"AIDS at 30: A time capsule," by Bill Hayes
June 7, 2011 7:12 PM   Subscribe

Look back in wonder.
Prepare for the next time.
Do not forget us.

"We decided to create a time capsule. But it would not contain kitschy souvenirs—gadgets and record albums and the like. Instead, the AIDS Time Capsule would house answers to a simple question: What message would you send to people 50 years from now about your experiences during the epidemic? In June of 1990, we set up a booth at the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade. Crowds cheered marchers nearby on Market Street, yet the mood was somber within our humid vinyl tent. Whenever I looked up from our table, arrayed with pencils and paper, I saw a steady flow of men waiting patiently in a line that did not shorten until the parade ended and the fog rolled in. Single men, couples, and groups of friends, pumped-up, sun-burned, half-undressed, young men propped on canes and leather-daddies in wheelchairs: all waiting to send a note to the future."
posted by docgonzo (6 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The middle line is one syllable less than a haiku. Damn!
posted by Renoroc at 7:27 PM on June 7, 2011

In about 1998 or 1999, I had just started working with a small theater company; a pretty tightly-knit group. I was about to do my second show with them, when word went around about one of the members, a guy who'd had a small part in my first show with them. He had just been diagnosed with full-blown AIDS; he'd had a cough he couldn't shake for a few months (I remembered him coughing during rehearsals, in fact), and finally went to the doctor thinking it was pneumonia or something, but that's what it was.

We had a small -- I don't know if "party" was the right word, but "gathering," in his honor at the theater to wish him well and show him support. He was in fairly good spirits -- as soon as he'd received his diagnosis, they started him on the drug cocktail and started treating the pneumonia, so his attitude wasn't "oh no I have AIDS" it was more "thank GOD I finally can stop coughing now". At some point at the party I told him I wished him well, and he just smiled back at me, gratefully.

That was about 11 years ago, and just last week I thought of him for the first time in a long time and realized that I have no idea whether he is alive or dead.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:29 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

What message would you send to people 50 years from now about your experiences during the epidemic?

David Weissman and Bill Weber's new documentary "We Were Here" grew out of a similar impulse - I can't recommend it enough.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:33 PM on June 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yes, please see We Were Here if you get the chance. Please.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:27 PM on June 7, 2011

My word, that was affecting.

posted by jaduncan at 4:49 AM on June 8, 2011

I found this time capsule with its handwritten messages far more moving than the AIDS Quilt whose panels were displayed in many places in the 1990s. The messages are short and unadorned which gives them the gravitas of an epitaph. Which is probably exactly what most of the writers had in mind - I wonder how many of them are still alive?
posted by Quietgal at 11:11 AM on June 8, 2011

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