Monthly Archives: December 2012


I haven’t posted any excerpts from Holding Breath here for a while, but a conversation having to do with drug tests for Welfare recipients I stumbled into this morning on Facebook (probably ill-advisedly, as I was in an unusually grouchy and impatient mood, for some reason, and might have known to stay out of it if that hadn’t been the case) got me thinking about something I’d thought about many times in the past, and wrote about in the book.  (The first time I thought of it was probably when I was a kid, walking down what must have been East 19th Street in Manhattan with some family members.  We saw a man panhandling, and I wanted to give him some money, but my family told me not to–that he would just “use it to buy liquor.”  They’re kind people, but I now know that they were just going along with a conventional idea that, even at the time, didn’t feel right to me.)

I’ve come to believe that when a person in need asks you to give, you give—no questions asked, no test to see if they’re “deserving” enough, no pre-judging what they might use it for.  If they need comfort (and, preferably, a few warm, respectful words to go with it), and are in a situation that has brought them to the demeaning point at which they need to stand in the street and ask strangers for help, and I have the means to give them what they need just then, I’m happy to do it.  I don’t give a damn how they got to be that way, or what they’re going to do with what I give. I used to feel that there might be something wrong with my thinking that way, as so many others seemed to feel differently, but I’ve gotten over it. 

In any case, here’s the excerpt:

Maybe I really was, as I was told over and over, just being naïve, and being an “enabler”.

But I’ve grown up enough to see that my beliefs are as valid as anyone else’s (and perhaps based more on experience than those of many others who make judgments about the character of addicts and people who live on the street), and aren’t negated by someone else’s disagreeing with them. Almost all of us are, to a greater or lesser degree, addicted to something. We all lie, often without even thinking of it as lying. We all manipulate others in order to get what we want, and we’ve all stolen or cheated in one way or another—even those of us who have everything we need already. We’ve all caused others emotional or physical pain. And if being an “enabler”, with David or with anyone else in a similar position, meant that I was giving them the comfort of feeling that they were, after all, as worthy of love as anyone else, I had nothing to be ashamed of.


There are quite a few references to “ghosts” in Holding Breath.  Shortly after David passed on, several things happened for which I had no perfect explanation; as I said in the book, I’d always been cynical about the notion of “ghosts” or “spirits”, but I really wanted to believe that incidents like plants in pots falling over for no discernible reason on a couple of key occasions, a strange bird that sat on my stoop and stared at me, unafraid, for a long time, and other things were signs that David wasn’t really “gone,” and that he was trying to let me know that.  (My cynicism about such things has now completely dissipated, although I would use the term “spirit” rather than “ghost”; I only wish that I’d been more open to the possibilities back then, when it would have helped me a great deal.)

One day several years ago, as I was sitting in a Japanese restaurant in Hoboken, Gordon Lightfoot’s song, “If You Could  Read My Mind” started to play quietly in the background.  I’d always really liked the song, but when I heard it that time I was in the midst of the re-ignited grief that I write about in the book, and I became so engrossed in the lyrics of the song that I had trouble speaking to my lunch companion.  The song seemed, and still seems, to relate to things I’ve thought about David on so many levels–not just the literal idea of “ghosts”/spirits, but the need I believe David had to be “set free” by an understanding of who he was both before and after his passing (the very last part of the book relates a dream that David’s daughter had and told me about a few years ago, and that seemed like a profoundly accurate illustration of that need).

Naturally, I had to include “If You Could Read My Mind” on the playlist for Holding Breath.  Here it is (it’s a very nice live version):

(Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days is available here: )

The First Article About Holding Breath

Last week, Adrian Rambay Fernandez–a staff writer for the Hudson Reporter in Hoboken, NJ–interviewed me for almost 40 minutes about my book, asking really intelligent and insightful questions about the memoir, my life with David, AIDS in the late 1980’s, etc.  The article came out today:’s-memoir-fulfills-dying-friend’s-wish-?instance=lead_story_left_column

I’m REALLY happy. 🙂

Chevron and AIDS

A week or two ago, I caught a glimpse of the tail-end of a commercial on TV; it had something to do with AIDS, and I was surprised to see that it was sponsored by Chevron.  Today on a CNN page I saw the ad again, and went to Chevron’s homepage to learn more.  I don’t have all the details as to what they do yet, but I read some of their posts about mother/child transmission, the importance of getting tested in spite of the stigma, etc.  Whatever it is that they do, I’m impressed just by the fact that a large corporation has the cojones to publicly talk about AIDS–still one of the less socially acceptable “causes” around (and apparently they’ve been involved for 25 years).  I’ll be buying my gas at Chevron from now on whenever possible, at the very least.

FREE for World AIDS Day

Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day.  I thought it would be the perfect day to give away (as in, “free”) copies of the Kindle version of my book, Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days (it will actually be free through this weekend).  I wish that I could afford to give away the paperback version as well, but at the moment I just can’t afford to do that!

So, if you or anyone you know might be interested in reading the book free of charge, please go to the book’s page and order away! 

(When you’re finished reading it, reviews on the Amazon page would be greatly appreciated!)

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