These days, I live in northern Florida; I live on the beach, and it’s beautiful, but (as I mention in my Author’s Bio. for the book, and on my “About” page here), I dream pretty much every single night about being back in New York City. Maybe one day I’ll move back.
Northern Florida is–to my surprise, really, as I’d always thought of the town I currently live in as kind of a happily eccentric hippie haven until I actually moved here permanently–a bastion of the far Right and Christianity in its most conservative (and, in my mind, intolerant) form. I’m so far to the left that I’m on the brink of falling off the map (something which was usually not much of an issue at all “up North”), so I often feel a bit disoriented when I’m out and around here.
I don’t ascribe to any one spiritual path, but if I were forced to describe myself I guess I’d have to say that I come closest to being a Buddhist with a firm belief in God (although I understand God in very different terms than God is often portrayed in the Abrahamic religions). Because of that, I’m trying to learn equanimity, and non-judgement, and unconditional compassion.
But every so often something I see or hear down here (not that I never experienced similar things up North; it was just either less often or not as blatant) that is a serious challenge to the abovementioned three goals. Two of the worst (as you might suspect, if you’ve read or know anything about the subject of my memoir, Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days) have had to do with AIDS.
The first was a bumper-sticker. Down here, I see a lot of them that simply annoy or disturb me, but I’ve become somewhat used to them. One day, however, I was driving behind one of the big-ass trucks that so many people down here like to own, and I saw, much to my surprise, a red AIDS-ribbon bumper-sticker. I hadn’t seen one of those in a LONG time, and certainly didn’t expect to see one in Jacksonville. For a minute, it made me happy. Coming up a little closer behind the truck, however, I saw that someone–either the truck’s owner, as a joke, or someone else who’d seen the sticker–had shot at it multiple times with what I assume was a BB gun or something. I was sickened.
The other incident–excuse the expression, but there’s no better one–pissed me off more than just about anything has in a very long time. I was driving, and listening to the radio–one of the not-so-great rock ‘n’ roll stations down here. One of those snarky, frat-boy-type announcers that are, I suppose, considered “funny” to some came on to make a “joke” that had something to do with encouraging I.V. drug users to shoot more drugs so that more of them would get infected with HIV. The people at that station would have been pretty taken aback at the profanity that I unleased upon them at that moment. That was last year, and–even with the dearth of decent music to listen to down here when I’m driving–that was the last time I ever listened to that damned station.
So far, my own capacity for tolerance goes only so far.
(Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days can be found on Amazon.com at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009TV4CE6.)