Robert Rayford (Robert R): AIDS in St. Louis in the 1960s

Robert Rayford (Robert R): AIDS in St. Louis in the 1960s

The sad story of Robert Rayford (aka Robert R), the first documented victim of HIV/AIDS in the United States, shows that if timing had been a little bit different, the AIDS epidemic could have happened a decade earlier than it did, and its epicenter could have been St. Louis instead of New York. His story raises some uncomfortable questions. How did HIV end up in St. Louis, of all places? And why did it stay local to St. Louis rather than becoming an epidemic?

His story made me uncomfortable, and sometimes that’s how I know it’s time to dig in a bit more.

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Training future cassanovas

Last week, a coworker and I had dinner with three representatives from a potential vendor. One said he was planning to celebrate his one-year anniversary with his girlfriend in Paris and Italy. It was going to be a really good time, he promised, and he was excited about it.

My coworker and I, both married, looked at each other. We were about to deflate the air from his balloon, but we had to do it.

“Are you planning to propose to her there?” my coworker asked. Read more

An irreverent look at April 4 in history

On this day in 1581, Sir Francis Drake finished his journey around the world. For his efforts, Queen Elizabeth received a message from the Spanish government, saying Drake was nothing more than a pirate who ought to be hanged. She didn’t take them up on the suggestion.
On this day in 1814, Napoleon abdicated his emperorship of France for the first time, defeated at the hand of an alliance between Great Britain, Russia, Prussia and Austria. He was then made emperor of the island of Elba. Dissatisfied with the size of his new 120-square-mile empire, he was back in France by March 1, 1815. Napoleon’s enemies sent armies to stop him, but instead, those armies made him their leader, giving him 340,000 troops with which to return to Paris and set up rule again. His second reign was slightly less impressive than his first, lasting 100 days.

But the length of Napoleon’s second reign was impressive compared to that of William Henry “Tippecanoe” Harrison, the 9th president of the United States, who died on this day in 1841. His inauguration was a month earlier, and March 4, 1841 was a cold day. Harrison, against the advice of your mother and mine, refused to wear a coat and proceeded to give the longest inaugural address in American history, prattling on for two hours. His lack of brevity came at a high price, for he caught pneumonia and became the first American president to die in office. He also claimed the record for the shortest term ever served by an elected president.

If those aren’t the answers to enough trivia questions for you, Tippecanoe was also the grandfather of Benjamin Harrison, forming the only grandfather-grandson combination to be president.

And on a somber note, it was on this day in 1968 that The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis.

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