Our regularly scheduled program of introspection and musings regarding step-parenting and middle-aged sex is interrupted in honor of the tenth annual AIDS/Lifecycle ride and my chronicling thereof. Sig Other announced several months ago that he would be embarking on this weeklong adventure and it never occurred to me at the time that either a) it would actually come about or b) I’d be roped in. But suddenly there we were, at the Cow Palace in San Francisco – standing in line after line to prepare Sig Other for the 545-mile ride. I will not be joining on two wheels. Rather, I will follow on four – playing unofficial “soigner” on Sig Other’s ride. We walk toward registration and Sig Other notes with some surprise, “there is a preponderance of homosexuals here.” Yes, I remind him. This is, after all, an AIDS ride.
Sig Other is not homophobic. But he is filter free. Five minutes in and already he is wandering around the Cow Palace saying things like, “this is SO gay” and “there are a lot of gays here.” Generally, Sig Other likes to think of himself as living in a “post gay world” – a world in which labels are unnecessary and equal rights prevail for all. Of course, that is NOT the world we live in. And in our world, our gay friends are denied basic rights – the right to get married, etc. So Sig Other is riding in support of a cure for a disease that, without activism, would have otherwise gone unexplored. Sig Other was aggressive and successful in his fundraising – he’s in the top 10 percent of donors on the ride. He cares about justice and ethical behavior and feels a responsibility to do tzedakah. But what he LOVES is riding. What he loves is the bond between bikers, the obsession of the road. I remind him, as he wanders and makes his comments, that in fact he would have been just as happy riding in support of virulent toe fungus were that a cause he could raise money for. But as this is for AIDS, he should be aware that there will in fact be a number of gay people present and not all will share my deep appreciation of his filter-free style.
As much as Sig Other loves riding, he has an equal and opposite response to large groups – large groups make him a bit queasy. Large groups of people ordered from one area to another, standing in lines and shuffling about make him feel that he’s reliving a scene out of Schindler’s List. He bore up well through the first hour or so of registration - 2500 people going from medical check to e-ticket to the waiting area for the orientation/safety video. I, on the other hand, was starting to feel like one of the cows for which the palace (a misnomer if ever there was one) was named. We waited on cold concrete in what looks like a cavernous metal barn, were herded from one line to the next, from waiting area into the video room. Doors closed, we were seated, asked to turn off our cell phones and told that if we left the room for any reason during the video we’d forfeit the bright orange wristbands proving we’d seen the video and have to start over from the beginning. That’s when Sig Other leaned over to me and whispered, “See - this is when they turn the gas on.”
Sig Other rode out first thing this morning. With his friends Mark and Max and 2500 others. I’ll meet them at their first stop in Santa Cruz later today. More then…