My 2021 AIDS LifeCycle Story
I remember my friend Greg. He was the epitome of life. There was a moment I like to think about when we were at his and Rob’s home in Connecticut for July 4th. Greg and I were together in the kitchen preparing the salad for dinner. He was so alive. He was singing songs so loud and talking about how he loves to use so many different types of leafy greens to give the salad that zesty crunch. Each chop of the knife was like a dance. Every step he took was like a bouncy spring. And he sang and talked and sang and talked. At the end, we had amassed this giant, perfect and the most beautiful salad I had ever seen. And I realized in that moment, that it was so beautiful because Greg poured so much love into it. It had to be perfect for his family and friends. It’s a simple moment to think about. But that’s what Greg was… love. He was ‘joie de vivre’ unmatched! When I took the first bite of that salad, I could see the smile on Greg’s face knowing how much I was enjoying the salad. We all did. And that was the best 4th of July I ever had in my life with Greg, Rob, Anthony and Ange. Greg was pure joy. Pure love. And pure hope. Pure Art. Pure life. I don’t know that I have met anyone since who has had such a purity and fervor for life. Alas, Greg has left us. His memory remains bright and powerful in my heart. I believe it always will. I’ve tried making salads since then, and I just fail miserably. But I always think of him and I smile. And I felt I should do the AIDS LifeCycle in 2020 to honor my beautiful friend Greg.
My twin brother Albert was the good twin. I was the bad twin. He was perfect, smart, good looking, funny as all get out, a good dancer, witty, very stylish, loved to sing and play sports. I was the band nerd. LOL. Albert had a flair about him and I always wanted to be as cool as my twin brother. All the boys liked him! Albert and I used to always fight. But we always made up. We had always known each other way gay, but never said anything about it. I remember when I finally came out to him. He was so angry at me! I was stunned. I thought he would happy and the most supportive person. He had been out for a while at this point. I was so confused. But I realized that I was “infringing” on his space. This was ‘his’ identity. And I needed to be the straight one to get married and have kids. It was all ridiculous really. The next day, he came over and gave me a big hug and took me the arm to meet his friends and learn the gay world he had been living in already. It was truly magical. And I will never forget his sweet, endearing approach at teaching me “the ways of the gay.” He was a real gem. I remember our last Christmas together. He was distant and quiet. I knew something was wrong, but he didn’t really want to talk. He kept to himself a lot. We chatted a bit about this and that. We took a family photo in front of the Christmas tree in 2011. Little did I know that would be the last picture I took with my brother. It would be the last time I saw him too. I came back to Los Angeles. Albert fell deathly ill, succumbing to complications from AIDS, and died 6 weeks after going into the hospital. He never told anyone he was HIV+. He never told anyone about his illness. There was nothing I could do. I felt so helpless. Once we learned what was happening, I pleaded with him to get well so that I could bring him to Los Angeles and get him into care at the LGBT Center so that I could nurse him back to health. I just knew that would work. The Center has performed miracles I still see walking every day. And I wanted my brother back. I wanted to see his smile and hear his voice and laughter again. But he never made out of the hospital long enough. Our hearts broke. And we still think about him everyday. I keep his picture where I can see him everyday. I know he is still with me, always. But I ride in his memory. So that others won’t have to experience the shame and stigma he felt and get the treatment they need. I love you Albert.
I am riding for my twin brother Albert Gamboa.
I am riding for my beautiful friend Greg Pepe.
I am riding for the millions of men and women who have died from AIDS.
I am riding for the millions of men and women still living with HIV/AIDS.
I am riding for the millions of loved ones still surviving, many with PTSD.
I am riding for myself who has been living with HIV for 12 years and faced many of my own health challenges!
I am riding to End Stigma against people living with HIV.
I am riding to End AIDS.
And I need your help. My goal this year is $10,000. I recently had rotator cuff surgery. It’s been a long slow, road to recovery. But, I recently got clearance to get on the bike as long as I’m very careful! So, I’m getting a late start, but I need to do this. The Los Angeles LGBT Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation are always working as hard as possible to help people living with HIV/AIDS get all the treatment and services they need. And there is never enough funding. So, we have to raise millions to keep the lights on and keep providing services across these two amazing cities. And so I am riding for the third time in the AIDS LifeCycle to help raise precious funds and eliminate stigma.
From May 31st to June 6th, over 3,000 Cyclists, Roadies and Virtual Cyclists will be participating in AIDS/LifeCycle, a 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise funds for the life-saving services offered by San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. This year, I’ll be one of them! But I need your help! I hope to reach $10,000!
The services provided as a result of this event mean the world to those who receive them, and your support means the world to me.
We’re working together to make HIV/AIDS a thing of the past. Will you support me by making a donation today?