The week began with World AIDS Day, commemorated this evening at Seattle's Cinerama theater with a benefit screening of part one of HBO's film version of Angels in America, Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning theatrical epic brought to the screen by director Mike Nichols and a thoroughly great ensemble of actors, composed in equal measure of megastars (Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson), ministars (Mary-Louise Parker, Jeffrey Wright) and stunning unknowns (the entirely-new-to-Last Days troika of Patrick Wilson, Justin Kirk, and Ben Shenkman). More than anything else, Nichols' film (screened to benefit Intiman Theatre, Lifelong AIDS Alliance, and AIDS Housing of Washington) is a collection of brilliant performances, with cinema-sized scenes serving Kushner's dialogue better than the theater ever did. (Possible exception: Al Pacino, whose Roy Cohn starts off well but quickly morphs into something far too similar to his Satan, Attorney at Law in The Devil's Advocate.) Still, Meryl Streep, Mary-Louise Parker, and the aforementioned male trio are good enough to make you forgive almost anything, even some of the clunkiest special effects this side of Charmed. Hurrah for HBO and Tony Kushner; thanks to Intiman for giving those of us without premium channels the chance to experience at least half of this major mass-culture event.

--Also today: irrefutable proof that Cupid smokes crack, thanks to a shockingly twisted New York Post story exposing what it described as the New York City Fire Department's "dirty little secret"--the dozen or so FDNY firefighters who've ditched their wives for sexy 9/11 widows. Even worse, the majority of these needy widows are newly single wives of slain FDNY firefighters. "It's disgusting, heartbreaking what they've done," said Mary Koenig, whose firefighter husband deserted her and their two kids for the widow of his friend and firehouse-mate after the World Trade Center attacks. "Not only have these men dishonored their own families," adds the justly indignant Mrs. Koenig, "they've dishonored the memories of men who are heroes, who were their brothers." In doing so, adds Last Days, these fickle firebugs forced at least a dozen women to ponder the cruelest of questions ("Is a dead husband better than a live ex-husband?") while surprising countless citizens who'd believed themselves incapable of ever being shocked anew by the perversity of love.


Today brought the absolutely tragic story of Desseria B. Whitmore, the 52-year-old Bank of America executive who died after attempting to swallow a bag of cocaine at Sea-Tac International Airport. Today's Seattle Times offered details of the heartbreaking ordeal, which took place back in October, when Ms. Whitmore--who was the daughter of a Baptist minister and had no prior criminal record--was detained by authorities at Sea-Tac airport after screeners spotted a pot pipe in her purse. According to an airport spokesperson, Whitmore broke free of a trio of police officers, at which point she tried to swallow the aforementioned baggie of coke. Authorities attempted to resuscitate her without success; shortly after, Desseria Whitmore was pronounced dead of asphyxia and acute cocaine intoxication at Highline Community Hospital. According to the Times, the case will now be turned over to the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, which will decide whether to recommend a formal inquest into Whitmore's death, which has thus far been listed as accidental.

--In significantly lighter news: Today Last Days fell down and landed in the hospital. The injurious-yet-hilarious topple occurred on a steepish side street off 23rd Avenue near Garfield High School, where we were proceeding at a brisk pace when our smooth-soled Adidas hit a patch of slimy leaves and we flew into the air, hearing a loud snap and landing, eventually, on our ass. Upon being found by two friendly strangers, we were taken to Virginia Mason, where modern x-ray technology revealed a fractured bone in our ankle. As an obsessive control freak who finds it far easier to give than to receive, Last Days accepts our infirmity with mildly burning shame. But as a fan of prescription painkillers, we couldn't be happier.


Speaking of happiness from a foreign source: Today brought a heartwarming Hot Tip from Diana of Ballard, who was trekking solo downtown today when she was accosted by one of Seattle's colorful street crazies, who screamed, "YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL! MERRY CHRISTMAS!" then fled. "If someone is going to scream at you," wrote Diana, "what could be better?" (To be honest, Last Days prefers our randomly hollered compliments to arrive without the Christian kicker, but we know what Diana means.)


Nothing happened today (unless you count the Associated Press report on the 16 previous Wal-Mart injury claims filed by the woman trampled last week in a Florida Wal-Mart, or this unfortunately hilarious headline from Yahoo! News: "Former President Reagan Rarely Awake").


For the past couple of years, Last Days has rigorously chronicled heinous instances of child abuse, most recently in last week's item about Lyle Smith, the four-year-old in Aberdeen found fatally stabbed by his babysitter. But if last week brought the national child-abuse trend frighteningly close to home, this week brought it to our front door, as tonight an honest-to-God frightened, hungry, suspiciously bruised 9-year-old rang the doorbell "to ask directions." Upon being intercepted by man-of-the-house Jake, the surprise guest offered details on how she came to visit--her mom was going through a breakup, and she was scared to return to her house--while scarfing down copious amounts of olives and egg nog. Long story short: Once the kid made it clear that her only place to go was her scary-ass mom's house, Jake exercised his best legal option: keeping the kid safe until authorities came to escort her home. While waiting, the kid supplemented her olive-and-egg nog intake with the Cartoon Network, pausing now and then to ask questions. "Are you a homosexual?" she asked Jake, for real. When Jake said yes, the kid replied, "My mom's a homosexual, too," going on to reveal that her scary gay mom (who had at least two other kids besides the one in our kitchen) was once again pregnant. As Jake did the math (perpetually pregnant lesbian = irresponsible sex worker?), the nonemergency cops made their way to the house, eventually driving the olive-packed kid home in a squad car and leaving us to wonder if this new adventure caused her to get clobbered like never before.


Nothing happened today (unless you count Hillary Rodham Clinton's impressively inflammatory comments to the Houston Chronicle: "This administration is in danger of being the first in American history to leave our nation worse off than when they found it.... We have to change direction before irreparable harm is done.").


Nothing happened today.

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