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Posts Tagged ‘North Carolina’

I attended the AIDS Walk Charlotte 2011 run by RAIN (Regional AIDS Interfaith Network) this morning. I’ve attended a few AIDS and HIV awareness walks and benefits over far too many years, including RAIN’s own Gay Bingo last year.

We started early meeting a the Gateway Village Atrium which is a lovely open space in (I’m guessing) downtown Charlotte. It was here that the first of a few concerns started to hit me. The first being that hardly anyone was there.  Dont get me  wrong, there were loads of very enthusiastic volunteers, including Wesley, who had been there since the crack of dawn to make sure the event went well.  However, in terms of walkers, there was maybe (and, again, I guess as I don’t have the complete numbers yet) 1500 people. In a town as big as Charlotte (pop roughly a million plus) with an extremely large gay population (way more than similarly sized Adelaide) this was a pitiful number. The weather was beautiful. No excuses there.

The next thing that I noticed was the speaker system was inadequate for the venue. Perhaps people closer to the front heard what people were saying but the speakers where I stood allowed only white noise. I had no idea, from what people were saying, about the event. A minor complaint but a fair one.

The walk started, described as a 2 mile walk “through historic Fourth Ward in memory of those who have finished their journey.” (Quote taken from the official website).  And the walk was when I got really, really, really mad.  I am not sure what historic Fourth Ward is however the walk I took encouragingly started off heading towards the city proper then took a sharp left turn away from the city centre and walked past some neighbourhood houses (no one there), some closed shops (no one there), a factory (no one there), a cemetery (no one alive there), a bridge and some trees.  Then we were back at Gateway. By which time I was furious.

In the entire two-mile walk, with the exception of the police who had blocked the roads and the very few cars (three cars I counted – that’s three drivers!) impeded by the walk, no one saw us.  NO-ONE!!!! We rose awareness to some trees and a bridge. I was embarrassed and angry at this route. When I suggested to my friends walking that this was infuriating I was told we  need to “take small steps to awareness.” “This is Charlotte.” “It takes time.” You know what though.

Bullshit.

Charlotte, as far as I can tell (and Wesley who devotes his life to the treatment of HIV and AIDS clients, will confirm for me) is a beautiful city with a population of roughly a million, 8000 of whom are infected with HIV.  6600 know they are infected.  The infection rates continues to rise. Risk of infection and awareness of decreasing this does not occur by having a walk which literally screams we are embarrassed for our existence. Even assuming the walk was diverted to the back streets of Charlotte for the sake of traffic remains a pitiful excuse. I have not been in a city that needs more education and awareness of decreasing risk of HIV than Charlotte.  To then have the major network of support (presumably) acquiesce to whatever pressures are imposed on them to not allow them to walk proudly through the streets of Charlotte and actually RAISE AWARENESS of the disease and prevention is so, so, so sad.

I have never been in a walk that was so depressing. Not because of the illness we were supporting but the embarrassment with which it seemed to be held.

Another final thing, if anyone from RAIN actually reads this. AIDS and HIV awareness has moved forward all over the world in acknowledgement of the fact that the disease is no longer a death sentence, that people with HIV lead wonderful, fulfilling LONG lives with the benefit of adherence to treatment and todays improved medication regimes.  As such HIV and AIDS benefits I have attended over the world now focus on the positives of the disease rather than focussing on the (truly tragic) deaths that preceded the increased medical support.  To this end they have changed their names from AIDS to HIV, emphasising the hope of the disease and the positive lives people now lead with the illness. Some names other cities are now using are: Walk for Life – Finding the Cure, Hike for Hope, Hike for HIV, etc. I found this event still looking backwards, if I am honest.

If by chance you read this, please consider moving forward with your focus. There is still time to honour the dead however today should be about celebrating the lives and continued health of people living with HIV.  AIDS no longer equals death. It means life with illness, like diabetes, or epilepsy… I humbly suggest your message should emphasise that now.

And you should walk proudly. No more in the shadows. Next time I do the walk for you I want people to see me.

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You know, all in all, 2010 was a pretty good year all told. I had some of the worse episodes of feeling depressed in my life in it (I hesitate to call it depression, more a pity party that needed a good slap) however, looking back, the pros far outweighed the cons.

I’ll get to the good stuff tomorrow, for the moment some of the things that sucketh last yeareth. Interestingly, and thank God, most of these things seem to be single events as opposed to long-term drawn out things. For this I am extremely grateful and blessed and even more embarrassed about the pity party.

Moving offices

I don’t mention work at all, or rarely, and certainly not openly disparagingly. However the move in locations from run down but functional building to previously condemned building that had been “spruced up” where the water was undrinkable for 5 months and the toilets didn’t work for 7 was a cause of considerable distress for all concerned. Even trying to be  buddhist about it wasn’t working. The workplace hasn’t recovered really. I am actually glad to be on nights cos morale here is in the (non functional) toilet.

Sam’s Death

My brother-in-law in law died this year after an extremely long battle with cancer. He left behind his wife and two children.  I would not dare to say his death had the effect it did on his immediate relatives however our families are so entwined now his death was incredibly hard. And so young. Fortunately, his was the only significant loss that directly affected me last year, for which I am extraordinarily grateful. Unfortunately this year looks like it’s going to be harsh already as I was told two of my friends had been diagnosed with lymphatic cancer on New Years Day.

The Bionic Bum

I made light of it but my gluteus tendonitis was absolutely agonizingly crippling at one point. I literally couldn’t walk a step without crying, the pain was so intense. And I wasn’t being stoic either. Lord if there had been drugs available I would have downed them in an instant. The worst night of it, when I couldn’t walk without screaming, I spent on my bed, sobbing with pain all through the night and feeling so sorry for myself. Much of it was pain related however there was also the realisation that if I had died no one would have known and certainly no partner I could rely on to help me out. So I just lay there in bed, a sobbing mass of pity, feeling more alone than I’ve ever felt in my life. Fortunately the next day I could walk without screaming and I could get to the phone and get some help (and wonderful help came) but wow, that night…. that night was harsh.

Making a total cock of myself

Oh I am good at that! I actually am including this only cos the last entry was so rugged. I am well used to making a total idiot of myself, despite my best intentions. Whether that is urinating loudly in front of the Queen Of North Carolina (incidentally, that post went ballistic. People I had never heard of wrote to me to tell me how funny that post was); wearing the wrong eyewear in the cinema; taking my entire extended family to one of the worst outings of their lives (so bad all other outings are measured by it : “Yeah, it was bad but it wasn’t Cadbury World bad.”), setting off alarms in the middle of the night or killing my mother in a walk across London, basically I will make a twit of myself if I can. Welcome to my life.

Absent Friends

Most days that’s the hardest one of all.

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Big night and day, I’m packing like a mad thing AND will take pics of my thing of beauty suitcase.  In the meantime here’s some random thoughts been jotting down:

Things I have learnt since being here (and that I haven’t blogged about yet. At least, as far as my Alzheimer’s memory allows).

Macaroni and Cheese is a vegetable here. Think that through.

If people raise their eyes or look disdainful (in what, in Australia would be deemed as annoyance), this is them being playful and not being hurtful (despite the clear contrast in the body language which only southerners get, I guess.) I spent the first fortnight here thinking I was pissing everyone off but now… evidently the opposite. (Seriously this was insane. I felt so awful and I still struggle with it. When I rule America this is changing.)

Crossing the road is a challenge here, almost in the same league as toilets. I merrily step onto the road thinking the path is clear, while looking the other way and almost get bowled over. Traffic lights give you how many seconds you have to cross the road which is a Godsend.  People therefore feel they have the right to zoom off over you if you still cross the street after the countdown has ended. After all, you have been warned.

The red hand at traffic lights intersections means stop. The white walking man means go. If you wear sunglasses this is tricky to see. Walking across the road at the incorrect time  as cars try to kill you and yelling at them “I have an accent” is not helpful.

People do not walk here unless they are homeless. I walked back from the shops today and I was alone on the street except for homeless people and mothers jogging while pushing their babies in prams. The babies were screaming their heads off as they were presumably having such fun however the mothers all had iPods so only I could hear their children’s wails.

Do not be surprised after asking a question to receive uh huh as a response. Uh -huh ( pronounced with ten uhs and twenty huhs and in a southern drawl) can mean anything from” I understand your question and I am seeking to answer it” to ” Have you considered leaving my face and taking your questions elsewhere?” to “If it weren’t for the fact I am southern i would be whipping your ass right now”. there is an emphasis on the uh that indicates  how close to death you are.

Everyone is uptight here, especially shop assistants. I think there is some type of big brother god standing over shop clerks that shocks them with electricity if they do not ask me how my day was. One woman looked visibly fearful after she mentioned I had bought a few items at the Hallmark Shop (where I had presented her with  8 Christmas ornaments that are kitsch with a capital K). She kept looking over her shoulder  in case anyone had heard her. I reassured her I had found her humour amusing and she visibly relaxed and stopped sweating. And the tic in her eye stopped twitching.

Fast food here is an art form. And there are seas and seas of it.  The food is high calorific crap as everywhere however the presentation is inspiring.You feel as though you are failing the world if you don’t eat their products. I will do a blog about that soon.

I do not understand American health insurance systems. Nor, I think,  do Americans. I’ve had it explained to me repeatedly and the sheer inequity of it is flabberghasting.

I write these blogs, publish them once, look at them online then make multiple, multiple corrections. I am not sure if people who get these posts emailed to them get the finished, refined versions of the first, flawed-till-it-hurts entries. I also don’t know if you get pictures.

It is going to snow on the day I leave here. This is typical. I love snow and would kill to see it.  It will start five seconds after I take off.  Welcome to my life.

Frieda has naturally curly hair.

 

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(Apologies for this being delayed. The computer dying has thrown out my time-table something rotten.)

Thanksgiving Day. My very first. Thus far.

I was up with the sparrows to assist in the preparations however it was all incredibly sedate. One of the things I did notice about Thanksgiving here is that it was well, well controlled. I was expecting the mad run yourself into the ground preparations of Christmas that I was used to however it was all very restrained. Only two meal items (other than pies) were made the day before. Everything else on the day. Impressive

I insisted upon watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade which, as far as I can tell, is an American tradition. Well the tradition has rotted as the bloated, this-is-one-giant-commerical mess I saw was mind numbing and aggravating at the same time. If you don’t know Macy’s parade, it is a parade of massive balloons walked through the streets of New York .  One would suspect then that to watch the parade on tele would involve watching the balloons progress by the tele screen with perhaps some commentary (probably inane) by an announcer. One would be wrong in thinking this.

Depending on the channel the balloons are shown as afterthoughts as PERKY!!!!!!!!! and FUN!!!!!!!!! “celebrities” are brought before the camera to plug his or her brand new PERKY!!!!!!!!! and FUN!!!!!!!!!!! show. The other channel shows the balloons interspersed with songs from new Broadway Shows which had the incredible effect of making a gay man not want to go to Broadway.  Interspersed between these interruptions were television presenters LIVE on the streets of New York getting in the way of the parade walkers and asking important questions such as “Are you glad to be here?” and wondering why the flautist did not respond. However the Worst presenter was the PERKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and ZANY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Marissa Jaret Winokur (don’t know, don’t care).  Being zany included such side-splitting things such as wearing a new hat each time she appeared on the tele, standing amongst the crowd of balloon watchers (also unimpressed by her presence), talking loudly and speedily to indicate her serious whackiness, taking inane to a whole new level. I loathed her.

Despite being from Adelaide I am rarely homicidal but her I wanted to machete. To save the guy’s television from being kicked in I turned the channel but the damage had been done. America is a fantastic place in many ways but it’s capacity to leach entertainment from something that should be inherently entertaining is a skill perfected by American television. Sadly I must be wrong as 44 million people watched this travesty. Ah well, must be me.

Anyways….

I spent the day in the kitchen with Wesley. I didn’t actually cook. I was there to add the glamour. I learnt so much from him though in terms of cooking hints and recipes and I can now say I have eaten a candied yam which was incredibly pleasant as opposed to disgusting. We made candied yams, giblet gravy, the most amazing turkey, fresh cranberry sauce. The boys made mac and cheese ( I will write one day about how here, in the south, mac and cheese is a vegetable – true) and cornbread stuffing and aspic had been made earlier.

The cooking process, as I have already mentioned, was insanely ordered. There was even time to watch Avatar which, as you may know, is 17 years long and still have time to eat dinner. I was forbidden from creating my centrepiece though, if I am honest, it was sorely  missed. There were 8 people to dinner, with Wesley’s sister  Dani (pronounced Dana.Trust me, don’t ask) as the token female and fag hag. Dinner was delightful. The turkey was seriously marriage material. One of the guests who shall remain nameless also liked the turkey and ate a hell of a lot of breast meat while I was giving him my most evilest of eyes as he kept taking more of my meat. Evidently my eye is not evil enough as he kept on going.

A tradition in this household is to watch Auntie Mame. This signifies the start of the Christmas period and the end of the Thanksgiving. They have watched it for 24 years and could, and did, quote the film to me as it progressed. I spent the evening watching Auntie Mame and harassing Dana for her seriously strong East Coast Australia accent (i.e. the word no has 14 syllables). by this time I was getting hungry, and needed the sugar pies and apple crumble pies for dessert. People were stupidly talking at this point so I subtly introduced the idea of dessert by being subtle and saying “I’m hungry, what’s for dessert?”  I blame my hunger on the lack of breast meat.

As a concept I love the idea of Thanksgiving. Again there are no denomination issues. Everyone has family, even if they are not biological and the idea of a day to meet with them and be thankful they are in your lives is a really, really nice one. Just like Halloween, when I take over Australia, we’re doing this.

And there’s turkey!!!!! Lord, was there turkey!

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Moving On Up

Kinda tired if I am honest.

Trey and Wesley have been renovating their upstairs bedroom and it is largely finished and ready to furnish. The furniture is in their basement, two beds, a three-piece and two piece sofa and various stuff and bits. Their friend Richard and I ended up moving much of the furniture from the basement to the attic room.

Lord.

To do this you had to go outside, down the deck, up the hill, through the front door then up the steps to the attic. Richard is extremely muscle-bound with muscles on his muscles and I am his polar opposite. Also to fully appreciate this the side of the house and the hill are strewn with autumn leaves and, at the best of times, I slip and slide all over the place in my Kmart shoes (we’re queer eyeing them soon, give me time).

So Richard and I are carrying this extremely heavy sofa through the route of death. In addition to needing to let it down every now and then as I am so unfit, we are slipping and sliding all over the place. Richard falls into a hole and I am slipping ass over tit.  It takes us forever to get the sofa to the stairs to the attic and, while Richard is fit, I am a serious millstone around his neck and we are both sweating and panting and dying quietly before we attack the stairs.

Trey, God love him, comes up to help us. He takes off this board thing on the sofa that, at most, weighed half a kilo and gives us a smile that says we’re good to go. Richard and I share a look that says if our hands werent full of sofa we would kill this man right now.

I mean, seriously. What a dag. Richard and I were wetting ourselves over that.

The next day we moved all the stuff out of the garage and to the basement, essentially the route of death but in reverse. Seriously, these guys are lesbians with their whole manual handling is fun mindset.  I wore track shoes this time so less slippage.  This time it was gyprock which I literally couldn’t lift even with Wesley’s help. I blame the fact I was weary from the day before. I’m not wussy. I swear.

There was a picture of Dumbo for Kerrie but we have moved on and now have better, more relevant pics of the room and the heavy, heavy furniture.

Here’s the Befores:

And the afters:

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This is kind of a to-do list to remind me of stuff as well as give you an insight into what the impending US trip will entail.  But it’s more to remind me …. As you know my memory is  über tragic.

List of things to do still:

Organise travel insurance (any ideas?)

Book hotel in Washington, the Omni.

Book Mental Health Conference in Washington, which is why I need the above hotel. (Work has very kindly said they will pay for this and half the hotel room. Nice.)

Find a tie. Buy a tie. Not polyester. (And all the ties with the design I want are polyester. This is called Welcome to Nigel’s Life!)

Send Wesley the itinerary

Organise meetings for possible employment

Get my iPhone sorted so I can use it in the States.  (This is possible, right?!  Last time I was there I didn’t have a mobile. It was like being without a limb)

Buy number 7 of the 10 Wonders of the Food World to take to people in the States (You’ll see, American people. You will all thank me and be amazed at my genius. Again.)

Buy Piggy Jim Jams. Not polyester.

Buy Horlicks. No-one sleeps well over there. Horlicks fixes everything. (Did you know my insomnia has been cured since I started night duty. I’ve gone from getting maybe 3 hours of sleep a night to 8!!!!! I am super stoked! I was just in the wrong time zone.)

Book Hotel In MD. (the first two nights of the trip I’m hanging with Ray again. We’re going to shoot guns!!!  )

Pack. (Lightly. I am being taken clothes shopping when I am there.  Evidently I lack style!!!!   I know!!!!!!   The man with four shirts lacks style!!!!   As if! )

There is much more I am sure. That seems light. I suppose as long as I have tickets, money, passport I can wing the rest.

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Ten

It is ten weeks from today and I will be back in the US.

I am alternatively excited and overwhelmed at the sheer volume of stuff I need to do between now and then. Then I am excited again.

Ten weeks till  I am in Lala Land.

Eleven Weeks till I am in NC ( oh yes! )

Twelve weeks till I am in Murrylund (Brad, wanna catch up for a dinner?)

Thirteen Weeks till Thanksgiving.

Fourteen Weeks till I get really sad.

And Seventeen Weeks till Christmas.

(You all clenched then didn’t you?!)

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