Friday, December 25, 2009
Hmmm . . . well, here I am, after 3-1/2 years, still living with Mom. When I took her up on her offer to move in after Robert died and subsequent events wiped me out financially and emotionally, I had no idea I'd be here this long. The unemployment rate here is four times what it was in Long Beach, and finding work has been an ongoing challenge.
Fortunately, we get along well: sing in the church choir, attend PFLAG meetings, watch television and share the newspaper, and every so often go out to eat or catch a movie. A couple of weeks ago she checked "Walking on Eggshells" out of the library. The book is about negotiating parent/child relationships between mature parents and adult children. I must have a read-through myself when she's done.
Apart from Mom, I lead an active life of my own. We're a brisk five-minute walk from a college, and I've participated as an actor in productions there, at our local community theater, and with our local Shakespeare festival. And I'm blessed to have re-connected with old friends here in my hometown, and to have met my new best friend of these past years.
I have various health problems, as well. I'm still sensitized to most of the Central Valley's wide array of air-borne allergens; from March through October, something's always blooming here. Merced's air is, if anything, worse than Southern California's fabled mix of smog - and there are no Santa Ana winds to blow things out to sea. So I sneeze and wheeze my way through half the year.
My migraines have re-surfaced again - usually triggered by sinus conditions when a storm front's high pressures move in and/or out. When we get a series of storms, one after the other, its like being repeatedly hit in the head with a large, dull mallet for a week, and I'm nauseated and weak for days on end, feeling like grim death and looking just as bad.
Of course, when people find out about Robert (and the gossip-mills of the town still spin with dazzling speed), they assume it's "something else." I don't spend time chasing down each rumor. One local gossip item (years ago) was about my late best friend and room-mate at college. Apparently, we'd been lovers. When I heard that little piece of news, shortly after he'd died, I could only hope that his widow would never hear it. It's the kind of lie that's especially cruel when it's spread so soon after a death - all the more vicious since they'd been married less than a year.
It took me a year to gently approach the source of the rumor and ask her, quietly and politely, if she'd heard that particular rumor. I never asked her whether she'd originated it. By then, she'd had her own deaths and aftermaths, and confronting her would have been pointless - and cruel.
I could have asked, "Are you making menudo? Because that's a load of tripe."
I think I was angrier for his widow and him than I was for myself. My reputation is what it is.
In Merced, gays were invisible until recently. The PFLAG group is less than five years old, and HIV seems to be "the virus that dare not speak its name." The local paper runs small items in the "Around Town" column, but HIV seems to be absent from its radar. World AIDS Day observances at the local University of California were publicized the day before the event.
Farm and agricultural news items, however, abound - as do regular reports of the disastrous local economy, foreclosure rates, boondoggles, scandals, and the roller-coaster of school testing results, arts and social services cutbacks, and sports (always, eternally, and inevitably)
I understand the focus, and the lack of concern about HIV/AIDS, but I find the silence enormously frustrating. We're past the Reagan era of keeping shut about it for seven of his eight YEARS in office. And the notion of "the truly deserving poor" makes me want to vomit - preferably on Mitch McConnel's suit.
Admittedly, I'm hyper-aware of AIDS. I'm living in its aftermath, personally - and I still follow every report of new developments or challenges.
Today, I clicked on a "manage your HIV" link on my Yahoo home page. What came up was an ad site for Bristol-Myers Squibb's "Reyataz" - an HIV-specific anti-viral medication that's about to lose its patent in four years. They also manufacture "Sustiva," whose patent runs out next year.
I was appalled by the deception, but not shocked nor surprised. Only sickened.
Not content with having made billions (yes, "Billions" with a capital B for "bloodsuckers") off of HIV and AIDS patients serving as their guinea pigs (you didn't think medical records were entirely private did you? check out that disclaimer that allows information to be shared for "reasons of health and/or research"), B-M Squibb is now attempting a last-minute "dash for the cash." They'd like to squeeze every penny out of their patent before they have to share. And for all of their much-ballyhooed "help," I am not grateful.
Those who truly do good keep their mouths shut and their publicists in the dark.
They don't fish for last-minute customers on the Web.