On the Day that You Died

Dear Larry,

On the day you died, (16 May 2014, to be exact) the Boko Haram continued to hold hostage more than two hundred girls in Nigeria whom they said made a mockery of Islam by displaying the unholy desire to attend school.

You would not have liked this. You were not one for extremism. Especially not the religious kind.

Also on the day you died, the newspapers told of how the Sudanese government sentenced to death a young woman who had converted to Christianity. Her crime? She had committed the heinous act of marrying someone who was not of the Muslim faith; an infidel.

This reminded me of the time you were court-marshaled for displaying a forbidden sexual preference, this after many years of loyal service in the US Navy. And how, before the chickens came to roost, and by chickens, I mean the military police, you had married a woman. This made us laugh when you told us about it so many years later.

Women loved you, Larry, but not in that way.

And then, on the other side of the world (also on the day you died), India finalized the largest democratic election ever held on planet earth. The results took five weeks to tally up. Some five hundred fifty million people cast their votes. This, unlike the story of the Boko Haram, would have pleased you. There was even a transgender candidate on the ballot, a certain Kamala Kinnar. Perhaps the world is making progress after all.

In fact, the transgender story takes me back to Baltimore’s annual Gay Pride in Mount Vernon, in which you were a main player, and how a large percentage of the floats were made up of churches proclaiming the “good news.” According to them — and I must admit I was surprised at first — God said it was okay.

Unfortunately, I also noticed in “other news” (on the day you died), a worrying headline in the Washington Post: Conservatives Plot a Comeback at Secret Meeting.

The article tells of how, ‘…alarmed by a resurgence of more establishment Republicans, activists are pressuring them to “recommit” on their opposition to abortion, gay marriage and illegal immigration.’

Well, there we go again.

My daughter cried when I told her how your family had ostracized you for being gay. How your brothers and sisters did not want you to touch their kids for fear of exposing them to AIDS, which you did not have, of course, but those were the 80’s and no one knew the full extent of the problem. It brought out the worst in them. It became easy to point fingers, saying it was simply a gay man’s disease.

Also in the Washington Post (on the day you died), the following headline: Greeks Work Harder than Germans. Who Knew?

This also made me think of you. You were never averse to work. But you were not averse to partying, either. In fact, Pan aside, one could safely say you invented the concept. And the consequences weren’t always pretty.

Once, after someone had spiked your drink with a roofie, you awoke to find yourself wandering the streets of Hamden in the early hours of the morning, wearing nothing but your boxers. Surveillance camera footage taken in the wee hours showed your head bobbing comically in the back of the vehicle in which you were being transported, dazed and confused, while the kidnappers methodically ransacked your bank account by making several low-dollar purchases at a string of gas stations.

But you never lost your belief in humanity after that; you never lost your sense of humor, either.

In fact, one night at A Brewers Art, I pointed out someone in the crowd, thinking you might be interested. You were quick to put me in my place. “I may not have morals” you said, “but I do have standards”. I wrote these words down on a coaster, and took the coaster home with me. I have kept it to this day. You also told me that when you died you wanted to be paraded through the neighborhood on the back of an Araber’s vegetable cart, and thereafter, to lie in state at Leon’s in Baltimore, Americas oldest gay bar.

Of course, death was never far for you. You had survived a serious accident as a child (that’s before your mother had cast you aside). You even told me one day that perhaps it was the injury to your head (the scar was always visible) that caused you to become gay. You were kidding of course. At least, I thought you were.

You beat cancer on more than one occasion. And when you died last night, you still officially had cancer. In fact, as a cancer survivor, you might have found the following headline interesting: Measles Virus used to put Woman’s Cancer into Remission.

You beat the odds on so many occasions that we all thought you might live forever.

(Remember the time you snored so loudly that a fellow soldier punched you in the face. And how that prompted you to have an operation to do something about your snoring. Little did you know how many operations you would end up having in your final eighteen months.)

I feel bad about the way you died. When I shot my film in your house, the one in which the protagonist comically fires off five shots through a bedroom door, little did I know that a few months later, you too would be shot five times — on the doorstep of the very same house. Unfortunately, yours was not on celluloid. It was real, and the coincidence so uncanny, I put the film on hold.

Only after you had been in hospital for many months did I show you the film. You laughed as only you could and commented on how nice your house looked.

So, as I bid you farewell, my dear friend, may I ask you one small thing (we used to joke about this). Please, when you arrive up there will you ask about the whole Muslim vs. Christian thing. Maybe someone has the answer. And wouldn’t it be funny if that someone was Christopher Hitchens.

These were the things that happened in the world on the day that you died. I am sorry you missed them.

But before I go, a little-known fact is that like you, W.H. Auden too once married a woman to hide his sexual persuasion? But it is on the subject of loss that he will be most remembered, when he wrote: For nothing now can ever come to any good.

This is how we all feel tonight, in this tight-knit community of which you were our light — on the day that you died.