I inhaled the HBO Max/Channel 4 AIDS dramatic mini-series It’s a Sin in one day and am still thinking about it.
As someone who was in ACT UP and moved to the West Village in the early 90s, AIDS is never off my radar. I’ll never forget my beautiful young friends who seemed like ghosts even before they died. I’ll never forget equating sex with death even before I lost my virginity.
The London-set series has charisma to spare–hip-strutting, head-strong boys; head-spinning montages; spot-on 80s and 90s set and costume design; catchphrases! But it spares no soundtrack cliches nor no 90s-era micro-aggression: witness its centralization of white characters; the lack of sex life for the sole female protagonist, who seems to exist solely to caretake men.
I resist the critique that It’s a Sin fast-forwards too quickly, though. While I was still in my teens, the transition from carefree club life and wanton fucking to hospitals, funerals, and activism took place in the blink of an eye. Gender/sexual harassment/trauma was so widespread it was background noise–something you white-knuckled through if you wanted an apartment, job, not to get beat to a pulp. Believe me. As someone who has often called out aberrant behavior—who confronted the landlord who stuck his tongue down my throat, who refused to work for the newspaper editor who licked his lips while asking if I had a boyfriend–my career and livelihood suffered mightily.
Gen X is too hard on Z/millennials, but we resent younger people’s assumption that we’re oblivious to trauma. My generation of queers just was swamped with too much macro-aggression–mass extinction and existential horror–to tackle micro. Oh how this show captures that giddy ghastly time.
I’m so so so sad Carl Reiner has passed over. His impact on TV, film, and comedy was legion and it was legendary. He worked with everyone from Neil SImon to Lily Tomlin to Steve Martin to Ruth Gordon and made them all funnier–better, really. His CV included Your Show of Shows, All of Me, and Where’s Poppa?–tons and tons of waggish staples. Even in his 90s he was still showing up on screen in the Ocean’s 11 franchise and on page as an author. Even yesterday he still shone such a bright light that he was tweeting what we all thought about 45. Not to mention that Mel Brooks will feel SO ALONE.
Their model of male love–their decades-long commitment to each other and to laughter–hurt my heart in the greatest way. They represented the very best of my tribe (the Jews!) by understanding that being tough and smart didn’t preclude being silly, soft-hearted, and socially just. Really, I wanted Mel and Carl to become the 2,000 Year Old Men. Or at least to live to see Trump leave the White House in handcuffs. (If you’ve never listened to The 2,000 Year Old Man, do yourself a favor and download it. Growing up I listened to it every day after school and it never failed to crack my shit up.)
In work he joyously played second fiddle–even in his masterwork, the Dick Van Dyke Show, modeled after his own family life in New Rochelle, he ceded the central role to Van Dyke whom he generously deemed a “better actor.” Top billing never mattered as much to him as top form because he knew to love long and love well. Thus he remained happily married to the brilliant Estelle from 1948 until her 2008 death. Thus he spawned the brilliant Rob Reiner and a long line of other comical, kind humans. Thus he died at 98 in top form, true to form.
Carl Reiner was a mensch. He was a mitzvah. He will be missed.
This weekend I’m unwinding with loads of Mary Tyler Moore and no other screens after days of testing a new tarot spread I’ve devised to support us in these out-of-time times.
My corporal self is worn out. I’m on the first day of my periodic table without the now-forbidden ibuprofen and am fighting what I am fairly sure is the Covid-19 virus, though of course there’s no test or healthcare unless I’m at death’s door.
I’m not being alarmist: I’ve been exposed to at least two people who were exposed to people who tested positive; I’ve had a low fever and a sore threat for days; and I’m fairly certain many New Yorkers are already positive, though this doesn’t mean we should abandon social distancing. Nor am I being casual about my self-diagnosis: I’ve taken zinc, vitamins, hot salt baths; gargled hot salt water; inhaled broth and tons of hot liquids. Prayed and meditated. Isolated. Honestly this is not a plea for help. More an acknowledgment that this is life now.
I sense I’m already turning a corner, partly because I’m lucky enough to have a strong immune system, and partly because JOJ-she who fixed my back last fall–gave me a remote healing session.
The concept of weekend seems odd, doesn’t it? With the flow of life on hold, the human race is suspended in a collective tesseract, one in which the constructs of linear time do not apply. Right now we don’t belong to the physical world at large. We are not bodies in place and time. Alone together, we are only energy particles to each other, faces on screens, voices in the ether, memes. Why not identify as Nefertiti on her Egyptian throne in 1370 BC? Or Mary Tyler Moore in 1977, blithely breaking through glass ceilings with a tam o’shanter?
On one level we are more exposed than we’ve ever been. Have you ever talked to this many people while in your PJS? Have your coworkers ever before seen your home? But we are also malleable, fluid, changelings. Stripped to essences.
To navigate this universal stop-time and stop-motion, we need new and forgotten tools–economically, medically, spiritually, emotionally, politically. We artists, healers, witches—seeers and soothers and sooth-sayers–are well-acquainted with ethereal realms. We know about kairos–the land of soul time that always lives beyond, below and around linear time.
So let us help. We are going to make it after all, but only if we make something new.