Hopefully, God is not through with me yetCommentary, Conversations with the Mayor of Hillcrest, Online Only, Top Highlights Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
COMMENTARY: Conversations with Nicole
BY NICOLE MURRAY RAMIREZ
First, I most sincerely urge all of you to get tested for cancer, diabetes etc. All my life I’ve been one who has avoided doctors checkups and tests and so it should be no surprise that this is the third time that I have come within minutes of meeting the grim reaper.
As many of you know, for four years now I’ve been dealing with high blood pressure, heart problems and breathing problems. I don’t know what idiot came up with the notion that our senior years are our golden years because they are not. They are more like our bronze or copper years! But many of us make them worse by not taking care of ourselves and not getting regular checkups and tests.
Contrary to rumors I am not rich. I live in a senior complex and at times paying my rent can be a struggle. But I’ve been blessed with a lot of wealthy and caring friends all of my life. I go to the American Indian Health Center and the doctors and staff there are wonderful and very reasonable. Indeed God has blessed to be to have so many loyal and good friends who accept me, warts and all, and put up with me. I’ve never learned how to drive or swim or anything. I don’t know how to work a computer nor do I own one. Yes, sometimes I think I’m a hot mess. But now for more than 45 years I’ve been a witness to the growth and visibility of my beloved Latino and GLBT communities.
In fact, I’ve been able to play a small role as an activist these last decades. I’ve lost count of the friends I’ve lost to AIDS, suicides and cancer. In the early 1980s going to funerals and memorials became a way of life for many of us. Now it seems I can only count on one hand how many fellow activists from the early 1970s are still alive.
This recent Pride weekend I just knew something was wrong with me. My breathing was worse. I was sweating like a whore in church and really tired. But as usual I ignored all the signs that my body was breaking down. I am a very spiritual guy and have been all my life. I pray a lot every day. I said to God just let me be OK until after Pride. Then I’ll go see a doctor. Oh yeah, sure.
Well, Monday came and my color was gray. I told Carolina Ramos, who was very concerned, that I was going to take a nap and then I would go to the hospital. Carolina was not having any of that and forced me to get into her car and immediately took me to the hospital. That action saved my life – period!
In the emergency room, I was told I was having kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, dehydration and soaring blood pressure. Well folks, I never knew I had diabetes and my blood sugar count was more than 1,100! Yes, by all medical accounts I should have been in a coma or death. But once again, God was watching over this tired old queen!
Well, my nearly one-week stay at UC San Diego Hospital’s cardiovascular unit in La Jolla was, needless to say, life changing. Unbelievably caring nurses and doctors; visits by priests and nuns; prayers and Holy Communion; learning about totally new eating habits and no more Mountain Dew’s, pies etc. and physical therapists walking me around the hospital. Your flowers, calls, emails, cards, stuffed teddy bears and balloons truly touched my heart and lifted my spirits. Truly, God has also blessed me with a loving and caring community. I even got well-wishes from people who are not my biggest fans! My life has now become injections of insulin with bloody pricks in my fingers three times a day and bottles of medication.
But this is nothing compared to those in the children’s wing of the hospital and friends dealing with AIDS and cancer. One friend of mine has AIDS, cancer, diabetes and is on dialysis. Yes, I’m lucky to be alive and hopefully God is not through with me yet. But once again my main message is don’t be a fool like me. Get medical checkups regularly and get tested for everything. Thank you.
My friend Bob Filner
Having served and advised the last six mayors of San Diego I have a unique and different perspective – more than most people. Mayor Hedgecock opened the doors wide for people of color and GLBT citizens for the first time at City Hall. I remember eating breakfast with him and others at his home (wonderful wife and good sons) and helped organize supportive rallies for him in his last days in office. When Roger was under heavy fire I gave him a walking tour of Hillcrest (a photograph of Mayor Hedgecock and me made the L.A.Times.) We stuck by Mayor Hedgecock until the very end – all the way to his resignation. Mayor Maureen O’Connor appointed more women, people of color and gays to boards and commissions than ever. Her chief of staff, Benjamin F. Dillingham, was openly gay and O’Connor became the first mayor to walk in our Pride Parade. Everyone loved “Mayor Mo” and I was proud to be elected co-chair of our city’s first gay advisory board (the late Barbara Crusberg was my co-chair).
Mayor O’Connor gave me the official key to the city for my social justice work and HIV-AIDS activism. Mayor O’ Connor and I became closer pals after she left office. She will go down in history as one of our best mayors. Mayor Susan Golding and I had a friendship, since she was a county supervisor. Her strong support for our first AIDS Walk (with founder Susan Jester) and the Names Project AIDS quilt’s first visit to San Diego (I was chair of the host committee) made these most important events possible. During her mayoral campaign, Golding’s opponents Peter Navarro’s attack on me and my subsequent press conference response made local and national media. But then that’s another story.
I served as the vice chair of Mayor Golding’s gay advisory board. I liked her a lot. Mayor Dick Murphy was a good decent man who should have listened to his instincts and not run for re-election. I was a solid Ron Roberts (great guy) cheerleader and supporter and when Murphy beat him, I was not a happy camper. In time, Mayor Murphy asked me to become a member of his advisory board and soon I became a Murphy loyalist. He became the first mayor to appoint a transgender citizen to a City Commission and spoke at every one of our Pride Rallies. I stuck by Mayor Murphy until the very end and before he resigned I presented him with a well-deserved award from the Human Relations Commission at Council chambers.
Mayor Jerry Sanders. Love, love, love this man. I met him while he was a cop (now that’s really another story). He really brought our city together. Best “First Family” ever. I have many wonderful memories and good times with him that I will always cherish. I would take a bullet for this man (OK, I would be wearing a bulletproof vest). Jerry Sanders, to me, is why we should allow third terms.
But, of all the mayors I’ve known, it is Bob Filner who I am the closest with and who I have had the longest friendship with – almost 40 years. He is a man not bothered with expensive suits, expensive clothes, expensive dinners or the trappings of elected office. He is more bothered with the injustices of communities discriminated against and without a voice.
Yes, social justice and civil rights have been in Bob’s DNA sensors since the 1960s, when he was a freedom rider. No one can deny that Bob Filner has devoted his entire life to public service and been a champion and a tireless fighter for African Americans, Latinos, Filipinos, veterans, people with HIV/AIDS, homeless families and individuals, students, children, women, GLBT youth, undocumented workers and working families. No one and I mean no elected official in San Diego County history can come close to Bob Filner’s record when it comes to leadership and devotion to social issues and civil rights.
Now about Bob’s personality, people skills and humor; well, some very big flaws indeed. Crude jokes, overly flirtatious, sometimes too touchy-feely, lots of profanity and bad manners. Yes, at times a complete hot mess. To be honest and ask any of my friends, at times, I too have displayed many of these traits. But then I am not a congressman over here. Now, I want to make it very clear I come from a traditional, conservative religious Mexican American family. And sadly, still have memories of my late father beating my mother. Her screaming and at times me trying to stop this abuse to no avail. I have no time or patience for any abuse of women – period!
During the mayoral general election and his seven months in office, I became very close to Bob and his then fiancée, Bronwyn Ingram. Bronwyn and I even went looking for wedding venues. I came up with the idea of “Team First Lady” and set it up and served as co-chair (along with prominent San Diegan Nancy Chase) of her Citizens Advisory Council.
How close was our friendship? Well, Bob and Bronwyn took me out for “Mother’s Day” brunch where Bob gave me a beautiful Catholic rosary (I collect them).
But, I cannot remain silent when it comes to so many now involved in this growing controversy. Bronwyn Ingram did so much for so many in our city, and she should be commended for her compassion and caring for those less fortunate. But I’m very saddened by her recent statement about Bob. They had an open relationship. She knew about his flirtatious ways and conduct for four years and accepted them. Before Bronwyn broke off her engagement with Bob she told me she knew about some forthcoming allegations from other women. I believe Bronwyn was used and manipulated by others and has not told the complete truth. As for the ongoing piling on by Democratic leaders, some of them are being total hypocrites. We, they knew everything about Bob’s ways and conduct, not for years but for decades. We should have spoken up more and shook the hell out of him but we didn’t and I accept my responsibility and so should they instead of holding ongoing press conferences and political posturing.
For countless years some of these very same Democratic leaders and I have had endless talks and discussions about Bob’s behavior and sadly at times laughed them off.
My big question is why isn’t there a media spotlight on that Republican Party official who secretly followed Bob around with his video camera trying to create a scandal? How about the relentless attacks and undermining by some of the conservative media and old guys network and establishment. They hate Bob Filner and were against him from day one.
In closing, I will not abandon my friend Bob Filner. Where would I be today – in my time of failing health – if my friends abandoned me during my 1970s drug addiction and bouts of depression?
Bob Filner deserves his day in court … but yes our city is going through one of its worst crises in San Diego’s history. I know Bob loves San Diego and I believe in the end he will come to the right decision.
Yes, Bob Filner indeed made his own bed in this controversy and has no one to blame. But it seems to me that other interests are trying to burn down the bedroom and house as quickly as possible. Let Bob decide his future and make his own decisions on his own time. I believe he will not let our great city down.
Nicole Murray Ramirez has been an award-winning columnist since 1973, and a Latino and gay activist for more than 40 years. He is currently a city commissioner and has served the last six mayors of San Diego. He is also a national board member of the Harvey Milk Foundation and chairman of the International Court Council of the USA, Canada and Mexico. Nicolemrsandiego@aol.com
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