CARES (Community AIDS Resource and Education Services) is an organization in Kalamazoo that assists people that are HIV+ and educates about the disease. This year 38 restaurants in the area participated. Each restaurant donates up to 25% of your bill to the organization. And, of course, you may personally contribute an additional amount.
We chose The Wine Loft for dinner this year. Mike had a wonderful salmon filet with smashed potatoes and perfectly cooked veggies. I had a beet green salad with candied walnuts and Gruyere cheese and a wild mushroom flatbread. Of course, we had wine. We were, after all, at The Wine Loft. I had a flight of reds and Mike had Pinot Noir. For desert Mike had tiramisu and I had a glass of Prosecco. All was delish.
Mike and I lived in San Francisco in the early 80's at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic there. We knew of many people that died of that horrible disease before any ideas of how to cure or at least slow its progress had been discovered. Nearly 200,000 Californians have contracted HIV/AIDS and nearly 90,000 have died since the epidemic began. We still remember those sad times.
Two very close friends of ours met that awful fate. The first was Jack Skaggs. He was one of those slight and spindly guys who had the biggest heart and biggest sense of humor ever. When I first started with the airlines, he was one of the trainers and we ended up on the Help Desk together.
One of the funniest situations I encountered with him was the time a Baggage Service agent called and referred to us a person who had lost their bag. They said under no circumstances should we open the bag because there were live snakes inside. Jack acted like it was a normal situation and really talked up the customer with a bunch of baloney about being a hobby herpetologist himself and on and on. The guy called back several times and always asked for Jack. We ended up calling the Agriculture Department, but never heard the result. We figured there were really drugs, not snakes, in the bag.
The last time I saw Jack, was at James and Suzi's wedding at the Marriott hotel in San Francisco. His body was quite wasted away at that point, but his heart was still as big as ever. He wouldn't have missed that event for anything and I think it was the reason he hung on so long. He danced one dance with his partner and some short time later faded into the hereafter. Tears in my eyes thinking about him now. His celebration of life was at the Neptune Society Columbarium in SF. It is a special place for a special person.
Suzi (one of my very best friends in SF and THE best home "chef" we know) always makes soup from scratch for her ill friends. She must have made a hundred gallons and other delights for Jack to feast on. I got some on several occasions. She made veggie, special for me. Dear Suzi, I miss you being so many miles away (and Jack, too).
The other was Peter Dorian. I was probably closer to him as we were both instructors at the airport and worked together side-by-side for several years. He was a bit more abrupt and explosive in emotion than Jack ever was, but still a good hearted soul.
The day I found out about his AIDS, I kind of knew, but it was still a shock to hear him say it. I tried to be a brave soul and act like things were normal, but I teared up just about every time I saw him after that. We attended his last good-bye. His wish was to have his ashes distributed into San Francisco Bay off a hiking trail along a cliff at the Presideo. It was a beautiful and meaningful spot as it was the spot where he had met his partner. It was so sad, but yet a relief to have his suffering end.
You don't hear much about it these days or at least not in Michigan, but the Training Department participated in the giant AIDS Memorial Quilt. We made a square for Peter. It depicted all the drama and dreams that were his life.
Another place important to the AIDS community is the AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park. It is a beautiful area to contemplate the lives of those sadly lost before their time.
Read more about CARES at: www.caresswm.org/
Read about The Wine Loft at: www.kalamazoowineloft.com/
Read about the Neptune Society at: www.neptunesanfrancisco.com
Read more about the AIDS Memorial Quilt and the Names Project at: