Saturday, April 19, 2008

Moving On

For the past few weeks, for some reason, or no reason, I've been meeting, in person, and online, old ACT UP alumni.

On MySpace, LinkIn, Facebook (not Friendster; I haven't been there in months), it seems a lot of old friends, which really should be recategorized as distant acquaintances, have clicked a button to "connect" with me.

Frankly, I've never felt so disconnected with these people in my life. I scan the popular blogs like JoeMyGod, TowleRoad and Queerty to see the same day's gay and gayish news posted, and rarely feel the need to repost more of the same. Go there, read it, "move on" as it were.

And then, one of Joe's popular pals, the earnest and adorable Eric Leven, posted a few items about NYC ACT UP alumni events, with pics, and it got me all nostalgic for the good old horrible days when we were passionate about life and activism, but of course, dying in droves and protesting. We protested, not because it was fun, although parts of it were fun, but because we had to do it.

And amid all this, a few weeks ago, one of the ACT UP alums with whom I was never close, but thought I admired, showed up in SF. After an initial polite greeting, the second time I saw him, I made a reference to our having a communal activist past as I introduced him to a friend, to which the guy said, "You need to move on."

Um, dude? I have; 3,000 miles and 17 years, in fact. Everybody else with whom I've sorta reconnected didn't seem to have a problem mentioning "the old days," and some back in New York were happy to talk on a panel (last night) about those days. It also seemed worthy of some media attention.

And while Cyclizen is by no means a bestseller, it's interested some people who are still curious about that strange vibrant desperate time in our culture.

At the same time, some people want to put it all away. They may not be ashamed of their past, but we certainly couldn't get away with half of the things we did in those days, or we'd end up in Guantanamo gulag.

I even passed on participating in Sarah Schulman's ACT UP Oral History Project, not because I was ashamed, but I wanted to tell my version of things my way, i.e. through my last two novels, not as an online talking head cornered into participating out of some form of obligation.

My participation wasn't that pivotal or important, "decorations committee" I like to say. Maybe it was the fact that Sarah and her crew got $200,000 in grant money and participants got nothing.

Maybe it was having no control over what would go in ("Unedited tapes of the interviews can be viewed at the San Francisco Main Library and the New York Public Library"), and like my past discussions with other alums that were either nostalgic or unpleasant, I didn't want to have to explain why I haven't done much since then, except write two somewhat ignored novels about it all.

Maybe it was the fact that at the time (2003) I wasn't getting much work at the time, and having Google results for my link to a radical activist organization wasn't a swift career move, just like having been on the staff of OutWeek, while historically fabulous, wasn't great to have at the top of my resume back in 1992, which was part of why I left New York and moved to San Francisco.

Maybe it was the forceful way Sarah invited herself to come to my home to do the interview, when I wanted to do it somewhere else, and I'd just done about half a dozen TV/film interviews in those years about the LGBT sports movement that were so chopped up and unflattering that I wasn't interested in doing anything like that again, and suddenly got all "Amish" about having myself captured on tape.

Or maybe, as that bitchy "Swim Team" ACT UP alum suggested, I'd already "moved on."


Marc said...

Hey Jim,
This entry touched me. It's quite bittersweet.

Maybe it's my own nostalgia for the good ole, horrible days or just my impending 20th high school reunion.

The funny thing is that more people died back then, but I'm more aware of the walking wounded nowadays.

Bruce La Bruce chose gay zombies as the topic of his latest film because of the deadened emotions he sees around himself.

It makes me wonder if my perception is true.

So bittersweet,

P.S. Right on for (non)participating in the Oral History Project on your own terms.

Randy Boyd said...

Yes, THAT time, the AIDS Journey in the 80s and 90s, matters, especially to the survivors and to those who choose to learn from and be enriched by recent history.

Keep dreaming!