May 20, 2018

Dateline, Seattle Washington –

Andy’s 56th Birthday – 2018 – Most of the family

And I finally started to hit my stride and figured out how to tell an interesting story as well as talk about my day.

I did get up in time this morning to go to church and made my way to University Unitarian which is a couple of blocks from my brother’s house in Wedgwood. On my way, I stopped in at Starbucks for my usual caramel macchiato and who should be in front of me in line but my sister-in-law and niece so there was a nice little impromptu visit before I headed off to service. The service this morning was a sort of UU bar mitzvah/coming of age ceremony for the kids finishing middle school and entering high school. As the church is just a few blocks from where I went to middle school in the 70s, there was something sort of full circle about the moment. Meanwhile, back in Birmingham, my home church was celebrating the end of the religious education year and the children’s choir performed the last song Tommy taught them, ‘The Rhythm of Life’ from Sweet Charity but with some more appropriate lyrics for children in a church setting. I did get to see it on video and am sorry I could not have been there in person. I am going to make sure UUCB has the resources to continue children’s music.

Met up with an old high school friend this afternoon and caught up and swapped stories about life and what various classmates have been up to over the years. (Second caramel macchiato of the day…) The rest of the afternoon was devoted to catching up on a legal case I am working on and margaritas. My father makes good ones.

This evening, the whole clan gathered at my sister’s house for dinner and a belated birthday cake for me. The younger generation are all definitely into adolescence and growing into lovely young adults and hung out together while we older ones swapped family stories and bemoaned the general state of Seattle.

Various and sundry stories occurred to me during the day but this is one which I told to my cousin’s wife at dinner as she had never heard of it. This one is very much a Steve story…

Those of you who have known me a while know that the period of roughly 1997-2002 was an absolute disaster for me personally where, through no fault of my own, most of the adult life I had built for myself was destroyed by a lot of factors outside of my control. I had relocated from Seattle to Sacramento in 1988 as I had matched for Internal Medicine residency at UC Davis Medical Center there. It was during my first year there, my internship that I met Steve, who was 14 years my senior and where I ended up coming out and developing, at long last, a successful relationship. I finished residency in 1991, and then signed on for a two year fellowship in geriatric medicine which ended in 1993. I then was immediately signed for faculty and launched into my academic career.

Steve and Andy – Sacramento days

Things went well the first few years but in 1997, all sorts of political undercurrents, way above my pay grade were infiltrating UCD School of Medicine. One thing led to another and weak leadership in geriatrics didn’t help and in the spring of 1998, after the School of Medicine and the Health System went to war with each other over various issues, the clinical geriatrics program got caught in the crossfire and in April, 1998, I was handed, five years into an academic career, a sixty day pink slip as the health system completely eliminated the clinical geriatrics budget which included my salary.

The collapse of the program virtually overnight made all of us who were part of it politically toxic even though we had nothing to do with the issues. After several months of interviewing elsewhere in California, being offered a job, and then having that job rescinded several weeks later, it was clear that something was happening along back channels and that if I wanted to remain employed, I would have to leave the West Coast. I asked Steve where he wanted to go. He told me somewhere warm with a beach so I started looking for a job in Florida.

I spent the summer of 1998 interviewing for Florida jobs (most of which I did not care for) and the recruiter for UAB kept calling me up and saying things like ‘Alabama is really close to Florida’ but the two gay boys from California were not really interested in the heart of Dixie. The recruiter became such a pest, that I finally relented and Steve and I agreed to come to Birmingham to take a look. Neither of us had ever been to Alabama before. We tacked a few days on to the end of a Florida interview trip.

The plane from Miami to Birmingham turned out to be a small commuter jet with broken air conditioning, a surly flight attendant, the smell of incontinent animals, and mail stops in Orlando and Tallahassee. We arrived in Birmingham hot, sweaty and generally grumpy to find a 25 year old recruiter in his little suit with his 19 year old assistant in his little suit all happy to see us and make a good impression. We were having none of it and trudged off to baggage claim. There was the suitcase, but no garment bag… And no garment bag… And no garment bag. And, wait a minute. Here comes the garment bag, which had been caught in some piece of machinery during the journey and shredded ruining all the good clothes for the interview tomorrow.

Steve went ballistic. He marched into the Delta baggage office and had a small psychotic break, throwing ruined suits and dress shirts at the poor clerk while yelling at the top of his lungs while the poor man behind the counter kept writing us checks for their value. The little recruiter and little recruiter assistant blanched and high tailed it out of there having decided that there was no way in hell we’d seriously consider this job. I eventually got Steve into the rental car and down to the Tutwiler hotel where we showered, located the closest J.C. Penney and went off on an emergency run for a blazer and slacks so I would have something to wear the next day other than a dirty T-shirt. When we got back to the hotel and got to bed, I looked at him and he looked at me and we agreed that no matter what else happened on the interview trail, that after today, this would be where we ended up….. and we were right.

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