Monday, April 11, 2022

Springtime Gorgeous, ALS Blues with Tim and Bear, Harold and Maude, Dreaming of Cherry Trees.

ATimothy Lunceford-Stevens and friends through the years, from full action on July 28, 2018 to the top photo last fall.  As Tim wrote back in 1918: Then and Now! Monster then Monster now! Nazi then Nazi now! Jesse Helms Donald Trump ACTUPNY Performance Art and Truth Friday 9/27/2018. Whitney Museum NYC Greenwich Village..."

Mel and Tim, with smiles. 

Fierce Tim with eye patch. 

Tim, Zack and me being sainted at the Rev Billy Show. 
Tim and Mel in action, third photo by Erik McGregor.


I went to see Tim Saturday. 

It had been a couple of weeks. 

The week before Tim said don’t come.

I’m not well.

This week, he was still in the hospital.

I hate hospitals. 

Purgatory before death, my dad left this world from a hospital. 

So did Penel this fall. 

We visited Al there this fall. 

Up to Langone, 550 1st Ave where the teenager entered this world 19 years prior. 

Arriving at 11 AM, soaked from the rain.

Visiting time is not till noon, the friendly clerk tells me. 


It was gorgeous the day before.

I hate hospitals, I think sitting back outside in the rain,

Still pouring, my pants wet from the trip over. 

On the way over, I stopped at East River Park to visit the Cherry Trees, the city is cutting down to save us from climate change. 

Billy and Sylver and Eileen and Sarah were there to slow the machines. 

Leaving the trees alive another day. 

Save the city, save ourselves, says Peter. 

“No ecoside on the Lower East Side,” scream activists, blocking the trucks hell bent on chopping.  

“‘They don’t have to kill the cherry trees. This is Cherry Street. What, is this now Street Street, without the cherry trees?” says Alison Colby, 62, an East Village resident,” to the Post. 


Coffee cup in hand, I jot notes, waiting, my feet still wet.

Here, not here.

Alive, not alive.

Thinking of Tim, each visit is harder.  

Eyes open, unable to speak.

Using a computer to text me.

You ok I ask.


Should I visit, I asked earlier in the week.


Today was different.

Come visit, he says.

Come smile with me.

You bring me joy.

You do the same, I think.

Maybe the old Tim was here for a second.

You make me smile. 

You do the same. 


Navigating through the labyrinth of machines and visitors and orderlies, a nurse is sitting with him, setting up his IV.

Better keep your mask on, she tells me. 

Covid’s here.

I can come back.

No stay. 

Tim gestures for me to come back. 

How long have you known each other, she asks.

25 years, I reply.

He was one of the people I met my first week in town, in Fall 1997, becoming acquainted at ACT UP and SexPanic  meetings at the Center. 

A long time,  I say again, looking at Tim, thinking about those years of SexPanic and Matthew Shepard funeral legal meetings, Tim always being there with a legal aid hat, through the years, at ACT UP zapping the Whitney, Rise and Resist in Grand Central, in DC with Jennifer Flynn and company fighting to save the affordable care act, battling the Trump tax scam, seeing Tim every week, getting arrested together, becoming sainted Rev Billy shows, on and on. 


Now, I have to wear a mask. 

The hospital is full of COVID, she says, even here.

But he needs to see my lips to understand me. 


Tim points to letters on the card to tell the nurse attending to him about me. 

My mind flashes back to a day at Washington Square Park during the first of the Trump years. An evening vigil and speakout for queers persectuted in Chechnya. 


“I hear you are going to DC,” he greeted me. “You have a place in your car?” 

“Yes,” I replied.  

But I leave at 5 AM sharp. 

My car was open to anyone driving to take part in the Housing Works Center for Popular Democracy, mass civil disobedience to save the Affordable Care Act.


The next monday, he arrived at my house at 430 AM. 

I sat upstairs in my office for 15 minutes, drinking a cup of coffee and came down. 

He was reading my cookbooks. 

You like to cook, he said, grinning.

Yes, of course.


And we chatted all day, driving a car full of activists, off to DC to fight for the Affordable Care Act, taking a bust together, riding home, stopping for snacks in Delaware, chatting all the way, marathon activist days. 


From then on, we were bus buddies, every trip, he’d save me a seat, Tim telling me his life story, reminding the bus driver to wait for me if i was late. 

Once on the bus, Tim told stories from years before of driving from Georgia to see the B52’s in New York, dancing away.

Modeling, going to sex clubs, joining ACT UP, meeting meeting Mel at an AIDS bereavement meeting three decades prior.

Both of us, Georgia boys, who got the hell out, the stories grew out of that space, expanding outward.


“We love you,” Tim screamed back at the immigration activists in DC. 

He loves everyone, seeing the intersections, the mutuality. 

Each ride, closer.


Sitting there, I recall, Tim and Mel sat grinning, asking the best questions at my book reading that spring of 2019 at the Center, opening up the largest conversation.


 I look at the nurse, whose putting a needle in Tim’s arm.

You ready, she asks.

Tim can’t hear her.

Has he always been hard of hearing, she asks me. 

It's been a gradual decline, I reply, watching Tim, watch me. But yes as long as I can remember.

I gotta go, I say to Tim, pulling down my mask to say I love you.

Tears welling up as I leave. 

It all hits how much has changed, how much has disappeared.

See you next week. 


Riding through Lower Manhattan, the sun is spreading across the sky.

Over the Williamsburg Bridge, I ride to share stories about A16 and the space between ACT UP and the WTO from two decades prior at McCarren  Park.


I’m here and I’m not here. 

On we bike, past Henry Miller's old house on Drigges.

In 1971, he recalled his old friends there:

“As I walked the streets the names of my boyhood companions, or better said, my idols, came back to me: Johnny Paul, Eddie Carney, Lester Reardon, Jimmy Short, Tim Buckley; Matt Owen, Gus Fowler, and last but not least, my first real chum, Stanley Borowski. With Stanley I maintained a friendship until I left for France in 1930. Like myself, he wanted to be a writer; I doubt that he ever made it however.”



“Two blocks farther down on Driggs Avenue was the Novelty Theater, a vaudeville house. My mother gave me 10 cents every Saturday for the matinee performance; the dime entitled me to sit in the gallery. At the entrance to the gallery stood a formidable looking, broad‐shouldered man in uniform called Bob Maloney; he carried a stout rattan stick and inspired us with fear and dread.”


To and from Manhattan, Brooklyn tides ripple below.

Babs texts me about the speakout at Tompkins.

All weekend, friends and demos, East River Park and the Speakouts against homeless sweeps, Abortion on Demand, without apology. 


It's not a demo without babs, Laurie,and Peter and Lynn and Frank and Steve who we run into during the speak out in the park!  Gorgeous day to be alive, zipping between protests, abortion on demand without apology at Washington Square Park.

Tompkins Square Park, stop the sweeps, permanent housing not sweeps. 

"There are 92000 homeless people and 250000 empty units in nyc.  Do the math" says one by the park benches. Housing works shelters still kill!!!


The teenager shows me a video of a  flood rat, trying to save himself from encroaching tides enveloping the subway. 

I feel like this mist of the time, watching the video of the

I think about Tim here and not here as his body eludes control.

Tims here, now he’s there

Here with us, connected, separated, a part of a larger body and his body, losing control.


“The earth is my body; my head is in the stars,” Maude says to Harold, watching a movie with teenager later on.

Whenever my kids want to watch movies, it's Harold and Maude. 

Over and over and over.


“A lot of people enjoy being dead,” says Maude. “But they are not dead, really. They're just backing away from life. Reach  out. Take a  chance . Get  hurt  even. But play as well as you can. Go team, go! Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE! Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room.


On Maude preaches, entertaining Harold in between his suicide attempts. 


 “Harold, everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much.


“Live slightly above morality…” she advises.

 Live ... sing out... save trees....she reminds him.

Save the cherry trees. 

Stop the war on the trees.

It's a manifesto for a lot of us, a journey into a labyrinth, says a friend, taking in the abundance... the cross generational connection... love it...authority doesn't sit well with you she tells the cop....attempting to apprehend her for liberating  the tree.


“Trouble” sings Cat in the final montage, with Maude on her way, her departure, Harold remaining, ready to live again. 


Some of us are here. 

The cherry trees are here and there. 

Some mulch, some remain. 


Tim is still here. 

For now. 


We all are. 


Alive and dead. 

Michael overdosed ten years ago. 

We all remember him. 

I’m thinking of Doris and the birds in Washington Square. 

I think of them all on the way to Judson on Sunday. 

Palm Sunday. 

The ancient testimony on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. 

“Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, 'I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’”

The stones would shout out, along with the birds missing their cherry trees. 


At the Whitney Biennial, my friend Ivy Acre’s material is on display, reminding us: 

“Women don’t get AIDS, they just die from it.”

Four years earlier Tim was here, reminding AIDS is not history.

Bodies move throughout the show, upstairs, downstairs, 7th floor permanent exhibition.

Three floors of the biennial. 

A gathering of the tribes and Ivy on the 6th, Ivy and Julie.

George on the 7th. 

Story after story. 


I remember when Tim was here.

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