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What's the value of a second chance at life?
As an HIV positive man who has benefited from lifesaving treatments and services, I asked myself that very personal question. While the answer can't be counted in dollars and cents it does make sense to give back.
From June 1-7, 2014, I'm bicycling in AIDS/LifeCycle. It's a 7-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to make a world of difference in the fight to end HIV and AIDS. I've set a very ambitious goal to raise $54,000, a thousand dollars for each awesome year that I've been alive.
Here's why. According to the World Health Organization:
Ther great news is that there are several effective ways to prevent HIV transmission. We also know that those who are effectively managing their disease are 97% less likely to transmit it to someone else. Knowing your status and getting treatment is vital. It means a better quality of life for people with HIV and protects others from infection.
With your help we can help give millions a new start, a second chance at life. Please give generously.
Get facts on HIV/AIDS. For the latest information on HIV/AIDS go herehttp://www.who.int/features/factfiles/hiv/en/
My Personal Web Log
The Ask 2.0
In sales, and sometimes in life, it comes down to the ask.
The casino event that raised $1,600 at tonight's Sales 2.0 Conference was a direct result of such an ask. Seven years ago I made the simple request of Gerhard and Larissa Gschwandtner. It was to join me for dinner. I wanted to Gerhard to speak at our first conference. After a bottle wine, and talking about almost everything but business, he agreed. He also agreed to take over the helm of the conference when the company I was working for decided that it was not in the event business.
Last June, I asked a question of myself.
Being HIV positive for 10 years I knew that I wanted to give back to the organizations that have been helping me live a fuller life. The question I asked was this: What's the value of getting a second chance at life?
That's when I decided to do two things: ride 545 miles from SF to LA in the AIDS/LifeCycle and along the way raise $1K for every year of my life in support the SF AIDS Foundation.
To help me get to $54K I asked Gerhard and Larissa if they would support me and tonight's event was the result. I closed today's Sales 2.0 Conference by doing something I'd never done before - come out as positive to a mostly straight and completely unfamiliar room. I had pushed beyond my comfort zone. I felt exposed.
You could hear a pin drop. I could feel their empathy towards me. While nothing was uttered, a lot was said. It was quite a moving moment that I quickly passed through. I closed the session recounting to the audience much of what I have just retold you about how the conference got started and how that led me to being on stage before them. I asked attendees to help me close the final gap saying "every dollar that the house takes in goes directly towards my efforts. All I ask of you is that you have fun, network, have a drink or two on the house and gamble relentlessly."
Today, I ventured outside again.
Aria, the new company I work for, is launching a social good program; AIDS/LifeCycle is their first beneficiary. Together, with the help of the Aria team, we have decided to tell my story. In so doing this also makes me their first employee to be publicly out as either Gay or HIV positive. It's a leap of faith for both parties. I am grateful for the support of my boss, Jon Gettinger, and Aria's CEO, Tom Dibble who like my father, have backed me "100%".
I am thankful to have people like Gerhard, Larissa and so many others in my corner. I literally could not do this without them.
Yesterday I biked 104 miles over 6,700 feet, hopped in the car, went to Meredith Loring's, arrived mid-party, showered, swapped clothes, chatted up some amazing people (seriously, their friends are a "It's a Small World" of smarts, fitness, beauty and success), prepped for today's ride with Jonathan Goodrich, woke up at 6am, rode out at 9:30am, logged in another 55.5 miles and 5,200 feet. I am now at home, writing this post.
It struck me mid-party about how busy and full my life is and how blessed I am. I thought about people who aren't here, namely my junior high track coach, Harry Berg, who died of cancer in his mid-thirties.
When he was diagnosed, he was a scout for the Seattle Seahawks. Through my brother, Corky who also works at the Seahawks, he asked to see my twin, Jim and me. It was an awkward moment but we went because he asked and because of the man he was. To give you a sense: He was 1 part Magilla Gorilla and 1 part Race Bannon - blonde, hairy and hulking. He also was wicked smart and he had the grace to take an awkward eighth grader --who longed to be but would never become, a respectable athlete-- under his wing and show him a thing or two about life, track and shooting basketballs.
The conversation was pure Harry. Not dodging the obvious, he hit it head on, explaining "what's going on." In that discussion, he talked about living and burning it up like a shooting star. That was 32 years ago.
This weekend I burned it up. And thought of people, like Harry, that still give me cause for reflection. And in that moment, I can almost touch heaven.
Conversations from the road - Feb 3, 2014
Before starting my new job at Aria Systems I took a road trip to LA to meet with Column Five, who are donating 200 hours of their time to help me in my fundraising efforts. Their CEO drafted a pitch proposal to his partners and under the "why" he simply wrote "because we love Parker." Wow. The very least I could do is get face to face with the team lead, Ian Klein, who lives in Los Angeles.
On the way down, I retraced parts of AIDS/Lifecycle route, stopping overnight in Paso Robles. I pulled into the hotel at just after 11am, which afforded the entire afternoon to a bit of sightseeing on two wheels. I dumped off my bags, hopped on the bike and headed towards San Miguel, an awesome speck of a town 11 miles north of "Paso" - as the locals call it.
Mission San Miguel Archangel hosts the final rest stop on day three of the Ride and it's one of my faves. I took River Road north, which winds up a now dry creek bed. The road undulates and while not particularly scenic offers a super fun ride that invites easy 20+ mph speeds.
Forty minutes later I was at the church where I spent some time in the quiet confines of stucco and stained glass. I thought about what lies ahead. I lingered over names of people that aren't here. I poked around the corner and found the cemetery. To be sure it wasn't much more than some dirt, cacti and few headstones under the watchful eye of an Iron Christ but it had a quiet dignity about it.
How San Miguel survives is a miracle. It's more of an old west movie set than a functioning town. It has no visible reason for being even as a bedroom community of its more adult neighbor 10 minutes south. I rode lazily past the general mercantile, the deli, the two saloons, and a hardware store displaying lawn mowers as if there was much lawn to mow in nearby tracts of rock and rubble.
Before heading back I grabbed a latte at the Coffee Station, a converted postage stamp Atlantic Ritchfield, which showcased an authentic gravity fed gas pump from the Thirties. The shop is owned by an affable guy named Luis, who has bankrolled his dreams and put it into what is San Miguel's version of a start up. We talk. He explains his hopes for this part coffee, part burrito stand off the beaten path. He's counting on goodwill and his catering orders to supplement the morning coffee rush, which he admits isn't enough to keep the lights on. After 20 minutes I saddled up and wished him luck but wondered how he was going to make a go of it.
And I rode out of town I left the moment behind me. It was the kind of interaction -- the heartfelt collision of world's -- that seems to happen daily during the Ride. Luis is the kind of man and San Miguel is the kind of town you want to root for.
I plan to stop by on my return trip in June if only to reconnect once more and steal a glance at Claire, the three month old, pretty in pink, snuggled between his arms.
Things that Matter.
My mother, Alix, is 85 going on 30. And while she may not have figured out email she's pretty much nailed "the Google", as she affectionately has named it. She, like her son, is a curious sort. She's enjoyed a pastime of torturing her six boys with her "no question is off limits" joie de vivre and has just discovered -to her delight- that all answers are now at her fingertips.
Having already broken news of my HIV status to her in person, she was (really) eager to read my Facebook note (see copy in blog post below) which talked about my passion for the ride. Apparently I wasn't getting her copy fast enough. Phone rings. It's Mom:
Hon-EEE, it's me. I love the Google. I found your note. SOOOOO many comments. I THINK it should be published. And since you mentioned them, I've called Suzy and Al and I THINK you should send them a copy.
First, I seriously need to reexamine my privacy settings. Second, I didn't mention "them" but DID reference a "neighbor" and being "born". Good enough for Mom who's always been a bit liberal with the facts.
As a point of my disclosure was to get more people talking about status - yours, mine and everyone's - it was also good enough for me. Mom's take-the-bull-by-the-horns approach is another reason to love her more. So, per her "suggestion" I sent two emails off. Two really great things happened. I got two emails back in return.
The first from Suzy Moery, the mother of David, our neighbor who died at just thirty years of age. I wrote her about the final two times I saw David and how much I appreciated them and the gifts I received from him during those visits. I also told her about how disappointed I was when I seroconverted. Her reply:
Parker, thank you for sharing. I'm so sorry that you (or anybody) have to deal with this, and I'm horrified to see the word 'shame' connected in any way with your feelings... ...My first thought, when your mother told me, was that the medical profession has learned a lot in the past twenty years, and that you would be able to manage the disease successfully. My second thought was that time is on your side -- I think. I hope. David taught us all lessons in dignity and tranquility in the face of disaster, although his experience with his partner must have given him insight as to what was coming. And I must say that his attitude helped me, at least, keep going... ...I hope you know that I applaud you and thank you for your 'birthday gift'. Love, Suzy
The second from Al Skinner, the now 89 year-old Harvard-educated doc is a lifelong skiing and hiking buddy of my Dad's and was on-call when I came into this world. Little did I know how lucky I was.
As you will see, Dr. Skinner is still sharp as a tack and not at a loss for the details:
Thanks for sharing your essay. The history of exchange transfusions for Rh incompatibility was short in 1960. I participated in my first as a medical student in 1950 at Boston Childrens Hospital. I was the second or third Seattle pediatrician to have the training. Alix's obstetrician, Glen Rice (still living at Horizon House, Seattle) did the appropriate tests to identify babies at risk. We were forewarned. Dr. John Hartmann, a newly arrived pediatric hematologist, was available and we had prepared. After supporting your father (who had been in the delivery room for your older brothers' births at my urging) we arranged your transfer to Childrens where all was ready. Jack Hartmann and one twin at one end, I and the other at the other end of the procedure table, placed catheters in the umbilical veins and withdrew and replace blood, 20 cc at a time. All went well and you two were later returned to Swedish and your mother.
Clearly on a roll, he offered up this tidbit about my mother's parenting prowess:
Your mother devised a unique system for managing her (six all under the age of six) boys. The older twins were cared for on local time. The middle pair were on GMT -11, you and James on GMT -12 (I think).
I once referred a new mother-to-be of twins to Alix for advice on coping with twins. I didn't mention that she was also coping with horses, a donkey and a pig. I think the young mother decided her twins were manageable...
...There is enough drama in the Trewin family history for a television series. Sarah and I are privileged to have been on the edge of it.
Thanks to Suzy Moery and Al Skinner for letting me share their words. They matter so much.
They were fixtures of my childhood in Redmond -- two decades before Microsoft would make it a household name. 1960's Redmond was a one stop sign town where you were more likely to see a loose horse than a late model Ford. Doors were left wide open and kids roamed freely between them. Betty at the V&B grocery was the source for all the news that wasn't fit to print and a guy named Wayne could be counted on for a couple of gallons of cheap gas, one of the widest of smiles you'll ever see and some free advice along the way.
Redmond was rowdy, rough hewn, hokey and all heart. And, forty years later it's still a good place to call home for no other reason than the Suzy's and the Al's who live there and have always had my back.
In the Week...
Since posting my birthday note coming out about my HIV status it's been shared thirty times and been read by over 130 of your. You've made almost as nearly comments. And while its primary intent wasn't fundraising, over $12,000 have been donated to my AIDS/LIfecycle efforts.
Your support has brought me close to 50% of my overall goal of $54,000 - or $1,000 for each year of my life.
Yet, in the years ahead what will linger are the words from friends half a world away, work mates who reached across our 9-5 lives, family members who I continue to hold close, and hometown peeps who I remember fondly but haven't seen in years.
I've received dozens of texts, emails, phone calls checking in, sending best wishes and pledges of support -- each one sweeter than the next. And you've shared your own stories of loss, perseverance and hope: from those affected by HIV, managing diabetes and surviving cancer. It's been an incredibly touching and powerful week.
I can't say "thank you" enough.