To escape the impending clot-fest of the Olympics, I ran off to Richmond to see a screening of Engine Down’s new DVD- “From Beginning to End”. Here’s the trailer:

Watching the documentary gave me a lot of insight into the band, whose music is still among my favorite. It also brought back a lot of memories, how I came to know their music and their bass player, Jason, the gentleman who open the trailer above with a toast to his friends.


I always assume the bands of mutual friends suck, because statistics back up such an assumption. So I wasn’t eager to check out this “great band” my friends, Kelly and Jeff, kept telling me about. Plus, back in 1999 it took more work to hear a band. The night I met Jason, I mentioned our group of mutual friends go putt putting and his eyes were the only set that lit up.

A friendship was born.

When his then-girlfriend, Danielle, got a job working alongside Gwenn at the local AIDS Services Organization, it only insured that we’d be hanging out and putt putting on a regular basic. I also heard his band- and they were actually good.

Very good.

Around the time I met Jason, I’d just started meds, and I remember Danielle telling me how much Jason enjoyed our friendship. And that he worried about me. I was still kind of skinny, gaining weight back on my first set of HIV drugs. But he was skinnier than me- he was in an indie rock band, after all.

After hearing Engine Down, I had an ambitious idea for the local goth music night, run by new friends in Bella Morte. Why not get Bella Morte and Engine Down together for a fundraising show? I selflessly offered Synthetic Division (just me swaying behind two synthesizers) as the opener, and both bands donated their services.


In 2005, cuddle-time with Jason and Jonathan of Engine Down

The Tokyo Rose, the sushi bar that hosted the show, was packed. Indie kids and goth kids bantied about in their skinny jeans and leather pants, and our friends from the AIDS Services Group gave out condoms to everyone. I talked briefly about my HIV status before launching into a 20-minute set, swaying behind the keyboards before the pros in Bella Morte and Engine Down took the stage.

For six years afterwards, the flyer stayed on the refrigerator. I have a feeling the flyer is going to make a dramatic return.

When I wrote My Pet Virus, I was so moved by a lyric on their final, self-titled album that I asked if I could use it. (They said, “Hell yeah!”) It goes as follows:

“Please don’t ask me again, please don’t ask her again. It’s okay you didn’t know we have a long time waiting.”

That resonated with me in regard to my job, working with Gwenn and educating about HIV, which means opening up our personal life for Q&A, often fielding the following query: “Gwenn, what would you do if Shawn got sick? Or died?” I take pride in making people comfortable enough to ask such questions, but Engine Down gave that pat on the shoulder. “It’s okay, you have a long time waiting.”

If you’ve never heard of Engine Down, check them out. I promise they don’t suck.

“Cover”, from the album Engine Down

Positively Yours,


Check out my memoir, My Pet Virus, and click to read a sample. Video of reviews.

Give a listen to "Sign", one of my songs from Synthetic Division’s Get with the Programs (co-written with Kyle Wiggins):

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Get the song here on iTunes!

Be sure to visit, where you can see clips of our educational work at colleges and universities, as well as media clips from MTV safe sex programming and a Dr. Drew talk show. 2006 video of me and Gwenn, when I was finishing up My Pet Virus.

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