Over the years people have asked how I ended up in Omaha for Law School. Knowing my background from DC and return to DC they wondered how I ever survived Nebraska. I will admit I was concerned about being gay in Nebraska in the 1980’s. But then it was a Jesuit School, staffed by – well – Catholic Priests. When I got there I found that the large chunk of the men there had at least one sexual encounter with a cow. Sex with a human was a step up the ladder.
The real answer was that by the time I had decided to go to Law School, there were only three schools at which I could still meet the application deadline. Creighton was the best of the three. Before I applied for Law School I was working with the Gary Hart campaign. When his campaign imploded, I was back to waiting table. By this time I had worked with Senator Tom Harkins first Senate Campaign in Iowa, Congressman Peter Kostmeyer Campaign in the New Hope area of Pennsylvania and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. I had also done some volunteer work for Senator Tom Daschel.
Although I had been involved in several winning campaigns as a paid staffer, I was still unable to score a job on Capitol Hill. I was back waiting tables and “odd jobs” to live. Although making great money waiting tables at the grand “Willard InterContinental Hotel” next door to the White House, I was getting more and more frustrated. I knew I had a time bomb ticking inside of me. I knew any day I could or would see my first lesion or sign of full blown AIDS. It happened to everyone. We were all dying at a rapid pace. Mine seemed to be lurking just below the surface. This was a very angry stage in my life. The President still had not acknowledged AIDS as a crisis. Most people thought of the people dying of AIDS in one of three groups. Gay, IV drug users and Haitians.
That anger lead me to show up and protest with ActUp. I would also lash out at anyone who made disparaging comments about people with AIDS. I would often, after sharing a drink or food with them, make sure that they knew I was infected. Just so they would spend weeks worrying. I often hoped that this would spur them to push for more research funding. Or at the very least, get better educated about how it spreads. Other times I just laid into them verbally and a few times physically. Making sure they knew a person with AIDS had cut them down.
My best friend Scott, one person still alive today from that period, is the person who actually persuaded me to go to law school. Scott’s main reason was that I might actually survive long enough to make a difference. There was a vast need for people to stand up for those who physically could not. Even doing things a mundane as arguing with insurance companies. I reasoned I wanted my obituary to read student instead of waiter. In either case. I began the very first, tentative steps in planning for a future with AIDS.
That is the short answer of how I ended up in law school. I went, I graduated, I passed the bar and then faced the big WHAT NOW? Never having expected to make it through law school I had no idea what to do next. I applied for jobs but knew that I would not be able to work the 50-70 hours a week new associates had to work. I was taking anti-viral medication, but they had horrendous side effect still including diarrhea, vomiting, and sleep deprivation. They were extending life but the quality of life was not great. I ended up back in DC, waiting tables for a catering company, and trying to start a private practice in the spare time. Still waiting for the bomb to explode.