Saturday, December 1, 2012

Remembering (repost)

I worked in Washington DC during my last two summers in college. With that organization, came many perks that were fortunately bestowed upon me. Access to many embassies, lectures by prominent leaders at the various Departments, the White House and the Smithsonian.
A sister program took me to NYC to delve into the functions of the financial world. Housed at NYU, I was frequently on the floor of the commodities exchange, watching the clanging of the bell at the NYSE and hearing lectures from prominent members of the financial world. It was here that I met my friend Mark Cambisios from Kidder Peabody. 
Mark was responsible for training stockbrokers. His former life as a high school math teacher lent itself to his ease in front of groups and gave him a quick understanding of finances. We became casual business acquaintances and loosely kept in touch after I returned to Villanova
After the stock market crash of October 1987 - Black Monday, I invited Mark down from New York to give a lecture on why it happened. As a resident assistant, part of my job, besides enforcing underage drinking in the dorm (boo!) was to provide some programs to students. He took the train back home after the lecture and a few drinks with me and a fellow RA who challenged him on various issues in society. Mark's responses were my first clues to more about him than just professionally.
Once I graduated from college, my summer employer offered me a full time position in Washington DC. Shortly thereafter, I got my own apartment on Capital Hill behind the Supreme Court building. I was alone in DC - and definitely lonely. My move was primarily to explore who I really was and to see what these "feelings" are that permeated my thoughts more frequently.
On a Sunday morning in the late fall, Mark gave me a call. He told me a few of his friends had finally convinced him to move from Astoria into Chelsea and that he found a five story walk-up. He sensed I needed to talk and I remember being perplexed when he told me that he knows what I wanted to talk about. Hmmm, a psychic amongst my friends?! Years later I would become familiar with the term 'gaydar'.
After telling Mark I had these "feelings", he reassured me that nothing was wrong and recommended a book entitled "Positively Gay" - one which I still have in my book collection. Over the next couple of years, Mark became an unknowing role model for me. He would tell me graphic details of his encounters and I would cringe at the thought. He called me prude and I embraced the term. We became better friends and he would occasionally come visit me in DC and repeatedly tell me that "DC is ok, but New York is the center of the f'ing Universe!" 
I met my first long-term boyfriend not much later and we planned a trip to NYC to see "Angels in America" on Broadway with Mark and his beau. The plays were incredible and we all had a fantastic time. Tony Kushner's work expanded my minimal knowledge of the AIDS crisis and other social and religious issues. I also got to spend time with Mark in person, which didn't happen too frequently. 
Mark got his annual happy birthday call from me in January 1994. The laughing and the bantering quickly came to a halt when he said he had something to tell me. Not until then had the AIDS crisis touched me. He assured me that he was in good health, was taking a mix of pills and never felt better.
We continued to to go to NYC to visit and stay with Mark. In the early summer of 1995, he showed some scars from KS lesions that had been removed. My other half at the time was inquisitive as I shyed away and went into the other room. It was hard for me to deal with. Mark was physically a big strong man and incredibly understanding and supportive of me as I took my first steps out of the closet. It was hard seeing this come full circle.
In January of 1996, I spent a couple weeks in Hawaii for work. My bf was now my ex and I was living temporarily in a friend's condo while waiting to make settlement on my first house. The weeks in paradise were amazing and I returned from the long flight to my little condo delighted and exhausted.
Rifling thru the mail that had accumulated, I came across a small envelope hand addressed to me with a return address of Cambisios in Richmond VA. My first thought was that Mark moved down with his parents - or sent me a Christmas card from his visit with them. Tearing it open, I found that it was neither. The note, from Mark's parents, let me know that Mark had passed away over the holidays - and that he loved and valued his friends. 
Even as I write this, I'm getting choked up. Back then, I totally lost it. Mark was an amazing man - outspoken, brilliant, handsome and not shy from engaging in controversy. Professionally he was climbing higher and personally, he was helping me along and making me laugh at the silliness of it all. 
Mark was the first person that I've ever known that contracted and died of AIDS. Since then I have known more. I think of Mark often - when I watch "Angels in America", when I trash talk like he so frequently did and on World Aids Day. I pour a little of my cosmo on the earth - Here's to you, Mark Cambisios. I wish you were here to share this drink.

Monday, November 30, 2009


Originally aired on November 7, 2009 on BBC World - The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world - is an interesting debate.

Uganda has one of the highest rates of AIDS of any country in the world and much of the church teachings are about abstinence. In Max Blumenthal's piece at The Daily Beast, he sheds light on Rick Warren's work in Africa. This piece is originally from January 2009 when Obama picked Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural prayer.

During the early 1990s, when many African leaders denied the AIDS epidemic’s existence, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni spoke openly about the importance of safe sex. With the help of local and international non-governmental organizations, he implemented an ambitious program emphasizing abstinence, monogamous relationships, and using condoms as the best ways to prevent the spread of AIDS. He called the program “ABC.” By 2003, Uganda’s AIDS rate plummeted 10 percent. The government’s free distribution of the “C” in ABC—condoms—proved central to the program’s success, according to Avert, an international AIDS charity.

The real work behind Warren and other church leaders in Uganda - the Kill Gays bill - is detailed out in the work of Timothy Kinkaid at Box Turtle Bulletin. Check out the connections to USA GOP politicians.

There's so much I want to write about the Catholic church after my upbringing and college years. Sometime I will get it all out. I encourage you to watch all five of the video segments and read the complete articles linked above. For now, the most telling statement came from a gentleman in the audience when the church argues that it has been judged by the standards of the times. He retorts:

"The truths in your doctrines are either eternal or not."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Freedom from Want

I first remember seeing Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms in a little shop in Alexandria VA in the early 1990's and just thought they were remarkable. The prints themselves were just huge, each at least six feet tall and after studying it for a bit, I thought I had never been to a dinner that nice! My holiday dinners were more like the dinner scene from Moonstruck! LOL

Thanks to family and friends and those protecting our freedoms here and abroad. Thanks to Dave for putting up with me all these years and to Winston, Kiana and Jeb for always making me smile. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

So after 18 years of not knowing him, I met my father when I was 23. He called me one day while I was working and in a tone reminiscent of Star Wars, he said, "Hello Jim. This is your Father."

I met him shortly after that call and it turns out he was living six miles from where I grew up - in the same school district and a stones throw from my high school. All types of excuses were thrown at me for why there was never any contact, especially being so geographically close.

Then we spent a year getting to know one another. He would crack open a can of Budweiser when I would be putting on my running shoes early in the morning. He would tell me about all of the women he was sleeping with - at work, at the beach, in the neighborhood and then we would go to dinner with his wife - and then once he was (again) all liquored up, he would tell me the only women he ever really loved was my Mother.

After seeing the typical trend of drinking, grandiose plans, those plans falling thru and then depression leading to more drinking, I decided my life was better off without him in it. As tough as it was growing up without that father figure during those formative years, I had struggled and been somewhat successful on my own - and with the help of some dear friends.

The point that my feelings really solidified was on a nice night in the spring. My sister was in the hospital. They found and removed a cyst on one of her fallopian tubes. After visiting hours were over, I called him and told him that my side of the family was gone so if he wanted to call, he didn't have to worry about speaking to someone he didn't care to speak with. His response..."She's young. She'll get over it." At this point, I told him my sister had been seeing someone for a couple years and it was a serious relationship. This would also cut her chances of child-bearing in half - and besides, even if she's young and will phsyically recover, this could scar her femininity for the rest of her life. His response..."Did you see that Flyers game last night?" Our conversation and our relationship ended very soon after that.

I always said that if I ever had the chance to have kids, that I would be a better Father to them than he had been to me. Which in all reality, would have been extremely easy. For better or for worse, that opportunity has never been pursued nor has it ever been presented to me. My dogs, Winston, Kiana and Jeb have become my kids as so often is the case in households like mine - and I love and spoil each of them, especially my baby Winston.

And so, on this Father's Day, I salute all of the Dads out there. Nurture your kids. Let them grow. Pick them up when they take those first steps and stumble and definitely be there when they finally spread their wings and fly. Trust me - they'll appreciate it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


So Doug McKelway of DC's channel 8 ABC affiliate is unhappy that closeted gay republicans (and democrats) are being outed as hyocrites. McKelway claims that outing someone really hurts their family. Boo hoo. While interviewing Michael Rogers, he states that he would like to "give you a punch across the face."  Nice.  Me thinks doth protest too much.