Steven & Dagmar
I know. You don’t like to celebrate birthdays. That probably goes double for this year. So I won’t dwell on it. I’m thinking about another celebration: the Gay Pride Parade in New York City. Come to think of it, you aren’t big on parades either. But maybe today is different. Maybe falling on your birthday, this year’s parade might tempt you from your country home to join the jubilation. I imagine you there with Dagmar, an exotic rainbow on your shoulder, marching to your own drummer. Or maybe not.
The towering New Hampshire pines are shrouded in mist at 6am. Birdsong fills the air; rabbits play in the backyard. A warm wet summer day breaks like any other. Well, not quite any other. Across the land, across the sea, many awoke early with the same exhilaration they once greeted Christmas morning. Anticipation has been building to this moment for months, and I’ve been swept along by the undertow. But for some the excitement is tinged with anxiety. What if…?
The Inn at Whitefield
The Inn is quiet again but for the rat-a-tat-tatting of rhythmic rain on the roof, Mother Nature’s own percussive washboard. It was a musical weekend with New Bedford band Pumpkin Head Ted visiting the North Country. Morning coffee on the terrace was accompanied by strumming of an acoustic guitar. A noontime flute trilled along the upstairs hallway. Hours before customers arrived, an impromptu session filled the pub with gentle harmonies. But I’d been thinking more discordant thoughts.
Amsterdam. Summer 1995.
I’m homeless, living in my jeep with my dog. (Long story, not so interesting.) Early one sunny morning in Vondelpark, we run into a crowd gathered behind crime scene tape that surrounds a pond by the rose gardens. (Infamous gay cruising spot – still is.) Police everywhere, divers in the water. I ask some guy what’s going on. He tells me, and it’s not pretty. Not first thing in the morning, not anytime. Take my word for it. But what he tells me will inspire a book. My first. The one I’m trying to get published. About a murder.
Photo: Frits de Ridder, 1986
In September 1986 I died of AIDS. That’s me – center in the photo – playing one last game of Scrabble. An hour later, handsome Tony in the white shirt died in the arms of Steve, who left the hospice soon after to spend his final days with his family. I passed quietly, offstage. Five nights a week, above a gay bar in Amsterdam.