Friday, August 31, 2007


Faith is Trudy’s forte.

Not the religious kind, where you hold a deep-seated belief that guides you through misery and hardship with the promise that God has a plan, and if you are patient and well behaved, He will reward you in the next life. That takes too long, and it doesn’t sound like a lot of laughs either. (Trudy does, however, keep a stack of Norman Vincent Peale’s, “Power of Positive Thinking” literature by her bed. In this regard she has a vague belief in God, but in no other. She claims to be a Christian, but readily admits she’s just, “hedging her bets,” in case there actually is a judgment day.)

Where Trudy places her unwavering faith is in long shots that promise a big pay off. In this life. Right now. “Double your investment overnight!” “Lose 20 pounds in only 10 days!” “Look 10 years younger – instantly!” Trudy worships get-rich-quick schemes, fad diets, and miracle cures. So, when someone told her there was an experimental, controversial, holistic cure for AIDS available at a clinic in Tijuana, Trudy packed up the Mercedes, and off they went.

For several weeks, Trudy and JB called the Days Inn in Chula Vista, California, home. Recently, Trudy described that period in an instant message: “I have so many fond memories of JB in those weeks we spent in Mexico. Especially, when we walked the streets and shopped. He was a riot. He would not eat a thing in Mexico and of course I love Mexican food. We had so many laughs. Everything I said made him laugh. I think the doctor thought we were on something.”

Yes, JB laughed at Trudy, but he also adored her. Her parodied her infinite vanity, her petty perfectionism, and her duplicitous charm. But he admired them too. He needed her fantasy, so he climbed inside. Trudy called him, “My JB.” And Trudy wasn’t going to let anything happen to Her JB. He wasn’t dying anymore. Trudy had found The Cure.

The other guests staying at the Chula Vista Days Inn were making a last ditch effort to survive their terminal illnesses too. Cancer, mostly. But there was something different about the other guests. They were quiet, polite, but not overtly friendly. They had all traveled by train, from Ohio and from Pennsylvania. And none of them wore zippers. All of the other guests were Amish.

Amused, JB made friends with the women in their bonnets and aprons, and the men sporting long beards and suspenders. He’d wave and make small talk as they passed by the pool, where he floated in the late afternoons after treatments. ("Good day, Sarah, Jebodiah! Lovely evening, is it not?") They would smile and return his greetings despite his worldly shock of bleached blond hair, bare chest and board shorts. Trudy told me they had a funny smell. ("Like a chemical. I never could put my finger on it.")

In the mornings, a van would arrive to ferry the sick across the border into Tijuana. The driver, Willi Yu Cong, acted as an agent for the medical clinics there. He also owned a clothing store in town.

Banned in the United States by the FDA, the cure Trudy found is known as Ozone Therapy. The idea is that by introducing ozone into the bloodstream, unhealthy blood is oxygenated, and the AIDS virus is eliminated. On JB’s first visit to Dr. Angel Hara Zavala’s clinic, a catheter was inserted in his chest, which was to remain there throughout his treatments. Each day, his blood was drawn, mixed with ozone, and then returned to his blood stream. Every day, all day, five days a week.

Trudy remembers the treatments fondly: “It sounds weird, but we had such a good time. We had to get to the clinic early every morning so he could get all the IV in him before the day ended. He had to sit all day getting the Ozone, which took about 6 hours to do. After OJ was arrested, we watched the coverage from the clinic. JB was writing a musical about the murder.”

The treatments were given Monday through Friday. Trudy and JB drove back to LA on Friday nights and returned to Chula Vista every Sunday. In the evenings, and on their long drives up and down the coast of California, Trudy and JB made plans for the future. As soon as he was well, the conversations would begin, JB would get cheek implants and a new chin, while Trudy wanted a facelift and a tummy tuck. Or, JB would produce his musical comedies about OJ and the LA riots, while Trudy would invest in Ozone Therapy and make millions.

Trudy and JB spent several weeks in Chula Vista, but I only visited once. Mostly because I worked during the week, but also because I worried my fear and skepticism would show. I might have asked the doctor too many questions. I might have pointed out that the only other people gullible enough to take this cure were inbred and couldn’t use light bulbs. And that would not have helped. What did help was that Trudy believed. Not because the treatment made sense. But because she wanted JB to live and there was no other solution. Trudy believed wholeheartedly in Ozone Therapy simply because it had to work. And JB believed in Trudy.

During one of JB’s final weeks of treatment, our family went on vacation to West Virginia. JB’s cousin promised Trudy she would stay with him the week Trudy was away. She never showed. So great was Trudy’s faith in The Cure, that when JB died later that week of pneumonia, she insisted it was because he lost hope. “I think he just gave up. He was really scared. He needed someone to be with him. There was no reason for JB to die.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't even know how I came across your journal anymore, but at some point, I did. You had written several entries by then, and I read each one, fascinated. Even though you don't post very often, and there is no knowing the true you through these entries, the stories you tell are priceless. I truly care about John, Trudy, Leo, Karla, Ruth, JB, and you. It's strange to me that you're not one of the celebrated blogs on the internet. Then again, it was strange to me that I wasn't, either, when I was writing. In any case, I just wanted you to know that I dance a little jig each time I see a new entry, and that I live in Encino... if you ever feel like corresponding with someone weird-in-a-good-way, in a town filled with weird-in-a-bad-way folks, I'm around. Thanks for sharing your stories. Jen -