Trip to Italy/Italia

1995H-trip-to-italy-with-JAM-JJC-HE

B.Michael visited with partner John, who had lived in Italy during college and maintained close friendships, together with dear friends John and Haftan. (Scroll to photos entitled “Italy, 1995” here.)

Their ten-day sojourn, roughly outlined above, included landing in Venice/Venezia, passing through Bologna (the city where John had studied) on their way to Florence/Firenze and Pisa in the region of Tuscany/Toscana. Then to Rome/Roma, back to Bologna, with a hop to the Adriatic coast, before departing from Milan/Milano.

Turkey + Greece

Given Bert’s teaching schedule, summers afforded more time and space to take international trips. In 1994, Bert and John, newly domestically-partnered, visited dear friends, Paola and Sertaç, in Istanbul. The above photo of Bert is, most likely, taken at the harbor in Bodrum, a coastal town where Turks vacationed (translation: a destination without a lot of tourists from the US). Visiting Bodrum required an internal flight to Dalaman Airport.

1994H24-I05-TUR-GRE-plane-tickets


And since Greece is so close to Turkey, they thought, how cool would it be to touch down on the islands of Lesbos and Mykonos, which loom large in the collective queer historical consciousness? Turned out that scenario would require more time than was available so they opted to visit two of the easternmost Dodecanese Islands, Kos and then Rodos (Cos and Rhodes in English respectively).

1994H-I-kos-rodos-maps

An enduring undercurrent of tensions between the two countries was evident in the way Greeks spoke about Turks/Turkey and vice-versa. On the ferry boat between Kos and Rodos — both islands in super-close proximity to the western Turkish coast — the wall maps included Turkey’s monochromatic land mass but did not label it.

While in Tigaki, a beach town seven miles from the city of Kos, B.Michael awoke in the middle of the night to wrote a poem.


Below are some scrapbook items — which include unexpected words like “saloon” and “tango” — as well as a lot of terms translated into German, given that Turkey was, at least at that time, a popular destination for German tourists.

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1994I04-tango-passion-istanbul

1994H-turkey-biz-cards


More photos from this trip are viewable here!

Yokohama, Japan

In early August 1994, B.Michael was all set to accompany his partner, John, who was slated to attend the Tenth International Conference on AIDS as a representative of Asian & Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Inc.

Additionally, through his networks, John was able to arrange for he and B.Michael, post-Conference, to meet with students from Kyoto Seika University who were interested in learning about HIV/AIDS, community organizing efforts, and civil rights movements in the U.S.

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Unfortunately, B.Michael learned, just a week before their scheduled departure, that he had to complete a professional education course ahead of September 1st in order to maintain his teaching license. He was forced to cancel his plans to join John on what would have been their first trip to Asia.

Bahamas

B.Michael’s father, Bertram Meredith Hunter, was born in Deerfield, Florida, a community of immigrants from the Bahamas. In August 1993, B.Michael was able to visit the Bahamas for the first time with his lover John.

The only remaining memorabilia from that trip are HIV/AIDS-related materials gathered at the office of the Bahamian Ministry of Health.

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This bumper sticker may have been a joint venture with the Ministry of Tourism!

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More photos from this trip are viewable here!

Bridgetown

“So Mr. Hunter, at what point did you realize you were in trouble?”
A fictitious reporter asks
Over and over in my head.

“At what point?”

In the Barbados waters
Swimming on the Atlantic side
This Island/Nation
Skies clear
Air dry.

“At what point?”

April 4, 1989, 21 years to the day
The Prince of Peace
Shot dead on a Memphis hotel balcony
By some white man
Helping those who
Don’t want niggers to have shit.

“At what point did it seem that danger was abound?”

Was it the lapse of time?
The absence of children’s voices,
Vendors’ bells selling ice cold drinks
Local souvenirs?
Or was it the sight of blue?

I taste water
Salty
In my mouth
I gag.
I go down.
No longer above water.
My hair is wet.
My eyes open, but I don’t see shit.

I concentrate
Get back to shore.
Then the tide goes in or out.
I don’t know. I’m not sure.

My head above water
I see rocks
Hear the waves crash
I think, Oh shit, I could bust my head
On one of those rocks.
But I’m not afraid.

I tread water
Locate the shore
Catch my breath
My bearings
The tide goes in or out
I wonder if this is fiction or non-fiction
I remember, I’m always confused about the distinction
So I say “fiction=fantasy.”
I, I hope that’s what this is
Then I go down.

But I’m not afraid
Cause you always have three chances
My life wants to flash before my eyes
But my ass wants to sit down
I go with my ass, legs and arms
I tread water.

First I need to swim away from shore
Then parallel
Away from the rocks to calmer water
Back to shore.

Then comes this brother
Chestnut brown
No darker than my own father
With terror on his face
I’m in control now
I think, I’m trying to save my ass.
Ten feet away
He treads water
He doesn’t say a word
I’m about to swim out
To calmer water
But I ask him
With obvious condescension in my voice
“What do you want?”

He says, “Here, catch!”
And throws me a buoy
My reflexes kick in
But this does not fit into my plans.

I realize he wants to help
I think, Maybe this is a better plan.
We start to shore
I realize he has a rope on the buoy
Attached to another buoy
Tied around his waist
I realize he has on scuba flippers
We are five minutes into it
But we have not moved anywhere.

Then comes another
Black man, my complexion
He’s wearing more of the same gear
Less the buoy with the string.

Now I start a strong scissor-kick
Stroke with my free hand
The three of us
Start to make progress
Fifteen minutes later we are on shore.

People gather around
I’m embarrassed
Start to make jokes
In the office they take my
Name
Address
Birthdate
“Are you sure you’re ok?”

I tell them of my plan to save myself
The first guy remarks,
“Oh that’s why you hesitated to grab the buoy?”

I leave the office
And think, Damn! It never occurred to me that a
Black man
Could ever save my life, that a

Black man
Could ever be a lifeguard.

I should have realized I was in danger
When I first went down
Or maybe
I should have realized I was in danger
When we didn’t move for five minutes
But I only realized I might be in danger
When we were joined by the second man.

Or should I have realized I was in danger the first time
I switch my seat on the train when
Black teenagers board
Or when
I talk soft, so as not to frighten women
Or when
I cringe when I hear Black English within
Ten feet of some apparent outsider’s ear.

Or when…
Or when…
Or when…

I realized that I had internalized the hatred
That goes with self, when so many forces around you say:

“A Black Man Ain’t Shit!”
“A Black Faggot Man Ain’t Shit!”


© B.Michael Hunter 1991

Barbados

Two weeks shy of turning 31, B.Michael visited Barbados in the West Indies for his first and only time. Below are some memorabilia from his trip, including a tourist map, receipts associated with his accommodations and currency exchange, and an accounting of his incidental expenses.

While swimming on the beach, B.Michael almost drowned, but came away with an important epiphany about which he wrote “Bridgetown” — one of his most powerful poems.

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1989D-barbados-receipts

Tanzania (Almost)

During the summer of 1980, B.Michael was set to visit Tanzania via Operations Crossroads. Due to “political complications” in that country, he was reassigned to Kenya. Always flexible, B.Michael pivoted and embraced the change in plans. His final paper on his Kenyan experience can be found here.

1980F25-paper-on-tanzania-GRADED