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    Goodbye. Not

    By Dr. Tim Seelig–

    Dear readers, here we are at another turning point together. You have shared the life and times of Tim so faithfully over these last 11+ years. My relationship with the San Francisco Bay Times began in 2012 with an invitation to write a single article. Unbeknownst to me, I think they were making sure I was able to at least express myself fairly intelligently through the written word. They already knew I had the gift of gab (understatement). 

    They asked me to write a couple more articles. On March 10, 2016, I wrote the first installation of my new monthly column. I was ecstatic. I passed the test. Now, I had to learn how to spell! About that gift of gab? Well, they told me they were looking for 750–800 words for each article. I assumed they meant as the introduction. My articles range from, oh, 1600–2200 words. And, to their credit, they’ve never cut a word.

    They have allowed me to write anything I wanted, even wild and crazy things. I’ve penned 76 articles to date. In a few weeks, I’m retiring from SFGMC, but not the San Francisco Bay Times. My articles will simply be taking different turns when my life is not synonymous with SFGMC. Tater Tot and my Grand Girls will still be active participants! My therapists have said for years that conducting LGBTQ+ choruses is not who I am but what I do. I’m still doubtful.

    Over the last six years, some of the topics have been:

    Music. Lots of it. (duh).
    AIDS. Lots of it. I’ve spent 35 years in the fight and as an HIV+ man.
    Christmas. Lots of it. It’s come around every year.
    Religion. Can’t help it.
    Abortion. Co-written by my daughter.
    Dogs. From Grace, Tater Tot, and Muttville.
    San Francisco. Because I am smitten with every aspect of it. And yes, I’ll leave my heart here.
    Loves, Loss, Death. Survival, Loneliness.

    I am even more grateful for the opportunity/challenge to write an article every month because many of the articles found a home in my memoire, Tale of Two Tims: Big Ol’ Baptist, Big Ol’ Gay!

    This article is not goodbye. It’s just wrapping up themes that have been prevalent in my columns and replacing them with other wonders! My last concert with the chorus on July 13 is titled Final Words. That’s just the last time I get to hog the stage at Davies Symphony Hall and spill my guts verbally and “wave my arms at the gays.” This column is far from my final words in writing!

    Those who have been with me for these wonderful years know that at some point in almost every single article there has been some mention or use of music, and often, some reference to religion. It’s not my fault. I spent 35 years in the womb of the church (or belly of the beast, depending on your viewpoint).

    In fact, my relationships with music, religion, and San Francisco all date back to 1968! I was an eager 17-year-old. My Southern Baptist youth choir from Fort Worth, Texas, came here on a mission trip. We’d been told many things about this Sodom and Gomorrah by the Bay and we came to save the heathens. On our bus drive down Haight, I looked out of the bus windows at those very heathens. I saw happy people. They were festively attired in the most fabulous tie-dye outfits and they were playing guitars and tambourines. I was so jealous of those people being themselves! I wanted that—to be one of them—to be me.

    It was two decades before I realized I was the one who needed saving! And 43 years before this now self-described heathen finally made it back to San Francisco as a permanent resident.

    35 years ago, this month, as a newly out gay, I auditioned to conduct a group of people just like me. I waved my arms. They sang. I cried. They hired me anyway. I also saw the face of AIDS for the first time as one of the singers on the front row was covered in lesions. My life was changed forever.

    I had this brilliant idea to rewrite the lyrics to the beloved anthem from Rent, “Seasons of Love.” If there is a single person out there that can’t sing along, please give your gay card back and, if you’re not gay, move on to the Broadway section of your homosexualization education program. For everyone else, sing along:

    “Five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes, how do you measure the year in a life?”

    So, I got out my calculator to adjust to 35 years. Now, sing along:

    “Eighteen million, three hundred ninety-six thousand minutes, how do you measure thirty-five years of a life?”

    OK, that part doesn’t work. But it keeps going.

    “It’s time now to sing out

    Though the story never ends.
    Let’s celebrate and remember 35 years in the life of a friend

    Measure in love.”

    My time here has absolutely been measured in love. You have allowed me to be me … a proud HIV+ gay man. Very gay. You have supported the chorus, its music, and its mission for 44 glorious years. I felt that tsunami of support the moment I stepped in front of the chorus and when, together, we stepped on the stage at Davies. The ovations have been overwhelming at times and I will carry the memory of every single one of them. None were more palpable than this past December when the curtain opened after almost two years and the singers removed their masks. While the pandemic was not over at that point, we knew we had survived our 2nd pandemic.

    In just a few weeks, an amazing new conductor, Jake Stensberg, will begin what will no doubt be an amazing next chapter in the very long book titled SFGMC. He’ll turn the first page of the chapter titled “Jake.” I’ll write my last page of the “Tim” chapter.

    My first concert with SFGMC in April 2011 was titled Words. We are repeating some of the pieces from that night and many favorites performed since then. In a couple of weeks, 11 ½ years later, we present the bookend, Final Words. Every piece on the program holds deep meaning for me and the singers.

    When I step back and ponder these incredible 11 ½ years, I am filled with the deepest gratitude. We dreamed, reached, stretched, sang, danced, toured, built, laughed, cried, and loved. All the things that make for a family—and an extraordinary chapter.

    Am I afraid? You bet I am. Everything is going to change. I began work as a dishwasher at age 14 and have not stopped working since. All of a sudden, I won’t have work. I’ll be in a new city. I’ll be on that dreaded “fixed income” thing you hear about. But Tater Tot and I will have a lot of time to discover Portland and beyond.

    I remind myself of how many times I have quoted my favorite saying by a friend, Patrick Overton, and repeat it again. “When you come to the edge of all the light you know, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: you will step on solid ground or be taught to fly.” I’ve been at that stepping off place many times in my life. It’s time once again for me to listen and believe.

    I would not have been able to pen these monthly articles without the guidance and generosity of Betty and Jen at the San Francisco Bay Times and my dear bestie Dan England, who knows me better than anyone and read each one to make sure I didn’t say something really dumb! To the staff and readers of the Bay Times, I will quote one more showtune. This one is by our friend Stephen Schwartz. “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

    Thank you for allowing me to come into your reading presence all these years. Next installation will be from my rocking chair in Portland, OR. I’ll have plenty of stories!

    Dr. Tim Seelig is the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

    Published on June 22, 2022