HBM114: Envisioning AIDS

In a warm and dark room in the winter of 1987, people lay on the ground with their eyes closed.  A facilitator from the Shanti Project guides those assembled on an intimate visualization through the process of dying from AIDS.  

Content Note:
Visualizations of death and language.

This took place at the Interfaith Conference on AIDS and ARC for Clergy and Caregivers in San Francisco.  The conference hoped to give religious organizations tools to help their dying congregants. The conference featured speakers representing Catholicism, Judaism, many Protestant denominations, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and New Age religions.  

AIDS was a major issue at the time, with no cure in sight, and many many deaths per year.  And anti-queer rhetoric (see Jerry Fallwell), laws (see Bowers v Hardwick) and attitudes (see Pew poll on political values 1987) were all common.

Around the same time as this conference, the FDA approved a drug called AZT for the treatment of HIV.  It was highly anticipated, but ultimately considered a failure.  More years would pass and many more people would die before the approval of effective anti-retroviral drugs.  And even more years before the first (and possibly second) cases of HIV would be cured.  

News Clips from the 80’s and 90’s regarding HIV and AIDS, which were also known as “HTLV-3” and “ARC” at the time.

But back in that darkened room in 1987, people laid on the ground with their eyes closed for an hour, while they tried to imagine what it would feel like to be covered in lesions...to sit in a doctor’s office when the receptionist refuses to make eye contact...to watch from above as people try to resuscitate their dead bodies...and to observe their own funerals...all in effort to better understand better the questions people with AIDS were likely asking of themselves and their loved ones—a practice that AIDS scholar Lynne Gerber says was common at this time in the new age circles of the Bay Area.

On this episode, Lynne explains some of the context around queerness and medicine and religion and AIDS.  She’s writing a book about these topics, and also making an upcoming podcast series with audio producer Ariana Nedelman.  Ariana provided us with the audio from the visualization practice via the UCSF Archives.

Producer: Jeff Emtman
Editor: Jeff Emtman
Music: The Black Spot | | | Circling Lights

HBM108: Witch of Saratoga

Angeline Tubbs may have been as old as 104 when she died alone in the woods, in a hut she made with her own hands.  She came to America with a British officer who fought in the Battle of Saratoga (see HBM074: Benedict Arnold Makes People Nervous).

Content Note:
Language

It’s uncertain what happened to the officer, but soon after the battle, Angeline began living a hermit’s life, on the outskirts of society, alone in the forest with her cats. She foraged and hunted her food.  Only rarely did she venture into the newly forming town of Saratoga Springs, where she made money by telling fortunes.

On this episode, producer Alessandra Canario walks into the woods near where Angeline Tubbs lived and died. She builds her own shelter, makes a fire, and cooks her own food.  Alessandra wonders if she too might be a “witch,” due to a kinship she formed with trees as a child. But she also hears echoes of her mother’s warnings against being outside without a man for protection.

Alessandra Canario camps in a homemade shelter in the woods near Saratoga Springs, New York. Photo by Alessandra Canario.

Only known photograph of Angeline Tubbs. Circa 1860. Republished in the January 30th, 1959 issue of The Saratogan.

Producer: Alessandra Canario
Editor: Jeff Emtman
Music: The Black Spot | | | Serocell

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Video by Alessandra Canario.

HBM080: The Ocean of Halves [EXPLICIT]

HBM080.jpg

Remi Dun enjoys her job. She's good at it, she makes good money, and she generally enjoys her clients’ company. And although her job rarely gives her sexual pleasure, one client with a curious tongue gave her two surprise orgasms. Another client doesn’t know that she stops making sexy faces as soon as he can’t see her. And another client simply wants companionship—his dad died recently and he’s still emotionally raw. And yet another client wants a rubber band around his balls—the thick blue kind you find on broccoli in the grocery store.

Please Note: This episode is about sex. And there’s swearing.

Remi is a part-time sex worker.  She uses pseudonyms.  She’s not out.  She worries that her friends would see her as destitute and her parents would convince themselves they’d been bad parents.  Still, Remi finds joy and security in her secret second job. She hopes to someday be out and proud, like the ones who have inspired her.  

The contents of Remi’s bag, laid on a bedsheet. Contents include coconut oil, wet wipes, money, mouthwash, hosiery, lube, tampons, pepper spray / mace, condoms, cell phone charger, deoderant, eye drops, and cosmetics.

The contents of Remi’s bag, laid on a bedsheet. Contents include coconut oil, wet wipes, money, mouthwash, hosiery, lube, tampons, pepper spray / mace, condoms, cell phone charger, deoderant, eye drops, and cosmetics.

Balancing her “daytime” and “nighttime” selves is part of a bigger plan: to create a financial stability, to be fierce, to practice her feminism, and to develop her own romantic relationships with partners outside of work.  Though, sometimes she feels lost in her identities, swimming in what she calls “the ocean of her halves.”

Remi contacted us to share her secret.  We mailed her a recorder for several months to record diaries and sounds from her life.  If you have a secret you’d like to share, please get in touch.

Bethany Denton and Jeff Emtman produced this episode. Our editor at KCRW is Nick White.  We are a part of the Independent Producer Project of KCRW.  

Music: The Black Spot   |||   Serocell

Episode art by Remi's partner. 


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