I Remember…

I remember every tear, every minute of howling despair, every hour of rage, frustration and hopelessness. I remember the name and face of everyone I lost. The years I spent working my pumps till my toes would bleed to raise money for hospice and outreach projects. Then progress came – not a cure, but treatment to manage the living hell. Things got better, at least a little. Then the combination therapies and things got a little better still. And I started to hope. And then I saw what I feared most – that the young wanted to push it all into the darkness of history. Thinking as we once did, that they were 10 feet tall and bullet-proof.
And the monster came back out of the shadows… and again, the cycle repeated. Now so many live a dual mindset to HIV/AIDS – part of them accepts that the disease is a fact of life, something that will never go away… but they prefer not to think about it, nor confront the behaviors that keep the plague going. Another part of them refuses the disease, and rejects those stricken by it no matter how healthy they are otherwise. They live in denial, squeezing their eyes shut tight, putting their fingers in their ears, and shout the latest Gaga trype to drown the voice of those of us who do not want them to endure this hell.
We’ve endured enough of it for generations to come, yet we do not want your pity. We do not want your empty platitudes, nor hollow memes. We want you to learn from our torment, our mistakes, our losses. Learn, arm yourselves, and fight beside us. For 30+ years I have fought, the last 25 years as a positive person and long-term survivor. I do not want your tears, nor your anger, your empty praise nor your well-meaning but missing-the-point “respect.” All I want is for you to take my hand, stand beside me and make this the last generation to bear this burden.
Survivors of the 80’s AIDS Crisis

Celebrate what, exactly…

My thanks to The Nation for the opportunity to read Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” – a speech he gave before members of Congress in 1852. This is only the second time I’ve read it, and this time it stood out all the more.
 
It is not an easy read. There are too many uncomfortable parallels between that time and this – at least for those with eyes to see.
 
Most strikingly, Douglass’ words then could very easily be updated to fit so many ills of our nation and political system today. The strength and honor of our forefathers contrasted by the greed and cravenness of our present. The slave trade may have ended, but are the poor, the weak, the broken people of any color that much better served by what we now call “government.”
 
Then “religious liberty” was used to justify laws that forced judges and states to return runaway slaves to their owners, and provided harsh punishments for those who aided or harbored them. Today the same argument is used to divide families, to deny minorities equal justice under the law, even as excuse to deny service in the public marketplace, or to justify throwing your child in the streets because they – by Nature’s design – are something other than what your bigotry and craven interpretation of your myths define as “godly.”
Now, as then, violence based on race, creed, sexuality, and politics are considered “normal” in the nation’s discourse by the vocal elements of our society. Few speak out against it, fewer still fight it, and those that do are made mockery of by the crude, the illiterate, and the privileged with the media whoring for them and hanging on their every word. This is your America. It is not mine. Celebrate the slatternly creature you have created, if you will. I will not. Instead, I will mourn the dream of what she was meant to be.

A Yule Blessing

Things I miss today from long ago…
Having my whole family gathered around my grandmothers’ tables – Gram ‘Cille and Granny Annie. Not to mention the giant mounds of homemade fudge, candy, peanut brittle and popcorn balls!
Listening to my Dad, Uncle Dick, and my cousins playing guitar/banjo/uke.
My own tradition of Mommie Dammit’s Orphans and Waifs Din-Din – gathering a bunch of friends who had no home to go to or wouldn’t be welcome because they were LGBT, feeding them a huge dinner I’d made and spending the rest of the day playing games and watching classic Xmas shows.


The holidays have NEVER been about presents to me! They always were, and always will be about sharing the love and laughter of people who mean so much to me.

To all of you, past-present-and-future, may you find the same joy and peace I’ve always known in these days. The Gods bless and keep you.

Now, enough sappy stuff… LET’S EAT!!

You Can’t Go Home Again…

It has been many years, Children, since Mommie Dammit has hit rock-bottom.  Over a decade, in fact.  After 12 years of struggling to build a home and advance my career in Kansas City, enduring 2 bouts of Pneumocystis, and spending my third extended period of unemployment searching vainly for a new job… BOOM!  “Oh, Bottom, there you are!  I’d almost forgotten you; it’s been a long time since last we met.”

 

As usual, I landed not on my feet but on my ass.  Through the grace of the Gods, and the love of my family, I’ve now the opportunity to get back on my feet again.  The move from Kansas City to this teeny-tiny backwater was rushed and very ugly – I shudder to think of the shape I left my old house in.  Yet it was accomplished far easier and with better results than I’d originally thought.  Thanks to my baby sister and my nephew (and a few dozen Rubbermaid tubs!) I packed my essentials and watched my nephew’s spacial-relationship-genius at work.  Between his pickup (even with the shell still on), pickup -box trailer, and my poor, benighted Miss Boogie, we managed to haul more of my crap up here than I ever thought possible.  What I couldn’t bring I can easily replace – and, to be honest, most of it was long overdue.

 

But where is “here”, I hear you ask? Back in Nebraska, in a tiny and quaint rural village. Waco. Founded in 1877 as a railroad stop, and named for the Texan city. Typical of nearly-dead backwaters the world over, there is little here in the way of businesses – a couple of hair salons, a gas station at the I-80 exit, a tiny bank, and the mainstay of every village lost in the boonies, a bar. So far I’ve found the natives friendly, if a bit cautious with the “stranger” in town. After living in the racially diverse neighborhoods of Kansas City, finding myself back in an all-white enclave is something of a shock and one that feels somehow lacking…  Gods!, but I miss my crazy Black and Latina women! They, and a couple of just-as-nuts White women were all that helped me hold on to what little sanity I had left. …shut up! I heard that!

 

Still… living with my baby sister and my youngest niece, only 12 miles from my other sister, and 45 miles from my brother, sister-in-law and 2 of my nephews has it’s selling-points.  I’ve been far too long so far away from my family, and I didn’t realize just how much I missed them until we got back to Waco and it slapped me in the face.  There are stumbling blocks as well. It’s been nearly 2 decades since I lived with someone with less than 4 legs, and that privacy (I now realize) was something I heavily took for granted. It’s difficult to adjust to not being able to run to the bathroom naked with no one to scare but the cats!

 

The long process of reapplying for my assistance programs is well underway, but I have only just begun with the applications. No results or answers to be expected before the New Year, at the earliest. I meet with my new case worker on Monday, and will start that process moving. Hopefully those programs move faster than the State of Nebraska’s – I need to find my own place to live in roughly a month’s time. Some plans change at a whim, others for unknown reasons. Either way, it’s a struggle I’m very familiar with – just with different players in the mix. Besides – any longer than that and my sister and I may have to serve my niece up on toast!

 

Time means change. Change means growth or chaos. Growth is good, and sometimes chaos is too.  It all depends on how you handle it, and what positive outcome you can make out of it.  Not to change means not to be truly living. So, no… you can’t go home again.

Love, Equality, and Justice… almost.

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This morning’s announcement of the SCOTUS ruling in favor of Marriage Equality has left me numbed. For hours I have sat here reading one analysis after another, one news story or blog posting after another, and finally it has all sunk in.

We have reached a significant and world-changing moment in our times, nation and society. A moment which I couldn’t have imagined even 20 years ago, as we stood at the brink of the AIDS abyss and hauled back against oblivion until our hearts bled and broke.

Now… well, now what? Our love is equal and recognized in the eyes of the Law, federal, state and local. Our long battle – up hill, and valiant every step of the way – is at last done. The victory is ours… or is it? Already, the usual vermin have been flooding the airwaves and presses of every venue they can lay their blood-stained hands on to proclaim their disgust, and make strident statements that they will defy the Supreme Court of the United States in every way they can. Mommie Dammit, for one, expected as much.

Just as in the case of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I fully expect demonstrations, speeches, protests, even violence now that Marriage Equality is the Law of the Land. We have had them all along, but I believe we will see them more often… and more strident. And just as then, it falls on us, O’ My Children, to be the bearers of the Light – to prove ourselves the Better Men and Women, to meet their hate and violence with Peace and Strength. The battle may have been won this day, but the war is far from over.

Old as I am, my memory goes back decades far easier than it does days and this day I am reminded of the time when I campaigned for Empress IX of the Imperial Court of Nebraska. I sought for weeks for a slogan, a quote, something that would embody what I saw as my role and the path I wished to set my reign upon.

I found it in the words of Eugene V. Debs, and I share with you now the paraphrase that graced my campaign posters and fliers.  For tho’ we are victorious this day, the war remains un-won with many battles yet to fight – both to protect today’s victory, and to attain the victories yet before us…

“Long ago I realized my kinship with all my Gay Brothers and Sisters, and that none of us is any greater than the least of us. Then as now, I believe that while one of us sleeps in the streets I am homeless. While one of us is battered or abused I suffer. And as long as one law stands against us I AM NOT FREE!

The Nine Blessings of Yule 2013 – Part 1

Godhian tradition for the celebration of the Winter Solstice – the Yule – is to present a gift for each of the nine days and nights that Odin/Woden hung in sacrifice to gain the Wisdom of the Futhorc that he may grant it to Man.

In it’s simplest form, the gifts take place as a daily surprise for our children or our loved ones. In it’s sacred form, the gifts take the form of a daily offering to the God for his unmatched gift that raised us above the beasts of field and forest.

Yet there exists a third form that few of my kind – and we are few indeed – come to truly appreciate. They are not gifts of ourselves to others; they aren’t part of our rituals. They are gifts, blessings, given us by the Gods throughout the year. Often unremarkable until seen in retrospect, others that shine forth brighter than stars.

In the past 7 days, during my battle with bronchial pneumonia, I have had an extraordinary opportunity to look back at this past year and discover those blessings given me.

Cinmouii & Tiggami

Cinmouii & Tiggami

The first, though sentimental and bittersweet, came with the loss of my darling Cinmouii. She was a quiet, loving and gentle presence in my life for many years – and the best lap-warmer the Goddess ever gave four legs and fur. When age and illness took her, my heart was broken. But Fate, ever the capricious mistress, decided that Tiggami and I should not mourn her loss for long. That is when Baal entered our lives permanently. One of the many stray, abandoned, and feral cats that I keep watch over Baal greeted me every morning when I came out to feed them. Black as night, sleek and beautiful, but ever so quiet. After two years of his morning greetings, his absence for three days had me worried. I had just lost Cinmouii, and I couldn’t think of losing his solace. Then he reappeared, in his favorite spot on the porch, but badly wounded and very ill with an infected bite through his paw.

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Four visits to the vet, and close to $600 later, Baal became an indoor cat thoroughly ensconced as the new “man of the house.” He is every bit as loving, gentle and quiet a presence, with the added bonus that he keeps to my daily schedule far better than I do. He infallibly wakes me 15 minutes before the alarm – even on my days off – knows exactly what path I will take from the bed, to the bathroom, to the coffee pot and then the food bowls… and guides me every step of the way. When it is bedtime, he guides me to the bathroom and supervises while I brush my teeth, take my meds, and then patiently waits at the foot of the bed while I get in and get situated. Then he gives me goodnight kisses, a brief “massage” on my shoulders, then curls up at my feet until he knows I’m asleep. Tiggami welcomed the assistance with her job as Pusservisor – she’s an old girl, now, and I seem to need a lot of pusservision… according to her. But she never has taken to him as her constant companion, and there was something still missing from our little family.

Then came the second half of the blessing… Tima. The fore-shortened, feminine version of her full name, Tiny Monster, this itty-bitty yellow and white ball of fur had been hiding under my neighbor’s porch where she’d been born about 6 weeks prior. Her mother had been killed by one of the many cars that race up my hill, and that day I came home to find my neighbor on her porch. She told me what had happened to the mother, and couldn’t I hear the kitten crying under the porch? Oh, yes… so I stuck my nose into the gap beside the steps and spoke to the kitten, putting my hand down to search for it. I could hear from the cries that the kitten was close. That was when I suddenly found my hand full of trembling bones and fur.

La Petit Monstre

La Petit Monstre

I took the crying baby to my chest and snuggled her close… and there she’s been ever since. No longer quite so tiny, but likely to always be the runt of my litter, she has managed to fill the companion role for both Tiggami and Baal – to be honest, it takes all three of us to keep her amused… we’ll never be able to keep her out of trouble, even if we were a platoon of Marines! She excels at terrorizing Baal, tormenting Tiggami, finding new ways to create disasters from rolls of toilet paper, and is a master of getting into places where air doesn’t fit. During this past week, as I battled to breathe and fought my way through cycles of fever and chills, she decided it was the perfect time to go into her first heat. Perfect timing. It was then that I realized that she was not only perfectly named, but that she was also the perfect successor to Cin’. She’s every bit the Whore of Babylon her predecessor was, with the added amusement of performing contortions across the floor, accompanied by what I can only assume is the Feline version of the 1812 Overture, complete with cannon and fireworks! Poor Baal… he thought for sure he was going to get him some sweet virgin ass, but every time he tried, he ended up with a face full of yellow fury. To quote the best drag-movie ever: “He’s so confused he don’t know whether to scratch his watch or wind his butt.” She’s a demon, she keeps Tiggami bemused, and she’s my constant shadow ever ready to curl up on my lap, on the pillow next to my head, or to remind me that whatever else I’m doing I must feed her FIRST!! Pushy wench. So the first blessing… to have lost one so loved, only to be reminded that our hearts have the ability to heal and there is always room to love one more.

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