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Maurice Grosser, 1984

Maurice was one of my dearest friends

He was 80-something when we met,
and I was 28.
We were introduced by the composer
Virgil Thomson.

Maurice was a painter.
He taught me about what it meant to be an artist.
Every morning he painted for five hours.
I always thought people retired at 65.
Not creative people, it seems.
Retire to what?

In the summer, 
he painted landscapes in nature.
In the winter, 
he painted portraits in his studio.

A painting took about five days to complete.
The next day, without a pause, he would start another.

He was in Paris in the 1920s.
(He and Virgil were lovers.)
He knew Gertrude Stein,
Alice B. Toklas,
Picasso (liked him),
Hemmingway (detested him--incorrigibly homophobic, it seems).
and all the rest.

He also taught me that it was just fine to be gay.
I always thought older gay men
lived lonely lives of quiet desperation.
Maurice (and Virgil and their many friends) 
taught me this just ain't so.

In fact, I learned there were handsome young men
who simply adored older men
--the older the better.
They're known a geronophiles.
(As in geriatrics.)
Maurice and Virgil would occasionally pray a mock prayer:
"Give us this day our daily gerontophile,"

Maurice and I never had sex
because he was in a committed relationship,
but it would have been nice.

Maurice was probably the oldest person to die from AIDS.
At his age, he easily could have said he got it from a transfusion.
He never did.
"I got my AIDS the old fashioned way,"
he would intone, imitating his friend John Houseman,
I earned it!"

He died almost fifteen years ago,
and there is hardly a day that goes by
that I do not think of him
and miss him
and love him.

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