By the early 90's almost all of my friends were
dead, and most of the fabric of my life in the city had been
torn apart in the previous decade. And then, to cap things
off, I was involved in a freak accident in the early 90's and suddenly unable to
work. My former life was now really in disarray as
complete as if I had been through a war. If I wasn't
beginning again at zero, I was a damned sight closer to it than
since I had left the parental home in 1960.
The U.S.A. I had lived in had steadily whithered after the
presidential ascent of Ronald Reagan. The Republican
agenda for redistributing America's wealth upwards, its
determined erosion of oversight of the banks and the investment
industry, and its cultivation of divisiveness and hate-mongering
as acceptable political tools to polarize and manipulate the
public shoved a knife in the gut of the post-WW II
republic. But in all fairness, the increasing
transformation of the Democrats into the Church of Political
Correctness, an institution as unrelenting shrill, whinging
and obsessed with control in its own way as Evangelical Christianity
is in its,
also had its own bad odor. Since the Eighties - come Republican
– we had been living in a new country: USA II. And as with Hollywood films, the sequel was only
nominally moored to its predecessor.
But on a day-to-day basis I was becoming just as disaffected
from the overall socio-cultural changes in America.
the new society's version of a Yorkie mutt's ceaseless yap-yap-yap.
I had forsaken network TV in
the Seventies, except for the news
which was dominated at this
point by the
ugly war in Bosnia. But now there was the wonderland of cable TV as well, to
which I received a very personal invitation.
One day, after I had pried the mailman's
hand out of my crotch, he made me promise to at least watch his
music show on cable. OK, will do. (Better if I'd just left his hand where
There was more to cable
of course. It did not come from a hand in the crotch,
instead millions were attracted by a pair of Divine nipples. Evangelical homophobe Pat Robertson had launched
the Christian Broadcasting Network on cable, a pot-pourri of
Evangelical fundamentalist preaching and generous dollops of
disinformation (His AIDS comments had been powerfully
misleading.) However, Paul and
Jan Crouch's similarly inclined Trinity Broadcasting empire was
the real King of the Born-Again Mountain
– despite numerous scandals
and lawsuits involving sexual and financial issues and having palatial his and
her mansions in a gated community. Jan Crouch's costumes
and beyond mountainous hair-dos, however, were a living Mount Rushmore for
conservative American Christianity. (Give yourself a massive
treat, Google her photos.)
But I must
Christian cable TV experiences did inspire prayer
from this unbeliever's lips: "Spare us, Oh Lord, from these thy
[He didn't listen, of course, but at least their new saviour
would issue forth from Trump Tower
on our very own Fifth Avenue and not some cow barn in the
In the early 1990s,
genre exploded to become, by far, the most common genre
of music on the Billboard Hot 100 charts for two decades.
Compared to black R 'n' B of the early 50's, which I was crazy
about, I found this genre endlessly repetitive and it quickly
became massively boring.
And pop entertainment culture could mainstream the
bizarre, the third-rate, the purely opportunistic because
digital technology on an industrial scale now
routinely jacked up the efforts of even less than second-rate performers to the
level of instant Superstar....then
spray paint their every fart with publicity and
the result was yet another celebrity cult.
My pop culture salvation came via a Brazilian friend, whose
missionary activity amounted to loaning me her videos of shows
from Brazilian television and, even better, audio tapes of MPB
music. I became totally addicted to MPB! A younger cousin, who was allegedly doing
business in Cuba traveling via Mexico, brought me up-to-date on
the Caribbean Latin music I'd left behind when I moved from the Upper
West Side. And my once small cache of music exotica, which had begun with
Edith Piaf, Om Khalsoum, Amalia Rodrigues and Greek rembetiko,
had grown a bit over the years too to include a
wider range of European and Mideastern music.
So while Manhattan roared ahead
gentrifying and plasticizing itself for immigrants from the
Trans-Hudson Outback, in my
search for a satisfying entertainment bubble I made an unintentional
U-turn towards something akin to a musical reflection of the city of ethnic enclaves
I had moved to in 1960.
Despite my uneasy feelings about USA II (and the new New York
which it looked like I would
probably be unable to afford
in any case) during the years I was recovering from my
accident I conjured up a major project out of trying to evaluate places outside
of NYC which I
could later investigate in person for possible relocation.
In the end I came up with two likely possibilities.
At the very end of the decade, though, my feelings turned to unabashed
pessimism with the emergence of George W. Bush as a major
Republican figure. My belief was that he would be
his party's candidate for U.S. president and would, I thought,
And, thus, finally bringing the
ultra-conservatives and Evangelical Christian extremists, who
had become an accepted part of the GOP base under the Reagan
administration, into positions of real power in the national
government. (Rove, Cheney & Co. anyone?) He
actually encountered some election difficulties, but they were
only a glitch on his way to the White House.
At this point I came to an obvious realization: It was simply not possible for me to
"get a life" again
somewhere in USA II
– like I was grabbing a shirt off a rack in the same ol' store.
The same ol' store weren't there no more. Duh, surprise,
My personal life experience inoculated me from the group
amnesia which the late Gen X and Millennial LGBTs enjoyed at the
beginning of the 21st century.
And I felt no more comfortable about the idea of living among the "Good Americans"
of the post-AIDS years, than most European Jews had felt
about hunkering down with the "Good Germans" post-WW II.
The thought of living in any community in the country surrounded
by those "Good Americans" from the 1980's, while ultra-Right
nut-jobs had control of the national government threw up a huge
Now that I was almost on the verge of actually having to haul
ass, my two U.S. retirement possibilities vaporized.
So okay, if not
about looking at some there? I had done very little
traveling outside the U.S., and maybe that actually whetted my
appetite when it came to considering foreign locations...and
secondarily it would make my reservations about the direction of USA II
– having paid major life dues and done my
– I prepared
to emigrate from the United States.
This move was undoubtedly made easier by my decades-old feeling
that New York City, and maybe particularly gay life in New York,
had had only one foot in America while the other was stepping off
into the rest of the world. At midnight on the evening of
January 25, 2000, my flight departed the city in a snow
The next evening sitting in my hotel
room in a foreign country I wrote in a
Detail of photo by Vincent
"We took off into the pitch black,
made a half loop around New York – I had my farewell
look at those millions of bright lights that were my
home for forty plus years – and then out into the
"Early the next morning the plane was circling over a
picture postcard city of pastel-colored houses and grand
palaces and historic buildings stretched out on the hills
above a wide bright, sparkling river."
very quickly found that I had begun a new life and was not going
to enter old age
the remains of the past.
day I burned the pages of the short fragmentary journal which
Tom, my roommate of thirteen years, had kept briefly after the
death of his ex-lover, Robert. I let the ashes blow away
across the sand and into the sea. Now they might end up in
the same place where he had danced while scattering Robert's
cremated remains on the beach. Finally, even if Tom's
physical remains could not be there as he had wanted, something
of Tom may be.
closed the door to the gay life of the last century.