When My World Was Young 1945-56   The Yellow Brick Road 1956-60    What a Wonderful Town 1960-61    
Wonderful Town (pt. II) 1962-66    The Gay Sixties 1966-70    The Juicy Life 1971-76 
  Juicy Life (pt. II) 1976-80   Losing Alexandria 1981-87   The AIDS Spectacle
Losing Alexandria (pt. II) 1987-1990's   Personal Epilogue



January 2000: T
chau, Uncle Sam!

Just as it once had been "Not-Kansas" for me, it increasingly had begun looking like a case of "Not-this-America."

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 Reagan, come Democrat Clinton 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.  "Me-me-me!" was 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 it was.) 

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 allow, my Christian cable TV experiences did inspire prayer from this unbeliever's lips: "Spare us, Oh Lord, from these thy gifts."

[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 Mideast.] 

In the early 1990s, the "hip-hop/rap" 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, win handilyAnd, 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, 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 sign... 

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 here, how 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 irrelevant.

In 1999   having paid major life dues and done my bit 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 storm. 

The next evening sitting in my hotel room in a foreign country I wrote in a


Detail of photo by Vincent Lafloret.

"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 darkness.... 

"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."


I very quickly found that I had begun a new life and was not going to enter old age living off the remains of the past. 

One 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.

And this closed the door to the gay life of the last century.