"How to Survive a Plague"
Oct 02, 2012 by Victoria Noe
Art by Keith HaringThere’s a moment near the end of How to Survive a Plague, the powerful new documentary about the AIDS epidemic, and specifically, the role of ACT-UP in changing the way drugs are tested and made available in the US.There’s a contentious meeting of ACT-UP New York going on, and playwright/activist Larry Kramer is shown, his face tightening in frustration. Finally he explodes: “Plague! We’re living in a plague! Listen to yourselves!”Living through the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic was like living in a plague, or in a war, because it was both: a health crisis that became a desperate war to save lives.The truly remarkable thing to me about this film is that it exists at all....
Writing About Depressing Stuff
Sep 18, 2012 by Victoria Noe
I’ve written before about how writing about grief can affect you, but I think it’s worth revisiting, in a little broader sense.There are people who cringe when I tell them what most of my writing is about. I understand their feeling that grief is “depressing”. But there are many whose work could be classified that way: Hospice volunteers AIDS outreach workers Oncologists First respondersI had a friend whose job was to fire people in her company (I hate “lay off” – let’s call it what it is). I thought she had an incredibly depressing job, but she didn’t think so. She was so considerate about how she handled each person that they often wound up sympathizing with her.I’ve also met...
“I Pray That I Am The Last”
Jul 10, 2012 by Victoria Noe
When a friend dies, many of us struggle with a question: How can I make sure they’re not forgotten? Not everyone is a celebrity, whose artistic creations or legislative record or exploits on the field of battle will be recounted in history books and HBO specials.Most of the time when a friend dies, they’re just ordinary people, like us. In a world of billions, their uniqueness can be forgotten.Twenty-five years ago, San Francisco recorded its 1,000th death from AIDS. As part of the annual candlelight march commemorating the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, marchers were asked to make signs, each with the name of someone they knew who had died of AIDS.Remember, this was a time of...
Remembering Friends: “Creativity and Crisis – Day 3
Jul 07, 2012 by Victoria Noe
I’d intended to get to the Smithsonian Folkways Festival on the National Mall early today, to help unfold the Quilt. But 9:00am came and went, as the organizers discussed the advisability of displaying the Quilt in ever more oppressive heat. While they did, someone suggested I go to the Quilting Bee tent. That’s where panels were being made by volunteer quilters during the Festival. I was welcomed into the tent, and I did indeed unfold Quilt panels. But these were panels in various stages of completion.Each was different, as unique as the person they memorialized: Bible verses, song lyrics, photos, messages. The quilters used scraps of fabric, pens, colored thread and other materials to create each panel. I unfolded...
Remembering Friends: “Creativity and Crisis” – Day 2
Jul 07, 2012 by Victoria Noe
Names PerformersThe weather has certainly affected the crowds at the Smithsonian Folkways Festival. It bothered me to see such small audiences in the Red Hot tent when the Names Performers sang their hearts out. They were very, very good, and their rendition of “Rainbow Connection” made me tear up. Many people seemed to find the performances by accident, drawn by the music as they walked around the tent. But once there, they stayed, and applauded enthusiastically. The performers came from Atlanta and Chicago, some from Northwestern University, lured not just by the opportunity to be paid for their efforts, but to be part of something that is important to them all. Their director, David Bell, has been involved with...
Remembering Friends: “Creativity and Crisis” - Day 1
Jul 06, 2012 by Victoria Noe
I arrived in Washington, DC late Thursday afternoon, behind schedule. But I still managed to take a cursory tour of the National Mall, where the Smithsonian Folkways Festival is in full swing.It’s no cooler here than anywhere else in the US right now, but the triple-digit heat didn’t stop people from strolling the Mall, although I assume the crowd was smaller than anticipated.One of three themes in the Festival is “Creativity and Crisis”, the arts community response to the AIDS epidemic. Tomorrow I’ll be attending a number of performances and presentations by artists from around the world, and will report on it hereI went to one of the tents to check the list of names. Because of the size of...
Honoring Your Friends in a Big Way
Jul 03, 2012 by Victoria Noe
Tomorrow I’m off to Washington, DC for the Smithsonian Folkways Festival. Held on the National Mall (even in this heat wave), one of the three themes of the Festival is “Creativity and Crisis”. It’s a look at the global response by the arts community to the AIDS epidemic. There will be performances by people from Chicago to South Africa. There will be presentations by those who have made it their life’s work to use the arts to educate the world about AIDS.And the 25th anniversary of the Names Project’s AIDS Quilt will be observed.Between now and the end of the International AIDS Conference later this month, 55 locations in the Washington, DC area will display some of the 48,000...
It’s Time to Get Angry Again
Apr 02, 2012 by Victoria Noe
The late, great Keith HaringI attended the “Beyond Disenfranchised: LGBTQ Community Resilience and Healing” session at the ADEC (Association for Death Education) conference last week. It was my last session of the only day I was able to spend there. Much like the lunchtime networking group on Buddhism, something drew me to this.It was clear from the start that there was frustration in the room. Some of it was directed towards ADEC, and how the LGBTQ community’s experiences (particularly in terms of medical directives and emotional support for end-of-life issues) were not being included in the larger discussions. The panelists were on the front lines, both in terms of the LGBTQ community as a whole and HIV/AIDS services (which are...
Report from ADEC 2012
Mar 30, 2012 by Victoria Noe
ADEC logoI just spent a very busy day at the 2012 ADEC (Association for Death Education and Counseling) Conference in Atlanta.On Thursday morning, I made a presentation – “Building Community for Grieving Friends Online” – about the development and marketing of this blog.My audience was knowledgeable and enthusiastic. No one walked out while I was talking (always an ego-boost for a speaker). It was certainly the only session out of many dozens that dealt specifically with grieving a friend. Early in my talk, I quoted one of my favorite stats:“If you Google ‘grieving the death of a friend’, you will get more hits for grieving a 4-legged friend than a human one.”I remember how shocked I was, about 18 months...
"Forming Community" - AIDS@30
Nov 30, 2011 by Victoria Noe
Steve & I at the Drake "Forming Community" first appeared in April in Windy City Times. I was honored that publisher Tracy Baim asked me to be part of her series on the history of the epidemic. For tomorrow, World AIDS Day, here it is:The first time I remember being conscious of the effects of AIDS was March, 1983. My girlfriend was in the hospital, after a difficult labor and delivery that called for a transfusion. She worked in the lab at that hospital and knew the blood supply wasn’t safe. When I visited her there, her sheets had more color. But she still refused the transfusion.Sex in the 80’s – gay or straight – was a challenge. I was...
World AIDS Day 2011 - 30 Years of AIDS
Nov 28, 2011 by Victoria Noe
“Disenfranchised grief” is defined as grief that is not socially accepted or acknowledged. I learned a lot about it in the AIDS community.Thursday, December 1, is World AIDS Day, this year marking the 30th anniversary of the pandemic.I worked in the AIDS community in Chicago in the late 80’s/early 90’s, after volunteering for a while to raise money for much needed services.If you had told me in 1981 that 30 years later we’d have no cure, I wouldn’t have believed you. Scientists always seemed to be “closing in on” a cure.If you had told me in 1981 that in addition to having friends who died within weeks of their diagnosis, that I would also have friends who have been HIV+...
“Forming Community” – AIDS@30
Apr 28, 2011 by Victoria Noe
The current issue of Chicago’s gay weekly, Windy City Times, includes a guest column I wrote, “Forming Community”.As part of their 9-month “AIDS@30” series, I reflected on my time as a fundraiser in the AIDS community, and what it was like to be a straight woman in a mostly gay environment.You’ll want to bookmark this website, http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/aids.php to read the entire series. If you are of a certain age, you’ll remember a lot. If not, well, you might learn a valuable history lesson or two.
Apr 25, 2011 by Victoria Noe
This month, Windy City Times started a 9-month series on AIDS@30, in conjunction with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.The series began with a timeline that will jog your memory if you’re of a certain age, and surprise you if you aren’t. I found myself reading it, thinking to myself, “I forgot about that” or “I remember him.”You’ll find statistics, photos and remembrances. It has already brought back a lot of memories for me.Publisher Tracy Baim was nice enough to ask me to contribute to the series, and I will post when that guest column appears.Visit the Windy City Times website, www.windycitymediagroup.com, and click on “AIDS@30”.The AIDS epidemic is 30 years old, and sadly, not over yet. Through this series, you’ll...
Apr 01, 2011 by Victoria Noe
For many people – certainly anyone under 40 – it feels like AIDS has been around forever. With the spread of the disease around the world, the media focus has actually dimmed. Rarely do you hear of celebrities dying of AIDS. With the development of the so-called AIDS “cocktail” of drugs, those infected can live much longer, healthier lives than anyone could’ve predicted 30 years ago.On July 3, 1981, a story appeared in the New York Times on Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a rare cancer affecting gay men. It is on that day that the film Longtime Companion opens.The first feature-length film addressing the AIDS epidemic, Longtime Companion follows a group of friends through the 80’s. We see the denial, the ignorance,...
30 Years of AIDS - Part 1
Feb 23, 2011 by Victoria Noe
I have two degrees in theatre. In the 1980’s I was working professionally in the Chicago theatre community. There was no way to escape AIDS.By the end of the decade, I could’ve covered the walls of my one-bedroom apartment with the AIDS Quilt panels of people I knew. I’d left the theatre to be a professional fundraiser, mostly working with AIDS organizations.Most were men, though not all. Some were classmates from college, or colleagues from one production or another. Some had lived at one of the AIDS residential programs I worked for. Some had been volunteers of mine; one was my assistant.I remember picking up a coffee-table book about the Names Project, and staring at the cover: one of the...