AIDS Epidemic: As Told By Someone Who Lived It

I popped into a New Age store one day.  Being me, I found my way to the clearance book section and nearly had a heart attack.  And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts was there and only THREE DOLLARS?!?! It couldn’t be! Didn’t they know what they had here?

I took the book off the shelf, heart still palpitating.  I read the back: It WAS the book I wanted to read, which I had only heard mentioned (numerous times) in passing, most notably as a discussion of sociological methods.

There was no way this book wasn’t coming home with me.

The cashier didn’t share my excitement.  None of my friends had heard of the book.  But I had.  And I was going to read it, and its incense smelling pages, Damnit!

And so, I did.

And let’s just say, being born after ALL the events in the book took place, and having only heard of them briefly, it was a real eye opener.  It put the US Government in a new light and briefly made me want to track diseases.  But the government wasn’t hiring when I looked and I lack experience and the necessary degree and yadda yadda yadda.

I have several pages marked, too numerous to feel like recounting here.  But this book: I was shocked.  I was shocked from the underhanded political dealings that went on, from the lack of listening people would do to save their own skin while meanwhile people were DYING, the ignorance that grew (and still persists…)  It’s just… It could vie for a spot on the list of “Books that changed my life”.  I really wish I had read this in college, not for my sake, but for others.

In college, we read this book on TB in Haiti and how Paul Farmer is working to bring health care to impoverished locals.  I was not a fan of the book: mainly, I did not like the writing style.  I was slaughtered for not being moved by the book.  Halfway through And the Band Played on, I read about how they discriminated against “…the ‘Four H’s’ of the disease risk groups– homosexuals, heroin addicts, hemophiliacs, and Haitians” (Shilts 197).  My friend promptly got a text:

“Paul Farmer wrote a book on AIDS in Haiti and how Haitians weren’t to blame.  Why didn’t we read that one instead?”

I really really didn’t like the book we had to read.

Going back to Randy Shilts:  You have to respect him.  He was living with AIDS while working on this book, but refused to get diagnosed until he was done.  This is the AIDS epidemic not from scientists, but from someone who lived it, someone who was at risk.  And it’s not a memoir; it’s full on facts.

I cannot emphasize enough how I think people should read this book.  I can tell you about it until I am heaving from lack of breath, but it will not be enough.

You need to read it.


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The Art of Depression

It’s been a long time. I have a dozen or so books to catch up on, and I just can’t do it. Once more, I’m fighting a battle in the hundred-years-war.

I’m not good enough. I can’t do anything. Everyone else is being amazing, and I’m still in this quagmire.

I texted a friend the other night while at work. In my long message, I’ve commented on something I think about constantly: “I lost so much in high school and college, personality and vibrancy wise. The depression crept in on top of so-called intellectualism, and I was too tired, too jaded, to stop it…” That’s how I’m feeling again and again. I start to pull through, to find my way out of the riptide, only to get a cramp, and fall back into drowning in my own life.

I have no motivation.

Tonight, I almost walked into the front of a moving car. Not on purpose. But because I’m just stumbling through life, so completely lost that I forget to look where I’m going. My mind is cracking: I find myself yelling the same three sentences over and over, sentences that sound constructed by a two year old. Twenty-three years of life has disappeared, save for the memories that no one wants to remain, and I’m a toddler again, living in my parent’s care, no complete sense of self yet, a world more black and white as my palette hasn’t developed color.

On the way home, I wanted to put my foot to the gas, to drive as fast as I could. I couldn’t go fast enough. I couldn’t escape, not the thoughts, not the memories, not the emotions.

I’m off my meds. i get tired of the stigma, tired of taking them every night with a — count them!– one, two, three. Staring at them, pulling them out. I’m tired of it. This does not define me. But some days… It seems like people see this side of you, see through your melting facade, and know that you’re a lost cause.

I am strong. I am brilliant. But I keep forgetting to remind myself.

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The Final Book of 2012

I knew how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Return of Sherlock Holmes would start.  That’s the problem when you’re a reader reading a book with a spoiler one hundred years after it was published: Everyone and their mother has spoiled it for you.  So I was ahead of Watson– not that that’s a hard thing.  I’m more a Sherlock than a Watson.  And really digging the TV Show Elementary, as I love them showing Holmes as being an addict, which source material totally has him being, but alas, I digress.  But seriously!  So nice to see him a pompous addict instead of just an overly smart, classy man.  I LOVES it.

Okay, I’m done now.  Maybe.

So The Return of Sherlock Holmes.  Usual pattern.  Bunch of mystery stories as solved by Holmes and told by Watson.  Generally short stories, all.  And generally some of the better mysteries I’ve read.  And I love mysteries.  Maybe because I can solve them pretty easily.

Some days, I think I am the female Holmes.  Other days, I wish I was.

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And the Waiting Never Ends…

Some days, I think Samuel Beckett was insane.  And then I think I’m insane and realize, we make a perfect pair.  He wrote Waiting for Godot, I read Waiting for Godot.  Need I say anything more?

I did not read Waiting for Godot while sick (I was really sick this past weekend; my body had entire revolution that started with passing out and ended with staying home for 48 hours straight).  And if I had, I don’t even want to wrap my thoughts around sick Ikkalee and whatever Waiting for Godot is about.  But healthy Ikkalee had a few thoughts:

According to her notes:

Waiting for Godot is either about one of two things:

1. Allegory for life: We are always waiting, we pass the time with trivialities, and we wait and wait and wait for something to finally occur.  It’s like with Finding Nemo.  According to 17 year old me, who discovered that Nemo was Latin for “No one” (According to a source I read; I could be wrong and then my entire theory has just collapsed around me) and was going through a stage of over-analyzing Disney/Pixar Movies, Finding Nemo is actually about our aimless search in life.  We are always looking for no one.  In the end, we find no one.  Wow.  I was a pessimist.

2.  Allegory of religion.  Godot is Jesus.  Dark is symbolic of death.  We are constantly waiting for Godot to arrive to bring us salvation and the meaning of life.  (Which we would all love to believe has something to do with 42.)

I’m not actually religious, but living in Western culture, it comes into my mind.  I have no idea what Beckett was thinking when he penned Waiting for Godot, but that is how an assimilated-into-Western-Culture, 20-something year old female in the 21st Century gets from it.  That’s my experience.  What is everyone else’s?

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A Middle Finger to “The Good Old Days”

You have all probably heard the phrase “The Good Old Days,” the nostalgic idea that everything was better back when and the current American Culture has gone off the diving board, into the deep end, and is one stroke away from drowning.  Case in point:

In the earlier parts of the 20th century, no one had sex outside of marriage.  There was no homosexuality.  Women and men, boys and girls all knew their proper places.  We have ads to support this, supposed stats that conceal hushed up family secrets.

And then there is literature.

I love my “F” American Authors.  Faulkner will always have a place in my heart.  But today, it’s Fitzgerald who will take over.

I had not read any F Scott Fitzgerald since the obligatory The Great Gatsby that all high schoolers read sometime in their lives.  (Junior year English for me).  Since graduating college, the idea of the reading the influential authors crept into my head and I pick up their not-so-famous works from time to time in addition to the ones everyone knows, claims to have read, but only a few of us crazies actually have.

In this case, I found myself reading Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon.

I don’t remember much about The Great Gatsby (except I decided the Counting Crow’s song Mr Jones was written with Gatsby in mind), so I cannot compare it with The Last Tycoon.  But I can say this: The Last Tycoon was never finished– Fitzgerald died– and that’s a shame as it was really getting good.

The story starts with a college-aged woman relating life growing up as a Hollywood producer’s daughter.  It soon changes to her describing the life and last great love affair of another Hollywood producer, “The Last Tycoon.”  And let’s just say, this man’s story involves everything that they claim never happened in the early 20th century (though without any homosexuality that I can remember).  Reading it, all I could think of was that Fitzgerald was sticking up his middle finger and saying “EFF YOU!” to propriety and the so-called “Good old days”.  And I laughed and my mind hugged the book even tighter.

I really wish Fitzgerald had been able to finish it.  Instead of an ending, the reader was given the notes and letters he had written to people and others had written to him.  And to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Hemingway, but I greatly enjoyed his comments to Fitzgerald concerning this novel.

Early twentieth century writers… They were something else.

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Ellen Foster

I remember seeing the Hallmark Made-for-TV movie of Ellen Foster when I was younger.  To be honest, when I first found Pictures of Hollis Woods, I briefly confused the two.  And then I found the book Ellen Foster— and the movie for Pictures of Hollis Woods on IMDB, and all was set right in the world.

Kaye Gibbons, author of Ellen Foster, is most definitely a Southern Author.  From page one, the language she uses is so colloquial that you get sucked in into a southern world, despite reading during Late Autumn nights in the Midwest.

I felt bad for the main character throughout the entire novel.  Her life sucked.  Every time a good thing seemed to come, the court systems, the law, all screwed life up.  An interesting testament to how life can be for people, I suppose.

Now, after finishing Ellen Foster, part of me wants to find a copy of the movie and re-watch it.  All I remember is Jena Malone dragging around a black garbage bag filled with her life.

One small issue about the book: I had a really hard time figuring out the character of Dora and her physical/mental age in relation to Ellen.  But that’s just me.

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It is REALLY cold out…

And I’m just being a baby.

So I’m momentarily skipping Proust.  My work schedule at the moment is hectic, my computer crashed a bit ago so my files are in CD form and, quite frankly, I just don’t have time to sit down and find my notes on a 2500+ page book.  So Charlotte Bronte, you’re up!

My second foray into the world of Charlotte Bronte (after the obligatory Jane Eyre!) was her novel The Professor.  It was charming at times and at others, I wanted to go ugh.  There were a few parts where the feminist in me did not agree.  I know.  I know.  Time frame.  Read in context.  But twenty-first Century Ikkalee can have a hard time doing that.

I ended up reading much of this novel on my iPhone.  Why?  Well there was a LOT of French.  And I don’t speak (or read) French.  I know some basics, but in context and when ENTIRE imperative conversations were in French (though to be fair, it took place in Brussels, so I guess French was correct, Ms. Bronte), some of us rely on a computer translator.  And the lazy gal’s way is copy and paste instead of typing ENTIRE conversations– finger pecking style– into my phone.  It got quite irritating to the point that I didn’t care to read The Professor at times as I was too lazy/tired/annoyed/adjective of your choice to attempt translations.

Charlotte Bronte, we get it.  You’re brilliant.  Now please stop showing off.  Though if I were to insist on you doing that, I guess that means I would have to stop bragging about being smarter than Bones and the squints.  And yeah… That’s not happening anytime soon.


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