World AIDS Day …

World AIDS Day - Click to learn more

December 3, 2016 Update

Since posting this, I’ve had people tell me they still have difficulty understanding all the issues surrounding the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

Yes, we know that the provisions of the Affordable Care Act have resulted in an estimated 20 million people gaining health insurance coverage between the passage of the law in 2010 and early 2016, including about 6.1 million uninsured young adults ages 19 to 25.

This is an historic reduction in the level of the uninsured. And yet if Obamacare has done so much good, why it is so controversial and unpopular; and what are the real issues surrounding it?

This morning an interview with Obamacare architect Ezekiel Emanuel was published by the online magazine Salon. It’s the best single explanation of everything you need to know about Obamacare and I would strongly encourage you to read it by following this link.

Original December 1, 2016 Post

Today is World AIDS Day. That would certainly be an appropriate occasion to write about under any circumstance, but it’s especially true for those of us who’ve been reading the story I’ve been posting for many months now.

This is a day dedicated to raising awareness about the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV, for mourning those who have died of the disease, and for encouraging, supporting and helping those living with it.

Government and health officials, non-governmental organizations, and individuals around the world have been observing this day since December 1, 1988, often through efforts to raise public awareness about AIDS prevention and control.

In that spirit I would like to call attention to the important role the Affordable Care Act plays in the fight against HIV and AIDS in the United States.

I do so today because I may not be able to do this a year from now if Republicans in Congress and Donald Trump follow through on their pledge to kill off what has come to be known as Obamacare.

Won’t be affected if that happens? Don’t think it matters very much?

Think again!

Here are a few of the many ways the Affordable Care Act plays a role in fighting HIV and AIDS. If you’d like to learn more, you can click on that image below or follow this link.

Click on this image to learn more ...

The truth is, if you’re gay or know someone who is and care, you have a stake in what happens to Obamacare in the months ahead. Without guaranteed access to health insurance regardless of any preexisting condition, who will insure those with HIV and AIDS?

Without the Obamacare exchanges and subsidies, who will be able to afford to buy coverage privately? How will those who benefited from Medicaid expansion, including many with HIV and AIDS, fare if that is undone?

I’m not trying to tell you the Affordable Care Act is perfect. Like every great piece of legislation ever put in place, including the Social Security Act and Medicare, it needs fixes and could be made better.

But that assumes a world where human beings actually care about one another; where people come before profits and political posturing.

Sadly, that’s not the world we live in today. Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and Republicans more generally, self-proclaimed disciples of Ronald Reagan, another Republican known as a great friend of those with HIV and AIDS, have been demonizing Obamacare for years and soon enough they’ll have the opportunity to kill it off once and for all.

Oh, sure, they’ve talked about repeal and replace at times. But up until now the focus has been almost entirely on repealing Obamacare, not fixing it or putting something better in place. We’ll find out soon enough whether Trump and the Republicans are serious about helping more Americans gain access to health care and health insurance that’s actually affordable.

Don’t hold your breath waiting, however. As opposed to military spending and tax cuts that benefit the rich and powerful, Republicans have never liked spending money on health and now their fondest dreams are about to be realized unless people stand up and say no.

In any decent society universal access to quality healthcare would be a right, not a political issue. But we live in the United States and we’re told America is an exceptional nation.

Let’s see just how exceptional we are when it comes to caring for our fellow citizens, including those living with HIV and AIDS who benefit greatly from legislation now in danger of being tossed on the scrapheap of history.

In any event, as our story comes to its conclusion in the weeks ahead, it will be interesting to contrast how Jimmy, Jeff and the rest of our characters compare to those who claim to be our leaders when it comes to caring about people.

Chapter 27 …

Don't believe it?  Click on this image for more ...

At some level all of us know we’re going to die. But for most of us, most the time, death seems distant, something far away in the future. Knowing that makes the task of getting on with life easier.

But for those who were the first to contract the disease, living with AIDS must have been extraordinarily challenging indeed and that’s what I tried to capture a bit in last week’s chapter. And yet if the fear of death made living with AIDS hard, indifference made it harder still and that’s what the remaining chapters of our story will explore.

By the way, that image above doesn’t capture just how chilling that exchange was. You really have to listen to it to get the full effect. So I invite you to click on the image or follow this link and decide for yourself if you think I’m being too harsh in my assessment of Reagan and his political cronies as you read the remaining chapters.

For now, however, let’s briefly recap what we learned last week. For one thing, we learned Jimmy often disappeared into his room for hours on end to be by himself as the months passed.

Sensing Jimmy was pulling away, Jeff learned from Leo that Jimmy often prayed when he was alone. When he pursued the matter, Jeff also learned Jimmy had rediscovered the God of his youth, a fearsome, judgmental, God.

Is it any wonder then that Jimmy might conclude that he was destined to burn in Hell forever for his sins?

In an effort to help, Jeff asked around among his friends and was directed to a priest who worked at the Newman Center at American University. Having arranged to meet with Father Damien, Jeff was surprised at just how non-traditional the young priest was. Nonetheless, he sought his help.

At Jeff’s suggestion, Jimmy decided to go to confession. Jeff took him to a church across town where Father Damien sometimes helped out. Jimmy made his confession that evening and was surprised at just how kindly he was treated by Father Damien.

The chapter ended on a happier note, with Jimmy commenting on how much love and support he was receiving from those surrounding him. If nothing else, the chapter was an impressive demonstration of just how much Jeff loves Jimmy.

Putting aside his own personal beliefs (or non-belief in this case), he found a way to help Jimmy make peace with God; and he did so in a way that was an affirmation of everything people hope for in their savior.

Instead of a judgmental God ready to consign him to an eternity in Hell, Jimmy was introduced to a more forgiving and loving God.

Not every AIDS patient was as fortunate, of course.

Between bickering relatives, an often indifferent medical system, a Federal government that was actively hostile, and a disease that was cruel and horrific, many AIDS patients spent the final months of their lives dealing with agonizing conditions no human being should have to suffer.

Thanks for your leadership, Ronnie and Nancy. NOT!

In any event, I’ve posted Chapter 27 at The Annex. Let’s be thankful as the holidays approach that Jimmy has the support of loving friends.

Chapter 26 …

Love and sex ... similar but different somehow

One of the things we learned in last week’s chapter is that AIDS didn’t kill the longing for sex, at least not for Jeff. Or is Jeff confusing sex with the need for love and intimacy? Whatever the case may be and in spite of Jeff’s best efforts, the urge for something more only seemed to grow more powerful in the weeks that followed Jimmy’s return.

One of the ways the two tried to deal with this was by attending a couples counseling session at the Whitman Walker Clinic, a group Jeff found it difficult to participate in because he didn’t want Jimmy to know the effect his presence was having on Jeff.

But then one evening Jimmy wasn’t feeling well enough to join Jeff at their group session. Emboldened, Jeff joined into the conversation at last. In the ensuing discussion the subject of condoms came up.

Would they help prevent the transmission of AIDS? (Keep in mind the HIV virus itself had yet to be identified at the time).

By the way, in spite of my best efforts to do so, I was never able to determine exactly when gay men started using condoms for protection in real life back then. A lot of my sources had different recollections as to when people started doing that. If you can shed any light on the issue, let me know.

In any event, when Jeff asked whether anyone had put the question to the U.S. Surgeon General, Ned pointed out that the Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, was considered quite conservative. A mysterious stranger also added that the Surgeon General was being kept out of the loop on AIDS by Ronald Reagan’s political appointees.

I mention this because Koop would later go on to become a major player in the history of AIDS in the United States by endorsing the use of condoms, much to the distress of Reagan’s conservative supporters.

Not sure what to make of the evening’s discussion, Jeff raised the issue with Jimmy when he got back to the townhouse. That prompted a discussion in which Jimmy finally revealed for the first time that he had cheated with Bobbie; something that came as a shock to Jeff. How he cheated came as an even bigger shock.

While the two discussed the use of condoms, neither chose to pursue the matter at the end of the day. The fear of AIDS overwhelmed even the strongest of sexual urges back then, including for Jeff and Jimmy. But what about their need for love and intimacy? One wonders how they will deal with that in what remains of their time together.

As mentioned in this post, we’ll be finishing the story by the middle of January. Tonight’s chapter, which is now up at The Annex, is the first of what I hope will be a strong series of concluding chapters.

Happy Thanksgiving …

If only I could cook this well :-)

To those who celebrate it, a Happy Thanksgiving indeed! And, no, I’m not sitting in front of a computer somewhere typing this message on Thanksgiving morning. I wrote this up earlier and scheduled it for publication today.

But the Thanksgiving greetings are genuine nonetheless.

Enjoy your meal and the company of friends and loved ones; or even the football games if you wish (though let’s hope no one is injured as even the players who entertain us deserve more than just cheers today).

And if you’re far from home or do not celebrate this uniquely American holiday (with apologies to my Canadian friends who celebrate it in October), please feel free to indulge yourself nonetheless because that’s what I plan to do🙂

You might even think about reading a story by clicking on that image below.

Give Thanks!

Posting Schedule …

Just trying to get things organized ...

When I started this story in June, I was planning to finish by Christmas. At this point, however, it looks like we won’t be done until around the middle of January.

That’s because I’ve added some chapters along the way; and while this revised timetable isn’t as good as I originally hoped, it will at least get me finished before The Orange One takes office in January.

I may have more to say about my plans for the future down the road, but for now I’m mostly just focused on completing this story.

If I can find the time needed to edit the remaining chapters appropriately, I think we could finish strongly. But I won’t be taking any breaks between now and mid-January. Indeed, I’ve already scheduled the remaining chapters to appear come hell or high water.

I’ll try to invest as much time as I can in editing them. No matter what happens, however, I won’t leave you high and dry. But how good the remaining chapters are remains to be seen.

Chapter 25 …

fallow - adjective 1. (of land) plowed and left unseeded for a season or more; uncultivated

In last week’s chapter Jeff and Mark had a private discussion about what was best for Leo and agreed getting him back into school was the way to go. Mark promised to support Jeff’s efforts to do so while Jeff offered to help Mark find a better job.

In the weeks that followed both promises were fulfilled, with Leo enrolling in an alternative school on Capitol Hill while Mark found a new job with Jeff’s assistance in the congressional mailroom of one of Jeff’s gay friends.

If you were gay, it was all about networking even back then apparently; at least that’s what I’ve been told by those who contributed so much to this story.

Jeff was less successful in getting the medical appointments with prominent physicians he hoped would be better able to help Jimmy. As he soon discovered, most physicians were uninterested in treating patients with AIDS back then.

Instead, they would refer people to the handful of overworked doctors willing to do so. In the end, Jeff found himself spending more and more time arranging Jimmy’s medical care and getting him to his appointments and counseling sessions.

Indeed, Jeff and Jimmy eventually ended up in a counseling group aimed at helping couples deal with all the problems that came with AIDS.

Separately, Jeff decided to offer his resignation to his boss, Congressman Bresnahan, in the hope of spurring him to become more involved in the fight against AIDS. Though perhaps not the smartest strategy in the world, it apparently worked when the Congressman rejected Jeff’s resignation and promised to help.

Spurred into action, Jeff suggested to Tim and Susan that their bosses, Congressmen Wellman and Wilson, should take the lead in creating a new House AIDS Task Force to put more pressure on the Reagan Administration to do something about the burgeoning AIDS crisis. As part of that effort, he also proposed creating a staff working group for the Task Force.

To be co-chaired by Tim and Susan, the working group would do much of the actual work of the Task Force through three subcommittees; one focused on media outreach and public education, one on getting more members involved in the work of the Task Force, and a third focused on securing more funding.

Although that’s where we left things hanging last week, tonight’s chapter, which I’ve now posted at The Annex, will take us back to a significant issue that both Jeff and Jimmy will struggle to deal with in the months ahead; Jeff more so perhaps.

The Open Door Revisited …

A Cambridge icon ...

As some of you may recall, Sean Tierney, one of the lead characters in my story The Opened Door, worked selling papers and magazines at kiosk in Harvard Square.

That kiosk was loosely based on a real newsstand that’s a Cambridge icon, Out of Town News. Recently, the New York Times carried an interesting story indicating that the future of the newsstand is now in question.

The City of Cambridge, which owns the 500-square-foot vintage kiosk, is beginning a $4.6 million renovation of it and the gritty brick plaza around it, even as the area teems with tourists, students, homeless people, buskers, shoppers, pedicab drivers, chess players and political demonstrators.

Starting in August, the lease for Out of Town News will be renewed by the city on a month-to-month basis, meaning it could close the kiosk at any month after that. The lease expires in January 2019.

By then, if not sooner, Out of Town News is likely to become the latest of the nation’s premier newsstands to close . . . .

If interested, you can read more about it by following this link.