Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's Been 1,001? Really?

We had another successful Senior Safety Saturday yesterday, where 78 volunteers installed home safety and security items in 54 homes in which seniors live. I was humbled and rather amazed that someone counted the total number of homes where we have done these "safety makeovers" over the past 12 years. Adding yesterday's homes to the total, we reached 1,001.

I thought we had been doing this work for about ten years, but someone reminded me that the first home that was counted in this twice-a-year project was my Mom's. So we began this work before she died, and I had forgotten. I remember, though, that I had to do a "demonstration project" to show potential donors and skeptical seniors what the idea "looked like." My Mom's home was the "guinea pig" (demonstration case.) Bless her, she went along with a lot of my cockamamie ideas.

After a nice "rah-rah" kick-off, featuring a rather prominent local leader recognizing the contributions we received from business supporters that fund this effort, the volunteers fanned out. I was a "roving worker," being called to locations where a volunteer encountered a problem, needed an extra pair of hands, or something delivered.

We had only one minor injury -- a hammered thumb -- but there are lots of sore backs, muscles, and tired bodies among all of us. Whew....

I wore my Station Boots, which remained comfortable all day long. My partner didn't come with me. He decided to paint our upstairs hallway in our own home. He generally avoids crowds (defined as more people than just me.)

Toward the end of the day, I got a call from a volunteer with yet another problem. She couldn't get an access door to a water heater closet open. I went over there, and we worked on it for a while, and finally it gave way. We lowered the water heater's temperature setting to 120°F (49°C) which is what is recommended to avoid scalds. She said that she had been dropped off at this location by someone, so she asked me for a ride to staging area to turn her tools back in. She hopped in my truck.

When we returned to the staging area, it had been transformed with a big tent and picnic tables. There were hundreds of people there. I was completely astounded. Usually only about half the volunteers working that day come to the final event; some go home because they're tired, or they volunteer for the morning shift only.

As my friend and I walked up to the staging area, the crowd broke out into loud, thunderous applause. My partner came out from behind a post and said, "I had nothing to do with this, but they wanted me to be here to celebrate with you." Hanging onto his arm was my lovely 94 year-old aunt.

I saw among the crowd a number of seniors whose homes we had done work over the years. I saw some people who had volunteered on this project in the past. I recognized the faces of some donors who had supported us before, as well as currently. And there were some local elected officials and civic leaders there as well. Best of all, there were smiles on each and every face in the crowd. That made me so jazzed -- to see so many happy people.

The party turned out to be a celebration of exceeding 1,000 homes that are now better lighted and more safe for seniors to continue to live independently. Honestly, I don't deserve the credit. The donors and the volunteers made it all happen, especially my hyper-organized friend who does all the hard work of organizing the volunteers with the needs with the required supplies and tools.

I was emotionally fragile while hugging (or getting hugged) by everyone in sight, but I was holding myself together until someone presented me with a framed photo of me and my Mom (standing with our first donor). The photo was taken on the day of our first "Senior Safety Saturday" 12 years ago. I had totally forgotten that the picture had been taken. After being reminded that my Mom was the first "participant" in this event so long ago -- when I saw that photo, I completely lost it. My partner stood by my side, handed me a tissue, and just held me until I recomposed myself. My aunt, bless her, was bewildered why I would be so emotional, but it sure was nice to have her there, to hold, to hug, to introduce to friends, and to share smiles.

Life is short: celebrate accomplishments of thriving with your neighbors and enjoying what life is all about, one day at a time.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Did You?

Today, did you:
  • Share a smile with someone you don't know?

  • Show someone you love that you love them by doing something for her or with him?

  • Call or visit a parent, and say, "I love you"?

  • Let a sibling know that you love her, and care about him?

  • Send a birthday card to a loved-one?

  • Help someone learn something new?

  • Learn something new yourself?

  • Take pride in one of your own accomplishments?

  • Share joy in an accomplishment of someone else?

  • Ask for advice, then make a decision?

  • Do something to help someone less fortunate than you?

  • Manage your technology, instead of letting it manage you?

  • Wear your boots?

  • Thank God for being able to do these things?

  • SMILE?
Yep, all these actions add up to a healthy, happy, worthwhile life. Doesn't matter if you're gay or straight, tall or short, white or black, green or purple, employed or looking for a job. When you're livin' a good life as measured by how you act, the rest of the world is so much better with you being in it.

While I can't call a parent since my Mom and Dad have died, they know what I'm doing; I'm sure of it. Here's how I know: the cemetery where they were laid to rest is between the local home supplies store and the retirement community where I am doing my Senior Safety event today. As I left the building supplies store and drove past the cemetery yesterday evening, I was convinced my parents were sending a message. A ray of sun broke through dark, heavy clouds right over the cemetery and shone a path of brilliant light leading my way to the retirement community. It was eerie, yet stimulating. I knew, I just knew, that Mom and Dad were smiling. (Now you're seeing the spiritual side of me).

Smile, have fun, share, help out, do something. After all--

Life is short: Make each day count.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Helping Seniors Be Safe At Home

A number of us are in that "sandwich generation" with having children to care for and aging parents. Personally, I am not in that particular situation. While there are a lot of children in my life, the kids belong to siblings and their offspring. My parents have both died. However, I have a 94-year-old aunt who I love dearly and who I help to facilitate her ability to continue to live independently. She lives in a retirement community where my mother once lived. This community is huge -- some 6,000+ homes with over 8,500 residents. It's right around the corner from me.

It is a retirement community, but is not a "senior center" nor provides services customarily found in senior housing. There are a variety of residences, from duplexes to condos to co-ops, in single-story structures, garden-style condo buildings, and high-rises. Each resident is responsible for the care and maintenance of his or her own home. The homes are owned by residents -- they are not rental units (though some owners may rent to others, it is not a common practice to do that.)

I have visited and interacted with residents of this community for over 25 years. They're fun, energetic, entertaining, and interesting. I always learn from my many "elder buds." I have learned as well that they do not often want to admit that as they age, they may not get around as well as they once did, or see as well, or hear as well....

That's where my individual twice yearly effort comes in. Without making a big deal out of it, I get donations from major building supplies retailers of essential items such as grab bars for bathrooms, non-slip strips for tubs, non-slip bath mats, brighter bulbs and additional lighting, night-lights, smoke alarms, and a variety of related safety products. I meet with my older friends to describe why these things are important, and get their permission to have these items installed in their home. I recruit volunteers from the community -- sort of "seniors helping seniors" -- and plan a "big day" to do the installations.

Before we do all that, we lay the groundwork to know what needs to be done where. With permission, we visit the homes where safety installations are to be done so we know exactly what will be needed to be done there. We make lists down to the "nth-" screw and whether a drill bit that can get through porcelain (such as to install a grab bar in a tiled bath) will be required. I have done this for about ten years now, and have the process down to a science.

One of my elder buds is hyper-organized (seriously, much more organized than I am) and he tracks all this information so that on the day of installations, everybody knows what materials, resources, and equipment is required, about how long a visit will take in each home, and who to talk to regarding specific needs, such as access to certain areas that may be restricted inside a building, or service access points, or so on.

Over the past two weeks, participant and volunteer recruitment has gone well and home visits have happened, and my buddy has been creating his "master list" of all things required, time, and scheduling. I have been contacting various public officials and the media, so we can get appropriate attention for the donors (so they will donate again in the future.) It's a real team effort, and I can't wait to get going!

Tomorrow is our next Senior Safety Day. I do the final "shopping" later today for the rest of the items that we don't already have on hand. We will begin with a rally and kick-off, (hopefully short) speeches from an elected official and the primary donor... and we're off! Let's get safe!

Life is short: show those for whom you care that you love them by helping them be safe at home.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Managing Use of Technology

As social animals, we humans build and thrive on connections in our lives. We have people with whom we connect through family, friends, the workplace, and other regular activities in which we engage, such as going to the grocery store, church, civic activities, socializing with friends, sports & recreation, or whatever.

In today's world, technology is omnipresent on how people connect with one another. However, there seems to be many people who have let the technology rule their lives rather than the other way around. You see it every day -- people who rush to answer their cell phone, walk down the street texting away, yap away while driving a vehicle, immediately respond when their hear an alert that there is a new IM or email message, and admit an addiction to a device they call a "crackberry."

I was shocked but not surprised to read a Nielsen study and a subsequent article in the New York Times that indicates that U.S. teens, in particular, send or receive more than 2,000 text messages per month. OMG, gimme a break! What disappointed me most was watching a report on the TV news the other night where a teen said, "yeah, the phone is right there, but I don't use it; I text with five or six friends instead." The kid is reporting on multi-tasking-texting. What's the world coming to?

Do you share my annoyance in this situation: you are speaking with someone face-to-face, then their cell phone or Blackberry chirps. They immediately grab it to answer or read a message, dropping your conversation immediately as if you are totally unimportant and not even there! I find that behavior rude and inappropriate, yet it happens all the time.

Several years ago, I attended a training class that at first I thought was another H.R. Department waste-time requirement for "staff development." I picked a class that I thought would be the shortest. It was on how to manage email. It turned out to be very worthwhile!

I learned a major lesson from that class that I employ to this day: when I want to read email, I turn it on and go look for it. But I don't leave it on all the time while at my office -- only for about an hour in the morning and an hour or so in the afternoon. Further, I have asked my staff by telling them not to send me email unless they are transmitting a document or forwarding a message. If they have something to ask me about, my office is just a few steps down the hall. Come see me! Let's talk!

At home, I manage communications about the same way -- I allow for a limited amount of time each evening for email, then I turn it off. That way, I manage my time with email, rather than have it manage me.

Same goes for the phone. Some of my family and friends get frustrated with me because they call and I do not answer. Since my cell phone is provided by my employer, I consider it something for work. When I get home, I turn it off and plug it into the charger, and leave it for the next day. I just forget about it. Don't send me a text message on it; it is not likely I will even see it, much less respond.

I am one of those rare individuals who still has a "landline." I believe that is important since cellular technology is the first to fail when disaster strikes. Anyway, I manage my landline as well. I turn the ringer off during dinnertime. If anyone calls when my partner and I are eating, they can leave a message. If they call when we are sleeping, they can leave a message. If they call and we're busy, they can leave a message. I don't run for the phone if it rings -- so if you call and I don't answer, it does not necessarily mean that I am not home. It means that I am busy with something else and choose not to answer the phone right then. It's not personal. I will call back when I choose. If the time I choose to return a call does not fit your schedule, then we may play "phone tag" for a while, but unless it is a life-or-death matter, it can wait....

I do not use any Instant Messaging (IM) system. I find it very annoying and intrusive. If I want to have an electronic conversation with someone, I may use email. But I just don't have time nor interest in "I-M-ing." Same goes for newer methods of communication, such as Twitter. Interesting, etc., but not for me. Things like that could easily become addictive and consuming. I have better things to do with my time.

I deliberately choose when to connect with the outside world via personal or electronic means. I don't let the technology control my life, but rather, use it as a tool for me to connect with others. After all, that's why the technology was invented -- despite the claims of the marketers from the latest communications gadget.

You know, back in the old days (when I was on a first-name basis with Julius Caesar in Latin class), it was a pleasure to hang over the back fence and chat with a neighbor, or visit in person at a friend's home, or sit with my sister and play Parchesi while discussing life. Life rolled along just fine when people didn't have technology that they allowed to get so out of control.

Life is short: manage how you use technology for your connections -- don't let it manage you!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Greenest Lawn

I am not really one to play "keep up with the Joneses," an American expression about having to have the things or appearances that what you have is better than the neighbors. My partner, however, is a bit more competitive in that regard. Our neighbor across the street from us is retired, and he spends hours and hours tending to his lawn and gardens. His home has a nice curb appeal. But then again, so do we. And we spend less than a quarter of the time on our yard than he does.

One of the best ways to have a nice curb appeal is that if you have a lawn, to ensure it is weed-free, lush and green. All the chemical companies promote their products that "eliminate" weeds and fertilize the grass... to the detriment of introducing chemicals that wash into the ecosystem when it rains. Where I live, eventually these chemicals enter the streams that lead to the Chesapeake Bay, which is suffering the consequences of this pollution.

I do not portray myself to be an environmental hound, but then again, if I can play my part to reduce the pollution in our environment and save money at the same time, it's all good.

All of our lawn "fertilizer" is natural from our compost. Each time we mow the lawn, rake leaves, or collect any vegetative debris, we throw the clippings, leaves, and debris on the compost pile. Every now and then, I add some bacteria specifically made for compost piles. The bacteria hasten the action of the decomposition process that forms rich compost. If it doesn't rain in a week, I will sprinkle some water on the pile, as decomposition only happens in a moist environment for the bacteria to work. I might take a pitchfork to the pile every now and then to mix it up. But otherwise, I just let nature take its course.

Each year, we produce about 3 to 5 cubic yards of rich compost. When I am ready to "fertilize" the lawn, I scoop out compost from the bottom of the pile and fill a wheelbarrow full of it. I roll it up to the lawn, and hand my partner a shovel. Then I break out my "secret compost applicator." You heard it here, first, folks. Just build a 2' x 2' rectangle from wood, and staple a 1/4" mesh screen across it. My partner will place a couple shovel-fulls of compost on the screen, and then I walk across the grass while shaking it. The compost falls through the screen and works its way to the top of the soil. In just a few days, this "natural fertilizer" chokes out any weeds and makes the lawn turn green as green can be. Great thing about this practice, too, is that it can be done any time of the year. The "fertilizer" doesn't burn out the grass from exposure to harsh chemicals. It also builds up the layer of top soil.

What's really amusing to me is that we do truly have the greenest lawn in the neighborhood and I don't use any chemicals at all. "Across the street" is always sprinkling some bag of something-or-other on his lawn, ultimately adding to the Bay's pollution. My lawn just loves year-old well-decomposed compost. And that appeals not only to my "green-and-natural" side, but my cheap side as well. I save a lot of money by not buying chemicals.

Additionally, we use the compost to put in planters and pots in which we grow flowers that hang from our decks, and vegetables that we grow in container gardens. We get the juciest, biggest tomatoes, squash, peppers, and other veggies. (After all, their ancestors once decomposed are being "returned" to them.)

It may take a bit more effort to get the compost going, and more of an effort to dig it up and spread it across the lawn. Sure, hiring a service to apply chemicals or put a bag of chemicals in a lawn spreader and spread it across the lawn is easier. But the negative consequences of such actions are not worth the cost to the environment, and our household budget.

Go green: compost and apply it... you'll have the neighbors "green" with envy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Half Full or Half Empty?

I'm sure you have heard the question, "is the glass half full, or half empty?" It is commonly used to distinguish the difference on how someone views life -- with an optimistic (half full) perception, or a pessimistic (half empty) perception.

I just returned from spending the weekend with my partner at his mother's home. She lives near Pittsburgh. Regretfully, she is always one who sees the glass as half-empty.

Listening to a constant barrage of how bad things are (or will be) all day is very trying on the nerves of someone like me who is truly an optimist. Try as I might to point out the good things in life, she inevitably will look for something bad. But I did what several friends recommended: I pasted on a big bright smile and tried my hardest not to let her attitude get to me.

While I was there, I took action to rectify a situation that was unsafe: her home's old electrical system. The original wiring was more than 50 years old. (Fortunately, electrical work for central air and a new stove had been added on separately and more recently.) Her old system was blowing fuses, and some outlets or switches would not work any more. While she probably could afford to have her house rewired by an electrician, it would cost a lot and while she is not destitute, the cost estimates that my partner got for her were more than she was willing to spend.

So this past weekend, I spent many hours replacing all of the original wiring, outlets, and switches. Now she has a new circuit panel box (instead of old, round buss fuses), grounded outlets, Ground Fault Interrupt outlets where code requires (bathroom, kitchen, basement), and more outlets so she no longer has to run extension cords for anything.

It took the better part of two days to run all the wiring, conceal it properly inside the walls, connect it to the panel box, and have a licensed master electrician connect it to the main power feed from the utility pole. (While I have an electrician's license, mine is issued by Maryland, not Pennsylvania.)

The electrical work was done, looks good, works well, and brings her house up to code. There are no longer any fire hazards from her old wiring, or from all those extension cords (which always frightened me.) My partner worked a lot outside on the yard and gardens while I was fishing wires and connecting outlets and switches.

When we were all done, enjoying the fruits of our labors, my M-I-L said, "thanks, but what happens when..." then rattled off a number of rare but possible things that could happen, like a tripped circuit, a GFI "popping" (that is, doing what it is supposed to do if there may be a short caused by a splash of water), etc. She even dreamed up impossible things like the electric company raising her rates or charging her more on her monthly bill because she has more outlets than she ever had before. (She isn't the brightest bulb on the planet.) It was very hard to describe that electric bills are tied to consumption, and that if you don't have something plugged into an outlet, then just having an outlet doesn't mean that the electric bill will go up.

We had a bit of a tug-o-war over whether or not "all those extra outlets" were needed. It was hard for her to accept my explanation that she may move a lamp sometime, or furniture may get rearranged, or at some point, someone else may be living there and will want to use outlets in different places from those she uses.

My partner tried to keep her calm and explain things, bless him. But without realizing it, he got caught up in the pessimism as well some times. There were periods when I was working to turn both of their attitudes around. I feel, however, negativity and pessimism is par for the course with my M-I-L.

The difference in the "half-full" - "half-empty" approach comes from one of the fundamental differences of my partner and my backgrounds. He was raised in a pessimistic atmosphere, where I was raised in an optimistic one. I always thought that good things happen much more than bad; we should try to make good things happen for others; and most people are good and try to do the right thing. My partner was not. After 16 years of exposure to me, he generally is optimistic and forward-looking. He just has these set-backs every now-and-then when we spend time with his mother.

But we did make lemonade out of lemons, one smile and off-key tune at a time. (My jaw aches from all the smiling I did all weekend, and my partner will be more than happy if he doesn't hear me sing The Bright Side of Life any more LOL!) Thanks, "AZ," Kevin, and John for reminding me to keep smiling. Your advice always works for me, because you have the optimistic attitude that helps keep my focus.

Life is short: show those you love that you love them, each and every day -- even if you have to spend a lot of energy sometimes do that.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mentoring

Every now and then, I form a relationship with someone who looks to me for help, guidance, sharing experience, advice, and information. This is more than just asking questions and my answering them. These relationships are more like "mentorships."

Three recent examples come to mind.

The 21-year-old novice biker I met in late April has become a riding buddy. I don't have much of a chance to get out and ride as frequently as I would like to do that, but when I do, I try to arrange to go ride with him. I have often said that the best motorcycle training after taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course is to go on rides with experienced, safe riders. I consider myself in the latter category.

The younger guy appreciates my time, attention, and advice. And he acts on it. He also dresses the part more appropriately as well. Instead of buying some new electronic gizmo, he invested in a quality full-face helmet, a pair of sturdy Chippewa engineer boots, and is saving up to get some quality protective gear when the weather gets cooler. Good for him. His riding skills have significantly improved. I am visibly seeing that he is more relaxed, attentive to what matters while riding, and his confidence is building. He's coming along very well. I'm proud of him.

In another recent circumstance, I received an email that said,

I'm a cop, and just got assigned to the motor unit after several attempts. I am now taking all of the training on operating a Harley. I get along well with the guys on the squad, but... I'm gay. I don't know how to tell them. I'm afraid of their reaction. How do I deal with this? I have been reading your blog, and find what you have to say inspirational. Can we talk?

Talk we have, and we have shared a lot of email, too. He's a very nice guy, and I can understand where he's coming from; however, with him being half my age, it's hard for me to remember what he is going through. Also, while I worked for homophobes when I was his age, I didn't work in a hypermasculine environment. I am learning from him as he is learning from me. At least with me, he knows he's safe and he can tell me what's really on his mind. I am finding that my mentorship is more of a masculine gay role model. We rant and rave about gay stereotyping, which is still quite prevalent today. But we also figure out strategies to deal with it. This fine young officer will do quite well. He has a good head on his shoulders, and thinks before he acts. He also thinks before he opens his mouth -- which is a rare thing these days, sometimes, with some people.

The third recent mentorship is with a woman who has found some time and energy to get involved in civic affairs. She wants to learn how to deal with the politics and the wranglings of our complex county. She wants to get involved in advocacy on behalf of underserved, under-attended residents who are often overlooked when it comes to dealing with development, schools, transportation, zoning, and the overall bureaucracy our home geopolitical glob-o-sphere of almost one million residents.

She is going with me to meetings, she is asking the right questions, she is meeting people. Then she calls or emails me to vent. It is very frustrating to deal with some of these people. I have probably forgotten more about these matters than other people know. I guess it comes from growing up and living within five miles of where I was born. I'm not a mover or shaker. I just consider myself a steady, well-connected, advocate for what's right. And yeah, I've been around the block once or twice. I am glad to have someone to help bring along into the process. We need people to step up and exercise civic duty and pride to make our community, our county, and our state a better place to live for all.

Taking someone under your wing requires time, attention, and patience. But it's well worth it. This is the kind of stuff I live for, and what gives me the most personal pride. It sorta makes me feel like my life is worthwhile, and appreciated.

Life is short: show someone that you care.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder XXII occurs today, the Sunday before Memorial Day here in the good ol' USA. It stages at the Pentagon and ends up in Washington, DC.

This is an annual demonstration for POW/MIAs and Veterans issues. It is not a parade of balding, fat, drunken bikers as sometimes is reported in the media.

I have ridden my Harley with a large contingent from my home county down to the staging area at the Pentagon, then queued up to ride into Washington DC, around the U.S. Capitol, and ultimately ending up on the west side of the city near (relatively speaking) the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial. There, various dignitaries and event organizers speak and describe concerns of the day. After all, this is a demonstration, not a parade.

Will I be there this year? No. I haven't gone in several years. Why? Well, I find that I'm better able to support vets in my community. I tend to focus my support in narrow, but I think meaningful, ways. Two of the tenants in my rental properties are veterans. I give them a break on the rent, so they can afford to live in the county where they work, and send their kids to outstanding public schools. I spend some time with a well-regarded non-profit organization that supports returning soldiers and their families in a variety of ways. The horrors of war and their experiences affect their ability to return to civilian life, so we help out with that, as needed and requested.

Further, when I have attended, our group lines up among the hundreds of thousands of others. Even to get a mid-slot in the line up, you have to get there very early. There is no shade, so a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and very comfortable boots are required. You'll stand there for hours and hours waiting your turn to mount up on your bike and ride. Meanwhile, you look around at everyone else's bikes and just wait. There isn't much to do, and the wait can be six or more hours. (I'm not whining; I am just stating facts from experience.)

In the past two times I went (a few years ago), I made it to the final destination at about 4:00pm, which was well after most of the speeches had ended. It really wasn't worth the hassle and exhaustion. The crowds are overwhelming. And I just betcha the boots will be outnumbered by the sneakers... but that's a different story.

Finally, I'm not even in town. This blog post was written and scheduled for posting to appear today while I'm away. I couldn't go if I wanted to. But I'll still let out a sigh when I see throngs of bikers on the highway, or hear a Harley rumble off in the distance. I would rather be riding -- anywhere -- but an obligation and a promise to my mother-in-law prevents me from doing that.

Overall, the demonstration, attention, and concerns that Rolling Thunder brings to light are important. I hope everyone has a good time, rides safely, wears a helmet, and is able to voice concerns on behalf of (and pay tribute to) those who have served, and are serving, in our Armed Forces on behalf of our great country.

Oh, before I left town, my partner and I went to the cemetery, and put up a flag at my Dad's grave. He was a veteran of WWII, and I won't forget.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Attention Span of a Gnat

A fellow Bootman who has his own Yahoo Group lamented recently about sending out photos showing his work in boot photography, but was concerned that he hardly ever received any comments, thank-yous, or "attaboys."

I have seen the trend of this type of thing occurring on boards like "Boots on Line" and Jared's "Abootfetish" Yahoo group.

After I took the time to compose, crop, and edit lots of photos and posted them in various places, I was disappointed that I hardly received any replies or comments or email. I once thought, "nobody pays attention, nobody cares."

Well, that's not true. Lots of people pay attention--I have proof! I have software that works on every page of my website and blog that shows me what pages are being viewed, and where people come from. When I post a message with a link to my website or blog, I see upwards of over 2,000 visitors within 24 hours after posting the link. That's pretty amazing, considering how narrow the field of interest there is about boots.

On top of that, about 80% of the daily visitors to my website and blog come from Google and other search engines. Last week, I was reaching new heights (in absolute numbers) of the number of unique visitors to my website. (All due to the Law Ride 2009 photo galleries.)

There are a few people, such as my local Silver Spring, DC, and NoVa Bootman lurkers, who have bookmarked my blog and/or website home page, and visit every day. But few people bookmark web pages any more. Most visitors "surf in" and "surf out."

My stats indicate that about half of the visitors to my blog and website are on for less than 5 seconds. That indicates to me that they stumbled upon it while surfing the 'net, and didn't stay. Ooooh... heaven forbid! Aaak! he's gay! Run for the ... [next website].

The next most common visit length for my website or blog is from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. There are some visitors who stay longer, but most have very short visits.

I have learned a number of things from observing how visitors visit:
  • Most visitors come from search engines.
  • Those who come from links usually drop in and leave quickly. This is an indication of true "surfing" behavior.

  • There remains strong interest in certain things that I blog about: Muir Caps, wearing leather in public, and motor cops, but not some other things. Oh well, it's my blog; I'll blog about what I like.

  • There are a lot more people looking at what you post on the Internet than you think. Most don't say anything because they either don't know how -- or, more likely, they are doing what they do on the 'net: they are surfing.
  • Most visitors have the attention span of a gnat.
I am not saying that most visitors have the brain capacity of a gnat. I am saying that they surf along at a rapid rate and are scanning, rather than reading.

Us older guys who were taught to read by Mrs. Snaggletooth in first grade have trouble understanding that the kids in their 20s now (born in the late 1980s) did not learn
how to read like we were taught back in the early '60s. They were taught to read using a process of sight scanning for key words and page elements. We were taught to read word-for-word, where they were taught to read "for meaning" (however interpreted through sight scanning.)

Further, much pedagogical research indicates that the vast majority of humans "read" images much more than they read words. Why are the world's printed newspapers dying? Kids don't read. They scan, and they scan using the tool that they grew up with (and us older guys didn't): the world wide web on the Internet.

It's time for us older guys to have a change of heart about how we view the world as it is engaged by younger people. They have an attention span of a gnat, but they do not lack intelligence. They just apply it differently.

... Something to think about... and it's only the older guys who have gotten this far on this blog post. The younger dudes surfed away hours ago, and probably have twittered at least 20 tweets since then.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Support Your Local Motorcycle Cop

Come and get 'em! Thanks to your votes, and dialogue with some fine motor officers who were in DC for Police Week, I have had new bumper stickers made:


These stickers are now available for order through my website.

The stickers are 3" x 10" printed in high-resolution and quality. They feature a motor officer in Motor Patrol Boots on his Police Harley.

Get yours today!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Do You Ever Rest?

Last week, several friends asked me, "do you ever rest?" Sure! 61:40 hours each week!

61:40 hours? How do you figure? How do you know this so precisely? You work full time, you do repairs and go grocery shopping for elderly people, you take care of your house and yard, do some consulting, attend a bunch of meetings as a civic leader, mentor some people, take care of your aunt, prepare home-cooked meals, keep blogging, update your websites... how do you have that much time to rest?

Well....

Friday night after I get home from the regular family dinner, my partner and I turn off the TV and the computer, put some music on the CD player or turn on the piano (it plays itself), and then we just sit back, hold each other, and relax. This practice of "Friday night snuggle night" has been a regular for us for years, and one we both cherish.

Weekend mornings as dawn breaks, we get closer, and I may rest my head on my partner's chest. Listening to his heartbeat and his soft breathing is very relaxing to me. He may scratch my back, and snuggle tighter. Touch is a very important element to our togetherness. We will rest together that way for about an hour before rising to get the day going.

I'm also a believer in "power naps." For about 20 minutes each day on my subway ride home from downtown DC to my stop out in the 'burbs, I zonk out. So there's a whole 1:40 extra minutes of sleep. Damn, I'm a bum!

I sleep about eight hours each night. Eight hours??? Yup. My body demands it. With as much running around as I do, when it comes time to go to bed, I crash. As soon as my head hits the pillow, I'm out like a light.

Despite all the demands on my time, I am in bed by 8:30, or 9 at the latest. Even if I have to leave a meeting early, angering some as I do that. Tough. I know what my body needs and what I require in order to function day-to-day. Eight hours of sleep, each night. Period.

Well then, doing the math, 7 days x 8 hours = 56... add 1:40 of power nap time... the rest is snuggle time with the man I love. 61:40 hours is a lot of rest time.
Heck, that's 36.7% of my entire week! And if I'm really lucky, we'll even hang in the hammock in our back yard park for a couple hours on a nice weekend afternoon. More rest, relaxation, and closeness. I'm wasting time with all this rest! I'm so lazy!

Life is short: keep it balanced.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Police Week: Sucker for a Smiling Cop

I am a sucker for a smile. It brightens my day to see people smile, and I smile often myself. But I am especially happy to see a cop whose smile naturally compliments his attractiveness, such as the officer shown here.

I met him on Law Ride on May 10. He is among those who explained the differences between riding a Police Harley and a Police BMW, that I blogged about last week. He is from the city of Folsom, California. He joined the bunch from Sacramento County who trucked their police BMWs back to DC so they could participate in the various events of Police Week.

This officer is a very nice guy. He smiles naturally as you speak with him. It's obvious that he likes people, enjoys his job, takes it seriously, and that he is naturally talented to succeed in his line of work.

I saw him again last Friday as law enforcement officers and officials were gathering at the U.S. Capitol for a somber memorial service to remember those who have died in the line of duty, and to hear various elected officials pay tribute to the dedication and service that law enforcement officers provide to keep all of us safe.

Because the service was formal, all of the officers dressed in their most formal uniforms, including this officer. His uniform was clean and pressed; his boots were shined to perfection. It was a bit warm that day (80°F, 27°C) but quite humid (more typical of the humidity Washington is known for in the dead of summer, not in May.) This officer appeared to be a bit warm, and I asked about that. He said, "yeah, I'm steamy."

Well, officer, you've made me steamy, too (LOL). I enjoyed our conversations. I was pleased to take your photo with your camera of you and your bike at the Capitol. Thank you for letting me take your photo with my camera as well. Also, thanks much for adding to this humble guy's knowledge and appreciation for your fine work, appearance, and classy style.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Law Ride: Photo Gallery

I took about 150 pictures and some video during Law Ride last Sunday. I liked this picture a lot, and so did many others. In fact, my buddy Mike of Stompers Boots requested permission to post this pic of a cop in Chippewa Hi-Shine Boots on the Stompers website. Of course, I said "yes!"

After Law Ride was over, my life continued its usual tightly controlled spin, with working full-time, consulting, helping neighbors, planning a big community home-repair event at the end of the month and securing donations for it, attending some meetings in my community, checking in on my aunt, and caring for my partner and our home. This is all while still insisting on getting 8 hours of sleep each night.

Thus, the time required to crop and edit the photos, then to write code (which I do directly, not with any web page-producing software) ... it's a rather heavy demand. But it all comes down to balance and multitasking.

Well, it's all done now, and posted on my website. I announced it on Wednesday last week, and again last night after I added a gallery on the Beemer Ballet. The traffic to my website has been tremendous. If you haven't seen the gallery yet, drop by for a visit!

Life is short: wear your (cop) boots!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Law Ride: A Cop's Influence

I saw these nice-looking Chippewa Hi-Shine engineer boots with lug soles on a handsome cop last year at Law Ride.

There was something that just caught my eye about these boots. The man filling them and his uniform was attractive, but nice looking uniforms on a fit cop all look nice to me. He was among a very few who wore a leather jacket. That was an added element of attraction.

But still... I kept looking at those boots. What was interesting to me
(in my self-conversation) was that I already had two pairs of these boots, so why was I attracted to yet another pair of the same boots? I dunno. I really don't know. Don't try to ask a Bootman what attracts him to boots. It's just one of those things I live with (and really don't mind!)

Soon thereafter, I took a pair of my own Chippewa Hi-Shine boots to a cobbler, and asked him to put lug soles on them. He did, but to be honest, I wasn't all that happy with the results. He installed a sole plate -- a rather thin addition to the sole. He did not remove the old sole (which was still in good shape) and replace it with a new Vibram 100 sole. The cobbler looked at me as if I were from Mars when I asked if he would install a thick Vibram 100 lug sole on top of the existing nitrile sole. Instead, he just p
ut on the sole plates, thinking that's what I wanted. Nobody really wants a double-soled boot (so he thought).

Oh well, fa cosi sia. I learned. I wear those boots from time to time. As the year progressed and as I continued to chat with Mike, the owner of Stompers Boots, I felt rather badly that his business was suffering from the downturn in the economy. So as a Christmas present to myself, I ordered another new pair of Chippewa Hi-Shine engineer boots from Stompers. As a favor to me, Mike ran across town to get a cobbler to install a thick Vibram 100 sole for me (and I paid extra for that). Mike knew what to ask for, and I f
inally got what I wanted.

That cop last year influenced this Bootman, and I am very happy with the results. Very fine-looking tall black boots with a snow tire on the sole, so I have excellent traction when I wear them while riding my Harley. In fact, very early yesterday morning when I rode my bike to the University to swim for an hour, I had those boots on. I arrived at the empty parking lot and noticed that it had been swept clear of residual cinders and sand left over from the winter. So I began to do some practice on tight turns, trying to beat my record of a complete u-turn in a very tight space (within 1-1/2 parking slots). These boots provided the traction and stability I needed as I turned and had to put my boot down to avoid dropping the bike on the few times I turned way too tight. That boot sole planted firmly on the pavement held me up. If it slipped the slightest amount, I would have dropped my bike; that simple.

Funny how these influences go 'round. While last year I was really interested in that cop's boots and got myself a pair, this year, several cops came up to me to ask me about my pair of these boots that I wore to Law Ride. I was happy to talk with them, answer their questions, and refer them to Stomper Boots, the best boot shop in the world.

Life is short: wear your boots proudly!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Going to IML in Chicago?

Time is rolling around again for the International Mr. Leather Contest, which will be held May 21-25 in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

I referred a buddy to my blog post that I wrote last year about IML. He replied saying, "gosh, this isn't what I wanted to hear." My friend is going to IML, but his interest is hanging out with fellow gear-guys, not having a one-night stand. While my partner and I have no interest in returning to IML again, we are happy we went two years ago to see what it was all about. Call it "one of the things to do in a long career as leathermen."

To try to give some balance to what may be perceived as a dislike for IML or Chicago, which isn't true, here is what I said to my friend in an email reply:

You will LOVE Chicago. It is a great town to visit. It is a very walkable city (flat, few hills) and they're very leather-friendly. Feel free to go fully leathered while being a tourist.

There are lots of things to see and do in Chicago. And it's the best town in the USA for pizza. Lots and lots of choices, all over the place. (And every local has a favorite they claim is better than all the rest. Don't worry
, you really can't go wrong anywhere except perhaps Pizza Hut! LOL!) Try Lou Malnati's, which is just a couple blocks from the Hilton. Get "deep dish" which has more ingredients, not more dough. Definitely the pizza to get in Chicago!

There are some great museums, though I have to admit that I am spoiled by having the Smithsonians, which are all free to enter. But admissions are part of the price of being a tourist.

Don't go see a movie! You can do that at home. Go see the city. It is vibrant, alive, and fun. It's also generally safe, especially along the Miracle Mile. That's the name of the section of Michigan Avenue with the high-end stores, shopping, restaurants, but also tourist stuff to see, like "the bean." "The Bean" is really cool and you should definitely boot up and go see it -- and take your picture reflected in it. See the pics on my website.

There are a fairly large number of panhandlers around. It's cruel, but hold your head up and walk on by. Don't look them in the eye or establish eye contact. Do not give one money; the rest will follow you worse than a flock of pigeons.

As in any city, keep your wallet in your front pocket, not in a back pocket or a jacket. There could be pickpockets around, too.

As for transportation, yes, there are lots of taxis. Plenty will be at the hotel. There will be some at the bars, too. However, we didn't use taxis when we were there. We didn't go to the local leather bars during IML, but I have been to them before. The Chicago leather bars are about 3 - 4 miles away from downtown. IML provides buses to the leather bars at night, late into the night. The bars are packed during IML, dark, loud, and hard to talk to anyone due to the crowds. We decided not to go to the leather bars during IML because the night would run waaaay too late for us. We're just not the night-owl types. We would rather just play tourist wide-awake during the day, staring with a great breakfast (There's a great breakfast diner "Yolks" just a few blocks from the hotel on Michigan Avenue; try it!)

The public transit system (subway and trains) is very good, and reasonably priced. We took the train from O'Hare Airport into the city and then walked to our hotel. For $2.25, we got to the hotel directly and inexpensively. The train trip takes about an hour, but it's still faster than using a shuttle or taxi, stuck in traffic.

I went to Chicago a few weeks ago and stayed in the very same hotel where IML will be held... note, it is about a 7-block walk from the train exit at Jackson to the hotel, and I wouldn't recommend it in the dark. But in daylight, it's fine. And an easy walk on the flat, wide sidewalks. Alternatively, you can use the train to get downtown and then get a cab from the train exit to the hotel. That would probably only cost $5 including tip. I'm cheap, and I walk! Be sure to have luggage with wheels!

IML itself is worth seeing. Don't skip out on the events you paid for with your registration. Go see the introductions, stroll through the leathermart and see things you wouldn't imagine existed. Get your boots shined (for only the cost of a tip) by one of the bootblacks competing for Mr. Bootblack. Go to the final fashion show (Mr. IML contest.) It's interesting, and honestly, you'll never be in a place with as many leather-clad guys anywhere else. It's kinda cool to be all leathered up and be around all those men.

It's also fun to hang out in the host hotel lobby and watch the leather clan come-and-go. Many of them are so funny. There are a lot of once-a-year leather dudes who worry more about their hairstyle or how straight their leather tie is than anything else. They'll stand there yapping away on their cell phones or texting trying to find their friends. They will watch other guys to see how they're dressed, who they're talking to, and what they're doing. Those kind of guys crack me up. My partner and I spent hours people-watching. We had a lot of fun -- only if they knew what was really on our minds. (My partner and I would exchange what we thought were "thought bubbles" for some guys, and then burst out laughing. I'm sure everyone around us thought we were nuts.)

Anyway, relax, have fun, go play tourist, and DO IT IN LEATHER AND BOOTS! And since you're flying there, be sure to check out my "Air Travel With Leather Gear" guide. It can help you decide how to pack.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Police Week Visitor

I had the pleasure of meeting once again a fellow blogger who likes boots. I have linked to his blog from mine for a long time. He's a very nice guy and I enjoyed his company over lunch this past Thursday. We share similar interests, and I learn a lot from listening to him and his experience and background.

He is wearing Chippewa Hi-Shine engineer boots (top of photo) and I am wearing my All American Blue Knight Patrol Boots (bottom of photo).

My fellow blogger was in town to enjoy the activities of National Police Week. I found it interesting that he brought eight pairs of boots with him for a week's stay. He said that he liked to have choices. I'm glad he was driving a vehicle... lots of room for boots.

Thanks, buddy, for a nice conversation at lunch. I appreciate that he showed a photo that he took of our boots meeting on his blog. My All American Patrol Boots came in handy as I got caught in a sudden shower on my way home later that day. Nice to have boots on that provided superb traction at the stoplights where oil collects on the road surface and becomes extra slippery when wet.

Keep blogging, and stay booted!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Law Ride: Boots

During an event like Law Ride, you get to see lots of motor officers in tall black boots. Lots and lots of tall black boots. Two for every cop there! (LOL!)

My observations this year is that there were three types of tall black boots represented: engineer style, bal-laced style, and those with a dress instep (no laces.) Virtually all of the boots had buckle closures on the leg; very few had laces. (Laces on the leg tend to come untied quickly by blowing in the wind, and are a nuisance.)

I have blogged a lot about cop boots, so I won't repeat myself much. Here, though, are what eight officers said in response to this statement:

Tell me what you like about your boots
  • Heck, boots are boots. If it's part of the uniform, it's what I wear.

  • They give good protection from the crap that flies up from the road or vehicles in front of me.

  • I like how they look with my uniform.

  • I wish I had boots like him (pointing to a pair of dress instep boots on another cop)... without laces. Those damned laces are always coming untied, but the Sarge wants us to have all the same kind.

  • I wish I didn't have to shine them as often. We used to have a kid who did that for us, but with budget cutbacks, he's gone.

  • Not much

  • They're comfortable. I wear them all the time!

  • Huh?
You really get a mixed bag of responses when talking with cops about their boots.

In order to prevent the cops from thinking that I'm some kind of weirdo, my statement where I asked for their opinion about boots was part of an overall conversation I had with each officer with whom I spoke. I talked with a lot of them. Cops are trained to communicate with the public, so it was easy to engage them in conversation. While for the most part they hang out with each other, they're generally a friendly bunch, and will talk to us regular guys if we're not pushy and are genuinely interested in what they have to say.

Then, upon conclusion of the conversation, I always said, "Thank you. I appreciate your time, and thanks a lot for the service you provide to your community." I usually got a thanks for my thanks, and a warm smile. Awww... I'm a sucker for a smile.

Life is short: wear your boots!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Law Ride: BMWs and Harleys

There are two major brands of motorcycles used by motor officers in the United States today: BMW and Harley-Davidson. There may be others, but in the U.S., you just don't see any other brands but these two. Kawasaki once made police bikes, such as those used by Ponch and Jon in the TV show "CHiPs" (Kawasaki offered the best advertising support to get that product placement on the show; the real CHP back in the day used Harleys). Kawasaki got out of the U.S. police motorcycle market in 2005. You will find Police Yamaha motorcycles in Europe and Japan, but rarely in the U.S.

There are divided "camps" about Harleys and BMWs for use in police work. Harley has had a corner on the market for a long time, since they introduced motorcycles for police work to the Detroit Police Department in 1908 -- more than 100 years ago! Pittsburgh also introduced Police Harleys in 1909.

In the late 80s, BMW aggressively pursued the U.S. police motorcycle market. They offered significant discounts on multi-bike contracts to local governments. Also, BMW was the first to offer ABS (anti-lock braking assist) on their bikes starting in 1988. Harley didn't introduce ABS on touring class bikes until 2007. Many cops preferred bikes with ABS brakes due to the nature of their work requiring frequent quick stops.

When I was speaking with cops at Law Ride last Sunday about the two makes of police bikes, I learned that those who ride BMWs like them for their maneuverability, but also find the center of gravity higher and thus they take corners wider. Believe it or not, a big Harley police bike can turn more sharply than a BMW. I've turned my Road King (which is one of the models used for police bikes) completely around in a U-Turn within a 14' (4.3m) box. You can't do that on a top-heavy BMW.

The cops say that BMWs are quicker, and feel "less wide" so in heavy traffic, they are easier to get through traffic, especially if they have to unsnarl a backup due to a crash or catch a speeder.

The cops say that Harleys are much more comfortable, providing a better seat and less jolting ride. That has to do with the configuration of the shocks on a Harley vs. a BMW. If you have to ride long distances, BMW police bikes can get awfully uncomfortable on the butt.

A cop who has ridden both Harleys and BMWs told me that he likes both, for different reasons. His agency has both makes of bikes, and keeps rotating the purchases between the two. Some officers prefer one or the other, and by bidding contracts, his city has gotten a good product for a better price. BMWs come in at a lower cost some years, and Harleys on others.

What this cop said about usage and maintenance was interesting to me. He said that BMWs are the only police bikes with a dry clutch. This type of clutch system is different from the "wet clutch" found on Harleys. The problem is, according to this sergeant, is that when operating a police motorcycle, the operator often keeps the clutch in the "friction zone" -- that is, slightly engaged to release variable power to the drive shaft. This is necessary when riding slowly through clogged traffic, in parades, or generally on busy city streets with many traffic signals. BMW specifically says in its owner's manual not to ride the clutch in the friction zone, because it will burn out. This officer said that was true. He said he goes through clutches several times a year. Thus, the maintenance cost to his department is higher.

Harleys aren't known for low-cost maintenance, either. When they work, they work great. But when they develop a small oil leak or an electrical problem, it can be very difficult and costly to diagnose and repair. Believe me, I've been there!

Finally, one officer who was riding a brand new Police Harley (it had only 300 miles on it) told me that his jurisdiction had a "Buy American" requirement. They can only buy American-made products. While a "Buy American" clause is controversial, it is a factor in some areas of the U.S. And that's why you see more Police Harleys on the road than German-made BMWs.

Another reason, according to this forum is that BMW is not as competitive in its pricing as it once was. While the content of that forum is a few years old, and the world economy "tanked" since then, what I observe is that often a choice between a product comes down to cost: original purchase price plus the estimated ongoing cost of maintenance. BMWs no longer have the edge in either category. Thus, another reason why you see more Police Harleys these days. Heck, even the CHP started buying Harleys again since H-D introduced ABS braking in 2007.

Some may think I am strictly a Harley guy. Sure, I really like my Road King, but I'm an equal-opportunity biker. I rented a BMW 1200RT and rode it all over California. It's a nice bike, but I experienced the same things the cops said: it was top-heavy, the turning radius was wide, and it was uncomfortable to ride for a long day, especially two-up. Plus, it was just hard for me to get on and off due to its height (and my lack of height). I prefer a lower seat. I'll keep my Road King, thanks.

Life is short: let's RIDE!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Law Ride: The Beemer Ballet

Like a well-choreographed ballet, the cops from Sacramento who arrived to participate in Law Ride on Sunday went through a serious dismounting routine. It was both interesting and amusing to watch.

First, they all drive up and line up like the other police bikes are lined up, two-by-two, side-by-side. Some of the cops have bot
h boots planted on the ground while holding up their bikes.

Once the Sergeant in front is assured that everyone is there and in line, he gives a small signal. Then everyone lifts his left boot and places it on the riding peg. He only has his right boot down, flat on the pavement.

Then another signal follows, and he lowers the side stand with his left boot. He then shifts his weight to the right side, and then leans his body way down as he lifts his left leg over the saddle to dismount.

That's what was amusing to me: as tall as these BMW police bikes are, the cops have to lean over quite far so their left leg will clear the saddle. Look at the photo shown here.
Once they dismount to the right, they then reach up and take off their helmet, leaving it precisely on the right handlebar.

They do this all at the same time. While they are trying to demonstrate a graceful dismount, it still appeared awkward, even if all movements were (almost) simultaneous. It's quite a choreographed procedure. They must have practiced quite a bit to do this maneuver so precisely. When they were done, the crowd gave them a round of applause.

When we arrived at the National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial, these guys had designated parking on E Street in front of the National Building Museum. Again, they all lined up, walked their bikes forward until they all were in line, then on cue, walked the bikes backward until they hit the curb, then danced their choreographed dismount again. What a sight.
There were other cops who said other things about this procedure -- some in awe and some less so (jealous, perhaps?) Anyway, I enjoyed watching them do this neat little trick. (Hmmm... I wonder if my bike club would be up to practicing a choreographed dismount when we arrive at a destination. Ha! That'll be the day.)

I talked to one of the Sacramento County cops about this. He laughed and said that the sergeant thought it would be a good idea, and they began doing it a few years ago when they were all together in rodeos, parades, and other events. Since there are so many of them, their sheer numbers are impressive. Having a stylized dismount added to the camaraderie as officers, and perception by the public that they were in excellent control of their motors.

Life is short: Let's RIDE!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Law Ride: The Ride

There is just something fundamentally cool to be riding with a huge group of motorcyclists on a parade past blocked roads toward the United States Capitol Building. You ride right up to the East side of the Capitol on E. Capitol Street, then turn right on Capitol Circle, then left on Independence Avenue.

Independence Avenue is on a slight hill, so as you look ahead, all you see are the police motor officers and other bikers as far as the eye can see. Man, what a view. What a sight! I can't express the thrill I feel in doing this. What a rush. It's fun and memorable.

Let's remember law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, and their families. I among many sincerely appreciate and am thankful for their work -- and their sacrifice. This is what Law Ride is all about. It's not just a kick to ride as a big mob through the streets of DC. Gotta remember that.

But I just have to say this: "this is really cool! Woo-hoo!"

Life is short: Let's RIDE!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Conversation with Bike Cops: The Setting

I attended Law Ride yesterday, which is a ride organized by the Blue Knights. They are a club composed of local chapters to which active and retired motor officers belong. Motor officers from around the country and their supporters, like me, gather in a parking lot at RFK Stadium. You hang out for a couple hours, talk to cops, and then precisely at 11am, the ride takes off. See the "take off" in the video below.

The ride rolls through downtown Washington, DC, past the U.S. Capitol, and ends at 5th and E Streets, NW, which is the location of the National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial.

Over the next several blog posts, I will relay information I learned from conversations I had with visiting officers. The discussions were interesting, and I learned a lot.

I noticed this year that far fewer motor officers came to the event. Many thought it had something to do with the economy. City and county law enforcement departments are cutting back on activities that their motor officers can do outside the regular job.

A huge contingent came all the way from California: the county and city of Sacramento sent about 40 officers; the city of Folsom sent 7; other cities in Sacramento County also sent a few. These officers loaded their police motors onto semitrailers which were driven cross-country.

There was also a large contingent from the city of Detroit. The riders in this group included the Chief, who rides himself. Cool!

I didn't see cops from southern states, except a few from the city of Orlando, Florida, and three from Terrebone Parish, Louisiana. In years past, I had seen officers from several Florida counties and cities, as well as other states such as North and South Carolina. Not present yesterday.

Also, I didn't see cops from New York or Ohio -- usually various cities and counties in those states have participants in Law Ride. There was one motor officer from my home county, and a few from neighboring counties. But overall, Maryland was not well represented. There was, though, the usual large contingent of dress instep Dehner-booted Fairfax County, Virginia, motor officers. They, and their boots, looked great as ever.

It was a stunningly beautiful day. The skies finally cleared after almost two weeks of rain. The sun was bright, and the temperature was about 70°F (21°C). We also had a really low dew point, so it felt dry and comfortable. It was a terrific morning.

I didn't stay in the city after the ride was over for more than about 20 minutes. My partner has a list of "honey-do" projects that won't quit. I got home by 1pm, and began slogging through the list. Now the lawn is mowed, concrete was mixed and scooped to fit a growing hole under our front stoop, and Mrs. "O" in the neighboring retirement community has a new, working, smoke alarm. All is good.

Check back each day for the next several days for more posts about Law Ride: the ultimate police-escorted ride in Washington, DC. Meanwhile, enjoy the video below which shows the cops leaving RFK to begin the ride.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dinner with Sneakered Bike Cops

Last night, I went to dinner with a buddy who is a motorcycle police officer. We joined a group of other motorcycle officers who have arrived in town for Police Week.

The dinner was at a brew pub, which was located in Lower Slobbovia (a term I have used to refer to that state across the Potomac River from mine.) I rode with my buddy in his truck; he doesn't own a personal motorcycle, and he didn't want to ride as a passenger on mine. (When you operate a motorcycle all day for your job, the last thing you want to do is ride as anyone else's passenger.)

When we were seated at the restaurant, the guys ordered appetizers and beers all-around, trying the various samples of microbrews that the pub had to offer. I just smiled and sipped a ginger ale. (I am unable to drink alcohol, and the appetizers weren't something I could eat.) Dinner -- a steak -- was okay (not stellar, but chewable.)

I didn't know anyone other than my buddy, but the others were friendly and easy to talk to. The conversation we had was about the usual stuff: work-related stories and stresses, experiences, family, and motorcycle riding. When the conversation turned to family, those who were married talked about their wives and children as a natural part of the conversation. When I was speaking and mentioning my partner was part of the story, I would say, "my partner, he...". The other guys didn't bat an eye or make any comments or seem to care that I'm gay and have a partner. If my buddy vouched for me, that was fine with them.

I enjoyed listening to they way they described how they use their motors on their jobs. Interestingly, six of my eight dinner-mates do not ride a motorcycle off the job. And further, none of the eight motormen gathered for dinner in casual wear (jeans, t-shirts) had boots on. Each one wore sneakers -- even my buddy.

As the night went on, I finally asked about wearing boots. Almost all of them said, "fine for work; off the job, I want to be comfortable," or similar. They said that the boots they wear for work were okay, but the boots
were part of the uniform, and that was that. I guess that's about the same as what I see among the members of my motorcycle club. They wear boots while riding, but often when they're not riding, they wear sneakers.

Me? I was the only one in boots last night, but then again, I always wear boots. I don't own any shoes. No one noticed, cared, or said anything. But no one ever does. Shown are the boots I wore (short Wesco harness boots.)

Life is short: wear your boots!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Still The One Who Can Scratch My Itch

I am still thinking fondly of our Friday night "snuggle night" last night. This is for my partner -- the lyrics from the song made famous by the group "Orleans" back in 1976. These words remind me of my ongoing love for my guy, who is "still the one after all these years," (and he's pretty good with scratchin' all of my itches, wherever they may be! Woof!)

We've been together since way back when
Sometimes I never want to see you again
But I want you to know, after all these years
You're still the one I want whisperin' in my ear

You're still the one I want to talk to in bed
Still the one that turns my head
We're still having fun, and you're still the one

I looked at your face every day
But I never saw it 'til I went away
When winter came, I just wanted to go
Deep in the desert, I longed for the snow

You're still the one that makes me laugh
Still the one that's my better half
We're still having fun, and you're still the one

You're still the one that makes me strong
Still the one I want to take along
We're still having fun, and you're still the one

Changing, our love is going gold
Even though we grow old, it grows new

You're still the one that I love to touch
Still the one and I can't get enough
We're still having fun, and you're still the one

You're still the one who can scratch my itch
Still the one and I wouldn't switch
We're still having fun, and you're still the one

You are still the one that makes me shout
Still the one that I dream about
We're still having fun, and you're still the one...

If you are not familiar with the song, here is a video of the group playing it (though video quality is not that good)

Friday, May 8, 2009

It Hurts to Watch

It sure has been raining a lot lately. It has rained every day since April 29 -- so much so the U.S. Geological Survey has officially pronounced our drought is over. The trees are tall, fully-leafed out, and everything is green as green can be. Including the lawn, which is a mile high.

However, when it rains, there is low barometric pressure. While it's controversial, and many professionals say that there is no relationship between low pressure and feeling pain, there are others who say there is some sort of relationship. Regardless of what the professionals say, I see it. My partner is disabled, having had major surgery on his hips. Ever since then, when rain is on the way or falling, I see his pain, which is sometimes quite severe.

Man, that hurts to watch. To see him struggle to get up from a seated position, to see him grimace as he sits down, and to bear with his being irritable and grumpy because the pain won't quit. He doesn't use drugs, but he has found that prescription topical Lidocaine pads help... sometimes. He says that without them, he couldn't move on rainy days.

He struggles, but doesn't complain. He tries hard to help out and do things around the house. I really don't mind picking up more than half of the physical labor. I can use the exercise, and he does a lot of things to make up the difference, anyway. But when I travel, he does it all, from mowing the lawn to cleaning the house, and everything else. It hurts me to know what he is dealing with when I'm gone. But he doesn't whine, moan, or say, "you shoulda" or "I had to...". He just carries on.

My partner is a trooper, and does the best he can. But man, it hurts to watch.

Life is short: show those you love that you love them, each and every day -- especially when the days aren't good for them.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Support Your Local Motor ?

Okay, time for another poll on this blog. I have decided to create a new bumper sticker. Instead of one that went over like a lead balloon (those that say "Real Bikers Wear Boots"), I have decided to create one that displays support of motorcycle operating law enforcement officers.

And that's my question, which appeared on a poll on this blog. I asked, "what should I say? Support Your Local Motor:
  • Cop?

  • Officer?

  • Police?

  • -man (as in "motorman")?

  • -cycle cop"
The results are in -- "Support Your Local Motorcycle Cop" is the winner.

Bumper stickers will be made soon.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Last Impressions Linger

My travels this week brought me to Wilmington, Delaware. I had to drive there through slogs of rain, both directions. It is about a two-hour drive from my home, but with the rain and road spray, the traffic was a bit slower. Most people drive with caution, especially the truckers.

When the conference I attended was over yesterday afternoon, I offered to drop off a colleague at the Amtrak (passenger rail) station so she could return to Richmond where she lives. And that's where the trouble began....

As I drove up to the station entrance, which was wide open with no vehicles anywhere in sight, my friend said goodbye, got out of my truck and went to the back to get her luggage out. Then this platinum-dyed-blond old female Wilmington cop came to the passenger side of my truck and signaled me to open the window. I did, and this is what she yelled into my window:

"Starting soon we are fining people $90 for stopping here. You can't stop here. This isn't a place to stop! We will fine you $90 for stopping here! The place to drop people off is down there around the corner. If you come back, you will get a $90 ticket!"

She said this in her most officious tone and demanding posture with a screechy, nail-scratch-on-the-chalkboard voice.

Oh cripes, dingbat, if I stopped in the wrong place, don't you think you could have told me that politely -- and I would have moved? But noooo... you had to behave in a rude and ugly manner. I'm sure this cop sees people stop in this wrong place regularly. However, her behavior was uncalled for.

It got me to thinking about how last impressions linger. For example, last week, I was annoyed by being selected for "random extra screening" by the TSA while boarding a flight from Kansas City for Charlotte. However, the kid who wanded me just did his job and didn't say anything. His colleague, an older woman, tried to relieve my annoyance by at least trying to be pleasant, even if I were unhappy. Come to think about it, she was leaving me with a last impression that I will remember. I was mildly annoyed, but mostly because I was delayed getting on my flight for what I thought was an unnecessary screening.

Yesterday afternoon, however, was a different story. What will linger in my mind is that a cop, who willingly or not, serves as a representative of the City of Wilmington, left me with a very sour impression of the city. Will I ever want to return? No... not unless I absolutely have to. But the city is rather decrepit and seedy, so I really have no reason other than business to return if I must. I just hope I don't have to.

And I hope this cop gets put back into a training course on dealing with the public, as I recommended in a written letter of complaint to the Chief of Police. There are a variety of ways of dealing with the public, and this cop did not demonstrate any ability or knowledge of how to behave appropriately.

Life is short: lighten up, and remember, you may be the last person someone from out-of-town talks to, and they may remember your short encounter for a long time. This is why, for example, I don't make rude comments to visitors to Washington who stop at the bottom of Metro escalators (they are called "escalumps" in local lingo). They just don't realize what they're doing. Smile, show them the results of their action in a light manner, and move on.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

From Fetish to Function

Okay, okay, okay, I hear 'ya! When I have blogged (see May 2 post) about the term "fetish" in the strict definition of the word, I get feedback that is appropriately saying that I am too clinical in the use of the term, and that it is a generalized word to use when referring to those of us who like to wear leather -- for whatever reason.

And yes, my partner could take me to my gear closet, pointing out what some may consider to be an inordinate amount of leather, and say to me, "be honest with yourself: you have a leather fetish. As long as you can afford it and it makes you happy, enjoy." The commenters are correct, and thanks for the feedback.

Back in the 1980s, when I was acquiring much of my leather gear, I was also beginning to go out to leather-oriented events, bars, and other gatherings of the Leather Tribe. There I was, decked out in full leather, from Muir Cap to boots and all in between. I felt a thrill. And yeah, a certain member below the waist was frequently excited. The leather felt great, and I felt sexy in it. I felt the sexual energy of a mob of leather-clad men equally decked out in full leather.

After I met my partner, when he was a bit more sociable, we frequently would go to the Baltimore Eagle and DC Eagle on a Saturday night. I'd leather up completely, and so would he. We would hop on my Harley and be bad leather-clad biker dudes for the night. We enjoyed it. It was thrilling to be surrounded by other leathermen, especially to watch their envy as we roared up to park the Harley out front in the designated "motorcycle only" parking.

We would attend Mid-Atlantic Leather and a few other local leather-oriented events. While we did not go with other men we met at these places for more clandestine or private activities, we knew what was going on and felt the sexual urges that gay men normally have. We quickly took care of those passions as soon as we got home behind closed doors.

Then, things changed. It happens when you get older and settled into a monogamous relationship. My man turned me on, but I found those turn-ons to occur at times when I wasn't in leather. My man wore leather less often, yet doing so wasn't necessary to get me excited. Thus, leather became less and less something we had on during sex. And these days, hardly ever at all.

Further, my partner had several surgeries which made it difficult for him to walk. He could no longer ride as my passenger on my Harley. We stopped being interested in going out for several reasons:
  • leather bars morphed to being a "y'all come" bar, where fewer patrons wore leather, or even boots. The number of guys in shorts and sneakers at these places made them less interesting to me.

  • My partner didn't want others to see him limping or in pain.

  • My stamina for being able to stay awake late into the night has never been good, and has decreased as I have aged. That bed at 9:00pm looks awfully tempting.

  • Since we couldn't take the bike to get to a leather bar, the whole process of getting into our truck, driving all the way into town, hunting for a parking space, and then hanging out with sneaker-clad dudes became more arduous than it was worth.
Yes, then, I admit that I had a leather fetish, but now that fetish events, however classified, and fetish venues, however they have changed, are not places we choose to go any more.

Therefore, the leather investment I have made is used to provide protection and warmth for riding my motorcycle, which is still a passion I enjoy. While I may not choose to attend leather fetish events or bars, I am not ready to give up the gear I have acquired which can still be used for a functional purpose while riding my Harley.

That's really that... from fetish to function.

Life is short: wear your leather!