Absolute Convergence: Alvarado Court
By John Yager
This is the fifth and final chapter of a new Absolute Convergence sequel.
While this story is being added to the existing Absolute Convergence file, it constitutes an independent, self-contained narrative. I've given this sequel the subtitle Alvarado Court for reasons which will become obvious as the story unfolds. While it will be helpful for readers to know the original Absolute Convergence series, in which all the principal characters were introduced, this story should stand alone.
Absolute Convergence made its first appearance in January, 2001, as a series which eventually ran to a total of eighty chapters, the last of which was posted in January, 2004. I never anticipated the series continuing for so long and I am still amazed by the incredible loyalty of readers who stayed with me from the beginning.
I am also appreciative for those newer readers who have contacted me from time to time to say that they've discovered the series and ventured through the collected chapters.
I'm always glad to receive comments, questions, criticism and encouragement and hope to continue hearing from you. I try to answer all messages promptly. If I'm slow at times it's only because of the pressures of work.
Andrew continues to give me much needed proofing and editorial help for which I am sincerely grateful.
The author holds exclusive copyright (© 2004) to this story. It may not be reproduced in any form without the specific written permission of the author. It is assigned to the Nifty Archive under the terms of their submission agreement but it may not be copied or archived on any other site without the written permission of the author.
All the stories I've posted on NIFTY can be found by looking under my name in the NIFTY Prolific Authors lists. If you'd like to receive e-mail notification of subsequent postings, previews of upcoming stories, and other bits and pieces, please let me know by sending your request to the e-mail address below.
Writing Alvarado Court took many months, but a first draft was completed by December 1985 and, after several revisions and one complete re-write, I had it in its final form by May 1986. It wasn't published, however, until early September 1987.
By then, of course, Rock Hudson,
as well as Liberace, had died, two of the thousands who'd fallen victim
to the deadly virus. Many more were to suffer the same fate.
I don't know if the AIDS plague was the issue which finally unified the gay and lesbian community, but many social historians think it was of great importance.
At a rally in Washington DC in 1986,
to protest government policies, or lack thereof, toward AIDS research and
treatment, an estimated half-million people gathered on the National Mall.
Certainly not all the protesters were gay, but a very large percentage
It was a revelation and a turning point. For the public to see so many gay people "out" and together at one event was a demonstration of numbers and unity previously unknown.
It was clear that the gay community
was uniting. The era was ending when individual gay people could be forced
into hiding, into the closet, where they were easy prey to intimidation
and discrimination and assault.
In 1987, an even larger gathering was held in New York's Central Park and for the first time the terms "Gay Pride" and "Gay Power" were used in the mainstream press.
There had been a gradual building of gay action during the 1950s and 60s. In some sense gay action was linked to the antiwar movement during the Viet Nam years but, from the beginning, the gay and lesbian groups had been hesitant to affiliate with outsiders, which was later seen as a serious political mistake. In any case, the process of building some sort of real power base had been slow.
It was some time before the press
and the general public took gay action seriously. Some historians have
since said it hadn't yet reached "critical mass" but, for what ever reason,
it was largely marginalized.
When the Stonewall riots had occurred in 1969, a few hundred people had demonstrated and the press treated the entire thing as comical.
The headline of Jerry Lisker's now
famous, or infamous piece in "The New York Daily News" of July 6, 1969,
carried the headline, "Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad."
Lisker did use the term "Queen Power" in his article, the closest term to "Gay Power" to that date, but his article on Stonewall was humorous, not serious coverage of a significant news event.
By the early 1970s gay radio programs like "Friends" and "Sophie's Parlor" were beginning to provide a voice for the gay community, but real unity was still lacking. It was only in a few large cites where the gay community was sizable and visible, like San Francisco and New York, that social and political action was possible.
Larry Kramer, the founder of ACT UP, coined the phrase "Silence=Death," to describe lack of governmental policy during the Reagan administration.
It wasn't until 1987 that Ronald Reagan even uttered the word "AIDS" in public. A little over a year later, in November, 1988, he signed the first major federal act dealing with AIDS into law.
Times were changing. Gay Pride events
were becoming common in large cities across North America and around the
world. In LA, Denver, New Orleans, as well as Toronto and Boston and Miami,
Gay Pride parades and festivals became annual events, just as they had
earlier in San Francisco and New York.
All that was an outward sign of less visible, but more significant changes in policies and laws. The government and the general public had begun to realize that the gay community was a force to be reckoned with.
The story I told in that little novel titled Alvarado Court, was about the life of one gay man. The character I invented was my own age, born in 1951, who lived in the exact apartment I'd occupied, first alone, then with William.
I gave him the fictional name Bill
Desmond, so anyone who knew the history of William Desmond Taylor, could
not have missed the connection.
In many ways, Bill Desmond was my alter ego, a less fortunate alter ego.
I had the great good luck to meet William Amsted, my lover and partner, in 1972, and enter into a monogamous relationship with him which has now spanned over thirty years.
Prior to meeting William I was clearly drifting toward a life of sexual promiscuity which could have eventually exposed me to AIDS. I was clearly blessed. After meeting him, and forming a relationship with him, William and I rode out the epidemic, secure in our love for each other, and our complete faithfulness to each other.
Bill Desmond, my fictional counterpoint, was not so fortunate. He drifted into a fast paced gay lifestyle and, in my fictional account of his life, from one risky encounter to another.
It wasn't too big a step for me to
take one incident from my own life, an encounter with an anonymous man
on Santa Monica Beach in 1972, and turn it, in the novel, into a pattern
of encounters. But in my own single experience with such an encounter,
I'd topped the other guy, and used a condom, not all that common a practice
at that time.
In Bill Desmond's experiences, he'd usually been on the receiving end, and with no protection. As the story progressed, he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1984, before there were effective treatments, let alone a cure.
But in my novel it wasn't AIDS, however, which led to his death. He was shot, just as William Desmond Taylor had been shot in 1922, by and unknown assailant and, in the fictional account, died in that same living room in 1985.
Also, like Taylor, my character's murder investigation was muddled and left unsolved.
The novel Alvarado Court was, as it turned out, difficult to publish. I had thought that the reputation I'd gained from my work at NSB and Wordsmith, and from the literary and modest financial success of my earlier novels, would help in finding a publisher for the book.
I'd not foreseen the problems of publishing overtly gay fiction, or any fiction dealing with gay issues, in the mid to late 1980s. There was no overt sex in the book, no descriptions of sexual acts, no erotic prose. Yet the simple mention of Bill Desmond's lifestyle and references to sexual acts between men was enough to cause one publisher after another to reject the manuscript as potentially offensive. They were fearful that the general public would see such a book as pornographic.
Once again, it was only the intervention of Peter Amsted, William's father, which saved the day. He'd read the first draft of the novel in November 1985, and expressed interest in it. Many months later, during a conversation with him at a dinner party in London, he asked me when the novel would be coming out.
When I told him that I didn't yet have a publisher, that in fact it had been rejected by the publisher of my previous books, as well as half a dozen additional houses, he asked me for permission to "show it around."
I don't know who Peter spoke with, or what persuasion he used, but six weeks after that conversation with him in London, I received a call from Bolden and Wells. They wouldn't have been my first choice of publishers, but it was an old and well regarded house and at that point I was ecstatic to have anyone express interest.
Alvarado Court was finally published in the fall of 1987, but advanced copies had been circulated over the previous summer and it received numerous and enthusiastic reviews, both in the gay and mainstream press. It has, to my great surprise, become a part of many college reading lists.
There is one other incident associated
with Alvarado Court which I must share with you. Back in the fall of 1985,
William called me one afternoon at my LA office.
"Can you leave early?" he asked.
"Probably by four," I said, wondering what he was up to.
Forty-five minutes later he picked me up and drove east on Wiltshire. When he made a left onto Alvarado Street, I knew where we were heading.
"They've started taking the old apartments down," he said. "We're going to pick up some souvenirs."
"What do you have in mind?"
"I have no idea, but I spoke with the owner of the demolition company on the phone and they have salvage rights to all the usable materials. He said we could buy anything we wanted."
I'd not been back to the old complex for years and it was odd to see it in its death pangs. The two buildings nearest the street were still more or less intact, but the ones further back, including the one I'd lived in and then shared with William, had been gutted. The windows and doors had been removed and placed in orderly stacks, waiting to be trucked away to some salvage lot.
"Are you Gibson?" William called to a man in a bright yellow hardhat.
"Yeah," the guy responded. He was in his fifties, overweight and grimy, but he looked friendly enough. "You must be Amsted."
"Yes," William said, and introduced
After putting on matching hardhats, we were given permission to wander around. We stumbled up the stairs to my old apartment and found it was still in recognizable condition. The doors and window were gone and the place was covered with dust. A guy in his early twenties was kneeling on the living room floor, patiently removing the dark green tiles from around the fireplace. Some broke as he pried them loose, but he had a sizable stack of more or less perfect ones.
William picked one up and turned it over. "How much are you selling these for?" he asked.
"I think Gibson's asking a buck a piece," the young man answered. As he turned and looked up at us I realized what a handsome guy he was. It struck me that he was about the age William and I had been in 1972, when we'd lived there.
We looked around a little more and headed back down. Gibson was sitting in his pickup talking over some sort of CB radio. We removed the yellow hardhats and waited. When Gibson finished, William asked about the tile.
"Yeah, a dollar each," he said, getting out of the cab of the truck to talk with us.
"Can you have one of your men pack up a gross of good ones for us?"
"A gross?" I interrupted, wondering why William would want so many.
"Sure," Gibson said, looking over at me. "They won't all be from the same unit, but we have plenty.
"What about the doors?" William asked.
"Oh, some of them are okay, some are only good for firewood."
"How much are the okay ones?"
"Twenty-five, I guess," Gibson said after a pause. If you want several, I'll cut the price."
"Six," William said without consulting me. I had no idea what he was up to.
"A hundred buck."
"Yeah, and I'll go through the stack
and pick you some good ones."
"It's a deal," William grinned.
"What else is there?"
"Well," Gibson said, thinking for a moment, "when we take the roofs down we should be able to salvage some of those rough cut beams. I think there'll be some real beauties."
"Do you know how long they are?"
"Yeah, most of them are a sixteen foot span, so they're probably about seventeen feet long, total."
"What are you asking for them?"
"Well," Gibson thought again. "Like
I said, if you want a bunch, I'll make you a good deal."
"What about twenty?"
"Twenty beams?" Gibson asked, being sure he'd heard William correctly.
"Okay, you have a deal, but with one proviso."
"We'll need you to deliver them to the back lot at NSB."
"You going to use this stuff for a movie set?"
"No, we'll just store it there."
"One other thing, can you make sure that at least some of the stuff comes from that second floor apartment where your guy is working on the fireplace tiles?"
"Sure," Gibson said with a smile. "For sentimental reasons?"
"Yes," William said with a smile as we turned to go.