Bill Hayes, AIDS at 30: A Time Capsule
In the late eighties, coworkers and I at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation came up with an idea to get people—gay men, in particular—thinking about the future. We decided to create a time capsule. But it would not contain kitschy souvenirs—gadgets and record albums and the like. Instead, the AIDS Time Capsule would house answers to a simple question:
What message would you send to people 50 years from now about your experiences during the epidemic?
In June of 1990, we set up a booth at the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade. Crowds cheered marchers nearby on Market Street, yet the mood was somber within our humid vinyl tent. Whenever I looked up from our table, arrayed with pencils and paper, I saw a steady flow of men waiting patiently in a line that did not shorten until the parade ended and the fog rolled in. Single men, couples, and groups of friends, pumped-up, sun-burned, half-undressed, young men propped on canes and leather-daddies in wheelchairs: all waiting to send a note to the future.
I left the AIDS Foundation well over a dozen years ago, and I moved from San Francisco to New York two years back. I have no idea whether the AIDS Time Capsule has survived safely someplace; our idea of a “capsule” was a taped-up cardboard box. Fortunately, however, before we packed up the more than 500 messages, I made Xerox copies of a number of them. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of AIDS on June 5, I pulled them out for the first time in two decades and took a look at them.
Photo: Hospice of Marin County, 1982 (Paul Fusco/Magnum Photos)