It is So Ordered
Ed. note: My friend Roy Wallack who writes for the LA Times, and is the straightest guy I know, discovered he’s not the only straight guy on Day 2 of the AIDS ride.
On this historic day for love, I’ve pulled his story out of our magazine app and from behind a paywall to share it here.
Yesterday, I thought I was special, the only non-gay at the AIDS ride. After getting my food, I sat at a picnic table outside by myself, because I had an interview scheduled with Bar Raphaeli, the Israeli supermodel, and all the noise (music) inside the big tent mess hall was too loud. But her line was flawed and we couldn’t hear well. Anyway, as I was trying to talk to her, Two Indian men about 40, an American Caucasian girl, 26, and her boyfriend, and a 40-year-old white woman and her cousin from Ohio all showed up and sat down. None knew the other pairs. But as we began talking, we not only found out that everyone was straight, but that 30 to 40% of all AIDS riders are straight.
And so began a group therapy session.
The 40-yr-old woman felt guilty, because she didn’t know any gay people who been infected with AIDS or died and only came here “selfishly” for the bike ride. The Indian guys didn’t know any gays either, except those they’d met in AIDS training rides. They too just came for the ride — they just started bicycling for the first time in February. “I normally play cricket,” said one, who told the woman, “You don’t need to feel guilty — you still raised money for AIDS.” Only the 26-yr-old girl actually knew an AIDS victim. She was riding for her deceased infected Uncle and her uninfected deceased mom, who used to do the AIDS ride for her brother. When mom died, the daughter took over for her to keep the energy and flow going. “But mainly, I came for the ride,” she said. “This is epic.” Her boyfriend plans to do it with her next year.
When I told them that I was bummed out because I was no longer special, no longer the only straight guy at the AIDS ride and therefore no longer able to write a story about it, they started telling me that I was special, and that my story should be about what all us heteros can learn from the gays. A new guy, a Turkish immigrant who has been here 7 years as a bike mechanic, joined the discussion and said being with gays for a solid week helped him open up, let his suppressed emotions out. “They are raw — they tell you when they are happy or sad in real time, and they express real feelings. My dad always told me that men don’t cry,” he said. “Well, now I do cry. Because of them!” He also now listens to Cher. I told him that I almost cried once — at the end of Men in Black III.
And one by one, they each got up and, before they left, all hugged me tightly and told me how wonderful I was and made jokes about how they hope there are sausages for breakfast tomorrow and how we need to stay “hydrated and lubricated,” wink wink (gay humor). “You won’t be the same at the end of seven days,” the Turk told me. I can’t wait.
Tomorrow is supposedly a fearsome hill-climbing day. Until then, here’s today’s pictures, including the endless farmland south and inland of Santa Cruz and Salinas, French Fried artichokes, the famous “cookie lady” at Checkpoint 3 (her chocolate chip was spectacular), and leading it off with the final Checkpoint #4, devoted to gay icon Cher.
Since Roy’s story was published, he became a changed man, finished the ride, and wrote about it for Bicycling, noting
The AIDS LifeCycle was part-adventure, part social-consciousness raising and the closest thing I’ve ever been to a party on wheels.
Roy’s done lots of crazy things on a bike, including with me, but hadn’t hung out with mock Mormon Elders in speedos and transvestite 6-foot-4 Cher lookalikes before — or for such an important cause as stopping AIDS.
Editing his story, I’ll admit to getting a bit teary for how Roy’s macho consciousness was raised, and on this day for marriage equality, it’s like the country needs a group therapy session like he had.
Before Roy’s ride, years ago in downtown Seattle, my friend Marcus and I were just riding along when a group of cheering, costumed cyclists surrounded us. We upped our tempo to keep pace, wondered what was going on, and rode another few blocks. Singling up onto a path into Myrtle Edwards park, we crossed an AIDS ride finish line and into the arms of a cheering group. Adorned with free beer, schwag, and praise for riding two blocks for AIDS, we agreed that this was one of the best bike rides ever.
It still is and I’m happy now to return some equality-karma by sharing these stories with Bike Hugger’s audience.
Also, to my gay friends in the bike industry who are married and want to get married, I hope your company’s social-consciousness gets raised too.