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1980's- AIDS- Death and Dying

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I think that many of us that lived in San Francisco during the eighties will remember that decade as the decade of AIDS and seeing many of our friends pass away. NYT AIDS

The seventies had been an incredible party for gay men in San Francisco. The sexual revolution for both gay and straight people had started in the 1960's. "The pill" had allowed women to take control of procreation in a way they had never been able to in the past. This liberated both women and men from anxieties about pregnancy. Antibiotics had made sexually transmitted diseases more of a nuisance than a worry and many considered diseases like gonorrhea about as bad as a mild cold. There would be some irritation or discharge from the urethra and sometimes pain with urination that let us know something was amiss.

There were multiple bathhouses and sex clubs throughout San Francisco. It was called "the gay mecca." Gay men were everywhere in The City but especially in the Polk Street area, The Castro Street area and the Folsom Street area. Each of those areas was teeming with gay bars and gay businesses including bars, sex clubs, peepshows and bathhouses. There were "glory holes" in many public restrooms throughout San Francisco and you could walk into almost any park after dark for sex. Sixty minutes did an expose of gay promiscuity and focused on Buena Vista Park in The Haight/Ashbury neighborhood but Lafayette Park and Alamo Square were almost as busy. Anonymous, no strings attached promiscuity was the norm. Hardly a day would go by without at least one new sexual partner but several new sex partners in a day was not unusual. Sex had become a recreational pastime. It was everywhere. By the end of the decade, many of us had hundreds, if not thousands of gay partners. 

Most of us made frequent visits to the V.D. clinic, (called the City Clinic), for testing. A cotton swab culture of the urethra or a urine test would confirm either gonorrhea or "non-specific urethritis." I was told years later that at that time, the test for chlamydia had not been developed so a lot of the "non-specific urethritis" was actually chlamydia. The City Clinic was full of hot young men and sometimes you could meet your next sexual partner here before you even got done with your testing. Nobody was that concerned about a little "clap." 

If one had been a bottom, you were asked to spread your cheeks so a swab could be taken of the rectal area. Often you would be ordered antibiotics whether you were positive or negative as rectal gonorrhea was harder to confirm. After the swabs were done, you would then get some blood drawn to check you for syphilis. I don't think I had even heard of herpes until the very late seventies and it was something that was not tested for at the time. 

At first in the seventies, STD's just seemed innocuous but then gradually started getting more complicated as the decade progressed. There was an epidemic of amoebas, parasites, giardia and shigella at one point. At that time, I was seeing a straight physician. I had been having mild diarrhea for about a month and the straight doctor I was seeing had no clue what was the underlying cause. Finally, I went to see Dr. Paul Isakson in San Francisco, who was located in The Castro and had a primarily gay practice. He was pretty sure what the underlying cause was because he was aware of the current epidemic and sent me to the University of California in San Francisco's "tropical disease" department to get my stools tested. Sure enough, the cultures for ova and parasites came back positive and I was treated. 

Amoebas and parasites were being transmitted through feces. Gay men were especially prone due to anal sex and sex practices such as "rimming." Most of us were young and naive and didn't know the consequences of some of our actions. As we experienced new diseases, many of us began modifying some of our behaviors and sexual practices. 

In 1974 I had contracted hepatitis b and was in the hospital for a couple of weeks. Apparently it had been contracted through body fluids but it didn't impress me as something that should curtail my sexual proclivities. My understanding was that I was now immune to future bouts of hepatitis b so one less thing to worry about. I recovered fully and became involved in the City Clinic study which would eventually lead to the hepatitis b vaccine that is available today. 

Around 1980 my mom sent me an article about something called "gay cancer." A lot of us wondered if this was some ruse by the media the scare gay men. Then we started seeing friends with mysterious lesions. People were not sure if it was connected with sexual activity or something else. Poppers were one of the possibly culprits discussed. Poppers are an inhalant used at the time by most gay men and many heterosexuals during sex but also used on the dance floor. You inhaled some from a small bottle or other devices made specifically for this purpose and you would get a rush of excitement and energy through your body. The smell was familiar to anyone that went to a sex club or dance club during the seventies. 

The first person I knew that died of AIDS was a guy I worked with named Paul. He had contracted an unusual type of pneumonia, called pneumocystis. Within a few weeks of his calling in sick at work, he was dead from what was called "gay pneumonia" at the time. 

Mysterious illnesses were everywhere very quickly. The Bay Area Reporter, a local gay newspaper that had been heavy on sex ads, now published obituaries of the men dying in droves. 

By 1984, San Francisco's Public Health Director ordered 14 bathhouses and sex clubs catering to gay men to close. By this time, scientists still didn't understand the disease that was killing gay men and more and more rapid rate but it was obvious that there was some connection to gay activity. Since 1981, there had been 723 cases of AIDS reported. 

Rock Hudson, a famous leading man in Hollywood, was diagnosed with AIDS in 1984. He had lost a lot of weight and looked sick and gaunt when he appeared with Doris Day, an actress with whom he had starred in several movies, at her press conference. On October 2, 1985, Rock Hudson's death from AIDS shocked the world and rocked the gay community in San Francisco. 

It was about this time that many in the gay community began using condoms and practicing what was being called "safer sex." Poppers disappeared from dance floors. Sex clubs were closed and safer sex was less sex and fearful sex. A lot of us were reading Kubler-Ross' "On Death and Dying" and books by Louise Hay which seemed to tell the dying that they could "heal their lives' through meditation. Of course, the HIV virus didn't care about anything like meditation and ultimately nothing would be able to stop it for years to come.

My ex-boyfriend's, John and Stanley were both diagnosed in the eighties. Both were dead by the 90's. 

I was still working as a Licensed Psychiatric Technician on the psychiatric unit at Saint Francis Hospital and going to San Francisco City College to become a Registered Nurse. I was living with Milton on Waller Street and he was also going to City College too. 

The first patient I dealt with that had AIDS was when I was still in nursing school with our clinical rotation at the Veteran's Administration hospital in San Francisco. The patient had Kaposi's Sarcoma, which was what had initially been called "gay cancer" at the beginning of the epidemic. He was very sick and in isolation. It was pretty well established by this time that you could not catch HIV or AIDS from touching patients. Many had insisted on wearing gloves when doing any care of an AIDS patient but now we knew that wasn't always necessary and only impeded physical contact. Housekeeping at the V.A. apparently refused to clean his room out of fear of the disease. Besides caring for this early AIDS patient as a student nurse, it also fell on me to do what should have been the hospital's housekeeping department. I cleaned the room. I gave him a bed bath and a massage which was typical care for a student nurse to do. I washed his lesions and made pleasant conversation.

My best friend in nursing school was Ron Green. He was outgoing and friendly where I was more aloof and shy. He got me involved with other students at school and always made me part of his study groups. I don't think that I would have ever got through nursing school if it hadn't been for Ron. During the summer break, he had gone to Mexico and had fallen ill during his visit to Acapulco. Upon return, he continued to be sick and was eventually diagnosed with AIDS before our final semester. He would die at the same V.A. hospital where I had experienced my first AIDS patient as a nursing student. 

 

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2015- 2nd Gay Cruise- Click for story.
1974- On Larkin Street- Click for story.
Women in Oils- Click for story
4th Grade- Click for story.
Me in first grade- Click for story.
Photos of Dad & His Family- Click for story.
My Mother- Click for more photos.
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Palouse- Click for story
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2005 Darlene Visit for Gay Pride- Click for story.
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2001 Trip to Cancun- Click to read story.
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Article

01. Introduction

03- Dads Family

03- Photos of my Father and his family

04- My Mother's Family

04- Photos of my Mom

04- Video of my Mom

04- Walling Family Reunions

04-Audio Files of My Mom

04. Billie

04. Ole

04.1. Forbidden Dreams of Love

04.2. Flames of Forbidden Love

04.3 Mom Writing Her Life Story

05- Jim Tarbert

05. Roger

1950's Grandview to Toppenish

1957-1958 1st Grade

1958-1959- Third Grade

1959- Palouse

1961- 4th Grade- Last time I wore a dress

1962- Abilene

1963- Escondido- Early 60's

1964- Darlene Marries Chuck

1964- My Beatle Haircut

1964-The Luv Please

1965 or 1966- Steve Castle

1965- In Foster Care

1966 Living with Darlene & Chuck in Seattle

1967- Juvenile Hall

1976- I Praise Thee (poem to Stanley)

1976- My Second Lover, Stanley Dunne

1976- Paul McCartney and Wings

1976-1330 Bush Street #9J

1977- 1667 Haight Street

1977- Trip to San Diego with Mary Jo

1977-1980- Tumultuous Relationship with John Perry

1978- 525 Haight Street

1979- September- Dad is Murdered

1980's- AIDS- Death and Dying

1980- Winter- First Trip to New York

1980- Word, Sound and Power

1981- Milton- Falling in Love

1982-1993 465 Waller Street

1982-1994 Computers to MacNursing

1984- 33rd Birthday

1985- Graduation from Nursing School

1985- Trip to Hawaii (Oahu)

1988- MIdnight Caller

1989- Earthquake!

1991- Aug 10th- Mom Passes Away

1991- Black Males in Oils

1991- Crack of My Life

1993- Move to Vallejo & Our First Home

1995-1. Road Trip to Washington

1995-2. Surprise Trip to Vegas

1995-3. Grandmother Rogers & Aunts Visit Darlene's

1995-4. Amber

1998- Camping at Russian River

2000 -Thoughts about Progressive Christians

2000- Resignation from John George

2001- April- Trip to Cancun

2001- Peace and Justice

2001- September 11th

2002- April-Puerto Vallarta & Blue Bay Getaway

2002- Nov 12th- My Stepfather, George McHenry Passes Away

2003- Trip to D.C. and N.Y.

2004- Feb- Road Trip to Baha Mexico

2004- Walling Family Reunion in Spokane

2005- Christmas Poem

2005- Darlene Visit for Pride Celebration

2005- Trip to Orlando

2005-1. Europe- London

2005-2. Europe- Paris

2005-3. Europe- Venice

2005-4. Europe- Florence

2005-5. Europe- Rome

2005-6. Europe- Athens

2005-7. Knee Surgery & Tongue Biopsy

2006 Christmas Poem

2006- February 23- Times Herald

2006- Palm Springs White Party

2006- Trip to Seattle

2006-July 8th Solano Peace and Justice Coalition BBQ

2007- Feb- Carnival Destiny- Our First Cruise

2007- Tre and Casey Visit

2008- Aug 15-18 Spokane Visit

2008- Psycho Song

2009- Honored by Vallejo Gay Network

2009- Women in Oils

2010 Christmas Poem

2010- Feb. R.C. Mariner of the Seas Mexican Riviera Cruise

2010- June 24- Badlands

2010- Trip to Seattle

2010-1. Europe- Amsterdam

2010-2. Europe- Paris

2010-3. Europe- Barcelona & Sitges

2010-4. Europe- Madrid

2011-1. Feb. My Fabulous 60th Birthday Weekend

2011-2. April- L.A., Palm Springs & "The White Party"

2011-3. Poem- Girl From Medical Lake

2011-4. Old Man Dancing

2011-5. May- Misty and Alex Visit

2011-6. August- Darlene and Sean's Visit

2011-7. Alex 16-18 & Pics

2012- March- Carnival Splendor Mexican Riviera with Family

2013- Wedding

2014- Christmas Poem

2014- First Gay Cruise

2014- September Road Trip to San Diego

2015- Seasonal Affective Blues

2015- Second Gay Cruise

2015- War on Christmas poem

2015-"Badlands" and Gay Bar Etiquette

2015-September 8. Political History

2016 Do Not Speak for Gay Males

2016- April- Palm Springs RV Adventure

4/4/2016- Not Going Along to Get Along

9/4/15- Liberals vs Conservatives

1973- Psych Tech Program- Click for story.
1974- On Larkin Street- Click for story.
1958-1959- 3rd Grade- Click to read story.
Me in my 20's in 1970's- Click for story.
Escondido 1960's- Click for story
1957-1958 1st Grade- Click to read story.
Darlene Marries Chuck- Click for story.
Gay Disco 70's- Click for story
The Psychedelic Experience- Click to read story.
Women in Oils- Click for story
Palouse- Click for story
Summer of Love- Click to read story.
1964- Luv Please- Click for story.
Cockettes & Angels of Light- Click for story
2005 Darlene Visit for Gay Pride- Click for story.
Beatle haircut- Click for story.
2014- Road trip to San Diego- Click for story.
2015- 2nd Gay Cruise- Click for story.
1982-1993 Waller Street- Click to read story.
My Mother- Click for more photos.
Second Gay Cruise- Click for story.
1967- Summer of Love- Click to read story.
2001 Trip to Cancun- Click to read story.
Photos of Dad & His Family- Click for story.
Me in first grade- Click for story.
Black Men in Oils- Click to read story
Forbidden Dreams of Love- Click for story.
2001 Trip to Cancun- Click to read story.
2015- 2nd Gay Cruise- Click to read story.
My Dad's Family- Click for story.
1970's Promiscuity- Click for story.
Grandview- Click for story
Click to read "Introduction."
5th Grade in Abilene Tx- Click for story
Amber- Click to read story.
1973 "You have to be hurt..." Click to read the story.
Earthquake! Click to read story.
Where I was born- Click for story.
Me in 3rd grade- Click for story.
4th Grade- Click for story.
2005- Darlene Visits for Gay Pride- Click to read story.
1974- First Trip to Europe- Click to read story.