Posts Tagged ‘AIDS’

Thanksgiving

// November 9th, 2010 // 1 Comment » // Cooking, HIV and AIDS, Homeless Outreach

cooking with Kengi 011Last year was my first Thanksgiving in my apartment and it was the first Thanksgiving outreach that I have done here in Hollywood marking the second overall Thanksgiving outreach to homeless people here in Los Angeles County. Each time I approach an outreach I do my best to see how it will really help people right now, not weeks, months or years from now. I guess from being homeless I know helping someone right now means so much more to a homeless person.

Last year was the first time I was able to not just feed homeless people, but formerly homeless people and people battling HIV or AIDS, by providing three food boxes to families in need. Thanksgiving day, with the help of friends I was able to feed about 75 people a home cooked Thanksgiving meal. Later I enjoyed the evening with my friends.

So as I type this blog  I am doing so from a much different place then last year. As I said before it was my first Thanksgiving living here after being homeless for 29 months which came to an end in June of 2009. However this year I now have a job and I am able to simply help people instead of waiting and hoping that people will donate items to make what I do possible. I know I can always count on my core group of supporters, but it is now nice to know that I can contribute far more then I use to.

The goal will once again be to feed homeless people, but this year the goal is to provide 10 Thanksgiving food boxes to low income families who are formerly homeless or battling HIV or AIDS. So far thanks to the support of my two friends Tina and Andy who donated two large bags filled with boxes of cornbread dressing mix. I have two people who have said they will donate turkey’s and the rest I will balance out.

I still need someone with a car to help me get the items to the families and also Thanksgiving day I will need people to help me pass out the food to homeless people here in Hollywood.

Once again this will be another Thanksgiving where I am so thankful and humbled by all the blessings God keeps sending my way and yet another year that I will be able to be a blessing to others through my Do Something Saturday outreach.

Thursday

// August 12th, 2010 // No Comments » // Cooking, Health and Fitness, HIV and AIDS, Homeless Outreach

Gifts 001This week has been both productive and difficult at times, but for the most part it has been a very rewarding and blessed week for me.

My week started with a trip to see my doctor to get lab results for my HIV as I stated in my blog, I wasn’t the least bit concerned about the outcome of the labs. The first reason was because I knew I was still fine and the second reason is because even if I was told I needed to start HIV meds, I know I now have a great doctor and awesome support staff there at the clinic that will get me through it. I know that with my faith and will combined with them, things will be just fine.

The only thing that was on my radar is the fact that there is a history of heart disease as well as other things in my families history and I need to make sure I am doing all I can to make certain I don’t go down the same road. While it was good to talk with my doctor about this and she was able to offer some expert advice and direction, the ultimate outcome is all in my hands. I have to eat right, make sure I am getting plenty of rest and I need to exercise. Bottom line is this, my doctor can give me all the information, advice and support there is, but if I dont start changing how I view food as well as spend more time exercising then the road that I want to avoid I will surely go down and I will have no one to blame for this but myself.

I also had the cool chance to spend some time with one of the guys from my Skid Row outreach and get to know him better as well as give him some information on how to go about correcting and dealing with some of the things he now has in front of him as it pertains to ADAP and Medi-Cal. Thanks to the support of my Keep-n-Touch program I was able to purchase a phone for him that will allow him to stay better connected to the things he needs to stay on top of. Not having a way to contact people, be in control of things you need to take care of and always having to depend on others to get messages or make phone calls can be very discouraging and even depressing for someone who is doing all they can to make things better for themselves. My Keep-n-Touch program allows me to supply a free prepaid cell phone to those in need. It may not seem like much to many people, but I know from experience that having a cell phone is a real connection and allows you to stay in control of some things in your life, while others are in charge of so much more.

Quality Products

One major set back this week came in the form of my video camera breaking on me. I’ve had some problems with the camera for a while now. Slowly but surely the camera has been in what I have called “shut down” mode and Wednesday afternoon the camera finally shut all the way down. JVC has been no help with this other then offering tech support that I must pay by the hour for or by shipping the camera to them and allowing them to repair it for far more then the camera is even worth. However they did say that if I ship them the camera and they find that the problem is something that is defective, they would cover most of it, but since the camera is past the one year warranty I would have to pay for some of the cost to fix it. So how this does not seem right, the camera could be defective, but I would still have to pay.

Whatever happened to the day when the customer was KING? Where companies made quality products that lasted forever? What happened to the days when you could by something and it would be around for many, many years? I recall things in my grand parents and even my great grand parents home that had been in their lives forever. How is that companies are allowed to make lousy products, that cost so much, but you get far less then what you paid for them?

BE OF YOUR WORD

Gifts 002Another thing I have noticed is that I am pulling away from certain people from YOUTUBE because they have volunteered or offered things and time and time again they never come through. Furthermore they act as if they have never volunteered or offered. For me this speaks to their character and the person they truly are. I am not saying they are bad people, just that they are people whose word no longer means a thing to me. Once I get to the place where your word no longer means anything, it isn’t long before I start to pull away. As I type this I am thinking about a call I received this week from someone who I had to step away from last year, she wanted to call to offer her apology and wanted to see if things could be different. She also tried to engage me in conversation, but I was not about to go back down a dead end road. I thanked her for calling and told her it was water under the bridge and not to worry about it. I then told her I hoped she was well and said goodbye. It is impossible for me to maintain any sort of relationship with someone who does not keep their word.

Hygiene Supplies

Wednesday shortly after coming home I had a knock on my door, when I opened it the UPS guy was there with a box. The box came from someone on YOUTUBE, who wanted to help me with hygiene supplies for my outreach. Inside the box were items such as toothpaste, deodorant and razors along with a very nice card. Let me tell you a little bit about this person, first she is a teenager and all we ever seem to hear, see or read in the news about teenagers is all bad. But here is one who reached out to me a while back after viewing one of my cooking videos where my family and I were doing an outreach to Chess Park at Santa Monica Beach. She wanted to help me with my outreach, she wanted to help me help those who are in need. A teenager stepping to the front of line and saying “I want to help” and not just that, but making sure she was allowed to help by staying on top of me and reaching out several times to remind me that she was willing to help.

This young lady saved her allowance and purchased items that will be used to help people who are homeless or battling HIVGifts 005 and AIDS. This young woman suited up and showed up, without excuse for people who are in need. She didn’t place empty comments on my blog or vlog, but she gave me her word and she followed through and this speaks volumes to the mother she has and the values instilled in her. It speaks volumes of the type of teenager she is and the amazing woman she will become.

Peer Support

So last month I was able to go with Donald as he made his purchase of his laptop. He saved his money and asked me to o with him to make assist him in selecting a new laptop. Since then I’ve had the huge honor of helping him learn his computer and once again today I have the huge honor of helping him once again.

Donald is someone I met through my HIV outreach on Skid Row and right away there was just something about him that stood out. He has become someone I consider as a friend, someone I care a great deal for, but more then this he has become someone I truly admire, respect and look up to. He is a massive inspiration to me and is someone who is beating the odds against HIV. He is someone you will never read about on some CDC report and is someone you may never see in some magazine, but for me he is the cream of the crop. He is kind, caring and damn funny. I look forward to visiting with him because it is always so much fun, but most of all I look forward to the pearls of wisdom he drops in my life each and every time I see or speak with him. Wisdom that you can’t get from a book, on a job or from any school, but the kind of wisdom that you must stop dead in your tracks to soak in, wisdom that can’t come from rushing things or by pretending, but the kind of wisdom that you must sit and allow to settle into your soul. Wisdom that comes from someone who has lived a rich life filled with great joy and even some sorrow that the soul is so ready to give to all who welcome it.

As a kid growing up I had the huge privilege of having what I called “elders” in my life. I use to want to go visit them and just sit and listen to their amazing stories from their rich lives and each time I would walk away with wisdom and a great feeling of encouragement. I had great respect and a greater reverence for the “elders” in my life and in many ways  Donald has become an “elder” in my life. I can count on one had, three fingers in fact, the “elders” I now have in my life and they are my great Aunt Loraine, my Aunt Emma and Donald. I am so richly blessed and honored to have them in my life.

Gifts 008I will spend my Thursday afternoon doing what some call “peer support” with my friend Donald, but in reality I will spend my Thursday afternoon in the company of my “elder” soaking in all the wisdom he allows to flow from his soul.

What’s Up?

// July 17th, 2010 // 2 Comments » // Animals, HIV and AIDS, Me Time

What’s up? was a blog post that I meant to post on Friday, but never got around to it. I guess better late then never right?

————

sew 019Seems like it has been such a long tome since I’ve posted a blog, it has only been a few days, but I know some of you are use to me posting daily, so to those who have asked why the blogs have slowed down, where I’ve been, am I ok and what’s up, this blog is just for you.

I guess I should really start out by saying thanks for very to all of you who have sent me emails and text messages checking in on me. I really appreciate that. I also want to say thanks for the prayers and support, this truly means a great deal to me.

“Why have the blogs slowed down?”

To be very honest I’ve been busy some the projects I am working on. This is now taking up so much of my time. I also have my little buddy to look after and he was sort of sick for about two days. I think I may have something to do with the heat. He is fine now and back to his awesome little self.

Another reason for the slow down is that I have not been lead to blog about anything. My blogs always come from things I am feeling, doing and experiencing and with each blog I always want the reader to walk away with something worth while. Just like with my YOUTUBE channel, which has also seen a slow down. There have been a few things I wanted to write about and even talk about, but like I said if I am not moved to do it, then I wont.

“Where have you been?”

I’ve been here, once again, just really busy with the projects I am working on. “Panels” The Living Quilt has beenJuly 10, 2010 018taking up a great deal of my time. This is my largest project to date. While there has been lots of people saying they are interested and would do it, and 5 guys here in Los Angeles have also said they would be part of it, the bottom line is that this is my dream, my goal, may project, so this means 100% and the concept, design, getting it the attention it deserves and locating people to be part of it all falls down on me. Now I am lucky to have some cool guys here in Los Angeles making panels for the quilt and they too have said they will help where needed, but I need more then just someone saying they will do something, I need to see it. I am no stranger to hard work and getting things done, just like I am no stranger to people saying one thing and doing something totally different.

I am also working on taking my YOUTUBE channel to the next level, it is time for the way I present my message to grow, but I dont want it to look too polished or fake. I want the main focus to still be on the messages I bring and not on the editing. However I do see where there needs to be some growth. So I am working hard on trying to find a good balance. I also started working on a short film of sorts, I dont want to talk too much about it, but so far it is off to a great start and this too has been taking up my time.

July 11, 2010 039The last thing I have been busy with is my outreach for next month. I had lots of people say they will be part of it and help out, but I know more then 90% of this is simply people wanting to make a comment on my videos or on my FACEBOOK note I made about the outreach. The other 10% are the people I can always count on no matter what without excuse. I mailed off 120 letter to local hotels, dental offices, soap companies and today, Friday, I have received about 90% of the answers to my request for support. “NO” or “The economy prevents us from helping” and “We only donate to non-profits” So as of right now it looks like I will fall far short of the goal to make 600 Do Something and Life Kits. However I will do what I can and keep working toward the goal until the time runs out.

“Are you ok?”

Yes, I am fine. I had a few set backs and for two days my lights were off, but things worked out thanks to friends. I had to cancel my HIV labs appointment for last week because I didn’t have the money to go, but once again that all worked out as well. I rescheduled and made it this week and also had other medical appointments I had to go to as well. I’ll go next month to get the results of the HIV labs. I am sure everything will be fine.

I spent most of my day today in the apartment working on my panel for the quilt and spending time with Dodger. IDodger 005had the chance to catch up with friends and later I will have dinner with my friend Natalie. It  will be nice to spend some time with her.

So there is the update and as you can see, I am doing my best to keep my head above water and not let things get to me. My health is good and I feel great for the most part. Everything is everything. I hope you’re all well and once again, thanks very much for all the emails, text messages as well as love and support you’ve sent to me. I really appreciate it.

New Laptop

// July 4th, 2010 // 2 Comments » // HIV and AIDS, Me Time

HIV outreach 003I know some people might be reading the title of this blog and say “How did he buy a new laptop?” Well I didn’t buy a new laptop, but one of the residents from my Skid Row outreach did and he called me to ask if I would help him. I was excited for him, so of course I said yes.

It’s the 4th of July, so I needed to check to make sure the store he wanted to go to was open, I also wanted to check the train schedule to see how they were running as well. Most importantly I wanted to make certain my cell phone was fully charged and not acting like a crackberry like it has been doing for the past two weeks. You can never be too careful when riding METRO here in Los Angeles. I guess this is true for anyone who rides public transportation all over this country.

Last week I was able to get some informational books on healthy living with HIV from Louis at the Gay and Lesbian Center. I also had a pill container that was passed out while I attended an HIV update through Being Alive. I packed these items into my backpack to take with me to Skid Row and leave them in the TV room for the residents. I am hoping to be able to get some POZ Magazines to take down there as well. I am still waiting to hear back from someone at POZ. As much information on HIV and AIDS that I can make available to the residents means the more tools they have to help them live long and healthy lives with HIV or AIDS.

Things started off pretty smooth. Since the fair machines inside the station do not accept METRO issued coins for theHIV outreach 002 METRO issued TAP card that we must now carry, I had to jump on a bus, instead of walking the four blocks to the METRO Red Line. Seem rather odd that I can get a day pass with the METRO issued coins on a METRO bus, but not at a METRO fair station inside the METRO stations. This is almost as odd as not having agents inside the stations should someone need to ask questions, fair cards stop working or if there is some emergency.

Once off the bus and down into the station I could here the train arriving at the platform. I was able to TAP my card and dash through the gate and make the train right as the doors were starting to close. This was sweet and meant that I would arrive in Downtown Los Angeles at least 30 minutes faster then I thought I would. The train was pretty empty, so I was able to get a seat. With the holiday this didn’t surprise. I was at the Vermont street station in no time and this is where I would make my transfer to the METRO Rapid 720 bus. I have learned to make the transfer at this station instead of riding to Pershing Square station and then have to walk 4 blocks to get the 720 bus. At Vermont the 720 is right up stairs.

Things didn’t go so well on the 720. The bus was packed, the driver seemed to be having a bad day and the bus smelled like a gang of shit filled diapers. There was no air and no matter where you tried to stand things were tight. I made my way toward the back of the of the bus through the extended section and once through the extended area there was plenty of room, even seats so I sat down. I had my shuffle on, so at first I did not notice the loud noise coming the group of drunks behind me, but after about 2 minutes on the bus, things went south. Two guys rushed past where I was sitting, down the set of steps and turned around yelling towards the back of the bus. When I saw one flip the finger toward someone in the back, I pressed pause on my shuffle. Another guy was pulling the one yelling towards the back and speaking to him in Spanish. From what I could understand he was telling him, to let it go and they should just get off the bus. The other guy wasn’t willing to let it go. He kept yelling at the guy a few seat behind me in the back. This is when I heard from behind me “Shut the fuck up before I kill you.”

HIV outreach 004The guy standing near me was no longer as brave as he first was and began to move toward the front of the bus pushing his way through the crowd and the extension area. Since I was in the back area where you must go up two steps my seat had a clear shot of the driver in her mirror. The two guys started talking to her and the look in her face was not very comforting. I saw her read for phone and start talking. This is when I heard the woman seated behind me say in a soft voice to the woman next to her “He has a gun”

While talking on the phone the driver kept driving like normal, but since this is a Rapid there was no stops for her to make. However she was driving very slow and when the time came to make the turn onto 6th street she sat there for a very long time. She finally made her turn but continued to drive very slow. We pulled into the next stop and about 10 minutes later there were police all around the bus. From the time this took place until it ended with us having to get off the bus and board another bus it was 35 minutes. What sticks out most for me is the fact that it took the police over 12 minutes to respond. I never saw a gun, but I do know someone was placed in handcuffs. I have always said that METRO puts profits in front of public safety. This can also be said about the new programs they roll out. Just like TAP card that riders must pay to get and pay to load them as well. However if they don’t work METRO you must mail them back to an outside contractor for METRO.

I was really happy to finally be able to exit the bus and get on the new one. I was even more happy when I got off,HIV outreach 007because just as he pulled up to my stop a fight broke out in the center of the bus. As I walked down the street the bus remained at the stop with it’s emergency lights blinking. Sometimes riding METRO can be a real nightmare. I am glad that even in the midst of all of this mess, no one was hurt and I was able to get to where I was going.

We walked to Office Depot and I showed Donald the computers we had already spoke about on the phone. He asked questions and I was able to answer them for him. After about 15 minutes he decided to go with a Toshiba. He also picked a shoulder bag to carry it. We headed to the check out, grabbed some drinks from Starbucks and I spent the rest of the afternoon helping him get all set up and show him some things on his computer. I even able to help him when he called the cable company to get set up with wireless service.

HIV outreach 005Donald is one of the very first residents I met when I first started my outreach on Skid Row, he is someone I care for a great deal. He is also someone who is in full control of living with HIV, not afraid to ask questions, seeks out advice, support and education on HIV and so many other things. He is someone I am always happy to see and speak to. He is a long term survivor and someone I look up to, admire and respect. He is also someone I consider as my friend. He is always so kind and always so eager to help and provide assistance. He can also make you crack up laughing too.

It’s was a real treat to see how happy he was to purchase a laptop for himself. So cool to see the sparkle in his eye and the joy in his voice when he talked about his independence and how he is eager to learn about using the laptop. It was the perfect way for me to spend this 4th of July, helping someone gain more of their own independence.

I can hardly wait to see him on FACEBOOK and make SKYPE calls with him. I am so very proud of him and how is is working very hard to live a great, happy, healthy and productive life. Just to see the smile on his face was so damn awesome.

The ride home on METRO was very quiet and danger free, which was very nice. Once home I made a scrambled eggHIV outreach 008sandwich, took Dodger for a walk, spoke with a friend and then kicked back. Tomorrow is Monday and I going to the ceramic studio. I’ve got some really cool things I am working on that I am so looking forward to completing. Plus I have at least five pieces that should be ready to be fired.

You Never Know…..

// June 23rd, 2010 // 4 Comments » // HIV and AIDS, Homeless Outreach, Me Time, Uncategorized, video

….how things will turn out, who your friends will be or how your life will end up. Yeah, you can do all the planning you want and do all it takes it be in full control of things, but the bottom line is that you never know. Even the best laid out plans don’t turn out the way we want.

I never thought in a million years that I would ever be homeless, but I was homeless for 29 months. I never once thought that I would be HIV positive, but I am sitting here typing out this blog almost three years into my HIV diagnoses. All I am really saying is that we never really know where our lives will carry us and we can’t change where we’ve been, but if we keep walking on our own paths living our truth, then the universe will always yield and unfold for us, just as if continues to for me.

When I started my Unpluggin’ HIV outreach the ultimate goal was to raise awareness for people living with HIV or AIDS as well as try my best to provide support for low income or homeless people battling these diseases. It was only 4 months after my diagnoses that I was able to do my first outreach to a group of 15 men living in HIV or AIDS in Long Beach thanks to the support from my friends Ryan and Moina. The outreached touched the lives of these 15 men by providing hygiene items, laundry soup, cleaning supplies, gently used clothes and even food.

The outreach would later grow to offer a full scale outreach to the HIV clinic at USC which would later move to Skid Row where today it offers support to 40 residents (men and women) living with HIV or AIDS. In addition the outreach still provides support to people with HIV and AIDS who are homeless on the streets.

Today I took the first step in creating two projects which will help to raise awareness and foster unity compassion and respect  for people living with HIV and AIDS. I met with my friend Brian to discuss  and lay the ground work for a project that will include stories from people living with HIV and AIDS as well as some artwork. In addition I have already started working on a film project that will feature people living with HIV and AIDS.

June 29th will mark on full year of being in my apartment and it will also mark the end of the goals I set for myself and my outreaches. The cool thing is that I reached these goals nearly two weeks ago.

Sunday I had the chance to meet someone who reads my blog and watches my YOUTUBE channel. He explained to me how much both the blog and videos have helped him to deal with his HIV status and how he gets encouragement and strength from them. I was both honored and humbled by him sharing the things he’s been through and how my blog and videos have helped him.

Right before I left for my final job interview today I got an email from a mother who just finished speaking with her daughter about being a lesbian. She said told me she would have reacted in a much different and less supportive way had she not found my channel on YOUTUBE. She told me how through watching my videos she has learned to simply love her daughter for who she is and not to “judge” or “condemn” her. She left her number for me to call her and I did. She shared a little more about her talk with her daughter and how things went. I couldn’t help but be happy for the outcome and to hear how much this mother truly saw how to LOVE her daughter without conditions.

I never know who is reading my blog or watching my videos, but every now and then I am able to hear from and meet people who do and each time I walk pleased in knowing that what I do with this blog and my videos has helped to make things a bit better for people.

My final job interview went well, I will know the result next week. Right now I am spending the night with my niece and the kid while her husband is out of town. I am enjoying my time with them and so loving where my life is right now. I could moan, groan and find many reason why I am not happy with things in my life and even find things to be unhappy about with regards to HIV, but what good would that do? What point would that serve? Who would that help?

It has been said that the purpose of a life is to live a life of purpose, well through the adversity t in my own life I have found my purpose and I am living it each and every day.

Life Goes On

// June 11th, 2010 // 1 Comment » // HIV and AIDS, Me Time

I’ve been busy with LIVING and making sure I am surrounding myself with people who are all about LIVING instead of people who have allowed the fact that they have HIV or AIDS change the path of their life.

So many times I read blogs from people with HIV or AIDS there is always this “poor me” or “victim” tone to them. I must also say that more then 99.9% of the time this only comes from gay men. When I read the blogs of others (heterosexuals) I dont get this at all.

In the time that I have been on this site I have seen some pretty mean and nasty people here who go out of their way to make people feel bad. It’s funny to me how this is done with the mask of “let me help you”

The one thing I have never lost sight of since I was diagnosed with HIV is the clear and undeniable fact that I still have a life to live. Unlike most, I was already battling so much when I was diagnosed….Sickle Cell, Cancer and I was already over a year into homelessness, but I refused to allow any of this, including HIV turn me into one the people I see so much in support groups both on and offline.

I learned right away that the support I would get from so called “support” groups both online and off was not going to work for me. So I needed to do what I have always done…..LIVE and keep LIVING no matter what was going on in my life.

It’s always funny to me how I hear all this crap about stigma surround HIV and AIDS, but the most stigma I’ve faced have come from the gay “community”

I guess what I am saying is this, why does life have to stop when you’re diagnosed HIV positive? Why do we make things harder then they actually are? How are we ever going to move forward past our diagnoses when we refuse to LIVE the amazing lives we still very have? Maybe all that seems to be going wrong in our lives has nothing to do with HIV or AIDS and more far more to do with the fact that we were unhappy, crappy, mean and disconnected people to begin with, but now we can blame it all on HIV or AIDS.

Since my birth over 41 years ago, I made the choice to live against all the odds. Sickle Cell was not going to control my life. When cancer came along, I fought harder and made up in my mind that cancer was not going to win either and now here I stand with 5 battles behind me. Homelessness tried very hard to defeat me and I will be the first to admit that there were times when I was so beat down that I felt like giving up, but I didn’t. Homelessness then got some help from HIV, poor access to care, lousy services and much more, but once again my will to live and get through the storm in my life was far greater then anything any of these things could throw at me.

In a little more then two weeks I will celebrate one year of living in my own apartment. One year of no longer being homeless, one more year of refusing to give up on me, one more year of an amazing life for which I am so humbled, blessed and grateful to have.

So instead of moaning and groaning about how bad your life is since your diagnoses, why not look for the awesome things that are in your life? Why not tell HIV and AIDS to kick rocks and start LIVING your amazing life?

Don’t let another day go by that you forget to LIVE, because LIFE GOES ON!!!!

Bad Eyes or Bad Camera?

// June 9th, 2010 // No Comments » // Me Time

Wine & Jazz 002Last night was the kick off for the Wine & Jazz at Hollywood and Highland last night and it was pretty cool kick off. My met Natalie there, but before she arrived I was able to hang out and take some pictures. I also bumped into someone who has been reading my blog for a while now and she offered to get a wine and cheese box for the both of us if I would drink the second glass of wine.

KJAZZ FM sponsors the jazz concerts at Hollywood and Highland and ProjectWine & Jazz 005 Angel Food runs and operates the wine booth with all the proceeds benefiting their organization. For those who don’t know, Project Angel Food is a program that provides awesome meals daily to people who are homebound because of HIV or AIDS and other serous illnesses. For a mere $10 you get two glasses of wine and a snack box of cheeses, crackers, fresh fruit and nuts and ever single cent goes to Project Angel Food. SWEET!!!  I was able to have a really cool conversation with friend, take some cool pictures before Natalie arrived as well as hear some awesome  jazz.

Wine & Jazz 001Natalie arrived around 8PM, but this time I was on the second level enjoying the view. The entertainment was on break, so when she walked over to find me, we too were able to have a cool conversation and catch up a little. She works really long days and we’ve been unable to hang out as much. Having the chance to hang was really cool and once we were done with jazz we grabbed a bite to eat at Mel’s.

I shoot with a Canon Powershot and I have been nothing but happy with thisWine & Jazz 015camera. However I guess I should have asked way more questions when I purchased the camera. I guess this really would not have made a big difference because I purchased it from Fry’s and they don’t have a great reputation for customer service and I am pretty sure they would not have been able to answer any questions that I may have had about the camera.

Wine & Jazz 021I’ve had this camera since late 2007. I lost mine in a fist fight down on Skid Row after the Union Rescue Mission refused to honor a bed ticket they issued. Someone who reads my blog and really likes the pictures I take was kind enough to buy me this camera. Right now I have over 20,000 pictures on my Flickr page, but I know I’ve take far more pictures then this.

Last year before moving into my apartment the lens on my camera startingWine & Jazz 023going out, but the price to replace it is far, far more then I could ever afford. So in order not to let the camera totally die on me, I really started slowing down on the amount of pictures I’ve been taken. Now this has worked for the most part, but in the last three months I’ve seen a huge change in the quality of the pictures I’ve been taking.

Wine and Jazz gave me the chance to really test to see if the camera is going or if my eyes are going. I will say that I think it is a bit of both. LOL. The last month I’ve been going out trying to take some awesome pictures and for the most part I’ve been very unhappy with the end result. So last night was a huge and final test for the camera. I love my night shots, so this was a chance to really test if it was my eyes or my camera.

Wine & Jazz 024Now I know my eyes are bad, but my camera is just no longer taking the awesome pictures and no matter what I did last night all the pictures I took just look lame. This really sucks for me because my pictures have become such a huge part of what I do for those who read my blog, they are a major part of my blogs. They help me to paint the picture of what I am talking about.

For now my pictures will only be for my my community work and no longer for picture safari’s or anything like this will simply have to wait until I am able to purchase a new camera.Wine & Jazz 033

A Day To Chill

// June 7th, 2010 // 1 Comment » // Animals, HIV and AIDS, Me Time

Ceramics 004Today was Monday which means a sweet day to relax and enjoy. Dodgers poop was much better after our morning walk, so I was really happy about that, plus he seemed to have his swagger back in his walk. This was awesome because I really wanted to go to the ceramic studio today, but if my little buddy wasn’t back to normal then I was just going to chill around the apartment with him.

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Most Monday’s I spend the day doing ceramics with other guys who are either HIV positive or have AIDS. I was told about this place shortly after being diagnosed from someone who reads my blog and watches my YOUTUBE channel. They saw a blog where I was talking about how support groups just didn’t seem to work for me and being part of social networks where the main focus is centered around HIV and all the members only blog or vlog about HIV also didnt work for me. Especially since more the 90% of the people were acting like victims or how their lives are some how now screwed up and over. For me that isn’t support and it certainly isn’t something that I consider to be healthy or something I want to be around. Now I am sure these settings work for some people, I am just not one of them and from what I am learning from some many people who are HIV positive, this setting doesnt work for them either.

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Dodger and I left home about 12:00PM walking to West Hollywood. I am notCeramics 001 sure how far it is, but I think it is about 6 miles round trip, maybe a little more. It’s June, so we are experiencing what is called “June Gloom” which means there is a marine layer that hangs around most of the morning and then it burns off giving way for the beautiful California sun. The walk was awesome and along the way Dodger was able to mingle with other dogs and explore. I was able to get some much needed exercise in.

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When I walked down the walkway toward the back yard I started thinking about the pieces I created the last time I was there and how they should be ready to take home. Once I got in the back yard I was greeted with smiles and hello’s from the guys. Monday’s are cool at the studio because there aren’t as many guys as Saturday and Sunday and the guys who come are very chill and there is never any catty drama. I also happen to think the most creative guys come on Monday’s.

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Ceramics 012Just like I had hoped for, my pieces were done and ready for me to take home, but what was really cool was the fact that they looked amazing and this made me very happy. Sometimes when I glaze I am not happy with the finished looked, but this time I was blown away buy how they came out. This was now the second time I was really pleased with the finished product. This gave me the energy to create some new pieces and this is exactly what I did.

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I spent the afternoon in the company of some really cool guys creating some really cool pieces over some awesome conversation and the focus was not HIV or moaning and groaning about being HIV positive. It was simply a good of guys who share having HIV, but our passion for life and art is greater then allowing HIV or AIDS to control, derail, slow down or end the amazing lives each of us still has.

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Just like always I left feeling happy that I took time out for me and the fact thatCeramics 006 I had the chance to spend the afternoon with some really cool guys making some awesome art. Dodger had the chance to play in this huge yard where he could explore and play in tall grass, chase cats and squirrels and then lay in the sun to nap. Our walk home was slow and steady. Once again, Dodger explored, mingled with other dogs and enjoyed his time with me and I was able to once again get some much needed exercise in.

Helping Others Through Food

// June 5th, 2010 // No Comments » // Cooking, HIV and AIDS, Homeless Outreach, Me Time

Chillin and Doing Something 008It’s been a great relaxing, but very busy past two days for me, I know I haven’t blogged about it, but there was a death in our family and I have been busy babysitting my great nieces and nephew for the past two days so my niece and her husband were able to attend the funeral and the kids could keep their schedules with school.

Thursday was pretty busy with outreaches down to Skid Row for Unpluggin’ HIV and picking up and dropping off the kids, going to the park, beach and cooking for them as well. Our day finally can to an end at 8:40PM. The kids took their baths and then played for a while before heading to bed, while I chatted with my friends on FACEBOOK as well as laughing my ass off with my friend Leah.

I must say I have really missed sleeping in my own bed. I am laughing while IChillin and Doing Something 006am saying this cause it just feels so funny to say. For the past two nights I have slept on the futon in my great nephews room and man has that been very uncomfortable. I even think it was bad for Dodger too because at one point her really started to throw a fit. I think I was able to get better sleep last night because I was so tired from all the running around we did, but it was still not a good nights sleep.

As I said in my blog earlier this week, my friend Jacque from Texas sent some amazing clothes that were her sons to help support my efforts to provide clothes for people in need. I used the clothes to support my Unpluggin HIV outreach down on Skid Row for people battling HIV or AIDS. With this donation I was able to give clothes to people who I have not been able to help very much because of the sizes I get most times are very small. Not that these two men are fat or anything like this, but one is tall and thick and the other is medium height and thick as well. I was also able to give clothes to other residents as well. In fact, Michael, the resident who I just interviewed for my Conversations with Kengi was able to get the smaller clothes. This was so awesome because he is in school, doing a great job I might add, and is in need of some help.

From Texas 001Jacque, I cant thank you enough for sending these awesome clothes which allowed me to help some pretty awesome people who are battling HIV as well as people I consider my friends and care for a great deal. I know there are plenty of places you could have sent these clothes and I am so humbled and thankful that you selected what I am trying to do. The guys were very thankful and I know if they could do it in person they would, but since they cant I will do it for them. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

So, it’s Friday and right now I am typing the first part of this blog before I takeFrom Texas 010 off for a interview with a director for a film project he is working on. Some of the things they are looking for are people who use social networking and bloggers. Now even though I am a huge user of social networks and I blog all the time, this does not assure me a place in this project, but I am sure it gives me a good shot. Plus my friend Alison who is friends with the director told me about it. I also vlog, so that my be a good thing as well. How very cool would it be to get a spot in a film project?

I also had the chance to help out my friend Franklin who is also HIV positive, but is in desperate need of some dental services. He has braces that are falling apart in his mouth and does not have the money to pay to have them removed. He has tried going to dental clinics, but has had no luck getting them removed. So I made some calls for him to see if people I know would be able to help him. It took about three days but two people got back with me and I was able to pass Franklin a list of over 40 places for him to call to see if they can help him with his dental. I have learned from hanging out and talking with Franklin that I cant do too much for him, because he has a tendency to not do anything. By giving him the list to make the calls himself, this will empower him to make the effort to help himself. I am very hopeful that he will follow through on this. I will keep you posted on how things turn out for him.

2:20pm, Saturday

Chillin and Doing Something 043The rest of my Friday with the kids was really cool. Since they always have questions about what I do I thought it would be cool to simply show them. Their parents are really good at making sure they know about many social issues and homelessness is one of them. So I took them with me to shop for items for two different outreaches. One that will take place in August to help homeless people as well as people battling HIV and AIDS. The goal is to get enough supplies to make 600 hygiene kits. I call them Do Something or Life Kits. There will be 300 Do Something and 300 Life Kits.

For those of you who are new to my blog, let me just tell you that a Do Something or Life Kits are made up of travel size hygiene items that are packed in gallon size ziplock bags that are provided to people who are homeless or battling HIV or AIDS free of charge. I created the Do Something Kit when I was homeless. After I was diagnosed HIV positive, still homeless, I then decided to create the Life Kits for people battling HIV or AIDS, who also might be homeless.

The past week I got donations from people on my youtube channel to help meChillin and Doing Something 001 get supplies for the outreach in August. I wanna extend a huge “THANK YOU” to them for helping me with this effort. Because of their donations I was able to purchase 104 bottles of water and 80 Rice Crispy Treats for the outreach in August.

In addition to getting some supplies I need for August I was also able to do a feeding thank to the support for my friends Lee and Philip who have been helping me feed homeless people. Since we had plans to head down to the beach, I thought it would be awesome to stop by Chess Park and feed my homeless friends there. I mentioned this to the kids and they too thought this would be cool. Farah, then suggested that we make a video about our day as well. Since I am taking a break from putting videos up on youtube I told them that we could simply take pictures. This is when she said, “we can do the video and you can film us.” I said ok, so the video is uploading to my Cooking with Kengi channel.

Chillin and Doing Something 002Before leaving for the store we talked about what we wanted to do. I really wanted them to take charge of this outreach so I told them some things about the people they would meet. After talking about them for a bit I asked them what did they think we should make for them to eat. They suggested turkey sandwiches, with macaroni salad and glazed doughnuts. When I asked them why doughnuts, they said “they need something sweet to cheer them up.”

I knew we would arrive at the beach after 2:00PM and this meant that not many of the guys would still be around. I never want to make too much for fear it would go to waste. I would rather run out then to have far too many. So we made 9 lunches and headed to pick up their little sister from daycare and then down to the beach.

The kids were really excited to do this and all along the way to the beach theyChillin and Doing Something 042asked questions about my friends and how I knew them. We talked about how I knew them and once we parked at the beach Farah came over to me and said “Uncle Louis, if you dont have a place to stay again, I will let you sleep in my room ok? I dont want my uncle homeless again.” I smiled at her, gave her a kiss and said “ok sweetie. Thank you.”

We took the lunches and headed into Chess Park and right away we found David. David was the very first homeless person I met when I was homeless and he showed me how to stay warm at night by stuffing newspaper in my clothes to stay warm. He also gave me warnings as to which places I should avoid sleeping. He also told me who to avoid.

Chillin and Doing Something 052As always David had a huge smile when he saw me and right away jumped into one of his stories about teaching kids to play chess. The kids thought he was so cool and very nice. He even offered to teach them how to play chess. Maybe one day soon I will be able to take them back there and David can spend some time teaching them how to play.

Just like I thought, many of the homeless people were already gone. We made just the right amount. I talked with David for a while and then I headed over the sand with the kids to play on the swings for a bit. When it was time to go they said how much fun they had and asked if they could help me feed homeless people again. I told them yes.

By this time we were all tired and hungry, so we headed back to my place. AlongChillin and Doing Something 051 they way they asked if we could have ribs for dinner and I told them that the BBQ place was way on the other side of town. This is when they said “we want your BBQ” I laughed, said “ok” and we headed to the store.

Our dinner was BBQ ribs, corn on the cob and the last of the macaroni salad. We had ice cream bars for a snack. They watched TV and played while I cleaned the kitchen and talked to Dodger who was sitting next to my feet as I washed the dishes. Their parents arrived around 11:40PM. WOW, this was a long two days with them and I was so ready for them to leave so my life could slow down again. I really love spending time with the kids. It’s really funny cause as my niece was walking out the door she turned and gave me a hug and said “I love you uncle Lou, thanks so much for watching the kids.” We both laughed and then she said “Do you remember when you use to pick me up when I was a kid?” I smiled and said “yes and your kids are no different then you and your cousins were back then.”

Chillin and Doing Something 062Dodger and I walked her down and said goodbye to her, the kids and her husband. He even calls me “uncle Louis.”

Once back in the apartment Dodger let out two barks as if to say “we got our place back to ourselves” ran over to his toy duck and began to shake the shit out of it. He retired to the back of the sofa and looked out the window until he fell asleep. I took a hot bath, chatted and then called Leah, had some awesome laughs and went to bed.

I had a great two days with my family and I was able to help people who areChillin and Doing Something 065homeless as well as battling HIV and AIDS with the help of my awesome friends. What better way to start my weekend, then with family and friends, doing our parts to help those who are in need.

It’s been a very lazy Saturday for Dodger and I and we are loving every single minute of it.

Stand Tall

// April 15th, 2010 // No Comments » // HIV and AIDS

I use to dread the visits to go see my HIV doctor, I knew I would leave there even more confused and lost then when I walked through the door. I also knew there would be no point in asking questions about my labs or anything else because I would never get answers because my doctor was always far too busy to take time to do things like this.

I remember when I had the Staph Infection and he told me

“You have got to do a better job at cleaning this”

“I do the best I can. Have you forgotten that I am homeless and this Staph Infection is in an area I can not see?”

He just looked at me like I had said something wrong. Later it would be this same doctor who would stand in the way to me getting housing which would end homelessness. When I think of what I had to deal with since I was diagnosed my heart sinks for all the people who are too afraid to speak up for themselves because this would mean the lousy care they are already getting would get worse.

Thankfully all the disrespect, hurt, shame, headache and stress of being HIV positive with less then lousy care is behind me because I now have a great doctor backed by the awesome staff of a great clinic. Thanks to this doctor and clinic homelessness came to an end after 29 long months. HIV is no longer something that I wake up from with nightmares of being at my own funeral and watching my friends cry because I was dead because of access to care. HIV is no longer something that I am stressed about, in fact besides doing the community work that I do with people who are HIV positive or have AIDS, it no longer is something that dogs my mind day in and day out.

A few weeks ago I went in for my HIV labs and I had no concern, Tuesday, April 13, 2010 I went in to get the results of the HIV labs and once again I am in a really awesome place. My t-cells remain very high and my viral load is still very low. I had the chance to ask my doctor a few questions about HIV meds and all the new debate and discussion as to when someone should start meds. It was so reassuring to hear her say that my HIV care is based on my medical history and how my body is doing against HIV. It was so cool to once again hear her say that she isn’t concerned about me starting meds, she just wants to help me remain healthy.

Even with all the stress that was in my life, my body has done an awesome job at defending itself against HIV without the assistant of HIV meds. It’s great to have a doctor who is willing to allow my body to do its job. It is also nice to know that when and if the time comes for me to start HIV meds it will be something she and I will sit down and talk about. I’ve heard many people say how their doctors had already picked out meds they would start, but when I asked my doctor she told me it was something we would discuss and we would come to a decision together.

I’ve heard and even read so many people say, just do what you doctor says and do not question it, I’ve also heard people say that ASO’s are the only place to get sound advice about HIV and AIDS. From experience of being sick since birth with Sickle Cell and my battles with cancer, I know that simply taking advice and not asking questions or even asking if there is another way, is not something that I would consider to be very wise. I certainly don’t put a great deal of trust, nor do I have a great deal of respect for ASO’s and this is also true for my local Gay and Lesbian Center. I feel this way because when I turned to these places for support, answers and even education, they failed more then 95% of the time. Now this isn’t to say that I have not met and have a huge amount of respect for a few people who work at such places, however it has been my experience that these places don’t always do the great jobs they would have us believe they do. Furthermore I know plenty of people who share my feelings about ASO’s and the local Gay and Lesbian Center.

So what do you do when the places you are told to turn to for support are the very places that cause so much hurt and harm. What do you do when you’ve done all you can? What do you do when you don’t trust the doctor or clinic where you “care”, for lack of a better word is administered? Who can you turn to when the system in place is failing you?

First of all you don’t give up and certainly do not settle simply because you are homeless or poor and told that this is your only option. You hold on and work as hold as you can to find another place that will respect you, that will offer you complete care and treat you like a human. You keep believing in yourself and your ability to weather the storm that is before you. You demand care that you are entitled to and you do not rest until you get it. If this upsets people and causes them to say you are a “trouble maker” and say things like you think you’re too good and “who do you think you are” you look them dead in their eyes and tell them exactly who you are. You tell them that you are their patient and you are holding them accountable for your care. You tell that case manager that you don’t care how heavy their case load is……”do your job” Don’t ever allow anyone…..and I mean anyone……including yourself tell you that you don’t deserve the best care regardless of your ability to pay.

You stick you chest out, square your shoulders and dig in your heals. You stand firm in making certain that they live up to their oath “first do no harm” you hold them accountable for for everything thing they told you they would provide regardless of how heavy their case load is. You hold them accountable for every federal dollar, every single private dollar they receive as if it came from your pocket and you don’t give up.

Being sick is stressful enough and you should not have to deal with any added stress, headache, hurt, harm or pain for the very people who are supposed to be helping you.

I am in a place where my doctor is awesome, my clinic is awesome, but there are people who don’t share the same feelings that I now have about my HIV care. There are people struggling through a system that is designed to cause setbacks, hurt, harm, pain and even death and I will not rest until it is fixed. I will not rest until studies are conducted fairly and accurately and I will not rest until places that get federal funding are held accountable for such funding. I will not rest until patient care becomes more important then how much the Executive Officer is paid. I will not rest until budget cuts that affect people who are suffering first include deep cuts for people being paid outrageous amounts of money for no real reason.

HUMANITY most always come before politics and certainly before the narrow minded thinking and stigma of “community”

I refused to give up on me, despite all that was encouraging me to do so and I  refuse to give up on people that this nation has given up on simply because they are homeless and poor battling HIV or AIDS.

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