new york city

Songs Left Unsung

Thirty-five years ago an invisible monster started stalking the streets of New York and the hills of San Francisco. The first mention of it in the media was ‘the Gay Cancer’ story in the New York Times in the summer of 1981. AIDS would go on to kill nearly 40 million people worldwide, with a death toll that still exceeds one million people each year. This disease decimated several generations of gay men in the United States. It also ignited an historic and powerful community response among gay people and our straight allies which changed the course of the disease – and of civil rights in America. This cataclysm is one of the defining global events of the late 20th century, reflected in our politics, literature, music, film and art… but it played out on a much more personal scale. One person, one life, one death at a time. Countless hearts have broken, oceans of tears shed… with amazing courage and dignity shown in the face of disaster.

One of the first blogs I followed was Gay Dinosaur Tales by a fellow WordPresser named Matthew. Our paths have overlapped a bit, both geographically and experientially, though he had about a ten-year headstart on me. It’s been a bit like finding a big brother I didn’t know I had. I love the way he writes about coming to NYC after graduating from Kent State and the decade he spent coming of age as a gay man in Gotham in the 70s and early 80s.

Matthew recently announced that he was taking a break from publishing his blog. I hated the idea, and told him so. But I resigned myself to not seeing any posts from him for awhile. Then, unexpectedly, there was a new post from Gay Dinosaur Tales! It’s very much in keeping with his reminiscences of life in NYC – but this one was something else. It’s a part of his story that he hadn’t yet fully shared, and he needed to now. (click on the link below)

Like all the most involving stories of life and love and loss, its power comes from the truth and the details of the people in his life, his relationships with them, in that time, in that place. Matthew’s story stands on its own by bearing witness to this chapter in his life and remembering those who went before him. But it also reminds us of the dangers of superstition trumping science in our own time, when there is still no vaccine for fear and ignorance.

“I’ve often said, if I could go back to any one job in my life it would be here–this time–this place–that me. That is, until the world collapsed from underneath our feet.”

GayDinosaurTales.com: Celebrate Good Times

 

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[089] Skydiving Into Gotham

There are images that stop me in my tracks, and this is one of them. I just came across it in my Twitter feed. It appears to have been taken from a vantage point several thousand feet above NYC. The lines of perspective are exaggerated as the eye moves out from the center point, in a way that emphasizes the urban oasis that is Central Park – and gives you the feeling of falling into the picture. Geronimoooooooo!

CentralParkNYC

http://twitter.com/planetepics/status/452586483590107136/photo/1

Even with the distortion, though, the clarity is remarkable. I see buildings I lived and worked in, a long time ago. And the places in the park that I loved. Still do. Just haven’t been to them in awhile. The jogging track encircling the big blue Reservoir. The softball fields behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art where we could let Remi and Jesse romp off leash. Bethesda Fountain on The Lake. The roadways inside the park that were closed to traffic on Sundays in favor of walkers, joggers, cyclists, skaters, breakdancers, etc. Thom and I lived just four blocks behind the Guggenheim on East 89th Street and I’d rollerblade into the park and skate the great circle from midtown to Harlem. Listening to my Walkman. (FYI: this was after 8-tracks and before CDs.) Wearing only wrist and knee guards. I wasn’t young enough (even then) to justify that feeling of invincibility – but I was lucky.

And there’s the Great Lawn of Sheep Meadow where I saw the epic Simon & Garfunkel concert in 1981, and the ill-fated Diana Ross concert in the summer of ’83. It was a sweltering summer evening and a massive thunderstorm fired up just a half-hour into the show. Miss Ross was having none of it, though. She kept going in the driving rain, wind whipping that huge mane of tight curls, her flowing garments billowing like a runaway spinnaker… Ain’t no mountain high enough! A biblical downpour. No one left. It was insane. Half a million people could have been electrocuted where we stood… Ain’t no river wide enough! It was an amazing moment. And then the Motown Diva acknowledged Mother Nature’s superior forces and said she’d be back the next night to finish the show. I remember being swept along in a river of humanity exiting the park that night, soaked to the skin, everyone running for cover into the office building lobbies and hotels along Central Park South and around the Plaza. It was part disaster movie, part carnival. I don’t think they did many free concerts in the park after that. But what a night!

And you know what I love about the internet? I just found a clip from that crazy washed out concert!

 

An extraordinary image of an extraordinary park in an extraordinary city. If you know me or have followed this blog for more than an hour, then you know I love life in Los Angeles. But seeing this image and the memories of people and places and events that it triggers… reminds me of my first home, and my first love. It will always be true…

iloveny

Day 089 #100happydays


The End (so far)