As a child I was extraordinarily healthy. Although I had the normal childhood crud, measles, chickenpox and other such crud, I also had perfect attendance in school in sixth and seventh grade. I would have had it in eighth grade too but that was the year I got braces. I missed a day to have my wisdom teeth pulled. I still have at least on of them taped in my baby book. Even if I did get sick it was usually much shorter than most. I missed two days of school in high school for Mono.
I went to undergrad at the University of Maryland in College Park. Eight miles outside the city limits of Washington DC. Although I started college at 15 years years old, that pace slowed down in college. The discovery of lysergic acid diethylamide, 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine and other similar chemical compounds required me to extend my studies to make sure I fully understood the ramifications of their interactions on the human body. During my time at UM, my fraternity brothers had found a great part time job doing what we did best. Taking drugs and goofing off.
The National Institutes of Health were located in Bethesda Maryland. During spring breaks and other extended school vacations, we would sign up to test drugs. They would pay $100 to $125 a day. In exchange we would be given food, beds and drugs We would stay there and be monitored. We had access to a beta max (Google it), pong, space invaders and pack-man. Life was good. It was also good for me later since they kept my blood in a freezer long after the studies were complete. This provided a great time line when I returned in a few years as a patient to do AIDs drug studies.
In the fall semester of 1980 I got sick. Although the symptoms pointed to hepatitis, I did not produce antibodies to Either Hep A or B. As a precaution, my entire fraternity house and a good percent of other houses on the Row where given gamma-globin shots. I did not get better and the student health office sent me to NIH to see if they could determine what the source was. NIH determined that I had, what they called, hepatitis-non A- non-B. Toady I guess it is just called Hep C. The symptoms went away and I returned to classes the following semester to graduate.
After graduation I remained in DC and worked in restaurants, bars and as a social consultant. But most of all I just fell into a total party routine. My cousin Matt (seen in Honcho, Playgirl and other magazines), six months older than me, worked in the DC area at the same time. We plotted together then he moved to New York at the behest of a secure older (much) Congressman. I would travel to the city to see him and party whenever possible. It was during that time I had dinner with Roy Cohen and became involved in parties with Robert Mapplethorpe. It was the early 80’s and the shit had not hit the fan yet. Some of us in the bar scene knew something was up. We would hear stories of friends and customers moving home to their parents. My old roommate went home for Christmas and got Pneumonia. He never came out of the hospital. I just assumed he had smokers cough before he left and put off seeing a doctor until it was too late. But a lot of that was happening. It just took awhile to connect the dots.
Next – Connecting the dots.