“I’ve got all kinds of ailments, but I keep smiling. I would say that I’ve had a helluva life—some ups and downs, but I still keep at it.”
“Have you had more ups or more downs?”
“If I have a down, I smoke a joint of reefer and get back up again. It helps with the pain, too.”
“Sometimes I’m really shy and awkward, especially around people I don’t know.”
“We’re not dating, but we’ve come to trust each other in such a way that when people look at us they think, ‘Oh, they’re so close. They must be a couple.’ But an intimate relationship doesn’t have to be sexual—he turns me on intellectually and we wholeheartedly enjoy each other’s company. We feel that we’re each other’s surrogate true loves.”
“I’ve been growing my hair and my beard for 10 years, and I’ll do so for the rest of my life—it’s a Sikh tradition.”
“Keep the squares out of your circles because they don’t fit.”
“What does that mean?”
“A ‘square’ is someone you don’t vibe with. That’s OK—we’re not meant to like everybody. So don’t put someone that you don’t click with in your circle—the people that you like around you. A ‘square’ is a temporary person. They may try to get into your circle, but you have to tell them, ‘No, fall back. You don’t fit in my circle of cool people.’”
“I find that most people don’t think that communicating with the people around them—like what we’re doing right now—is something they should do.
I grew up in suburbia and people live in very close proximity to one another and yet never speak to each other. Maybe they know that Tim down the street takes his garbage out on Tuesdays and works construction—and that’s about it. I think the first step in making a country great is getting to know other people. I think the problem is in that independent streak we have as Americans: We believe that ‘you have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ idea, but that’s very isolating.”
“Sometimes people would come up and offer me a drink or something to eat or would say, ‘Come with me. I will show you a good time.’ But I have to treat them as if they are little children and say, ‘No, not this time.’ You see, the Lord already has everything that I need—and he’ll give it to me. For instance, I know that I’m going to finish my education and get my doctorate. Why do I need my doctorate? Because I need to teach again. I already had my master’s, but after 9/11 we were laid off because tenured professors get all the important teaching positions.
“So you just have to keep believing, sweetheart. Always believe, no matter how dark it gets. Even tonight, it will get darker and darker and darker. Then, when it gets really dark, you know what I do out here by myself? I wait because I know that in just a moment, it will become daylight. It doesn’t flash or anything, but there it is. I just have to keep my faith steadfast.”
“When I was homeless back in the early 90s, I found some inspiration in an advertisement for a one-man play about a person in a homeless shelter. I started to think, ‘Well, if I ever became somebody and someone wanted to write my biopic or make a movie about my life story and my rise from hard times, it would be like a period piece.’
“I still think about it. I’m no longer homeless—I’ve left the shelter life behind—but I’m not getting anywhere. I’ve done some songwriting. I’ve dabbled in poetry and novel writing. But my golden years have passed and life is not getting me anywhere. You know that struggle? You have those dreams and aspirations: you think you have potential and could be a contender, so to speak, but you just don’t get the breaks. You try and try; you’re 40, then 50, and you’re nothing in life.”
“I was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS in 1997 when I passed out at work. Everybody found out that I was gay and had AIDS. I was deathly sick for two and a half years. If not for the diagnoses, I would have never come out of the closet.”
“Yes, even today. My father left my mother for a man in the early 70s, which destroyed both my mother and my family, and I thought I would never come out of the closet after that. A lot of people got married back in those days even if they were gay, because society told them that they had to.
“My father died of AIDS in 1985. Back in the 80s and 90s, I knew people who died three months after they were diagnosed—they didn’t even know what hit them. If I had gotten sick six months earlier, I wouldn’t be here today because the effective treatment only came out a couple of months before my diagnosis. I lost over a hundred of my friends to AIDS. Many of them turned into skeletons and died alone in hospices. Their families never visited them.
“I’ve been very lucky: my family and friends have been supportive beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve reconnected with childhood friends and long-lost relatives. When I got sick, my mother moved in to take care of me. She is passed away now, but I’m glad that in the last nine years of her life she got to know her gay son. She was my best friend, and I would have hated for her not to get to know the real me.”
“I’m very feminine, but I find comfort in my combat boots and Converse sneakers. Still, I carry nice shoes in my bag.”
"It’s always real in the field."
“I was raised in a Christian family, and I asked the minister one day, ‘How can Jesus save me?’ His reply to me was, ‘You shouldn’t be asking questions like that—you sound like a no-good-managed boy.’ I went home and said to my father, ‘You know, daddy, I’m going to leave the church and find out for myself if there is any such thing as God.’
“And what I found out is that there is a God. I’ve been shot at, I’ve been cut at, I’ve been knocked down, I’ve been stomped on, and I don’t have a scratch on me. A guy walked up to me one night, pulled out a gun and said, ‘Nigger, if you don’t get on your knees and beg me for your life, I’m gonna kill you right here on the spot.’ Something came over me and said: ‘This man is not God. You can talk your way out of this.’ So I did. Then I grabbed the gun, put it to his head and pulled the trigger to kill him—but it jammed. I looked at it and realized it was a pellet gun. I’m thankful that I don’t have that blood on my hands.
“I’ve learned over the years to be slow to anger and swift to knowledge. Life is good, and it’s too short to find yourself on the side of foolishness. I’ve learned to get up and leave if I spot trouble coming. There is enough trouble going on in the world—I don’t need more of it.”
“I come from a family of twelve kids. Being the third oldest, I always had to set a good example. Everything I did affected the younger kids. They looked up to the older ones, and if we messed up they would do the same thing. I’ve seen it: they would pick up on our not necessarily good mannerisms, like talking back and other little things. I would tell them ‘Don’t do that’ but it didn’t have much weight if I did the thing myself. If I told them to practice music and I wasn’t practicing, they wouldn’t listen to me.”
“I used to manage Ravi Shankar, and his daughter Norah Jones is playing here tonight. They told me that the show is sold out, so I thought, If I just hang around, somebody’s going to show up with an extra ticket.
So I was just thinking about my life philosophy: I never really take ‘no’ for an answer, and I trust my luck. I’ve travelled all over the world this way. I have no doubt that I’m going to find a ticket somehow, even though I don’t know how.”