When My World Was Young 1945-56   The Yellow Brick Road 1956-60    What a Wonderful Town 1960-61    
Wonderful Town (pt. II) 1962-66    The Gay Sixties 1966-70    The Juicy Life 1971-76 
  Juicy Life (pt. II) 1976-80   Losing Alexandria 1981-87   The AIDS Spectacle
Losing Alexandria (pt. II) 1987-1990's   Personal Epilogue

 

PERSONAL EPILOGUE    


January 2000: T
chau, Uncle Sam!

Just as it once had been "Not-Kansas" for me, it increasingly had begun looking like a case of  "Not-this-America."

By the early 90's almost all of my friends were dead, and most of the fabric of my life in the city had been torn apart in the previous decade.  And then, to cap things off, I was involved in a freak accident, and suddenly unable to work.  My former life was now really in disarray as complete as if I had been through a war.  If I wasn't beginning again at zero, I was a damned sight closer to it than since I had  left the parental home in 1960. 

The U.S.A. I had grown up in had expired rapidly after the presidential ascent of Ronald Reagan.  The Republican agenda for redistributing America's wealth upwards, its determined erosion of oversight of the banks and the investment industry, and its cultivation of divisiveness and hate-mongering as acceptable political tools to polarize and manipulate the public dealt a gut punch to the post-WW II republic.  Since that ascendancy - come Republican, come Democrat we had been living in a new country:  a kind of U.S.A II.  And as with Hollywood films, the sequel was only nominally moored to its predecessor. 

My personal life experience had inoculated me from the group amnesia that young LGBTs were enjoying at the Millennium.  And I felt no more comfortable living among the "Good Americans" of the post-AIDS years, than most Jews would have felt hunkering down with the "Good Germans" post-WW II.   But more important, on a day-to-day basis I was becoming very disaffected from the entire national society and political scene not least the unrelenting shrillness and whinging called Political Correctness which was becoming the theme music - love it or hate it - of American society. 

At the very end of the decade my feelings turned to unabashed pessimism with the emergence of George W. Bush as a major Republican figure.  My belief  was that he would be his party's candidate for U.S. president and would, I thought, win handily.  Thus, finally bringing the ultra-conservatives and Evangelical Christian extremists, who had become an accepted part of the GOP base under the Reagan administration, into positions of real power in the national government.  (Rove, Cheney & Co. anyone?) 

At this point I made the crucial decision about the future direction of my life.  It was simply not possible for me to "get a life" again somewhere in the USA II as if it were like grabbing a new shirt off a rack in the same ol' store.  The thought of living in any community in the country surrounded by those "Good Americans" from the 1980's, while ultra-Right nut-jobs had control of the national government was totally repugnant.  And while I shared the same civil rights goals as the new LGBTs, in no way did I identify with their political reorientation.  In 1999   having paid major life dues and done my bit I prepared to emigrate from the United States.

This move was undoubtedly made easier by my decades-old feeling that New York City, and maybe particularly gay life in New York, had only one foot in America while the other was stepping off into the rest of the world.  At midnight on the evening of January 25, 2000, my flight departed the city in a snow storm. 

The next evening sitting in my hotel room in a foreign country I wrote in a journal: 

"We took off into the pitch black, made a half loop around New York I had my farewell look at those  millions of bright lights that were my home for forty plus years and then out into the darkness.... 

"Early the next morning the plane was circling over a picture postcard city of pastel-colored houses and grand palaces and historic buildings stretched out on the hills above a wide bright, sparkling river."

In July of that year I had to return to New York City to receive the official document from the embassy, which allowed me to import any household possessions into my new country duty free.  I had left behind my books, CD's and a few other things I wanted to keep, in a rented storage room.  I had expected a lot of rigamarole arranging for their shipment, but on the contrary with the help of the storage facility it was done in the idiomatic New York minute.  And I was unexpectedly left with more than a week of free time.  I visited two friends still in the city...then I poked around for a couple of days until I sat down one morning and accepted the fact that more than anything, I wanted to go back home.  Yes:  Back home.

I turned in my return trip Economy Class ticket forked over an extra hunk of cash and purchased the last seat on the flight back that night, a pricy First Class one.          

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I had saved the short fragmentary journal that Tom, my roommate of thirteen years, had kept briefly after the death of his ex-lover, Robert.  I burned the pages and let the ashes blow away across the sand.  And now they were in the same place where he had danced while scattering Robert's cremated remains.  Finally, even if Tom's physical remains could not be there, something of Tom is.  

I have not been disappointed in the years that have followed. 

As Meister Eckhart said to his brothers "Why do you live?" "My word!  I do not know.  But I am happy to live."

And looking at the debacle of post-Eighties America and its implosion in the years since 2016, I would add: "And furthermore, I am deeply grateful to be living here."