Friday, December 28, 2007

Bye Bye Bhutto

I think I've been living in NYC too long. I always prided myself on being an optimist, but now I equally pride myself on being just as cynical as all the other slimy worms oxidizing through The Big Apple. Benazir Bhutto, may she rest in peace, wasn't dead two hours before every gunslinging candidate on the American political trail was turning it into another bullet on the resume of Why I Should Be President. There was just no milking any sympathy out of John McCain's boast that he had known Ms. Bhutto personally and of his familiarity with the landscape of Pakistan (thus entitling him to the keys to the White House.) Today Hillary is preaching the necessity of an "independent international investigation" into this insidious incident that has interrupted the inglorious tradition called rallying the faithful to the Iowa Caucuses. She sure looked mighty and presidential issuing the call, not to mention all those other adjectives used to describe ugly Americans who think their noses belong in every butt crack shitting all over this planet. (Can you imagine if the president of Iran had called on an independent international investigation during Monicagate when it appeared that Bubba Clinton had no credibility whatsoever?) Let the Pakistanis have a sundown to bury the assassinated woman. Send flowers. Write a card. In a moment of silence, if it's not too much to ask. The world lost a human life yesterday. Maybe even two. Tell your opponent you're happy he's still alive. Would it kill you all to be human for once in your political lifetimes?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hey Summer Sun

I dare you not to feel happier after listening to this song, Summer Sun, from Swedish jazz duo Koop. Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Rules of Dating an HIV+ Individual

It took me four years to finally get a handle on the rules. Today I was rejected again, but not in the usual way, which is normally silence or phone calls that don't get returned. This guy actually let me know that he felt uncomfortable dating an HIV+ guy. It's too bad because I was growing to like him. The first date had gone well enough, followed by a very nice phone call afterward. That's when he asked me, out of the blue, if I had ever seen Longtime Companion, one of his favorite movies. I was both surprised and grateful for the question because it provided a segue to tell him about my status: I thought here at last was someone who might give me a chance. The moment I told him though, I heard something slip inside his soul. He agreed to the second date, but it was mostly just going through the motions. And tonight's phone call ensured the third one would never come. To be honest, I'm kind of laughing about it. Because after four years I can now see that I've had lots of first dates; not so many second ones; and no thirds. When you're HIV+, it seems you only get two strikes before you're out. And most of the time you don't even get the courtesy of a call on the third strike. You're expected to know and just get out of the batter's box. Leave the stadium. Forfeit the game. As Somerset Maugham once put it, one must be a gentleman about these things. I understand. The point of life isn't living long enough to tell about it--it's living long enough to laugh about it. To tell about something requires distance and objectivity; to laugh about something, closeness and intimacy. If the game had ended today, I would have come out on the losing end for sure. But at least I would have gotten to laugh about it afterward. And that's not something too many losers get to do.

Just 13 More Days...

Little kids began the countdown to Christmas at least two weeks ago. I've been in a similar mode, waiting for the arrival of January. That's when my two favorite sports start up again--golf and tennis. The boys will tee it up in Hawaii a few days after New Year's and the Australian Open will see my man Roger Federer win yet another Grand Slam. I knew it was going to be a long, grueling fall the moment the Mets imploded back in September. And although it looks like the Giants will make it to the playoffs, in my heart I've always been a Buffalo Bills fan. I guess I become something of a figure skating aficionado this time of year, but that's only because there isn't much else on the telly. Congratulations do go out to my compatriot Yuna Kim for taking the gold medal in Torino, Italy at the season ending ISU Grand Prix Final. But it's another skater who's been on my mind lately--Tara Lipinski. While for many I'm sure she's already melted away into the icy landscape, I've never forgotten how she outperformed her chief rival Michelle Kwan at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan to skate away with the gold medal. Kwan, of course, had been widely tipped to take the gold. When she didn't, she came back in 2002 to try again, only to secure bronze. Four years later in 2006 saw her sad withdrawal from the Olympics before the competition had even started. Why is this piece of skating history doing figure-eights in my mind as of late? Because it's echoing what Barack Obama is about to do to Hilary Clinton--snatch away the nomination that everyone just a few months ago had already hung around Hilary's neck. When two individuals both demonstrate technical brilliance, the judges always go with the one who shows more "heart." That's why Nancy Kerrigan (dressed in Vera Wang) lost out to Oksana Baiul in Norway in 1994. And that's why Hilary is doomed to take silver. And why Huckabee is following suit next November. God, there really must be nothing else on TV. Oh yes, did I mention that I finally learned the rules of snooker?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Leader of the Band

I'm not sure what it says about my state of mind to admit this, but for some years now I've come to associate December with death. Because this is about the time when one or other of the news programs airs a montage set to melancholy music of all the people who have passed away earlier in the year. Among those people will be Dan Fogelberg who died today at the age of 56 from prostate cancer. This year marked the 25th anniversary of his top-10 hit Leader of the Band, a folk melody about the love and admiration a son had for his father. Of course, back in 1982 there was no way I could have appreciated its lyrics--I was entering that age when there's really not much love left over for anyone but yourself. I guess what's been bothering me all day is that earlier this afternoon my 77 year-old father asked me to take him to Yosemite in the summer. I must have looked at him dubiously. This is a man who now has a hard time navigating stairs. A trip with my father to the terrains of Yosemite? How could he manage? And what would the two of us do there? I changed the subject, but not without wondering if this was some kind of last request for a final road trip before heading into the eternal horizon. Being HIV+, sometimes I think that I'm the only one in this world who's allowed to grapple with mortality. It's vain and irrational, and not an entitlement anyone should want to claim. So why do I do it? Is there any way to stop it? Where do you find answers to all the hard questions?

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Universe Expands Into Nothing Which Is Something

In what seems to be a trend this year, my Christmas presents have been arriving earlier than expected. My buddy out in LA a few weeks ago sent me the Universe series that aired on the History Channel earlier this year. It's humbling to think how small we are in the scheme of the cosmos. Imagine an oval-shaped sandbox 20 feet in diameter, the sand twelve inches deep at the center and thinning out toward the edges. The Earth would be nothing more than a microscopic speck of dust attached to one of the grains of sand in that sandbox. And that would be just the Milky Way galaxy. Now imagine the rest of the Earth completely covered and filled with sandboxes, and you begin to get some idea of the dimensions of the Universe. For some time, humans have been consumed with the idea of space travel and making contact with extraterrestrials. I'm not one to kill off anyone's sense of curiosity when it comes to outer space, but it does seem to me just a bit ironic that humans on this side of the ocean can't even communicate with humans on the other side unless violence and bloodshed are involved. It saddens me when HIV- humans refuse to acknowledge me, or even worse, seek to isolate me socially and physically because I am HIV+. The Earth is a universe in microcosm with countless galaxies that need to be bridged; frontiers that beg to be explored; hearts and souls that wait to be discovered. If only we could be brave enough. To go to these places where no one has gone before. No one is arguing we should abandon the dream of ascertaining the existence of life on Jupiter's moons. As long as we don't forget that life already exists--and should be celebrated--on our very own planet.

Friday, December 7, 2007

I Will Die Another Day

And to think that this man, Michael Hayden, could have been my boss today had I chosen to take that job with the CIA ten years ago. It's one of the big "what ifs" in my life. What if I had decided to become an operations officer? Would I be HIV+ today? Would I have ever come out to my family? Would I have a completely different identity? Without a doubt, the reeling machinations of our nation's premiere intelligence agency convince me that I dodged a cloak, not to mention the dagger. There have been more intelligence directors in the past decade than Japanese prime ministers and bad Jennifer Anniston movies combined. The agency totally botched intelligence efforts concerning the events that led to 9/11. It was utterly helpless in protecting one of their own in Valerie Plame. And now this. Today there was news that the agency destroyed videotapes showing CIA operatives interrogating terrorist suspects, a cover-up that's already being compared to Watergate. You just get the feeling that bread and butter and tea and scones weren't exactly served at these little Q and A gatherings. Would I have been called upon to extract information? Would I have been ordered to torture and destroy? Would I have been proudly serving my country? To kill or be killed, that is the question.