Archive for May, 2010

Alexander Foxworth: 15 years and counting…an HIV story.

Posted in The Fierceness on May 27, 2010 by jackmax2

Alexander Foxworth

An inspiring Facebook post by Alexander Foxworth. Link back to his post here.

It’s late.
I am watching the clock as midnight gets closer and closer.

Every year on the 25th of May, I get “anxious”, for lack of better words over this date, due to a major event that changed my life forever in 1995.

It’s the words that no one ever wants to hear.

No matter how much one may ponder the subject and think of what they would do when hearing a certain phrase, facing a certain event, or put in an uncomfortable situation, one never knows, truly, how he/she would act when the moment arrives.

It was May 25th, 1995 that I had to learn this the hard way.

I was living in Charlotte, NC and was doing well.

I’ve always been one to try and help others within my means, so I used to give blood and plasma on a frequent basis.

I remember shortly before the 25th, I went to a local plasma center, close to my neighborhood, and went through the “normal routine” of questions and forms to fill out before donating.

The nurse was such a kind-hearted and intelligent lady, who called me “green eyes”, which just made me smile and eased my nervousness, since I had, on occasion, gotten fairly nauseous when donating plasma. She put me at ease and I was all set.

Everything went according to plan and, surprisingly, I didn’t feel any nausea. I walked out, beaming, since I knew that I had “done my good deed” for the day.

Just a couple of days later, I received an urgent phone call for me to come back to the center. No reasons were given. Nothing would be discussed via telephone.

My heart pounded and I felt my world beginning to crumble.

Is she going to tell me…?? Am I going to hear what I have fought for so hard to avoid??? So many things ran through my mind.

The next day, the 25th, I walked into the plasma center.

I knew, then and there, I was about to hear what I had been dreading since the telephone call the day before. The reason being is because the staff were above and beyond courteous.

“Are you ok, Mr. Foxworth?”. “Is there anything that you would like to drink or eat?”. “Can we interest you in a good book or magazine, while you wait?”. I felt like I was at a resort…not a plasma center!

Then, the kind-hearted nurse stepped out and asked me to come into her office.

Deep down, I knew what she was about to say. What is so strange about the human mind is that, ALL the way up to the words coming out of her mouth, I thought I knew how I would handle this.

Boy, was I so wrong.

I sat at a small desk in a small office…feeling quite edgy and just wanting to get this over with.

She grabbed her clipboard that had my file attached, looked at me and finally said the words that I had dreaded for so many years: “Mr. Foxworth, my dear ‘green eyes’…I don’t know how to say this.”. Tears started forming in her eyes and then it came out: “I’m so, so sorry, but you have tested positive for the HIV virus.”.

There are no words that I could ever say or write to describe the flood of emotion that fills one up inside when confronted with those words and one’s own mortality.

Before I knew it, I had collapsed across her desk and sobbed like I had never sobbed in my entire life…and that is putting it mildly.

For years, I had friends and even boyfriends, who were positive and I always thought that if it happened to me, I would be sad, but would be strong and handle it with ease.

Unless someone, unfortunately, walks in these shoes, NO ONE can ever say how they would truly act.

After I composed myself, wrapped in this nurse’s arms, I walked out of the center.

Naturally, as if in a movie, we had a downpour. I had my tears flowing as I drove back home along with the rain on my windshield. I’m actually amazed that I even made it home, considering all things combined.

From that point, my mind went numb.

I went into a “dark space”, which I hope to never go into again.

I slept all day. Drank my sorrows away at night. Basically, ceased to live from that point on.

I just existed.

Then, a few months later, I was going to a small club called Oleen’s, which has since closed, and proceeded to do my nightly ritual of wallowing in sorrow, feel sorry for myself, and get as drunk as humanly possible.

A stranger. Someone whom I had never seen before, approached me at the bar and, without me even saying a WORD, seemed to already sense what was going on with me.

He leant in and just bluntly asked “So, you got ‘the news’,eh?”.

I was stunned!

HOW did he know?

Was I THAT obvious???

I looked at him through drunken tears and just nodded.

He then wrapped his arm around my shoulder and said “I’m going to ask you ONE question that I really want you to think about.”.

Not knowing this guy and being in the condition that I was in, I was somewhat wary, but was SO desperate for any sort of comfort, I just looked at him and said “Ok.”.

Then, with his ONE question, he changed my life forever: “Are you LIVING with HIV or are you DYING from HIV? That is what you need to ask yourself. The rest will fall into place.”.

I was dumbfounded.

Such simple words, yet SO powerful and it felt as if a ton of bricks had hit me in the head.

I WAS alive.

I WAS breathing.

I WAS…here!

Since that night, I have never looked back in self pity.

I appreciate every single day that I wake up.

I appreciate every friend that I’ve made and the ones that I continue to make.

I don’t just look at a sunrise/sunset and think “Oh, that’s nice.”, but actually STOP and look in awe at the beauty in this world that so many of us take for granted.

IN a strange way, HIV helped me to become a better person. To appreciate the little things in life that we see every single day, yet don’t REALLY notice them, unless we are confronted with some type of bad situation.

We are all a work in progress and I am, by no means, a “perfect man”. But, I have become a BETTER man.

With anything in life, one has two choices: to let the situation control YOU or YOU control the situation. It’s all about inner strength and the will to survive.

Yes, it’s sad that it took HIV for me to realize so many things that I should have already learned, but I am thankful that I did, indeed, finally realize them.

All I can say to those out there who may be dealing with the same situation, is to remember that same question: “Are you LIVING with HIV or are you DYING from it?”.

My wish, of course, is that there WAS no HIV or, at least, that there was a cure. I haven’t give up hope and never will, but, until that day, I must continue to remind myself that I am sitting here LIVING and will continue to fight this battle all the way to the end.

So, today, May 25th, 2010, it is now 15 years since that day.

My, how time goes by so quickly.

However, if I have anything to do with it, I will be around in 15 MORE years to continue to tell my tale, in hopes of helping at least ONE person realize that there IS life after an HIV diagnosis.

I am living proof.

So, CHEERS to life.

May The Higher Being bless all of you and, in my heart of hearts, I hope that no one has to go through what I went through that day.

However, IF you do, PLEASE remember that it is NOT the end of the world and life WILL go on. It may not seem like it in the beginning, but, trust me, the light WILL come on in time.

Thank you to all who have read my story.

If I have touched just ONE person from this, then it was all worthwhile.

Much love and best wishes to everyone…
Xander

PS/ WEAR A DAMN CONDOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Countdown to the Gay Games Cologne: Part 2

Posted in The Fierceness on May 24, 2010 by jackmax2

Me with 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist, Cullen Jones

My last post was last month just after I had finished a week of intense training at swimming boot camp at the Hall of Fame pool in Ft. Lauderdale. Since then my training has been going well although it’s hard to fit the necessary hours into my hectic daily life. I train with Team New York Aquatics when I am at home in NYC but often swim with other teams when I am on the road. This month I had the pleasure of swimming with the Florida Nadadores. I have swam with them in the past and it’s fab to swim in Miami because the pools are beautiful and you get to swim outdoors and get a tan at the same time. However, apparently the Nadadores are temporarily using a transitional pool while their usual training facility is getting a face lift. I don’t know Miami very well but I was warned by my taxi driver that it was not in a very good part of town. I figured, “I live in New York–how bad can it be?” Well it turns out that the week before someone from the ‘hood was actually shot in the parking lot during a swim workout so they hired an armed guard to escort swimmers to their cars. During my second workout with the team, one of the swimmers found a gun at the bottom of the pool. I’m NOT kidding. It turned out to be a toy gun but it looked real and that was enough for me. Really? Wow. I love swimming but I’m not gonna take a bullet for it. On the flip side the Nadadores are a great team and I hope they survive to get back to their old digs.

Anyway–I digress. In my last post I mentioned I swam in a small meet in New York and did some of my best times in years so I decided to enter US Masters Nationals. US Nationals is the most competitive competition in the country for Masters swimmers and although it’s a fun event, people are very serious. Masters is the division of swimming or adults after college and Olympic level. Swimmers compete by age group starting with the youngsters at 19-24, 25-29 all the way up to 100+. The oldest swimmer at this meet was 93-year-old Anne Dunivin. I watched 2 women who were 88 and 90 battle it out in the 100 freestyle and they both went 1:57. For all you non-swimmers out there–that is 4 lengths of the pool in under 2 minutes!! It’s incredibly inspiring to see people swimming competitively well into their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and some of them are still incredibly fast! There are tons of former Olympians in all the age groups like Rowdy Gains (below), Cullen Jones (pictured above) and Mark Gangloff, all of whom are national record holders.

Me with Olympic Gold medalist Rowdy Gains

It’s a four-day meet with over 2000 swimmers from all over the country and EVERYONE is fast because you have to qualify by beating the standard set for each event in order to participate. I’ve been to Nationals about 8 times in my swimming career and this meet was by far the most competitive I’ve ever been to. I think part of that has to do with the fact that this is the last national meet where swimmers are allowed to wear the bodysuits before they are banned in June. (Yeah for men in tiny speedos again!!!)

The meet was held at Georgia Tech pool which was the site of the 1996 Olympics. At those Olympics I was actually working on deck as an athlete escort. I was responsible for taking the medalists from the race finish to the awards ceremony and making sure they got there on time while doing press interviews. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was also a thunderstorm of emotions because 3 days earlier I had attended the memorial service of my boyfriend, Greg Beutler, who died of AIDS. I almost didn’t go to the Olympics but in retrospect I’m glad I did because it helped me cope by taking my mind to a better place.

Georgia Tech pool

The facility is amazing and I had one of the best meets of my life. I swam times that I haven’t come close to in a decade and I am confident that my training for the Gay Games in Cologne is on the right track. A quick recap of my times: 50 freestyle 23.39, 100 freestyle 50.84, 50 butterfly 25.24, 50 breaststroke 28.27, 100 breaststroke 1:03.07 and 100 Individual Medley 57.86. Below is a video of my 100 IM. Im in lane 5 in the orange swim cap and you can watch me come from behind in the breaststroke because my backstroke SUCKS!! The resolution is not great but I win my heat.

Below is a recap video of the meet with interviews from some of the swimmers. One of the most inspirational swimmers is Mike Taber from the Adirondack Masters. He is completely blind and swims by brushing along the lane line and has a guide tap him on the back when he is close to the wall so he knows when to turn. I’m assuming he also counts his strokes so he has an idea of where he is in the pool. It was really inspiring to watch his swims. You can see what I mean in the video below along with testimonials from some of the top swimmers.

Back to New York tonight and back in the pool tomorrow!!!

Cheesecake painting by Paul Richmond “Size Matters”

Posted in The Fierceness on May 20, 2010 by jackmax2
Artist Paul Richmond has just completed a painting of me from his “Cheesecake ” series. He’s amazingly talented and I love the final work.  It depicts me measuring someone’s inseam as my pants ‘accidently’ fall down. God that happens to me constantly. I should really think about putting zippers and buttons on my designs. Oh well. At least that “Buns of Steel” video seems to be working.
About the artist:

Paul Richmond’s paintings have been displayed at venues including the World of Wonder Gallery, A Bitchin’ Space, BoMA: The Bar of Modern Art, and the Columbus Museum of Art.

Artist Paul Richmond

After graduating from Columbus College of Art and Design in 2002, Richmond worked on children’s books, concert merchandise, a nationally syndicated comic strip, a greeting card line, and a variety of large-scale murals. Only after coming out of the closet shortly thereafter did his fine artwork become a vehicle for exploring and understanding his own journey and developing a dialogue with other members of the GLBTQ community. His piece Remembering Tammy Faye was unveiled to celebrity guests at the late televangelist’s memorial celebration, and he helped organize a successful benefit for GLBTQ youth in association with his recent solo exhibition Ins and Outs.

Richmond’s work can be seen in the erotic art anthology Stripped Uncensored, published by Bruno Gmünder, as well as 100 Artists of the Male Figure by Schiffer Publishing.

He lives with his partner Dennis Niekro and their two whippets in Columbus, Ohio.

For more information go to PaulRichmondstudio.com.


Here’s the reference photo I provided.
And here is the painting in progress:
And here is the final painting. Amazing!!
It will be part of a larger exhibition in June. Details are below.
CHEESECAKE OPENING:
An Exhibit of Accidental Exhibitionism
Featuring paintings by Paul Richmond
Facebook Event page.
Please join us for the opening reception of CHEESECAKE at the Center on Halsted in Chicago on Friday, June 11 from 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm.
Each of the paintings in CHEESECAKE depicts a gay male celebrity caught in a cheeky moment of accidental exposure reminiscent of classic pin-up art from the 40s and 50s. Some of the featured models include Jesse Archer, Perez Hilton, James St. James, Bobbie Burlesque, Dale Levitski, Bobby Trendy, Del Shores, Jack Mackenroth, Ari Gold, and more.
Learn more about the show and see some of the work-in-progress: http://www.paulrichmondstudio.blogspot.com/
http://www.centeronhalsted.org/
You can also buy prints of the the painting at Paul’s Etsy store here.
Here are paintings of my friends photographer Mike Ruiz and actor Jesse Archer.
Mike Ruiz
Jesse Archer
What Paul has to say about his work: “My Cheesecake paintings put a long overdue twist on classic pin-up art. I’m interested in challenging traditional gender roles that have been reinforced by artistic expressions of sexuality in the past. It intrigues me that it was almost exclusively women who were depicted as hapless victims of skin-baring circumstance, such as the pin-up girls by Gil Elvgrin and Art Frahm. Those ladies couldn’t even walk down the street without their skirts blowing up or their underwear falling down (or both!). Meanwhile, male pin-ups by artists like Tom of Finland were generally afforded more control over their sexy shenanigans. I believe gravity and other forces conspiring to rob people of their clothing should take an equal-opportunity approach. Therefore, the models for my Cheesecake exhibit are all men; in this case, gay male celebrities from various artistic arenas of pop culture including actor Jesse Archer, designer Bobby Trendy, musician Ari Gold, and blogger Perez Hilton. Each figure is shown in the midst of a revealing and “accidental” wardrobe malfunction, struggling to gather his aplomb and his pants without ever losing his cool.”
Other articles on Paul’s work here. and here.

Show Your Pride 2010!

Posted in The Fierceness on May 19, 2010 by jackmax2

The Gay Pride experience has evolved for me in many ways over the last 20 years. Initially I remember being 20 and nervous that someone might see me at a rally that didn’t know about my sexual orientation—though I was probably covered in glitter. Subtlety has never been my strong suit. Then in the 90’s in New York, Pride became less about the concept of pride and more about the parties. Not as political but fun as hell. Personally as I enter my forties, Pride has a much deeper meaning. I understand the purpose of the events around the world from the massive New York extravaganzas to the tiny marches in some of the most homophobic countries. For many of us it takes real guts and bravery to even be present. I applaud that! I’ve been to Prides in Sydney, Copenhagen, Madrid, Amsterdam, and virtually every major city in the US. They are all amazing in their own unique way.

MADRID PRIDE

Now, when I march in a parade or dance at the Heritage of Pride pier dance I am oozing pride. I love to watch the different groups express themselves in the parade from the LGBT policemen and fire fighters to the drag queens and the muscle boys. My favorite group is PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. My mother joined PFLAG when I was in my twenties and I always get a little teary eyed when I see the unconditional love expressed so boldly.

My mom at her first Pride parade in the mid 90's as a member of PFLAG

My message this year is about being proud of all aspects of your being. Sexual orientation is a huge issue for many of us and we still face ongoing issues regarding homophobia. But my hope is that we can all get closer to loving and embracing ALL aspects of ourselves and support the diversity in each other. I have been very vocal about my HIV+ status for many years now and for many people being HIV+ is still shrouded in shame and denial because of the powerful stigma that we face.

Of course it’s easy to say the words, “Be proud of your HIV+ status.” But it’s not so easy to really conquer and believe that. I also want to clarify that I don’t mean to glorify HIV infection. That’s not what this is about. I mean that if you are HIV +, the sooner you get OK with it, fight against the moral judgment that society may place on you, and be proud that you are taking control of your health—the happier you will be. I don’t have the luxury of being HIV-. So after 20 years of living with the disease the best thing I did is change my perspective on my status. I no longer judge myself or see myself as tainted or ‘less than’. I am proud of everything I have accomplished while and including living with HIV. I hope I can be a role model to others who are struggling to get to the same place.

This year I am participating in Boston Pride on Saturday June 12th through my educational campaign in partnership with Merck, Living Positive By Design. Living Positive By Design seeks to combat the stigma associated with HIV by engaging people in thoughtful conversation about the disease.  Through the program, I highlight the importance of having a positive outlook on life while effectively managing HIV.  For more information visit www.LivingPositiveByDesign.com.

I will also be attending many events at New York Pride. I will probably walk in the parade in some capacity and I will definitely be attending the Heritage of Pride Pier Dance, which I look forward to every year. I hope to see many of my LGBT brothers and sisters out and about!!  Happy Pride 2010!!

Countdown to the Gay Games Cologne: Part 1

Posted in The Fierceness on May 3, 2010 by jackmax2

I am obsessed with swimming and as you may know I have no problem prancing around in a speedo. I was wearing one since I was 6. (No-not all the time) However when it comes to competition I am all business. You may remember my recent competition in Copenhagen at the Outgames where I won 8 medals and garnered the nickname “the gay Michal Phelps”. Without the bong.

I swam out of my mind at that meet but unfortunately shortly thereafter life got in the way of my training schedule and after a 6 month dry spell I found myself back at square one. In order to help with my preparation for the Gay Games this July in Cologne Germany (still 20+ days to enter) I thought I would write a public journal that tracks my training regimen and various events on the journey to Cologne. I figured it would give me extra motivation and hold me accountable when I don’t feel like getting up at 5:30 to go swim.

The Gay Games is a MASSIVE sports event with dozens of sports. I can’t do anything that involves a ball so that cuts me out of most of the sports. I stick to swimming. Although if you are attending , figure skating, synchronized swimming and ballroom dancing should not be missed. Flawless.

I got back in the pool in January of this year. I do go to the gym and lift weights several times a week so strength is not the issue. It’s all about endurance training. In New York I swim with Team New York Aquatics. Right now I am trying to swim 5 X 1.5 hour workouts a week and also lift at the gym. I’m a bit big for your typical swimmer but I’m a sprinter so I can muscle out a 50 or 100 meter race. I would like to lose about 10 pounds before the Gay Games. Last month I swam in the Commisioner’s trophy meet in Flushing, Queens and I did times I had not matched for about 10 years after only 2 months of regular training so that was extremely encouraging. I actually set a Metro area record in the 100 yard breaststroke with a time of 1:03.58 which was totally unexpected. Because of that I decided to enter Masters Nationals in Atlanta on the 21st of May. I will tell you about that meet my next post. It’s the last major meet where swimmers are allowed to wear the full body suits before the ban takes effect so there should be a lot of people going for national and world records.

As pat of TNYA’s intensive training program we do a swim training camp every spring at the Hall of Fame pool in Fort Lauderdale. We swim 2 times a day for and hour and a half and it’s grueling but after a week our endurance is vastly improved–even though our shoulders feel like they might spontaneously dislocate at any moment. Plus the pool is outdoors so our tans are amazing–which is really the most important thing. Swim camp finished up on a couple of days ago and so its back to New york to ry and maintain everything we gained by swimming 9000 meters a day. Thank god for Advil.

At the Gay Games I am swimming the 50 meter butterfly, the 50 and 100 meter breaststroke and the 50 and 100 meter freestyle. More about me at Jackmackenroth.com

And if you’re a swimmer in the New york area I encourage you to join Team New York Aquatics. It’s a blast!

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