Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Test

New Year's Eve 2013. The setting is a bar. It is late... or early, depending on how you look at it.

Me: Before we make any decisions here about tonight, I wanna put out there that I'm HIV positive.

Handsome Fella: Oh. OK. I'm not. I really appreciate you telling me though. And I'm fine with that. 

Me: Cool. 


Handsome Fella: You kind of use that don't you? 

Me: What? 

Handsome Fella:  When you tell people. It's great that you're up front about it but you kind of use it. It's like a test for you. To see how people react. You sort of judge them by their reaction. 

Me: ...Huh.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Chapter In Which I Almost Ruin Christmas For Some Poor Kid

Dear Charlotte,
A little elf told me you had a not so great experience in Youth Group a couple of weeks ago. In our discussion of Santa Claus it appeared to be revealed that Santa Claus does not exist. Now I have a little secret to tell you... I still believe in Santa.  And while I am pretty good lookin' , I am considerably older than you! I also believe that there are magical worlds to be visited on the other sides of rainbows, through wardrobe doors and down rabbit holes - but maybe that's because I'm a little cray cray :)  But how could I not believe in Santa? He's everywhere. In fact, I'm looking at him right now on my can of Diet Coke! Santa has existed for hundreds of years and in hundreds of forms for hundreds of cultures. Sinterklaas, St Nicholas, Father Christmas, Pere Noel. In some cultures he doesn't give gifts at all but creates a feeling of Christmas spirit. In some countries he visits on the 5th or 6th of December and others on the New Year. Sometimes he has deer. Sometimes he flies alone on the wind. Sometimes he wears red, other times green. He's kinda like Madonna, he just keeps reinventing himself. In any case how can something so enduring and that is here only for the forces of good and all that is freakin' awesome not be real???  I reject that.
And maybe you can't explain it all. Is he a real dude that slips down your chimney in the middle of the night? Does he have an army of industrious, mischievous, little elves? And does he really  know what is going on in each and every household in the world? Frankly it all sounds a little creepy to me. But maybe he exists in different ways. In 1897, in the most famous editorial ever written, Frank Church wrote: " Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished." 
Ok,  a tad wordy and dramatic, but he makes a good point!
Looking back, I realize we were all wrong in letting this conversation go the way it did in Youth Group. Whether Santa Claus exists or not is often a hot button topic at the holidays, particularly among the young folks like yourself and I fear we let the conversation pass too quickly. Unitarian Universalists are known for sharing their various beliefs and personal ideals... A LOT!  We do this the most when it's about things that are mysterious or magical. UU's are also known for questioning commonly held beliefs. But most importantly, UU's are open to and accepting of the beliefs of others. This is true in regards to our understandings of Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, Heaven, The Bible and yes, even dear old Santa Claus!  And we were wrong in Youth group to only spend time on the one idea that Santa does not exist.
So you can and should go ahead and believe whatever feels right for you. Even if it seems totally cray cray. And sometimes, ESPECIALLY when it seems totally cray cray.  Like the Journey song says and the cast of Glee reminds us... don't stop believing! I certainly won't.
Merry Christmas,

Thursday, September 13, 2012

In The Valley of the Dolls

"I want a doll! I want a doll" -Neely O'Hara in Valley of the Dolls

After careful and extensive research and experimentation I have learned that my HIV medication does not interact adversely at all with wine. 

Particularly Yellowtail Chardonnay.

Such. A. Relief. 

The leap into the world of pills (aka 'dolls' for all of you camp philistines) I am happy to report has been fairly simple and so far successful. The build up was hard. The decision to go on meds was not an easy one. It really was something like facing my disease anew. Between deciding to go on meds and the first few days of actually taking them I sort of felt like I had been diagnosed all over again. 

HIV, my case anyway, is a little like the Emperor and his new clothes. In a good way. It's this great big emotional ordeal that has very little to show for itself. As I mentioned, since testing positive I have been considerably healthy and most of my reasons for going on medication were emotional and psychological. Maybe it's also part of getting old. I've been thinking a lot about health and longevity and finally figuring out just what the fuck is going on with my 401K. I've also taken to knitting doilies and I keep trying to take my teeth out before bed.

I received my prescription on a Thursday and promptly dropped it off at the pharmacy. The usually ornery, young, Asian American girl who would probably be so much prettier if she hadn't been born and raised in Flushing, grabbed the slip and curtly asked for my address. I gave it and she began to type in the information on the prescription. I don't know if I am imagining this but I swear I could see her face soften. Her expression became slightly sweeter. Did she know what Complera was for? Did she know I had HIV and was now getting all soft on me? Is that why she asked me what time I'd like to pick it up rather than barking "One hour!" ?

The next afternoon right after lunch, I opened my not so little bottle of jumbo sized dolls (3 in one!) and started to put it in my mouth. Realizing this moment deserved some dignity, I turned down the volume on the rerun of Melrose Place I was watching, popped the doll into my mouth and ceremoniously washed it down with a gulp of Diet Coke.

On my way to work that afternoon, for some ridiculous reason, I waited for my doll to "kick in". Like a hit of Ecstasy. I imagined all of my cells wildly trembling and pulsing. I thought I would soon be getting flushed, light headed and sweaty. I envisioned my biceps and chest enlarging, tearing through my T-shirt and being surrounded by a white force field standing in front of a giant skull like structure, holding a large sword and screaming "I HAVE THE POWER!!!" 

And then I thought of what a Tom of Finland daddy Man At Arms was and I got horny and the whole thing derailed. 

After starting the medication, I was still hemming and hawing about whether this was the right option. Not that I have any distinct notion what a hem / haw is, but two things happened. I had a great doctor visit and a kick in the pants from a good friend.

The dolls are doing their thing. I am nearly undetectable after one month of medication. My viral load went from 26,000 to 330. If you don't know what a viral load is you can click here cuz gurl this entry is long enough already!  This information provided by my very warm and caring nurse practitioner who I sometimes want to a little bit do it with was very encouraging. The other bit of encouragement came from my friend Scott who in his no nonsense fashion laid it all out for me. Scott explained that while he understood my hesitance he ultimately looks at taking meds as no different than a diabetic taking insulin. It's actually even simpler. He also pointed out that there are millions of people around the world without access to HIV medication. And here I am bitching moaning about taking them.

I'm feeling pretty good about this change in my life. It's been a new step in confronting the 'ol High 5. It's an experience that has brought me closer to the people I love, placed a more thoughtful attention on my body and health and is making me healthier each day. I'll keep you posted on the progress but I have to say, not too bad for one not so little pill!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Critical Bitch #1: Into The Woods

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine hail from a generation of artists absolutely smitten with psycho-analysis. Through this love affair and with the inspiration of Bruno Bettelheim's Jungian breakdown of classic fairy tales The Uses of Enchantment, 'Into The Woods' was born. The orginal musical as created by Sondheim and Lapine is a magical, grotesque, rarely sentimental and often heartbreaking in depth analysis of parent / child relationships and their repercussions on the community in which they exist. The Public Theater's solution to the psychological angst played out in 'Into The Woods' is typical of the current generation... simply take an antidepressant! 

The prozac in this production under the direction of Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel comes in the form of a little boy (played in rotation by Noah Radcliffe and Jack Broderick), straight out of an 80's Spielberg family summer blockbuster, replete with red hoodie and sleeping bag. The unnamed boy, we'll call him Zac for the purposes of this review, (get it?) fulfills the duties of the traditionally older and omniscient Narrator. Zac, whose shoehorned story serves as bookends to each act, is a cute device throughout the lighter and zippier Act 1. However, in Act 2 his role becomes much more muddled, particularly at the point where the denizens of Fairy Tale Land essentially decide to feed him, (god? fate?) to the giant and take the story into their own hands. 'Wait!' you're thinking 'they've killed a little innocent boy?!' Not to fear. Lights immediately bump up downstage on his double, soundly asleep. It's all a dream! Phew! No danger here. 

It's that lack of danger that cheapens the proceedings. The stakes plummet and Zac's treacly reunion with his father at the conclusion of the play gives us assurance that the nightmares of childhood or the terrors of parenting are simply no match for the warm embrace of a father and his run away boy. 

Now given all of the above you might be wondering if I actually saw 'Into The Woods'. I assure you I did. But fear not 'Woodsies'! Much of what you love about this show is still there and in many ways improved upon. The physical production is glorious, embracing our cool, New York urban sensibilities with the magic of nature and the sense of escape one might feel getting lost in Central Park. No small feat in an open air, 1800+ seat theater, Sheader and Steel provide raucous and whimsical staging that tells a clear and engaging, if misguided version of the story.  Donna Murphy is terrifying and resplendent as the all too human, evil witch. Her unstoppable vocals and dramatic choices quite possibly take us deeper into those woods that Sondheim and Lapine envisioned than any before her. While not known for their musical prowess, Dennis O'Hare and Amy Adams as The Baker and His Wife provide a very elegant and thoughtful exploration of the frustrations encountered by couples grappling with infertility. Adams, however has taken a bit of the prozac and can't quite move past her sunny Disney Princess persona, which again, becomes problematic in the darker Act 2. O'Hare's baker is indeed rich and moving yet it must be said that some of the music should have been adjusted to do away with his longer held notes. Our remaining principals Gideon Glick, Sarah Stiles, Jessie Mueller and Ivan Hernandez do a fitting job bringing to life the charmingly satirical characters of Story Book Land. 

The sentimental streaks inflicted on this production by Shaeder and Steel and their red cloaked creation Zac, seem to create an ultimately overly simplified and tidy affair. Sondheim's brilliance has never owed anything to tidiness. My advice to the theater goer that has camped out overnight for her two coveted tickets is to skip the prozac. Arrive after the first 30 seconds of each act and leave 60 seconds before they come down. This way you might better enjoy the twisted and tangled 'Woods' Sondheim and Lapine sought to lead us into.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012


"Magenta. That’s what I call it when I get that way. All kinds of feelings tumbling all over themselves. You know, you’re not quite blue, ‘cause you’re not really sad. And although you’re a little bit jealous you wouldn’t say you’re green with envy. And every now and then you realize you’re kinda scared, but you would hardly call yourself yella’. I hate that feeling! I just hate it. and I hate the color magenta. That’s why I named it that, Magenta."
 - Blanche Devereaux

I did two things today. I got a haircut and then I got my first-ever-in-my-life prescription for HIV medication. One of these things has made me feel rull rull magenta. And yeah, I'm not quite blue about it, not like depressed or anything. I'm a little bit "Why me?" but not exactly envious of those who are not HIV positive or don't need HIV medication. I have some nerves and concerns but I'm not "yella" (Oh Blanche!). So yes, I'm just kinda angsty, twisty, a bit gloomy, ya know...magenta.

I've been HIV positive for over 7 years now and I am just starting medication. HIV is a very mysterious disease and I’ve yet to really experience any of the physical effects of the disease. I mostly wasn't taking medication because I am physically healthy. But there is a part of me that is afraid to go on meds because that means, I’m sick. It’s a little reminder every day that I am infected and need treatment. It's a new stage of acceptance I guess.

I go to the doctor four times a year for labs in which they test my blood to see how all of my cells are doing and to see how much of the virus is in my blood. I go in one week before my actual appointment. They draw the blood and then I wait a week for the results. I hate that week. I think of these as my Seasonique weeks. Ya know that birth control pill where you only get your raging intense period 4 times a year? Yeah. It’s like that. Blood and all.  After the blood is drawn I spend the rest of the week wondering, what if this is it? What if this is the round of labs where I find out I’m unhealthy? Where I find out I’m sick?? Where I find out that my T-cells have plummeted and my viral lode has exploded??? And I am scared of it. All of this causes a certain amount of anxiety that I have to combat every day.

...So I'm a bit over this frustration.

There is another reason I have decided to start swallowing a pill every day. I WANT A FUCKING BOYFRIEND! Ok. not really, but yeah, kind of.  Turns out that being on medication, having a low to non existent viral load makes you much more marketable. Being able to bandy about the phrase "Undetectable" on your on line dating  / gay butt sex hook up profile basically adds 4 inches to your cock size. Despite the fact that you might not feel any different, being undetectable makes you seem healthier and more attractive and less toxic to both positive and negative guys alike. I can't tell you how many times I've had negative guys ask me on line if I am on medication. But that is another topic for another time.

The whole situation is magenta. Which I think is a really great metaphor for my relationship to HIV in general. HIV has never been red for me. It's never been volatile or dangerous. It's never been green in any emotional color. I've never become ill from it. Nor do I resent those that are not positive.  My times of yellow, fear, worry are past me. I'm not particularly blue about being positive. Each day I work past shame and guilt and I work very very very hard at not being depressed.  It's silent. It's secret. It's a big 'what if'.  It's awkward. It's a stigma. It's off center. It's tough to bring up. It's not easily understood. It's not well articulated.  It's angsty. It's moody. It's contemplative. It's magenta. And that is all it is. And all it hopefully ever will be... magenta.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Has True Blood Lost Its Bite?

I'm more than a little concerned about this season of True Blood. Something is missing. It seems that True Blood has lost it's bite. 4 episodes in and I have to wonder, where is the danger? This season's tag line is "Everything is at stake". Plot-wise this is true. I suppose. I don't know if it's any stakier than past seasons but yeah every character is heavily embroiled in some kind of southern fried supernatural trauma. But, I don't feel anything is at stake for me, the viewer. Not in comparison to seasons past. Word on the street is that Alan Ball will be leaving his show - runner duties for the next season. Part of me wonders if he hasn't already checked out

What Alan Ball has always done so terrifyingly well is to tap into our innermost, visceral places. In simpler terms, gurl knows how to portray how fucked up we can be. Six Feet Under still reigns (for me at least) as the greatest television show that has ever existed. In Six Feet Under, Ball balanced mortality with sexual exploration and angst. David's coming out in between embalming sessions and wakes, Brenda's sexual addiction (not to mention the weird ass tension between her and her own brother), Nate's womanizing and the seemingly frigid matriarch Ruth may have had more lovers than anyone else on the show.

Thematically, True Blood is a fun house mirror of Six Feet Under. It's life vs. death (or un-death in this case) wrapped up in a whole lot of sex, blood and leather pants.  True Blood is a show about desire... excessive desire. Like really, deep, dark, twisted desire. Although the incest on True Blood isn't nearly as unnerving as on Six Feet Under. I mean what's a little incest between vampires? And there is a little incest this season. But that is exactly the problem with this season. The most taboo element is neither here nor there and merely a characteristic rather than a storyline. 

True Blood has always engaged the viewer by presenting danger that excited us and that tempted us. Even when we knew it was bad for the characters in the end, didn't we all want to try V? Don't we all want to dabble in a little witchcraft? Didn't Maryann's cake and dirt eating fueled orgies seem kind of awesome? At least at the beginning? Don't we all want to have sex with Eric - a Vampire who could quite possibly suck all the blood out of us as we dig our fingers into his well formed cum drains? And most of all, don't we all more than sorta kinda want to be Vampires???

But that's all missing this season. The allure, the danger, the hurts so good -  it's just not there. It's all plot, swift action and rather disconnected or unsurprising sex. Bill and Eric and their "Vamps of Hazard" storyline is abysmal and SPOILER ALERT, Tara as a Vampire is not really all that different than Tara as a human.
She still hates Vamps and herself, now just a little more than usual. It looks like Sookie might be headed towards my favorite place in the world (Alcide's arms) but let's face it, that's about as dangerous as Ross and Rachel.  

Oh sure there's the sociopolitical commentary / parable but without the danger, well, I'd rather just watch re-runs of The West Wing. C'mon Alan Ball, give us some V. Give us some sex. Give us some  sex on V. Make us feel dirty again.