I have left New York and returned to Richmond, Virginia.
Eleven months in the City were filled with experiences. There were good ones, frustrating ones, loving ones and heartbreaking ones. It was life and in the main it was good. It was a real adventure and the end was always uncertain.But my love and I survived - more than that really. We thrived in the only way that matters. We built a home and lived there day to day. Now it is time to come home.
I left because I felt frustrated. A year of searching for a professional home yielded no results, not even an interview that mattered. I became distressed. The situation was unlike any I had experienced.
I began to work at age fourteen (twelve really, counting my 5 a.m. paper route atop my stingray bike and basket). In the years that followed I always had work or the next job was on deck. My responsibilities increased over the years. I worked through college, nearly full-time in addition to my classes which took a back seat. In law school I continued, clerking for faculty and selling motorhomes in the summer. On graduation I began my professional career and my talent as a trial attorney grew. Seven years later life took a turn from the promising life of a young lawyer.
In 1994 I came to believe the law no longer satisfied. And so I took a detour into a sales and marketing position with LEXIS-NEXIS, the nation's leading electronic legal research provider. It was a great fit and I advanced quickly before a spasm of restructuring wrote the tale on the wall. I slipped out with a large severance package before I was riffed.
I landed with Ontrack Data, a cutting edge tech company breaking ground in the forensic recovery of data from computer networks for use in investigations and litigation to screw the bad guys and protect the good. Or the other way around. After eighteen months of non-stop travel, including a winter in frigid Minnesota I decided to step off the road.
I established my own law practice and started my own tech company, Ginter Park Technologies, to build electronic marketing tools for small businesses during the teenage years of the Web. Both businesses succeeded for a time. While they did I was at my height..
I became intimately involved in my people's fight, the fight of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people for equality in a society and especially in a state that disregarded us and wished we would disappear.
This work consumed me. I used the talents gained in practice and sales to become an effective advocate for equality. My reputation grew and shortly I was asked to join the inner circle of our movement. In 2006 I was at the movement's peak - chair of the Equality Virginia board of directors and state campaign chair in our fight (unsuccessful of course) to defeat the proposed amendment to Virginia's constitution permanently relegating my people and me to second class status. To this day I am proud of nothing so much as I am of the work I did in the fight for equality.
In 2008 I accepted what I thought was a gift. I was asked to step down from the board of directors of the Richmond Gay Community Foundation to become its first professional leader. This seemed a dream come true – the chance to work full-time advancing my people’s cause. I was specifically tasked to create the Gay Community Center of Richmond which existed only in name and in the minds of the board.
We advanced quickly. In four months the Center was dedicated. In another four it had a full schedule of programs unlike any offered before in Richmond. My first three years at GCCR were wonderful; they were successful and my staff and I accomplished a great deal.
In the fourth year, 2011, things changed. The makeup of the board changed and those board members who hired me retired. Over the course of the year my relationship with the board deteriorated until for me it became demoralizing and depressing. I imagine the same could be said for the board.
Why did this happen? My disease, diagnosed in February 2012, robbed me of nearly every memory of 2011. Those memories that remain are of those events that were most painful. In the two years since 2012 I have been able to piece together what I believe happened, largely with the aid of photographs. In my position I was photographed frequently. Going month to month I can chart the story of my fall.
These pictures show a man at first robust but then in inexorable decline. From picture to picture my appearance changed as my weight loss accelerated. I entered the new year a scary, skeletal figure. After lying dormant for ten years or more HIV was finally taking hold.It was killing me.
I developed encephalopathy which was literally rotting my brain. Some few friends who have described me in that time speak of confusion and incomprehensible discussions. I was losing my mind.
But strangely, it seems to me, no one called me out. In my Facebook message archive I have discovered one note from a friend. In November he wrote, “Are you in good health? You look so thin. I met you … so many years ago and you look so different now.” I have no memory of receiving the note and there is no record of a response. His query was in vain.
In January the board dismissed me, it seems now for good reason. I had ceased to be effective. A month later I was rushed to the hospital near death. I recovered with months of grueling work. Today I am building a life from what was left behind.
My physical recovery aside, these two years of idleness have been very painful. In my heart I know I have good work to do and contributions to make as I did for all my life until that life exploded.I feel trapped by circumstances – my age, my unusual career, my lengthy unemployment and the reason I became unemployed. My recovery will not be complete if I cannot succeed in this and find some way to be a productive man again. This is my prayer.
This is my mission as much as anything has ever been in a life focused on "missions." The fact that I lost everything gives me the freedom to attempt anything, and so I decided to try to build a life in a city that I loved. But New York proved to be too big a challenge for me, today.
I regret none of this adventure. How many men my age are able to pick up and move to a thrilling, exciting place and become a full member of the community, living life each day in the way of a native? That is what Angelo and I have accomplished. I am proud. So is he.
Now it is time to take one last shot, in a place I know so well. It is a place where we will be blessed with the love of family and many friends. It is a place where I grew into what I became and perhaps I can do so again, to better effect. I pray each day this is true and will humbly accept your prayers in support. The Lord knows I need them and I believe He will listen.