Thursday, July 31, 2008

Affordable Housing (Again)

I blogged about this in April and again today: it's nigh-to-impossible for a cop, firefighter, or teacher to be able to afford to live in the county where he or she works.

Some think that salaries of public servants are "too high." Certainly for those who have made a commitment to stay for a long time, and who have earned promotions, studied hard to obtain advanced college degrees, and take on extra assignments like after-school group supervision or overtime, find that their incomes are higher than others. But that's how it should be. Those who work the longest and hardest should be rewarded by appropriate compensation.

The problem is for the younger people starting their public service careers. In their 20s, usually fresh out of college or technical school, often with massive student loan debt, and perhaps newly married wanting to start a family -- how in the heck can they afford to buy a home in a county where the median price of an existing home exceeds a half-million dollars (US$500,000)? With a 5% down payment (of course, better if more, but let's use this for an example), the anticipated monthly principal and interest (calculated at 6.5% on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage) would exceed $3,000, plus several hundred more per month for PMI and escrow to pay taxes and homeowners insurance. Even for a two-income couple, that amount of money is way above what reputable lenders would allow to be financed.

That's why these days we see cops, firefighters, and teachers renting, because they can't afford to buy. Some still live with their parents. Some decide to buy a starter home (condo or townhouse) way far away, far beyond the county where they work. Thus they have to endure a commute from hell, for hours each way. With the cost of fuel, many can no longer afford to do that, either, and sometimes have to quit their job in our county because they can't afford to commute or live where they work.

This week I feel good because I was able to put a very small dent in this dilemma for a starting teacher and her construction-worker husband who are relocating here from another state. A few months ago, I bought a house that had gone into foreclosure. The house was right next door to another one that I own and rent to a fine young police officer. I spent time to fix it up, do repairs, replace the electrical system, have a new roof put on, replace the water heater, and some other less intensive repairs. My partner even did the painting (I hate to paint!)

The county sent me a list of prospective tenants and I selected this bright young and eager first-year teacher to live in that house. She has been assigned to a school that is just four miles away. She will have time she needs to spend at school doing the extra things a new teacher has to do, as well as attend classes for an advanced degree when she is ready. She will have the time because her commute will be so short. And her husband shouldn't have trouble finding construction work -- our county and the general geographic area where we live is still in the midst of a building boom.

I accept a less-than-market rent (and can deduct the difference from my taxes, as well as what it cost me to renovate the house). I don't do this for the rental income -- income and expenses work out to be a wash in the long run anyway -- I do it because, well, I can. I can say truthfully next time I testify before our county council or planning board, "I am making a difference. Are you?"

One person, one couple, one house at-a-time. Sure, have all the "affordable housing" talk you want, but if you're serious about it, do something. I am very happy that I did.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Deciding to Smile

Every day you have choices. A primary choice is if you will have a good day. Of course, everyone prefers to have a good day over a bad one. But I firmly believe, down to the roots of my faith and family, that you can make each day to be good, or as a close buddy says, "grand."

First thing I do each day is smile. And as bad as I am at it, I often find myself singing, too. Dumb little songs, like the one that I drive my partner crazy with, It's So Nice To Be With You made famous by a one-hit wonder group "Gallery" back in the '70s. Or when riding my Harley to the Metro this morning, I caught myself singing, Oh What a Beautiful Mornin', Oh What a Beautiful Day, a popular song from the musical "Oklahoma!"

While riding on the Metro, looking at all the glum-faced suits, whose appearance seems to be miserable, I just smile and think of my eighth brother, and sing to myself, Thank You For Being a Friend by Andrew Gold, made famous as the title theme from the TV show "The Golden Girls."

I could have decided to be sad today as I watched the TV news about the ongoing killings both locally and in overseas wars. I could have been very upset when I listened to news reports about the earthquake in the L.A. area yesterday, when people talked about the stupid things they did, like run outside or jump into doorframes. I spent 20+ years attempting to educate people that "drop, cover, and hold on" is the safest earthquake action to take, but despite the best efforts of hundreds of professionals, when the ground shakes, people react with self-protective behavior that actually is more likely to cause them harm than protect them. So yeah, I could have decided to be angry, sad, and miserable today, but I decided not to. The sun still rises, the world still goes 'round. Let's celebrate life.

Make each day a good day. Smile, sing, be joyful. I have much to be thankful for, and thank God for his good graces smiling on my life, my family, my partner, my friends, and our neighbors. I am happy, calm, and serene, because of the graces in my life of wonderful people, an enjoyable job, financial security with no debt, and the little things in life. Like that little bird outside my window this morning singing his little heart out, or the squirrels playing "catch me if you can" in our back yard.

Life is short. Wear your boots. Love those you love like there's no tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Salve, Gaius Julius

The subject: resistance to adopting technology -- title of this post means, "Greetings, Julius (Caesar)".

Yeah, for those who don't know, I studied Latin for eight terms; four years in high school and four semesters in college, including one in Italy where I was able to read and attempt to translate original works. Latin remains quite alive in our English language, and I credit my high school Latin teacher (who truly WAS on a first-name basis with Julius Caesar) for instilling in me a love of the language that taught me how to write in English. Before studying Latin, I couldn't write worth a hoot. Now, some 30+ years later, I have published several books, articles, and scholarly reports.

I take a lot of light-hearted ribbing from friends about how I am slow and resistant to adopt new technology. Thus, some claim that I remain on a first-name basis with Julius Caesar like my Latin teacher. My #1 resistance is to cell phones. Man, I hate those things. They are annoying yet ever-present in today's society. I just saw a kid who was about five years old yakking on one yesterday.

Okay, fine, they provide convenience. But you know, the world still turned and we managed quite well before they became so ubiquitous. Kids were able to go play and know when it was time to come inside by listening for someone to yell for them, or the church bells ring, or simply by looking at a clock. Not any more... yuppies and yuppettes all claim that their kids "need" one for their safety. Oh, gimme a break. Kids managed quite fine back in the day. The world really is not any less (or more) safe today. Kids don't "need" cell phones, and their parents really don't, either. But the parents have succumbed to the marketing sales hyperbole of the wireless industry. (Hyperbole? Well, I studied Ancient Greek, too).

Seriously, the reason why I am so resistant to cell phones is two-fold: First, I witnessed a close friend get killed by someone yapping on a cell phone. He was riding his Harley in front of me, ... I'll never forget the horror. I blame it all on inattentive driving caused by an SUV-driver being more concerned about talking on the blasted phone than watching where she was going. Second, I really don't like making rich companies richer. All the wireless phone companies are making a mint off of every person who yaps away on the "unlimited" plans, and texting too.

So here is a contradiction: I have one of those things. My work requires it. But if work didn't pay for it, I wouldn't have one. My partner doesn't have one. Heck, if he had his druthers, we wouldn't have a phone in the house. But that's becuase he is a recluse.

What my friends who claim that I am more of an ancient Roman (rather than of Italian descent) do not recognize is that I have adopted certain technologies, like building a personal website (I have several other websites, as well), and even this medium: blogging. There are some technologies that are fun and don't cost that much. Certainly, email is a technology that I use a lot -- I have made friends all over the world and can use email to keep in touch. Sure beats the cost of a long-distance call. (Remember toll charges? Huh?)

Two other media to which I do not subscribe is texting and instant messaging. Texting is another way for wireless companies to make a lot of money. As for IM, I have tried it, but discontinued it because it takes time that I simply do not have. IM programs are blocked where I work, for good reason. The kids around there would IM all day if they could. At home, I seldom have more than a few minutes here-and-there on the computer, so using IM wouldn't be fair to others, because I can't stay on line that long. Same applies to on-line chat forums. I just don't have the time and can't make the time on a regular basis.

And don't get me started about "Crackberries." OMG, ... what a very expensive waste of money. The world will survive if you can't read that email immediately. Seriously. Turn it off and see what happens. Betcha the sun still comes up tomorrow morning.

So that is today's musing... ab ovo usque ad mala

Monday, July 28, 2008

Stealth in Boots

My partner works on a schedule where he has every other Monday off. Today was one of those days. So he can continue to sleep when I rise at 4:30am, he sleeps in our guest room. Fortunately, it's on the opposite side of the house from our master bedroom, so he can't hear me in the shower or while I am getting dressed.

The only problem is that boots make noise. And since he waxed the hardwood floors on our first floor, no matter what boots I wear, they make loud squeaky noises on those floors. And cowboy boots would clunk loudly. While I like the clunk sound, I don't want it to disturb my partner while he is trying to sleep.

We resolve this situation by some advanced planning. I figure out what boots I will wear the night before. I put them out in the garage by my motorcycle. In the morning, I just pad around the house in my socks. When I come down the stairs into our wood-floored foyer, I try hard not to fall on my butt because the floors are so slippery.

I packed m
y lunch, using only the light above the stove. If I turned the lights on in the kitchen, the light spilling out the kitchen windows causes a reflection that can be seen from the guest room. My partner is very sensitive to light, as am I. We usually rise no later than dawn all year-round.

I gather my stuff to bring to work, pack it in my bag, grab my motorcycle helmet from the top of the 'fridge, and then quietly and carefully tiptoe into the garage, slowly closing the door behind me. Once I am in the garage, I put my boots on. Then I carefully open the garage door using the manual release. Oh-so-slowly I lift the door so it doesn't rattle and creak. When the door is open, I step outside and walk around a bit, determining by feel what to wear for protection and warmth as I ride the Harley to Metro. Fortunately, I keep my most regularly-worn leathers and gloves on a special rack that I built in the garage.

It was a very mild morning, so I put on what I wear most regularly in the summer, my light leather shirt/jacket that I got a long time ago. It is light enough not to be confining, but heavy enough to ward off the slight morning chill. I put on my Damascus 302 cop search gloves, which are very light, as well.

I carefully walk the bike out of the garage, then very slowly close the door and lock it. I remount my iron steed and walk it to the end of the driveway, pointing down the street in my direction of travel. Only then do I fire it up, and ride off.

I learned from an article in American Motorcyclist that by starting a motorcycle out in the street, away from where sound can reverberate such as against a garage door or the front of a house/building, reports are that few people can hear it. Thus, no complaints about motorcycle noise. I have to be careful about that, because at 5:30 in the morning when I leave, almost all of the rest of my neighbors are still asleep. I don't want them complaining to the HOA President about noise that I make. (Well, no worries. I'm the HOA President... but nonetheless, I have a reputation to maintain). I try to be thoughtful, and don't want to bother people if I can do something to avoid it. And that includes being stealthy inside my own house, not put on my boots until I'm in the garage, and starting up my bike while well away from walls that can reverberate that hefty rumble of my Harley.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Il dolce far niente

I had a busy week last week and it continued right through this morning. Ordinarily, we wake up with the sun, but lay cuddled in each other's arms for a while before getting up. However, this morning, we snuggled for only a couple minutes before we were dressed and out the door at 6:30. Even for us, that's early for a Saturday.

By noontime, I was preparing a home-made pizza and a key lime pie to enjoy later. After lunch, we had some more chores to do, but fortunately they were done rather quickly. After putting the tools away, I was thrilled when my partner pronounced that we were done for the day. He suggested we get out the hammock to enjoy our park-like shady back yard. Since I often post pictures of myself on this blog, I thought instead I would post a pic of my hunky partner.

We "hung out" and watched the squirrels jumping high in the trees, talked about life, dreams, and lots of other things. I even slept for a couple hours, sweetly in my partner's arms. He napped, too. Though it was warm, there was a gentle breeze and it was comfortable in the deep shade.

Some times the greatest pleasures are in doing nothing -- thus the origin of the title of this post.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Identification with Gay Subcultures

I received an interesting email message from a guy who runs a "bear" website in Brazil. He asked me why I didn't show the "bear flag" on my website because, to him, I am a bear.

I initially replied saying that I did not really identify with any particular gay subculture. I am a guy who happens to identify with loving my one and only man, and that I find men, in general, much more interesting than women (when it comes to sexuality). I also identify with being a community activist and leader, with serving people with skills and knowledge that I have learned, with helping other people by doing odd-jobs and simple things like grocery shopping for elderly folks, with motorcycling, with geeks in website building, and so on. I have many thing with which I identify. Must I identify with one more than another? Nope.

I looked up information about "bears" and found a Wikipe
dia article from which I quote:
Bears tend to have hairy bodies and facial hair; some are heavy-set; and some project an image of working-class masculinity in their grooming and appearance. Some bears place importance on presenting a hyper-masculine image; some may shun interaction with men who display effeminate style and mannerisms. There is, anecdotally, more acceptance of tattoos and body piercing in the bear community, although this acceptance varies from member to member.
Well, I share some of those characteristics, but not all. I am not thin and hairless. I don't shave what body hair I have, but because of my Native American blood, I could not grow a beard if I tried. I am a masculine man, but don't consider myself "hyper-masculine." For example, if guys are talking about a football game, I usually zone out because I don't care for sports. I do not shun interacti
on with anyone, though I find gay men who act "queeny" to be difficult to be around because of their demand for attention, and dramatic attitudes and behaviors that are often displayed (and usually cause straight people to develop and affirm inappropriate stereotypes about gay people). Finally, I hate needles and thus never will have any tattoos. I find body piercings to be repulsive, as well. It just hurts to see someone with a ring through his...(insert name of body part here).

Similarly, I share some, but not all, characteristics of what is deemed to be a "leatherman." Many men who enjoy leather also engage in BDSM. I blogged about this before. Suffice it to say, not only do I not engage in BDSM, I find it repulsive because of its reminders of human torture which I have, in a past job, attempted to rescue people from. (This is my own personal opinion and not reflective on any individual anywhere.)

I also share some characteristics of "cowboy," but haven't ridden a horse in a long time and probably won't again. I like the masculinity of a cowboy, his down-to-earth style, practical attitudes, and work ethic. I have and wear a lot of cowboy boots, but that doesn't make me a cowboy. I have the boots, though, because I can wear them to work with dress clothes, and they look and feel good on my feet. I work hard, but not out on the range. My limit to physical labor is work to keep our house in shape, and remodeling homes for the rental to important working folks like cops, firefighters, and teachers.

So what gay subculture "am" I? None, really. I am just a guy who likes boots, wears leather, rides a motorcycle, has a moustache and chest hair, and likes other guys. That's it. Nothin' more, nothin' less. Don't try to put me into a box; I am just an "outta the box" kinda guy.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bike Cop Boot Advising Again

At the invitation of a county sheriff with whom I spoke at a recent conference I attended for my work, I was invited to meeting in a nearby state where discussions were held regarding new uniforms for a law enforcement force that will emerge from when the city and the county merge into a unified government. This will likely happen when approval is granted by the voters in November.

There is a lot to do in order to combine the city police department and the county sheriff's office. Least of which is specifying a new uniform. They decided to go with totally different uniform colors and do away with the "old" uniforms in the "old" colors. The new uniform will be dark blue with yellow side stripes on the legs.

While they were at it, the motor units from both forces were considering specifics regarding the boots they will wear. Right now, the sheriff's department wears only Dehners. The city's police force wear any boot that is tall and black. A few have Dehners, some have Dehner look-alikes, and a few wear Chippewa Hi-Shine Engineer Boots.

I blogged about bike cop boot advising before, and the same types of questions and discussions arose.

What was interesting, though these men wouldn't really admit it, is that they were more concerned about appearance than they were about cost or comfort. While it is likely they would get a generous uniform allowance the first year the forces combine, it is not likely the uniform allowance would remain nearly as high in future years. That means, then, that Dehner boots would be difficult to "require" because their cost is so excessive, especially for stock boots whose shafts are made of that plastic stuff called "Dehcord" that cracks, breaks, and wears poorly.

They were also looking at Intapol boots, and liked them. The style, zipper on the back of the shaft, and availability of different calf widths were selling points. However, they didn't like the new soles on the Intapol boots, which are supposed to be a lug-style, but are more like a soft type of rubber.

We were supposed to look at the uniforms and boots yesterday, then the cops were going to set up a training course today and ride with various styles of boots on. However, due to predicted rain for today, they switched which day they did each task. Yesterday, the cops just put on various makes of boots and rode through a course of twists, turns, and stops on their police Harleys. They even let me try the course on my H-D Road King, while I was wearing my Chippewa Hi-Shine boots. I was successful, about which I was proud because this is the first time I have ridden the bike through such challenges since I bought my new bike at the end of May.

Anyway, they rode and rode and rode with Dehners, Intapols, and Chippewas -- both the motor patrol style as well as the Engineer style. All the boots performed well, as reported verbally. The written reports gave preference to the Chippewa Hi-Shines for comfort, and to the Dehners for appearance. The Intapols were in between. Several cops noticed black marks on the pipes of their bikes left by the soft rubber sole on the new Intapol boots. Those who wore the Chippewa Motor Patrol boots said that the boots were hot and caused them to feel uncomfortable. (It was a very warm afternoon out there in the sun.)

This morning when they were modeling the uniforms with the boots, the stress cracks on the Dehners were very obvious. That caused some of the old-timers who wouldn't consider any other type of boot to look again at alternatives. Since they didn't like the sole of the Intapols, and those who wore the Chippewa Motor Patrol boots said that they didn't like them because they got so hot, they looked again at the Chippewa Hi-Shines.

I talked about mine, why I like them, how comfortable they are to me, and demonstrated that the pair I had on were severals years old and have endured thousands of miles on my Harley. I also discussed what I had learned when working with a different motor outfit in May.

Now they want to talk among themselves and think. Several of the cops will wear their demo boots between now and September, when they will make a decision. A few of the cops are still hesitant about adopting Chippewa Hi-Shine boots because they have muscular legs and wanted to be able to get wider calf sizes, but unless you get a wide foot, you can't get boots with a wide calf. Intapol offers different calf widths. Dehners can be made custom. They're not sure just what they will select. But they don't have to decide right away.

It was a great couple of days, and I appreciated having the opportunity to do this as part of my "real" job as well as continuing my personal avocation. And, as a double-blessing, I was able to avoid the rain for my long motorcycle ride home by routing myself differently from how I got there. I am glad I didn't have to ride in the rain.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Stupid Is is What Stupid Does

A guy who regularly posts on "Boots on Line" posted this picture with the subject, "Awesome bike -- cool dude." The writer initially posted the pic saying that the rider of this motorcycle was very proud of his machine, a 2000 Millennium Indian, and talked to the writer at every stoplight about his pride in his ride.

What's wrong with this picture? Well, besides the obvious (no helmet, wearing shorts, and some sort of soft footwear), he's holding to the handlebar with ONE HAND! How incredibly stupid, on all accounts.

Several people wrote a reply commenting on the lack of protective gear, and I'll add my voice to that. They referred to him as a "donor". Meaning that when he is involved in a crash (usually caused by someone claiming not to see a motorcycle and turning in front of him), he likely will suffer a traumatic brain injury. If the rest of his internal organs are not spread to smithereens all over the road from the crash, then the organs may be eligible to be used as donor organs for people on transplant lists. (I am just very glad that they don't transplant brains yet).

I am an organ donor. I know what that process involves, the emotions, and the long-term impact on the families of donors and recipients of organs. However, to avoid repetition of that story, just read my May 3 "Happy Kidney Day" post here.

What further adds to the misery of this story is that the writer said this picture was taken in Florida. It's sad but true -- Florida has more elderly drivers than any other state. NHTSA studies have indicated that older drivers have slower response than younger drivers, and we all know that milliseconds in decision-making count when determining how to avoid a crash. Motorcycle Safety Foundation studies have corroborated that when older drivers are involved in a crash with a motorcycle, the majority said to first responders, "I didn't see him." Their peripheral vision and visual acuity is just not as sharp. So riding without a helmet, in shorts, sneakers, and with one hand, IN FLORIDA, is particularly dumb.

Having served as a rescue technician for several years in my home county in Maryland, I got really sick of scraping guys like this up off the road. It was so very sad, and so preventable. What the writer also failed to recognize is that the cost of caring for someone who incurs a head injury from a motorcycle crash adds significantly to the cost of health insurance premiums as well as taxes we all have to pay that go to health care provided by public hospitals (if the guy were not insured.) If the guy isn't killed in the crash, his health care treatment and recovery costs will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. And that doesn't begin to measure the emotional cost on him, his family, and those who will become long-term caregivers.

I don't give a hoot about whether the law says a DOT-approved helmet is or is not required. Getting in gear is just common sense. This guy ain't got any. Period. End of story.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Finally Figured Out Chippewa Hi-Shines

One would think that a Bootman like me ought to know these things, but I have to come clean -- I learn a lot from experience.

This morning as usual, I was using my website to determine what boots I wanted to wear today. (I often use my website to facilitate my boot choices.) I will be on my Harley as usual to get to the Metro, then at work in some meetings. After work when I get back to where I parked my bike, I will be riding again to attend another meeting at our local police district station. This is a regularly-scheduled meeting in which I am involved as a civic leader.

So, bike cop boots were on my mind. So was the weather: very hot and very humid again. (It was 80°F [27°C] at 5:00 this morning, and predicted to reach 95°F [36°C] again today). I wanted to wear good-looking boots that would work for all these activities: riding my Harley, meetings at work in a professional environment, and then meeting with the cops in my district at home.

Chippewa Hi-Shine Boots were the answer. An easy choice. But as I was looking in my boot closet, I pulled out both pairs that I have: my older pair that I got in the mid-90s, and the pair I got for my partner in 2005 and to which I had lug sole plates added a month ago. The older pair still look nice, so I decided to put them on.

Why were they feeling so tight on my legs? Why did my feet seem to swim in a cavern in the foot of the boot, but the shafts were literally sticking to my legs? Since my legs were already sweaty, I had to use a bootjack to yank the boots off my legs. I looked at those boots very closely.

They are standard size 10D. That's what I usually wear. I looked at my partner's boots (now mine) and they are size 8.5EE. I pulled them on. They felt GREAT! I had more room in the calf, so they weren't sticking to my legs or feeling tight, and my foot felt comfortable -- not too tight, not too lose.

So, I finally figured it out without really thinking about it. Chippewa Engineer Boots run large. But for those of us with a muscular calf, we need the size in the shaft, not in the foot. So a wide boot provides a wider shaft. Duhh... it figures.

I wonder who else figured this out, and why I am so dense as to figure it out only now. I'll have to discuss it with my friend Mike of Stompers Boots after he recovers from the "Up Your Alley" (Dore Alley) fair this coming weekend in San Francisco. Or, perhaps the frequent visitor to this blog from Justin Brands might drop me a line. (Chippewa Boots are a division of Justin Brands, Inc.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

How Can I Help You?

The simple thought or question, "how can I help you?" ... seems to have been replaced by the question, "what will you do for me?" Man, that just drives me nuts. The Starbucks-swilling Beemer-driving yuppies were all over the grocery store and parking lot today where I regularly take some elderly friends shopping.

They stand in the middle of the aisle, as if they are the only ones there. They get angry if you are in their way but don't give a hoot if they block you. They stand there swilling their coffee and yapping on their cell phones expecting to have privacy, and give a dirty look if you say, "pardon me, but the apples that my friend wants are behind you, will you kindly move?"

They leave the store and walk the shopping cart out to their SUV, which they parked as close as they could to the store, even if it meant circling the lot a dozen times instead of just parking a little further away in a clear space. After unloading their groceries into their car, they just put the cart wherever... they wouldn't think of bringing back to the store. Nooo... it's all about them, their needs, what's best for them.

I tell 'ya, nuts this behavior drives me. But I remember what I was taught by my parents and from my faith, to love, to live, and ask, "how can I help you?" Seriously, this world would be far better if more people just took a sec to think about someone else other than themselves.

Pardon the rant, but today's fiasco at the grocery store just sent me over the edge. If I hadn't pulled a child out of the way, a Beemer-driving, cell-phone yapping yuppie would have creamed her. The driver didn't even look, stop, or give a damn. I pray for his soul.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Get Lost!

"Let's Get Lost!" -- my plan on how to spend Thursday with my twin brother.

He is home briefly from Europe to attend some meetings in Washington, DC. He took a few extra days to show his wife around his former stomping grounds, and planned some time to spend with me. His wife and my sister went shopping on Thursday, while my brother and I became "biker dudes." Man, I love that big lug of a guy -- he is my soulmate and even though he is four minutes younger than I am, he is my "big bro" (because he is six inches taller!)

He rented a Harley -- just like my Road King, but black -- and we went for a nice long ride yesterday, to nowhere. We would come to an intersection and play "rock-paper-scissors". The winner of the game picked the direction for the next turn. We found some roads that I didn't know existed, found a farm of llamas and rabbits, and enjoyed lunch at a roadside café that I had not seen before, right here in my home State of Maryland. We found some covered bridges (and some "uncovered" ones as well) and didn't travel a mile on an interstate highway. I died laughing when a woodchuck ran across the road in front of my brother and he slowed and swerved to miss it, only to see the woodchuck stand on its legs and shake a fist at him! I swear it did!

I wore my Chippewa Firefighter Boots... okay (AZ), I admit it, I really DO have "favorite" boots that I wear more often than others, especially for riding my Harley on a hot day. These boots are super-dooper comfortable and don't get hot, even though they are leather-lined. I got my brother into a similar-looking pair of boots, my Milwaukee Motor Clothing Trooper Boots, which he said were comfortable, even though he seldom, if ever, wears boots. But he did for me (even though I refused to wear plastic rental shoes when I was his best man at his wedding last year).

While it was a hot and humid day, reaching the peak of 97°F (36°C), nothing could be more enjoyable than tooling around 178 miles with my life-long best friend. Man, what a great day.

When we got home, we laughed and retold our stories, which of course became more like tall tales by the time we made them up (I mean, relayed them again). My partner smiled, laughed, and was heartened to enjoy happiness with us as I grilled a steak dinner with all the trimmings to enjoy eating on our deck.

Live and love life! Wear your boots! Love those you love hard, each and every day, and show them how much you love 'em. Life is short. Keep love and a smile handy, and all else will be grand.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Homecoming in Boots, Horseless

Traveling by air these days just isn't fun like it used to be. The inability to get a decent seat on an airplane without paying niddling "upgrade" fees begins the process, followed by overzealous young wannabe cops at security stations.

I have traveled over 1,600,000 actual air miles in the past 30 years. The vast majority of that travel was for a former job, where I was on the road about 280 days/year. I got to see a lot of interesting things and meet great people, and do a lot that others thought was helpful. I spoke at hundreds of conferences and attended thousands of meetings. I visited every state and territory of the U.S. dozens of times, as well as 56 foreign countries. (I don't consider Canada "foreign" and have been blessed to have been to every province and territory of that lovely land dozens of times, and having been made an honorary citizen years ago.)

Being away from home, with two days here and three days there, often going from point-to-point, was very exhausting. It wasn't unusual to awaken in a strange hotel room and wonder where I was, what time zone I was in, and what day of the week it was. I took to making a simple sign that I left on the nightstand with that information, "you are in ___ and today is ___ in the ___ time zone."

I changed jobs and do not travel as much. That's good. I'm sick of it. Yesterday on my way home from a conference in Kansas City (MO), the kid at the security station squinted at my passport and asked if I had a driver's license instead (?? what ?? I guess he had never seen a passport before at this supposed "international" airport). Then another security kid demanded to inspect my carry-on bag to remove a can of Coca-Cola. OMG, yeah, right, I'm gonna terrorize the pilot by shaking up the can and opening it to spray it on him, or something. I know this kid was following orders, but the orders are just absolutely silly. Just goes with these days in America where everyone assumes an insultingly greater authority and looks over his shoulder for terrorists. (Like the little old lady in the wheelchair who was patted down behind me. Oh, gimme a break!)

Oh well, I tried to have some fun by wearing my Olathe Buckaroo Boots with jeans tucked in at the airport. Actually, I wore my black Dan Post Ostrich leg cowboy boots through security, because they are easier to take off, so as not to delay a line. (This airport is so dinky, it has only one magnetometer to enter the gate area. I've always laughed at little airports like this that call themselves "such-and-such International".)

I gave my fellow travelers a little show by pulling out my Olathe's from a sack (what they call a bag in that part of the country), putting my Dan Post boots into it, then rolling my sock over the bottom of my jeans and pulling on those beautiful tall Buckaroos. Left foot first, of course!

One old lady and one young woman in KC said, "nice boots." The pilot of the plane also complimented them. When I had to change planes in Charlotte, some nitwit at my arrival gate said as I got off the plane, "where's your horse?" I ignored that one, but then someone else said the same thing just a few minutes later. This time I said, "he got stuck in the back of the plane and will be out in a few minutes."

I stopped for lunch in mid-concourse, and sat in a big white rocking chair while eating and watching people during my two-hour layover. About a dozen people said, "nice boots" and a few more were asking where my horse was. To those people, I said, "he's getting a bite to eat over there," and pointed. Derned enough if each and every one of those fools looked where I pointed. Ha ha.

Finally arriving at my home airport of BWI, I was met by my cousin who works there. We retrieved my bag, and he took me to the private pilot's parking area, where I can park for free. My cousin saw the boots and smiled. He said, "I see you've been doing some shopping!" He knows me well.

I stopped by the grocery store on the way home to get myself some milk (my partner always forgets that I crave milk when I get home) and some stuff for a couple elderly friends of mine. I dropped off their groceries and they also complimented the boots. Neither asked me about a horse.

Finally arriving at home, I discovered much to my chagrin that my partner had waxed our hardwood floors. Carrying my one piece of luggage through the foyer almost landed me on my butt due to the combination of being off balance, wearing boots that are not quite broken in and still have very smooth leather soles, and the slippery freshly-waxed floor. I put the luggage down and tiptoed into the dining room to take off the boots and my socks (which would have been just as slippery). I then made my way upstairs to unpack and load up the clothes washer.

Well, I guess the horse found better pasture, because he didn't follow me home. Perhaps one of the fools in Charlotte found him and led him away.

I sure am glad to be HOME! I enjoyed cooking a home-cooked meal for my partner and recanting the journey with him, then snuggling later without any TV, computer, or phone. We turned all that off and turned our attention to each other. He sure made me feel welcome, at home, safe and sound. And that's how it should be. (Plus, I never could have trained a horse to scratch my itches the way my partner does.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Boots & Leather Website Milestone

I was doing a routine scan of my website to check for broken links. The software provides a report on the number of images, links, and other things when it is through running. I noticed that my website reached a milestone when I ran that scan: the software reported that I now have 5,008 images on it! Wow! Who woulda thunk?

But then again, I guess having 132 pairs of cowboy boots and motorcycle boots as well as a large assortment of leather gear and cataloging them on my website, www.bootedman.com since March, 2005 -- more than three years now -- has resulted in lots of photos of my boots and gear. And that's not to mention all of the photo galleries of cop boots which attract the largest number of visitors about one subject than any others. The photos from the DC-based "hotboots" parties of past years also bring a number of visitors, but since those event gallieries are old and the parties are not being held at least for the summer (and I don't go any more), there's nothing new to add. I will, however, continue to build the cop boot galleries when I attend events, as well as any other event where boots are predominant on men's feet that I may attend (which is seldom).

It has been really fun to learn HTML and website construction, which is self-taught. My website is still rather simple and static, but performs quickly and does what I set it out to do: catalog my boots and gear so I know what I have, and share my avocation with those who are interested.

Life is short! Wear your boots! (and leather)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Olathe Buckaroo Booted!

Greetings from Kansas City, Missouri, the heartland of the USA. I'm here for a conference. It's going well, and fairly busy. However, I got a respite yesterday afternoon when a buddy and his boyfriend took me to Higginsville, Missouri, about 50 miles East of Kansas City, to do some boot shopping at Kleinschmidt's Western Wear.

This store claims to have over 19,000 pairs of boots for sale. It was a Bootman's dream to walk through all the rows and rows of boots. While most of the boots were commonly available via other sources and were from major manufacturers, this store had a good selection of Buckaroo boots, and from a famous bootmaker, Olathe Boots. (By the way, it was made clear to me how to pronounce "Olathe", which is
"oh-lāy-tha").

These boots were once made in Olathe, Kansas, but were bought by Rios of Mercedes, a bootmaker located in Mercedes, Texas, just 8 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. The new Olathe boots seem to have very good quality, so I'm happy with them.

This is what I wrote for the HotBoots tutorial about this type of cowboy boot:

Buckaroo Boots get their name from the men who wore them, the California vaquero, a type of Spanish or Mexican cowboy who worked with young, untrained horses. The California vaquero or buckaroo, unlike the Texas cowboy, was considered a highly-skilled worker, who usually stayed on the same ranch where he was born or had grown up and raised his own family there. Cowboys of this tradition were dubbed buckaroos by English-speaking settlers. The term buckaroo officially appeared in American English in 1889.

The Buckaroo's Boots are tall, ranging from 15" to 20" or up to the knee. They are usually two-tone, and many have multi-colored stitching on the foot and shaft. They usually have a deep scallop and pull holes instead of straps.

My new Buckaroo boots definitely fit this description. They are 18" tall, have pull holes (and false straps), and have blue leather shafts and black leather on the foot. They're really cool-lookin'. See pics of my new boots here on my website. I had always wanted a pair of Olathe boots since I saw them on cowboys at rodeos I have attended, and demonstrated by the famous DaveM of "Boots on Line" (he wears them so fine!)

I even wore them today at my conference. They are comfortable, but not for all-day wear. What I like most about them besides the appearance is that they fit snugly, but not too tightly, on my legs. I definitely know I have cowboy boots on my feet while wearin' these boots.

It was great to get away, and to catch up with two really nice guys I have gotten to know through "BOL". Alas, though, I must return to what brung me here, my conference....

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Boots Away!

I will be blogging less this week as I am at a conference out-of-town and won't have regular access to the Internet. I will not have much time off, including the weekend. However, two boot buds will be providing some relief while I have a brief break on Saturday afternoon/evening, when we will be going boot shopping, perhaps, and to dinner.

Considering all the hassles of air travel and the nickel-and-diming that the airlines are doing now in charging $1,000 for the weight of a facial tissue, I am only bringing two pairs of boots with me. One pair that I will wear on the plane, my black dress Dan Post Ostrich leg cowboy boots, and one other pair: my brown Nocona Ostrich inlay cowboy boots. Both are very comfortable, which is a requirement since I will be on my feet all day for the next week. I am not bringing any leather. It's hot, and I have nowhere to wear it. Oh well, I'll survive.

Be safe!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Renewing Acquaintance with my Past "Frye Bootman"

Man, it's a small world. I had blogged just the other day about Frye Boots. I mentioned in that blog post about a cool dude in high school who influenced lots of other guys when he wore a pair of new Frye boots to school one day.

Today, who should I bump into on the Metro but this same guy! He looked great, and was easy to recognize. I had seen him a few times since high school graduation at reunions, but not in the past decade. Nonetheless, there he was. Same great smile, graceful style, and a full head of hair (can't say the same for myself!)

He glanced down at my feet and said, "I see you're still wearing boots." My reply, "yep, every day!" Since I didn't ride my Harley to Metro today, I was wearing my new Dan Post Vegas Cut black cherry cowboy boots.

I asked him if he still had boots, because I remembered he wore them in high school. (He had on loafers today). He said, "I don't have any from high school, but I have one pair of cowboy boots." I didn't push it. He's like most other straight guys who don't ride a motorcycle. These guys may have a pair of cowboy boots in the closet, but seldom wear them.

He asked, "are you still riding a motorcycle?" My reply, "of course! I just got a new Harley Road King. "That's great," he said. He asked me about my twin brother, who was a jock in high school. This guy was a jock, too, so they were closer. I told him that my brother works in Europe but was home for a couple weeks. I gave him my email and ask him to contact me, and I would put him in touch with my brother if he wants to see him while he's in town.

And that was that. A quick handshake with a "good to see ya" and he walked off toward the Capitol building.

I think I've seen him in the past few weeks, but wasn't sure. Seems that he's commuting now about the same time I do, so perhaps I'll see him again soon and catch up some more. It was great to see him again, and recall fond memories.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Yes Sir, Officer!

Today began like any regular work day. As I was getting dressed, I knew that I would be riding my Harley to the Metro to get to work, then when I got back to the Metro, I will be riding across the county to get some things for an elderly friend who doesn't drive and drop them off on my way home from work.

Considering that I would be on my bike for a while after work, thus wanting to wear motorcycle boots (instead of cowboy boots which I usually wear to the office), I selected my H-D Police Enforcer Boots. While dressing, I tucked my dress pants into them. I can just pull 'em out when I get on the train. The boots look like well-polished dress shoes peeking out from under dress pants, and they are really comfortable!

I made my man his lunch, as well as my own, kissed him goodbye as he left, and soon thereafter, I mounted my trusty iron steed and rode off.

I wasn't a mile down the road when I noticed a bike cop following me. He was just riding behind me. No signals, no lights, no motion to move. I wasn't exceeding the posted speed limit. I thought he was just returning to his district station which isn't far from the Metro station that I use.

When I turned the corner onto the street to get to the Metro parking lot, the cop made the same turn. I thought to myself, "hmmmmm."

Then when I turned into the Metro parking lot and rode up to the special parking spaces designated for motorcycles... the cop rode up right behind me.

I had nothing to feel guilty about, but you know that feeling... when a cop follows you and then stops behind you, you can't help but wonder what you did that prompted him to stop.

I killed my bike's engine and dismounted. I took off my full-face helmet and turned around. The cop had a big grin on his face. The first words out of his mouth were, "it IS you!"

Now, what did he mean by that? Has he seen my alter-ego website? Have I met him somewhere or at a community meeting? Had I raised funds for a cop charity with which he was involved? Was he the cop who provided security at a recent public hearing that I presided over? I'm really bad with faces and names, but never boots. Trouble was, his Dehner Dress Instep Patrol boots were as undistinguishable as all the others on our county's force... dirty, dusty, and well-worn. And I didn't remember his name when I read his name plate.

If he had parked his bike so I could see his license plate, I might have known where I may have seen him. I know most of the county cops by their plate numbers. Well, anyway, the big smile radiating from his face and his hand thrust out to shake mine certainly shook off any fears that I had done anything wrong.

All he said was, "you're the guy that Officer (name) told me about, who knows about boots." He said that not only my boots tipped him off, but also my vest, which had recognizable patches on it.

Then he launched into a long discourse about his boots, what he doesn't like about them (how hard they are to maintain, and that they get hot), and what he prefers as far as height and sole. He said that he really likes lug soles, such as were on his Dehners (see? He actually lifted his boot to show me.) He went on to say that he absolutely doesn't want boots that have to be shined all the time. But he likes to have a good appearance.

He complimented my tall, black and shiny boots, and asked me where I got them. Unfortunately, they're not available any more (but my deviant mind was saying, "Officer, Sir, I have a second pair that might fit you"). I recomposed myself, returned the handshake, smiled back, and then had a brief discussion about boots with this nice (but very chatty) cop.

Eventually he asked me about my recommendation on boots, and I told him what I had learned during my bike cop boot advising experience with another local force. I recommended he consider Chippewa Hi-Shine Engineer Boots and to have lug soles put on them at my local cobbler, who provides a significant discount to cops.

He thanked me profusely. By then, I had locked my bike up six ways from Sunday and was in the process of covering it. He helped me do that. He then wished me a nice day, and rode off. He left a huge smile on this Bootman's face! Wow. Nice to be recognized for some expertise by someone who must wear boots for his profession.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Little Things That Mean A Lot

Some days I really wonder when common courtesy and civility went out the window. But here are a few examples of little things that I have done and others have done for me that mean a lot...

At the naturalization ceremony for my two friends on July 4, we arrived early to find seats. I saw a few people going to a box in the back of the room and pull out small flags. I thought my friends and their families would like to have a flag as well, so I got up and looked in the box. There were hundreds of flags, just piled there. I gave my friends their flags, then stood at the door and handed them out to everyone else who was arriving. Funny, no one thought to do that. But man, it sure made the ceremony more festive!

When the ceremony was over, there were some hecklers standing in the back of the parking lot yelling about "those illegals." Well heck, these folks worked hard to become U.S. citizens. So I asked one of them why he was there, and he told me that his church pastor told him (some lies) about the event. I explained it to him, and he looked embarrassed. He and his crowd of misinformed miscreants soon left. (My partner warned me "not to get involved," but some people like this just make my blood boil.)

Then not to mention that I just hate seeing trash strewn about. I picked up their hateful signs and leaflets and put them where they belong: in the garbage.

Speaking of trashing our streets, later that day while riding my Harley to my brother's, I was stopped at a traffic signal. I saw in my rear-view mirror that a nitwit behind me threw the waste from her fast-food meal out the window of her Lexus. I got off my bike, picked up her garbage, stood in one of my most "Harley-Biker-Growling" poses, and threw the garbage back in her window with an admonishment, "look at the example you are setting for your children!" Her kids were in the back seat, watching. She just stared, mouth agape (Bikers on Harleys can have an intimidating appearance when they're angry.)

Saturday morning, I sent five birthday cards to some elderly friends whose birthdays are this week. It's just something I do. Perhaps I get a little carried away (according to my partner), as I'm always mailing cards. I've been asked why not just send an e-card? But that's not the same, especially to older folks who appreciate thoughtful traditions.

In turn, when the mail arrived on Saturday, I found a very nice hand-written card from one of my friends who I had coached for his citizenship test. In carefully written English, he expressed his thanks. The thoughtful words and the card brought tears to my eyes.

At the grocery store where I bring my aunt and some of her friends shopping regularly on Saturdays, someone asked me where she could find some product. I pointed out the location and said, "this week, this brand is on sale." She beamed.

Leaving the store, escorting three old women across a busy parking lot with a cart full of groceries, someone stopped traffic for us so we could get across safely. Thanks! I need the help! Herding old ladies is worse than herding cats!

As I was returning the cart to the store, I dragged two other carts that had been abandoned in a handicapped parking space back with me. Note to dumb-dumbs: handicapped parking spaces are not cart carrels! If the store is nice enough to let you take the cart out to the lot, then please have the courtesy to return it! Sheesh... that really bugs me. Of course, as I'm going along, I'm picking up trash.... that bugs me too, the trashing of America.

Saturday night, my partner and I were having a little fun in boots & leather while relaxing on our more private outdoor deck. I noted that water from an earlier rainfall was dripping over the gutter instead of going down the downspout... note to self: clean the debris off the gutter-guards. (Remember this for later.)

Sunday, my partner had some photos that he had taken of his Mom but didn't know how to download them from his camera or send them to be printed. Sure, I can help. Just a little thing, but was appreciated.

I was looking out the window and saw a neighbor walking a dog. She was having to dodge under some branches of some trees around the sidewalk. I got out my trimmers and cut off low branches on trees over the sidewalk. Beats hiring a tree trimming service (for which we haven't budgeted from the HOA funds!)

I went to get my hair buzzed in advance of going to a major conference later this week. At the shop where my favorite stylist works (and to whom I have been going for 25 years!), I held the door for someone else as she was going in. She smiled and said, "gracias." I had a pleasant conversation with her in Spanish as we were both waiting for the same stylist. Though my Spanish isn't all that good, she was very courteous in not correcting me.

Sunday afternoon, I picked up a newspaper on a neighbor's driveway. The neighbor is out of town, and I didn't want the paper to be left there advertising, "no one is home." He has done the same for me. A neighborly thing to do.

About an hour later, I saw a guy on the roof of that neighbor's house cleaning out his gutters. I spoke with the guy, and he told me that a company he works for has a contract and that he does this work twice a year. I noticed that when he climbed the ladder to the roof, he had dropped the hose. I just picked it up and pushed it toward him, so he wouldn't have to come back down to get it. He thanked me.

While speaking with him, I asked him if he had time to clean that back gutter of mine that I can't reach because my ladder is too short. Quick as a flash, he cleaned mine, too... for a very reasonable price. (He was great to watch, too, in his wet shirt with his abs showing through, well-worn work boots... but I digress....:-))

This morning at the Metro, someone was staring dumbfounded at the farecard machine. Instead of laughing at "another lost tourist," I just explained how to get a farecard. He smiled, said thanks, and was on his way.

While on the Metro, I gave a stern look to the jerk who always leaves his newspapers on the train. I have warned him before to pick up his garbage. Whenever I'm around and he knows I'm watching, he takes his papers with him when he leaves the train and puts them in a recycling bin. I figure he's just lazy, but laziness drives me bats.

When I arrived at my office, I found a hand-written thank-you note (not an email!) from a colleague who said that she appreciated the information I had given her about navigating the maze of my (home) county's bureaucracy. She finally got her sidewalk fixed. She had been trying to get it fixed for a year on her own without success, and got it fixed two weeks after speaking with me. (Actually, I referred her to her local elected official district office staff who interceded. That's among the reasons why we have locally elected representatives -- to help us in matters like this. While something small like a sidewalk repair probably won't get the elected official's attention, knowing whom on the official's staff to talk to and who can provide constituent service is the magic knowledge here. Now you know.)

Little things mean a lot. Saying "thank you," picking up trash, holding doors open, and smiling. If you see something you can do or needs to be done or should have been done... DO IT! The world needs more courtesy and civility, especially when times are so rough.

And there are some men with whom I have formed bonds of friendship through "BOL" who do this too, and have noticed that I try to be a nice guy... I want to give them a special shout-out of thanks for being the courteous, thoughtful, gentlemen that they are: my friends "AZ", "UTBR", Clay, David (Bamaboy), Maf, "StephenNC" ... you guys know who you are, and you mean a great deal to me because you are such thoughtful and kind men. You make things special in your respective parts of the world. Thanks! (See me smile!)

H. Jackson Brown Jr. said, "Today, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day."

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Boots on My Feet II

From time to time, I post some pics of the boots I have been wearing lately.

Sunday, June 29: My Sunday-go-to-meetin' new Dan Post Sand Vegas Cut Cowboy Boots that I wore to church with my partner.

When I got home, I put on my tall Chippewa Oil-Tanned Engineer Boots and for a short motorcycle ride to a quaint old mill town for a leisurely lunch.




After that, I changed from my biker duds to casual Sunday afternoon clothes, including my Nocona Ostrich Inlay Boots and went to a political strategy meeting.





When I was through with that, I kicked off the yuppie clothes, leathered up, and had some fun with my hunky partner. Oh, the boots? H-D Police Enforcer Boots. They work really well with chaps tucked into them (and nothing tucked into the chaps :-)).


On Monday, June 30, it was raining in the morning which meant that I couldn't ride my Harley to the Metro. But it also meant that I could wear cowboy boots with leather soles that I ordinarily wouldn't use while operating my bike. I chose my Largato Mexican full-quill ostrich cowboy boots which are as comfortable as slippers.
When I got home from work, I did work around the yard, and booted up in my ol' comfy Harley Harness boots. They got a little dirty and muddy as I was helping a neighbor build a retaining wall in the stream behind his (and my) house. When I was done, I took the boots off outside to let 'em dry (and not track dirt inside the house, which is "frowned upon.")

I changed to some boots I hadn't worn in ages -- my Tony Lama white Firewalker cowboy boots. I can't wear these for more than a couple hours 'cause they cause my feet to hurt due to the higher heel. I can't really wear boots with a high heel. (Besides being a klutz, high-heeled boots just cause achy feet.)

Tuesday, July 1, dawned clear, so it was time to choose boots to use to ride to the Metro and which would look fine with dress clothes at work. I'm lookin' again at my first pair of H-D Police Enforcer Boots... ah, so comfortable. And I really like how tall boots feel on my legs as I walk around during the day.


When I got home, it was time to mow the lawn. I changed to my Thorogood Station Boots which have become my knock-about work boots. They are comfortable and don't get hot.




Then after a quick shower and having dinner at home (as usual) with my partner, I rushed off to a public hearing. I can dress casually for these hearings, but I like to wear nice lookin' boots. Dan Post natural belly-cut python cowboy boots looked great with my dark denim jeans and black shirt.

Wednesday, July 2, was another typical ride-the-Harley to Metro morning, followed by a full day at work. Unlike some others, I don't carry "work shoes" in my briefcase. I wear what I wear for the day when I walk out the door. Today I wore my Dan Post Black Cherry cowboy boots whose soles are worn enough that I could wear them while riding my Harley the two-mile distance to Metro. Mind you, if I were going to be riding a longer distance, I wouldn't wear smooth-soled boots.

When I got home, I enjoying not having anything that I had to do, so I kicked back in my old comfy Chippewa Engineer Boots. Comfy as house slippers, but durable as heck. They've been through the mud, muck, and tens of thousands of miles on my (old) Harley. I grilled dinner for my partner and we ate it out on our deck. We enjoyed the evening, watching the sun slowly set and the critters in the forest behind us play.

Thursday, July 3, was a big day. I was joining five cop buddies of mine for a fundraiser. I left my house at 5:00am and rode with my friends to Ocean City, Maryland, and then we rode back west across the state. Knowing I was going to be booted all day long, I wanted boots that were comfortable, durable, and didn't get hot. My favorite "biker boots" have become my Chippewa Firefighter Boots. Great sole, easy on the feet, and look great, too. What could be better?

I have to admit that when I got home, I was so tired, I took off my boots (and everything else) and sat in the hot tub with my partner for an hour, then went to bed.

Friday, July 4, was a busy day. I hosted a breakfast for two friends and their families who I had been coaching to become U.S. citizens. They were going to be sworn in as citizens in Baltimore. I put on my Dan Post black cherry Vegas cut cowboy boots, had a nice breakfast, then took off for Baltimore.

After the ceremony (which was great!), my partner wasn't feeling well and wanted to go back home. When we got there, I changed into casual clothes. The boots I picked were my short black Wesco harness boots. I rode the Harley to my brother's for a crab feast. I saw most of my family, had a great time, but then it looked like it was going to rain. I came home (and got there just as it began to rain. Whew!)

I found my hungry partner in the basement when I got home. I fixed him dinner, then we settled back in our rec room and chilled out. I kinda have to admit, I took off the boots and relaxed, in socks! (Me!). We cuddled, talked about the day, watched the Capitol Fourth show on TV, and then went to bed.

Hope you enjoyed this visit to about a week in a bootman's life.

Friday, July 4, 2008

A Happy Independence Day

Today the United States celebrates its birthday of 232 years since it declared itself independent from Britain. I prefer to call this day "Independence Day" because it the true name of the holiday. I mean, we can always wish someone a "Happy Fourth", but then again, we can wish them a "Happy Fifth," too. All days should be happy, but today is a great one to celebrate the birth of this great nation (with all its faults, it's still a great place to be.)

I had been coaching two friends to become U.S. citizens for about a year now. They passed their citizenship test a few months ago. Today, they were sworn in as our newest citizens in Baltimore. What better way to enjoy this particular holiday but welcome new citizens to our country, and sign them up to vote!

Shortly after the ceremony, we celebrated at Fort McHenry, where the famous "Star Spangled Banner" flew during the bombardment of the fort during the war of 1812. Francis Scott Key was held aboard a British ship and watched the bombs bursting in air and the illumination of the flag throughout the night. Thus, he penned a poem which was put to music and became our National Anthem.

We will enjoy a traditional Maryland crab feast at my brother's home with all of my humongous family this afternoon. Then if the weather permits, watch fireworks at Baltimore Harbor. It was the bombardment of Baltimore by the British during the War of 1812 that caused fireworks to be related to our country's birthday celebration. What better place to enjoy fireworks but where that relationship was born?

I love this holiday, and hope you do too. Happy Independence Day, and Happy Birthday, America!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Dumb and Dumber

I took the day off from work today and rode 212 miles with some cop buddies of mine. We had planned this ride for several months. We got people to pledge an amount of money (ranged from US$0.05 to US$1.00) per mile that we rode. My haul in pledges (computed for all the miles ridden today) was $2,819.60. Once collected, that will be donated to a charity that supports families of officers killed in the line of duty.

While riding across our beautiful State of Maryland, including the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and almost to what we call mountains way west of the bay, we observed a lot of people on the road, including other guys on motorcycles. I really can't call some of them "bikers" because they weren't. Dumb-dumbs wearing shorts and sneakers on a motorcycle are, well, dumb. Then there were the ding-dongs on bikes wearing (off all things), flip-flops. For a short jaunt into Pennsylvania to have lunch in Gettysburg, there were the [deleted] not wearing any helmet
at all, since Pennsylvania repealed its mandatory helmet law. My jaw just dropped when I saw a guy on a big Harley like mine with his woman on the back seat riding happy-as-you-please way above the speed limit in shorts, sandals, no shirt, and no helmets. Oh my gosh. What stupidity.

Then I can't begin to say what I think about the dumb-dumb drivers yakking away on hand-held cell phones, not looking where the heck they're going. I really wish my state would adopt the cell phone laws that were enacted and took effect in California and Washington on July 1, which ban the use of anything but hands-free cell phones while operating a vehicle, and ban them completely for drivers who are under 18. Eventually... but our part-time legislature that looooooves to yak on their cell phones are hard to convince. I'll keep workin' at it.

I was booted as shown, in my Chippewa Firefighter Boots which are sooooo comfortable and they don't get hot at all. I didn't wear leather; it was above 90°F (32°C). Long jeans, shirt, and my full-face helmet, which is well vented and quite comfortable.

Not all the motorcyclists on the road were dumb-dumbs. Many wore boots, long pants, a shirt, and a helmet. But there were far too many in sneakers, shorts, and helmet-less. Uggggghhh... sorry, guys, I just can't abide by the fact that even though the law permits it, some people have to be so thoughtless. Their medical bills cost all of us in higher insurance premiums and tax dollars spent at public hospitals to care for those who are injured and uninsured.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Who am I Now?

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, and musing with some friends and my partner... asking myself, "who am I now?"

My life is settled. I have a wonderful partner; regular full-time job that I enjoy; nice home in the quiet suburbs; a Harley (and a 4-wheeled vehicle too); great family, good friends, and a wonderfully accepting and tolerant community. I lead a busy civic life, and enjoy having opportunities to help make others' lives just a little bit better each day. I am a fortunate man in many respects.

Am I the guy dressed in leather going to a leather bar? Not (any more.) Am I the cowboy entering the gay rodeo? Not (any more.) Am I the guy showing up at the gay pride festival? Not (any more.) But you may find me in boots and leather around my community and at home, and perhaps on my website or a few other places around the 'net. I may not get out much, but I'm not dead (yet).

I am... the colleague who explains where to meet when the fire alarm goes off... the neighbor who helps you fix that broken window... the friend who commiserates the loss of a pet cat... the Road Captain who leads you on a fun and safe motorcycle ride... the homeowner's association President who gets the county to repair your broken sidewalk... the civic activist who will be with you at a public hearing on local development issues and who testifies before local and state legislators about issues that will improve our community... the "nice young man" who escorts you to the polls to exercise your privilege to vote or who helps you compute your income tax return and file it... the fundraiser for local charities... the gentleman who organizes volunteers to install safety items in your home, and twists arms of local vendors to supply the materials... the cousin who shares your joy at the birth of your latest grandchild and updates the family tree... the nephew who takes you grocery shopping... the brother, uncle, and great uncle who loves you more than you'll ever know... and the partner in every sense of the word to his one-and-only man.

Yeah, I guess I have changed, from a guy who played a bit in leather, but uses it now for riding his Harley than going out to leather bars. The former cowboy who if he rode a horse today couldn't walk for a week. The guy who might sit and watch "CHiPs" re-runs on TV but now is so involved in the community, with friends, and with family, that he doesn't even know what's on any more (and doesn't care).

My focus and interests have changed. Is it maturity? Is it age? Is it accepting that I am fulfilling my parents' desires for a life fulfilled? I dunno. I muse. I wonder. But you know, I love my life and for that, I thank God, my family, my friends, and most of all, my loving and abiding partner. He really made it all happen for me, more than he will ever know.

Life is short. Wear your boots. Love those you love even more.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Demise of Frye Boots

As I was doing my routine review of the pages on my personal website that are viewed each month and tally the results from the logs, I continue to see that for 24 months running, my pages on Frye Boots remain the most visited on my website. Thus, they remain ranked #1 on my Top 16 Boots ranking information. (BTW, I posted this photo for my buddy, AZ. It was this Frye-booted pic that put him in contact with me, and developed our deep and abiding friendship.)

In June alone, there were more than 16,000 unique visitors who viewed one or more "Frye Boot" pages on my website. About 70% of the visitors were referred by a Google search, another 15% by other search engines, and the remaining visitors came from other pages within my own website. That's pretty good, considering this is just a gay guy's personal, non-commercial website. But that number is an indication that lots and lots and LOTS of people are searching for photos and information about Frye Boots.

Frye Boots sure have a huge reputation. Those of us "about my age" remember fondly seeing guys in Fryes while in high school, and perhaps getting a pair of our own. Man, I went "Frye-crazy" when I was in high school. There was this cool-looking dude that everyone admired who strolled into class one day in olive Frye campus boots. I swear, the next day, ten more guys had on Fryes!

The classic and unique look, the sound of their clunkly heels on the floor, and the feel of those boots was just something else. Even today, searches for "Vintage Frye Boots" are what's driving lots of visitors to my website, to eBay, and to other sources on the web.

Pity that Frye as a boot-making company is no more. Yeah, that's right. You can find the Frye website, and see them advertise their boots. But let me quote from what I wrote on the HotBoots "Tutorial" a while back:

"According to Frye, the Frye Company is the oldest continuously operated shoe company in the United States. (Notice the careful choice of wording -- they no longer refer to themselves as a shoemaker or bootmaker.) The company was founded in 1863 as the Frye Boot Company in Marlborough (or Marlboro), Massachusetts, and continued to produce their shoes and boots in that location until 2003, when they closed the plant, outsourced bootmaking to other countries, and relocated the company headquarters to Great Neck, New York."

Yeah, that's right. Frye boots available today are not made in the U.S. any more -- they are mass-produced in China. Guys who have ordered the "new" Frye boots since 2003 have told me often how much they are disappointed with them. The quality is poor (compared with Vintage), the colors fade, the heels have come off, the threads have loosened, the insole is crappy, and the leather is not as thick.

So, if you are interested in Frye Boots, don't buy new ones. Search eBay using the term "Vintage Frye Boots." Then look carefully at the photos. Look for a "Frye" white label on the inside of the boot shafts. (Fryes made in the '70s and earlier had a black label on the inside of the boot shaft.) Ask the seller when the boots were purchased. Don't be fooled, and don't buy boots from a company that now is merely a shell for what it once was -- raking in money from a name, not the quality we once knew.