Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I should not be on this addictive, borrowed laptop right now. The longterm, infrequent, faraway, romantic friend I mentioned in Disclosure and Risk is due to arrive at my doorstep any minute. (From Antwerp. From working for the International Red Cross in Chad, and then Yemen since I saw him last.) (I hate linking anything about him to my "Disclosure and Risk" incident at all, but so has gone my life.)

I discretely chewed off a white rose from the sidewalk garden of Grace Cathedral today on my way home from the Castro Street Pharmacy in the Tenderloin, to give to my good friend when he gets here. (It wasn't coming off any other way.) Otherwise I have not eaten.

All my extra medicines (two weeks worth) were successfully authorized and picked up.

We--my longterm, infrequent, faraway, romantic friend and I, are planning to take a road trip. For two weeks. Through the mountains, toward Utah, down into Nevada, and then back over to Death Valley, then maybe hitting the old Ghetti Museum (the "Ghetti Villa") in Malibu on the way back, dependent on the fires. We'll be camping (--for the most part) in the desert. That's a lot for me. I asked my psychiatrist (at AIDS Health Project) if he thought all that might not be too much. He said, "No. No. Have a good trip."

I will miss, and worry about my cat. But I think she will be OK. I think she will be tended well.

I'm not bringing this laptop, but I'll write some about the trip when I get back. Thank you for reading thus far.... I'm leaving the comments setting on "unmoderated," if you'd like to post any. I look forward to reading them when I can.

He's here.

Love and Hot Water

The hot water at my apartment is back on.

This morning I made an unsuccessful charcoal rubbing of a carving I made in the door of the third floor landing of some backstairs in this building, during the time period I was diagnosed psychotic. (I've had episodes before and since, but there was only one time in my life I was involuntarily psychiatric-ally hospitalized--last November.) The charcoal rubbing today didn't turn out as well as the carving did then.

The carving, sometime last October, happened because I had felt urged/compelled to heal the apartment building by filling in the "Fuck" part of the "Fuck Quan" graffiti already carved in that door, and by then carving the Chinese character for "love" in between that and "Quan." (The Quan family are the owners and landlord. I feel safe to say their name, because this is not their only building, and because they are not the only Quan's in San Francisco to own buildings, I would bet. And because no one, for the most part, uses the back stairs--which is why I used to use them.)

I had made a little camp on the second floor landing on a couple of the stairs and floor with all my rags, equipment and coffee. I remember, vividly, filling in the "Fuck," carefully with mahogany-stain furniture filler, then sanding the surface smooth, dusting that, then blending the color, never perfectly enough, with brown shoe polish. It took hours. I was afraid someone would hear me, and I would abandon my little campsite and come back to it went it felt safe.

I used my Leatherman pocket-knife and a stencil I already had that I had bought from a crafts store in Chinatown, where I live, to carve the character for "love." (The front side of my building is definitely another neighborhood--rich, but the building is the edge, and I am on the back side of it, looking out over a roof of colorful clotheslines to the mid-level of the tall buildings of the financial district down the hill; I can see a little of the blue bay behind the Hilton, and the ships from faraway passing this side of Treasure Island, and the pink-orange sunlight gleams off the Transamerica Pyramid back at me, and twinkles off the slope of Berkeley beyond in the evenings. When there is no fog. My cat watches very few birds--seagulls, and the Blue Angels during Fleet Week--she's become fearless about that--and fireworks for the fourth of July and for many Chinese Festivals every year. We have a lot of sky in these two rooms.) I'm sure there is more than one character for "love," but I used the stencil that I had.

It took a long time. I cut myself, and unintentionally bled on my work.

When it was perfect enough--(it really is well-crafted, which is why I wanted to make a charcoal rubbing of it for my apartment--I don't know why today),--I dusted it off, and collected my stuff. I went down later to sweep the whole stairwell, quietly, from top to bottom--fifth floor, fourth floor, third (--my cat's and mine), second, first, the basement (--where the dollar-and-seventy-five-cent washers that don't always, but usually, work are), and then the scary floor below the basement (--where the dumpsters are). I didn't go below that, (which you can, to get to the heavy dungeon-clanging, arched, black metal gate into the inside of the Stockton Tunnel).

Someone--I think I know who--I think it was the woman who used to live on the first floor who was evicted six months ago for making terrorist death threats--who told me privately she was going to kill the landlord's family--later scratched out the word "Quan" in what looks like a frenzy. She--I'm guessing, did not stain her mad scratches, which are now a little furied scratchy cloud below the careful Chinese "love," below the "healed" "fuck". She left the "love" alone. And what is the landlord going to do about that.

Monday, October 22, 2007


The hot water in my building has been out for the last two days. I don't know the day before that because I didn't take a shower that day.

I'm reporting it here because there is no sense in reporting it to the landlord at this point.

I shouldn't complain, because of all the problems that have happened in this building in the five years I've lived here, this hasn't been one of them.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Newsweek in time

Regarding "telling the world," in my previous entry, Breast Health Awareness, continued--I really did do that. I told the world. I was in the irresponsible cover story of Newsweek in the middle of the nineties, entitled, "The End of AIDS?" To see a picture of the cover of that issue, see NIH. I'm not kidding.

If you wanted to know who I am, you could figure it out that way. I used it as ID once before. I was not allowed on a plane at JFK, (several years pre-9/11), when I had lost my ID the week the issue came out. When my excuses with the airport security guard failed, I ran to the nearest airport concessions stand and bought a copy of the magazine. I ran back to the guard with the issue opened to the first page of the article with my white girl picture subtitled with my name and HIV diagnosis date. The guard had no idea what to do with all that information and let me board my flight.

In my long phone interview with Newsweek, in the middle of the nineties, I said over and over again different ways that the advent of protease inhibitors was not the end of AIDS. A lot of people, at least here--San Francisco, knew that well already. The interviewer kept asking me the same questions different ways, like he wanted to catch me saying something that sounded like I was saying I was healed, when I could hardly take those meds side-effect-wise. (Interleukin was the trick for me, later, not protease inhibitors.)

I didn't look sick then, but that didn't mean I was any better,--yet. They sent a local Newsweek photographer to take my picture at a board/dinner/cocktail meeting. You can't always take a picture of disease. We didn't all have wasting and Kaposi Sarcoma lesions.

I said to the phone interviewer that the new treatment options were hopeful, but that their results were different for different people, and difficult--to impossible for some of us to take, and that not everyone had, or would have access to them. And that to suggest the end of AIDS--(albeit with a question mark, and the small text title qualification: "Not Yet, But New Drugs Offer Hope")--would jeopardize prevention efforts, and funding for the supportive services that access, adherence, and good results depend on.

But that wasn't Newsweek's story. So they put me, first picture in the article, looking well, (and young and white and female), with my name and longterm-survivor date of diagnosis--which had nothing to to with the new drugs offering hope--without using a word I said. As evidence of what wasn't true.

I told the world a lie, smiling, mute.

But I am, for all kinds of reasons, one of the ones still here, still with AIDS, to say what I want, for whatever it's worth, to try to make up for it now.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Breast Care, continued

I like the idea of dying of breast cancer. That's the real reason I didn't go to my follow-up appointment. I understand that's distorted. I understand that is not a viable thought. But this is my explanation:

I am not dying right now but I was dying for a long time in the early nineties. I know what I'm saying. It's real to me that I really am going to die of something, and I'm sick of AIDS. I don't want to be sick at all--I just can't imagine not being in a battle, and I want a new one to take over this one.

Breast cancer is a new idea. I'm not dying of it either, or sick of it. I just have a probable fibroadenoma---benign. But the idea that I could die "naturally", of something I didn't acquire...after all this.

It's not that I think my being HIV+ is my fault. I was 18 in 1986 when I got infected. My sin was seeking refuge from a man much older than I was whose past I did not, and don't really know. He died before I could ask. No one really knew what was going on. No one knew anyone who had it, where I lived. It isn't about sin, anyway. But as I knowingly flirt now with the improbable idea of a possible new demise, I do feel like it wouldn't be my fault in a way I don't feel now. The idea is a relief. Breast cancer as redemption. I don't expect anyone to understand that.

And the fantasy that I would fight breast cancer makes me feel like a woman. That's not a fair because some men get breast cancer, too. (I bet their sexual identities are affected the way mine is having AIDS as a straight HIV+ person in an overwhelmingly gay, gender-segregating care community.) But the thought makes me feel feminine,...the post-mammogram sonogram...something growing inside me instead of trying to eat away at me using my genetic identity to replicate its separate, biohazardous self. I would have a wounded sexuality, rather than a deleted one. A pink ribbon.

Breast cancer isn't opportunistic. Rates are not higher in women with HIV than in "normal" women. It would make me feel normal, for real.

And it would be private this time. I would not tell the world without being able to take it back. It would belong to me. I have known about my little kidney-bean shaped tumor for six months without telling anyone. Till now. This writing here is what will make me go back to my breast care center. My doctor is in Uganda. She's not going to remind me.

I am not feeling sorry for myself. These are not excuses--I am going to go back. These are just the realities of my experience. A lot of of-age women don't get mammograms because they don't know breast cancer is preventable, or don't want to think about it. (Many places offer free screenings in October, if money is the reason.) A lot don't go because they don't trust medical care. These are just the versions of my obstacles. I will reschedule my follow-up on Monday. And I hope other of-age women go get checked out, too.

Mayo Clinic breast cancer prevention information

Friday, October 19, 2007

Breast Care

I wasn't going to write about this yet, but I found a cat-chewed appointment reminder telling me I had an appointment I accidentally-on-purpose missed today at the San Francisco General Hospital Avon Comprehensive Breast Center. I didn't remember what day it is. October, which it is, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so I have been feeling continually made aware. But I didn't go anyway, today.

This appointment was a follow-up for an appointment, I did go to - by the Breast Center's calculations, six months ago already.

The appointment, then, was optional. I am 41-years old, already. Mammograms are suggested, but not recommended till 45. But a nurse examining me said she felt some "thickening" in my left breast that I shouldn't worry about - a lot of women have that, but that I might want to have checked out.

So I made a first appointment and went to the very new-feeling, clean, quiet, matte pastel-"feminine" SFGH Avon Breast Center. (I don't know if my appointment time was unusual for them or something, but I didn't see any other patients. I'm used to the semi-gloss primary color-painted, packed and busy SFGH HIV ward two buildings over, and six floors up.)

I checked in, didn't have to wait long to be called to the clean empty, little locker room, to lock up my clothes, and put on my pastel gown, and go to a room with big, heavy equipment.

An expeditious radiologist told me to remove my gown, and squeezed one breast, then the other, between big metal plates that took pictures of their insides. (It was definitely uncomfortable, but OK.)

She told me I could put on my gown and she'd be back in a minute.

She came back after a long minute, and said we needed to do the mammogram again, which we did.

She came back again after that one and said that my mammogram was concerning, and that I needed to have a sonogram, (breast ultrasound). I could either make another appointment--if I promised to do it for soon, or, if I had time now, we should do it now.

I said now.

I asked her what was concerning, and she said that I just had a spot on (/in) my left breast, a cyst, and not to worry--that a lot of woman have them, but I should have it looked at.

So I was led to a smaller, darker room, with a smaller machine.

A very doctor-ly Indian woman came in and asked me to remove the top of my gown and lie back for the sonogram.

She examined my left breast for a long time.

I could see my cyst on the monitor she was looking at.

She said it was definitely not a cyst. She wasn't sure what it was. Cysts are round, and light doesn't show "through" them on the screen because they're fluid-filled. Cysts look like dark circles. This was shaped like a kidney bean, which I could see.

She went and got someone else, who watched as she examined again.

The first "doctor," the sonographer, said that I had a small tumor, but that it was nothing to worry about--that a lot of women have them. She didn't stop examining it, though.

She said it didn't have anything to do with my having suppressed immunity from HIV, when I asked.

All I could think about, watching the screen with her, while she moved the small, cold--at first transducer around my lubricated nipple, was what it must feel like for pregnant women to see their embryonic babies for the first time. With this same equipment. To see the little heartbeat.

It was a similar strange/guilty/fearful excitement of many, many moons ago, thinking I might be pregnant, knowing that it was not the right time. It was never the right time.

She said that the good news was that she couldn't see any blood vessels attached to my little kidney bean of light. She showed me that the edges were "smooth." She told me it was probably a "fibroadenoma," which was OK, but should be watched. The other doctor said nothing after introductions.

The sonographer said I could either go ahead and schedule an appointment for a biopsy so we can know for sure, or we could just do this again in six months to see if it's changed in that time period--which is what she recommended, as long as I absolutely promised to come back then.

I had said OK.


Breast health

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Vagaries, continued unpredicted

The difficulties, and mistakes expressed in this blog, are also not about not appreciating the people who have professionally, and personally worked hard caring the ways they can, for and about me, and for and about my sweet, old, shiny, black cat-- thick sometimes and thin sometimes, for a very long time.


Tonight I had quick grits with real butter and salt and a lot of pepper, and Anchor Steam beer for supper. With 11 pills for dessert.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I wish I could write this directly. I have to be vague about the place to write about the conversations, or be vague about the conversations to write about the place:

I went to a support group today. A man with AIDS was crying about the grueling process of finding housing to match his housing voucher, which he did express gratitude for at the same time. He then regressed into discussion about what "home" means as a survivor of longterm childhood sexual abuse. Other attendees of all kinds were beautifully, sincerely supportive. I didn't say anything. I don't know why.

The man talked and cried for a long time.

The group facilitator, who had facilitated the whole group process well, and who knew the crying man well from years of case management, said something, rather quietly to the side, about a "pity party."

I don't know anything about the crying man, or about how much or how he cries, or why, and I have trusted the facilitator so far, so I can't say anything else about it.

But I can say, here, that a lot of what is expressed in this blog--through essays, stories, and comments--is difficult. I need to say things here that aren't said, or to describe them in human and personal terms different ways, whether they are said or not other places. I say things here that I don't express other ways in my life. I don't know why. But I know it's about seeking understanding for some reason, maybe indirectly. And I know that it's not about seeking pity.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Disclosure and Risk, continued

I was fine in Michael's apartment. Bad, but fine.

But afterwards he said that he wanted to make a last run to his storage unit for the day, and then stay at my apartment, since he hadn't finished packing but had no furniture to sleep on, and since it had gotten late to hit the road. And technically he had two more days on his lease, even though he had told the landlord he'd be out. He said we could go to dinner, dispassionately.

I did not want him in my apartment. I wasn't hungry.

All the sudden I felt as vulnerable as I should have felt in the first place. I did not want him to know my things. I didn't want him around or to even see my cat.

I said, "Are you allergic to cats?"

He said, laughing under his breath, looking down with his chin tucked, "Would I tell you if I were?" And then looked up shaking his head and said, "No. No, I'm not allergic to cats."

We went to dinner. We had calzones that were too big, and too expensive for me, at Coppola's in North Beach. And more wine, which helped. We walked "home" to our apartment building, and when he went to his apartment, I went up to mine to take my medicines and quickly scan at all my objects privately through strange company's eyes.

Michael came up with a tool box, and asked if he could leave a couple things with me for the week till he could come back up from LA on his second run the next weekend to pick up his last load from storage. And if maybe he could stay over a night then, too.

It wasn't OK, but I said that it was. I told myself that it wasn't that big a deal, his stuff only a week in my space. I should be able to ignore it. I wanted him out.

He went back downstairs and came back with a moving box, a duffel bag over his shoulder, and unloaded them in my kitchen with the tools.

I didn't feel like I liked him anymore, but that I was in no position to complain, about anything. So I boxed up my feelings to enjoy anything about biding the unusual time.

He stayed that night and the next. He introduced me to taking straighht espresso with a lemon rind twist at at Il Caffe Rulli early the first morning. I thought that I should be able to enjoy playing like I had a boyfriend for a weekend, since I supposedly missed that part of my life so much. I thought that there was something wrong with me for wanting him out. (Not that I thought he wasn't feeling the reciprocal acting. He just needed what he needed. He was biding the time "politely", too.)

I couldn't say no, also because I felt like I should feel good that anything I had could be helpful to someone else, since my life is dependent on so much anonymous assistance. None of my things were even really mine.

Michael gave my cat his red feather boa. A big dyed red bird. She didn't care for it. I kept finding feathers weeks past the fact, after I'd put the boa in the dumpster in the basement. After he was long gone. (I wonder what the woman on the first floor who investigated the trash, who told me, "The man upstairs likes your boots," who knew all my medications, thought about that one.)

I had enjoyed what I thought was a clean hello/goodbye the first bright afternoon with Michael, but I was surprised that despite all my loneliness, I had in the end, literally not wanted baggage at all even for a night.

Maybe all of those feelings had something to do with something about Michael, personally, too though.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Disclosure and Risk

A couple years ago:

It was a bright day. I was on my way home to my apartment building. I was in a cynical mood about people who had chided me repeatedly while acting nice.

There were moving boxes on the sidewalk in front of my building, and more boxes piled haphazard around a small blue hatchback with so much stuff in it you wouldn't be able to see out the back window. The gate and front door of my apartment building were propped open.

As I walked through the front door, a man coming down the stairs from the second floor landing peaked from behind the large box he was carrying, and said cheerily, "Oh, I never got to meet you," with a smile.

I said, "Yeah, OK."

He kind of snort laughed, "Yeah, OK?" And then said with mixed sweetness, "Like, 'Yeah, OK, I never get to meet you?' or 'Yeah, OK,' you want to come up and have a glass of wine while I finish packing?"

I walked up the stairs past him there holding the box. (I'll call him Michael.) I got to the second floor landing and went into the open door of his studio apartment without saying anything, and dropped my backpack on the shiny wood floor. This apartment got more light than my apartment does.

There was no furniture. There was a full, open, closet. There was stuff and books, and more boxes, packed and empty all over the room. I didn't know his last name or anything about him other than that he always felt fresh. Nice smile, clear eyes. Agile. The alcoholic woman on the first floor below him had told me, randomly, that he liked my boots. I assumed he was gay.

He came into his apartment several minutes later, jacketed arms free, and paused, unsurprised. He exhaled, "Well," with a smile, closed the door behind him, and walked to the kitchen. I heard him take glasses from the cupboard. I guessed he saved the kitchen packing for last. I heard the refrigerator open.

He walked back into the room and said, "I like your boots," and went back into the kitchen. I said, "Thank you," through the wall.

The corked popped. Some shuffling.

He came back into the room like a waiter with a bottle tucked under his arm, two glasses in one hand, and a plate of cheese with red wax peel, and a knife in the other.

He set a "table" on one of the packed boxes, and pulled two others up to it.

I sat down and crossed my legs.

He poured our glasses. We cheered to nothing.

We talked about his moving out. He was going to LA. We talked about his work, and the building...the landlord, the woman downstairs, and Everett. Nothing about me. He was going to drive down the coast. There were problems with his storage unit...two trips...too much stuff....

He poured me another glass of wine and got back to packing. I got up and sat down on the floor, boots crossed, with my glass, and interviewed him, prompted by his objects. Why do you have that? Was that book good? Why so many text books? Are you Catholic? Why do you have a red feather boa hanging in your closet?.... I learned a lot about him.

I was enjoying the wine, and not helping, and the active imbalance of disclosure. I am used to being romantically disqualified by men in my life, (with one wonderful, long-term, infrequent, faraway exception). I don't try to meet new ones. And I'm used to people knowing more about me than I know about them. I can't simply answer, "What do you do?" without being more deceptive than I want to be, or revealing more about my health than I want to disclose. And most of the people in my day-to-day life, actually, are health care providers who know very personal things about me, who I know next to nothing about.

But then Micheal abruptly stopped his sorting, and answering, stood upright, and said, "Well, now what about you?"

The wine and cynicism made me bold to say, "I don't want to say anything about myself."

He said, "Why? Are you hiding something? Is your life a secret? Are you...HIV-positive, or something?"

I found out later that the woman on the first floor had been going through the trash for years, and had collected all kinds of information about me, including the medications I take. I realized, then, that she probably had told him I was HIV-positive, like she had told me, "The man above me likes your boots."

I said, "Yes," believing that he didn't know.

He came over and kissed me.

to be continued...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Left Out

Today I am expelling myself from my apartment to go talk to Financial Aid at the small, private, ultra-progressive school that Isabella [see Bad Blood] went to. I sent in the application last week, and I had my transcripts sent the last time I applied (but didn't follow through), so maybe they still have them on file.

Isabella got through on loans. I'm applying for grants and scholarships. They used to have scholarships for women with HIV, but like Isabella, I wouldn't want to use that.

I'll use the things that I did, that I could do, when I could, about being a human being with HIV, though.

I'm scared. I have to go.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


My neighbor upstairs has been railing for about ten minutes. He can go for hours. There is nothing you can do about it no matter how threatening it feels. He called the fire department once for no reason, and then when the firemen came he called one of them a bitch. The fireman was, like "Excuse me? You just called me a bitch?" And the other one told him to ignore it and go.

Even when he crashes things down out his window onto my across-the-hall-neighbor's fire escape, the police say you can't do anything unless he is threatening someone directly. He crashes things on his floor so hard it has knocked something off the shelf in my kitchen once, and his apartment is not even directly over mine, but that doesn't count as threatening. Once he yelled out his window that he hoped I electrocuted myself, but he didn't say he wanted, directly, to hurt me. I try to not hear what he's saying anymore--just think of it as bad weather. It doesn't happen as frequently as it used to.

But just a minute ago, he came down the stairs yelling and said, "I'm going to kill you, you fucking bitch. Are you sleeping? I'm going to fucking murder you." I tip-toed to the door to look through my peephole to see if it was my door he was talking to, because I do sleep during the day, and he knows that my neighbor is gone to work 8Am to 6PM every day, but I could see him with his shirt off in his hand, pressed up against her door with his ear to it. Then he said, "Every last one of you's--you're all leaving before I do." And then he went back to his apartment upstairs and opened his screechy fire escape window and slammed it shut.

Everett is his real name. I felt guilty for refusing to testify in the landlord's eviction case against a woman on the first floor who was jailed for "making terrorist death threats", (jailed for six days which she bragged about afterwards). She told me she was going to kill the landlord's whole family and I was too afraid of her to tell anyone. I didn't want to exacerbate it all if she didn't mean it really. But how can you tell? I knew she liked to scare people. I hoped she would just go away, and she did. Everett calmed down after she left. She had told him that the woman accross the hall from me was homophobic, which is absolutely untrue, and that I was mentally unstable and paraniod. She knew what medications I take from going through the trash.

I am definitely feeling the adrenaline jolt now, but I'm not reporting anything about Everett's new death threats, because I'm just tired. I'm too tired of this to feel scared anymore. Just numbed tired. I don't know if that's wrong though since technically he did just threaten my neighbor's life. I would think of an excuse to leave, to go outside for a little while--he can't tell when I come and go like the woman on the first floor watched--but I don't want to leave my cat alone here while I'd be gone.

It doesn't feel real. It feels like he's play-acting in a movie, for his own entertainment, thinking of scaring me since he knows I'm probably here. It feels like he likes to feel, or just needs to show that he feels that no one is going to do anything about anything he does. Regardless of the first floor woman's eviction.

This is a very nice bulding on the edge of a rich neighborhood. The family who owns the building offer a lot of their units to people with Section 8 vouchers and other subsidies. Some of the tennants are awarded the help with rent because they are very old. Some of us are problems in other ways. The reasons are technically not the landlords' business.

Everett is completely cordial in an actor-ly way when I've seen him on the street or when we've passed each other in the hall. Like neither one of us knows anything about it.

He's smashing heavy things on his floor, then being quiet long enough for you to think it's over. Now doing it again. He's in the hall again. Kind of chanting something. Now he's singing. This is my report.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Bad Blood, continued

I saw myself kind of after-the-fact kind of fumbling around at the desk with exchanging the signed permission slip for my money. I didn't notice I was out of kilter till I saw the reactions to me at the desk. I said that I was late for an appointment I had to get to now, and that I would come back afterward to finish the questioning. They kind of said OK with question marks.

Isabella and I used to be equals. We were the same in the ways we weren't opposite. We are the same age, I'm older AIDS-wise. I worked on the board of an agency she worked for, but it felt like work of equal worth to me. She was paid. I used services. I'd tell everyone I was positive before I'd tell them anything else about me, so I'd know how they'd react from the start. Isabella was discriminating. Her sister knew, but she's still never even told her parents. We are both straight. She tended to be self-assured, outgoing, and curious. I tended to feel lonely and to want to be wanted. She went back to school and finished. I went back to school over and over again, but kept having to start over. She has an adult career now and I finally even gave up on volunteer work. She washes her white dog's feet off when they come in from walks. My black cat stays clean and doesn't go outside. Isabella became a therapist fast without ever really going through therapy it seemed to me.

Before I knew it, I was at my psychiatrist's office at AIDS Health Project. I apologized for being almost 15 minutes late for my appointment with him. The receptionist looked confused and said she didn't think I had an appointment, but to have a seat. My psychiatrist came out at noon with a patient leaving. He told me my appointment was at 11:30 on Monday. It was still Friday. But he told me to come in anyway. I was worried I was taking up his lunch break. He said, "Yeah well that's not don't worry about it."

We checked in about my meds and problems with them for about ten minutes, and then I said offhandedly in the middle of something, "I just ran into Isabella for the first time."

He said, "Yeah? How did that go down?"

I told him about the hallway. And that I was in a hurry going down it, and he said, "To come here?" and I said yes and realized that I'd confused the appointment times by believing my own would-be excuse to not have to stop and talk to her. And I said that I had said hi, and that she ducked and went like this: and put my hand up to shield my face from him. I was a little out of breath describing it. I was going to say, "And now I'm pumped," but didn't, and he said,"And now you're pumped," and I said yes that that was the word I was going to use.

He said,"And what are you doing the rest of the afternoon?"

I said, "I have to go back. We didn't finish. I'm supposed to go back. But I'm not going back there. If she's working there now I'm quitting."

He asked what the study was and I told him, knowing he already knew, without really knowing what he was getting at with that.

He saw the cotton ball taped to my arm right as I remembered it and said, "Do you want to get rid of that?" I said a quiet yes with quiet finality.

He reached behind him to get the lined trash can and held it out to me. He said with believable compassion in his voice, "I don't think that's doing anything for you anymore," and I pulled off the tape with the cotton ball and my little spot of blood and put it into the lined trashcan without touching the sides like it was poison, and we didn't say anything more about it.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Bad Blood

Today I called to withdraw from a clinical trial I've participated in for a couple years. I'm not going to be specific about which study it is or where the clinic is, but the trial is a longitudinal study comparing relationships over time between living circumstances of low income-women with AIDS, their risk behaviors, adherence to treatment, and laboratory test results of bloodwork.

Appointments consist of the taking your weight, blood draws and check-ins about doctors and meds, health isuues and degree of disability, housing situations, and social support. There are interviews about psychological vantage points and emotional wellbeing. There are questionnaires about specific sexual practices since the last visit, and recent drug use.

The easiest part is the blood draw. The one-to-10 scale health issues questions confuse me. I have no idea what to compare myself to, so I have no idea what to say. And questions like "Would you say your health is poor, average, or excellent," are impossible to answer. If you are asking me as an ordinary person, I don't know. It's either poor or excellent, because it's not average. If you're asking me as a person who has lived with HIV for 21 years with an AIDS diagnosis for twelve of those years, then my health is excellent by far no matter what my body is doing, as long as my heart is beating.

Reporting all the drugs I have not done makes me feel like I have, without trying, done something "right," but reporting no sexual behaviors is just as difficult for me as having to describe them would be.

The same people have worked with me all along. They are very professional and matter of fact in a kind way, but also in a warm and familiar way. I haven't noticed how long the appointments take, but I have come out usually feeling kind of drained, but known and cared about. We are called in once a month and are paid thirty dollars per appointment.

I went in for my last appointment two Fridays ago. It was the first time I'd been in in a couple months because I had been out of town, in New Orleans. I got through one of the interviews more easily than usual and noticed that my answers seemed more emotionally stable than typical for me. A little more optimistic--or normal.

I had my blood drawn by a woman who had already known my name when I first started here, because she used to work at HIV Care, Ward 86, at San Francisco General. There are pictures of her sons on the wall, like there were there. She butterfly-needled my vein, drew several little vials of blood, snapped the needle back. She put the labled vials on a rack while she pressed the cotton on my arm, and then taped it. We said thanks and see you later.

The reason this was my last appointment was that as I went out the phlebotomist's door into the bright yellow-painted hallway, I saw at the end of the hallway a woman I will call Isabella. She stood in a circle of people who work there, but not with me. They were all laughing about some story. She looked the most comfortable of them leaning back against the wall, her hands behind her hips flat against the wall behind her. They (maybe six people, men and women) would have all been taller than she even if she'd been standing upright. She seemed, and is, very small. She was wearing a black shirt, jeans, a black belt, and black boots. Her hair was pulled back in a bun. She was smiling, and her face was flushed from a laugh.

My first reaction to seeing her was an adrenaline flood of fear. We'd unexpectedly ended a very long and strong friendship on horribly bad terms about a year ago, and I hadn't seen her since. I had told her to stay the fuck away from me which I've never said to anyone--and that if we ever ran into each other somewhere, I would be the one to leave. She was at the end of the hallway I had to go all the way down and turn right out of, right in font of them all, to get out to the waiting room to find out about what I was supposed to do next.

I was glad I saw her first, had warning, and that she was encircled. I went very fast thinking maybe I could get out without her seeing. I had a hint of thought that if I had to talk to her I would say something rushed about being late to an appointment. I had a hint of it in my head that that appointment was with my psychiatrist, but I wouldn't say that. I didn't know what else....

When I was almost to the door, she turned her head toward me, and looked up without seeming to recognize me. She is a therapist now so I don't trust her expressions (or lack of) to be real. I said hi without showing recognition the first split second but then the eye contact felt to me like time got crossed clean through and she was just Isabella, and I was just me. And I smiled carefully at the edges. But she gave a soft, flat, monotone, careless-seeming hi back with no response at all in her eyes. Not at all. I wouldn't be able to do that caught off guard so close and fast like that--I couldn't even do that with warning--but maybe she did have warning. Maybe she'd anticipated that we might run into each other at this place, her place now, and planned it this way--thought it through ahead of time. She was tired of HIV last time I knew. So I thought I was safe. I hadn't anticipated she'd be here on any terms. Maybe didn't just know these people somehow related to her work. Maybe she worked here now. Maybe she'd even seen my records.

My reaction at this point, along with the adrenaline, was overwhelming relief that she was alive. She hasn't been positive for as long as I have, but she's had HIV a long time. And the last I knew her T-cells had come down to not much higher than mine and she'd said, "I just don't feel like putting those poisons in my body right now," about the medicines she was advised to take, and that she knows I take to stay alive. (It hadn't seemed to me that she was very sensitive to other people for becoming a therapist.) I was hoping she'd go back to meds when she was ready, but I couldn't know anymore. I couldn't tell at all whether the people around her knew at all.

I was glad that my reaction to her looking so good was relief before it turned to envy and self-consciousness. (In the tangled mix of all the reactions to our friendship's breakup had been fear that she would die and I'm not even in contact with any of the people we used to know in common, and I wouldn't even be told. How can you resolve anger and personal hurt from a fight when it's mixed up with that?)

Her face was rosey. I know my palor. She didn't have circles under her eyes like I do. She was wearing make-up; I wasn't. She was being some kind of professional, whether visiting or staying. I was wearing flip-flops and coming out of a nice interrogation about the most personal things of my life as a low-income woman with AIDS, with my cotton ball taped to the vein of my arm, going to the waiting room to pick up my thirty dollars and get my instructions for the next part.

The eye contact between us lasted the amount of time it would take for two people who didn't know each other saying hi in a hallway. She broke it and ducked her head and pushed herself up away from the wall, and even raised her hand to shield her face and bent her body straight forward, a thirty degree angle forward into her circle of peers as I walked the last steps toward them and turned right and got out the door.


Sunday, October 7, 2007

Jerry's Story

This a vignette I wrote about a woman I used to visit in hospices off and on for a couple years, many years ago. The vignette was published in The SUN: A Magazine of Ideas, September 1997. The woman I wrote it for died of complications from AIDS not long after. I didn't use her real name then, but I'm using it here:

Jerry grew up in Las Vegas after one of her parents shot the other somewhere east coast. I don't remember which shot which, but she was taken away and then ran away. She spent most of her life in casino hotels.
She was the only woman resident (which she liked) at Maitri Hospice in the Castro when I met her two years ago. But she got kicked out, so now she's with the old people in one long open windowed hall at Laguna Honda Hospital by Twin Peaks. She says she likes it here too. She was getting tired of AIDS all the time.
I haven't been to see her in months and have to ask the nurse if she's still around. The nurse says, Oh yeah, but she's lonely. And asks if I would please come for her birthday next month, leading me through the ward.

Jerry's husband-pimp, Turtle, used to be good at visiting. There was some kind of exchange going on,--her stashed pain medication for company and sometimes chocolate. One time I remember she slept with a sack of Hershey's Chocolate Kisses he'd brought her, she missed him so much. They melted all over her in the night, and the morning nurse thought she'd had a terrible accident.
But Turtle could be mean, chided her for gaining weight during the six months she could only eat Ben & Jerry's. So she was relieved when he went back to prison. Says he likes it better in there anyway. She takes her coffee with whipped cream.

Jerry is diagnosed with among many things, PML (progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy),--her left side is completely paralyzed. She told everybody that progressive multifocal leukoencphalopathy was bullshit,--she'd had an ordinary stroke, which we all took for wishful thinking. But the paralysis never did seem to progress, she's still around, and there's no way to tell without a brain biopsy, which isn't going to happen.

She'd remember "progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy" and she'd remember what my last T-cell counts were. But she couldn't remember certain names. She had a nurse, Leticia, who she called "Leukemia." And there was a very affected volunteer attendant who called himself Geoffra. She called him "Ragu. She calls me, and most people, Honey.

At Maitri Hospice she had her own big room and could have candles, and painted the intricate molding around her fireplace bright with nailpolish.

Most of these old residents are sleeping, or at least not moving, in their small, allotted, well-kept impersonal spaces.

But in a room at the end of the hall, Jerry is up in wheels with the smokers critiquing the Olympics on a black and white TV, limp left hand nails painted pink. She can't paint the right ones which are stained tobacco yellow. She looks the same.

She says, "Oh hello, Honey." And introduces me to everyone in the vicinity whether they can see or hear or think to talk, and interviews me. Asks if I know about the new protease inhibitors, and tells me to get on them ASAP. Her T-cells got so high on
them she had to quit. She didn't want to have to maybe move again.

I ask if there is anything I can do for her. She says no. If there is anything she needs from outside. No. Anything she'd like.

"Yes." Her priest, Cecil, brings her department store perfume samples, little vials each week. But what she'd really like from me on her forty-fourth birthday, next month, would be a big bottle of White Linen. ~
Maitri Hospice

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Ribbon Cutting

OK. Here's the still-unpolished explanation I promised in my starts and fits:

HIV is an active part of my genetic material. It was aquired rather than inherited, but it would not be posible for me to pretend it didn't become a blueprint for my life. (Of course I have free will, but I don't have as much free will as I would have without it.)

+Positve House was created as wish-fulfillment for the community "house" I wish I had, to then make up for my not having my own family and home.

I described what a community "house" would be for me in the "Living Now" entry this blog. (There is hope.)

I live in a city, San Francisco, intently focused on creating healing community based on gender and sexual orientation, not HIV status. The made-up services in +Positive House are just descriptions of what I see all around me that I am not included in.

I, personally, need some small inclusive HIV community badly. Inclusive. All kinds welcome. (Gender-exclusive without choice, to me, just feels like exclusion one way or the other. I don't ever want to be referred to another women's service again unless I can have alternatives that serve HIV+ human beings based on their specifically-personal human needs. Nothing about my life with HIV is gender-specific. I want services and community and langauge that refers to me based on my real human problems and needs and existence, that are all common with other HIV+ human beings' who are not all women. I am not a demograghic category. I don't even like the word "woman" anymore, and I didn't start out that way.)

The extensive link referral in the sidebarof +Positive House is provided so that the effort I put into the site serves a purpose even if no one reads the text. The referral is also for the purpose of using the specificity of all those services to make the point that the lack of venues for inclusive HIV+ community, and the total lack of any service for HIV+ straight people and straight relationships--has nothing to do with lack of resources.

I have felt left out in a way that I might not have if I didn't live in this city--if I lived in a place where there were no services equally for anybody. But I need to live here for my physical medical care. Which is the best in the world here for my kind.

I don't know anyone else who feels this way. I had to say it somewhere, so I said it in online.

I said in the personal profile of this blog that I am using +Positive House as a touchstone for more traditional, narrative writing here. The care I put into imagining +Positive House provides a vitual foundation, company, and comfort that allows for what I'm doing here. And it somehow provides some real leverage for moving forward with my life.

There. That's the best I can do.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Maria 2007

Tonight I went to the 11th annual ART for AIDS Evening of Silent and Live Auctions benefiting UCSF AIDS Health Project which provides mental healthcare and support for people living with HIV. The well attended fund-raising event hosted by Bonhams & Butterfields auction house was colorfully lovely, and tasty, and just enebriating enough. I was wearing ballet pink and felt pretty for the first time in a while.

I toured all the art before the bidding. There were several pieces of art that, as an artist I wanted to copy, and, if I were a person of means, I would have wanted to buy. But I didn't look at almost any people in the eye except the friend I brought and the hors d'ouvres and wine servers. I was afraid of running into people I might have known from a long time ago but that I wouldn't recognize or be able to place. One of the people I did want to see to thank saw me before I saw her, which was nice, and hugged me. Another I reached out and shook hands with and said, "Good to see you," in passing, but I'm not sure if he recognized or placed recognition of me or not--but he would be good at not being readable that way if he wanted not to be.

The live auction was charged and interesting. I watched the room from standing at a little standing table with my wine and lttle crab things with three men I never looked at. They weren't the same three men by the time I sat down in a fold-up chair to the right of my friend. I don't know how many items sold, but it all seemed to go quickly, and the participants seemed pleased with the sales. Near the closing of the auction, (the second to last item up), my friend raised one of our two ticket/bidding-number programs at a $2100 dollar call for a permanent pigment print of a man's face superimposed on Marie Antoinette's portrait, titled "Maria 2007" by Deborah Oropallo. It was not one of my favorites. All eyes paying attention were on my friend for the few seconds before they were all on someone else. He raised the bidding number, and attention of the room, and my heartbeat, again at $2900. The print ultimately sold to someone I didn't see for $3100 to happy-seeming applause.

At the beginning of the waning for the applause, a salt-and-pepper haired woman to my right leaned over me to my friend and asked him--if she might ask--why it was that he quit his bidding at $2900, and reminded him that, after all, this is "the moment" for the artist, Deborah Oropallo--who has quite a following in the gay community. And that the money raised goes to such a good cause. My friend sincerely did not hear her at all and smiled nicely. She turned to me and asked me why he quit, and asked also--"if she might ask'--to tell her about my collection.

I wanted to say, and wish at the moment that I had said, "Oh, no, no, Honey... [with that exact satisfyingly informative laugh some gay men perform when some straight women mistake them for straight]. No, no, ...you see, I am just a client of the benefiting agency, AIDS Health Project--I have AIDS, and mental health problems, and I save up money each year for the $50 admissions for myself and for someone who hasn't been to this event before. And this here, [gesture to my friend], this is my straight friend and shelter from storms, and cat-sitter--for when I get to go out of San Francisco to visit people I'm related to, or suddenly need to go gut houses in New Orleans, or for when I am involuntarily committed to the psych ward of San Francisco General Hospital for quitting eating and the wardens threaten to break into my apartment to let Animal Control go get my cat to take care of her while I'm being taken care of.... But thank you for asking--about my collection. And I don't know why my friend quit bidding on "Maria 2007," or started.

In most of my past I would have said easily in that situation: "I am a client of the benefiting agency. Thank you for your support of us," and either walked off with a polite smile if possible or handled the reaction with poise, and gone home done.

But instead I pretended for real that I didn't hear the salt-and-pepper-haired woman at all either, and I smiled encouragingly. I'm older now. I don't know what that has to do with it, but it does.

And now I've come home to my exquititely beautiful ebony oriental shorthair cat. And I am hanging with unfinished emotional business. --Not just about the art collector/benefactor woman (who did not herself bid on anything. Nor did her companion).

But I can't talk about the rest of it. I have to leave it at that.

Living Now

This crisp morning I took a tram south along the edge of the bay to a securely locked up building on 3rd Street at 24th. (I'm not sure what neighborhood that is considered to be.) This building houses the Black Coalition on AIDS. I was buzzed in. I hurried up the stairs thinking I was late for my intake appointment with a man I will call Andrew. I signed in and the welcoming-voiced receptionist told me Andrew had stepped out, but would be back in a minute. It turned out that there was confusion about my appointment time, so I had to wait awhile, but that was fine with me because I could sink into the couch a little and get a feel for the place. The building is very big exposed-beam renovated warehouse. It is spacious, open, comfortable, and safe feeling. There are oriental rugs over more practical carpet to define areas into little rooms within larger rooms.

A tall, handsome African American man in a suit came out and asked the receptionist, also African American, about something about some stationary. Over his shoulder the man said a warm hello to me sitting on the couch with my backpack. Another man passed by after she had assisted the first one. He also greeted me on his way by. The first man later asked a quickly efficient Asian man about something about the copier.

I passed the time reading brochures and pamphlets. Most were for various medical and health care services for African Americans. The most recent issue of POZ magazine was there with its cover story on gay black positive men and straight black positive women, and their recent advocacy work together, united by the double discrimination against both, for being black and gay, or black and female. I was irked (to understate it) in a way long familiar to me--that straight positive men (of any color) were made to seem as though they didn't exist. I wonder sometimes if they don't. Why does everyone assume straight men with HIV or AIDS would be accepted and well-treated just because they're straight and men? They wouldn't have difficulties with relationships along with the rest of us? Aren't they (if they exist) being discriminated against by the HIV community along with whatever else they face?

Andrew arrived and nodded for me to follow him; he checked my appointment time and apologized. We went into a big freezing cold, --to me, conference room. (One of the side-effects of one of my medications is difficulty with temperature regulation). Andrew noticed my shivering, and that I hadn't brought a sweater or jacket, and he looked concerned and asked if I wanted to reschedule. I said, emphatically, No. (I had missed the first appointment--I was paranoid that that was why he was late to this one, that it was on purpose--and, also, it had taken more than an hour for me to get here from my apartment.) We went through the questionnaire--my identification, address, doctors' contact numbers, diagnoses, medications, drug-use history. We discussed some physical and mental health care challenges not on the forms. I answered by rote, waiting for my turn to ask questions. I signed a lot of understandings and permissions.

The intake was for a ten-week support program called "Living Now" that I was referred to by a "peer advocate" --(I don't know if "peer advocate" means she's positive, which is what that term means that to me)--at Shanti, an agency closer to home. "Living Now," I've found out since, has a primary focus on treatment adherence, that I don't need. I know a lot about my medications, their side-effects, and I take them anyway. I am interested in "Living Now", and was referred to it by the woman at Shanti, for the company.

I receive good medical care at San Francisco General Hospital's Ward 86, and I receive excellent psychiatric and therapy services at UCSF AIDS Health Project (AHP). My problem is isolation. I identify as a positive person, and I am only really comfortable around positive people, but I can not stomach the segregation of HIV/AIDS social support services in San Francisco. I feel fragmented by the targeted fragmentation of the HIV/AIDS community. I appreciate women's services but I personally have never wanted them and won't go to them. And I understand, but am sick of the array of support service descriptions that apply specifically and perfectly to my feelings and situations, that are reserved for men. [Supposedly for gay and "bisexual" men--It's not that I don't believe that there could be such a thing as a bisexual man; It's just that if services really were designed in part for them, wouldn't there be some--not as many, but some, or at least one--service for their relationships with women? And I say "services for men" rather than "services for gay and bisexual men" even though that's what they say, because if I were a straight man I would go to what applied to me anyway. I would be able to "pass."]

I need some small kind of diverse collection of HIV positive people somewhere. (Diverse people, not diverse women, not diverse gay people. People.) I'm not trying to find and pick up some positive straight guy (although that would be nice too, in some kind of circumstance appropriate for that whatever that would be.) I just need to feel like a human being, albeit a positive one, with all my different kinds of relationships aware of each other, in one room. "Living Now" is open to all kinds of positive people.

I answered in some way to that whole effect when Andrew asked what I hoped to get out of the program and services at Black Coalition on AIDS. And when at the end he did ask if I had any questions, I said, "Yes--Black positive people are under-served, and this is the only agency serving the needs of African Americans specifically, so why am I welcome here at all?"

He said the programs he runs are open to all positive people. He said that the Black Coalition on AIDS (BCA) was created to serve the needs of black people with HIV/AIDS who were not being served. But once BCA was established, they did not feel it was right to exclude someone in need on the basis of gender or sexual orientation, or color.

They do have programs and services there specifically for people of color. And I have no doubt that the needs of positive people of color are still under-served. And I am aware of my own feeling that I am trespassing. But Andrew's answer--I have waited for that for years. Just that anyone would think this way is healing.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Starting +Positive House

Explanation under construction. Difficult. Coming soon. Thank you.

But welcome in the meantime.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Old Hope

Ten years ago the San Francisco Chronicle asked the then executive director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation to write an op-ed about the promises and dilemmas of the first hopeful anti-AIDS medications. The executive director asked me (a volunteer there) to write the article in more directly personal terms.

I am posting the article I wrote, now ten years old, for two reasons. One reason is that (other than the Chronicle's choice for the title) I wrote every word of what was published, nothing was edited out, and I was proud of that at the time. But my critics said that the Foundation must have written it for me. That meant to me, in a painfully humbling way, that what I wrote must have been good enough. This blog post is a very late way to claim my own words even though no one remembers them from then and I'm not even using my own name now. It heals something.

The other reason I am posting my ten-year-old op-ed here now is that although the subject of article was a small expression of an indescribable, pivotal point in AIDS history, somehow most of what I said about that point in time has seemed to somehow remain constant since then. It is painfully interesting to me--bewildering, that after so much turbulence living with HIV/AIDS in the early epidemic, so much desperation for a little bit of time, then such a spike of hope in medicine,... that nothing really happens. For years. The words are still relevant. There are more people. And it isn't news. Here is the article:

New Hope Can Be Hard to Swallow

What it's like living
with the promise, dilemmas
of protease inhibitors

I have 88 T-cells. This is a 20-fold increase in the past five years of my life. Never mind that these new immune cells may not be functional. They may have lost their memory. Never mind that I remember years ago having lost 150 T-cells in one month. I feel privileged.

But this new privilege is hard to swallow psychologically, knowing that the combinations of pills I take cost $15,000 to $20,000 per year while there are people in my neighborhood with my disease sleeping on the sidewalk. This privilege is difficult enough to swallow physically in the relative comfort of my subsidized apartment.

I have survived 11 years of combinations of HIV-related hopes and fears, and at this most hopeful point, my greatest fear is that people who know of improvements like mine—but who do not know of all the care that delicate improvement is dependent on—are declaring the epidemic over; time to dismantle services.

The epidemic is hardly over for the people living on my sidewalk. And even with all the help I rely on (transportation, counseling, treatment information, SSI, Medi-Cal, free clinics, etc….) AIDS is not at all over for me yet either.

My 20-fold increased T-cell count is still less than 10 percent of normal. It’s nothing to bank on so to speak. I still experience days of such fatigue that I don’t get out of bed except to swallow pills. And days of such depression that it is a battle to get up to swallow more.

I am fortunate to be able to take Crixivan, one in the new, most promising clas of HIV drugs. I take it in a precisely coordinated combination with other drugs. I can hardly manage scheduling my regimen to include permissible eating—much less a 9-to-5 job. I could not manage this protocol living on a sidewalk. Dismantle my services now, and you dismantle my new, delicate chances for a future in which I won’t need them.

I feel guilty for being so much trouble for my questionable improvement on paper. But I do feel stronger in general, and it seems that I am looking a little healthier. At a recent event to thank major AIDS Care contributors, people said, “you look so well”—and they haven’t said that before.


Looking “so well” is a problem in itself. On more than one occasion, elderly and evidently disabled people have confronted me for my disrespect in sitting in a reserved seat on a crowded bus when I was too nauseated from my “new hope” to stand or to explain. Their reaction is understandable, and it is evident of a larger, very serious irony:

That we people with AIDS are suddenly looking so well in the national obituary column (the Centers for Disease Control having recently announced a percentage decrease in AIDS deaths) can understandably be misinterpreted by the government and the public to mean that the problems of the epidemic are diminishing. In fact, this unprecedented good news about our declining death rate means that there are more of us living with AIDS than ever. And the increasing needs of the living are not suddenly rendered problem free,

That there is new optimism means that there is new need for strategic efforts in prevention. That these sometimes efficacious treatments are so expensive financially and physically means that we, the people with access to special treatment, need more and different kinds of help than we did before.

The epidemic is not at all over. There are vast new challenges intrinsic to this little growing flame of hope. And there are people on my street corner who have not yet seen its glow. ~

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Ana's Story

Jenna Bush was interviewed tonight on Larry King Live promoting her new book: Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope--about a pseudononymous young woman growing up with HIV somewhere in Latin America. I was skeptical. I did not ever expect that I would like Jenna BUSH this much--THIS much--more than Senator HILLARY Clinton. I'm buying the book.

On another page--Senator Hillary Clinton a couple months ago got uproarious applause for roaring that she GUARANTEED that if AIDS were the number one killer of white women, something would be done about it. What she was intending to say--that HIV infection in this country is disproportionally--by far--affecting African American women, and that AIDS is now the number one cause of death for African American women, and that this is due to life-threatening racial disparities--should be crucial, to all of us. But what she actually said--EXCUSE ME?--When Senator Hillary Clinton has lived with HIV for over twenty years, she will, then, be very well qualified to say what has happened, and what does happen, and what will happen for women who are white who have AIDS. Once you have it, you got it. She thinks there'd be more help for her, on her own, than for other people? I don't think so. She lost this one, on that one, doing it that way. Uh-uh.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Angels in America

The San Francisco Film Commission recently denied the Silent Drill Platoon of the U.S. Marine Corps the right to shoot a segment of a cross-country film campaign for their "America's Marines" TV commercial on the side street of my block. New York allowed them. The San Francisco commission's excuse was traffic control. California Street, my side street, is closed off every year for a Chinese New Year parade. It is closed off not infrequently for secret, police-escorted people in limousines going to their expensive hotels at the top of the hill. San Francisco is a city proud to close off its big streets when it wants to.

Wherever you are, however you feel about the war, however you feel about American Marine Corps recruitment, it's important to remember and care for men and women already serving in Iraq.

If you can, please consider adopting a soldier through Soldiers' Angels Soldiers' Angels is a national, non-profit organization whose slogan is, "May no soldier go unloved." Adopting a soldier means commiting to sending a letter once a week and a care package once or twice a month for a predetermined length of time. Soldiers' Angels will help you with ideas for care packages. You don't have to have a lot of money. (Warning: It is not a dating or entertainment service. It is a serious commitment that matters to soldiers and their families.)

I signed up yesterday. I found out about it from Greta Perry of "Kiss My Gumbo," whose husband served and came home to Louisiana from Iraq. Greta Perry, besides writing "Kiss My Gumbo" (at kissmygumbo.com), runs the entire Louisiana chapter of Soldiers' Angels, among many other things. This is the last post in which I am going to exploit her.

And don't worry, you will only be solicited for help for soldiers, AIDS, and Katrina wreckage at this site.