Thinking about the plague

At some point in the mid-90s I just stopped thinking about it, stopped watching what seemed at the time overly-sentimental, tear-jerking movies, stopped going to the plays and reading the poems and fiction that dealt with AIDS. I was lucky, born late enough to miss the brunt of the destruction, lucky to be old enough to know how to stay alive. But the New York City I joined in 1988 was a terribly sad and frightened place and by the time I left AIDS seemed too be big and awful to be comprehended. Friends died (Rob, Otis, Nolan, Ben, Jimmy, Carlos), even after 1995, when the new drugs became available, including one very good friend who succumbed to the echo-plague, the drug abuse that afflicted too many of the survivors, even after the disease became more chronic than fatal. David France’s excellent documentary, How to Survive a Plague, was the first time in ages that I sat through a survey of those years. I’m glad I did. In this Sunday’s Washington Post I write about that film, and United in Anger, as well as Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart (seen at Arena Stage in July) and a small but cogent show organized by Transformer and Visual AIDS at Fathom Gallery.

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