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View Diary: Sharing our AIDS Stories II (60 comments)

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  •  My AIDS story... (17+ / 0-)

    Well I lived in Dallas in the "gay ghetto" of Oak Lawn during the early 80's until 2001.  

    It started with my friend Rick Drayer, who had moved from Houston to Dallas around 1985.  He got really sick shortly after moving...and by 1986 he was gone.  I had been hearing about the new disease "AIDS" by then, but I had no idea that he would be dead in the few weeks that I didn't make it over to see him, because I knew he was sick and I was too busy having fun.

    After that first one, the deaths started coming regularly.  

    1990 through 1995 were devastating years.  I lost pretty much my entire circle of friends.

    In 1994, my best friend Marius "Chip" Walker, 1962-1994, died in my arms at his home, as he wanted. We had lived together, off and on, since my senior year of high school in Missouri, when we both moved out of our parents houses at 17, because we were gay and weren't really accepted there.  Chip would probably still be alive today if the company he had worked for hadn't changed their insurance just because of him so that his benefits were capped each year at $10,000.  When that money ran out, he got no more care for the year, period.  He needed more blood transfusions after his benefits ran out in 1993, and couldn't get them, and so died in the first month of 1994.  If he could have got the transfusions and made it a few more years, he might have got the drugs that could have extended his life.  Spilt milk, I guess, nothing I can do now.

    In a three month period, 3 different friends in the same apartment complex where I spent a lot of time died.  I can't even recall all of the people who died now, in the larger circle of my friends.  I wish I would have kept a running would be so nice to be able to go over those names and remember them.  As it is in my memory, if I start trying to remember and list them, I don't get far before I get too upset, and I can't go on remembering.  So that part of my past I just sort of look at foggily, because it just is too overwhelming to remember all the people and think that they died so young and are gone.

    Somehow, I remained the one who never caught the disease.  I participated in the COHORT program, where I would go in at regular intervals to the county health department and fill out a form of all the activities I participated in that were risky...what drugs I did, how often, routes, and of course what sex I had, how, how often, very very intimate details that I gave up to the state anonymously, to help them understand how AIDS was being transmitted.  

    Some names I remember:
    Marius "Chip" Walker,
    his life partner Louis DeFulgentis,
    Bob Ness
    Rick Drayer
    Jose Louise Silva
    Bill Huitt
    That's all I can do right now.

    (the names are fading...I just remember the faces, I've tried not to think about it for so long...)

    "Wrap it in a Bible and a flag and you can sell it in this country by the bushel full---even the leveling of our most beautiful mountains."

    by Tom P on Sat Dec 01, 2007 at 08:43:01 AM PST

    •  Thank you, Tom. (10+ / 0-)

      That is so touching and so very, very heartbreaking.  The horror of the 80s and early 90s is the stuff of nightmares.



      •  thank you (6+ / 0-)

        for helping me remember, and for the hug, which I need right now.  

        "Wrap it in a Bible and a flag and you can sell it in this country by the bushel full---even the leveling of our most beautiful mountains."

        by Tom P on Sat Dec 01, 2007 at 08:56:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I visited the Dallas gay ghetto several times... (6+ / 0-)

 the early 90s in order to get out of Arkansas.  At least there was community there.

          •  Oak Lawn was a Refugee Camp (9+ / 0-)

            of glbt men and women that fled persecution in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana.

            The businesses:  4001, The Old Plantation, Throckmorton Mining Company, JR's, The Round Up, Moby Dick's, The Saint, Crossroad's Market, The Eagle, The Hidden Door, Mary Thumb (the anti-gay corporate grocer, Safeway, who took our money but wouldn't allow glbt periodicals to be by the other free periodicals).

            "Wrap it in a Bible and a flag and you can sell it in this country by the bushel full---even the leveling of our most beautiful mountains."

            by Tom P on Sat Dec 01, 2007 at 09:14:35 AM PST

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            •  I don't really remember the names of the places. (5+ / 0-)

              An art gallery, a book store, some restaurants...and a country/western lesbian bar. :-)

            •  TomP....Oak Lawn in 1985... (4+ / 0-)

              ...was my "official" coming out! Thank you for the memories! So sad that there's an entire generation of our brothers and sisters that don't know about the history of that block of Cedar Springs that burned in the 90's. I went back to the RoundUp Saloon (we called it the "salon") a few years ago and almost wept at the changes...

              I've told most of my recent HIV/AIDS story in other (primarily John Edwards) diaries. It was fun to relive those early, halcyon days by reading your post.

              As I said, I came out in '85. Actually, May of '85. Two weeks before finals at Texas Tech, I had what I believe to be a nervous breakdown because I just couldn't live the lie any longer. SO, without even withdrawing from classes or saying anything to my landlord (forgive me, I was not a well child at the time, mentally or spiritually) I packed everything I could get into my car and set of for Dallas. It was the "San Francisco of Texas" and I never felt more liberated.

              I met my first partner, Peter, at a T-Dance (a Sunday afternoon dance for our straight friends reading) at the RoundUp. What I thought was a "trick" (one night stand, straight friends) turned out to be a very intense relationship. I went to his condo from the t-dance and only went back to my apartment to tell my roomie that I was alive (and to pay my portion of the rent) and to get more clothes. When all the clothes were at Peter's, it was official.

              Peter committed suicide in 1989. I believe we would still be together if he hadn't been successful (on his 4th attempt in 2 years). However, I wouldn't have met my current partner (we just celebrated our 14th anniversary on Thanksgiving) so the Universe has taken her course.

              I was diagnosed on Valentine's Day 1995(yeah, even I see the irony. Let's just say that "denial" isn't just a river in Egypt. I weighed 112#'s and my initial t-count was ZERO. If it hadn't been for the love of the man of my life, Jan, and my doctor, I wouldn't be here today.

              Upon diagnosis, my doctor sat me down and said, "I'm not going to lie to you. I will do everything I can to keep you long as your willing to fight. BUT I don't expect you to live more than a month. If you're a person of faith, get right with your maker. If you have unresolved issues with family, try to work them out." I stopped sending Dr. Brandt Christmas cards just a couple of years ago.

              There were days when I would get home from work and I would go straight to the couch. Jan would wake me up for dinner just to be told I had no appetite. Fortunately, he's very patient and an accomplished chef and once the "cocktail" started to kick in, I started gaining weight. The side effects (this was 1st generation HIV drugs) were awful. I would get up at 5:00 a.m. so I could be finished throwing up in time to go to work. It was a hellish time, until I finally accepted the fact that I couldn't work 60 hour weeks AND kick AIDS. Fortunately, I worked in a mid-level management position in a fortune 3 corporation and had a great golden parachute.

              We decided to relocate back to Texas (from Denver) to be close to family. We were able to buy a small farm and share a passion for horses. My dear partner, Jan, the horses, our dogs, the land and the elimination of stress and a polluted environment are a testament to why I'm still alive.

              Today, my t-count hovers at a level that keeps me on disability but feeling generally healthy.

              That's a little more of my story for those of you that know me from some of the other diaries. Robyn, thanks so much for providing a safe haven for us to tell our stories.

              There are horror stories within my story, but I would much rather focus on the positive.

              Peace, all.

              "A time comes when silence is betrayal." ~ MLK, Jr.

              by liberaldemdave on Sat Dec 01, 2007 at 04:14:34 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Thank you for your story, Dave. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                I am overwhelmed by your perseverance.

                Peace and Love,


              •  I've probably met you Dave (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                khloemi, rserven, liberaldemdave

                I am happy to hear your AIDS story because it is a story of success, and triumph.  I have several friends with similar stories.  I have one friend who was positive at the age of 16, was kicked out of his home, but is now, 15+ years later, still alive and well.

                I enjoyed your memories of was such a great place because we had our own little "town".  It's funny you referred to it as "San Francisco", because I almost did the same in my previous post!

                Wow, 1985 was the year you came out in Dallas.  I remember that year well.  That is the year the Delman Theatre, gone now, was converted from an old movie theatre to a night club.  

                And speaking of 1985, did you know that in 1985 the "designer drug" ecstacy was legally sold in the bars in Dallas?  The entire summer, most people at the night clubs in Dallas spent the weekends in an MDA-induced trance...twenty bucks to the bartender got one tablet of ecstacy...or you could buy it openly outside the establishments from people with baggies full....the phenomenon even made LIFE Magazine, with a full-page picture of Tex's Ranch(later the Brick), over on Maple, and a story of how the LSD-like drug was being sold legally in Dallas.

                That is what I think when I hear "1985". It was the calm before the storm.

                "Wrap it in a Bible and a flag and you can sell it in this country by the bushel full---even the leveling of our most beautiful mountains."

                by Tom P on Sat Dec 01, 2007 at 06:56:15 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Hunkie's Hamburgers (still there)... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Tom P, rserven

              The Wok (sadly gone)... I had my own "speaker" to dance on at 4001 (until I discovered cowboys! LOL). Sadly, it's a strip center now...

              Throckmorton Mining a DANCE BAR (that's heresy, folks).

              I worked briefly at Pappy's (almost as long as it was open)...

              TWIT is no more...

              Times change, friends come and go.

              "A time comes when silence is betrayal." ~ MLK, Jr.

              by liberaldemdave on Sat Dec 01, 2007 at 04:28:00 PM PST

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    •  Rick Springer (roommate) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and Bill Huitt, from my hometown in Missouri.

      "Wrap it in a Bible and a flag and you can sell it in this country by the bushel full---even the leveling of our most beautiful mountains."

      by Tom P on Sat Dec 01, 2007 at 06:25:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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