Thursday, January 31, 2008

Christopher Vattuone 10 August 1966- 30 January, 2008

I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There's nothing more to say.
The poem ends,
Soft as it began--
I loved my friend
Langston Hughes

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hope there's someone who will take care of me...

A rubber ball hangs from the doorknob on my bathroom door. Whenever it gets moved, it bounces and flashes in bright colours, like a mini disco ball. Now it’s run out of spark and only beats a faint red when the door is moved. I look at it and think this little rubber ball is like my dear friend who has been moved to hospice, being made comfortable for his transition from this life. Once a bright, vivid flashing thing so full of energy and life and now a delicate murmur of light. Squeezing it, I envision holding his hand out there in San Diego telling him it’s OK, don’t be afraid of what’s next. That’s all I can do as I wait for THE phone call.
The phone rings early in the morning, is that the call? Is this it? No it’s that mysterious RESTRICTED number that keeps calling me. My head aches from the 3 Manhattans I had last night. Is it a hangover or guilt from drinking as Chris dies from alcohol poisoning? Who knows. Even the meows from the cats, hungry for their breakfast, seem shrill as if to say “Shame on you!” The pictures of us lay on the table, a lifetime of memories. So strange to think how all our destinies play out. Who got sober, who got married, who was supposed to die but lives, who was supposed to live but dies.
Antony and the Johnson’s song “Hope There’s Someone” is in my head so I pull it up on YouTube. It makes me think of Chris right now surrounded by people who love him, take care of him, make him safe at this lonely, scary time. I hope there’s this much love around me when my time comes. It’s OK Chris, there’s people waiting for you: Brian, Jennifer and a whole slew of relatives I’m sure.
Waiting is so stressful. But some things, like nature, can’t be rushed.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Finding Chris

My dear friend Chris lies in a hospital bed in San Diego. Yellow as mustard, on dialysis, in and out of consciousness, he slowly dies. His liver and kidneys are shot, but somehow he hangs on. Friends have been called and are flying in to sit vigil by his bed. I considered going out but I don’t want to see my dear friend in such a state. Let my memories of him be happy ones, the good times, not this. I spoke to him the other day in one of his coherent modes and told him what I needed to say to him. So I leave the slate with no regrets, nothing left to be said.
As I sit and wait for the final news of his passing, I reach back into my memory, past all the dark years to the fun times. Where did my Chris go? These past few days I pore over pictures and memorabilia to find the Chris I knew and loved. So many years of drinking, of his alcoholism dominating conversations among friends, worrying about when this day would arrive, would he ever go into recovery. It’s hard to know when the bright years ended but I sift through the memories of 20+ years to help me remember.
It all started with a play called “Time: A Mobius Loop” that we were in together back at Point Loma High in 1981. 27 years ago, not many people can date friendship back that long. Longer than some marriages these days. Then there was “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” which solidified our friendship. A whole gang was made from that show, a gang that now rallies around his death bed. Life lead us into different paths but that bond of friendship remained over the years. He was the bright part of coming to San Diego, organizing my social life while I was in town. We laughed, did crazy improv stuff, thought up ideas for movies, made movies, went dancing, held parades, did drag. Chris brought us all together and now he brings us together again, yet for other reasons.
Oh Chris, I’m heading down into my basement again to shuffle through the memories, to find you again, to remember you as you were and not as you have become.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

January 5, 2008

One of those dead of winter mornings I love. Freezing cold, sunny skies, soft pastel shades and all quiet on the street and in the house. The quiet is disrupted by an idling ambulance outside, are they here for Gigi, my next door neighbor who had her leg amputated? No, I see C.C., my alcoholic neighbor stumble into the back. He’s a mess that one—yellow from jaundice, bruised all over like an overripe peach, but at least he’s able to walk into an ambulance and go to a place where he can be treated. Unlike my friend Chris in San Diego.
Chris has been battling alcohol for many years and now it has taken a toll on his body. Last November he lost his boyfriend, and drinking partner, to alcoholism. Poor Brian’s liver couldn’t handle any more and he died in Chris’ arms on the living room floor. Now Chris is recreating all of that except he has no one to hold him as he slowly puts himself to rest. He refuses all help, sends away the paramedics when his family or friends call 9-1-1, doesn’t answer the phone and lays in bed sleeping, too weak to get to the bathroom or answer the door. Friends and family stop in to check in on him and try to convince him to get help. I’m tempted to fly out but I know it will be pointless. I can’t do anything for him, he must take the first step if he wants to recover from this dreadful disease. A large part of me awaits the phone call from his sister to tell me he is dead, a smaller, more optimistic part waits to hear he’s finally decided to go to the hospital and detox himself.
Pockets of life tucked away in every corner of the globe. In any home one can find joy and grief. Sometimes the bright, happy outside of a house masks darker, sadder secrets inside. The soft winter sun rises here in Brooklyn, the backs of the houses outside my kitchen window appear through the bare branched tree in Pete’s yard. Cats snuggle next to the radiator in post-breakfast dreams. The yellow kitchen glows from the morning sun. Happiness abounds in this home. On the other coast a bright crème coloured house awaits to be warmed in the bright California sun. The big old poinsettia tree is ablaze in red splendour, the sky a clear blue. The beauty outside this small house hides the stench and misery of a life worn down by alcohol. Will that brightness be able to penetrate into the darkness, breathing fresh, healthy air into this pocket of misery? Readers will have to check in to see what happens next.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008--Day 1

Woke up this morning to a sunny first day of a new year. A bit woozy in the head from all the revelry of the last night of the old year but nothing a quick jump in an ice cold pool won’t help. And a little coffee con leche and a ham and cheese croissant from the supermarket café—we are ready for 2008! New year, new ideas, new schemes and plans which will unfold as the months pass. Innovative ideas for my business and finding a boyfriend are the top two things on my list. Now that I’ve done a full year of my biz, it’s time to reflect and figure out where to go next with my blossoming t-shirt/design business. As for the boyfriend front, enough of the boring coffee dates or just sex rendezvous, I’m looking for someone who’s in for the long haul. So we’ll see how things come about this year.
Oh I forgot to tell you: Good Morning from Miami!! Postponed my Christmas trip to Florida until New Years and flew down yesterday morning to meet my friends Rick and Jon (from the Russia days) for a few days of fun in the sun. We are joined by Stefano, an Italian friend of Rick’s from Turkey and Doug and Thai, Jon’s friends from Vancouver. Quite an international mix here: two Brits, a Scot, a Phillipino, Italian and I the lone American. Spent all day on the beach sunning and swimming with all the non-Americans taking advantage of the weak dollar. Yes our dollar is so weak, even the Canadians are here! Got all gussied up for a New Years night on the town which began with a lovely Italian dinner at Cantina 27 followed by a walk down the boardwalk to Ocean Drive to watch the fireworks. We paused along the way to burn the envelope of things to leave behind in 2007. An old tradition I love to do. Everyone writes down what they want to leave behind in the old year, we stuff it in an envelope and burn it before midnight. Very cleansing experience and a great way to start off the new year. These European friends of mine had a lot to leave behind and we had quite a bonfire on the beach I must say. A fabulous fireworks display on the beach at midnight as we watched from the front of some gay bar on Ocean Drive with G&Ts in hand, a festive, mellow way to start 2008. The nice thing about the evening is that none of had that usual hysteria of being somewhere perfect at midnight, nothing was planned, not even the restaurant. The evening just unfolded. We wound up at Twist a big bar/disco where we pushed and shoved our way on and off the dance floors along with the other hundreds of gay guys and a smattering of drag queens. Good times had by all. I’m not usually into the bar scene much these days but it was fun to be hanging out at Twist with old friends.
Now Jon and I have planted ourselves by the pool, waiting to see when the rest of our crowd will drag themselves from their rooms. We all got in rather late so we don’t expect them very soon. Wouldn’t mind a big greasy lunch and them a swim in the ocean. For now though, blogging by the pool at the Art Deco Indian Creek Hotel is fine by me. A few days in paradise, then back to the cold, gray north to begin 2008. Happy New Year everyone!