Saturday, December 01, 2001

Link and Think is an observance of World AIDS Day in the personal web publishing communities. The project involves hundreds of webloggers, journalers, diarists and other personal website publishers, each linking to resources about HIV/AIDS or publishing personal stories about the AIDS pandemic on December 1st.

Rather than getting weepy about dead people, I prefer funny stories about the dead. It makes for happier memories. My story involves a guy named Dave, a waiter for the catering company where I worked as an assistant chef. This was around 1986 or 1987. Almost all the waiters were openly gay and it was the first time I was working around a lot of gay men. I didn't mind at all, especially since I was tired the egomanical straight jerks in advertising and recording studios.

Before evening gigs, it was common for the catering staff to share a meal. Dinner with 10 gay men was usually a chatty and funny event - more like Madonna-esque game of Truth and Dare than Sunday with the folks. That evening, the question on the table was "When was your first sexual experience?" One by one, each staffer told his tale - about the straight jocks who got away, the early (misguided) attempts at girlfriends, random club pickups. I shared the moment when I "lost control" while staring at an early 1970s Playmate centerfold who wore nothing but a green baseball hat, socks and spikes. And she carried a bat. The guys like the bat detail.

This brouhaha of teen friction and lust went round and round boisteriously until someone mentioned that Dave hadn't yet spoken. The circle grew quiet as Dave swallowed the last piece of his grilled chicken breast, held a fork in the air and paused.

"I don't remember the first time I had sex," said Dave. "But I do remember the first time I went shopping."

In a Greenwich Village restaurant a decade later, I ran into another waiter from the crew. He told me that Dave died of AIDS in 1993.

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