Walking the Rainbow.
Initially I thought this was a self-published manuscript, due to the horrible title and book cover, and the fact that all the promotional blurbs were written by his friends, not to mention the cheap font and myriad typos. Then I thought it was an uncorrected galley proof, but it didn't say that it was, and the publicists who sent it to me usually only send final copies. But no, it seems it's an actual final copy from an actual publishing house out of Pittsburgh, Whitmore Publishing Co. Shame about the cover. It looks like it was designed at the very last possible second by someone who didn't give a damn about making it look good. You know how I feel about cover art. If only author Richard René Silvin had insisted Olga Grlic design it. It would have sold a lot more copies, I tell you what.
It's not like he couldn't afford her. One of the first things you learn in Silvin's memoir is that he's a really wealthy man. (In fact, I think he may have paid for the publicists himself, because this is not the kind of book they usually send me.)
A product of Swiss boarding schools* and top universities, Silvin went on to become a leader in hospital operations, rising to head up the international division of American Medical International, Inc., which oversaw a hundred hospitals in ten countries. While he touches quite a bit on the business end of things, Walking the Rainbow is primarily the story of his struggle living with the HIV virus. Already a successful businessman in an unsuccessful marriage, Silvin came out in the late 70's, probably the worst time in history for a gay man to say to himself, "Hey, let's see what I've been missing after all these years in the closet!"
Walking the Rainbow is not really so much a tale of his business or sexual exploits as it is a love story, detailing his relationships with Tim, the love of his libido, and, later, Bob, the love of his life.
All three men were diagnosed with HIV in the early-mid 80s, during the Reagan years when AIDS was an acceptable disease as long as it was killing off homosexuals. Silvin used his vast financial resources to travel first with Tim, then Bob, to Europe for cutting-edge treatment. Unfortunately, in the 80s and early 90s, cutting-edge treatment for HIV management is not what it is today, and Silvin and his partners ended up having a patient-eye view of life in some of his own hospitals.
During these difficult times, Silvin's money managed to keep a great deal of horror away from himself and his partners. Unfortunately, homophobia has quite a bit of clout as well, and after weeks of pain and sickness I wouldn't wish on anyone, Silvin still had to endure the insult of not having his relationships recognized and receiving substandard nursing care from ignorant staff.
While Walking the Rainbow is no Angels in America** or And the Band Played On, as long as fully half the population of the United States refuses to believe that the relationships of gay men and lesbians are "real," that it's okay to deny them hospital visiting rights and property rights and insurance benefits for their partners, if they are denied the ability to make life-or-death decisions for their partners or follow through with their partners funeral arrangements, if their children can be taken from them and if they can lose their jobs and receive a dishonorable discharge from the military solely due to their sexual orientation, every single one of their stories should be heard.
*Silvin attended La Clarière and Le Rosey. La Clarière was shut down due to substandard conditions, and Silvin was sent there WHEN HE WAS SIX. Who the hell sends a six-year-old to a boarding school? A boarding school ON ANOTHER CONTINENT? My six-year-old still sleeps with a stuffed dog and is afraid of monsters. According to Silvin, after the age of six he only saw his parents on holidays. He said they were like strangers to him. How do you put your baby boy on a plane and say goodbye to him forever? That being said, I've been threatening Christopher with Swiss boarding school ever since I read that. He doesn't seem to be taking me too seriously, though, only briefly looking up from the computer, where he was playing Homestar Runner, to say, "You can't afford it."
**Thinking of Angels in America made me want to watch the scene where Roy Cohn, played magnificently by Al Pacino, is diagnosed with AIDS by James Cromwell. Cohn tells Cromwell that he can't have AIDS, because AIDS is something that only homosexuals get, and since he is a powerful man, he can't be a powerless homosexual, therefore, he does not have AIDS. It's one of the greatest monologues ever written, I think, because it describes this particular mindset so very, very well. Let's watch it again!
Walking the Rainbow
by Richard René Silvin
February, 2008 by Whitmore Publishing
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Walking the Rainbow.