the best kind of news

Well, the news is good! I don't have HIV. Of course, these tests aren't perfect so I won't know for sure until I get a clean bill of health at 3 months and 6 months. But my doctor insists I need not worry. There is very little chance I have HIV. I am so relieved, but will remain scared for 6 months.

First of all, I want to thank the MANY of you who took the time to try to comfort me. I wish I hadn't been so busy these last few weeks, or I would have tried to respond to each of you personally. I'm sorry I haven't posted about my thoughts in the meantime, but I just needed to try to distract myself and proceed as if life were normal. Thank you for your patience. It means A LOT to know that there are people out there who care about me. It was (and continues to be) a rough period.

I have to say, it was really disheartening that some people were intentionally cruel, and others were insensitive. Having been blogging for 3 years, I have attracted my share of trolls, so my skin is pretty thick. But if there are people who would be mean to me in this situation, I imagine they are mean to others in this situation. It's just sad. Telling me I don't have a right to post about other (frivolous) things until I gave you an update...Telling me the doctors are lying about my life expectancy chances to make me feel better...Telling me that there is a 100% chance I will eventually get AIDS...that's just mean. Even if you're correct, sometimes its best to just keep your mouth shut. Just because you don't know who I am doesn't mean I don't have feelings. For those of you that acted in bad taste, I hope that if you ever run across someone else in this situation, you will think about how you would want others to treat you.

But for the vast majority of you, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are good people.

I realize I have a bit of a soapbox here, and I just have to use it because this is so important. Most of us weren't around for the big AIDS epidemic in the 80's, so we don't realize how serious it is. So, a few thoughts.

Yes, I was told about Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). Thank you for the suggestion. As somebody said, it's best if started 1 to 2 hours after exposure, and I didn't find out about my friend's status until about 2 weeks after the sex that would have exposed me. While it's good for people to know PEP is out there in an emergency, I don't want you thinking it's some "morning after pill" that will solve all your problems. It is NOT a substitute for safe sex. It's just a hail mary pass after you've fucked up.

Some people said things about the disease in an effort to try to make me feel better, and I appreciate it. But I wouldn't want somebody reading this and thinking they're getting a sufficient education about HIV. It may be true that HIV is fragile and in some circumstances hard to transmit. It may be true that there is a low likelihood of transmission if people have low viral loads (and if you want to date a guy with HIV, I highly recommend you look into it, because you CAN have a safe sexual relationship with an HIV positive guy. There is NO reason not to date a guy just because he's HIV positive...don't discriminate!)

But having said all that, you MUST proceed as if every new sexual partner has HIV. It is the ONLY safe thing to do. Do not assume he is negative. Assume he is positive! Even if you ask him and he says no, HE MAY NOT KNOW HIS OWN STATUS! My friend didn't. And some will lie (wouldn't you want to?)

This is sobering (or should be): Even if somebody says he just got tested yesterday and shows you his paperwork and a photo ID to prove it's real, he could still have HIV! The tests have a window period. The guy could have been infected the day before his test, and still get a negative result. But he CAN infect you! And if he was just infected, he probably has a very high viral load, and the chances are greater. Even if the guy is a total boy scout and would never lie (and is, in fact, NOT lying) you still need to be careful!

The ONLY time you should ever have unprotected sex is if you are totally monogamous, you get tested, you both remain monogamous (and protected) for 6 months, and get tested again. If you are both still negative, then it's probably ok to relax a little. HOWEVER, if there is a chance of cheating, then the whole cycle has to start over. And since gay guys seem prone to cheat (something I'm going to talk about soon), it's really not safe to have unprotected sex even with your long term partner. It's just not worth it!

If somebody is willing to have unsafe sex with you, then he has been willing to do it with other guys too. ASSUME THAT HE HAS HIV!!!

It is (apparently, though I'm not a doctor) true that different sexual practices have varying degrees of likelihood of HIV transmission. Being a top is slightly better than being a bottom. Pulling out before you cum is better than cumming inside (obviously). Receiving a blow job is better than giving one. Giving a blowjob is better than anal sex. Spitting is better than swallowing etc. But DO NOT assume that just because you're an exclusive top who always pulls out and never gives head means you can't get it. You CAN! If you have, for example, an 80% chance of not getting it, you still have a 20% chance of getting it! That's too high!

You should be aware of all sorts of things that increase your chances of getting it. There are many more to be aware of, which I recommend you study, but keep these in mind:

-If you brush your teeth, floss, visit the dentist or eat sharp things like chips right before giving a blowjob, you are much more likely to have small open wounds in your mouth through which the virus can travel. Saliva and stomach fluids may be inhospitable environments for HIV, but if you have a direct path into your bleeding gums, it's not good.

-If you use the wrong size condom or use the wrong kind of lube, the chances of it breaking are much greater, and the chances of transmission are higher.

-Lamb-skin condoms (why do they even make that shit anymore??) may keep you from getting pregnant, but they will NOT stop HIV.

-The sluttier the boy you're sleeping with, the greater likelihood he has come into contact with HIV recently and doesn't know it.

-If you or your partner trim your pubic and/or ass hair (and please, you should), you may have a razor mishap and have bleeding wounds right in the neighborhood that matters most. You probably can't see your own asshole, so just assume you nicked yourself. And since you probably trim right before a hot date, it's probably still bleeding by the time you get in bed. I don't know about for y'all, but sometimes condoms don't reach all the way to the base of the dick, so there is some exposed (potentially bleeding) dick skin coming into contact with exposed (potentially bleeding) ass skin. Not good.

You should, of course, also make yourselves aware of all the other STDs out there, which you can still get even if you do everything you should to avoid HIV.

I'm being overly cautious now, and yes, I AM trying to scare you. It would be ideal if we all came to a happy medium and actually knew all the dangers, but also knew what was safe. Then we wouldn't unnecessarily discriminate against our HIV+ brothers as if they're lepers. Let me repeat what I said before. You CAN have a safe lifelong sexual relationship with a guy who has HIV. There is nothing to be afraid of if you take the right steps. But since I think our community has swung too far to the unsafe side, it's best to just assume everybody you sleep with has it until you know otherwise. It's good to be a little scared. If you live in a big city and sleep around a bit, chances are you already HAVE slept with somebody who has HIV. So just be safe, and you won't have anything to regret.

I'm glad so many of you wrote to say that my story caused you to get tested. Please do! All of you! It's usually free, it's very quick, it's anonymous, and you'll get peace of mind. It's not fair to sleep with other people and not know your own status. Go get tested!

Please go to this website to learn more about HIV. We could ALL stand to learn something new.

Thank you again for showing you care. It was very special.

wow, life.

My life has become a whirlwind of awesomeness lately. (And for those of you who are concerned, more on my health later. Not ready.) Just to warn you, this is going to be one of those posts that is more diary entry than entertainment. So if you are one of those people who hates it when I name-drop without actually using the name, or when I use other devices to protect the innocent, stop reading now. I'm writing it so that when I'm 80 I can remember how great life was.

So, gosh, I don't even know where to begin. I finally decided to go to Italy, and because I was able to use air miles, the whole ticket was like $250. Score! I've had a good deal of success planning the itinerary and making reservations, even though it's high season and I'm doing this last minute. I got a little worked up for a while there, and my travel buddy had to e-backhand me and tell me to get a grip. So now I'm just relaxing and going with the flow. After all, even if we end up having to sleep at the train station, it will be an ITALIAN train station. We got some good advice from his spiritual mentor, and that guy has awesome taste (Josh and Josh would agree), so it's going to be a FREAKING AWESOME trip. I also worked it so that I can visit friends in New York on my way home, so I'm really excited about that. Yay!

In the middle of the week I had a rough patch. A friend had told me earlier in the night that he was tired and wanted to relax. I know for a fact that was bullshit. He really just wanted me to leave him alone so he could order a "massage" on Craigslist and get a handjob. So anyway, I texted him to offer him something (basically to offer a favor on top of a favor...no, not a handjob) and his response was "stop bugging me." Taken at face value, not a big deal. I was bugging him, and he wanted me to stop. But there was NO reason for him to be so mean! He could have just not responded. Or said "can we talk about this tomorrow? goodnight." Or something! I just thought it was unnecessarily harsh, especially since the subject of the text was me doing something nice for him! It was especially ironic, because just a few hours before, he'd said I was his best friend in LA (and he doesn't say things like that unless he means it). But I guess it was because he had said it that I was able to resist snapping back at him. We are, indeed, close enough friends that he can say things like that and I know he still loves me. So I had kinda a poopy 24 hours, since I don't like it when people are mean to me. But then he called me and it was as if nothing happened, so all was well. In fact, I overheard him tell somebody later that it's a sign of our close friendship that he can just tell it how it is with me and doesn't have to pussyfoot around. True. And he said he loved me later in the weekend, so its ok. So I guess it was a good thing. Anyway, if slight rudeness is the worst that happened to me all week, I'm doing damn good.

Thursday night was unexpectedly fun. I was working late, and at about 10 a friend called and said he was hungry and wanted to pick me up for dinner. I said I'd get a drink with him, so we went to Hamburger Mary's (for the last time). We had an awesome conversation. He opened up to me about his relationship with his Dad, and I almost cried. I love this guy so much, so it was incredibly hard to hear him saying such sad things. They were doing tranny karaoke, so we got saw some interesting characters. And some old guy came sidling up to our table at one point and started saying he loved my profile and my friends jeans, and made not-too-subtle insinuations that he was dreaming of a threesome. Yikes!

We left there around 11:15, and instead of driving me home my friend drove me to a party in the hills at the home of a certain notable Hollywood bigwig. It was a very small party, so I got a chance to talk to just about everybody there. I was talking to one guy who I thought I recognized, and then realized I knew his name/face because somebody had been telling me about a threesome he'd had with this guy and his boyfriend (who was also there). An observer could probably see the lightbulb go on above my head when I figured it out, "BING!" I also found myself talking to this funny guy with a great vocabulary. We had met before, briefly, but finally had a good conversation, and I think he could be a good friend. I also talked to this cute guy who it turns out is dating my (I thought straight, until right then) friend. I also talked to the host for quite a while, who was surprisingly humble, gracious, smart, and sexy. Who knew? I really liked him. Anyway, I stayed there until 3am and was completely wrecked the next day. But it was worth it.

The next morning I woke up, got ready for work, and then almost had a heart attack when I opened my living room door to find a boy sleeping on my couch! He'd come in sometime between 3 and 7am. I guess he knew where the keys were, and his alternative was to ride home with a drunk driver, so he chose to break into my place instead. Good choice.

Friday night I met three friends for a drink at the home of one of them in the hills, and then we went to a fabulous restaurant in Beverly Hills and sat at a table next to Larry King and a blonde who was way too young to be his. We drank three bottles of some of the most delicious red wine on Earth (the label of one of which will undoubtedly be a future guest star on this blog). We had expected to go out after that, but we had such an incredible time at dinner that we stayed until midnight. We were all too tired, full and drunk to even move after that, so we all just went to bed. My friend was the sober sister, and since I'd picked him up at his place, he just dropped me off at mine and took my car home with him.

Saturday morning I just got some stuff done around the house because I was car-less, drove a friend to a class and back once I got the car, had Thai for lunch with him, got a tan, and then drove to my parents' house for some travel goodies (like suitcases, money belts, airplane pillows etc). I then drove to my travel-buddy's house to take him half of the loot and loan him my car for a date he had later that night. I know, I know, I'm WAY too nice. I shouldn't loan people my car for any reason. And he scraped the chrome rims on the curb backing up. *sigh* I told him it's a really good thing I love him, because he knew I wasn't happy.

I drove home in his POS, and walked down to the Pride festivities to see if I could persuade "The Guy I'm Going to Marry" to hang out with me. TGIGTM doesn't know he loves me yet, but he's warming up. I've had a crush on him for over three years, which he knows. He tolerated me for some of that time, and then decided he actually likes me about 2 years ago. We fucked a couple times, which was fun, but not meaningful. Anyway, he was dating some lame-ass until pretty recently. But I was patient and persistent. I went to hang out with him at Fiesta the weekend before last, and the next day he IM'd to say he'd had an epiphany and I'm a really good person and he wants to hang out with me more. Strangely, he'd been on a blind date with somebody else when I'd seen him out. Funny time to have an epiphany! I'm not getting my hopes up, but it seems he is coming around. Persistence pays off! We've been texting frequently, making plans, flirting. It's been nice. So anyway, I tried to get him to hang out with me Saturday night, but he couldn't. So I hung out with another friend and a friend of his. We ended up at another friend's house in the hills, and had one of the most memorable nights of my life. It was just the four of us in his living room, but we had SO MUCH FUN listening to music, talking, drinking and what-not. It was SO much better than being packed in some sweaty gay club for Pride. This was the civilized way to celebrate relationships with quality gay men. I will never forget it. I feel like I really bonded intensely with them that night.

Sunday morning I cleaned house a little, risked black lung disease by chopping a giant hole in the roof of a closet with power-tools (a long story I'll tell some other time) and then walked to the parade route for Pride. I ran into some friends on the route and watched it with them. It was fun, as expected. Nothing really shocks me anymore. And nothing particularly moved me either. I expected more poignancy because of Prop 8, but I didn't see too much different from years past. I enjoyed seeing Gavin Newsom and his wife. Hot! Both of them!

After that I went over to the festival on San Vicente. I'd never been before because I was always too cheap to pay the $20 entrance fee, but TGIGTM was in there and wanted to see me, so I paid. It was interesting! I got some good tips on green remodeling, picked up some free condoms, and ate some yummy Hawaiian BBQ and soft-serve ice cream. Mmmm, fattening carnival food. I hung out with TGIGTM for quite a while, which was great. We kept hugging goodbye, and then talking a little more, and then hugging goodbye again. And each time, the kiss on the cheek would get a little closer to the mouth. The final time, it was kinda a half-lips kinda kiss. Yes! Hot. He's so cute!

So then a friend came and picked me up. He may or may not have had a threesome the night before with a certain someone who must not be named, but I guess it's none of my business. I didn't ask for more details than he offered (which was plenty). We drove to the appointed shuttle stop and headed up to Roland Emmerich's house for the big pride pool party. That was definitely (i) the nicest house I've ever been to in LA that was not a museum, and (ii) the most hot young "A-gay" boys in one place I'd ever seen. You couldn't throw a dildo without hitting a model.

I spent most of my time mingling with old and new friends. I'm not sure how it happened, but I ended up standing alone for about an hour chatting with a certain super-talented auteur (I've always wanted a reason to use that word in its proper context) whose work I've raved about in the past. I didn't know who he was when I started talking to him, but that made it even more fun. We really hit it off, and spent a bunch of time talking to a good friend of his too, who I also liked. I ran into a guy I'd met at a Cinco de Mayo party and had a little crush on. We had a somewhat awkward, but kinda hot, prolonged hug that was kinda like "ummm, are we about to kiss?" We didn't, but it was fun tension. I spent some time talking to some of the characters I'd met Thursday night, and really seemed to cement a budding friendship with one of them. I'm not sure why people sometimes pour their hearts out to me, but they do. I got a really sweet and meaningful hug from an old friend. I don't know why it touched me so much, but it just seemed special. I was sitting by the pool under a cabana, and hadn't seen him in a couple hours. When he found me his face lit up, he said he'd been looking for me, and he put his arm around my shoulder and pulled my head into his side and kinda ruffled my hair. I dunno, it was just a sweet gesture.

Anyway, Candis Cayne performed and looked beautiful as always. I think I made a video of it but I'll have to download it. I had a good view from directly across the pool.

I had a bit of an awkward moment toward the end of the night when a great friend of mine showed up hoping to see me, and I said hi and walked around with him, and then promptly left with somebody else. It wasn't meant to be a snub, but it seemed to come off that way. I feel bad, but what can you do? I left pretty early to wind down before the beginning of the work week.

So that was it! I'm super busy this week, and didn't really have time to write, but I just had to get this all out before I forgot it more than I already have.

Italy advice

First, I would like to thank all of you for your responses to my post last week. I am not ready to process all of that yet, but I will in good time. But it means a lot that you care that much.

Anyway, I am 99% sure I'm going to Italy, and I don't have a lot of time to plan, so I need your wisdom. The dates are set, so I just have to buy a ticket and suck it up. Prize goes to Micifus Phil for pointing out the new Bing travel site. It has worked great so far. I will continue to check out the ones you all suggested. Thanks!

I am sprinkling in some pictures of a gorgeous example of humanity I spotted the last time I was in Venice a couple summers ago. Thank God for telephoto lenses, and Italian boys. Yum!

Here's the scenario: I have been to Italy at least 5 times, and I've seen most of the major touristy bits, some multiple times. Rome, Florence, Venice, Verona, Pisa, Sorrento/Capri, Sicily, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast (oh, Ravello!) and some cute little towns like San Gimignano. So, I don't particularly care where we go, except that I've not been to the Cinque Terre.

My travel companion, on the other hand, has not been outside the US, ever. So the real fun of the trip for me will be showing him the magic of Italy, giving him a taste for world travel, and basically showing him a good time. He doesn't have a lot of money, and I don't want to spend a lot. The reality is that I will probably subsidize some stuff that I really want to do that he can't afford, but that makes it all the more important to save money on things like trains and lodging.

It's not settled yet, but we may only have 5 days to travel together, but 7 at the most. So I need to put together a kick-ass 5 day itinerary, that could be easily extended to 7. It looks like we'll probably be flying roundtrip through Milan. (I know, eww. We won't spend much time there.)

I have never traveled with him, but my guess is that he's not going to be one of those travelers who just HAS to see XYZ because everybody says you have to see it. I suspect he will be content to skip the 3pm tour of the Uffizi if we're enjoying a good conversation over wine in the plaza. He's the type that remembers the sounds of a city more than the museums. He feels things rather than talks about them. So I'm thinking it's probably more important to find romantic vistas and a feast for the senses, rather than tick off a list of must-see sites.

That being said, here are some thoughts off the top of my head to offer to him as options:

- Cinque Terre (pretty much a definite, because I want to go there.)

- Rome (primarily the forum and the Vatican (I don't particularly care about the Vatican, but he was raised Catholic, so he might.) I've been to Rome a couple times, but he probably should see it.)

- Florence (I honestly think it's kinda overrated, but I'm not sure we can miss it for his first trip. I need a new belt, anyway. The one I bought there last time is worn out.)

- I would like to go to a smaller, older town like Lucca or Sienna. If there's an "undiscovered" one, less touristy, that'd be good. Thoughts?

- It would be cool to stay in some quintessential Tuscan villa for a night and do wine tasting. He loves wine. Anybody know of a good place?

I would love to show him Pompeii and Ravello, two of my favorite parts of Italy, but I just don't think we have time to make it that far south. We need to concentrate with Rome as our southernmost destination, I'm afraid.

Ok, now, about getting around. My inclination is trains, because it's cheap-ish. But it's so limited by schedules, and we may see less just because we have to spend so much time at train stations. Is the cost of a rental car going to rape me? Does it make more sense to do a car since we'd have to buy two train tickets everywhere? What's the best/cheapest car rental in Italy? If I do trains, what's the best website for timetables and booking?

Where should we stay? I'm planning this too late, and it's peak travel season, so I'm guessing all the good hostels are full. On the other hand, maybe Americans are so poor/scared of the recession that they won't come. We don't mind sharing a bed, so cheap dive motels might be ok. Is there a network of bed and breakfasts I should know about? Or is couchsurfing the best bet?

Anyway, ANY advice anybody has would be greatly appreciated. Best restaurants, best day trips, best hotels, whatever. I'm all ears.

Oh, and did you notice the colors of the smaller bracelet on his left wrist? :D

Thanks in advance for your help!

come on, really?!

Somebody hit my car.

As if I needed that right now.

And I'm pretty sure he did it on purpose. I could be wrong, of course, but talking to him afterward, I got the distinct impression that he thought that a hard-working pickup driving salt-of-the-earth kinda man should not have to share the road with a young guy in a [_____], and a little bump was just what I needed.

His truck was barely scratched. Judging by the $1600 bill the last time I got a few scratches removed, the dents in mine are going to cost me a fortune. Maybe his (or my) insurance will pay for it, but it has already been a colossal hassle. I'm annoyed.

In other, much better, news, a friend called to invite me to go to Italy with him in the near future. I can't afford it right now, but I really want to go. I have a couple trips within North America that I've been wanting to do (NY and Montreal top the list) but I feel like those can be done more spur-of-the-moment when a great fare pops up, because the friends I want to see will always be there no matter when I go. I would only do Europe if a friend asked me. I haven't taken a day off work since I started over 1.5 years ago, so I should probably do it.

Also, this friend would be AMAZING to travel with. He is one of those people who soaks up experiences and really appreciates life. He'd savor the food. He'd want to run up a hill and spread out his arms and sing. He'd want to explore the little alleys and visit the local shops where the owner only speaks Italian. He's never been outside the US, so it would be wonderful to see Italy through his fresh eyes.

Does anybody know of a way to get discount airfare from Los Angeles to Italy (Rome, I guess, but Milan, Venice, Florence or even Genoa would do, if it's cheaper)? My credit card has this absurd policy that I can't pay the difference between the miles I can use and the full cost of the ticket. So I can't use my miles. Away.com isn't finding me any great fares. What to do, what to do.