Monday, November 26, 2007


Look at me tonight, all giddy like a kid who got to open one of his Christmas presents in November. It's hard to believe, but that's how I feel. Earlier this evening, I got to meet the fabulous (and I never use that word) Nina Garcia, fashion director of Elle magazine and judge on one of my favorite shows, Project Runway, at a signing for her new book The Little Black Book of Style. It was raining in New York today--as if a few drops of water were going to stop me from looking my best in my Bally shoes, A.P.C. jeans, Dolce shirt, little black vest and Oliver Peoples glasses and trudging out to the Barnes and Noble in Chelsea where she gave a Q and A before autographing away. Why would a man in his 30s buy a book about a woman's guide to style, you ask? For the first four pages. Which were hilarious. About her obsessive valiant father. And her obsessive glamorous mother. And when Nina first came to America from her native Colombia to attend a boarding school, refusing to be intimidated by hundreds of preppy girls all wearing duck boots. Seriously though, the book's message transcends gender and age, which is what a good book should do--it beseeches you to be true to yourself, to have fun, and to not take it all too seriously. As I stood in line and neared the front, I could tell that she was even more beautiful than on the telly set. When it was my turn to talk to Santa Nina, I told her to write another book, one about herself and Colombia. The woman standing behind me murmured approval. But Ms. Garcia only laughed and smiled, with all the mystery only a woman of her stature could conjure.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


I think one of the pleasures of growing older is that you come to understand the words of your childhood. The very first Broadway musical I ever saw, way back in middle school, was A Chorus Line. But with its themes of heartbreak, abuse, powerlessness and insecurity, it was heady stuff for someone who had just turned 12. What I would mostly carry with me into adulthood was the music, especially the fantastic bars from the show closer "One". Three years ago my father's name and reputation were destroyed by a man named Mr. Samuels who then saw an opportunity to connive with the board of directors to steal the business that my father had worked nearly forty years to build up. Yesterday I learned that Mr. Samuels had suffered a huge breakdown and was mentally incapacitated. And yet, I felt exactly what the Diana character from A Chorus Line felt when she sang about her high school teacher. It's a number that has you laughing at the beginning as she describes the folly of a Puerto Rican girl trying to imitate a bobsled, a table, and ice cream cone. You can't help wincing as she describes the humiliation endured under her teacher Mr. Carp who insisted she would never be an actress. At the end of the song, Mr. Carp dies. And Diana cries. Because, as she whispers in a mournful, pitiful tone--she felt nothing. I thought being HIV+ had taught me to show sympathy for the weak and vulnerable. I thought I had learned that life is too short to be feeling nothing. When given a choice between pain and nothing, do you always have to choose pain?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Time to Fall, A Time to Move On

With the autumn leaves scaling off at a quickening pace, I suppose it's only natural to find myself thinking about all the things I'm grateful for. Being HIV+ has not been without its positives. Perhaps one of the best things to have come about is that I find myself focused on the present. I take my medicines every morning and work out as often as I can. I enjoy the company of my family and friends. I try to learn something new about the world every day. I wonder about God and what heaven must be like. In short, I try to take care of myself physically, mentally and spiritually. But it's also apparent that I haven't evolved to the point where I am free of regrets. A lot has happened since I was deported from Korea for being HIV+. A huge tennis fan, I would have given anything to see Roger Federer and Pete Sampras playing their exhibition match in Seoul yesterday. I never got to take leisurely walks along the fantastic Cheonggye Stream that now runs through downtown (even though I surely earned the right to enjoy it after sitting in countless traffic delays because of construction on the waterway project.) I also never got to zip across the peninsula in the comfort of the KTX, the bullet train that's cut travel times in half and increased comfort levels at least a million-fold. I know some people will say that I have nothing to complain about as long as I've got my health. (My last t-cell count was 1399 and my viral load is still undetectable after three years.) So why is it I still long for the things that have been lost on the road of my past? I guess I've still got a long ways to go.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

"I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me..."

I'm sitting here alone in my room, but not particularly lonely this cold autumn night. In fact, I'm feeling rather amazed as I hear Oscar Wilde, seated across the room from me with legs crossed, saying drolly, "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life." I put down the book I am reading, Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood, and find myself forced into humble agreement. I'm about one-third of the way finished, and acutely aware that I'm looking for any excuse to put this book down when I can because I don't think I can bear for it to end. Toru Watanabe is the main character. He and I are the same age, and we are both writing because it is the only way we can understand the things that have happened to us. Toru's life forever changed when his best friend in high school committed suicide--just as my life did when the Asia I loved blacked out of existence and slipped into a coma it would never wake up from. I actually first set eyes on this book nearly seven years ago. My best friend in Korea, Sung, had given it to me on my birthday. I think you would really like it, he said in the artless way he always spoke. Naturally, I put the thing aside and never got around to it. I don't know why I wandered into a bookstore at Penn Station last Thursday. Or why I should have suddenly remembered after all this time. But there it was. My hand trembled as I took it down from the shelf. I felt as if Sung was trying to tell me something--perhaps that we had been best friends for reasons we would never fully comprehend.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Ehren Go Bragh!

For my money, this is the only legal case out there worth watching, one that has nothing to do with O.J., or some nutty astronaut seeking revenge in her Depend undergarments, or a deranged mother who has drowned her twenty three children. First Lieutenant Ehren Watada of Honolulu, Hawaii scored a major courtroom victory yesterday in Tacoma, Washington when a civilian judge blocked the Army's second attempt to court-martial him for refusing deployment to Iraq in June 2006. Believing Bush's spree for oil in the Middle East to be illegal, Watada has been courageous and steadfast, staring down a commanding officer barking out mindless orders from the White House. And if yesterday's ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle is any indication--that a second court-martial could violate Watada's Fifth Amendment right to be free from double jeapordy--then Watada may soon be victorious as well. While a court may never rule on the legality of Bush's war, Watada's stand of the past year and a half ranks right up there in American history with Rosa Parks' refusal to stand for a white passenger on a bus in Birmingham, Alabama.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

My Real Imaginary Date

Just when I was thinking that 2007 has been an unremarkable year for movies, I'm given a reason to reconsider (and yes, cry) after seeing Lars and the Real Girl, an original fable about one man's loneliness and what an entire town will do to help him out of it. These past four years, I have tried my hardest not to think of myself as a victim of HIV, and for the most part, I think I have succeeded with the help of my family and doctors. But I have also stopped denying that I have become an extremely lonely person, similar to Lars. On the weekends, I get dressed up as if I were going out to meet someone special, as I did tonight. And of course, there is no one waiting for me when I show up at the movie theater. But it's still nice, maybe even essential, to pretend that there is. I recognize the irony--that a delusion is what keeps me going, what stops me from totally withdrawing into myself and shutting out the world. Lars had a plastic doll he called Bianca; I make do with my imaginary date whom I have yet to name. When I walked into the crowded movie theater tonight, there were two empty seats in the back row. And I thought to myself, "Wow, two empty seats just waiting for us to fill them." But while this kind of thinking might be poignant on a movie screen, I'm not so sure it's just plain pathetic in real life. After the movie ended, outside of the theater, purely by chance I ran into Chad, a guy I've asked out and been rejected by countless times, a guy who always said he would call but never did. He was going to see a movie with his group of five friends. Normally, I would have been happy to see Chad. But not so tonight. Tonight I was with Evan.