Category Archives: Anniversary

Remembering Ryan White

Remembering Ryan White


Whatever the decade, whatever the century, the media provide us with what they think we are interested in, with what we buy and tell them we are interested in.

AIDS was first clinically observed in 1981 in the United States. The medical community first observed it in intravenous drug uses and gay men. That being the case, it was easy for many to discount the illness's fatal effects or describe it as divine retribution.

We ignored AIDS; so did most media.

Remembering Ryan White

Remembering Ryan White


Ryan White was born on December 9, 1971, at St. Joseph Memorial Hospital in Kokomo, Indiana to Jeanne Elaine Hale and Hubert Wayne White. When he was 3 days old, doctors diagnosed White with severe Hemophilia A.

For treatment, he received weekly infusions of Factor VIII, a blood product created from pooled plasma of non-hemophiliacs, an  common treatment for hemophiliacs at the time

13 Years Later

Remembering Ryan White

In late 1984, Ryan White came down with pneumonia and on December 17  during a lung biopsy procedure, doctors diagnosed him  with AIDS.  His diagnosis was he had six months to live. He remained home for the rest of that school year.

Meanwhile research into the disease continued. On March 2, 1985, the federal government approved a screening test for AIDS that detected antibodies to the virus, allowing possibly contaminated blood to be excluded from the blood supply.

Kept out of school

Remembering Ryan White

Despite feeling strong enough to return to school, on June 30, 1985 Western School Corporation Superintendent James O. Smith, denied White admittance for everyone else's own protection. Whites' parents challenged the decision.

On the first day of school, August 26, 1985, He listened to his classes via telephone. 117 parents (from a school of 360 total students) and 50 teachers signed a petition encouraging school leaders to ban White from school. On October 2 the school principal upheld the decision to keep White out of school, but on November 25, the Indiana Department of Education (DOE) ruled that the district mus admit him.

The school board voted 7–0 to appeal Indiana Department of Education ruling. (December 17), but on February 6, 1986 the Indiana DOE again ruled White can attend school.

Ignore scientific evidence

Remembering Ryan White

Much evidence supported the DOE's decision. That month the New England Journal of Medicine published a study of 101 people who had spent three months living in close but non-sexual contact with people with AIDS. The study concluded that the risk of infection was "minimal to nonexistent," even when contact included sharing toothbrushes, razors, clothing, combs and drinking glasses; sleeping in the same bed; and hugging and kissing.

On February 13, 1986 the Howard County health officer determined White was fit for school; on February 19 Howard County judge refused to issue an injunction against White and on February 21, 1986 he  returned to school.  A different judge granted a restraining order that afternoon to again bar him. (see April 9)

Continued oppostion

In March 1986 White’s opponents held an auction in the school gymnasium to raise money to keep White out.

On April 9, 1986: White’s case was presented in U.S. Circuit Court and the next day Judge Jack R. O'Neill dissolved the February 21 restraining order.

White returned to school. Again.

When White was finally readmitted, a group of families withdrew their children and started an alternative school. Threats of violence and lawsuits persisted. According to White's mother, people on the street would often yell, "we know you're queer" at Ryan.

Before the next school year began, on July 18, 1986, the Indiana Court of Appeals declined to hear any further appeals in the White case.


White attended Western Middle School for eighth grade for the entire 1986–87 school year, but was deeply unhappy and had few friends. In 1988 White would speak before President Reagan’s AIDS Commission. At it he would state:
Even though we knew AIDS was not spread through casual contact. Nevertheless, parents of twenty students started their own school. They were still not convinced. Because of the lack of education on AIDS, discrimination, fear, panic, and lies surrounded me:


  • I became the target of Ryan White jokes
  • Lies about me biting people
  • Lies about me spitting on vegetables and cookies
  • Lies about me srinating on bathroom walls
  • Some restaurants threw away my dishes
  • My school locker was vandalized inside and folders were marked FAG and other obscenities.

          I was labeled a troublemaker, my mom an unfit mother, and I was not welcome anywhere. People would get up and  leave so they would not have to sit anywhere near me. Even at church, people would not shake my hand. (entire text)


Threats continued. After someone fired a bullet through the Whites' living room window, the family decided to move.

By this time the story had become an international one. Elton John loaned $16,500 to put toward a down payment on a new home in Cicero, Indiana. 


Remembering Ryan White

On August 31, 1987 White enrolled at Hamilton Heights High School, Cicero, Indiana. The school principal Tony Cook, school system superintendent Bob G. Carnal, and students who had been educated about AIDS greeted him and shook his hand.

He drove to school in a red Mustang convertible, a gift from Michael Jackson.

On March 29, 1990. spring of his senior year, White entered Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis with a respiratory infection and on  April 8, 1990 White died.

Remembering Ryan White
On April 11, over 1,500 people attended White's funeral at the Second Presbyterian Church on in Indianapolis.  White's pallbearers included Elton John, Howie Long and Phil Donahue. Elton John performed "Skyline Pigeon" at the funeral.

Also attending was Michael Jackson and First Lady Barbara Bush. On the day of the funeral, former President Ronald Reagan wrote a tribute to White that appeared in The Washington Post. In part Reagan said:
“We owe it to Ryan to make sure that the fear and ignorance that chased him from his home and his school will be eliminated. We owe it to Ryan to open our hearts and our minds to those with AIDS. We owe it to Ryan to be compassionate, caring and tolerant toward those with AIDS, their families and friends. It’s the disease that’s frightening, not the people who have it.” [Full text]

His family buried him in Cicero.

Remembering Ryan White

In the year following his death, his grave was vandalized on four occasions.

Remembering Ryan White


Rather than accept repayment Sir Elton placed the repaid money into a college fund for Ryan's sister.

On August 18, 1990 President George Bush signed the Ryan White Care Act, a federally funded program for people living with AIDS.

On May 20, 1996 Congress reauthorized the Ryan White CARE Act.

Remembering Ryan White

On October 30, 2009 President Obama signed The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009. Obama  announced plans to remove a ban on travel and immigration to the U.S. by individuals with HIV. Obama called the 22-year ban a decision "rooted in fear rather than fact."

For complete information about the Ryan White CARES Act visit: Ryan White Cares Act.

Controversy Continues

As governor of Indiana, current Vice President Mike Pense, hesitated in his support of the Ryan White Cares Act unless disproved and homophobic "conversion therapy" was integral to the program:
Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.

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Jack Kerouac On the Road

Jack Kerouac On the Road

Happy anniversary

Published September 5, 1957

Jack Kerouac On the Road

Paterson, NJ

       As a New Jersey guy born and bred, I like to think that Sal Paradise (Jack Kerouac) began his first road trip from Paterson.  It was there that Paradise had "...por[ed] over maps of the United States...for months, even reading books about the pioneers and savoring names like Platte and Cimarron and so on, and on the road-map was one long red line called Route 6 that led from the tip of Cape Cod clear to Ely, Nevada, and there dipped down to Los Angeles. "

       All but one of my father's seven siblings left their NJ hometown and all but five moved out of state. Arizona, New Mexico. Oklahoma. An uncle a traveling salesman who found homes all over the Midwest. A aunt a nurse who became a lieutenant commander in the US Navy stationed all over the world. 

       When I was four my family traveled from NJ to visit those distant relatives. I grew up thinking I was a traveler. Later a Boy Scout thinking I was a camper. Later thinking I was cool because of a summer job in NYC.

Ripe for the “…Road”

       By the time I was in college I was ripe for Kerouac. I don't think I'd heard of him, but likely saw his name referenced in some Rolling Stone magazine articles.

       Like thousands of other Boomers, we found an older brother in Kerouac. A guy whose traveling stories awoke us to the soundtrack of the American history we'd nodded through in school.

Sex, drugs, and more jazz than rock and roll!

     Some find the story enervating. An example of a wasted life. A life without purpose or goal.

     Myth: Kerouac wrote the story on toilet paper. No. He created a continuous scroll from sheets of tracing paper sheets that he cut to size and taped together.

     Like many things written, Kerouac had written dozens of notes during his travels in the late 1940s. Those notes eventually coalesced into the novel when in one three-week spurt Kerouac put the novel together as if writing a letter.

     In response to a student's letter, Kerouac wrote in 1961, "Dean and I were embarked on a journey through post-Whitman America to FIND that America and to FIND the inherent goodness in American man. It was really a story about 2 Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found him."

Jack Kerouac On the Road

     Most critics praised the book, particularly Gilbert Millstein of the New York Times who wrote, "its publication is a historic occasion in so far as the exposure of an authentic work of art is of any great moment in an age in which the attention is fragmented and the sensibilities are blunted by the superlatives of fashion" 

Jack Kerouac On the Road

     In the same paper, David Dempsey dismissed the novel as a "passionate lark"


     Whatever the view, the story inspired a new generation to seek adventure on the road. Hitchhiking sometimes. Just hiking other times. Woodstock Venture's idea of having a festival in the country, in an open space, where one could be free and roam around has some roots in Kerouac's book.

     The book was, even if unconsciously, part of the reason I went there. It was certainly part of the reason my wife, six children, and I took a cross-country trip to visit those many relatives. We called it the "Shoots Not Roots" tour. It even had it's own t-shirt.
Jack Kerouac On the Road
back of the tour t-shirt

The end…

So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars'll be out, and don't you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what's going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty. 

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Hervey White Maverick Festival

Hervey White Maverick Festival

August 24, 1915
         I have blogged about the many festivals of 1969 with the Woodstock Music and Art Fair as the keystone. It continues to confuse people that that iconic event  was not in Woodstock, but Bethel, NY.

         Woodstock was the obvious choice as Woodstock, NY in 1969 was a magnet for young artists. It had been that magnet for nearly a century. 

         Today's blog is about an actual festival that actually took place in Woodstock, NY. Not in 1969, but in 1915.

Hervey White Maverick Festival

Hervey White

         Hervey white was born on a Iowan farm in 1866. He began his college education at the University of Kansas and later transferred to Harvard University, and  completed his degree there in 1894.

         He traveled to Europe and the social reform movements he observed there influenced him for the rest of his life.

         Back in the United States, White began work at the Hull House in Chicago. Jane Addams had founded Hull House as a place to educate  poor immigrants. She also encouraged them to express themselves through the arts.

Shared views

         While working at the Hull House, Hervey met others who shared his views of helping talented young people become artists despite economic poverty. Carl Eric-Lindin, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead were three of these fellow travelers. 

Byrdcliffe Arts Colony

         Whitehead invited White to the Catskills to help him establish an artist colony. In 1902, Whitehead purchased 1500 acres in the Catskills near Overlook Mountain and Woodstock, NY

         The group built houses, studios, and workshops. Established artists became teachers to young aspiring artists. Hervey married Vivian Bevans in 1903. She was a printmaker and one of the Colony's students.

          As an interesting aside, in 1965 a Mr Bob Dylan moved to a home that was once part of Byrdcliffe. 

Maverick Art Colony

         Many artists have a wide perspective, but are short-tempered. In 1905 Hervey White left Byrdcliff and with Frits van der Loo purchased a farm near Ohayo Mountain, also near Woodstock.

         He hoped it would be a place of creative freedom, a freedom he felt Byrdcliff's strictures limited.

         By 1910 the farm had become a year-round residence for the Whites and several other artists. Art can be a full-time preoccupation and Vivian White left the colony with their two sons. She never returned.

Hervey White Maverick Festival

         In 1915, resident musicians suggested to White that the colony organize a festival to help pay for a needed well. The Maverick Festival was born.

         The festival became an annual one and became the primary way the colony supported itself.

         The festival continued until 1931 when the Great Depression forced its cancellation. The colony continued but struggled, never again to be the vibrant artist residence it had been. 


         White, as many before and more since, found the Catskill winters too much of a challenge and he purchased a farm in Georgia. His heart remained at the Maverick Colony and her returned every spring.

         He died on October 20, 1944.

Another festival

         25 years later, another Woodstock resident had an artistic idea: build a recording studio there for the many young musicians who had discovered the area's beauty and serenity.

         Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, John Roberts, and Joel Rosenman formed Woodstock Ventures the spring of 1969 for that purchase.

         You might be familiar with the rest of their story. The funny part is that Woodstock, NY continues to be famous for their festival despite the fact that the event occurred much farther away in Bethel, NY.

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