You, Who Are on the Road

I went to see Crosby Stills and Nash the other night. I have always been a big fan. I bought the Déjà vu record when it first came out and it was the first record album I ever bought.  The first of many, many records that I bought over the years (an enormous pile of which I still have on a shelf in a closet). I must have listened to that record ten thousand times. Maybe more.

The concert was great.  Stephen Stills is an awesome guitar player and while he might struggle a little with pitch, he was inspiring to watch up there on the stage.  Graham Nash was barefoot and with his big shock of white hair and blousy dark shirt he looked a bit ethereal as he swooped around.  I thought David Crosby’s voice was terrific.  He has quite a presence with his flowing crown and that big mustache of his.  He  has an understated, self-deprecating humor that I loved.

I noticed that everyone, or almost everyone in the audience was old.  There were a couple of teenagers there with their parents but so many of the people were wrinkled, or grey, or both. At one point, at the end of a song I saw this guy holding up his fists in the air and shaking them in exultation with the crowd. He was kind of scrawny and had some wispy grey hairs poking out of his head. The guy looked like he could have been eighty years old!

Then, on a restroom break, I looked in the mirror.  I’m not eighty but it’s sure a long time since I first bought that Déjà vu album.

When that record came out we had never heard of HIV.  It’s possible that a case or two existed in the United States, but we were still about a decade away from the catastrophe of AIDS.  CSN (and Y at the time) sang about Woodstock (yes, I know it was a Joni Mitchell song) and long hair and not trusting the government.  They were singing those same songs the other night.  Now they are not only great songs but they are infused with a kind of nostalgia for who I was and how I felt at that earlier time.

What’s amazing is that any of those three guys singing up on the stage, or any number of the grey, wrinkled, happy crowd around me could be HIV-positive.  We’ve come so far in how we can treat and manage HIV that patients can live long and healthy lives if they get into care and take their medicine.  Fifty used to be considered old for a patient with HIV.  That is completely no longer the case. Last week in one of my clinic sessions every single patient on my list was over the age of fifty.  In a couple of years over half of all the patients with HIV in this country will be over fifty.  One of my patients will be eighty next month.  He could have been standing there shaking his fists above his head in bliss as CSN sang that fabulous finale to Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.


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