Reflections on COVID-19 - Guest Post by Rosa E. Martinez-Colon
May 08, 2020 by Victoria Noe
Though we both live and work in Chicago, Rosa E. Martinez-Colón and I met at the US Conference on AIDS in Washington, DC in 2015. I knew right away that her AIDS work with the Latinx community in the Humboldt Park neighborhood had to be featured in my book Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community. Her experience right now, though, is both familiar and very different. On March 15 the Governor of Puerto Rico decreed a new law, effective immediately, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. At that time, I was wrapping up the project in Puerto Rico, where I had worked for the past year, and was getting ready to go back...
A Reflection on The Great Believers
Jul 04, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Since Rebecca Makkai doesn’t need another rave review of her new book The Great Believers, I thought it more appropriate to share my reaction to her sweeping novel that links the AIDS epidemic in 1985 Chicago to the art scene in 2015 Paris.
When I heard it was coming out, I was less than thrilled. I was almost three years into the research and writing of a nonfiction book about straight women in the AIDS community. Although her book is fiction - and overall, one of the best novels I’ve read in a very long time - I was momentarily concerned. Not concerned: panic-stricken. Another straight woman from Chicago writing about the AIDS epidemic? What are the odds? After an hour...
"For They Shall Be Comforted"
Feb 21, 2018 by Victoria Noe
When Ron Howard filmed Backdraft in Chicago in 1991, a call went out for extras. The funeral procession at the end of the movie required a couple hundred firefighters in dress uniforms to march down Michigan Avenue. It’s a powerful scene made more powerful by the inclusion of firefighters from around the area who offered their services. In fact, 5,000 volunteered.
So it was no surprise that when Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer was killed last week, his wake and funeral were full of men and women in uniform. The six-hour visitation, at Nativity of Our Lord Church, required a three-hour wait in line for those who came to pay their respects. Most of those people...
When Your Friend's Death is in the Headlines
Feb 15, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Cmdr. Paul Bauer
I didn’t listen to the radio in the car as I drove back to Chicago from St. Louis yesterday, so it wasn’t until I turned on the TV that I saw the breaking news. A Chicago police commander had been shot to death downtown, in the state office building. There was something about a suspicious person, a robbery attempt, but no name given.
My husband was preparing for his organization’s annual meeting that evening when he texted, asking if I was home. When I replied that I was, he called to tell me that the officer was the commander he’s worked with for years, Paul Bauer. What had not been the best of days became...
Women’s History Month – Rosa E. Martinez Colon
Mar 15, 2016 by Victoria Noe
I had to go Washington, DC for the US Conference on AIDS last September to meet the amazing Rosa E. Martinez-Colon. If she looks familiar, it’s because we led a lively discussion on women and AIDS on World AIDS Day at Women & Children First bookstore in Chicago. This is her story:
I remember the first time I heard about AIDS was around 1984 or so; I was still living in Puerto Rico. A neighborhood friend who was an injection drug user died after a short stay in the hospital. The rumor spread rapidly that he had “died of AIDS” – “se murió de SIDA”. Soon after, a couple other neighbors died as well; coincidentally they were either sexual partners or...
News from Friend Grief
May 16, 2014 by Victoria Noe
I’m heading into a very busy few weeks – all good! If you’re in New York or Chicago, here’s what’s on the calendar:May 29-31 - Book Expo America, Jacob Javits Center, NYCI’ll be in the new Author Hub, showcasing a small group of self-published authors. If you’re attending BEA, including Saturday’s Book Con for the general public, please stop by and say hi!My new book, Friend Grief and the Military: Band of Friends is featured in the New Title Showcase.May 31 - uPublishU, Jacob Javits Center, NYCThe final day of Book Expo America includes a self-publishing conference, uPublishU. I’m excited to be the only author on the panel “Build Your Author Platform and Publish Successfully”.June 1 - Bureau of General Services...
November Death Café Schedule
Nov 06, 2013 by Victoria Noe
UPDATE:The November 20 Death Café location has moved to St. Gertrude's Church. Same time, same registration process.New address is 6214 N. Glenwood (about 5 blocks west of Metropolis). Enter through the Ministry Center and look for signs directing you to the choir room."Sometimes I think it’s easier to talk about this topic with complete strangers, which I think can help open the door to talk about it with family and friends.”That was a comment from a participant in one of the Death Café events I’ve co-facilitated in Chicago. I love it, because it’s so true for many people.We’re all going to die someday – though hopefully not anytime soon. Most people have no problem talking about food or politics or...
Death Cafe and Other Events
Oct 10, 2013 by Victoria Noe
I’ve been co-facilitating Death Café events in Chicago for almost a year now. Our events have attracted over 150 attendees. Some of those who attended are now facilitating their own Death Cafés, and I couldn’t be more excited.For those not familiar with Death Café, I highly recommend their website. You’ll not only learn the history, but read fascinating accounts of what people are doing in Death Cafés in the UK, Canada, Italy, Australia and all around the US. No two are the same, but all have the same goal: to provide a safe, supportive environment for people to discuss issues surrounding death and dying, with a goal to making the most of their finite lives.After our last event – which...
Scattering Ashes at Death Cafe'
Aug 21, 2013 by Victoria Noe
Monday night we had another successful Death Café in Evanston, Illinois. Nearly 50 people joined us for coffee, tea, cookies and muffins while we talked about issues surrounding death and dying. We broke up into four groups, each led by a facilitator, for an hour. The conversations were wide-ranging and passionate. My group included people of various religions and no religion; male and female; college-age through retirement. No one was required to share, but most had feelings they wanted to express. Honestly, we could’ve talked for hours.At one point, in discussing our own final wishes, we focused on burial vs. cremation, and, in the latter case, how to dispose of the ashes. Fears of being caught spreading ashes in...
What A Death Café is All About
Aug 03, 2013 by Victoria Noe
Dan Bulf and I recently facilitated our second Death Café in the Chicago area, this time in the near north suburb of Evanston. It was a huge success, just in terms of numbers: more than double what we expected.Our next one will be held August 19 in a larger space, at the Evanston Public Library. That one’s filling up very quickly, too. We will undoubtedly have to cut off registrations soon, especially because of the great press coverage we’ve received. REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED.Hereis a terrific article by Jessica Reynolds in this weekend’s Chicago Tribune. It gives you a real sense of what it’s like to be there: the conversation, the emotion, the camaraderie.You can sign up for our mailing...
Fun at a Death Café? Sure!
Jul 21, 2013 by Victoria Noe
On July 15, Dan Bulf and I held our second Chicago-area Death Café. We’d hoped for 20 people, but we were stunned when our lovely room at Curt’s Café in Evanston was filled to overflowing with 40. The poor air conditioning couldn’t keep up. Thank God for iced tea! There were many there whose work involves confronting death: hospital chaplains, social workers, grief counselors, hospice volunteers. There were men and women of various ethnic groups and a wide age range: 20’s to a self-professed 87 years old. But that didn’t mean they had talked about their own, personal feelings about death.We broke into four groups for wide-ranging conversations about our attitudes towards death and dying, particularly our own death....
AIDS: Mad as Hell. Again.
Jul 05, 2013 by Victoria Noe
(This is a little long, so bear with me) I planned to walk in Chicago’s Gay Pride parade last Sunday. But by the time I got near the staging area to join my group, the pain in my hip was growing worse by the minute. I knew I couldn’t walk, and even riding in the truck would be more than uncomfortable; forget about standing for a couple hours. I bailed just before it started. But before I did, I got mad.It wasn’t my first Pride parade. I rode on the Chicago House float in 1990, when I was on staff there and the AIDS epidemic was going full force. I’d attended the parade, lived on the route, got caught...
Evanston's First Death Cafe
Jul 02, 2013 by Victoria Noe
Last fall, I co-hosted the first Death Café in Chicago. Death…what??? A Death Café is an informal, non-therapeutic opportunity for people to come together and discuss topics surrounding death and grief. The objective of this movement is "To increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives".Begun in Switzerland, it spread to the UK and the US. Since 2011, over 1,000 people of all ages have attended a Death Café. Our next Death Café will be held Monday, July 15 at Curt’s Café in Evanston, Illinois. It’s open to anyone with questions about death and grief, because no one has all the answers.A Death Café offers you the opportunity to...
Watching Your Best Friend Die
May 07, 2013 by Victoria Noe
npr.org I wasn’t going to write about Hadiya Pendleton. I live in Chicago and frankly, there are too damn many Hadiya Pendletons: young people murdered for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sunday’s Chicago Tribune carried a front page article about Hadiya’s closest girlfriends. They’re typical kids, teenagers, whose lives will never be the same: both for their close friendships with Hadiya and the horrible death they witnessed. The shots detonate like firecrackers – boom boom boom boom boom – and the friends, a dozen of them altogether, run. The girl named Danetria does not run well. She is out of breath, struggling to keep up, when, ahead of her, she sees one of her friends fall,...
Death Café – There’s a First Time for Everything
Oct 16, 2012 by Victoria Noe
Last Tuesday evening, I co-hosted the first Death Café in Chicago. A phenomenon that began in Switzerland and spread to London, a Death Café provides a safe, non-judgmental and non-therapeutic setting for people to come together and talk about death and grief.Our group was all men (except me, lurking on the edge). Although the seven men did talk about friends – and even animals – there happened to be an unusual situation: one man’s mother was actively dying. As befitting a supportive atmosphere, most of the conversations had to do with family dynamics and relationships. The feelings associated with grief are common, no matter the relationship to the person who died: sadness, guilt, anger, regret, gratitude. All of them were...
Chicago’s First Death Café
Oct 05, 2012 by Victoria Noe
Sounds weird, doesn’t it? Death Café I guess the first question is, ‘what and where is it?’Well in this case, it’s in Chicago next week. A Death Café is an informal, non-therapeutic gathering of people who want to discuss their experiences grieving. Death, as we know, is a subject that can put a damper on most conversations. But here, it is the conversation.Therapy is great, whether individual or group. But that’s not what this is. Many people just need a chance to talk about what they’re going through: without judgment or diagnosis. And as it turns out, a lot of those people are men.Like it or not, men are still expected to be the “strong” ones when someone close to...
“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.