all my friends who died of AIDS would agree.

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I remember when "that gay disease" first showed up.

 

The free-wheeling 70's were just winding down. You could still suck the dancers at strip clubs (for a modest tip). Gradually, bit by bit, as public awareness heated up, liquor laws changed to the point where my favorite strip club wouldn't even allow you to touch the dancer's butt.

 

I had the benefit at the time of good briefings directly from NIH, so I was fairly well educated when the general public wasn't.

 

I remember the first time an escort complained when I put on a condom to fuck him. We had a little talk and he finally agreed to it RELUCTANTLY! I'll assume he didn't make it through the "first wave". I remember the first time I said "no" to condomless sex in a bathhouse. The guy bolted.

 

Recent news reports (as discussed in threads right here in this forum) that HIV infections are on the increase prove that we must redouble our education efforts. There are new young people every year, and they all mistakenly think they're invincible. The reality is that this virus is an equal opportunity killer.

 

It's so very sad. After 20 years, we're right back where we started.

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> To my way of

>thinking, sex is for enhancing

>life, not for diminishing it.

> I think all my

>friends who died of AIDS

>would agree.

 

I can still see the faces of all the friends I visited in hospices as well as that of my soulmate when he uttered those same words to me.

 

I moved from my "small town" in '77 to the "big city" of LA. I spent a few years there then on to the desert suburbs. Now twenty odd years later back to the "small town" with memories of the best and worst of times and no one to share them with, not to sound too morbid but everyone is now gone. Sometimes I am amazed when talking to some young escorts and they say they don't know anyone who has died from AIDS, which of course, is a good thing. They don't need a preacher for a client, but I still tell them to watch out, even if they think I'm some kinda old "knowitall".

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Hey Deej,

 

I share your feelings exactly. People are forgeting about this terrible disease known as AIDS or HIV. I do a lot os charity work and some of the best looking men I have ever seen are infected and could have their pick anytime they wanted.

 

Sex in 2001 and on you need to discriminate when it comes to everyone on sex. HIV or the latter AIDS prays on our brightest minds and best looking people. Some will say how bright could they be if they have HIV. Well the heat of the moment obviously burns for a lot longer than what most people who practice unsafe sex think.

 

Missed opportunities to have sex with a hottie because you don't have a condom is tragic but not DEADLY! Play safe people and support research to find a cure for this nasty disease that now shows no mercy.

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Guest 7Zach

I too was in NYC in l979 on through the early 80s, in the village, still in school. Baths, escorts, clubbing/dancing - no one used condoms. The village was full of the uniform of mustaches, blue jeans, bomber jackets, botts and the hankey code, and I swear most of them were red for fisting. I remember a friend moved there, looked just like a Ken doll, people liked that a lot. He kept a diary, and within his first year, he had over 1,000 stars in his diary (one each for each person he tricked with). It seemed like everyone, including he, had repeated attacks of ghonerrhea (sp), anal warts, intestional parasites, etc. People started just showing up on the streets with the purple lesions on their skin, and you really didn't know what it meant. And then it was just that gay disease or GRID. So many people in their 20s on canes, and the funerals started and just went on and on.

I was lucky in hindsight because I didn't bottom, and I essentially didn't like clubs even then. I'm ashamed to say it, and embarrassed or anyway afraid to say it, but I am the only one of the gay men I knew then, save one, who is alive. I would state my hiv status, but I don't want to tempt the Gods.

By the way escorts through the Advocate were $75 to $125; Ramses II, an agency, was $175; had to save up. :)

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Guest jizzdepapi

this is such a sad topic. i too frequented bars (anyone remember the cocking on christopher and west and sunday tea dance at badlands, directly across the street?) and the baths in the village in the late '70s and early '80s. thank god i didn't get fucked a lot in those condom-less days. that probably saved my life.

 

i can't go back to my old watering hole in CT. regulars used to have spots which they occupied every night in the bar. within 4 or 5 years, i didn't know anyone in the bars anymore; those spots had been taken by strangers. i think all of my friends from those days, and most of my tricks (i guess) are dead.

 

and the saddest thing of all is that IT DIDN'T HAVE TO HAPPEN. i have tears in my eyes now; sometimes i just can't handle it.

 

i will say this though: "FUCK YOU VERY MUCH, corporate america and the complicit u.s. government for engaging in this wholesale slaughter. AIDS did the dirty work for you; suddenly gay men and drug addicts and poor Haitians dropping like flies--and so a few crack babies and most hemophiliacs went down too. all the newspapers cared about was Nancy Reagan's new china.

 

profits at pharmaceuticals soared in those days. AZT was the best treatment they could come up with--a drug rejected for use in cancer patients because it had proved too toxic (and introduced at $100,000 per AIDS patient per year until pressure forced the pharmaceutical to drop the price. they hadn't spent a dime on R&D; it was all picked up by NIH.) and now we're supposed to bend over with joy because they're sending drugs to Africa at little or no cost? maybe people were getting infected unnecessarily while we twiddled our thumbs?

 

i'll just ask everyone here, "when's the last time u saw a billboard about safer sex? and how many did u see?" it's been proven over and over again that every dollar spent on education saves so many more in prevention (though there isn't much profit for the pharmaceuticals here).

 

this government doesn't give a shit--except when their corporate friends start to make a profit. how can anyone talk about this and NOT get mad?

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I'm ashamed to say

>it, and embarrassed or anyway

>afraid to say it,

 

Sometimes I feel exactly that way.. sometimes I thought I might be the only one, I'de sure like to discuss further. How do I email you here without letting the entire world, (well some of it anyway) know my/our address ? ..........:)

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Because I am younger than some on this board, I may have a different perspective on safe sex and the recent rise in HIV infection among young gay males. I came of age in the late 80's/early 90's. Not the “early” days of HIV, but what I often thought of at the time as the “twilight” years of gay male culture

 

All the HIV billboards and "safer" sex lectures of the late 1980's aren't what helped me stay HIV negative It was the legions of older gay men who took the time to explain to me what happened and what I needed to do to protect myself. They were caring, firm, and hard assed if they needed to be. They were incredibly angry and passionate. They cried, begged and scolded. They did whatever it took to get the point across. They made safer sex “sexy” and help me discover a thousand “safer’ ways to get my rocks off. At the same time they did not glamorize bathhouses and/or anonymous sex. Thankfully they got to me early and drilled the point home until condoms were just standard operating procedure. I have never known a sex life without condoms.

 

I place much of the blame on the recent rise in HIV infection rates on my own generation of gay men. We got tired, lazy and bored. It’s hard to recreate the passion of the early AIDS activists when no one is dying. Other than the loss of a generation of elders, HIV had very little real impact on us. And yet I believe it is the very loss of our elders that has so weakened my generation’s resolve. We have shirked our responsibility to the next generation. We haven’t gotten in their faces, cried, begged, and scolded. Our “gay fathers” would be kicking our asses right now if they saw how complacent we’ve become.

 

We were so thankful for the first sight of a light at the end of the tunnel that we all immediately grabbed the suntan lotion and our swimming trunks. We confused a single ray of light with sunshine. That’s understandable. It was awfully dark in that fucking tunnel. Nonetheless we’ve got to recommit ourselves to teaching today’s young gay men and to serving as their “gay fathers”.

 

Until we do, the next generation of gay men will continue to die. It’s as simple as that.

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Guest trekker

RE: Private Mail

 

> How do I email you here without letting the entire world,

>(well some of it anyway) know my/our address ? ..........:)

 

 

**This is why I keep fussing about those icons.**

 

TRAV,

if you are one of the lucky ones that still has 4 icons to the left of each post under the poster's handle, you can use the board-internal Private Mail system. Just find a post from whoever you want to send private mail to and click on the second icon from the left (looks like a single envelope). Whatever you type in the box will go to him as a private mail message. To read your private mail there is an Inbox icon in the Lobby at the top, in the row with the Login/Logout icon. The Inbox is third from the right. And if you already have mail from someone in your inbox you can just reply to it.

 

If you are one of us underprivileged that have only 1 icon (looks like a computer), then, if you can find a post written by your would-be addressee in an old (pre-moderation) thread that hasn't been added to since moderation, you can do what I said above, because it should have all 4 icons. Try using Search, and search on his handle in all forums, all days. (If you come up empty, do it again and check the box for archived threads.)

 

If none of that works, join me in beating your head against the wall and begging HooBoy and Daddy to fix it, because then the only way is for one of you to post your outside email address publicly so that the other can initiate an exchange, and correspond off this system by regular email. :-(

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I hired my first escort in 1979, from an agency in NYC; I believe I paid $65 (it never occurred to me then that a tip might also be expected). Of course we did not use condoms--they were thought of then as something only to be used as a kinky fetish. In the next few years I hired a number of "models", which was the more popular term at that time, I believe. I have no idea how many of them survived , since their odds of getting AIDS were certainly as high as any of the wild partyers.

 

Like several other posters, I have lost many friends, including my best friend, to AIDS, and I'm still amazed to have survived, since it seems to me that I was at as great a risk as most of them--just lucky, I guess. I don't depend on luck now, though: I never engage in high risk activity with escorts, no matter how tempted I am, and if an escort indicates that he would like to do so, I lose interest in continuing.

 

One illusion that I can't warn clients against often enough is the assumption that an escort must take good care of himself and be disease-free just because he is a professional. Assume that any escort is potentially HIV+ just like anyone else you might pick up in a bar or on the street--and don't forget about hepatitis, herpes and parasites as well. Admittedly, it does take the edge off one's romantic fantasies, but one should never forget that they ARE fantasies, and one must be prepared to pay the price if one ignores that.

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Guest Jason Reardone

RE: Private Mail

 

I can think of at least one person who would love your Private Mailing Address.

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It's funny, isn't it, how our lives seem to end up being a tapestry of memories? And how someone -- often a boy or man -- who touches our life for only a brief instant can form the basis for such a fond and lingering memory.

 

Thank you for sharing your memory.

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Guest trekker

RE: Private Mail

 

>I can think of at least

>one person who would love

>your Private Mailing Address.

 

Jason,

you are welcome to send me private mail anytime. Just click on the icon as described above.

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Guest Bitchboy

I wasn't around when this mess first started, but I do recall so vividly the first friend I had who died from AIDS.

 

It was 1989, I was 20 and my best friend Harold meant more to me than anyone in the world. He was the most beautiful man, internally as well as externally. He was a couple of years older and took pity on a poor naive farmboy who had just moved to the big apple.

 

We would sit for hours, late into the night, talking and gossiping and Harold would teach me all about life and what it meant to be a gay man. He was so elegant and so very knowledgeable. Secretly, I loved him, but I would never tell him that because I was afraid it would frighten him away. I wanted him to be a part of my life forever and I would never have done anything to jeopardize that.

 

The last time we were alone together, Harold complained of nausea and he was so dizzy. When he left my apartment, he had to hold onto the wall walking down the hallway. I insisted I get him a cab. He smiled at me, got in the cab and said, "thanks, babe, talk to you tomorrow."

 

Well, there wasn't a tomorrow for Harold, at least a conscious tomorrow. The next day I learned that Harold had passed out in the cab and the driver had taken him to St. Vincent's emergency room. Harold was in a coma, one from which he never recovered. He died a week later, never knowing what he had; I cried for a week, and I've never been the same.

 

I hate AIDS.

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Guest allansmith63

In 1982, in the small town where I lived, there was one man who lived openly as a gay man. Totally closeted myself, he fascinated me, and I made every effort to exchange a casual word or two with him. He must have known I was gay and hiding, yet we never spoke of it. He was interested in speaking to me and often sought me out. He was a very gentle man, attractive, soft-spoken. Then, an opportunity arose for me to use his services as an architectural draftsman, and we met a few times to discuss my plans. Soon after that, he became ill. Nobody knew what it was at first - doctors included - and then AIDS hit the headlines, and Dan was diagnosed with "the gay disease". The horror on peoples' faces when seeing this poor man staggering down the street - people crossed the street to avoid him - I remember him falling once, and no one except me willing to help him because he was my friend. I ached to stand beside him, and declare myself: "I'm one of THEM GAYS too, you know." Unfortunately, to my shame and regret I didn't. Dan died in 1984, without us ever completing that project so I have nothing from him other than my memories.

 

His suffering at the hands of the "general public" contributed to pushing me deeper into the closet, because I wondered if I would ever have the strength to face the prejudice that people served up. Yet, his suffering and treatment also gave me strength & courage when I came out, because it was a matter of pride for me.

 

Seventeen years later - I've finally come out, and now I can stand beside Dan's memory and say proudly: "I'm one of THEM GAYS too, you know!"

 

Allan

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Guest Tampa Yankee

The modern day bitter pill about the poignant losses of Harold and Dan and the many others is the resurgence and growth in unsafe sex practices of the present day among the younger gay community. If the passing of Harold and Dan and the others had any meaning it was to point the way of survival to the rest of the community, particularly the younger generations. A high price to send the message, but an important message it was. Most of those lost in the first wave was through no fault of their own but through our collective ignornace of the disease. The same cannot be said for those to be lost in the second wave currently building... the knowledge is everwhere and is being ignored. Many will die, more will sacrifice their health and face an uncertain future, and the others will be left to weep and wonder why it came to be a second time...

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In addition to going to NYC, I used to go to Key West a lot in the late 70's & 80's. In fact I recall being there when AIDS was just becoming known, and how much paranoia and fear suddenly broke out.

 

I kept going to Key West (often 2 or 3 times a year) till about 1988 but by then I had lost so many friends, including 2 owners of my favourite guest house, Cypress House, that I decided not to go any more. It was a town of memories and losses for me, no longer a fun place.

 

Finally, this past February, I finally went back for the first time. I went with straight friends and stayed at their straight guest house, which seemed all wrong but in a strange way was not an inappropriate way to return to a place I had once know very intimately. I was worried about all the memories, and you know, they did come on, but I also realized I had to move on too.

 

I had a good time but it was not like the days of the tea dance at Papillion, LaTeDa's, and those shirtless nights at Copa, or better yet the Monster, for those of you who knew the real Key West.

 

Key West is not as gay now and is a lot more commercial, but it still smells so nice. There is something special about the air, including the lives that have been lived which make it the place it is and will always be.

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