Pro-Age Flamenco + AIDS + Iran + Books + Podcast: M. Alfieri on Story

Titling over photo of Flamenco dancers Elisabeth Fruth and Alina Coman Coman-Rodriguez.
Flamenco is fierce at any age: Elisabeth Fruth, left, with Alina Coman Coman-Rodriguez. Photo: Justine Grover, owner of Naranjita Flamenco school.
Want to listen to an audio version of today’s post? Click the Spotify podcast link above. And please give it a follow.

Fiction writing, from short stories to novels, is woefully underrated. When people ask me about my writing, I ask if they like reading. Eyes bright, they answer that of course they do. Argh, then they list their fave non-fiction titles. Any discussion of fiction elicits sighs about their lack of free time.

Folks in my circle muscle through books, gobble self-help and cookbooks and how-tos the way they do bitter greens and vitamins. Fiction, to them, is dessert, chocolate that isn’t even in the dark anti-oxidant range.

I beg to differ.

In keeping with the food/nutrition analogy, self-help is great in the way of popping supplements. Fiction, on the other hand, is whole-food goodness, nourishing in ways that defy science.

Cover of "Like a Love Story," by Abdi Nazemian.

“Like a Love Story,” by Abdi Nazemian, is an exquisitely told novel. Ostensibly, it’s for young adults, but don’t let that keep you from reading it. In it, an Iranian-American teenage boy comes to grips with his gayness amid 1980’s AIDS. The audiobook also features a terrific cast of narrators.

In the way only fiction can, “Like a Love Story” evoked memories, feelings, and thoughts. A couple of nights after finishing it, I dreamt of a beautiful young man, David Fradkin, who I knew back then. He was wise, fun, talented, full of life… and got sick… Here’s a bit more about him.

Some liken AIDS to Covid. Hardly!

Yes, Covid involves ugliness, including squabbles between maskers and vaxers. However, the early days of AIDS were completely hateful.

With AIDS, people from government officials on down — and unfortunately they still do! — blamed victims and refused to help. Countless lives would’ve been saved if it had been handled with even half the urgency Covid inspired, false starts, mishaps, and all.

Besides my prior post’s mentions of experiences with AIDS, at another job during the early-ish AIDS era, this one as a temporary administrative assistant at an advertising agency, there was a man who impressed me because of how truly kind and professional he was. I worked many of the agency’s desks, filled in when full-timers were on vacation or sick leave. This man was a dancer in his real night-and-weekend job, and we liked to talk about our involvement with the entertainment industry. When I eventually subbed at his desk, days turned into weeks into months. The office was smallish and everyone lamented his absence. When I couldn’t find one of his computer files, one of his bosses insisted I phone his home.

Oh, how I wish I hadn’t. Everyone knew he had AIDS, that he was home dying. But I called and this good soul answered and then promptly hung up on me when he found out why I’d called Good for him.

On another day back then, I parked my car to temp at another office. (Most likely I was running late, having gotten lost, asked for directions at a gas station, and searched the Thomas Brothers map book under my seat, haha.) In the lot, a gaunt young man gasped with exertion, trying to get out of his car, then sat back down to catch his breath as he rested his forehead on his steering wheel. No, I couldn’t help, because yes, I knew…

In my heart’s eye, we’re all lucky for any gay man who’s still with us, having survived those horrible times. In my circle, by comparison, Covid seems like nothing, nowhere near the overwhelming number of deaths. Regardless of real statistics, senseless deaths due to hatred define AIDS, whereas politics and stupidity define Covid.

Read “Like a Love Story” because it’s hopeful — also, in ways that non-fiction can’t, it lets readers step into history to see that always, we’re more alike than not, when it comes to confusion and fear. Nazemian’s “The Authentics” is a great read too!

Cover of "Cat Brushing," a book of short stories by Jane Campbell.

“Cat Brushing,” is a book that Jane Campbell at age 80! Among her radical collection of short stories, no topic is off-limits. Each vignette of noir humor illustrates how, to put it mildly and without revealing too much, we don’t ever have to stop surprising ourselves or anybody else.

While I’ve got your ear or rather eyes, if you haven’t already heard, a young woman in Iran was killed merely for not wearing her head scarf modestly enough. People there are so angry, so beyond fed up with government oppression, that the murder has lit the fuse to numerous public outcries.

To censor protesters, the government has closed access to WhatsApp, a major international internet phone/text/video app. You can help their voices be heard by sharing this video… 

Were you around to remember or hear about AIDS in the 1980s? Then or now, what’s your most potent impression?

20 thoughts on “Pro-Age Flamenco + AIDS + Iran + Books + Podcast: M. Alfieri on Story”

  1. Sadly this is so true “senseless deaths due to hatred define AIDS” and so sad to see that in Iran women’s rights have been so severely restricted. I’m hoping that we start bringing down these walls of hate, and start building and implementing more care and love towards one another. Thank you daAL for caring and sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Bonjour DAL
    Le jour vient de se lever c ‘est l’heure du petit déjeuner
    L’occasion pour moi de te rappeler notre amitié
    Je voulais mettre un peu de sucre dans ton café
    En te souhaitant une bonne journée
    Le soir après ce petit écris pour toi
    Me rends heureux en pensant que tu es pu le lire
    Tu es un ami ou une amie merveilleuse
    Je te destine un petit bisou
    Ton ami BERNARD

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for sharing!!.. I think that fiction stirs the imagination and hints at what could be if one puts one heart and mind to do it…. 🙂
    Unfortunately there are those with a closed mind and quick to pass judgement on many issues “When we begin to build walls of prejudice, hatred, pride, and self-indulgence around ourselves, we are more surely imprisoned than any prisoner behind concrete walls and iron bars.” (Mother Angelica) but I believe that with today’s technology and knowledge, the world is slowly overcoming those closed minds… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May your day be touched
    by a bit of Irish luck,
    Brightened by a song
    in your heart,
    And warmed by the smiles
    of people you love.
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Any discussion of fiction elicits sighs about their lack of free time

    Each to his own, of course, but this seems bizarre to me. Fiction has as much to say about the world as any other genre of writing. Do these people really think that Heart of Darkness or Lord of the Rings would be an unworthy use of their time?

    As it happens, this year I’ve been keeping track of the books I read, and so far I’ve read 39, including 13 novels and 4 short-story collections. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve ever in my life read any “self-help and cookbooks and how-tos”. Each to his own.

    I’ve been following the uprising in Iran closely, and doing what I can to spread information about it. After the dashed hopes aroused by the 2009 protests, one hesitates to dream that this might finally be what brings the regime down. But a government so widely despised by its subjects and so unsuited to the culture it rules can’t last forever.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. how do you keep track of your reading – with an app or on a site like goodreads?

      yes, as hard as it is to keep hopeful for us, it’s worse for those in Iran… but the alternative is still worse

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Nothing like that — since I decided out of curiosity to keep track of my reading this year, I just started keeping a list. Every time I finish a book I add it to the list. I don’t do “apps”, and Goodreads is part of Amazon, so on principle I wouldn’t use it even if I knew what it was.

        Getting rid of the theocracy in Iran is probably going to be bloody, however it eventually happens. My impression from what I’m seeing is that a lot of people think life under that regime isn’t worth living anyway, so they don’t have much to lose. I feel we should do what we can to help, even if our government won’t. The US and UK partly enabled the current situation by overthrowing Mosaddegh, after all.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. as for books – very true – I use goodreads in the hopes of finding like-minded book lovers, same as I do here — always super aware that anything I share is public

          regarding Iran, I agree in every way — & it’s truly dangerous when people feel they have nothing to lose

          Liked by 2 people

  5. I lost a gay friend to AIDS, he was quite young, beginning of his thirties I think. That was very sad. In Germany, as in many other countries, it increased the hatred of gay men … until heterosexuals also got it. What I don’t understand until this day is, why people don’t use protection, for both, not getting pregnant and not catching a nasty disease.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. getting people to mask for covid, which isn’t near the death sentence that AIDS was for a long time — in the case of AIDa, the prejudice against gay men impeded figuring out how it was transmitted, getting the word out, disputing misconceptions, etc…

      Liked by 2 people

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