A friend sent me these OLD photos from when we were about twenty five years younger, back in the day, before tragedy struck and it all went to hell. Once, I was Young and Beautiful. Must have been in my mid twenties at Disney World with my friend Jason, whom I dated a short while.
Here is the story of that week from my journal. If we are to start anywhere, here is the best place. Today is July 4th 2019. Twenty Five years have passed.
July 4th 1994
it was a nice day. Josh and I prepared the house for company; we were hosting a “friendly” BBQ in Ft. Lauderdale. Alan and his hubby and other friends from the complex were coming, a veritable who’s who of my social circle back then. It was a great day. We cooked and ate at the picnic table out back – the drag queens in the adjacent area were entertaining, and the conversation was light and campy. The day wore on into night, and fireworks were going to be shot off over Ft. Lauderdale beach. So we piled into the convertible and headed out for the five-minute drive across the bridge to the beach. Parking was a nightmare, but eventually we found a spot to sit in. I remember that things were happy and there were no worries; we were out celebrating the holiday. After the fireworks we came home and imbibed a great deal, and sat down to watch the new film out on video, “Philadelphia” with Tom Hanks. Little did I know how much life would…?
Imitate art that week?
I watched with a certain attention, as if saying to God, “I know what’s coming so please be gentle with me, because I am not sure I am ready to do this or die.” It had been a year since the first time I was tested at “Planned Parenthood” and that test came back negative.
The second test was done in a city hospital lab, and those results came back negative as well, but six months later we found out on the news that the lab had switched our (100 gay men’s) HIV tests with a retirement home lab list. It was freaky when 100 elderly folk got positive HIV tests back from the lab, OOOPS – someone made a HUGE mistake.
Anyway, that was that.
Around 8 o’clock I called my parents to wish them a Happy July 4th; there was another piece of information I needed to get across to them, and this was not going to be very easy, I had been feeling pretty sick since January, and checked 7 of the 9 symptoms off the list from “If these things are happening to you — you might have HIV” wallet card.
The conversation started light and airy, then all the air left my lungs and I could not breathe. And this is how it went
Pleasant conversation, then I dropped the bomb!
I have some news for you.
Yes, what would that be?
I’ve been feeling a lot sick lately and tomorrow I am going to see a doctor…
I could hear the wheels spinning in their heads. My mother had been working in Home Health Care for a number of years and she had seen what AIDS can do to a human being; couple that with what they were watching on TV and she was having worse case scenario visions in her head!!
They were watching “Philadelphia” at their house at the very moment I called. Suddenly my mother must have looked at the TV and she screamed. Yes, that’s right, I am sick, and I need to go get tested tomorrow, it’s time. My father was listening in on the extension, and I am sure he was beside himself; his fag son was sick and putting two and two together led to only one conclusion.
Josh was sitting in the living room while I had this conversation, he didn’t say a word. I had to prepare him for what was coming; Josh and I would never see the end of the week together. In the end, I would never see Josh again.
After a bout of hysterics, I told them that everything would be all right and I ended the phone call. That night I did not sleep at all, and Josh was all over the place. He was such a quiet and calm young man; we were both young then. We had only been dating for a couple of months by that point. Tomorrow’s test was just a formality; I knew already the answer I would get confirmed in a few days’ time. I did not tell any of my friends that night. Todd and Roy were in Provincetown on holiday.
I would eventually call Todd.
“You’ll Never Find Another Love like Mine” (written by Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff) is a song performed by R&B singer Lou Rawls on his 1976 album All Things in Time. The song proved to be Rawls’ breakthrough hit, reaching number one on both the R&B and Easy Listening charts as well as number four on the dance chart and number two on the US Billboard Hot 100, The single went on to sell over a million copies and was certified gold by the RIAA.
The other day I was getting my hair cut, and the owner of the salon, a friend of mine, was jamming music. This song, You’ll never find another love like mine, was playing, in a remix format, that went on for twelve minutes.
As soon as you hear Lou sing the first line … You’ll never find …
I am back in my old family home, and it is early morning. Usually 7 a.m. is when my father would turn on the stereo so we’d have music to get ready by.
I guess you could say that this song reminds me of my late father. He died on January 7th 2018.
In 1976, as referenced above, I was in third grade going on fourth grade, at Coral Terrace Elementary School in Miami, Florida. I remember this song playing, like every morning.
And I am sitting in the salon chair, singing along with the song, and visually I am in my head, standing in the living room of that old house, as if it were that very moment.
The house was a 3 bedroom house. The walls were all natural wood, we did not have central air or heat, what we did have was a ceramic brick, gas heater in the dining room. On very cold nights, we used to sleep in the dining room/living room.
I remember once, was had a rolling dish washing machine in that house. We would roll it over to the sink and connect it to the kitchen faucet to wash the dishes. One night, my mother had run out of dish washer crystals, so she poured a full compartment of liquid dish washing soap, into the machine, and started it. If you’ve ever seen a bubble machine go crazy, there were bubbles coming out of the dish washer and spread all over the house.
It was hysterical. She never made that mistake ever again. It was the only dish washer we ever had. After we moved from that house, we did not have a kitchen with space enough for another one.
My memories of places might be faded, but if you play me a song, I probably could tell you exactly what I was doing, or here I was, and at what age I was, when I heard that song in my past.
I have too many blank spots in my memory, of dates and places. I have an entire collection of photos my aunt gave me a whole back, and many of those photos are blank in my memory.
Play me a song, and you have a better chance of a memory connection to that particular piece of music.
Today, I went into my I Tunes, and looked up the remix edit that I heard the other day. It comes in at 8 minutes. It might not be the same play list I was listening to at the salon, but it is close.
Most of the music in my I Phone is old. About 80% of it is from the 1970’s through the 1980’s. I run old when it comes to music.
They don’t make music today, like the used to. Them times were so much more simple. We did not have all the trappings of today, but life was good, when it was good. My father had his good side and his bad side.
This song reminds me of his really good side.
Hi dad …
In the recent past, I have heard friends say that, their memory of what they did this morning, is quite incomplete. We sometimes cannot remember what we ate for breakfast, on any given day, but spin a particular piece of music, and you are immediately catapulted to a particular place and time, as if you were standing there in that very moment.
Which is why, most of my music that is filed into my I-Phone, is mostly old music. From my very first record, Captain and Tennille, Song of Joy, to the rock and roll that dictated my years in high school, to present day music that is the soundtrack of my life today.
The other day, I was on You Tube, as I am wont to do late at night, and I rolled across Andy Gibb, the youngest Gibb Brother, who died in the 1980’s from a combination of issues that killed him in the end.
What surprised me, was when I clicked on a particular song he used to sing. Now I did not have him on my phone till yesterday. But I played that particular song through, and was immediately transported back, sitting in the backseat of the family station wagon, at a specific location on the turnpike in South Florida, when this song had played on the radio, as my father drove the car.
I could see the inside of the car, a station wagon. It was green, and tan. My brother and I had the entire back of the car to ourselves, blankets, pillows and all kinds of munchies in the family cooler.
Every year, when I was a kid, my parents packed us into whatever car my father was driving at the time, for the 1500 mile journey from Miami to New Britain, Connecticut. It was a two to three day ride, depending on the route my father took, and where we stopped along the way.
The Florida Space Coast, Savannah Georgia, South of the Border, on the border of South and North Carolina was popular, for their giant statues of Mexicans, Apes, and a multitude of fireworks you could buy there.
We always drove through New York, crossing the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, then we knew we were close to home, and family.
I may not listen to certain music all the time, and recently, old music has come up on my You Tube algorithm, and like I said, I might not remember what I did this morning, but as soon as the first note hits me, my mind goes right back to where ever I was, when I heard that music last.
The I came across Saturday Night Fever. Another seminal film, full of music that framed an entire period of my life. Now I have several new/old pieces of music on my phone.
I’ve got music on my phone that as a teen-ager, was the backdrop of many of my drinking escapades with my friends. Once again, I can see in my minds eye, where I was, what time of day it was, such and so forth.
If I sit and listen to pieces of music for a while, I could sit here and tell the exact story of that particular piece of music, and what I was doing at that point in my life.
There was a time when I was into black lights, and black light posters on my bedroom walls, I had glitter lights on my shelves, and my stereo. Back then we all had water beds, and we used to get hammered and go see the Pink Floyd, or the Van Halen, or Def Leppard laser light shows at the Miami Planetarium on weekend nights.
I remember countless nights when I would be hammered, laying on my water bed, floating away to some serious Def Leppard.
Those were the days.
I just wanted to write this short story, because it brought back all kinds of memories of when I was a kid. Good memories. They are far, few and between. So I’ll take them when I can get them.
Where would we be without the founders? When it seemed all might be lost, and men of good substance and good character found themselves in the throws of alcoholism, the solution came down to one interaction of a man in his own throws of a desire to drink, and the almost miraculous need to work with another alcoholic, started this great ball of sobriety rolling.
That day, standing in the lobby of the Mayflower hotel, Bill Wilson’s business meeting went down the tubes, he stood there contemplating a decision that would change the world. There were just two choices. One, to drink, or Two, to make a phone call.
Old timers I have met in my years, have stood in the lobby of said hotel and told their story of what the room looked like, how many feet stood between Bill, as he stood there, between the lobby bar, and the phone directory on the opposite wall, on the other side of the room.
Many years later, here in Montreal, a man in the throws of alcoholism, in the year 1943, wrote to New York for help. Help arrived for him. In 1944, the fellowship began, here in Canada. Dave B, got sober, in spite of himself.
A year later, into his own sobriety, Bobbie said to him, “It is time for you to carry the message to another alcoholic, we think it is time you helped someone who needs help.”
New York GSO sent Dave, 400 letters, they had received, and so A.A. was born in Quebec. From a humble apartment not far from where I live today, a rag tag bunch of drunks met in a living room, while their wives congregated in the bedroom or the kitchen.
This was before the dawn of the hallowed church basement.
The little living room meeting, grew exponentially. A group of three men, turned into twelve and then twenty five.
In the beginning there were three meetings in Montreal. I’ve been a member at all three of those original meetings.
We take for granted, many of us, that we have a meeting list, that is chock full of meetings, in various languages, in various locations, every day of the week.
Imagine in 1944, there were no meetings, but the one living room.
Gratitude is a word we hear often in the beginning. Oh, you must have gratitude, or, you must cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Many of these suggestions go unheard and untouched by many. Because when many come in, they have no idea why they need to be grateful to sit in a church basement, with these people, they don’t know, AND for the rest of their lives.
How can we have gratitude, when we ourselves, most likely haven’t even admitted to our innermost selves, that we are alcoholics.
Sobriety comes in stages, by fits and starts, by trial and error, but eventually, we find our grooves, and we settle in for the long haul.
Tonight, we attended the 60th anniversary of the first meeting I homed in when I moved to Montreal, Tuesday Beginners. And the read tonight, from the Big Book, was Gratitude in Action. the story of Dave B, and the dawn of the fellowship here in Montreal.
Out of all the people sitting in the room tonight, THREE of us have had interactions with Old OLD timers, who knew Dave B, in the flesh, old OLD timers who went to meetings with Dave B, and had their own stories of him, aside from what view we get from the book.
In years Nine and Ten, I went looking for OLD OLD timers. I spent more than a year, combing the city for them. I lucked out and found a handful of men, who knew Bill and Dr. Bob, and Dave B. Three founders. I also met men who were participants in the very first phase of the fellowship as it had its humble beginnings. I spent all that time collecting their stories, and here, deep within the memory of this blog, are those memories.
Every minute of sobriety, even the most mundane moments, had their precise usefulness. I talked with one of my oldest friends in the room today, at the meeting earlier tonight. He was there when I came in, during a time, that Tuesday Beginners was a very unique meeting. It was unique for its people who were there when I came in. Mostly women. It was unique for the fellowship that existed then, and the specific men and women who populated that meeting.
I commented to him that, we’ve never seen another iteration of that kind of community, anywhere in the city. And it is true, that a generation of people have long since moved on to other places, or have grown old and don’t make it out, and several have died of old age.
It is good to be reminded of gratitude every so often. Because you really don’t know how grateful I am for the people, the meetings, and the immense amounts of time people spent with me, to help me stay sober.
Before the dawn of cell phones, we had what was called LAND LINES.
You know, that phone attached to the kitchen wall ???
We did not sit at home waiting for that 2000 pound phone to ring, we went to break bread before and after, we hung out together for hours before and after a meeting. You don’t know a good thing, till it’s gone.
A sober friend might be the most important person in your life right now. And the more sober friends you have, will make the journey so much sweeter. I had all that and a whole lot more.
I met the right people, or the right people, were in the right place, at the right time, for the right reason. I’ve said this before, in an earlier post, I listen to a lot of people on a weekly basis. And over time, I’ve watched many of my friends grow up. I know everything that they did in sobriety.
Because what do we do in meetings? We listen to others, figure out their own lives, in front of us, in real time. We hear them talk themselves through situations that used to baffle them. We listen to them justify just about everything under the sun.
We know all the good and all the bad. We know who succeeded and who did not. We know everybody who chose to drink again, and we even watched friends loose their battle with the bottle and die …
The solution exists, for those who need it. All you need is to ask, and it will be given you. You cannot imagine the immense wealth of education you find sitting in a church basement, several times a week.
If it were not for the multitude of WOMEN and MEN who took time to show up and talk, I would not be who I am today. Because, who I am is an amalgamation of every single woman and man I know to this very day.
All of them participated in creating the life I have, because I listened to them talk, and create their own lives of success and sobriety.
There is no better formation ground for personal growth, than inside a church basement. What the greater world out there does not know, and has no idea of, unless of course they are powerless over the drink, never know what they are missing.
People in the real world, OUT THERE, follow the distinct pattern of life, education, work, marriage, children, cars, houses, and money. I tried that life and failed miserably, because I was powerless over my addictions.
I thought I had to walk that walk, like my father before me. He had the life, the wealth and the material success, amid the functioning alcoholism that pervaded his life. I walked that same road for a while, until it stopped working for me.
Had Todd NOT SAID STOP, when he did, I would surely have died many years ago. He started this road to my success. If it were not for his love and devotion to saving my life, I would not be here today to constantly repeat this portion of my story, over and over again.
God exists. I know that deep within my soul.
Remember all those good people who played a role in your own success, and when you do, you grasp the notion of Gratitude In Action.
We’ve all done things, that we might not want to own up to. It is difficult watching the massive amount of strife going on all around us.
The easy out for what ails us here in Canada, is N.I.M.B.Y. (Not in my back yard). It is far too easy to just turn the channel and ignore what is going on in the world, but I cannot.
In the past little while, a good number of the women I grew up with for the last 40 years, have stated truths, that I had no idea had happened. What do you say to your friends, when they say, out loud, that they too, have been sexually assaulted as young girls.
In a time when we all spent inordinate amounts of time together, sharing meals, homes, and bedrooms. Somewhere in the middle of our lives going on, my friends were violated.
I had no idea.
Human beings are flawed. None of us are perfect. Show me a human being without a skeleton in their closet. I was raised by parents who had skeletons in their closets.
I was having a conversation in my head the other day with the brother who refuses to acknowledge my existence, when I ponder my dead father, and the possibility that my mother will die, and as I was told, nobody would tell me. So I talk to them in my head, when I sleep.
How can you be angry at me for my choices, when it was You to begin with who pushed me out into the street alone, with no street smarts, and left me to the wind, because you could not reconcile your skeleton with my reality.
My father abused me, in every way possible.
So when my friends say, out loud, their truths, I can safely admit that I get it. I understand.
They call it the Reckoning …
The world has exploded and chaos reigns at the moment. It is not safe for any of us, right at the moment. It has been said by wiser men than I that,
“People who forget the past, are doomed to repeat it…”
Drinking is not an outside issue for many of us. The severity of just how much one drank, and the situations that followed are what worries us.
I can share a story about high school. A story that many of the boys who participated in this story, would never admit that they participated in them.
I know this because, at one time or another, I went looking for old friends, and they point blank told me to get lost. They had moved on, and I was not invited to join them, because “I” had the drinking problem, don’t you know.
Much drinking took place in my social circle. We even had our own dedicated “Funnel” that was employed at odd times of serious drinking.
Boys and girls drank together. Not that I knew what went on with my friends, to a great degree. But when boys and girls would drink together in the same room, the girls were afforded their dignity. I know this because if girls were invited to the party, they were given certain directions, prior to drinking with us.
We had designated drivers, and after such heavy metal drinking parties, my friend’s sister would gather the girls to clean them up, and change their clothes, and drive them around town, while they puked, to get it out of their systems, before a second designated driver, brought them safely home.
My best friend, who was my best friend for a number of years, transgressed our friendship, by sexually violating my cousin one night. That transgression cost us a friendship, when my father made a call, fifteen hundred miles from home, to my cousins father, who flew to Florida to confront my best friend to ask him “why did you take my daughter’s virginity?”
I don’t know, to this day, the words spoken by my uncle and my father to my then, best friend, because decades later when I quizzed him about that night, he rebuffed me and hung up the phone.
Not a shining moment for him I guess.
Drinking does take a toll on the drinker, and every single person in the orbit of said drinker. Because if you drank like we did, and we know, right at this very moment, a certain man, drank as hard as we did when he was a kid, and he refuses to own up for his actions.
I can tell you from personal experience, that blackout drinking is common. I can also tell you that my friends who were educated in religious institutions, along side the secular schools, drank hard, and some even harder than we did. Because if you were educated by the Brothers of St. Christopher, You’d Drink Too !!!
There are regrets I have to this day. Mistakes I have made. People I have hurt. Memories that won’t go away. Visuals that are burned into the back of my brain. There are things each of us, will take to our graves.
Sometimes, letting sleeping dogs lie, is the best advice.
There are just some stories that will never be righted, for one reason or another. There are some people, who will never allow us to be recognized as humans, imperfect humans, who just would like to be loved.
For once in our lives.