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August 8th, 2016

Some Of Us Will Always Be Living In A Time Of AIDS

Time passes, the universe expands, science does its thing, and where once a diagnosis of AIDS was a death sentence, now it is a largely manageable illness. Treatments are out there that can reduce a person’s viral load to undetectable levels. And there is even PrEP, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis…a little blue pill that us HIV negative folk can take if we’re still sexually active, that can reduce the risk of HIV infection by over 90 percent. 

But AIDS still has the power to make me cry, even now, so many years after it first began taking people away from me, so many years after the worst of it. Friends I’d made on the GLIB BBS (the Gay and Lesbian Information Bureau), gay folk I’d come to know in other settings, artists, musicians, people who made life beautiful. I used to have nightmares of walking among the Names Project quilt panels and suddenly coming upon a name I really, really didn’t want to see there. It seemed like it would never stop. And it hasn’t really. Just yesterday I learned a classmate from high school, Rocky, had been taken, back in the late ’80s.

I’d had no idea. We weren’t friends back in Class of 1971-72, but he was in the Drama Seminar and as student newspaper photographer I got to watch him in rehearsals, and capture something of him on stage. And Rocky just came to life on the stage. I still vividly recall a moment when, during a rehearsal of “Beggar on Horseback”, after one of the characters delivered a dark, melodramatic line, Rocky suddenly ad libbed running across the stage laughing maniacally, flapping his cape behind him. Everyone laughed. The director said, “Keep it.” And that was how they performed that scene.

When I got my film developed I showed him some of the shots and he asked for copies. These two of him on stage below, are my favorites of him. And all these years later I’m still kinda proud he liked them. He was really something special on stage, and when another artist like that gives your art some respect it lifts you up.

In retrospect I should have seen it, but it’s testimony to how naive and clueless I was back then (years later at a class reunion I was clued into some student gossip of who was doing who back then and you should have seen my jaw dropping). I was posting to the Woodward 1970s Alumni Facebook group the other day, I began to remember, and wonder, and I asked if anyone knew what had become of him. And yes, I asked with a touch of apprehension. You had to have lived through it to understand how reflexive that flinch is. And…I was told.

And it all comes back…all the misery. It just keeps on happening. He was a sweetheart, and so very talented and alive. Way more than I ever was or could be. Here’s to you Rocky…and to everyone who loved and was loved by you. If I could have one hour of time to go back to, I would spend it back then on the Woodward stage with my camera, being the student newspaper photographer, watching you and all my other classmates in the Drama Seminar. We had so much fun and we didn’t even know how much.

 

rocky-1

 

rocky-2

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Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com


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