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01 February 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Today was the consummate San Francisco day.  I woke with the worst headache I can recall, took one look outside and knew that no matter how much my head hurt I had to venture through the city.  Four Advil and a shower later, I walked to Telegraph Hill, around Coit Tower, down through China Town, across Union Square and back to the Castro. Along the way I discovered five new stairways which will join the others soon.
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Perhaps the Chinese New Year dragons were smiling upon me.  While crossing a major thoroughfare, I dropped my rather expensive mobile telephone in the middle of the street.  The light changed just as I reached the other side.  I watched helplessly as car after car roared by the telephone, most missing it by inches.  The dragons nodded me farewell as I retrieved the undamaged phone at the next change of the light.

02 February 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

A somber mood settled over last evening.  Sitting at the coffee house late yesterday, two acquaintances told me about a new staph infection spreading among gay men in Los Angeles and New York.  Over dinner I asked a friend who works in HIV prevention about it.  He pointed me to this article.  (If you have not read this article, please click here and do so.)  He also told me he knows two people suffering from the infection – one with HIV and one without.  The description was gruesome, the treatments appear nearly ineffectual.
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It is impossible to hear this news without thinking of the early days of HIV and how the news of this infection mirrors the news of what was then called GRID, of all the people who have died, of all the people I know who have died, of all the people I know who are surviving now only via powerful drugs and whose health is at any given moment best described as precarious.

I am very worried that the health officials say on one hand not to be concerned and on the other indicate this infection responds to only the most severe of antibiotics, and then only after months of treatment.  I am frightened that the spread of infection among gay men may make us targets of convenience under an administration which is not one to be counted as our ally.  I am concerned the rise of a new infection among gay people may be met with the same lack of funding as was AIDS until the streets were covered in the chalk outlines of people.  (The infection is also a considerable problem in the LA County Jail, another population unlikely to be high on the list for public health funds.) 

Before effective treatments were discovered for influenza, plague and polio, these diseases were considered deadly and dangerous in a way we might struggle to understand.  People exposed to or carrying the diseases were routinely quarantined until they were no longer contagious.  Modern data suggests quarantines can be effective when implemented in the early stages of an outbreak.  While offering such a suggestion will certainly invite my message folder to be filled with vitriol, and while I myself believe quarantines operated under our current administration likely to invite abuse, as the viable number of functional antibiotics shrink, an informed discussion (which is the opposite of emotionally charged public shrieking) might be a place to start. 

02 February 2003 - later - (Comment)

Stairways of San Francisco now contains eight new stairways.  Enough pixels for one day, I'm off to make dinner and watch a movie.

03 February 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

A friend of mine making his living in the world of HIV prevention described his work to me saying (which I shall now quote in a somewhat inaccurate fashion): “I feel like I’m standing in a hurricane with one umbrella and trying to get the people around me to open theirs – except some people only have broken umbrellas and some have none at all.”
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A good portion of the work I do is helping people stay together for just one more day.  For some of my clients, getting through today is as far as they can see and as much as they can conceive of asking for.  Every now and again, when I’ve spent an entire day holding people together, I wonder why it is I do this.  Why, in the midst of a hurricane, do I continue to demonstrate the opening of an umbrella to those around me who seem so unequipped to come out of the rain?

I suppose I expect to have something amazingly profound to say here, some reason drawn from divine inspiration and I do not.  There are good reasons enough to justify that the work I do is valid and worthy and perhaps it is, with some license, important.  In truth, I suspect I do this because it is what I know how to do and I cannot picture myself doing anything else.  If I stopped, I’d just be a guy with an umbrella watching other people get wet.

I once heard that if you are caught in an avalanche, you must start swimming – yes swimming – through the snow before it comes to a halt.  Once stopped, the weight of the snow will hold you in place and you’ll die where you are.  We swim not because we choose to do so, but rather because the instinct to survive is overpowering.

05 February 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Chit Chat with Calamity

“So, down at the mall this weekend is the Spamtastic Cookoff.  Yes, I’ve even heard one of the entries includes Jello and Spam!  Imagine that.  Well, sometimes you have to get just a little wild!  So, if the weather is nice, get out and come down to the mall.  If the weather is too cold, well come to the mall because we’ll keep you nice and warm.  Why, look at that, we’ve lost another degree, it’s now 10 degrees outside, down from a high of 13.”
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I’ve died and gone to heaven.  Perhaps not, but I’ve found a slice of it right here on the internet…streaming audio from KSJB in Jamestown, North Dakota.  Every day from three until four (Mountain Standard Time), Calamity broadcasts live from the mall.  Today featured twice-baked potatoes, the Bow Wow Boogie and news of the PTA meeting.  I may start a Calamity Fan Club. 

Take a look at these other KSJB features (which I've not yet sampled):

Sayler’s Polka Place 

Sayler's Polka Place is a very uplifting radio show hosted by Clarence and Audrey Sayler of Bismarck, ND, along with their two boys, Austin and Colton….Every week listeners tune in to hear their favorite song or performer, find out where the polka fests are, hear their requests and dedications sent in by mail or just catch up on what 's happening in the lives of the Sayler family.”

Calendar of Bull Sales

“Vandegerghe's Flying V Angus 3rd production sale features 100 bulls, cows, and heifers. It is at 1:00 pm at the Farmer's Livestock Exchange in Bismarck…The Silbernagel Angus Farms Advantage Sale will be held at 1:00 pm at Farmers Livestock Exchange in Bismark. Selling will be 47 AI sired angus bulls, 11 superior quality AI sired heifer calves and 10 productive cows.”

Can’t listen until later?  Tune in to After Midnight on KSJB where you listen to songs and then tell the station to “Pick it or Flick it”.

My friends, KSJB AM 600, streams live over the internet from Jamestown, North Dakota.  Go.  Listen.  Now.  Just don’t hog the bandwidth; I want to hear the results of Spamtastic.

07 February 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

A significant number of people arrived here in the past few days looking for information on the antibiotic resistant Staph infection among gay men.  The information I posted earlier is located here.  You can download the notice from the Los Angeles Department of Health Services by clicking here.
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Information about this Staph infection remains limited.  I encourage you to read the bulletin from the Los Angeles Department of Health Services.  We do know the current strain of Staph spreading in the gay community (and also in several prisons) is resistant to most standard antibiotics.  Only the two most powerful antibiotics available will treat the disease, one of these requires IV injections twice a day for several weeks or months.  Infected tissue is removed surgically for the most severe cases.

While it is unclear exactly how this infection is spreading or who is most at risk, here are some recommendations to stay healthy:

  • Avoid skin contact with someone you know or suspect may be infected.  (For goodness sake, my dear, wear your condoms!)
  • Do not share personal items such as razors or soap with others.
  • Always clean athletic equipment before using it.  Several gyms are now providing antibacterial wipes.  Use them.  If your gym doesn’t have them, speak to the management.  (If they resist, remind them – sick customers make for bad business.)
  • Avoid saunas, steam rooms, or bathhouses where warm, moist air can speed the growth of Staph.
  • Regularly launder bathroom and personal items.  Use a hot dryer to dry your clothes.
  • If you suspect you may be infected, cover the infected area with clean bandages.  Wash your hands thoroughly and do not allow the infected area to contact surfaces used by others.  (The pus from this infection is highly, highly infectious!) Contact a doctor immediately.  The longer you wait for treatment, the more dangerous and difficult to treat the infection will be.
While this Staph infection appears to be highly contagious and difficult to treat, if we work together as a group, we can slow or stop the spread through individual responsibility and awareness.  Pass this information along to those you know. 

Switching topics abruptly to a lighter note, I’m happy to report we had a gonzo premiere for our fourth season of Ba-da-Bingo last night.  As many as 400 people showed up for our 205 seats.  I have some extra copies of the Ba-da-Bingo video on CD.  If you would like a copy, contact me and provide your mailing address.

10 February 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

"Only good girls keep diaries. Bad girls don't have time." - Tallulah Bankhead 
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I am pleased with this photo of the bike messengers sitting at the base of one of San Francisco's queerest statues.  More on that another time. 

I am pushing this week to get my first quarter business advertising and website up and running.  There won't be much writing here until this is done.  Pardon my absence.

In the interim, enjoy some rerun entries, take a rail trip, or go walking on San Francisco's stairways.

11 February 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

San Francisco's Health Department said this Staph infection is nothing to be concerned about.  Tell that to the 21 year old kid who sends me email telling me the story of what it's like to visit an emergency room in a small town where being gay isn't all that cool. Concerned is exactly what we all should be.  If the health officials aren't concerned, then we need to rattle the bars on their offices until they are. 
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Gay men, listen up.  Our own actions turn our communities into living petri dishes.  Follow the guidelines for keeping yourself and others healthy and share this information with your friends.  Responsible behavior can slow the spread of this nasty infection.  Further information is available from the Center for Disease Control by clicking here.

San Francisco's Department of Public Health issued this FAQ which includes information on antibiotic resistant Staph infections and is holding a public Forum on February 18th. 

I know I run with peril when I offer safer sex advice; I'll take the risk.  There are large numbers of HIV+ men in San Francisco preaching that it is okay to have sex with other HIV+ men.  No worries they claim, such things as superinfection don't least...not...yet.  This little Staph infection might not be the next big thing.  However, microbes are wonderful adaptive entities.  Passing back and forth questionable strains can only lead to trouble.  The lack of a superinfection today doesn't promise there will not be one in the future, or that one is not brewing now.  Whether you sleep with men or women, regardless of whether you have HIV or don't, put on that little rubber thing.  We've buried entirely too many young people. 

I suspect I am preaching to the converted.


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