Parting Glances: My voices from beyond

By |2007-04-12T09:00:00-04:00April 12th, 2007|Opinions|

“I love you from here to the moon and back . . .”
Composer John Adams 9/11 commemorative piece, “On the Transmigration of Souls,” with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the UMS Choral Union Choir, proved a moving experience for me a sunny Sunday afternoon ago at Orchestra Hall. Adams conducted.
“He was my father’s favorite . . .” “She was so lovely, so full of joy . . .” “He’ll never call again . . .”
An integral compliment of Adam’s music were taped, interwoven voices of actual words of despair, shock, infinite sadness, 9/11 dated, later immortalized from that tragic day. These heartfelt fragments were said softly, uttered pleadingly, multiplied from all corners of the auditorium, punctuating the DSO musicians and choir performing stage center. “We miss you . . .”
The effect was deeply touching. During the days following I thought of other voices — personal, private ones — I had internalized and often treasured. As I write this column, I close my eyes and hear each unique voice. They’ll remain with me until my own voice is stilled by the healing hush of Eternal Silence.
The voices I “hear” are friends who died during the AIDS crisis. I can “see” vividly all ten. And of late two other voices, two familiar faces readily speak to me: Dr. Phil Traci. Ron Hamilton. Both friends. Like Andrew Anthos, who’s much in the news these days. Victims of hate crimes. For whatever reason, all unsolved.
I remember a summer 23 years ago . . . .
“Phil Traci is dead!” says Wayne State University prof Dr. Finley Hooper over the phone. “He was knifed, bludgeoned, left to drain on the kitchen floor.” Visibly shaken, I hang up, leave my office to recover from the shock. Later that morning I learn another acquaintance, Ron Hamilton, also has been brutally murdered. Bound. Suffocated with a plastic bag. Mutilated.
Dr. Traci and Hamilton were respected educators. Phil taught Shakespeare Studies at WSU, where he had been chosen Outstanding Teacher of the Year. Ron, a Northern High School librarian, was sponsor for the National Honors Society. A gourmet cook, gay gadabout, he catered fun, successful parties.
Both Phil and Ron were out to others by decorative and verbal clues. Phil wore a leather vest to class and jingle-jangled telltale bracelets. He had a unique sense of word play, a ribald, searing wit. (“Spool it, girl!” he’d admonish me. “Hop to it! Get going!”) Ron was bright, breezy (flighty is closer to the truth), a social drinker, oh so talkative.
Unfortunately for the two, an attraction to “streety” numbers — their polarity opposite — proved efficiently deadly. Phil had frequent DBT (“doorbell trade”) visits, and placed ads under an assumed name for chancy encounters. A little guy, Ron was warned time and again by friends not to shop for soiled goods in the budget basement of gay life.
Neither murder is solved. Jeff Montgomery of Triangle Foundation believes one killer may have butchered both. Their murders (and possibly that of Andrew Anthos) are not isolated cases, by any means. Triangle estimates that since that ghastly 1984 killing spree at least a dozen LGBT persons have been murdered. Cases unsolved. Cases closed.
Filed. Quickly forgotten. Gays. So what? Trannies? Good riddance. Who gives a . . .
CONCERT PROGRAM FOOTNOTE: John Adams writes, “Transmigration means ‘the movement from one place to another’ . . . I don’t just mean the transition from living to dead, but also the change that takes place within the souls of the living who stay behind.”
In my head Phil bitterly asks, and Ron, so world-weary, questions: “A change to remember? Or, a chance to forget?”

About the Author:

Charles Alexander