Partial Transcript: My mom is from here and her family all the
way back to the founding of the town, so I just really like the area and never
really wanted to move anywhere else. I mean, my attitude is changing a little
bit the older I get because of the town is not what it was when I grew up, but
my family's here and I just want to be around. I love my parents to death, so I
just want to stay close to them.
Maya, Interview...:Yeah, absolutely. Family is so important, especially now.
Keywords: Nashville; Tenessee; WNC
Partial Transcript: And that caused some issues within the family because my first cousin was very
homophobic. I mean, it's obvious he is. I didn't like him anyways so it didn't
bother me that he was homophobic against me, I just didn't like the fact that he
stopped the relationship. And a lot of people say, "Well, you're dating your
cousin, that's so Southern," but he wasn't really my cousin, he was adopted. And
when that broke off, I was so distraught I just had to tell my parents, yes, I
am gay. So that was after college. Nobody knew during college. So that was my
parents that knew.
And then I gradually around 1992, the local gay bar here in town Scandals was
known to have a "straight night" on Thursday nights. And a friend of mine who I
was working with at the airport at the time was gay and he knew I was gay, but
nobody else knew I was gay and asked me if I wanted to go to Scandals. When I
said, "I'm not going to a gay bar," he said, "No, there's straight night." I
said, "Oh, okay," well, this is my way of sliding into that scene undetected.
Keywords: Accepting; Christian; Discrimination; Journey; Military
Partial Transcript: And then eventually... So, I mean, when I
first went there, I would say that I was a little nervous, but I was comfortable
in the sense that I didn't have to admit that I was gay.
And we just drank and had a good time. I did meet a couple of boyfriends in
there on and off, some of them I'm still in touch with, to this day, but I just
wanted her to have a good time and basically drink. It was my first real bar
that I enjoyed going into because it was a nightclub/bar. So yeah, I loved the
music, I loved the lights, and I love live music and this was as close to live
music, having a live DJ there every weekend that I just enjoyed, probably got
caught up in it. And the owner, he's since passed away, but he was a very good
bar owner. He knew what a DJs to bring in, what music to play, what lights to
put in. I mean, he was really good. But I forgot the question now.
Keywords: Christianity; Church; Clubs; Gay Community; LGBTQ+; Scandals
Partial Transcript: He was doing some things for the bank that morning on his computer,
but he was missing work. He had a hearing impairment, so he would always
complain that he was an addict, he was deaf, and he was gay, and he didn't want
to know if there was anything else wrong with him. That's why he never got a
solid help for his suspected bipolar. And he told me he was going to go get
something to eat. And I just looked at him. I said, "Are you okay?" Normally I
ride with him everywhere he went, but that morning I was exhausted and I didn't
go with him. And he left the house, he loved me and he left the house. And I
said, "Something ain't right."
Keywords: Berevement; Finances; Loss; Relationships
Partial Transcript: I think at UNC Asheville and I think only 12 to 15 transferred or
something like that. So I spent the next two and a half years down in Daytona
Beach. And one of my middle school friends, middle school and high school
friends, was down there at the same school and lived in the same apartment
complex I lived in and we ended up becoming even closer friends. We're still
friends to this day, he's now a Colonel in the United States Air Force.
Keywords: Aviation; Coming Out; Psychology; UNC Asheville
Partial Transcript: Maya, Interview...:A lot of times, the word chosen family is something that LGBT
folks use. I know that you have the support of your family, but folks like
Kenneth who didn't have the support of their family, we call it chosen family
because it's family in the LGBT community that takes you in or supports you when
things are hard. And so I was just curious if you had a support network, an LGBT
support network of folks in Western North Carolina.
David Ayers:Not really. It's complicated as to why, or maybe it's not
complicated, but the gentleman that just came by a second ago, he's very
supportive. He's also very active in the gay community, works in the Western
North Carolina AIDS project and is an advocate for HIV AIDS community and also
the addiction side of it. He's been very helpful in a lot of ways and is a good
Keywords: AIDS; Advocate; Aviation; Christian; Conservative; LGBTQ+ Community
Partial Transcript: Maya, Interview...:Great. So you talked a little bit about growing up. Do you
have a significant memory related to childhood, or sort of your journey to adulthood?
David Ayers:The only memory I have that always comes to my mind is my dad, he
was a banker for Cove. He used to go out on business trips, and he'd go to the
Asheville airport back when the Asheville airport wasn't near as big as it is
now. It's not big now, as far as Air Force go. But as far as the Asheville
airport goes, it's grown a lot. And we had big, mainline Piedmont jets come in
there back in the day. And big, loud, noisy things. And he would take off on
them. And I just remember walking up towards the viewing area that they had at
the time, where you're pretty much on the tarmac, and feeling the rumble and the
noise of those airplanes take off. And just, man, I want to do that. And that
just, I don't know. Something about the... I love noise, and I love power. And
that had both of them. And I was just like, I'm going to do that.
Keywords: Asheville; Conservative; Economic; Gay Community; Segregation; Unincluded
Partial Transcript: And then when David Talvass, the other guitar player, joined... His mom
and my mom were majorettes at Asheville High together. My mom went to Asheville
High as well, except it wasn't called Asheville High back then. But they were
majorettes together. So Dave and I grew up together, and he and my brother
became extremely close and just were very competitive on the guitar. And both of
them were in the band together with me, and he came up with the name and it just
stuck. I don't know why. I have no idea.
Keywords: Asheville; Bele Chere; Family; Heavy Metal; KISS; Michael Jordan
Partial Transcript: I
know it does, but I just don't see a whole lot of it. You know, a lot of the
party type drugs, ecstasy, I've seen GHB. I mean, I've seen a lot of stuff. It
just seems to be very prominent.
And when I went to rehab, you know, everybody has got a story and a lot of those
stories involved a lot of pain. And I actually wrote an article while I was
there that stated that gay people in general have a higher incidence of heart
disease, diabetes, and other stress-related illnesses because when they grow up,
they experience a lot of little traumas, either being forced to come out or
coming out and people not accepting them or child molestation, which I was a
victim of, or something like that. that gives you a little post-traumatic stress
disorder signs throughout your life or symptoms of throughout your life. And
people end up self-medicating.
Keywords: AA; Addiction; Drug Deals; Lambda; Recovery
Partial Transcript: Well, at the time I was, you know, I was out of my job. I was getting some pay.
I wasn't getting my full pay. And they told me they were going to charge me 300
bucks if I didn't return the phone. I told them what had happened. I told them
it was in the custody of the Buncombe County sheriff's department. They said
they didn't care. I even accelerated the call or escalated the call to the
higher ups and they just didn't care. They wanted that phone back.
So I ended up getting in touch with the deputy and telling them, look, I don't
have $300. I need to get the phone back. And he told me, he said, "Well, I can't
give you anything back at this point."
Keywords: APD; Asheville; Buncombe County; Locals; Relationship; Sheriff's Department
Maya, Interview...:So today's date is May 8th, Saturday, and it is 3:40 PM. Andmy name is Maya Ulin-O'Keefe and I am here with...
David Ayers:Well, I go by David, but my full name is Michael David Ayres, A-Y-E-R-S.
Maya, Interview...:Uh-huh (affirmative). And what are your pronouns?
David Ayers:I have not really thought about that, so I guess it's just he and him.
Maya, Interview...:Okay, great. And can I ask you when you were born, if youfeel comfortable?
David Ayers:May 25th, 1969.
Maya, Interview...:Okay, so your birthday's coming up?
David Ayers:Yes, it is.
Maya, Interview...:Happy birthday.
David Ayers:Thank you.
Maya, Interview...:And where were you born?
David Ayers:Asheville, North Carolina.
Maya, Interview...:Awesome. All right, so you're a lifer?
David Ayers:I am.
David Ayers:Not many of us here.
Maya, Interview...:No, there's not. No, it's good. So I'm going to start offsort of with some broad questions and feel free to answer them however you want, but it's just sort of a way to get us started. So how would you describe yourself? 00:01:00
David Ayers:Just an everyday average guy from the South. I don't know how elseto describe it. I'm an adrenaline junkie, I know that much, somebody is knocking on my door, can you hold on just one second?
Maya, Interview...:Absolutely, no problem at all.
David Ayers:I'm sorry.
Maya, Interview...:No, no.
David Ayers:Okay. So I'm an adrenaline junkie, a former musician, and now Iidentify basically as a pilot nowadays.
Maya, Interview...:Awesome. A pilot, what kind of pilot?00:02:00
David Ayers:I fly the rich and famous.
Maya, Interview...:Ooh. So you know all the rich and famous people?
David Ayers:Quite a few politicians, musicians, things like that.
Maya, Interview...:Politicians and musicians, you said?
David Ayers:Politicians, musicians, CEOs, actors, actresses, you name it,anybody that's got a lot of money.
Maya, Interview...:Excellent. So you can get me all their contact information ifI need it.
David Ayers:Well, I guess I could.
Maya, Interview...:So how long have you lived in Western North Carolina? Andsort of, I know you said you were born here, but what has kept you here?
David Ayers:Well, I've lived here for 52 years, minus a short stent in Tennessee00:03:00and then Daytona Beach for college. My mom is from here and her family all the way back to the founding of the town, so I just really like the area and never really wanted to move anywhere else. I mean, my attitude is changing a little bit the older I get because of the town is not what it was when I grew up, but my family's here and I just want to be around. I love my parents to death, so I just want to stay close to them.
Maya, Interview...:Yeah, absolutely. Family is so important, especially now.
Maya, Interview...:So when you say the town is not what it was when you weregrowing up, can you go into a little more detail about that?
David Ayers:Sure. It was a very quiet little town, and we wanted it to grow00:04:00because back in the day, I mean, after five o'clock downtown was a ghost town, it was shut down. There was nothing down there. So they considered building a mall downtown to bring people in, that got axed, thank God. And then they created a street festival called Bele Chere back in 1977 or eight. And that grew from a city block with just a few vending stands of food and arts and crafts and maybe a little bit of music to the entire downtown where 300,000 people a weekend come in.
And it almost became our version of Mardi Gras basically, especially when theyallowed alcohol out on the streets and everything, not quite as raucous as Mardi 00:05:00Gras bit it was definitely huge. It got so big that us locals didn't like it anymore. And then the business owners didn't like it because the businesses that are now in downtown that when the festival was first created, didn't even exist, I don't know how many years it's been now, but they finally got rid of it. And now downtown is just a thriving metropolis. I mean, it's crazy because that's not the way it was when I was a kid.
So in between the seventies and let's say maybe the late eighties to earlynineties, I really enjoyed it because a lot of different people were moving in and it was growing. We got things that we didn't have before, like a decent 00:06:00music scene, beer was coming in and bars and restaurants that we didn't see before, a lot of mom and pop shops that I really enjoyed. And then Asheville downtown was a place to go instead of the malls, the Nashville mall they built in the seventies.
But then it started getting too big for me, I liked the small town feel. When Iwas born, I think there was a population of 45,000 maybe and that's doubled, more than doubled since then. And no offense to the New Yorkers because I do have some New Yorker friends, but when they started moving in in large masses, the attitude of the town changed a little bit and I didn't appreciate that. It 00:07:00became more of a city feel instead of kind of like a small town, country kind of feel. I mean, it was kind of both back in the day. I mean, you could get anywhere in town within 15 minutes and now sometimes it takes forever for me.
NoW, relative to say New York City, it's still nothing, but to us, it'ssomething. So it just changed, the vibe changeD. It's gotten a little too much for me because... I mean, there's still some good aspects to people moving in and bringing things that we didn't have before. But then now with the traffic and the infrastructure is not there to support all the people. And again, the 00:08:00South is known for its hospitality and when people come in from say New York or Chicago or LA or something like that, the hospitality is not alpha. So leave it at that.
Maya, Interview...:Very true. Yeah, it's definitely changed even since I wasyounger. I remember growing up here in the early 2000s, it felt very different than it does now even. So I can't imagine the difference over that long period of time too.
David Ayers:Yeah. The natives are getting restless.
Maya, Interview...:So what's something you want people to know about your life?And maybe this is where we can sort of begin your life history.
David Ayers:Ms my life has been very, I guess, blessed would be the way to put00:09:00it. I didn't encounter discrimination. A lot of the people that I know in the gay community here, they tell me these horror stories about how they've been treated and I work in a very military dominated field, very white male, military dominated field and you would think that I would experience a lot of discrimination in that. And if I do, it's not to my face, nobody has really said anything to me. I mean, I know it exists, but they're either too afraid to tell me to my face or they get to know me first because I didn't come out to my work 00:10:00until 2016 and I didn't come out to my parents until I was 26.
So I just didn't really experience a lot of things I hear from other people. Imean, my parents didn't kick me out of the house, they're very, very active in the church, very strong Christian people, but to me, they're what you would expect a Christian family to be. They're not judgmental, they're very accepting. And I guess I've been blessed with that in that regard because I know a lot of people that are brought up in Christian households and they're being judged all the time and being treated horribly from what I hear. I mean there's two sides to every story, but that side of the story I'm hearing is pretty brutal. I guess 00:11:00I just want people to know that it is possible to grow up in the South and be successful in what you do no matter who you are.
Maya, Interview...:Great sentiment. Do you feel comfortable telling me yourcoming out story or your journey? I know it's multiple coming outs.
David Ayers:Yeah. That one's very difficult. This one may have to be strickenfrom the record.
David Ayers:So this part doesn't have to be stricken, but I had some relations00:12:00with some people, like I had a neighbor who lived across the street from me and he went to the North Carolina School of Science and Math and he brought his yearbook home one summer and he was telling me some of the people that he was acquaintances with him, and one guy had the exact same last name he had so they were pictured next to each other in the yearbook. And he said, "Oh, this guy's gay." And I said, "Oh really?" Well, in the back of the yearbook, they had everybody's address and phone number and I got this guy's phone number and ended up contacting him and we hung out a little bit, he lived in Charlotte, hung out a little bit and he came to Bele Chere, the street festival, one year and stayed over at my parents' house. I was only 18, I guess it was.
And he was quite flamboyant so my dad immediately recognize that and approached00:13:00me and said, "Do you know he's gay, right?" I said, "No, no, what are you talking about?" And he goes, "Oh yeah, he's definitely gay," he said, "If you think you are, you need to get that fixed." Well, that was my dad then, that's not him now. So I got further into the closet if you will, after that.
And then I have a first cousin who adopted a kid, the kid doesn't know he's beenadopted though, he thinks he's my second cousin, but he's not. And we ended up developing a really close friendship that developed into something a little more, which it shouldn't have, but it did. And when my family, his side of the 00:14:00family found out about that, they contacted my side of family and basically outed me. And then I came out to my parents at that point, I was 26 then. And he was younger than I was.
And that caused some issues within the family because my first cousin was veryhomophobic. I mean, it's obvious he is. I didn't like him anyways so it didn't bother me that he was homophobic against me, I just didn't like the fact that he stopped the relationship. And a lot of people say, "Well, you're dating your cousin, that's so Southern," but he wasn't really my cousin, he was adopted. And when that broke off, I was so distraught I just had to tell my parents, yes, I am gay. So that was after college. Nobody knew during college. So that was my 00:15:00parents that knew.
And then I gradually around 1992, the local gay bar here in town Scandals wasknown to have a "straight night" on Thursday nights. And a friend of mine who I was working with at the airport at the time was gay and he knew I was gay, but nobody else knew I was gay and asked me if I wanted to go to Scandals. When I said, "I'm not going to a gay bar," he said, "No, there's straight night." I said, "Oh, okay," well, this is my way of sliding into that scene undetected. So I started going in on Thursday nights and I really liked the scene. It was a bunch of college kids and I was just fresh out of college. And there, you met the people that may or may not be gay and I loved the challenge of trying to find out who was and who wasn't. And it was a good time. It was a really good time. 00:16:00
And then I actually started going on on the other nights because I was alreadythere and I was like, I just want to see what the other nights are like there. And so at that point, I had a very close knit group of friends that I knew from the bar or the nightclub that knew I was, but all my other friends maybe suspected, but didn't have confirmation. My family still knew at that point. But none of my professional friends, with the exception of one guy, and none of them nobody in the community as a whole knew. And like I said, they may have suspected but they didn't know.
And then fast forward to 2016, I guess it was, I lived a double life because I00:17:00started flying professionally in 2000 and so I was on the road for half the month and another time I was at home. When I was at home, only my friends in town knew, but none of my professional friends knew, excuse me. And then I met somebody in 2004, I believe it was. I lived in Tennessee from 2000, 2004 and I just basically focused on my career at that point in flying. And then 2004, I took a new job where I could live anywhere I wanted so I moved back home, met this 18 year old kid at Scandals one night, I got to know him and we started dating on and off for a little while. He was fresh out of high school and of 00:18:00course I was 35, 34. I was a little older.
And he got tired of me pretty quick and introduced me to this other guy, afriend of his, that he grew up with right across the street in Weaverville, and they went to high school together, I mean, they grew up together and introduced me on June 12th, which happens to be my parents' anniversary, June 12th of 2005 at the basement of Scandals on a Sunday. And he told me that his family had kicked him out of the house because they just found out he was gay, he was 19. And I told him, I was like, "Well I got a place you can stay for a while if you want." And we ended up being together for 11 years. So we became a couple pretty 00:19:00quick. And then for 11 years, we were together and that ended in tragedy in 2016 and that's when I came out to my professional group. So now everybody knows who at this point. So my coming out was over a decade pretty much.
Maya, Interview...:Yeah. That's why we call it a coming out journey, right? Youhave to come out multiple times for a long time because it's different groups of people in your life. Makes sense.
David Ayers:Yeah, definitely. I had a little here, a little there.
Maya, Interview...:So can you tell me about your first time going into Scandalsand sort of the feeling of being in the first, was that the first sort of place where it was okay, this community of gay folks came together? And is that sort 00:20:00of the first time you'd had an experience like that?
David Ayers:Yes and no. I did go, there was a place across the street calledTracks at the time, it's long since gone, but I went in there once and I felt extremely uncomfortable, I didn't like it at all. Everybody in there was very open and a little flamboyant, especially the men. And I just felt very uncomfortable. So I didn't go back in there and eventually it became Hairspray and I ended up going in there when it did become Hairspray later on. B.
But when I first went into Scandals, I only went there because they had thestraight night and straight night nobody could tell if I was not, I didn't care if they thought I was or thought I wasn't, I could just go in there and not have to open myself up to anybody I guess. And then eventually... So, I mean, when I 00:21:00first went there, I would say that I was a little nervous, but I was comfortable in the sense that I didn't have to admit that I was gay.
And we just drank and had a good time. I did meet a couple of boyfriends inthere on and off, some of them I'm still in touch with, to this day, but I just wanted her to have a good time and basically drink. It was my first real bar that I enjoyed going into because it was a nightclub/bar. So yeah, I loved the music, I loved the lights, and I love live music and this was as close to live 00:22:00music, having a live DJ there every weekend that I just enjoyed, probably got caught up in it. And the owner, he's since passed away, but he was a very good bar owner. He knew what a DJs to bring in, what music to play, what lights to put in. I mean, he was really good. But I forgot the question now.
Maya, Interview...:No, you answered it really well, but he sounds like a reallyimportant figure in the gay community if he's bringing in good folks.
David Ayers:He was, yeah, he's totally missed. His brother is actually on citycouncil. His, his brother was on city council, I don't think he is now. 00:23:00
Maya, Interview...:What was this gentleman's name who ran the bar?
David Ayers:Art Fryar, F-R-Y-A-R.
Maya, Interview...:But that's really helpful when you're initially coming out tohave these sort of, I don't know if you call them giants in the LGBT community, but sort of helpful people that can create that space for you it sounds like.
David Ayers:Yeah. He also helps start Loving Food Resources, which is a foodpantry for HIV patients. And so, yeah, he was very big into that. He was a... You know what I'm trying to say, philanthropist and a business owner and I respected him, I don't know how... He can be kind of grumpy, but he was highly 00:24:00thought of, I think, in the gay community as a whole.
Maya, Interview...:Awesome. So you talked about how your parents were a littlemore accepting, but they were also fairly active in the church. Were you active in the church growing up?
David Ayers:I was growing up, yeah. My parents made my brother and I both go tochurch from the time we were born up until 18. They said once we were 18, then we can decide whether we want to continue going or not. The only reason I didn't continue going is because I was raised in the United Methodist church in downtown Asheville. So nowadays it's a very gay-friendly church, back then, not so much because it just didn't exist in Asheville, the gay community just wasn't 00:25:00as big as it is now. Community just wasn't as big as it is now. The only reason I quit going is because two reasons, one, I started working on Sundays and it was difficult. But two, I just found it boring. I didn't have anything against it, I'd rather sleep than go to church, or work. So once I was 18, I just didn't go anymore. My parents are still extremely active. I was confirmed and baptized at the church, and so I'm a member of it, I just haven't been in years. Occasionally I'll go with my parents during Christmas, maybe an Easter or something like that. But now that I've been out of it so long, I don't know anybody there. Maybe that's a cop out.
Maya, Interview...:No. It's supposed to be a community, but if you don't knowanybody in the community, it's hard to break back into it. 00:26:00
David Ayers:I could go back and develop the community. But anyway, yeah, I don't go.
Maya, Interview...:You talked about the process of coming out ended, or I don'tknow if it's ended, but one of the last things you talked about in terms of coming out was 2016 coming out at work. Do you feel comfortable talking about that?
David Ayers:Yeah, 2016 was a very tough year. So I was with my partner for 11years at that point, we bought this townhouse together that I'm presently sitting in, and had two dogs. When I first met him, he was 19 and he was a college dropout and worked as a cashier at Old Navy. After we got involved, him 00:27:00and my dad really hit it off really well. My dad was a banker at Wachovia bank for 40 years before Wells Fargo took over. And Kenneth was his name, he really wanted to get involved in something in finances. So he ended up going back to school, put himself through it because his dad was a farm hand and his mom was in insurance, but neither of them were college graduates. His brother was a rebellious young kid at that time. Nobody had been to college, so Kenneth suddenly got re-motivated and found the student loans necessary and put himself back into school at Marcel college. Graduated pretty quickly with a business degree and then in a span of eight years, went from being a cashier at Old Navy 00:28:00to executive vice president at First Bank in Asheville.
It was Bank of Asheville during the financial crisis of 2008, they made somereally bad loans and ended up getting bought out by first bank. And then he was working on his master's degree in finance. And he just really accelerated. Unfortunately both of us got involved with substance, which so many people in the gay community do. Mine started off with alcohol back in the bar scene, and then graduated to some other things. On June 21st 2016, we had just returned from some Dave Matthews concerts, which we made an effort to see them at least three or four times a year. So we were approaching our 50th show. And it was 00:29:00also the 25th anniversary of the band that year. And so we did some extra shows that year. And we had just come back from a show in Virginia and we both partied hard. Hard is not really the word for it, it was ridiculous. When we got back into town, neither of us had slept very much, and Kenneth was suspected of being bipolar, we don't know if he was for sure or not.
His grandmother I know was, and his parents in my view were very not acceptingof his behavior, they kicked him out of the house for God's sake. So for some 00:30:00reason they pretended to accept me at that time, I don't know. It's all confusing to me, but we got back from Virginia and that morning he was not in a good way. He was doing some things for the bank that morning on his computer, but he was missing work. He had a hearing impairment, so he would always complain that he was an addict, he was deaf, and he was gay, and he didn't want to know if there was anything else wrong with him. That's why he never got a solid help for his suspected bipolar. And he told me he was going to go get something to eat. And I just looked at him. I said, "Are you okay?" Normally I ride with him everywhere he went, but that morning I was exhausted and I didn't 00:31:00go with him. And he left the house, he loved me and he left the house. And I said, "Something ain't right."
So I threw on some clothes and got in my car and went all faster him, becausesomething's not right. And I ended up not getting very far down the road here, within an eighth of a mile probably or less. And he was pulled off the side of the road, but he was nowhere to be found. And so I immediately got out of the car and ran over to his car and opened up the back seat. And he had my 45 in his hand and shot himself. He was 30 years old, 12 days after his 30th birthday. That day changed me forever. I lost my mind. So I ended up calling his mom and 00:32:00my mom, and then calling 911. Everybody was screaming out, "Why didn't you call 911 first?" And it's like, "Well, if you could have seen what I saw, there was no point in calling 911." So I went back to my house in a frantic state, probably two or three hours later, after being questioned by the police and everything else, and called my [inaudible] at work and told him what had happened.
So at that point I didn't give a shit who knew, I just came out to everybody,because Ken was the love of my life and I just didn't care who knew it. My employer was amazing. I had no PTO, no vacation or anything, and they gave me 00:33:00six months off with pay, which was still not enough. It was generous on their part, but it wasn't enough for me mentally. So I came out to him and at that point, and then I started getting phone calls and stuff from people who had no idea that. A lot of people thought we were just roommates or whatever, but they had no idea that we were partners. I was not really for gay marriage in the beginning, but after getting to know Ken and really falling head over heels over the years, I started wishing that we had gotten married. So that's how I came out to my professional group. It was a forced thing, but I didn't care who knew 00:34:00it at the time. Anyway, so yeah.
Maya, Interview...:Well, thank you for sharing that. I can't imagine. I'm gladthat you were able to take those six months but I'm sure they weren't even close to being enough.
David Ayers:No. No, that's a tragedy I'd never expected to see. I lost mybrother in 1998. That was the hardest thing I went through at that time up until then. But after losing Kenneth, I never knew a tragedy. It could be much more difficult than this one definitely was. Being the only person that saw it and just speaking to him, just hell, we just spent the whole weekend together. It was awful.
Maya, Interview...:Yeah. And it sounds like it came out of the blue in a lot of ways.
David Ayers:Oh yeah.
Maya, Interview...:He just didn't seem right that morning and then suddenly...00:35:00
David Ayers:Yeah. His story, I wish he was here to tell it because his story wasmore of the story that I hear from other people, tragedy, and not being treated well growing up, being made fun of, things of that nature, being bullied. That was him. I never experienced any of that, but he sure did. And it all came crashing down that day, I think. His parents were not very supportive of him and even though they acted like it on the outside, inside, they weren't. At least if they were, he didn't believe they were. He developed a drug issue two years prior to that, exactly two years prior to that. He never had done substance other than alcohol prior of that. 00:36:00
And his parents told him if he ever relapsed that he would be out of their livesforever. And well, this was a relapse and he couldn't bear that. He didn't want them to be out of their lives, but he knew what they I told them and I heard them tell him that. And that's not how you treat an addict. And it's not like he was living at home with them or taking money from them or doing anything, he was completely independent, he was with me. I don't know why you would tell your kid that, but my parents didn't tell me that. I had the same issue. I'm now in recovery. And they were 180 degrees, the opposite of what Ken's parents were. Again, I'm blessed for that reason alone. So anyway, that's how I came out to work. 00:37:00
Maya, Interview...:Both coming outs, with your parents and then also at work, itsounded like they weren't necessarily your choice in a lot of ways.
David Ayers:You're right.
Maya, Interview...:That's the one thing we should get is how and who we come outto and you didn't have that.
David Ayers:You're right. I would say the second one was a little bit more of a[inaudible]. well, I guess it wasn't because I had to tell them. I had to tell him what had happened, otherwise I'd never gotten the time off. Otherwise it'd been the standard three-day bereavement and that wouldn't have done it. So yeah, you're right.
Maya, Interview...:I'm really sorry. That's not how it's supposed to happen.
Maya, Interview...:It's supposed to be joyful.00:38:00
David Ayers:But I probably would have never come out otherwise. Anyway.
Maya, Interview...:Well, if you ever want to tell Kenneth's story, we would loveto have it. We don't have to talk about it right now, but we can always schedule another time if you think that would be a helpful thing, both for you to remember him, but also to keep his memory. I'm happy to schedule another time with you to talk to him.
David Ayers:Sure. Yeah, I think his story was a good one.
Maya, Interview...:Sure. Yeah, we can definitely schedule another time afterthis, because it sounds like that would be helpful both for you. And then also we would love to have his story as well.
David Ayers:He was a good man.
Maya, Interview...:Yeah, it sounds like it. Do you want to take a break or howare you feeling? I don't want to move this along. 00:39:00
Maya, Interview...:Okay. Okay.
David Ayers:How are you?
Maya, Interview...:I'm good. I really appreciate you opening up like this, Iknow it can be really difficult, but I really appreciate it.
Maya, Interview...:Thank you. I wanted to talk about something you mentionedearlier about how nobody knew in college. And I wanted to ask you about how that was.
David Ayers:To me, it was easy. First, I went to UNC Asheville for two years,was majoring in psychology. And I did not like it. I liked UNC Asheville, it was okay. I wanted to be a psychiatrist or a psychologist, I wanted to know what made my brain tick, or what made other people tick. But I always had this strong passion for aviation and didn't really know how to get into it. And at the time, 00:40:00to be honest, I was in love with the CEO of mission hospital's son who lived in the neighborhood. He was not gay, but I wanted him to be. And he had two more years of high school left. So my parents don't know this, but I stayed in town primarily because of that person. Well, UNC, Asheville didn't have a flight school, so I decided psychology is something I really wanted to go into. And started doing my core stuff, and then some of the basic psychology courses and just hated it. I ended up getting on academic probation one semester, I think my GPA was a 1.3 or something like that, it was awful.
And my parents weren't having that because my brother had decided he wasn't00:41:00going to college at all. And my brother was an avid guitarist. He was really good. And he ended up going out to Los Angeles to pursue music. So my parents were like, "Well, one of y'all has got to go to freaking college," because both of them are college graduates and they're like, "We're not having two kids that aren't college graduates." So I ended up going to NCA, and like I said, just almost failed out. I tell my dad that I really wanted to go to flight school and my dad was trying to talk me out of it, I think primarily because of the cost. And I was like, "Well look, if I'm going to study something, it's got to be something I want to do. And this is not what I want to do." So I was thinking about going to North Carolina State there for a while and doing something with computers, wish I had now. And my dad pulled some strings and got me because it 00:42:00was already past the deadline for applying for that semester and so forth.
He pulled some strings and got me accepted him to North Carolina StateUniversity at the last minute for the semester that I wanted to attend. I could have waited till the following semester and done it myself, but he didn't want me to skip a semester because he was like, "If you skip a semester, the likelihood of you going back to college is basically nil." So he got me in and then a week prior to me packing my bags and moving into the dorm, I said, "No, I'm not going. I want to go to flight school." So he was not happy. I ended up applying to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. And at the time my grades were really bad when I applied. So they said, "You've got to have a semester of showing us that you can prove these grades." So I started putting my nose into the books a little bit more and brought my GPA up significantly at UNC Asheville and got accepted into Embry-Riddle. And 00:43:00transferred down there in January 1990.
And since Embry-Riddle's a technical university and UNC Asheville is a liberalarts university, I lost a ton of credits, tons of credits. I had 60 plus credit hours, I think at UNC Asheville and I think only 12 to 15 transferred or something like that. So I spent the next two and a half years down in Daytona Beach. And one of my middle school friends, middle school and high school friends, was down there at the same school and lived in the same apartment complex I lived in and we ended up becoming even closer friends. We're still friends to this day, he's now a Colonel in the United States Air Force. And I was very nervous about moving down there at first, but once I got down there and 00:44:00discovered alcohol, of course. I wasn't a drunk when I was down there, but it helped me come out of my shell a little bit. I just found a group of friends and stuck with them. And I really stuck to learning how to fly and pursuing my career in aviation, and I was just really focused on that and the few friends that I had.
And nobody ever asked me about anything. Now I did have a girlfriend slash bestfriend at the time, so she knew I was gay, but nobody else knew that we weren't together anymore. So at first we dated and then she found out I was gay, and then of course that didn't work out. But I used her as my girlfriend, if you will, through college. So nobody really asked me anything, it was easy for me. I 00:45:00just focused on flying and talked about aviation things. And I don't know, I just don't remember ever having somebody confront me about, "Why aren't you dating more," or whatever. There was also a girl that lived next door to me while I was down at Daytona that really liked me. And I hung out with her a lot, so maybe that helped too. But nobody really asked. So I [inaudible] thought the need to divulge anything. And I'm not even sure I was a hundred percent convinced at that point.
Maya, Interview...:Yeah, I've always heard that the hardest person to come outto you in a lot of ways is yourself.
David Ayers:Still is.
David Ayers:But yeah, so I had a good time in college.00:46:00
Maya, Interview...:Okay. You're supposed to have a good time in college.
David Ayers:Probably too much of a good time.
Maya, Interview...:You mentioned a little while ago that you, in the beginning,weren't for gay marriage. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
David Ayers:I was for civil union, I was not for the term marriage. And thereason being is because my parents are married and to me, marriage was more of a Christian union. And I felt that the gay community was asking too much by wanting to change my parents' definition of their union. So I was really a little defensive, but I didn't care about the civil union, I wanted them to have all the rights. It wasn't about that. It was just about the term marriage. I 00:47:00still have a little bit of an issue with it, but it was upheld by the Supreme court, so it is what it is. Sometimes I just feel like the gay community goes a little too far. I get they want equality, I want to equality, I want to be treated equally. But I don't necessarily think that everything has to be exactly the same as straight couples. And that's just my opinion though.
David Ayers:But it is what it is. My parents, I don't think, think twice aboutit these days, so therefore I don't think twice about it, it is what it is. But that was the only reason, it was just calling it marriage. If Ken and I got 00:48:00married, I don't know if I'd ever refer to him as my husband, I think I'd always refer to him as my partner, it's just semantics, that's all it is.
Maya, Interview...:Well, partner is a great term.
David Ayers:Yeah, I like it.
Maya, Interview...:That's what my moms use.
David Ayers:By they way, somebody mentioned to me one time and was like, "Wereare you involved at a law firm? What is this?" So when you think a partner is more a law firm thing, but anyway.
Maya, Interview...:Yeah, very true. Can you talk a little bit about your supportnetwork, or I don't know how you want to call it, chosen family, that have you have been able to build that up in Western North Carolina at all?
David Ayers:As far as just my family?
Maya, Interview...:A lot of times, the word chosen family is something that LGBT00:49:00folks use. I know that you have the support of your family, but folks like Kenneth who didn't have the support of their family, we call it chosen family because it's family in the LGBT community that takes you in or supports you when things are hard. And so I was just curious if you had a support network, an LGBT support network of folks in Western North Carolina.
David Ayers:Not really. It's complicated as to why, or maybe it's notcomplicated, but the gentleman that just came by a second ago, he's very supportive. He's also very active in the gay community, works in the Western North Carolina AIDS project and is an advocate for HIV AIDS community and also the addiction side of it. He's been very helpful in a lot of ways and is a good friend. Sometimes I think he pushes the boundaries a little too much because I have push the boundaries a little too much. Because I had set some boundaries 00:50:00there. I was like, "This is just a friendship," but sometimes I think he wants to push it to a little bit more. Kenneth was pretty much my entire support network. Kenneth and are both Christian, conservative, gay people. Which I find it hard to find around here, believe it or not. Maybe they're there, but I don't know where they are. I'm not well-accepted in the gay community here in town, at least the ones that I know, because of my political and Christian beliefs. It's nothing against them. They don't seem to understand I have nothing against them at all. But they think because of my political beliefs or my viewpoints, that I am against them, and it's a shame. And so I mean, I'm liked until it becomes 00:51:00close to an election or something like that and then suddenly I'm not liked.
So I don't really have a very strong support network of gay people. There aresome in the aviation community that have... in my profession, of course I'm not doing it at the moment because I'm in recovery, I'm working with the FAA to regain my wings, but... I've met some gay people in the aviation community that have now become my chosen family, if you will. And they're supportive. Some of them also have addiction issues, and they're also working the same program I'm working to get their wings back. And that's been nice. But the weird thing about that is, those people don't live here in town. So it's usually phone conversations. Maybe an occasional Zoom meeting or something like that, but it's 00:52:00all phone, and it's not the same.
Here in town it's really kind of non-existent, other than the gentleman thatjust came in. Kenneth was my entire support network. In fact, when I was with him, I was more comfortable being myself. I didn't care who knew that I was gay. Now I've kind of reverted back to my old ways since his death, because I don't have that support anymore. I was so comfortable being with him I didn't give a shit who knew it, and that's gone now. So, it's not really there. My parents support me, but that's a different kind of support than what I got from Kenneth. So yeah, that's a little frustrating.
Maya, Interview...:Understandably. I mean, the fact that the LGBT community in00:53:00Asheville doesn't necessarily support you. That's not...
David Ayers:Since 2016, again, with the election and everything, everybody gotvery divided and they didn't like what my beliefs are. So I just, I don't know. I mean, I lost friends over the 2016 election, but it is what it is. I mean, I can't change their minds and they can't change my mind. I just wish it hadn't come to that, but it did. And Michael is far left of me, and he's the one that just dropped by, but yet we find common ground. So our political beliefs are nowhere even close, but we're still friends, so.
Maya, Interview...:Good. You've sort of brought this up a little bit, but do you00:54:00have or know of experiences with segregation in the LGBT community based on race, gender, class? You've already sort of talked about political views.
David Ayers:Yeah. It seems the haves and the have-nots divide themselves. Andthen there's the have-nots that... I've noticed this a lot in the gay community, at least in my community. Drives me nuts. I don't understand it. Because I was brought up with two parents who they came from absolutely nothing. My dad grew up on a tobacco farm. My mom grew up moving around with her mom who was divorced. So her mom was a single mom. In the fifties, that was difficult. 00:55:00
They grew up very poor. I remember them saying they used baking soda to brushtheir teeth because they couldn't afford toothpaste, things of that nature. And so when they got married, well they ended up going to... I need to ask them how they ended up affording college... But when they got to college, they met each other and then they've been married ever since. So they've been married almost 60 years now. They decided that my brother and I were not going to grow up that way. So they more or less spoiled us, probably more than less. And we grew up in an upper middle class home in north Asheville next to the Grove Park. So a lot of our friends thought we were rich. We were not. My parents just sacrificed. I 00:56:00mean, we didn't have furniture in the house for a long time, because they wanted to provide for us and worry about material things later. Mom didn't have the dining room set until I was probably in college. So, I mean, I don't know how they did it. They really sacrificed a lot.
So there's a lot of gay people I know... so anyway, I was in a heavy metal bandwhen I was younger. So I hung out with people that lived in west Asheville. And west Asheville at the time was known as more of a, not a slum, but just a less-than part of town. And I didn't know. I mean, I know now. But I didn't know then, and I really didn't care because I liked the people I hung out with. And we became really good friends, and they always considered us rich. We were not, 00:57:00but because of where we lived and some of the things we did, they thought we were.
But they didn't mind hanging out with me, and I didn't mind hanging out withthem. And we didn't talk about our economic status or anything like that. We just didn't talk about it. But as I got into the gay community, I realized that there's a lot of people who don't have, who pretend like they do have, and portray to be something that they're not. And that drives me nuts because I want to know the person for who they are. Kenneth was a good example of that. Kenneth was a good example of not to do that. Kenneth was not trying to pretend that he was wealthy or anything like that. He was very honest about where he came from, and he grew up on a farm. His dad was a farm hand. Neither of his parents went to college.
And I liked that about him because he was honest and genuine about who he was00:58:00and where he came from. And didn't try to be something he wasn't. Now he eventually was making really good money, there towards the end. And it was well in his way to become a very wealthy individual because he was very good at what he did. But he never pretended to be something he wasn't. I've noticed a lot of people that I've met in the gay community, they'll drive flashy cars but live in a trailer or something like that. There's nothing wrong with living in a trailer.
It's just, why can't you... like I have this one friend that told me they livedin Biltmore Forest, which is an exclusive area in Asheville. I'm sure you're familiar if you live down here. But he lived in Oakland, which is not the same. And he said he had a six car garage. Well, I found out later his adopted dad built race cars, and he had a cinder block structure with a piece of tin over the top that could hold maybe six carcasses of race cars. But it was not a six 00:59:00car garage with a nice... He was saying he had a six bedroom house or something on blah, blah, blah. And none of that was true. And I see a lot of that, and it doesn't bother me that it's not true. What bothers me is that they put this perception out there that they're something that they're not, and that's what bothers me. Because then I don't feel like I ever get to really know the person. And I've noticed a lot of that.
So it seems like it is segregated because there's a lot of people that try topretend that they're a lot more financially successful than they are, and try to merge into the ones that are financially successful. And there are a lot of gay people that are financially successful because a lot of them, I guess, don't have kids. And so they got all this extra money from their careers or whatever. 01:00:00But then, I don't know, there's something about money that I've noticed in the gay community that is very disingenuous. I don't know what it is, but it does bother me.
As far as racial stuff, I grew up in a high school that was half black, halfwhite. I didn't really notice race until it started getting thrown in my face here recently. So I don't really, I don't see that necessarily in a gay community. I'm sure it exists because if you go to a concert for instance, or a ball game, everybody segregates themselves anyway, it seems like. Naturally. So I'm sure it exists in the gay community too. I just don't personally see it. I've got black, gay friends. I got white, gay friends. I got Indian, gay friends. Or I mean, American Indian, gay friends. So I don't personally see it, but it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. 01:01:00
The financial, economic stuff I do see. What other kind of segregation wouldthere be... oh, and then the lesbians seem to hang out with themselves, and the men seem to hang out with themselves. I don't really see a lot of intertwining with that, honestly. Although I have a really cute, lesbian friend that runs my suicide survivors group. And I swear, I told her... She probably didn't like this... But I told her if I was straight and she was straight, I would ask her out. Because I just love her to death. She is so cute. She's 35. She looks like she's about 12, but anyway, she's cute.
Maya, Interview...:Great. So you talked a little bit about growing up. Do youhave a significant memory related to childhood, or sort of your journey to adulthood?
David Ayers:The only memory I have that always comes to my mind is my dad, he01:02:00was a banker for Cove. He used to go out on business trips, and he'd go to the Asheville airport back when the Asheville airport wasn't near as big as it is now. It's not big now, as far as Air Force go. But as far as the Asheville airport goes, it's grown a lot. And we had big, mainline Piedmont jets come in there back in the day. And big, loud, noisy things. And he would take off on them. And I just remember walking up towards the viewing area that they had at the time, where you're pretty much on the tarmac, and feeling the rumble and the noise of those airplanes take off. And just, man, I want to do that. And that just, I don't know. Something about the... I love noise, and I love power. And 01:03:00that had both of them. And I was just like, I'm going to do that.
And that's what I ended up doing. And oddly enough, one of the first airplanes Iflew was a Lear 20 series, which is an old 1960s to 70s airframe. And it had engines that are now banned. You can't fly them with these engines anymore because they're so loud and they pollute a lot, and I just loved flying them cause they were so noisy. I mean, I don't know if you've ever heard a fighter jet take off. That's what these things sounded like. I mean, they shook everything. I mean, people's car alarms would go off in their cars because it was so loud and vibrated so much. But I just loves that. And plus I was a drummer in a heavy metal band, so I liked that kind of noise too. So, but those business trips that my dad took really shaped the rest of my career, my adult 01:04:00life. And it was just watching these airplanes go down the runway. That's all it was. As far as anything else, I can't think of anything off the top of my head. I can't think of anything else.
Maya, Interview...:That's a great memory. I love that. So, you've talked acouple of times about being in a heavy metal band. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
David Ayers:My brother was a big KISS fan back way before he probably shouldhave liked KISS. He was maybe four or five. I was listening to Donny & Marie, and he was listening to KISS. So that actually right there should tell you the difference between my brother and I. But I listened to KISS so much because of him, that I really enjoyed the rock and roll. I just enjoyed it. And I was listening to a little Donny & Marie, KC and the Sunshine Band, and crap like 01:05:00that. And then I eventually graduated to more rock. And then when we were very young, we decided we were going to write music. We didn't really write anything to speak of, and we couldn't play an instrument, but we started asking for instruments for Christmas. My parents got me a little play drum set one year and got my brother a little nylon string guitar from JC Penney.
And we started off on that. We just messed around. We didn't play anything. Andthen as we got older... Well I was in the sixth grade, my brother was in the fourth grade. I started band at school. I wanted to play drums. My teacher wouldn't let me, so I ended up playing trombone, but I still wanted to play the drums. So my parents got me a snare drum for Christmas one year, and they got my 01:06:00brother an actual guitar. But it wasn't expensive, it just was more or less a real guitar instead of the one that he got prior. And we just started beating around on it, and I ended up taking drum lessons. He ended up taking guitar lessons. At first my parents said, "No guitar lessons. You have to take piano first." So he took piano lessons, and then he ended up taking guitar lessons. And he got, I mean, he was unbelievable.
First, he was in sports. He was really heavily in sports, but he had asthma. Sohe had trouble breathing during some competitions and everything. And he was the only white guy on an all black football team. I remember that. And he loved Michael Jordan. He emulated everything Michael Jordan, and wanted to play basketball like Michael Jordan. And then it was football. And then it was everything. But once his asthma got in the way, he gravitated to the guitar and 01:07:00I mean, he literally slept with this thing. It never left his neck. It never left his side. It was around him 24 hours a day. And I'm not joking when I say that. It was in the car with him. He didn't even get his driver's license for a long time because people would drive him around, and he'd take his guitar and just play while he was sitting in the front seat. He was a lot more dedicated to his instrument than I was.
Because I was in the band, I was having to focus on two different instruments.Since I really wanted to play drums, I was on the trombone. And didn't really enjoy trombone, but I had to practice it in order to keep accelerating in the band. But I played drums on the side, and then we started a band in... My brother was 13, so I was 15... in the basement of our house and found some people to be in it. And then after going through people, finding people that 01:08:00were actually taking it seriously, and eventually we got a group of people together. Called ourselves Black Rainbow. And we practiced every weekend. I don't know how my parents put up with it because we were loud. And then eventually started playing some gigs around town. And our biggest gig was at Bele Chere.
When started playing Bele Chere, probably did it three years in a row. And thenmy brother moved to California and pursued it in a more professional manner. And I ended up going to flight school. But yeah, that was kind of my way to kind of rebel in high school, was to be in a heavy metal band. Instead of doing something destructive, we'd do something constructive. Although my parents probably, I don't know how they felt about the noise, but it was... I really 01:09:00don't know how they put up with it. We were very loud for hours and days. But yeah, that's something we did. And again, my brother pursued it. And he did very well until his passing.
David Ayers:I was going to say until his passing in 98. But he was doing well.
Maya, Interview...:That's so fun that you have that memory with your brother.
David Ayers:Yeah, it was good times.
Maya, Interview...:Why Black Rainbow?
David Ayers:The guitar player in the band, the other guitar player, came up withthat name. And first we were called The Elder, which is an experimental KISS album that was called The Elder. And so we were like why don't we call ourselves that? And then when David Talvass, the other guitar player, joined... His mom 01:10:00and my mom were majorettes at Asheville High together. My mom went to Asheville High as well, except it wasn't called Asheville High back then. But they were majorettes together. So Dave and I grew up together, and he and my brother became extremely close and just were very competitive on the guitar. And both of them were in the band together with me, and he came up with the name and it just stuck. I don't know why. I have no idea.
Maya, Interview...:It was a great name.
David Ayers:Not much of a rainbow if it's all black, is it?
Maya, Interview...:You also mentioned that you are an adrenaline junkie? Can youtell me a little bit more about that?
David Ayers:Well, the flying being one of them, but I also love motorcycles. Igot my first motorcycle when I was 17, and I've been riding ever since. And when 01:11:00I met Ken, he loved motorcycles. He was a much better rider than I was because he grew up riding motocross. And he and I wanted to get sport bikes, but he was much younger than me. So, the sport bike fit him. I was 40 when I got my first sport bike. That that was painful. I loved the bike. It was extremely fast, but it was painful just because of how you have to sit. But I've been riding motorcycles ever since I was a teenager. Love to go fast. So, therefore, I love airplanes a lot. I've been flying since I was 16, riding motorcycles since I was 17. I love fast cars, and I like to skydive when I can afford it. So yeah, I just, I love anything that gives me a rush. I love roller coasters. Anything that goes fast and makes your stomach drop, I like. 01:12:00
Maya, Interview...:That's great. What about bungee jumping? Have you ever donebungee jumping?
David Ayers:I was trying to think the other day if I ever been bungee jumping. Idon't think I have. I remember passing up a couple of the things on the beach one time. It was big cranes that have a bungee off of it. I don't recall doing that, but that doesn't mean I didn't. Because I was also in a state of alcohol in a couple of stages in my life. So I don't remember some things. But we did go parasailing one time, Ken and I both. And, yeah. So, I don't remember the bungee jump.
Maya, Interview...:You've mentioned. Sorry.
David Ayers:Go ahead.
Maya, Interview...:I didn't mean to interrupt you.
David Ayers:No, you're good.
Maya, Interview...:I just want to say, you mentioned sort of your battle withI'm assuming alcoholism? 01:13:00
David Ayers:I think that's just common. To me, it seems to be common in the gaycommunity. So, I started drinking when I was in college. I don't really like alcohol that much, but it was a good way to come out of my shell. And then after I started going to Scandals, I got into cocaine and alcohol. And cocaine graduated to being quite a bit. And then when my brother died, my brother died of drugs and alcohol. So that kind of stopped me for a bit. And I ended up focusing on flying. Got into flying professionally at that point, and really focused on my career as much as I could. But then after I met Kenneth, I was still drinking. I never quit drinking. I just didn't consume massive amounts like some people do because it dehydrates me. I've found that I've got Sjogren's 01:14:00Syndrome, which is a drying of your glands and things.
So I can't drink a lot of alcohol because it dehydrates me. So that kept me incheck for that. But since I would go out on the road for two weeks flying and then be home for two weeks, those two weeks I would let loose a little too much. And it was usually alcohol and cocaine. But then in 2014, after some relationship problems with Ken, I graduated to methamphetamine, which is not good. And I didn't realize that you could even get it here in town. I also didn't realize how prevalent it was in the gay community. It's huge. And I got pretty heavy into that while I was home. Not while I was working. I never did anything while I was working. But it got out of control, and Ken got involved 01:15:00with it in 20. It got out of control and Ken got involved with it in 2014, and it killed him in 2016. Then it really spiraled out of control for me, then started getting, you think I'd go less instead of one more. And then I get into a DWI in 2019, which ended my career. And I was just battling the suicide. Post-traumatic stress was all over me. I was going to a lot of counseling, but I was self-medicating with Xanax, legal Xanax, but a lot of it, and methamphetamine. And once I got my DWI and my career ended, I just really went out of control. Then my dog died a year later, which is the last connection I had with Kenneth and she died in my arms. And that was a tragedy for me too. To me, my dogs were my kids. 01:16:00
And she had been through so much with me and Ken, that losing her was justawful. So about two months ago, I was trying to quit on my own. Let me back up a little bit. About a year and a half ago, I started going to AA meetings and NA meetings and CMA meetings. I'm also a licensed pharmacy technician. So in 2008, when I lost my job due to the financial crisis, I became a certified pharmacy technician and went to AB Tech and just got a little thing so I could get a decent or a better paying job than some of the other jobs that are here in town hospitality wise, and started working at Walmart pharmacy and then went to Med West Haywood, in Haywood County. It's a hospital there, it's their regional hospital.
And got to know my pharmacy director really well. He would come out ride01:17:00motorcycles with Kenneth and myself on the weekends when we were off work. We'd do a lot of good rides, but he was also a recovering addict. And he told me some of the story and I told him I was battling some things. And he started taking me to meetings. And you know, I was still employed by him too. And so that's how much he trusted me, even though I was an addict and an alcoholic, he still allowed me to work in the pharmacy around controlled substances, because he knew I wasn't that kind of person. I wouldn't steal from a pharmacy.
So we got to be pretty good friends. And he started taking me to meetings. So Iwould have periods of sobriety of one to three months off methamphetamine, but not off alcohol. Alcohol was, I'd have maybe a bottle of wine a week or something like that or a drink when I go out for dinner or whatever. But 01:18:00methamphetamine kept creeping up to where it was really making my life unmanageable. I mean, in ways that it was just awful. So about two months ago I don't know what did it, but I picked up the phone and checked myself into rehab.
I went into a rehab facility for pilots, doctors, pharmacists, and otherprofessionals of the like. And now I'm working with FAA to regain my wings. So I'm in a monitoring program called the HIMS program. It's a very strict sobriety program. It's not like you just go to treatment and then you come out, and good luck kind of deal. This is continuing on for the next five years. So it's very strict but you've got a very high success rate though, because of the strictness. And I'm in that right now. 60 days of total sobriety will be May 01:19:0015th. Is that right? Yeah. May 15th will be 60 days of total ... it's the first time in 31 years I've been completely sober of everything.
And it feels pretty good. I'm just trying to find things to occupy my time atthis point. But yeah, so now I'm on a strict diet eating right, working out. In fact, Michael, the gentleman that came by, dropped off a membership to the YMCA, that I couldn't afford it this at this time. I did just get a job working in a pharmacy again. They know the story. So I'm very open and honest about everything at this point, because there's nothing to hide. I can't hide anything from that day anyway. But yeah, drugs and alcohol have been an issue for both my brother and myself and a lot of people that, that I've known throughout the gay communities, especially methamphetamine. I don't know what it is about that 01:20:00drug, but it's very popular among gay men, anyway.
Was that your question? I just rambled and I can't remember.
Maya, Interview...:Well, thank you for sharing that and congratulations onalmost 60 days.
David Ayers:Thank you.
Maya, Interview...:That's very impressive, very impressive. And it sounds likeyou've gotten the support you need to help yourself through that.
David Ayers:Yes. I've got a lot of good people in the meetings. I can't wait tilthe meetings open up face-to-face again. I've got a good sponsor, and the rehab center is still in touch with me. Plus I'm doing intensive outpatient here at Asheville. So I'm meeting people through that. And yeah, the recovery community is very supportive, both in your sexuality and in your substances. It's pretty 01:21:00amazing. A lot of people that have addiction problems seem to be a lot more open-minded than some others.
Maya, Interview...:Yeah. Can you describe addiction or other serious issueswithin the LGBT community specifically?
David Ayers:I know it's alcohol, but there again, the people I know go to barsand clubs, so I'm only seeing that picture. But I've seen a lot of people end up with DUIs or get so drunk they have to be carried out of the bar. I see a lot of drug deals going on, cocaine, methamphetamine, sometimes opiates, but not a whole lot. I don't see a whole lot of that. I'm not saying it doesn't exist. I 01:22:00know it does, but I just don't see a whole lot of it. You know, a lot of the party type drugs, ecstasy, I've seen GHB. I mean, I've seen a lot of stuff. It just seems to be very prominent.
And when I went to rehab, you know, everybody has got a story and a lot of thosestories involved a lot of pain. And I actually wrote an article while I was there that stated that gay people in general have a higher incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and other stress-related illnesses because when they grow up, they experience a lot of little traumas, either being forced to come out or coming out and people not accepting them or child molestation, which I was a 01:23:00victim of, or something like that. that gives you a little post-traumatic stress disorder signs throughout your life or symptoms of throughout your life. And people end up self-medicating.
And I've seen a lot of that. I also see a lot of people on antidepressants andthings of that nature. And of course they don't abuse those, but, you know, I see a lot of it. And it's sad, but it's very prevalent, either self-medicating or medicating through Big Pharma, either one.
David Ayers:I'm not really sure what to do about it.
Maya, Interview...:That was my next question. Do you have any ideas about how tosupport people with harm reduction?
David Ayers:Well, my buddy that left a few minutes ago, he's in harm reduction.01:24:00He would have a lot more ideas about that. I'm more about harm elimination than reduction. He used to run the needle exchange program, which I had an issue with, because I'm an addict so I see a different side of it. He's not an addict. So I see a little bit of a different side than he would, say. But we do have in this town now, we do have what we call Lambda Owls or Lambda AA, or Lambda something. And it's a gay Alcoholics Anonymous or gay Narcotics Anonymous. Or we now have a CMA, which is Crystal Meth Anonymous here in town. That's where my sponsor and his partner run that group, and I'm also a member of that. So there is a lot of resources here in town for that.
In fact, Asheville's has a great recovery community. The problem is getting01:25:00these people into that. A lot of the people I've met don't even realize they have a problem. They think, I only get drunk every weekend, or I only get drunk once a month or something like that. Well, if you're getting drunk, it's likely you've got an issue. Especially if you look at the AA version of alcoholism, problem drinking. I didn't use to think I had a problem with alcohol until I really started reading the Big Book and I realized, wow, I did have a problem with it.
And also alcohol always led to something else that lowered my inhibitions enoughto use other substances or engage in risky activities. But there are resources here in town. And now that I'm strongly and solidly involved in the recovery community, I'm trying to spread that a little bit more and let people know that there is plenty of resources here in town to get help, especially for the LGBTQ 01:26:00community here in Asheville. But as far as the recovery community goes, I'm not sure about anything else, but as far as recovery, there's quite a bit of resources.
And you know, the issue is getting people to get involved. You can't getinvolved ... I mean, you can get involved if you don't feel like you have a problem, but it doesn't work unless you actually realize that you got an issue. So you have to want it because if you don't want it, then it's not going to ... I mean, that's what happened to me the first time I went to meetings. I didn't really want it. Now I do. So it's working now.
What was the question?
Maya, Interview...:No, that was great. You answered it. I just was asking aboutaddiction issues within the LGBT community and ways to combat that, support folks going through it. So you answered it. 01:27:00
David Ayers:I'm not really sure how you ... I mean, I really do see a lot ofpeople doing things that is extremely harmful. I don't know how you get them away from it.
Maya, Interview...:I think what you said about, they have to want it is a bigpart of it, because there's lots of people who can say this is something that you should be doing, but they're not going to do it. Like you talked about, they're not going to do it or really commit to doing it until they themselves want it.
David Ayers:That's about the only thing I could let them know that, you know,hey, I'm here. Or that there is a recovering group here that is more than welcoming. And I offered to take them to a meeting or something like that, and they didn't want to go. I did that with a friend of mine and I'm not taking credit for it because I don't think I really had anything to do it, but I was finally fed up with his drinking. 01:28:00
He was bad, bad. He was drunk every night. I don't even know how he got up inthe morning. He was having trouble keeping relationships and jobs. And he finally checked himself into rehab. And now as far as I know, he's sober. At least, he says he is. And he's definitely a much better person than he was when he was drunk. So hopefully he'll continue with his recovery, but it was refreshing to see somebody finally realize that they have an issue.
Maya, Interview...:I wanted to ask you about your interactions with local publicinstitutions, the police, medical health, legal, gay communities. If you've had any positive reactions or positive interactions, or negative interactions. I know you talked about not necessarily experiencing the discrimination that your 01:29:00partner and other folks have had, but I wanted to hear more about your experiences with them.
David Ayers:Well, when my partner died, I think the entire sheriff's departmentshowed up. They treated it like a homicide whenever it was a suicide. So I was questioned and swabbed for gunpowder residue and things of that nature, but they did it in a very sensitive way. They could tell I was extremely distraught. I mean, there was no doubt about it.
I remember a black sheriff's deputy was extremely nice to me. He was just verysupportive. I did have one encounter with a detective later on that was less than desirable. I was trying to get Ken's phone back, because the phone was in my name and Verizon is worth billions of dollars, would not allow me to let the 01:30:00phone just go. They were still charging me for the phone. They said if I didn't return the phone, I was going to be charged 300 bucks,
Well, at the time I was, you know, I was out of my job. I was getting some pay.I wasn't getting my full pay. And they told me they were going to charge me 300 bucks if I didn't return the phone. I told them what had happened. I told them it was in the custody of the Buncombe County sheriff's department. They said they didn't care. I even accelerated the call or escalated the call to the higher ups and they just didn't care. They wanted that phone back.
So I ended up getting in touch with the deputy and telling them, look, I don'thave $300. I need to get the phone back. And he told me, he said, "Well, I can't give you anything back at this point." I said, "Why not?" He said, "Because 01:31:00suicides are known to turn into homicides later on." And he was just very firm and not very pleasant when he said it. And so I really had to bug him, also found out that there was a suicide note that I didn't even know existed. And it took me forever before he'd even read what he said. He read it to me, he still wouldn't let me see it.
I had an issue with that one detective, but that said, all the times that I wason methamphetamine, I would get very paranoid and think people were breaking into my house and I would call the cops on myself a million times and they would always show up. I'm sure they could've done something to make my life worse, but they didn't. They were very pleasant. Most of the time, some of them even said, you need to get help. 01:32:00
There seems to be a difference between the actual police department, which ismade up of mostly younger 20-somethings to 30-somethings, and the sheriff's department, which is mostly made up of people my age. And the sheriff's department seems to be very good at community policing. The APD, I'm I've had a few encounters with them. I mean, it was okay all in all. But the sheriff's department has been a very positive experience overall. They could have really made my life a lot worse and they didn't. And a lot of times they didn't arrest me when they could have. They knew I was going through a hard time and they let me figure it out myself, instead of putting me through the legal system, other than the DWI, which their hands were tied at that point.
But they were very pleasant even with that. Of course, you know, it helps if01:33:00you're pleasant in return. But no, all my interactions with the police have been, and there's been a lot of them, have been pretty positive.
Maya, Interview...:That's good to hear. I have one more question, want to end ona good note, but I also want to hear if there's anything that you want to talk about that we might have-
David Ayers:You broke up right there.
Maya, Interview...:Yeah, that's what I was wondering. Anything you want to talkabout that maybe we haven't touched on yet?
David Ayers:Yeah, I can't think of anything at the moment, other than ourrelationship story, maybe we can get to it at a different time. That's about it. 01:34:00Because that really did take up a lot of my life, as far as, the happiest part of my life was with him. So I've got a lot of pictures I can share and things of that nature of him and I. I'm not in touch with his parents anymore. After the funeral, that was it. They always thought I was just roommates and they knew better than that. But yeah. I have a lot to talk about that sometime.
Maya, Interview...:Yeah. Well, we can also schedule another interview to talkabout Kenneth and then maybe your relationship within that as well.
Maya, Interview...:I know it's been a long time talking to a stranger about yourpersonal life, so I don't want to add too much extra time for you, but we can communicate over email and find another time.
Maya, Interview...:Okay. My last question for you, what has provided you the01:35:00greatest satisfaction in life?
David Ayers:Being with Ken. Yeah, definitely. That was a very, very good 11years. I mean, we had our ups and downs, but I mean overall that was a very, very good period. A lot of laughs, lots of traveling, especially with my benefits from my job. We were able to travel a lot and really see the country. And we took cruises to Mexico. We did all kinds of stuff and we just had a good time.
I miss that. I mean, he was my best friend as well as my partner. So themajority of my social life during those 11 years was him. So that was extremely satisfying.
Maya, Interview...:Good. Well, I'd love to hear more about that next time. Doesthat sound okay? I just don't want to take up your whole- 01:36:00
David Ayers:Yeah that's fine. I'm trying to think about that a little bit.Because I'm not really sure how to approach all that.
Maya, Interview...:Yeah. If there's nothing else I'm going to pause therecording so we can talk.