Part I of an 11-part series.

Virginian Suites, Arlington, VirginiaBack in the late 90’s Peace Corps contracted the Virginian Suites hotel in Arlington, Virginia to house volunteers who had temporarily returned to the U.S. for medical reasons. I was one of those “medivacs.” After a year of living on the Siberian steppe in a former gulag city and facing another bitterly cold winter without heat and nobody to snuggle up to I called it quits after a year of service. When you return they run you through medical exams to make sure you have no lingering health problems from your service.

If my memory serves me correctly I was in the far left ground unit in the photo. My roomate had learned he had Multiple Sclerosis while he was serving in Africa. He was pretty devastated.

When I arrived I remember reading in The Washington Blade and MetroWeekly that The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt had just been displayed on the National Mall the week before. So I must have arrived somewhere in the middle of October in 1996. Shit I guess that means I’ve lived in DC for almost 16 years! Time has flown.

I remember it was raining steadily when I arrived, and the rain had lasted for days. I thought that was how the weather was all the time in DC but realize now it was probably the remnants of a nearby hurricane. I remember going to the Safeway in Rosslyn and being overwhelmed by the selection in the grocery store, after being limited to tiny Soviet-era shops and bazaar fare for so long.

Meanwhile I was discovering that DC had a fairly large gay population. I knew I needed to live in a place where there were educated and well-traveled gay men like me, so decided on DC to live. I used my time in this place as a base of operations for a job and housing search.

2 Comments

  1. Greg says:

    I’d been in DC about year when the quilt came. It is still one of the most vivid and emotionally powerful memories I have of my three years there…

  2. Glenn says:

    HOLY COW. I was there too after being medivac’ed for my knee surgeries, and the exact same thing happened to me at the Rosslyn Safeway. There were choices of bread?!?!? Lighting? That first night, I bought totally random things like frozen shrimp and bagels.
    I also remember the frequent fire evacuations, because the wiring was old, and everyone was cooking in their rooms.
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.