I've been in San Francisco for the past several days with my Reclaiming friends.
On Saturday night with 1000 other people, I danced the Spiral Dance.
The Wheel of the Year has turned again.
Tonight I joined a procession of people at the Dia de los Muertos celebration in the Mission.
Both of these events brought back many memories of my life in San Francisco and my friends who have passed through the veil into the Summerland, the Isle of Apples, where their spirits dwell, along with the spirits of the unborn.
Impressions and photos of both of the events will be coming. Below is a column I wrote on World AIDS day two years ago that is apropos now.
There are two days a year I set aside to remember those who have passed between the veil and are on “the other side:” Samhain (All Hallows, 31 October) and December 1, World Aids Day. I also honor Veteran's Day – though I have a problem with war, most of the young men served their country in spite of inept politicians who have never served a day like US soldiers have. It's not their fault that they were killed fighting a meaningless battle staged by idiots.
Oh, the waste of young men and women in wars generally, but especially the one the US is involved in now…I am so lucky I've lived to at least 52.
The passage of time has dulled the excruciating pain I experienced when I've lost my friends. The pain has been replaced with fond memories.
As the years go on, I remember these special friends:
Greg Antepenko – Greg and I were best friends for a decade (the 80's).
Greg and Kevin, 1984
There were several times we considered becoming boyfriends, because we both loved each other a lot in our own ways and we had very similar temperaments, but we decided to continue with a friendship that seemed to work. Greg worked part time as a gardener for Melvin Belli, the flamboyant attorney in San Francisco. Belli's office was near the Transamerica Pyramid, and he had plants in window boxes and on the roof. I remember visiting Greg on the roof of the Belli building (circa 1985).
Here's the Belli Building at 722/728 Montgomery, San Francisco:
I usually brought some snacky food. We'd smoke a doob, kick back on his break, look at the San Francisco skyline, and figure out how to make Mel's place more fabulous. I'd end up helping Greg water, plant, and sweep. Belli himself was a real character – pity I never had my picture taken with him, but in those days, all one had was film and taking pictures was much more “of a thing” than it is now. Belli had his office on the street behind a big glass window, so pedestrians could watch him work. I remember that he had a very busy office – chock full of as, we say in Hawaii, “stuffs and junks” – pictures of celebrities all over his walls, little statues, and so much crap on his desk I wondered just how he wrote briefs there. Belli represented a diverse clientele – Wikipedia says that Zsa Zsa Gabor, Mae West, Sirhan Sirhan, and Jim and Tammy Fae Bakker (!) were among them. He always appeared to me as a rather large toad sitting on a mushroom with a large rake, pulling in the dough. When I saw him at work, I was reminded of his guest role in the original Stark Trek series as “Gorgan the Friendly Angel.”
Here's a picture of Anna, Greg and I in November 1988 at the Aids Memorial Quilt display in Washington, DC. The three of us were “Quilt workers” dressed in white. Our job was to help people find panels of their loved ones, and hand out tissues and hankies to people. It was the first time I had ever done so much grief-counseling in one place in two afternoons. It had been a heckuva day, so we retired to a nearby tree on the Mall to relax (watch my back, youse guys!):
Greg lived in Rio Nido on the Russian River in his younger days (circa 1979-1982). I'd drive up there every weekend to hang out, and we'd go out to the Rainbow Cattle Company for cocktails and smarmytalk.
Oh, the days when I was more carefree and 25 years old… Thanks for the memories, Greg! I hope you are resting comfortably and making wherever you are more fabulous. To his credit, Greg was an instigator who likely increased awareness of teaching your doctor about AIDS in San Francisco. AIDS/HIV was a whole different world back in the 80's. There were people that wanted to isolate people with AIDS/HIV – people were treated very poorly back then. Fortunately, it has changed somewhat, but there are still many instances of HIV/AIDS discrimination in our society.
Tomas Colon-Batis. “Every tingle time (sic)” I think about Tomas, I cannot help but smile. What a happy-go-lucky spirit this guy was. He was Puerto-Rican/Cuban mix, and would think nothing of dropping $250 on a shirt, living on Bell System telephone operator's salary. No matter that he might not have enough to make the rent that month, but at least he would look fabulous when he was evicted. Hw spoke perfect unaccented English, but could easy slip into almost any Spanish dialect (Cuban, Argentinian, Castilian) you could name, hence the “tingle time” above. He was a regular at our dinner table, where the wine flowed freely. He partied, he played, and eventually met his Mr. Wonderful (David, an EMT physician who drove a MB with the license plate NSPIKR) David was his dream come true who domesticated him, festooned him with jewels, a car, and a mansion in Hillsborough, south of San Francisco, and swept him away from his San Francisco family to be a Pensinsula spouse. Tomas' last days were filled with opulence and beauty – and boy, was his mom proud that he scored a doctor! I remember you, Tomas.
Keith Bishop. Aah, Keith. One of the sexiest men I have ever met. We were both members of the California Eagles Motorcycle Club. He drove one of those really LARGE Honda Goldwings. Keith was such a gentleman…
Keith near the Fire, Finnon Lake Calfornia, 1986 (?)
Tim Pacy. He was my ex-partner's best friend, a good friend of mine as well. Tim was partly responsible for our eventual relocation to Hawaii. Tim deserves so much more blog time than I can give at the moment. (Note to self).
Tim and Tomas, 1984 (?)
I miss you all terribly.
*”What is remembered, lives” is a beautiful refrain from one of my favorite Samhain litanies written by Starhawk of the Reclaiming Collective. This song is traditionally sung on Samhain before we take a trance journey to the Isle of Apples, where the souls of the dead go to be reborn…
These are the gates of youth and age
These are gates of now and then
These are gates of memory
Pass through them, slip between the worlds beyond time
Outside the boundaries of your human life
Pass through them, to dance the spiral
The journey of renewal
You warriors! Here your battles are over
You workers! Here your tasks are done
You who are hurt! Here find healing
You who are weary! Here find rest
You who are old! Here you will grow young again
For this is the land of youth, the shining land, the isle of apples
Here is all that ever was, none are forgotten
Nothing lasts forever
All that has passed comes around again
For here, What is remembered lives
What is remembered lives
This beautiful song was published on Reclaiming's “Let it Begin Now” CD available at Serpentine Music.