All posts tagged: AIDS

artwork by Jenny Laden 2018

Unmasked: The Day I Visited Dad in the AIDS Ward

artwork by Jenny Laden 2018 In the hospital lobby they looked at me funny when I told them I was visiting the 3rd floor. I took off my headphones, turned off the Pixies on my CD player, wrapped the cord around it and shoved it into my backpack. In the hallway, the tv’s were showing interviews with Magic Johnson, who’d just told the world he was HIV positive, and Anita Hill, who’d just told a bunch of politicians about how shitty her male boss was and instead of dismissing him, they put him on the Supreme Court. This was my first,  “I’m visiting my super sick parent in the hospital regardless of the fact that I’m only a teenager” hospital visit. They don’t have special passes for visitors like me. Nobody seemed to notice I’m not even voting age.   “I’m here to see my dad, Richard Laden, Room 323.” I said. The woman there didn’t look at me, but acknowledged I was there with a quiet “mmhmm,” and handed me something blue. A mask. Like …

The Final Reunions I Never Had

(Photos: Courtesy of Lauren Young; Photo Collage: Helen Jane Hearn/TueNight.com) There are reunions you look forward to in life. For these gatherings, you plan to lose a few pounds ahead of time, book hotel rooms and rekindle memories by looking though old photo albums and yearbooks. And then there are the impromptu reunions. They are the unplanned, emotional and raw. I keep an altar of sorts on my nightstand. It’s a place to reunite the spirits I love. The ones who were taken from us too soon. *** I met my friend Chris Vicente in a Nazism and Fascism class in college during our junior year at Penn State. He had just returned from a semester in Rome, and I was immediately drawn to his Euro style: the horn-rimmed glasses, the bouffy, big 80s hair and a fabulous fashion sense. We didn’t know each other, but figured we should. And that’s how the friendship started. Turns out we shared a birthday (July 8), a passion for life, dancing and a love of men, although I …

How Music and Loss Led Me to Become a Pastor

(Graphic: Nancy Gonzalez/TueNight.com) I don’t know when exactly it was that I realized that I wasn’t going to be an opera singer, but I do know when I realized I was going to be a pastor. Growing up in Montana, church was my favorite place to be and my favorite thing to do there was sing. It seemed that singing was my gift, so with one degree in music under my belt, I moved to Maryland to begin a master’s degree in opera. I worked my way through my graduate school by being a soloist in a large synagogue, a director of music at a Baptist church and working at the University Bookstore where I met a cashier who would one day be my husband. In 1994 my husband and I were married and moved to NYC so that I could pursue a career in opera. In choir, they were not “men living with AIDS.” They were musicians and not every part of them was sick. I’d lived in the city for nearly a year …