Part I of an 11-part series.
Back 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.