Our story so far…
1980-1990: apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. I become very gay and decide I know everything there is to know.
1990-1996: I marry Bruce and have wonderful life with him in East Village
1996-1998: Bruce dies, world comes to end.
1998-2000: surprised to find world hasn’t really ended. Realize I actually know next to nothing. Somehow get cast in tour of “Cabaret.” Buy shack in upstate New York after being on road with show.
2000-present: boyfriend/dog/"42nd Street” tour/lose boyfriend/lose dog/become world’s oldest porn star/start renovating houses/economy falls off cliff along with livelihood.
Alrighty! That about sums up the first 48 years of being Tom Judson. I suppose I left out one or two things, but I’ll probably get around to mentioning them in this blog. My mind tends to wander and I find myself writing in scream-of-consciousness mode, so who knows what I’ll get to. I may even recount that Art Garfunkel story at some point…
The impetus for this particular blog is this: I have found that my life seems to go in 10-year cycles. Every decade (give or take) I seem to have an entirely new profession, live in entirely new surroundings, picture an entirely different future for myself than what I had imagined. Honestly, the only constant in my life has been poverty. Self-inflicted poverty, to be sure; I’ve said many times I'd rather be broke than have a regular job. Which is the only kind of job I have not had.
As stated in the timeline above, my most recent occupation was buying and renovating little houses in my area (which is upstate New York.) Now, you may have noticed the nation is sliding into an economic K-hole. Country homes are not on people’s priority lists so that line of work is kaput. To take up the slack I just started a part-time gig at a community AIDS center in Albany, NY. The position is “peer advocate” and I, being HIV-positive myself, am indeed a peer. My responsibilities are basically those of a camp counselor: in my first week-and-a-half on the job I’ve done everything from greeting people at the door to refilling the toilet paper dispenser to filling out paperwork to attending off-site organizational meetings to serving in the kitchen to taking out the trash. It’s a swell place and a swell job and the folks who work there and utilize the services we provide are an inspiration.
But even before the economy flushed down the ter’let I had been hankering to simplify my life. Somehow in the first decade of the new millennium I had become a person of possessions. Three cars, often two houses, lots and lots of books and pictures and... crap. My inner bohemian was being subsumed by things like piano insurance. Piano insurance! And while I loathe to use the word "rut" my life had settled into a fairly predictable pattern. So last year I had decided by the time I turn 50 in 2010 I was going to have divested myself of all my possessions. Then I would be able to start all over with a clean slate and with my only encumbrance being unlimited choices on what to do next with my life.
Imagine my surprise when—minding my own business!—a perfect storm of financial conditions of which I had no part coalesced to bring me once again—you guessed it!—to a state of poverty.
I’ll write more about all that when the loose ends have been tied up, but suffice to say that I am going to find myself free of those pesky possessions much sooner that I had anticipated.
But look again at that lifeline at the top of this posting; there’s a whole lot of picking-myself-up in that list. It’s something I have a talent for. I picked myself up off the couch after Bruce died and—for reasons that involve a chance meeting and an accordion—got cast in a Broadway show. I picked myself up after a depressing stint as a bartender in a local Albany gay bar and went back on the road. Like the abominable snowman in "Rudolph", I bounce.
From each of those things, which at the time could have appeared foolhardy or desperate, corollary opportunities I never expected presented themselves . After the first show I was able to buy a house. After the second I found myself a middle-aged sex symbol.
And after this apparent calamity?
Well, on the very first day of my new job at the AIDS center I got an e-mail from the young couple who run a hotel I spent a long weekend at last October asking if I’d like to come to the Caribbean for a few months over the summer and help them renovate the place. A mere six weeks ago I would have had to say, “Thanks for the amazing offer, but I really can’t.” But in February of 2009 there was absolutely nothing to stop me from answering “Yes! When do you want me there?”
So that’s where things stand: I’ve got stuff to do here at home for the rest of the winter and early spring (with plenty to write about, certainly) but after getting those ducks in a row I’ll be heading to the island of Saba. By June 1st at the latest. I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing there, and neither do Patrick or Sophie, my Dutch friends who run El Momo Cottages.
And that, my friends, is my idea of heaven.