(a spit from the grave)
He wasn't the first and he won't be the last to go. Still, it hurt like hell to hear that he's now dead, proximally from pneumonia, but basically of AIDS...one of the sweetest, dearest, funniest men you ever could meet.
Years ago he sold me a t-shirt for an HIV Humor magazine (DPN: Diseased Pariah News). The graphic showed the hand of Madge, the TV personality, holding someone's hand down in a saucer of blood: "The blood of over 100,000 Americans who have died of AIDS, Mr. President. Why, you're soaking in it!"
This was under another President: Bush. All that would be needed now is an update of the figure: 200,000? More?
Clinton may only be a fair-weather friend to marginalized folks like PWAs and gays. But for real vitriol, one has only to bring up the Republicans. At the memorial service for my late friend, who was both gay and a PWA, there was a gamut of activist types, queer and post-situationist. In such a radical crowd, there was the predictable postmortem on the Republican National Convention.
"In the 1980s those people wanted to put me in a concentration camp," remarked a man wearing a "Silence is Death" t-shirt. He recalled Congressman William Dannemeyer's plan to isolate persons with AIDS. "You don't forget that," he said, still angry.
I'd tell you more about my friend, who was like me a writer and sometime newspaper essayist. Earlier versions of this op/ed omitted naming him, but the passage of time allows me to restore his connection to this mischievous payback scheme.
For our late friend's hatred of conservatives once revealed itself in a diabolical plan for what he wanted done with his body when he was gone.
I can't say who else might have remembered these words (nor would I), and I refuse to speculate on any actions they might have inspired during the recent Republican National Convention. But they did etch themselves into memory a couple of years ago, when I first heard them. Who knows if he got the last laugh?
"After I'm cremated," he said in all seriousness,"my ashes should be taken to a Republican Party lunch or dinner — one of those self-congratulatory 'Realizing the American Dream' rallies — my ashes should there be planted in the soup or the pepper shakers.
"After everyone has polished off their rubber chicken and dessert courses, as they spoon the sugar into their tea or coffee, it should then be announced that they have just consumed the last mortal remains of one Michael C. Botkin, dead from AIDS — no friend of theirs."
1996-09-16: published — with the subject's name withheld—in
the San Francisco Examiner under the title “Humor of the Deceased”