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April 2001


Gina Brandt-FallI found out this morning that a very dear friend died yesterday. Although Gina had been having an ugly, all-out battle with breast cancer for the last two years, and knew her days were running out, I don't think she was prepared for the sudden liver failure that claimed her yesterday morning. I know I wasn't. Gina, who I worked with for years, moved to California a few months ago, planning to start a new life in the wake of the cancer that she fought so aggressively. Her doctors discovered more cancer, though, burrowed further into her chest and lungs where they couldn't get to it without major surgery that would have left Gina in excruciating pain for her last months. She opted for more chemotherapy instead, so she could have a few good weeks out of each of those last months — time to enjoy the sun, to be with her friends, to be able to pull together the fragments of the wonderful book she had been working on for so long. Even during her illness, Gina was incredibly vibrant, emotionally and intellectually engaged, empathic, thoughtful, insightful. Gone, just like that.

Gina and I took to one another immediately went I first interviewed with her for some freelance typesetting work four-and-a-half years ago. From the very first day, I was taken by her enthusiasm, humor, and quick mind as our conversation went from typesetting to typography to books to literature to life. I learned an incredible amount of new things from her, and I was actively encouraged by her to take those new ideas to new levels, and to always leave myself the energy to do what I love. And I laughed with her. God, how we laughed when we were together! Even when we started out bitching and moaning about the workplace and the larger world, we were able to put things in perspective and mix joy in with the righteous indignation. She was not only a friend and a colleague and a teacher, but also an inspiration. that’s cliché, I know, but true: I aspire to her level of passionate interest in life.

There are so many stories to tell about the many chapters of Gina's incredible life, but I don't think I can reminisce just now. I’m tired, my feelings are spent. I just want to wash away the sting in my eyes from all the crying.

Bridge and Tunnel Baby

I’m going to have to make sure that Beau understands something about the East River: it is not an invisible shield wall that protects Brooklyn and Manhattan from one another. It's just some dirty water. And even though I am fiercely pro-Brooklyn, I actually spend just about every day in Manhattan. The real feat involved in me dragging myself up to Casa Woo to watch Survivor with the boys and Ron (who will hopefully have some indiscretion left for us) will be getting all the way up to the boondocks of the Upper West side. I may technically be bridge-and-tunnel, but I can get to civilation faster than anyone up there. ("Civilization" being defined, of course, as anything below 14th street, according to the parents of many a vaudeville and borscht belt entertainer.)

Morning Wood

Sparky set in 144 pt. wood type

One of the nicer perks of my ongoing eBay auctions is that I’m paying enough attention to other auctions now to hunt down old type, one of the few things I actually collect. (The rest is just the accumulation of random pop culture ephemera.) Another perk is that occasionally someone will buy something and then send me a lewd picture of how the item was put to use. (No, that did not involve any of the shaun or David Cassidy books I sold.) As I would have guessed, sex sells, baby. I’m sure I could have made more of a killing if I hadn't been so discreet in my item descriptions — some of that stuff has a history that would raise an eyebrow or two.

By the way, since I’m too far away to do it myself, could one of you san Francisco guys slap some sense into Jessie and tell him I miss him already.

Don't Rock the Boat

Ah, so this is that queasiness I was warned about. It's hitting me a couple of days later than I was led to believe, an I can't quite say it's a welcome relief. Riding a crowded subway car in the morning is bad enough without feeling like you're going to either pass out or puke. I hope this evens out before too long.

Latest Stats, Latest Drugs

Just to catch up on the stats, I had more blood drawn on March 23, and I got the results the following Friday, March 31. The results were safely enough within the margin-of-error range of my last results to pretty much confirm that my viral-load and T-cell levels are basically stable but not fantastic. The viral load was 246,000 ppml and the T-cell count was 425 ppml, around 16 percent. (Tidbit to file away: The T-cell count doesn't directly correlate to the T-cell percentage. It actually shoots off in either direction on a regular basis. The percentage is the more stable, more telling figure.) seeing that things were steady but hardly optimum, Dr. Dillon still felt that I should start on drug therapy right away, but he made sure that we talked about the pros and cons first, and that I had reached some opinion of my own rather than just taking his word for it. I had done some reading myself since I’d last seen him, so we were able to talk a little more lucidly about it. I decided to go for it: the side effects are pretty rare with the newer drugs, and I’d rather feel like I’m doing something rather than just waiting for disaster to strike. He actually thinks that once things kick in and my immune system starts getting its wind back that I’m likely to feel better overall than I have in a while. That would be a nice perk. I’m sure it will help that all this has brought on a renewed commmitment to looking after my nutrition regimen. I’m getting better about exercise, but that’s a bigger hurdle to get over for me. Give me time.

So I’m taking three drugs now, which may be substituted for others after we see how I’m doing in a few months. In all likelihood, I'll be medicated for the rest of the foreseeable future, unless medical science has some incredible breakthrough in kicking HIV's ass. I’m taking 2 300mg pills of Ziagen a day, and 2 pills of Combivir, a combined pill of 150mg of AZT (zidovudine) and 150mg of 3TC (lamivudine). The goal is for me to get down to an undetectable viral load within 16 weeks, by which point my T-cells shoucl be able to begin replenishing themselves without being damaged by the virus too much.

Good grief, this all sounds so clinically grim when I spell it out like that. I have to remind myself that all things considered, I’m better off taking care of the situation now that gong on without realizing it, like I’ve been doing for probably the last two years or so. Bleah. Tired now just from thinking about it all again.

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