About Harlon’s Journey

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I grew up in Streetsville when it was a farm town and I used to pick strawberries where Highway 407 is now.  Being young and gay and understanding and exploring my sexuality was difficult, I had no role models and there was little support at the time.  I was afraid that I would grow old and lonely or I would get beaten up.  The former hasn’t happened, the latter did, but as we say in the gay world “I will survive”.

I went to the University of Waterloo and started my studies in Mathematics.  Who knows what they want to do with their life when they are 19?  I had more important things on my mind, like managing my acne.

I switched to Economics in which I earned a B.A. in 1987.

Then I moved to Vancouver to find myself.  The same year I learned I was HIV+.  At that time, the realistic prognosis was two years at best then a horrific death with visions of people carrying signs that said AIDS was a punishment from God.  If there is a God, she expresses herself through nature.  The signs didn’t make much sense to me but the outfits the people were wearing that carried them did.  My doctor at that time told me to make the most of the time left.

That’s what I have been doing ever since.

Then I backpacked through Africa for six months in 1989 from Cairo to Capetown.

I moved to New Orleans for a year because I wanted to write a book.  I worked as a bartender, and I thought I would become an author, the lovechild of Anne Rice and Tennessee Williams.

I moved back to Toronto and was living to die, but I didn’t die.

So I would take on bilingual customer service jobs at call centres that had benefits so that if I got sick I would not be a burden and when I saved enough money, I would travel some more.

In my late 30s it occurred to me, fuck, I am not dead yet. I returned to school to explore my passions and began by studying Zoology at the University of Toronto and finished with a Master’s in Forest Conservation.  I did my research on the South Island of New Zealand where men are men and sheep are afraid.

I had the most amazing dog in the world and his name was Otis.  I cleared HCV while doing my Master’s.  I had an extremely difficult time with adverse events from the treatment.  I fainted twice on the Go Train Station platform on my was to classes , I lost 55 lbs and the ability to sleep and for a few days I thought I was Hilary Swank and was trying to find my two Oscars.  Good news is I found my t-ball trophies.

I managed because I had support.  Support from my family, my friends, my classmates, Otis, my nurse, my G.P. and my Liver Specialist.  I respect Doctors and Nurses and my dog was my best friend.

I cleared the virus and I graduated at the same time.  I wanted the forest to be my office.  Instead I ended up as the accidental patient.

In 2007 I was appointed Patient Member on the Ontario Ministry of Health’s Committee to Evaluate Drugs.

Here I am now and I have met so many amazing people, I have seen so many beautiful places.  I couldn’t have done what I have done if it weren’t for support and I also believe in the therapeutic value of hope and laughter.

I am caring by nature and I care about nature.

My favourite movie is Network.  I love great writing and great acting.  Faye Dunaway pulled off quite the hat trick with Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown and Network.

My favourite book is The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.  

I want to travel more and I love being in the water.And from time to time, I ask myself:

If a tree DOESN’T fall in the forest, does anyone hear it?”

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62 thoughts on “About Harlon’s Journey

  1. Thank you, Harlon for visiting & following my blog, I enjoy your way of writing and your close relation to nature! Me, as an Austrian desecent and fervent traveller, I love nature too. Have a beautiful day over there! Wally.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Harlon, it’s been over 15 years since I first saw Network. I think it’s its own kind. I also remember feeling more angsty then – and especially considering the current political climate… it’s so perfect – i need to watch it again. I eventually stopped having favorites for all time, or just too many favorites in general. For the same era perhaps: Harold and Maude, and the Graduate are favorites. There are so many, Harlon. Here’s a start: Angel A and Wings of Desire, Girl on the Bridge, Whale rider, Howl’s Floating Castle, and Wit. The list is by no means comprehensive. Warm wishes, Ka

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Danica, your gesture of appreciation is wholeheartedly welcomed and embraced. I tend to shy away from awards, but time to break out of my comfort zone so I will get to work on this. Thanks again, Harlon

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re very deserving of this award and I’m thrilled that you’re happy with it. I understand about shying away from awards…I think, “Oh no, I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone!” But in my experience people like them and it’s time well spent overall. I hope you’ll have some fun with it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for following my blog! What an incredible journey you’ve been on. One that I trust is far from over. You are a definite inspiration.
    And I love the quote “It’s not all about me – but this part is”
    There are times we need to say that and accept that it is a valid thing to say.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So glad you are alive!! Ya know, I think a lot of folks should live with the intensity of the moment, enjoying each day as it could be the last. One never knows. And isn’t it true that all we have is the moment, the nanosecond?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, what an amazing, empowering journey. I am sorry you had to go through so much, but you are a trooper and a fighter and a survivor! Really inspiring story!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey Harlon!
    Thanks for coming over to my site. I have seen you at Michael’s . I am so happy to read your about page! You have had an interesting life. I became involved with HIV/AIDS in 1986, when it was still ARC. I took care of my brother during his illness and death. Then I worked at New Mexico AIDS Services as Director of Emotional Support 1988 – 1998. Amazingly sad, deep, heart wrenching and beautiful time.
    I am a psychotherapist, but my passion has always been Nature. Have you done anything with your Forestry Conservation? With the way funding is right now, there are hardly any jobs in the field, except for fire. My husband worked for the Forest Service for 35 years during the days when there was plenty of field work. It was a great career. Now we have a business restoring wetlands in the southwest.
    Anyway, it’s nice to have connected, Harlon. I look forward to getting to know you better.
    Peace
    Mary

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Mary for spending some time getting to know me better and I look forward to the same about you. I haven’t had too much putting my Forest Conservation degree to good use, but if nothing else, it has taught me a finer appreciation for the forest and when I go for walks it’s fun to have an understanding of how things evolve and interact. Biodiversity works!
      Sound like you were there at ground zero in the beginning days of what we used to call ARC. Thanks for the work and passion you displayed, it’s because of people like you, that people like me have survived. Now the journey is to take all this wonderful life experience and live a loving and meaningful life. So far, so good.
      Wishing you wellness, looking forward to your posts and sending you peace and love,
      Harlon

      Like

  6. Harlon
    What a life you’ve lived. Blessed by surviving HIV, struggling to keep your life moving forward. You’ve lived a care free life and a piece of every place goes with you. I imagine it was difficult understanding you were gay, mixed emotions. Now you’re are settled into one place there are many opportunities to meet other gay men. You live in a beautiful area they are bound to have big functions to celebrate something. You are young, it sounds like you are looking for a partner or a long term relationship. Get out and enjoy the area, the beauty. I would discourage gay bars but I probably don’t have to tell you. You have an incredible personality and it will shine above others when the time is right. I have no doubt you will meet friends and from there it’s possible to one is there. I truly admire your strength and adventure even in hard times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joan for hearing my story, I think their is great power in the narratives of the lives we live, I believe it is how we can learn and perhaps create a greater culture of care. I value you listening to mine. Hugs, Harlon

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dearest Harlon, a joyous solar return to you this day. Today may you feel a reawakening of your heart; a deeper sense of connection with the essential points of your life; may you open the gift of clarity and know what’s first and what is dessert. Welcome all who come in love to celebrate you, your space and your lifetime. May laughter be the wind under the wings of your spirit! Harlon, my thought for you this this and every birthday is that all that is divine whispers to you, calling forth the sweet juice of happiness that flows within your being. Know that in your fun this day, as it courses its way to the surface, it is an elixir to all who love you. Fly dear friend. Fly.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your words triggered many feelings – sad, wistful, fear, triumph, joy, ….

    I look at the life my gay son has now full of fun, laughter, expectations of success …. versus the life you grew up with and others of our generation. You were trailblazers but didn’t know it at the time … just trying to survive, literally.

    You have my deepest respect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comments. I am touched by the many feelings that I stirred and delighted that they evolved from sad and wistful to triumph and joy. We have come along way, and these victories are worth celebrating…I think if we can all do what we can do to make life better for the next generation that each of us deserves a Gold Star. I look forward to reading and learning from you. The respect is mutual. Peace, Harlon

      Like

  9. Nice to meet you Harlon. I’ve noticed your comments frequently on Michael’s blog. I’m captivated by your story, by the way you’ve told it. What a life!
    Thank you for choosing to follow our blog. I hope you enjoy the stories of our journey.
    Blessings
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for finding me and following my blog. I was captivated by your story with so many twists of fate. But what got me was the comments you made about your best friend Otis. My cat Dexter was my best friend and he just died on Sunday. It is crucial to have great love on this trip we call Life.

    Namaste, Linda

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Linda, I was fortunate to stumble upon your blog and grateful that I have. I read your recent posting and it drew me in and stirred melancholy and empathy. Ultimately, it does come down to what you elegantly stated; it is crucial to have great love on this trip we call Life. Peace, Harlon

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. I was inspired by all the different aspects of it. Amazing story.
    Thanks for following my blog and the recent attention. I really appreciate it. : )

    Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

  12. We have similar journeys leaving from Waterloo to arrive in Vancouver. I left Vancouver for New Westminster and then 2 years in Frederiction, NB. From New Bruinswick to the Island in Nanaimo where you would love to be. Many forest and many beaches. Without them I feel a void in my life. You have an endearing blog and a pleasure to read. I have three blogs and can manage them. Thanks for sharing with us. Be well

    Liked by 1 person

  13. There’s so much I love about this post: the humor, your perseverance to find and be yourself in spite of the false predictions that did not limit you, and the term nemophiist, (that’s me too!) I do believe God shows herself or himself through nature. You have a powerful story. I’m thankful to be able to read this part of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This helped me feel better today. I have chronic pain issues that at times keep me from being all I’d like to be and keep me from my writing. Thanks for the like on my brief blog post today.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi Harlon! Thank u for following my blog 🙂 i thought i did the same with urs hehe. Optimism is a gift which unluckily i do not to have. Getting a lot of dose from here. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Harlon, thank you so much for following my blog. I was so touched by yours. And you will love a book coming out soon; can’t reveal the name, but a friend asked me to write a blurb for it and it’s all about sheep… Joy to you, Lynnclaire

      Liked by 1 person

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