Monday, March 31, 2014

Bad Gays vs. Good Gays. The New Gay Fundamentalism

There was a time in the recent past when a "Bad Gay" was someone who perhaps didn't know who Cher was, or perhaps wore white pants two weeks after Labor Day.  Someone who was oblivious of the difference between a Mid-Century Modern, eclectic and just plain tacky.  Perhaps a gay that might wear last season's fashions, but without being ironic.

Today's "Bad Gay" is the gay that refuses to accept the new "Gay Fundamentalism". What is gay fundamentalism?  It's a combination of failed public health policy, sex shaming, body shaming bundled up with traditional gay marriage and practiced with the religious fervor of a Talibani.  It's about ensuring that if one person is not happy with the state of the gay world, nobody should be happy. It's about limiting personal choices about sex, protection, relationships and who should get good sex and who shouldn't.  You can see how the new morality plays out on episodes of HBO's "Looking" and in the incoherent rants in the comment sections on articles about Truvada.

First let's encapsulate the new "gay fundies" commandments:

1. Your sole goal as a gay man should be to find a husband and get married, legally.  
2. You must be monogamous for life, because it works so well for straight people. 
3.Condoms every time you have sex for the rest of your life, even if you hate them.
4. Dating not hook-ups.  (at least say you're dating and then don't put a face pic on GRNDR).
5. Don't ever consider any new breakthroughs in HIV prevention, like Truvada (more effective than condoms in preventing HIV) because that means you're having sex for fun, not for the purpose of securing a relationship.(see #2)
6. Sex for fun is BAD! Sex should only be for the purpose of commandment #1.
7. "Bottom Shame" Never, ever admit you're a bottom.  If you are, always say it much...and  say "ouch take it out."
8. If you're in a relationship and have a threesome, it means the relationship is fundamentally flawed and loveless. 
9. You are now a "person of size" and that's OK....but thin and muscular guys have to respect that and have sex with you or you'll whine that gym rats are only into each other. 
10. "Straight Acting only" Shun and deny any "feminine" qualities in yourself and other men. Refuse to be seen with a man with "feminine" qualities and say things like: "gurrrrl, she is such a nelly, not a butch top like me."
11. Thou shalt not be a gay Republican.
12. Say things like "I'm not THAT kind of gay, I'd never go to a Gay Pride Parade."

Obviously "Bad Gays" break these rules and are open to ridicule.  Shunning, cyber bullying, sex shaming occur to men who don't talk the talk or sashay the walk. There is a way to be gay and of course anyone who wants something other than a healthy happy long term relationship with a dog and two children is just wrong.  How dare you concentrate on career and fun before marriage? How dare you enjoy your body for yourself before giving it over, forever to that one perfect man for life.  How dare you be single and 40 and happy? How dare you enjoy being the receptive partner in anal sex, and do it with Truvada and not a condom? How dare a married gay couples go on a gay cruise and "play around" consensually with other adults?  You are all bad gays.

All those "bad gays" make the "good gays" look bad in the eyes of straight people, who don't want to be reminded that gay men are really a lot different than straight men, lesbians and women.

White, thin, "straight acting", top...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Old Miami vs. New Miami vs. Newer Miami

It's so nice that Miami has such a sweet short history. I mean a city that barely cracks 118 years old is like an adolescent to a city like, say Boston which will be 400 in a few years, or London which is close 2000 years of habitation.  Basically Miami is an embryo.  Which is a good thing, because with a city so new, you're actually living history, and you can see, in your own lifetime giant changes, and glimpses of the past that remain. Another cool thing is that our cultural institutions are living up to the promise of what great cities should have.  Things like the Miami City Ballet, the Grand Opera are world class. Our panapoly of professional sports teams should be the envy of any city striving for excellence.  So not to bore you any more here a few things that have changed since my family arrived back in the 19th Century.

Old Miami:  "I was born in Dr. Jackson's medical shack on Brickell Ave." My Grandma.
New Miami: " I was born in Jackson Memorial Hospital" My dad.
Newer Miami "I was born in Cuba" everyone I hang out with.

Old Miami: pronounced "Miamah"
New Miami: pronounced "Miami"
Newer Miami: "MeeAmee"

Old Miami: Pan American Airlines
New Miami: Eastern Airlines, National Airlines
Newer Miami: American Airlines

Power brokers:
Old Miami: Henry Flagler
New Miami: Jorge Mas-Canosa
Newer Miami: Jorge Perez

Entertainment Areas:
Old Miami: Coconut Grove
New Miami: South Beach
Newer Miami: Mary Brickell Village

Old Miami: Flagler St.
New Miami: Dadeland Mall
Newer Miami: Dolfin Mall, Aventura Mall

High end shopping:
Old Miami: Lincoln Road
New Miami: Bal Harbor
Newer Miami: Merrick Place

Old Miami: Dolphin Cruises
New Miami: Carnival Cruise Lines
Newer Miami: MSC Divina

Old Miami: Al Capone
New Miami: Miami River Cops
Newer Miami: where to begin?

Old Miami: Jordan Marsh
New Miami: Burdines
Newer Miami: Macy's

Old Miami: Biltmore Hotel
New Miami: Intercontinental Miami
Newer Miami: Peninsula Hotel, Four Seasons, Ritz Carleton, Setai

Old Miami: Joe's Stone Crab
New Miami: Versailles
Newer Miami: Juvia

Obnoxious Visitors:
Old Miami: New Yorkers
New Miami: Porteños
Newer Miami: Paulistas

Local Shows:
Old Miami: Jackie Gleason Show
New Miami: Miami Vice
Newer Miami: Burn Notice

Old Miami: Coral Gables
New Miami: Kendall
Newer Miami: Doral, Weston

Hispanic Enclaves:
Old Miami: Little Havana
New Miami: Westchester, Hialeah
Newer Miami: Key Biscayne

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Miami Like a Local or Five Things To Do In Miami in April

Ok, I'm going to pull the old "fourth generation Miamian" cred to mention some cool stuff that you can do in April when Miami's weather is at its most glorious.  Here are some great things you can do which can be off the beaten track but well worth the effort. 
And it exceeds expectations....except maybe for the art. 
1. Visit the new Art Museum: controversies aside, and that Miami only gets second billing in the name, it's still pretty great.  Whatever you think about its art collection, there is no doubt that the building built by Herzog & de Meuron is fantastic. It is truly Miami's new front porch. Chillax on the best and biggest veranda in town. Not since Schuckers collapsed have we had a nice sit down view of our beautiful Biscayne Bay. 

2. Ride your bike out to the old secret Aerojet military base in the Everglades.  A testing ground for rockets to be launched to moon, it's amazingly, eerily cool. Old bunkers and hangers abound festooned with some the best graffiti murals south of Wynwood.  It's a five mile hike in and out and it's perfect for a casual bike ride. The road in is in very good shape. Very little shade, get out there now before the bugs take over in the summer. Check out Robert Is Here fruitstand  on your way home.

Tastes like chicken

3. Shark Valley is always a fun bike ride. Yeah, it's not exactly "seeing Miami like a local" but there are a lot fewer tourists at this North entrance of the Everglades than down in Flamingo.  A great 15 mile loop with a tower at the half-way mark.  Great views of gators, glades and birds.  Get there early on your own bike and take the loop to see the amazing varieties of birds. Locals know not to get too close to gators resting on the roadway. 

4. Kayak Biscayne bay, whether its a quick nature jaunt through Oleta State Park's mangroves or gawk at the Venetian Islands' mansions. A full moon kayak will let you watch how the 1% wander through their waterfront homes unbeknownst that voyeurs are drifting just yards away. Check out the spill islands along the channels and paddle up to the sandbars around Haulover to see boat to boat hi-jinks.

5. Go to South Point Park different times a day. There's a terrific dog park at one end that's always busy. The beaches, watching the cruise ships come in, and there seems to be plenty of parking. The light columns at night are mesmerizing as they change colors. Truly one of America's great urban waterfront parks. It's everything Miami's Bayfront Park should be but isn't. 

So there you go.....enjoy your Miami "Spring". Which means good weather and fewer bugs. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Anchor Babies, Kiev, Dog Parks, Caracas, Learn Spanish

So it's been an interesting few weeks in global affairs. Apparently the cold-war restarted, and Venezuela is in some kind of melt-down.  It's in this now interconnected world it plays out in my personal life and even at my local dog park.

Let's take, for example, the problems in Ukraine.  You would think that an uprising so far away would have small ripples in balmy South Florida.   My hubby works for a company based behind the Iron Curtain. (I'm going to just use Cold War terms from here on out.)  His boss makes a mysterious trip to "check out" the South Florida office. An office with just six employees.  A very small branch office of a large multinational company.  Every one is in a fuss....nobody knows why he's coming.  They invite him and his wife out to dinner......she shows up with her 10 day old baby.....her ten day old "anchor" baby.  They are proud parents of an American citizen.  She proceeds to tell us how all her friends back home use a large network of hospitals and doctors that cater well-to-do Eastern Europeans who want their babies born in the U.S.  I was wondering if recent events might alter her very sunny maternity in Sunny Isles along with all her well-to-do Soviet moms that are busily hatching new ties to the west everyday. What surprised me more was the matter-of-fact way it was presented. It is as if she was saying: "Of course my baby will be born in the West, really, do you think I want  to live my life out in that gulag we call a country?"

So yesterday I'm at the lovely Legion Park on Biscayne Bay.  The nice winter weather and my new puppy are what draws me there. I'm chatting with some fellow native English speakers. My neighborhood is very eclectic but weirdly, it's not dominated by Spanish speakers like many other parts of Miami are.  We are having a pleasant conversation, playing fetch with our dogs and enjoying the nice weather as they romp across an open field. A family of Venezuelans greet us everyday and play with the dogs. They don't speak any English. I chat with her in Spanish and ask a few questions about the situation in Caracas and how things are. "Your friends should learn Spanish, she said to me."

"How long have you lived here?" I asked in Spanish.

"Three months, but your friends should rally learn Spanish so they can communicate." She replied.

"So you're not going back?" I asked. 

"No, I've got my immigration status settled here and the kids are in school, we've left our lives back in Venezuela and are starting over here. Besides all my friends are here now and most of my family are on the way.Your friends should learn to speak Spanish." she insisted. 

I can't help but feel a little used as an American. I'm not sure how middle-class immigrants view the American dream when they are arriving to luxury waterfront condos and paying for expensive maternity care out of pocket. I can't wonder how invested anyone can be in a place when they "made it" somewhere else and just picked up and plopped down and started demanding that everyone learn their customs and language as the bourgeoisie are wont to do. Really, do you demand that a bunch of people in a park learn to speak to you, in a foreign tongue when you've only been here three months? 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Miami's "Walking" Neighborhoods

After my stint raising a kid in suburbia, I promised myself I would move back into "town" to a neighborhood where I could walk to stores, restaurants and parks.  A neighborhood that had a "street life" that went beyond retail, that included a pedestrian culture of strollers, dog walkers, bicyclists, joggers and the like.  A place near parks and landmarks.  Miami, until recently, has very few neighborhoods that fit that description. Thankfully that is quickly changing. There was a time where these neighborhoods were so few, that developers, investors and retailers were quick to overdevelop them and destroy their original character.
Coconut Grove: Perhaps Miami's original "walking" neighborhood.  Once known as a funky hang-out for hippies, bohemians and Bahamians the area was famous for its bars like the Hungry Sailor.  UM students would hang out and party. Then it developed into a nightlife scene and was overrun with shopping centers and hotels. The scene died with the arrival of South Beach and there are a lot of empty storefronts.
Still, it is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Miami. Located in a hardwood hammock along Miami's "silver bluff" oolitic limestone ridge, "the grove" gives that hot tropical vibe that is Miami. Shrouded in live oaks with lianas creeping up them you get the feeling of a village ensconced in jungle greenery.  The dense tree canopy filters the sun onto the sidewalks giving you respite in the shade on hot summer days. There are still great eateries and hangouts in the business district. A walk from Miami's City Hall along the Marina and Peacock part and the historical Barnacle state park makes for a pleasant afternoon stroll.
South Beach: There are very few places in the world where you can live, work and play within blocks of each other. South Beach is truly one of the best "walking" neighborhoods in the world. The efforts of the preservationists were rewarded and the Art Deco District showed that lovely old neighborhoods can pay off a lot more than tearing everything down and putting up maga-casinos. In the 80's South Miami Beach was slated for the same treatment as Atlantic City. A few visionaries saved the Art-Deco buildings from demolition and South Beach was born.
South Beach has done a good job of preserving the old character of the area, however you can see where developers are anxious to capitalize on it with huge retail and condo developments all around it. Some of it is good, some of it is schlock all of it increases an already crowded area with more people. But again, a long walk from South Point Park to Lincoln Road will put you through beautiful beaches, parks and people.  Art Deco buildings punctuate the landscape like so many pastel cupcakes.
Newer "Walking Neighborhoods" in Miami:
Wynwood:  Wynwood originally was a small Puerto Rican barrio and warehouse district. It is proof that art can change an entire neighborhood. Punctuated with galleries and restaurants, the area is crawling with hipsters and bohemians anxious to see the latest art offerings, murals and restaurants.
Mimo District: MiMo, for Miami Modern, district was a run down area north of downtown. Once known more for it's hookers than for it's architecture the area is close to being defined as "gentrified" other than "gentrifying".  Strong neighborhood associations in Belle Meade and Morningside have managed to keep most developers at bay by demanding height restrictions on new buildings.  (3 stories only)  Still the area is bustling with several top notch restaurants and a rapid increase in diverse retail especially apparel and furniture.
Design district/Midtown: Mostly an area known for retail, there a few quaint neighborhoods along the periphery.  Developers have recently demolished a lot in favor of uber-high-end retail like Prada  and a Wal-Mart. Why not? It's Miami.
Mary Brickell Village: Once a quaint collection of restaurants adjacent to Miami's financial center, a massive influx of high rise buildings and Argentinians give the area the feeling of a Buenos Aires with palm trees and tropical forests. Here the sing-song Spanish of the porteño is heard more often than the rapid fire Cuban. Still it's very much a newly developed shopping area catering to yuppies that have moved into the newly built high rise condos nearby.....good food and eye candy, but lacking in charm.

Monday, January 13, 2014


So I've been fascinated by the recent backlash against gay social hook-up sites by young plus-size men and men of color.  They bemoan the rudeness of the medium, the racism, the looksist, ageist and demeaning nature of the actual profiles posted in hook-up sites such as GRNDR, SCRUFF and the like. Genuine anger and angst that the perfectly toned, perfectly muscled, perfectly coifed white boy on the hook-up site is not interested in having sex with anyone who is not perfectly muscled, coifed and white as well.
First, let's be honest.  You're on a hook up site because you're lazy.  Like buying an item on because you're too lazy to go to the store yourself and buy it.  You want just point and click and by the magic of the internet the man of your dreams is just going to show up at your door. The problem is that the supposed "man of your dreams" spends a lot of time in the gym trying to make himself look awesome to potential sex-mates. He eats healthy, maybe takes steroids, works out and works out and works out. He's aged 23 to 27 and looks awesome.
That leads me to my second point.  The biggest whiners have admitted they are "heavy", like Huff Post's Mathew Rodriguez admits to being a "queer Latino man of size."     They complain they can't get the gym bunny into bed.  I am sorry, but being overweight says a lot about you. Firstly, it shows you're not into being fit.....unlike the guy in the previous paragraph.  If you want to sleep with the hot men, hot men are usually in shape, you should be too. They know it takes work and dedication and the reward is clear: more sex, more options for mates, higher self-esteem, better job opportunities, get invited to better parties etc. etc. The research is there, trim, fit people get more of everything.   Know the competitive landscape you're in and adapt to it.  You can say "why can't they love me for my personality?"    You want to stay fat and have a hot boyfriend you can do two things: make a lot of money, or be the best at something amazing, like photography or sky diving or competitive math.  Because being a "winner" at something is totally sexy. However, it won't mean shit to the guy on GRNDR though.
So here's my third point and possibly a fourth one.  First, I am not sure if personal sexual preferences rise to the level of racism.  I mean yes, it sucks to be a man of color and see "whites only" on lots of personal profiles.  However, that guy who only sleeps with a narrow band of the human race, might be an HR manager that hires people of color every day, its just that his penis just might not subscribe to EEOC rules and regulations.  Studies are also showing that what is put on the internet is a version of our true if a guy won't sleep with an Asian/Black/Latino and actually writes it down  in his's highly possible he's a rude jerk.  Also there is no rule in social media hook-up sites requiring hot men to sleep with you just because you sent a "hi" to their profile.  I know in a perfect world male hotness should be as available as a tub of Ben&Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream. But it's not gurl, and really at the end of the day, empty sex with a hot man, is just about as satisfying.
Finally as any formerly single person interested in hooking-up or getting hitched will tell hard to find the right mate.  Dating is a discouraging and time consuming business.  And you don't get an award just for "showing up". There are winners and losers, there is heartache, but there is joy and fun and friends to be made in the process.  However, thinking that the process will be as easy as sitting on your couch trolling hook-up sites for Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now, gurl.... you're going to be single and horny for quite awhile.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Miami at Sunrise

Venetian Causeway just before Sunrise
So for safety's sake I've been waking up early to ride my bike.  By early I mean between 5AM and 5:30.  The reason I ride so early is mostly to avoid car traffic, and be a considerate cyclist who feels that taking up a lane, alone, at 5AM should no big deal to the 4 other cars on the road at that time.  I try stick to main thoroughfares like Biscayne, Flagler, Collins because they're well lit and well paved. Also, if I should fall at 5:15 AM on a main thoroughfare, odds are that a good Samaritan might actually stop and help.  The few times I've fallen in the last 25 years of riding, someone has always stopped within seconds to inquire and help if needed. Yes, that is Miami too.
Miami is pretty cool between 5AM and 6:00 AM.  The streets are well lit, but empty, sometimes it's still too early for the kitchen and housekeeping staffs to arrive at the bus stops.  A few lone cyclists ride along these stretches sometimes well-lit with blinking lights front and back, sometimes they are pedaling away just using streetlights as their only illumination. Sometimes I ride along with those unlit guys sometimes because I feel I'm doing them a service with all my blinking lights on my helmet and bike.
The things you notice at 5AM:  Surprisingly, roads are in good shape.  Miami is not a city of pot-holes, however Miami Beach is.  Miami is very well lit, its buildings, neighborhoods, landscaping is all lit up to highlight it's fantastic architecture and greenery.  There are few cars on the road and in some cases the traffic lights blink yellow.

Legion Park, sunrise
Things start to change at 6AM though.  Traffic increases. The dog walkers emerge.  The bus stops start to fill up with the working class, maids, cooks and construction.  The construction sites start to come to life at this time. Food trucks, and the hard hat men start to stream into the new buildings going up on the beach and downtown.  The smell of marijuana wafts from the areas where the construction workers park.
7AM is when the joggers and walkers emerge. Crack of dawn. By this time I hope to be riding my bike in Hollywood or Miami Beach along the paths that line the ocean.  The age of the walkers/joggers/runners vary by location, but trend younger as you head south towards Miami Beach, older (and more Canadian) in Hollywood and Dania Beach.   Collectively everyone stops riding, walking, whatever to stop and watch the sunrise. For about five minutes everyone who is awake stops watches the sun poke up in glorious reds, pinks, and blues from the ocean.  Regardless of age, or predicament in life, I think  they smile and welcome the day. I mean, watching the sunrise, on a beach, in January.....what's not to smile about?
Then a sprint home to beat the traffic.
South Pointe Park 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

50 shades of middle class grey.....

So yesterday as I was driving up Biscayne Blvd and noticed a brand new Lamborghini that had apparently hit an immovable object, like a curb, or a curb and a lamppost.  Its lovely sheet metal torn back to reveal it's frame. Both wheels were bent at abnormal angles. All I could think was "shit must happen to rich folks too."   Sometimes it's hard to live in Miami, with all this out-of-town wealth floating around. While my household income puts in us in one of the higher tiers of earners, I realize it doesn't matter, because, in Miami's retail market, I'm always a second-class citizen.
I recently went to a luxury dealer here to purchase a vehicle.  Firstly, I did not want a run-of-the-mill sports sedan.  Secondly, I actually have to finance or lease the vehicle. Thirdly, I did not want a "50 shades of grey" car.  When I told the salesmen this I could see the consternation on his face.  You want to finance? You want to negotiate? You want color?  Apparently the wealthy don't finance, don't negotiate and pay cash. If you have money, the high end models come in a rainbow of colors.  There wasn't any room to "negotiate" on a car that cost just $50K, I was told I could have the grey run-of-the-mill luxury vehicle or nothing at all.
In fact, grey, black and white were the only cars they had in stock, on 3 floors of a parking lot in Mid-town. The only cars that came in colors were the super expensive ones, or the "base" models.  Everyone else can have white, black or grey. Silver was an option too.  This is where my frustration kicks in. I don't want a grey car. I don't want something that everyone else drives. Isn't the whole point of having a status symbol is to be different?  Why do I have to "go down market" for a cute car, pants, shirt that has a bit of color in it?  Why do I have to go upmarket for nice car, pants, shirt, or shoe that has some panache?  In Miami it's Target or Nordstrom's and everything else in-between is grey. Macy's, Banana Republic are overwhelmingly grey and beige. 
Retailers must think if  you're should have bright colors...from Kia, Fiat, to Target, everything is a happy color because shit, it's hard enough being broke you should be allowed some color in your life.  Retailers must also think if you're rich...well, you deserve it don't you? I mean you fleeced your countrymen back home and since you can't flaunt all that wealth back there, why not do it in Miami, your plan B exit strategy. 
So where does it leave Miami's local middle class? In shades of grey and beige....and even don't think about, you, average middle class person!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Grant me the Grace

Sunday, I sat through a presentation by Jeff Chu, author of Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian's Pilgrimage in Search of God in America.  He had come to at the behest of my church: Coral Gables Congregational as part of our ongoing dialogue exploring and better understanding our faith.  He was a journalist for Time and Fast Company and his book was recommended by the New York Times Book Review.
His story is a common tale of overachieving boy born of fundamentalist parents realizing he's gay and then trying to reconcile the subsequent conflicts between him, faith and his parents after he fully acknowledges his homosexuality. In classic millennial generation style, he, being exceptional, finds the grace to forgive those who hurt him and realize that they are hurting him out of "love." Now on some level he's right. A good Christian should "turn the other cheek" and offer an unconditional surrender to love and forgiveness.
However, Mr. Chu takes it to another level. He decides "as an objective journalist" - (his quote on Sunday), to spend time with the followers of the Westboro Baptist Church of the "God Hates Fags" fame.  Here is my first critique: how exactly is a personal pilgrimage objective journalism?  He proceeds to describe them as "really nice people" who do what they do "out of love". Who he broke bread with, and made "funny jokes about cool-aid."  Who were just like you and me in their day to day lives.  He mentioned casually later on in his presentation that he had never met anyone who's family funeral was marred by one of their protests.
So I'm going to say this to Mr. Chu: I have been to two funerals where they have appeared. Prior to the tactic of going to Military funerals, they would scour the obituaries for men who had died of AIDS and show up there.  Grieving for a loved one is probably the hardest thing anyone has to go through. Especially someone young who left too soon. Then at that moment, that sacred moment, a band of hatemongers have attached themselves to the memory, your memory, of that person....and hopefully you can forget, that when you were at your weakest, somebody pulled an emotional sucker punch on you. So Jeff Chu asks us to find the Grace, to forgive them for what they've done to your family, friends and community because they're just "regular folks who eat cereal in the morning".
Sadly, Mr. Chu has touched evil and didn't see it for what it was. As a gay man I have encountered evil.  It always comes in the guise of "regular folks". Did he think the Nazis had horns? Did he think that the KKK didn't go to church on Sunday and love their children too? Yes, as Christians we have the duty of Grace, but don't we have a duty to call out evil when we see it?  What Westboro does is violence of the worst kind, do we look inside ourselves and say "oh well, they're just "regular folks" who are misguided, let's just forgive and move on. "
Grace, forgiveness, comes very hard to me and to my family.    It's something that forces me to dig deep and try not to hurt someone physically. (I am seeing a therapist about anger management) To tell me that someone who goes up to a grieving mother and tells her that her child will burn in  hell, at that child's funeral, is certainly not deserving of God's grace regardless of what they had for breakfast that morning.

Fred Phelps, the founder of this Church died today, March 20th, 2014.....Grant me the grace. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

SMART Ride for AIDS, an experience....

So earlier this year I did my first long distance ride from Miami to Key Largo, FL.  It was for Multiple Sclerosis. You can read about it in a previous blog post called "On Your Left" done back in April.  Since April I believe I have evolved as a cyclist.  I retired my very sweet, made in America Cannondale hybrid....they were still made here when I bought it. Now they're made in China. I replaced it with a beautiful Italian Bianchi (well, designed in Italy, but made in China). I've become part of the "Lycra" crowd, and I'd like to think on good days, it's a look I can pull off.  I'm not getting those "look away" stares that women in cameltoe get.
In keeping with this year's "bike for terminal illness" theme I decided to ride my first AIDS ride. I mean if you can't ride for a plague, why ride at all?  Each one of these Tour du Diseases require two aspects: First, you must raise funds to ride.  Second you must train. 
Being a professional fundraiser the money part was easier.  For the AIDS ride I simply pimped out my mad Haiku skills and promised anyone who donated any amount would get a Haiku. In no time I scribed 20 Haikus and then I knew the ride was on. For more about my Haikus see  Almost everyone was happy with their Haikus, except Alex, which hurt because I put a lot of thought into the 17 syllables that I feel define him.   When I gave Haikus freely, I was never criticized, now that I'm asking them to pay for them, everyone's a critic. However, the Haikus are not refundable.
Training, ugh. I was determined that I would be prepared for this ride. I would finish and I would not suffer inordinately. I would ride at a relaxed pace and I would not be at the end of the ride, the least bit in doubt of whether I could finish. I am proud to say that four months of training paid off. Despite one road rage incident (on my part) it want off flawlessly. No flats and no fats when I finished the ride on Saturday.
Finally: the ride. I can't say too much about the ride. I have ridden and driven these roads many times before. I was by myself for almost all of the ride so indulged in Conch Republic nostalgia.  Each leg had a meaning, Card Sound Road brought memories of countless Carl Hiassen books. Key Largo reminded me of when I lived there doing HIV tests for people under a big mango tree in a park. Islamorada brought back memories of sneaking out of class at FIU and going to Tiki Bar for rum-runners. Leyton: speed trap. Big Pine Key means Key Deer and speeding tickets.  I had seriously over-trained for this ride and spent most of the two days by myself riding furiously with a strong tailwind. Both days I arrived before the bulk of the group did.
Lessons learned: well, it was hard to get all maudlin about the whole AIDS/HIV thing. I mean as a gay man it's been around since before I was sexually active. I've lost friends and family and mourned them and I wasn't really feeling inclined to mourn them again.   I felt that I did a very small part, again, to address an issue that we all thought would be gone by now.  I had fun, I proved I could do something extraordinary, I can't wait to do it again.