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Visage December 4, 2010

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

I’d never seen John Berry’s face.

Back in the mid-1990s, I was in his house once. He wasn’t there. My co-workers, Deb and Tom, were taking me on a birthday picnic to the U.S. National Arboretum. We stopped at Tom’s house on the way, which was also John Berry’s house.

My memory is beautiful dark woods and perfect furniture—rather English-gentleman chic. I once bought a painting because it reminded me of how those rooms felt.

At my birthday picnic, Tom gave me a papyrus painting of birds, a souvenir from his trip to Egypt. It now graces my office wall.

I moved to Vermont. One morning, as I was cross-country skiing on my NordicTrack, the phone rang. It was Deb, and I picked up. “John Berry called me this morning,” she said.

Which meant that Tom had died.

Tom died of AIDS, just before the drugs got good.

A month ago, Deb and I were at the arboretum once more. I was in DC for the Stewart/Colbert rally. Molly and Paul (my ride) wanted to see the bonsai before heading north, so Deb (my bed-and-breakfast) drove me there to meet them. I gazed rather wistfully toward the National Capitol Columns, remembering our picnic.

This past week Dan Savage was on the Colbert Report to discuss It Gets Better, his online video project aimed at preventing suicide among LGBT youth. Gay adults talk about how life does improve.

I was watching this interview at the gym during my workout. There I am, minding my own business on the elliptical cross-trainer, when they run a clip from the project—and it’s John Berry, now director of the Office of Personnel Management and the highest-ranking openly gay man in U.S. history (whose name has now twice found me with an elevated heart rate). John mentions the string of important posts he has held, and says, “You can be whatever you want. You can love whomever you want. But only if you first love yourself.”

And that was the first time I’d seen John Berry’s face.

Just like Tom, every hair is in place.


1. indigobunting - December 4, 2010
2. Craig (Maito Sewa Yoleme) - December 5, 2010

How wonderful. Both the video and your remembrance.

3. Mali - December 5, 2010

Wow. Reading your tribute, then the video, brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful.

4. Lali - December 6, 2010

Magnificent! Thanks for posting this.

5. Dona - December 7, 2010

I’ve had picnics on that same spot at the Arboretum.

Thanks for telling us about John Berry.

6. Bridgett - December 7, 2010

That series, that heartfelt series, warms me. This is a nice set of twists you’ve written here.

7. Elizabeth - December 7, 2010

Gym??? The new mini one?

indigo bunting - December 7, 2010

(E, I was in Manchester.)

8. helen - December 8, 2010

Wonderful (as always). I love the last line…

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