Thinking back on my life for this topic there are very few instances that come to mind where I felt I was in enough danger to be “scared out of my pants”. The main reason I think this is true is that I am a lucky white male in America and have been since my birth in 1949. To quote the asshole that murdered two African Americans this past week in a Louisville Kentucky Kroger in what was clearly a hate crime: “white don’t shoot whites” he said to another white man who pulled a gun on him in the parking lot and started shooting at him. There is much more to that statement as it regards white privilege than I can get into here.
The one life event that could have resulted in many very scary episodes where I would have shit my pants out of fear resulting in either my death of a fresh pair of trousers was the Viet Nam war. I did dodge that one by sitting still with a high draft lottery number. Thanks to the radical anti-war nun I had for my government classes in my Junior and Senior high school years I was not compelled to run down to my local enlistment office and sign up either.
Though my HIV infection has certainly been a source of angst over the years relatively speaking that was and remains such a slow rolling nightmare that it has been fairly easy to keep my pants on. Perhaps I might have been able to skip the whole AIDS thing if had had a bit of fear associated with keeping my pants on. That however would have resulted in missing out on a lot of great sex; all of life is full of trade-offs I guess.
The one time I was really scared out of my pants or more accurately scared while out of my pants was back in the fall of 1978 and involved a trip to the old Empire Bathes (now know as the Denver Swim Club) on East Colfax and a few too many psilocybin mushrooms. This adventure is something I have written about on more than one occasion and won’t bore you again with too many details but it was a very frightening episode for me and I have done no hallucinogens the ensuing 40 years. In trying to put probably way too much metaphorical spin on it I often thought the resulting bad trip was a harbinger of the coming AIDS crisis. I actually thought the concrete gargoyles that surrounded the out door pool were warning me of some really bad shit about to come down or perhaps my own immanent death. Remember I am that white privileged male and it is always about me.
I was planning on a hedonistic night of fucking my brains out in the warm and cozy confines of one of those wonderful 1970’s gay sex spas. The main life lesson was that I should have heeded the warning from an old Grateful Dead tune and not done “too much too fast”. I also wisely passed on the entreaty from the ambulance attendants who picked me a few blocks from the bathhouse. They thought I was just fine and in no danger and asked if they could just drop me at home and perhaps then I would sell them a few “shrooms”. One of the guys said he frequented the hot springs up in Idaho Springs and liked to have a few mushrooms for his soaks. I kid you not it was 1978 after all.
There is certainly plenty to be very frightened about these days but it is such a relentless and rolling disaster that for me the struggle is to combat the numbness and not retreat into what is still a fair amount of white male privilege. Combatting this assault on so many fronts today requires ongoing effort and it is best to hit the streets with one’s pants on.