Diamanda Galás video for the Pete Jimenez Memorial

May 25, 2012

Filed under: Essays, Writings

Jimenez died suddenly, and shocked the world activist community. His memorial took place in Los Angeles and was organized by his longtime partner Jeff Schuerholz.

Click here to see video

Click here for Spanish translation

I did not know Pete Jimenez, but of course I did. Jeff tells me that we met after a show of mine, and there is something extraordinarily familiar about those eyes. I am not inclined towards purple prose, so let me state factually that what I see from his photos is — great intuition, kindness, humor, humility, and a kind of “watch yourself, mister, or I will fuck you up REAL good,
and love every second of it. Cry for me, baby.”

Sorry to be so sentimental, but I like sistergirls like that.

I had a gay husband from the Faeries who was an activist, and every year I feel robbed. His name was Carl Valentino, and we lived in NYC. His death was a robbery. I am not going to be philosophical about a death that was catalyzed by hate, indifference, stupidity, denial, terror and rage. Dear me, did I forget the effects of the virus, too?

I hear him singing in every restaurant I enter, answering a managerial complaint with, “I am just showing you that I love your taste, even if I AM louder and more entertaining than YOUR singer.”

He was Arthur Brown singing fire. I am going to record it. Just for him. That and, of course, Aquarius, which he sang no matter WHAT the music was playing.

“Hi baby? How are you? Remember me? You DON’T? Oh my, I guess dementia really HAS set in,” he would say in 1990 to past trade sitting with a new acquaintance. He would return to my table, laughing.

Or, in one of those towel stores, catching a girlfriend looking at a fuchsia collection, “QUEER!” loudly. I would howl and bless him for being my friend.

I like this kind of faggot. Correct me if I’m wrong, but activists like this are the ones who, not being sanctimonious, are able to push issues in the face of resistance by infecting the enemy with a kind of charisma that embraces them like a little lake of piranha fish.

“Oh he was a bother at first, but then “poof!” He just disappeared! Wow!”

They are the brave ones who go singing into battle — the JOKER and the HEALER, who can read you like a book, so chingados cringe with uncertainty. “WHAT _IS_ THIS MARICON, I mean this is NOT a normal faggot, OR it is the MOST TOXIC JOTO WE HAVE EVER SEEN AND MAYBE HE WILL BITE US. Yo me voy. Olvidate, hombre.”

My husband Carl had a fishbowl with one fish only, a lone piranha. One day when he came home from teaching his elementary students covertly about the Epidemic, he decided to stroke the fish and it bit him. The next morning he found it dead and told me, “My god, my fish was a PWA for one night only. Piranha Fish with AIDS, and it happened so quickly. A need to know basis, sister. My only friend, what a pity,” he looked at me snidely.

Am I wrong that Pete had this quality?

A survivor for 20 years of a disease like AIDS which is a surround-attack virus must be a chingando, a true warrior. A warrior who is attacked by ten parasites at the same time, sucking on his flesh, head to toe. His brain. His heart. His lungs. His instestines. His bones. His liver. His bowels.

I don’t believe in God. THE LORD WON’T MIND was my favorite book, growing up, so we cool, me and the, um, Godhead.

But JOB without the truly pernicious brainfuck at the end of the chapter, might be a useful way of describing Pete’s suffering.

Oh sure, the young queers sneer, we got them protein inhibitors, I mean protease, um……whatever, we GOT ’em. It’s the old fags that die, so we cool.

Nope baby, not really. But the immune system at 40 and 50 is weaker than it was and bad things happen after years of poison.

Albeit after twenty years of taking the stuff, is it the blood-brain barrier that allows the brain to rot, the curious new lipid redistribution and high cholesterol that kill with heart attacks and strokes, and/or NHL hanging out waiting for a weak moment – but returning to the overall toxicity of the what Pete correctly called “NO COCKTAIL”, I too remember the cocktail for HEP C. It was so delicious that I woke up wanting to throw myself from my top floor on East 12 street. A suicide cocktail, the reason people preferred KS lesions to interferon. We all remember that time in the early 90’s.

The nightmare made flesh. The twilight zone.

I did not get the right therapy until the right nurse practitioner, the great Karen Weisz, gave it to me in 2002, with the help of David Pieribone and Doug Diettrich. This was NOT A COCKTAIL, tail of a horsecock pounding into my brain and my guts. On tour in Russia I thought I might actually die when he were detained at the border. I had to work, since the landlord was not giving me time out for blank checks.

Of course Pete went through this gruesome nauseating pain and worry. When the guts are bad, nothing is nice. When the brain AND the guts are bad, a loaded gun is a sure bet.

I hid mine at Carl’s until he died before me. Bastard, how could he leave me?

How Pete could have survived, lovely eyes still glimmering in all these recent photos I now see…… hell if _I_ know. With a cane, but a constant need to communicate with and console friends and other activists … how? LIVING HELL, if I know right.

I had the right genotype, although who knows what will happen to those of us who have been “cured?”

But Pete, HE was not cured. He never WOULD be cured. He KNEW that, presumably, whilst fighting for it for everyone else.

He would be condigned to a life of taking the ongoing cortado of zyclone B, or chemo every day (!!!!!) with the promise that missed doses might amount to a “failure to communicate” with the virus when he resumed.

Not to mention the horror of the co-infections that most people with AIDS have, HCV and HBV, whose treatments are contraindicated for HIV treatment. What to do? I hear “kill the Heps first.” But there are doctors and/or sufferers of ALL THREE, as we know, who say and hear the opposite. Don’t worry, the serum aminase alone is very low, say the dumb of the dumb doctors, so we don’t have to worry yet. Oh sure, your fucking liver looks like swiss cheese, but the serum aminase is low, so the progress is slow. LIKE BLOODY FUCKING HELL it is. That crap was revealed to me in 1996 and I almost passed out. By 2000 I almost had cirrhosis and of course a buddy with cirrhosis died of a heart attack after repeated interferon treatments.

The human body is still just composed of what it was composed of hundreds of years ago. It has not become an uber-mass — just because we have more things to kill more things wrong with it. And with AIDS, it once had you singing in the aviary with THAT infection.

Postcards of parakeets floating between my friends Michael and Don in the late 80’s.

So I sing praises to Pete Jimenez. What I have read of him brings tears to my eyes because I know I would have loved him. While I am moved that Jeff said he liked my music, to hell with my music. I am not here for that. I am here to praise a fighter, who used every means necessary to survive, including, most importantly, giving his mind and body towards saving any and every person he could. I cry for the loss of a truly magnificent man.

Diamanda Galás
May 25, 2012