It all starts with AIDS, the attempted assassination of a president and then the pope, followed by the birth of music television and myself. As far as we are concerned 1981 is the beginning of time. And this, right here, this is the history of my world. Forget about the hippies and the death of John Lennon just a few months ago. He’ll be replaced a little later this year with the birth of Britney Spears. The future looks bleak, I know and this is just the beginning.
So, the world has been going to shit since long before time ever started but, much like almost anyone ever we’re just going to ignore history. We’ll sweep it under the proverbial rug pretending not to notice the raised spot this pile of ruin has made under an otherwise flat surface. Disregard the colonization of America, slavery, World War I and II. You don’t need to know who Madame Curie was or what happened at Hiroshima.
Don’t get me wrong all that stuff matters. All those lives lost mean something just not here, just not now. What we are here to focus on is my life and my time. You’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that I’m making the rules. Basically I’m in the driver’s seat and you’re only going to see the scenery I want to show you.
It’s nearly midnight on March 26th in the suburbs of Philadelphia as I’m about to make my big introduction into the world. Technically this whole scene should have been taking place about a month ago. You’ll soon realize however, that this is a common theme, I am only ever on my very own timeline and often frustrated when others don’t follow it.
Outside women are walking around with huge clouds of hair and shoulder pads in all their tops. In here I’m floating around in warmth and goo. Something similar to a crochet needle has punctured the sack of safety I’ve known my whole life. The walls are closing in on me and pushing me into the craziest situation I’ll ever know, and me I’m doing everything I can to stay put. Shiny metal forceps invade my home through the canal ahead of me. They squeeze themselves on either side of my head, and pull forcing me into way too much bright light.
Some have said this is the most beautiful moment in life but I’d argue that it is the most tragic.
The new world I’ve emerged into proves itself cold and careless just four days after my arrival. President Reagan, in office barely two months was just shot in the chest and the whole first world has lost its mind. No one knows yet but the good old cowboy is going to pull through. He’ll even get re-elected for a second term. The shame in his survival is that whoever would’ve taken his place might have paid attention to the plague that is about to debut itself instead of supporting a Just Say No policy.
Not much worth mentioning happens for about two months other than the consistent unrest in the middle east which according to my timeframe has been commonplace since before the world existed. A bunch of prisoners in Ireland have been on a hunger strike since the beginning of the year. The technological revolution takes a leap forward when IBM releases their personal computer launching Microsoft just one month after my head had that nasty run in with those forceps. This isn’t the first PC ever but, it’s a game changer. Before I ever reach adulthood there will be one of these in almost every household. Eventually this will both help and harm me along the way.
May 13th turns into a big sad day for the Catholics and maybe the world. Pope John Paul II has been shot in the guts, more proof that this world is completely nuts. This won’t be the last attempt on the pontiff’s life but it is the most significant. The pope will go on to do lots of great things like help defeat communism and unify different sects of religions. This fella even eventually acknowledges evolution while maintaining that God creates the soul. Despite all his good he’ll never bring himself to agree with condom use even when it is a proven prevention for the impending doom lingering in the air. John Paul II will eventually be declared a saint so It seems miracles outweigh reason when it comes to beatification and ultimately canonization.
June 5th turns into one of those days people remember worldwide for at least the next 35 years and likely longer than that but, I don’t know what the future holds so I won’t promise anything. Regardless, a rare pneumonia has been reported in 5 young gay men in LA. Today marks the beginning of a viral epidemic which will prove to be deadly and commonly misunderstood.
Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia is highly unlikely to affect anyone with a healthy immune system but all 5 of these dudes have been diagnosed, biopsied, and confirmed. These guys were previously healthy without any red flags screaming immunocompromised but now they are dead or dying. The nutty fact that each one has or had a cytomegalovirus infection and candidal mucosal infection is completely wack for the scientist working on it so as of today the CDC is involved.
This right here, this is your take away information for the moment. These five men aren’t the first victims of this emerging virus. The truth is that it took a while to get to this point. Most people can live with the disease for a decade or more before ever obtaining an opportunistic infection. The facts are that worldwide no one knows just how big this problem is going to get. No one is aware that soon, very very soon, hundreds of gay men will begin to die and almost no one outside of the homosexual community will show much concern. Evidently sinners are expendable which really puts us all in the same category but if I have learned anything in my 2 plus months of real life it is that people very rarely look inward to find similarities with each other. This is that whole ruin under the rug tactic.
The next day the San Francisco Chronicle reports yesterday’s news on the five men in LA. In no time reports from all over the United States begin to pour in from doctors seeing similar cases. In addition to PCP, CMV, and Thrush a rare cancer called Kaposi’s Sarcoma is being seen in clusters both in New York and San Francisco. It is clear that a compromised immune system is consistent in every case.
It took the CDC two days but as of the 8th a task force has been created to identify risk factors and a case definition. The good news is that someone is being proactive. The bad news is that it isn’t going to do much good.
As July 3rd rolls up on us there are a total of 41 cases of the aggressive KS on both US coast. The New York Times publishes its first news story on the subject today. The cancer is mentioned as having only affected gay men and being hard to diagnose at first. The report says a normal time frame for the cancer is a ten year progression however some of these men have been diagnosed within 30 months with an endgame of death. It goes on to say that none of the men suffering seem to know each other.
At this time the doctors and newspapers don’t know what the hell’s happening. Spoiler alert: this is what will soon be known as AIDS but only after it is inaccurately named first.
July 29th is a big day for gays and housewives alike, but it is a much bigger day for photographers and a lady in London. Lady Diana Spencer is marrying Prince Charles of Wales today. This chic is living the dream that keeps little girls and some gay boys sleeping soundly at night. Becoming Princess Diana in St Paul’s Cathedral in London will seal the deal for the “most photographed woman in the world”. As it turns out fashion is going to get the good end of the stick for the next 16 years too.
Like a true lady in the modern world Diana will grow to be known as a rebel. She will change the dialogue on many issues and stand in the face of stigma both stoic and graceful.
For months things are pretty chill other than the US Navy trying not to piss off Libya and failing. Also, some President Sadat is killed by a group calling itself Islamic Jihad. But we’re still ignoring the Middle East right? There’s shitty things happening in El Salvador and the prisoner hunger strike ended in Ireland.
Here in the US inflation is still about as insane as a horror movie killer. Of course the politicians don’t want to do the right thing so instead our Commander and Chief decides to fire a bunch of air-traffic controllers for striking. Everything will be okay though because MTV launched on cable television with Video Killed the Radio Star as it’s pilot music video. The numbing of young minds and the stupification of my generation and at least the two that will follow is well underway.
Meanwhile I’m at home oblivious to the issues of the world, MTV, or a bunch of planes in the sky with less people in some tower telling their pilot what to do. I’ve skipped crawling and jumped right to pulling myself up and walking. Being the on-the-go type of guy that I’m destined to become it really isn’t a shock that I’ve taken to the whole walking thing. By Christmas my folks are aware that they have given birth to a tornado. They will clearly have to embody the spirit of Pecos Bill in an effort to tame the twister they call Robert. Spoiler alert: #epicfail.
As the year closes there are 270 diagnosed cases of the disease not quite yet known as AIDS. 121 of those young gay men have died.
That’s 121 gay men who could have helped fix the whole big-hair-thing that the 80’s will grow to be known for. 121 artist who may have been developing a new art movement. 121 dancers or singers that may have inspired the tornado learning to walk in the suburbs of Philadelphia. 121 doctors or lawyers that may have changed the world in any number of ways. 121 young men who were living a carefree life because it was the sexual revolution and they deserved to be merry. 121 lives lost to a virus that has only just started flashing the house lights in the theater that will host a stage production on route to becoming a pandemic.