I am History
More and more these days, it slaps me across the consciousness that rather than just an observer of time passing or a participant in life’s vicissitudes and vagaries, I am suddenly being thrust into the status of both a spectator to my own passage through time and/or simultaneously an active if somewhat aging actor in the living tableau we call history.
Every day there is another jolting comeuppance that pulls me up short and physically demonstrates the inexorable march through the ages that I, personally, have trodden.
Just the other day was December 7th;
“A date which will live in infamy”
Now there’s a quotation I have known all my life; historical, everlasting, infamous in its own infamy. This December marked 72 years since that first December 7th. I am 62 years old. WWII ended barely 6 years before I was BORN! That’s less time than we’ve been at war in Afghanistan.
I was watching a documentary on amFAR recently, the Foundation for AIDS Research. Aside from the stock footage of the Castro in the 1970’s during which I covered my eyes yet peeked through the slits in my fingers attempting to see myself around every corner, mutton chopped, blue jean clad, and plaid shirted, skittering along with the other senseless, silly, soon-to-be-souls-departed, I was struck by how long ago it really was….and how far and wide I have lived since then.
In 1984, by the time all hell had broken loose, I was a body doomed, surrounded by the ravaged remains of the formerly humpy hunks now withered and wrinkled like the then beloved California Raisins, icons of that era’s advertising genius but much less desirable with or without a good ad campaign…which we certainly did not have.
We were pariah
We were death’s doorways
We were already History
I assumed my place in the ranks of the Formerly Fabulous, resigned to my fatuous fate, and did what all nearly departed gays did even back then. I packed up my life, sold everything I owned, moved to Palm Springs and prepared to watch my days dwindle in the dazzle of the reflected sun on the moonscape of the desert.
A funny thing happened on the way to the grave.
I didn’t quite make it.
I woke up one day, years later, and realized a few things;
I hated Palm Springs
I hated everyone I knew there
I had a career I loved but a job I hated
I had a house I loved but in a place I hated
And most significantly, I wasn’t dead…….yet
I moved to San Diego 3 weeks later. I sold my house…barely, and continued what had become and would continue to be a continual process of reinvention and reinvigoration that I firmly believe has kept me alive through the many decades since.
Three years later, I was diagnosed with Kaposi’s Sarcoma of the stomach.
Along with not unexpected news of an AIDS diagnosis (most everyone I knew had already died by 1988), there was, as there had been from the beginning of the news of the onslaught, a sense of resignation and, at least on my part, a quiet certainty of fate that was in some odd way reassuring.
Once more, finding myself not quite ready for the boneyard, I shed my shell yet again.
I quit my job and career
I went on a cruise
I ran up all the credit cards I could
I bought a Trans Am
Once more, I did not die.
I declared bankruptcy instead. It seemed a fair alternative at the time.
But this time my best friend did die, painfully, stoically, alone save for his 75 year old mother who had moved to San Francisco from Maui to care-tend his final journey; her beloved John, my beloved John. 6’4” of muscled handsomeness reduced to under 100 lbs; miserable, tortured, left alone by all those who had perished ahead of him save for those few who would grieve and mourn and keen and wail one more time and wonder……..
When will my turn come
Who will cry for me
Why I stopped in Atlanta on my way to DC for Thanksgiving that year is unimportant.
Why I did not leave is maybe more so.
If, as the auspices were thrumping, my time was ticking, then why not move….again?
Necessity became the mother of my Reinvention. I had to keep moving forward or atrophy and certain death would catch me unaware. Someone suggested I stay….I did…not quite knowing why, not particularly liking the South, Southerners, or really much about the place at all but feeling, once more, a compulsion to remain a while, sow a few seasons, and see what sprouted.
My once and future husband appeared one Good Friday at a country western bar called Hoedown’s and the story that would be told a thousand times was hatched that night like Easter eggs from the fertile imaginations of the gay gang that had festooned that house of ill repute.
And once again, nomadic by nature but lacking the Bedouin Boudoir, I slung my shit into a U Haul like a Lesbian on a first date and headed even deeper south, into the swamps of Low Country Carolina South.
What was I thinking?
I was in love
I was in life
I was still moving….forward
Thinking wasn’t particularly on the menu but then by the ripening age of 40 I was, at last, learning to rely more and more on my strongly developed instinctual intellect that, while scoffed at by most, had to that point and has, still, almost always, like a cat dropped off a roof, landed me on my feet with most of my lives still intact…or at least serviceable.
We endured a year there.
The South was now History
We were now cemented together
He was someone I knew I could count on, I always have, I still do. Solid of character, free of drama and as I continue to maintain today, the most integrous person I have ever known.
And so the next and most significant chunk of personal history was spawned.
Twenty-odd years later it is almost unimaginable to me how much more life was in the old carcass still! Four states, five houses, umpteen countries, hundreds of friends (check out my Facebook) and we are still barreling down the freeway of life…well….more a mosey sometimes these days but, like our aged Rotweiller, Bella, we occasionally get a head of steam up and chase after a squirrel or two.
And so history, while some would say is doomed to repeat itself, I would posit that the repetition is not always bad. When it comes to reinvention and rejuvenation, repetition is its own reward. The mere act of getting up again when it would seem most prudent to lay down and accept our fate is paradoxically the very tonic that soothes our souls and fuels our bodies into regeneration.
This year, again, feeling the siren’s pull of the unknown and the beachcomber’s languid lethargy-like boredom of complacency, I threw myself out into the waters of volunteerism and, like diving into the deep end of the pool and not knowing how to swim, by the time you get up to the air on top, you know what you’re doing.
I found new friends, new callings, and most importantly, at an age where so many struggle to find value in themselves and in the centrifugally twirling world around them, I found a new career.
I wasn’t looking.
I simply opened up a door to the possibility of helping some friends with a new ad agency they were developing; setting up the office, keeping them organized, on task, making sure all the balls were still in the air.
Nothing like what I found.
Suddenly I’m editing copy, writing content, giving clients a voice of their own for their marketing. I take photos for websites; I brainstorm ideas like I used to do in the hotel industry years ago but this time I feel an interesting and immediate connection to the end product that I never engaged with before.
I find myself wondering aloud “I wish I had found this career when I was young.”
But then I catch myself.
I found it now
Right when I should
And now my history has yet another chapter to write and I’m the lucky one, as always, that gets to put pen to paper and make it a record worth reading about.
History is, indeed, a living document……
I am History