Friday, June 15, 2018

NATIONAL AIDS WEEK

Since this is National AIDS Week according to PBS and since the whole country is gripped by a disease called GREED, maybe it's time for me to be a little more frank about my so-called writing career, even though it's not a career.  It IS a body of work, ignored and put down by some people -- totally unperceived by others.

My quiet thought-partner, whom I've never met, is Tim Barrus, a man who shocks some, puzzles others, and is very much loved by boys who have been slammed by sex either as a means of survival or as a victim of child invasion and abuse, resulting in drugs and HIV.  When we began writing as correspondents, Tim was blogging and then vlogging as a way of maintaining a group founded with the help of a famous artist's bequest for a hundred thousand dollars which seems incredibly small now but in the mid-2000's was enough for a Paris loft.

My own writing began in 1999 when my mother died, leaving me one-third of the value of her house at that time.  (Currently, it's worth a half-million.)  In Valier I bought my own house ($30,000) and was soon eligible for Social Security.  My main goal was to write about my first, last, and only husband, the cowboy sculptor Bob Scriver and I got that done.  The book is "Bronze Inside and Out," as much a portrait of the time and place -- the Sixties on the Blackfeet Reservation -- as an account and analysis of Bob's career.  He's mostly forgotten.

Tim and I have many differences.  I kept quiet about him for two reasons.  One is that because he was attacked by rivals and labeled a "porn" writer (as though that were a bad thing) and then because he was attacked by the kind of political forces that have taken over America because he wrote books as an "Indian," not the reality but the icon that people throw up to justify their own behavior.  My selfish reason was that I was afraid if I were connected to him, righteous forces in this small town would ask me to leave restaurants, deny me service in stories, fail to arrive if I called the ambulance, shun me in the grocery store and so on.  Now I don't care.

More than that, though Tim has been a publisher, an editor, and a magazine executive, so that he knows very well where the pitfalls and trapdoors are, he still believes in publishing.  I've decided it's a racket at every level so stick to blogging.  A blog is like a magazine column except that it's presented on its own with no editor rewriting it to make it "sell."  The problem is that few over a certain age is not technically equipped to handle social media online.

We both know a lot about young people at risk: him specializing in boys gripped by poverty, microbes, survival sexwork, violence, drugs, and families that reject or are simply nonexistent.  We think a lot about class and how it defines who gets help and who is hoped to die, to disappear, to be used for bad purposes.  We've both seen a lot of young people die, but Tim actually goes to the hospital and stays with them through death.  He has also been able to activate this "notorious" bunch to do the same and much more for each other.  For instance, they work constantly to present the kind of sex education that the government refuses to provide.

As the whirlwind that is reaping our democracy with lawless atrocity proceeds, Tim and his boys are confirmed in the observations that had already educated them.  I regret to say that in my own string of careers I've also seen corruption and defiance at every level.  Dogcatchers are often used as examples of lowly public servants -- I'm here to tell you I've been one.  The original manager was a sexual stalker who may very well have been trafficking girls to Hawaii.  No one said anything.  His father-in-law was a county commissioner.  I've been a UU minister, and there were similar irregularities of sex and money.  More than that, the assumption was that educated, prosperous, white men were entitled to high status.  After all, the denomination was founded on the Enlightenment.  Sin is merely emotional.

Tim once dressed in motorcycle leathers and cut his hair in a Mohawk when he wasn't entirely bald.  I'm wearing out my own clothes -- it's harder than you might think if you only keyboard all day and all you wear is jeans and workshirts.  Tim's theory is that if there's no laundromat for your jeans and t-shirt, it's easy to go to Good Will and pick up another set, probably for less money.  We both have a "theatrical" side: been there, done that.  (I kept my persimmon velveteen jacket with jet beads that I made to wear to the Cowboy Hall of Fame but it's too small to put on anymore.)

Tim, raised Methodist, rails against conventional religion but is often helped by church congregations.  The issue of HIV-AIDS has consolidated many groups, even PBS -- but just not the government.  I worked myself out of institutions of all kinds, including religions.  Tim is always on the road.  I stay strictly to home, partly because my pickup is old and undependable.  Partly because he "has" boys" and I "have" cats.  When he is sick, the boys protect and care for him.  When I am sick, the cats sleep on top of me.

We think that "shock" is a good thing and that transgression is often an enlightening act.  We are both cynical idealists, but I suppose that if we weren't idealists, we wouldn't be cynical.  His worst charge against me when he's angry is that I'm mothering him.  My worst accusation might be that he's abandoning me, except that it only seems like that.

The world has erased its accusations against us.  "Pornography" means something acceptable now.  Religious institutions are emptying the pews even as anyone and everyone can be in the pulpit.  Boys become men.  Feminism and #MeToo mean very little.  Millions are starving.  The water is dwindling.  If AIDS doesn't get you, maybe diabetes will.  Time will harvest us all.


Talking is supposed to be a cure, if you can find a listener.  Writing might not cure anyone, but it's sort of like scrawling "Kilroy was here,"  After all, aeons-old graffiti on cliffs in back country still have meaning.

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