Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sometimes the Gay Community Is Hardest On Itself

I am gay; no secret. I'm out to my family, friends, in my community where I live and volunteer, and where I work. I consider myself a masculine gay man. My voice sounds like any other adult male. I carry myself that way. I wear boots (always) and prefer jeans, t-shirts, and when it's cooler, wearing leather. I ride a motorcycle. I build things. But I don't care for sports ... or women (sexually), though I have many female friends.

There are other gay men who behave differently from me. That's fine; everyone is different. Some are more effeminate sounding. Some dress in fine suits and are clothes horses. Some like dancing and partying late into the night. Some are single, and some are not.

I am among the latter -- as it says in my intro on this blog (to the right), I am monogamously partnered. I don't hide the fact that I am partnered, and that I love my man (and he loves me).

But I have to say, sometimes the Gay Community, as ever it may be defined, is very hard on itself. There are some gay people who ridicule other gay guys for their looks, appearance, interests (fetish or otherwise), and behavior.

There are times when I have been subject to what may be defined as "hate speech" or "ignorant speech" from some men who are heterosexual. I do not often think of myself as a minority, but as a gay man, I am. So the discrimination and negativity directed at what other people do not understand and/or fear happens sometimes. I deal with it. But that's one reason why my partner and I choose to live where we do, because our community, county, and state is generally more accepting and tolerant (compared with states such as Virginia where my partner once lived.)

But what seriously puzzles me is how hateful and catty the gay community can be. For example, I received an email the other day from a gay guy who likes boots but apparently, for whatever reason, doesn't like me. I don't even know the guy, but he took it upon himself to insult me. Well, as I have often said, "sticks and stones...."

Then I heard some gay guys making fun of another gay man because he wasn't out. Yet they themselves live part-way in the closet.

Then there are the gay guys who have a partner, but then post photos of themselves and write with sexual innuendo implying ... whatever ... but to me, it is unfaithfulness. But because I don't want to go down the road of being judgmental as some have been toward me, I have let it go. They do what they do, and I talk about my partner a lot. So be it. To each his own.

But there's no need for gay people to attack other gay people through rude email messages, posts on internet forums, or talking behind backs (as word eventually gets back to the person being talked about) and spreading gossip or rumors. Some of these guys need to get a life. They may think they have a life, but if they have to resort to being rude and negative, then they have more growing up to do.

If the Gay Community expects heterosexual people to be fair, just, and let them live a decent life, then we must hold ourselves to the same standard.

John F. Kennedy said, "...civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof."

Monday, June 29, 2009

It Felt Weird

Today is the Harley Owner's Group's "Million Mile Monday" where members are encouraged to ride -- and ride alot -- then enter their mileage on-line so that HOG can demonstrate how many miles members rode in one day. My chapter is sponsoring an exceptionally long ride today. Because I was out of the office almost all last week on travel, I couldn't take a day off today for fun. Plus, riding over 400 miles in a day is not something I realistically can handle. My bike could handle it fine. My body could not. I know my limits. Plus, after a weekend of skydiving and floor laying, I am sore in places of my body that I didn't know I had!

As I rolled my Harley out of the garage, I was seriously debating contributing some more miles than my usual daily ride in recognition of HOG's MMM by riding to work. I usually ride to the local Metro station and hop on the train to get to work. Metro has reopened the entire red line, which I use, and thus I would be able to get to work using it. However... I among many still have residual uncomfortable feelings about Metro's safety. But I also know that now more than ever, they are being exceptionally careful.

So I sat on my bike out in the driveway, watching the sun rise, and was having this big debate with myself. Do I want to try to find a place to park in the city? Would it be safe? Am I willing to deal with the traffic hassles, especially on my return commute? Should I show Metro support, and return to using it right away? Should I confront my anxiety head-on and return to my usual routine?

Well, I did the latter... and rode to the station, parked the bike, locked it up six ways from Sunday, covered it, and then walked to the platform.

I would say there were the usual number of riders. But none in the first car. I got on the second car, which was a 1,000-series train -- the most notorious for being the oldest and least safe in the fleet. I began debating again, deciding whether I should switch cars, when that familiar recorded voice declared, "step back, doors are closing!" I took a seat, and began to read the daily free rag to see what the Resnubrikans were railing about today. (One of the daily free rags is ultra-conservative. It's always a good idea to keep an eye on what they're saying.)

The train slowly crawled out of the station, and moved more slow than usual down the tracks. I was facing forward, and could see that there were no passengers in the first car. Throughout the trip, I didn't see anyone get on the first car.

As the train passed by the location where the wreck occurred a week ago today, it stopped, then crawled ever-so-slowly through the area, then picked up a little more speed and continued on its way.

I arrived safely at Union Station. But I have to admit that it felt weird. Should I have ridden the bike to work? Well, I made a different choice: face up to my apprehensions and try to return to my usual routine. So HOG will get only five miles from me for MMM today. That's okay, I'm sure many others will make up much more of the difference.

Life is short: face your fears.

Both Work and Fun

Whenever possible, I at least try to build in a little "fun time" between "work time" on my busy weekends. So you are looking five hours' progress on the project to lay hardwood flooring in our upstairs hallway. I started at 5am yesterday morning, and by 10, I was done with that project for the day.

I was drenched in sweat, so I took a shower. As I was drying myself, my best friend "AZ" called, and we chatted for a while about something important going on in his life. After completing the call, I changed into breeches with Dehner patrol boots -- why not? I kinda like how they look together. I hopped on my Harley and went to visit with my aunt, then went to the grocery store to pick up a few things for one of her neighbors. Dropping off the items with a smile, I got back on the bike and rode home.

I got to thinking as I was riding along that no one anywhere said a think about the boots and breeches. Not my aunt, not her neighbors, and no one in the grocery store. (Though there was a guy following me in the store who had his eye on my boots, but didn't say anything and didn't follow me out of the store.)

When I got home, I realized that I had about an hour before my partner would return from his brief trip to visit his mother, so I created a fun little video and posted it on YouTube, which you can see below.

Life is short: have a little fun when the work is done!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jumped at the Chance to Play Hookey

Yesterday, I was busy catching up on things at home after being gone almost a week on business travel. My partner is away visiting his mother, so I was tempted on such a sunny, beautiful day, to get out on my Harley and ride. Alas, my aunt required some attention, another elderly couple needed a cabinet repaired, and my usual Saturday routine of grocery shopping with the ladies wasn't to be missed.

I got home about noon, and thought that the rest of the day would be spent working on our hallway renovation project. I promised my partner I would do that. So I got out all of the tools and materials, and began the job. Then the phone rang.

A buddy was calling saying that he was in a real spot. I had sold him my old parachute and he was getting it ready to go skydiving with some mutual friends, but something wasn't right with my old 'chute. He had worked himself up into a dither. He so desperately wanted to go skydiving, but if something were wrong with the 'chute, then he would not be able to go. He sounded so disappointed and frustrated.

"You know that 'chute better than anyone. Can you fix it?"

I still wasn't sure quite what was wrong, but he sounded so desperate, I just had to go help. I decided to bring him my own parachute, so that if I weren't able to get his 'chute fixed, he could still go skydiving. I hopped on my Harley (a-ha! what an excuse to ride!) and boogeyed over to the airport. There was my friend. He had the parachute all laid out on the grass.

He jumped up and ran over to me. "I can't pack it! It won't pack!" he shrieked. This guy is a nice man, but he does get a tad excitable. Turns out that he had it all backwards. Some of the 'chute lines were tangled. We straightened them out and ensured each was free, and began to fold it. What I liked most about my old 'chute is that it practically folded itself. I wrapped the static line loosely along the top of the pack, then closed it with the pin, and voi-la, it was all ready. Nothing was wrong with it; my buddy simply had forgotten how to pack it. (Can't say that spending eight hours of training on the matter helped him that much, but that's quite another story.)

The rest of the guys showed up, and the pilot said those magic words, "hey, we've got an open spot, wanna come?"

Well, I do have all that work to do back home...


I couldn't resist. Hmmm, for some reason, I was already dressed in BDUs and jump boots. But honestly, that's what I put on to do work on the floor! Really! God's truth! (My partner would never believe me, because I usually wear old cruddy jeans and my Station Boots to do renovation work.)

We jumped three times yesterday afternoon. We didn't go very high -- just about 8,000 feet for each jump. High enough to see the surrounding area, but not so high as to spend all afternoon in freefall (LOL).

Today, I promise: I will work on that hallway project which must show significant progress before my partner arrives home about 2:00. (And either call me honest or a glutton for punishment, but I plan to tell my partner about the Saturday diversion, even if he won't be happy).

Life is short: have fun!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Traveling with Dirty Engineer Boots

Photo of my boots courtesy of Bamaboy

I flew home from Alabama yesterday. I decided to wear the Chippewa Engineer Boots that I "played" in during my visit with Bamaboy. Because it was so blasted hot, even though the boots got a bit wet, they dried quickly. The dust created a fine "dirty" patina on the boots, which attracted some attention.

One of the staff at the hotel asked me as I was leaving, "do you work construction?" She was obviously staring at my boots. I just smiled and said, "yeah, sometimes."

When I got to the airport, Bama came by to give me something I had forgotten and left in his truck (I swear, if my head weren't screwed on, it would fall off.) He also noticed the boots and gave me a compliment. LOL!

As I went through airport security, two ramp agents also were going through behind me. They both watched me take off my 17" Chippewa Engineers, put them in a plastic tray and send them through the x-ray. On the other end, I sat down to put them on. They both sat next to me to tie their work boots and each said, "nice boots!" One asked me where I got them, and I was happy to refer them to Stompers. These are the non-steel toe variety, which are light on the feet and feel great.

As I walked down the hall, a shoe-shine guy looked at my boots and said, "I can clean those up for you! Have a seat." I politely declined by saying, "Man, I like 'em this way!"

I wandered down to the gate, and caught up on the news on the TV. An older gentleman sat down next to me. He looked at my boots, then at me, and said, "do you ride a bike?" We talked for a while about motorcycle riding. Turns out he was a motorcycle racing team member back in the day. I enjoyed our conversation -- initiated by the boots.

I boarded the small regional jet, and actually slept all the way to Charlotte. The connection was quick; no waiting. I read a book on the way home to BWI. While I was waiting for the parking shuttle at my home airport, a guy walked up to me and said, "man, those boots are cool! What kind are they?" I had a short but pleasant chat, with yet another referral to Stompers.

Dirty boots seem to get a lot of attention. It's what guys wear!

See the full gallery of photos from our visit on my website, here.

Life is short: wear your boots!

Friday, June 26, 2009


Bamaboy's Chips, left; BHD's Chips, right

Greetings from Alabama. The meeting I helped to lead ended mid-day yesterday, and after that, I hung out with a buddy who goes by the screen name "Bamaboy." Yep, that's right: the real, the honest-to-goodness muddy-booted photo genius himself. I have had the great pleasure of getting to know him and developing a fond friendship.

Bama must have read my previous blog post about how I get lost easily. He sent me a hand-drawn map, showing the precise route from the airport to the hotel where I am staying, as well as the conference facility where my meeting was held. He offered and followed through in very tangible ways to make my visit enjoyable.

We had a nice lunch, and talked about a lot of things. We share similar outlooks on life and what's important: honesty, integrity, commitment to family, and loyalty to friends.

After lunch, we went on a mud-hunt. All we could find was dust! The places where Bama thought there might be mud were all dried up due to lack of rain and very hot temperatures drying the soil.

So we splashed up some water and got some dust on the boots in dried-up mud spots while laughing a lot. Bama is a great guy with a wicked-funny sense of humor. I truly enjoyed our visit, even though the mud wasn't around. The company is what mattered most. I very much appreciate his time, friendship, and fun. How truly wonderful it was to have had the pleasure of enjoying his southern charm and hospitality.

Life is short: combine business and pleasure when you can!

Photo by Bamaboy of BHD kickin' up a splash

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Home Renovation: Phase I Update

Last weekend was busy, as usual. I haven't shown yet the most recent progress on the flooring project of our upstairs hallway. Here it is!

We are making slow but steady progress. The flooring goes down fairly easily. The only hitch I have run into is that occasionally a board must be nailed into place (to keep it from sliding) and the cheap Chinese-made nails I am using bend while being hammered into place.

Hammer? Whazzat? Don't you use a nail gun?

Sure, I have a nail gun -- a pretty good one, as a matter of fact. It nailed our house together. But it's big, cumbersome, and heavy. If I have to nail one finishing nail every now-and-then, I will use a hammer instead of getting that big bulky thing out, making all that noise, etc.

The progress is slowed on our renovation work due to my partner's health issues (resolved now) and some travel that takes me away for a few days. But it will get done... steady and surely.

Life is short: do your own renovations!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Welcome to My Blog, Wesco

Apparently a search tool triggered a visit to this blog by someone at the West Coast Shoe Company of Scappoose, Oregon, USA. The visit was from my tongue-in-cheek post about people who add an apostrophe to a singular word to make it plural, as in "I have ten pairs of Wescos" (note, no apostrophe, I can't do it.)

Ten pairs, say you? Wow... that's alot. (Check 'em out). Yep, I have had some of them for 30 years, and some were acquired much more recently. They are rugged as a rock, and
hold up to all sorts of wear and tear. But that's how the boots are advertised, and live up to their reputation as the "boots that can take the gaff." Sure can.

I do not wear my Wesco boots during the hot and humid days of summer. Just won't work. They are made of the thickest leather and my later Wescos are all leather lined. That just makes the boots too heavy and hot to wear during typical Washington summers.

But I do wear those boots often while riding my Harley in the Autumn, Winter, and Spring. The boots present a commanding appearance, work exceptionally well for motorcycling, and are comfortable. I should mention that all of my Wescos since my first few pairs are made custom to my size. That's really the only way to get tall Wesco boots to fit right, and then be
worth the investment.

Would I get any more Wesco boots? Probably not ... I mean, really, ten pairs is enough. But would I sell any? Well, maybe. I'm thinkin' about it... I have two pairs that just don't fit me any more, and they may find a better home with someone else.

Meanwhile, I welcome visitors from the West Coast Shoe Company, and commend the hard-working Bootmakers of the company for their fine craftsmanship. It is one of those rare companies where its reputation lives up to its product, each and every time.

Life is short: enjoy your Wescos!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

We're Okay

(Photo source: wtop news)

Many around the world have heard that Washington's Metro subway system had a horrible crash, which occurred on Monday, June 22, at 5:02pm local time. As of the time I am writing this blog post, it has been reported that nine people have died, with dozens more who were seriously injured. We do not know anyone among those who died or were injured, but our hearts and prayers go to them and their loved-ones.

I have received a number of telephone calls and emails from family and friends checking on me and my partner. Both of us are regular Metro red line users for our daily commutes to and from the city from our home in Maryland.

I was on the red line about an hour before the crash happened. My partner was about a half-hour behind me. It should be noted that the crash happened in the opposite direction from our travel.

We're fine. Thanks much to my buddies from the BOL Board who, in particular, have been checking in. Despite some of the drama queens who inhabit that Board, most of the guys who use it are caring, thoughtful, gentlemen.

Our commutes today will be different -- mine will be to an airport where I will begin a business trip down south. I dropped my partner off at the Metro station on the opposite side of the red line loop, which they say is running. They are still investigating the crash, and have closed the Metro red line in the crash area, which is between the station we ordinarily use and downtown.

I am deeply appreciative for the calls from my close friends and my siblings. I also am thankful for all the email -- even from people who I have not had the pleasure of meeting in person yet. Goes to show that there are a lot of great people out there, who think of others and express their concern in thoughtful ways. That's what life is all about: demonstrating that you care.

Life is short: show those you love that you love them.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bad Biker Boots

In the old style of '50s bad-a** bikers who wore engineer boots, those are the boots I chose to wear yesterday when I led a short motorcycle ride. These are my old and very comfy 17" Chippewa Engineer boots. I have had them for over a decade. They have been through mud, crud, and have come back for more.

I wore them with jeans over. I don't always wear jeans inside my boots. Actually, when I wear traditional blue jeans, I wear them over whatever boots I choose to wear that day. If I want to wear boots outside my clothing, then I choose a pair of breeches, such as what motorcops wear, and pull on tall cop boots over them.

Yesterday's ride on Maryland's backroads and byways was organized for some of us who just wanted to get out for a little bit, orient new riders to the process of safe group riding, and have some fun. The weather was pleasant (and thank goodness the clouds didn't tinkle through the ride, though it was sprinkling at dawn). Riding with your buddies is a great way to relax, and after this past week I sure needed it!

Life is short: ride and have fun!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Four generations

Family means so much to me. Pictured, left to right: me, my lovely 94-year-old aunt for whom I care regularly, and her grandson with his daughter, my aunt's first and only great grandchild. Her grandson came all the way from California to visit with his Grandma. This was the first time my aunt has ever seen her great granddaughter in person, with all the energy that a 3-year-old brings to life. We had a great time, and the light in my aunt's eyes was such a delight to see.

I am so very blessed. Gen 1: my father's siblings; gen 2: my siblings and first cousins; gen 3: my first cousin once removed; gen 4: my first cousin twice removed. That's what it is called in genealogical terms.

While my aunt's son, father of her grandson, was not here for this visit, he has been here before, and even went for a ride with me on my Harley! A warm heart, great soul, fond friend.
Life is short: show those you love that you love them.

The Big Emergency

This past week you have been reading auto-blogs. That is, messages written and posted for display on this blog well in advance of their appearance. This message, however, is recent; I wrote it just last night, to display this morning.

The week deteriorated on Wednesday where my partner realized that he had a prescription medicine mix-up. He received two meds on June 11 for a skin infection on his foot. He took the meds as directed. He ran out of one of them rather quickly, and had it refilled on June 16. We noticed that the pills in the second bottle did not match the pills in the first. He began to shake and he became, let's say, "quite upset."

I took all of the bottles back to the pharmacy. The head pharmacist admitted that they erred, in that they put the pills for two different meds in the wrong bottles. The unfortunate result was that my partner overdosed on one med, since it was prescribed at 3x/day, when he should only have been taking it 1x/day. At the urging of his physician, off to the emergency room we went for urgent blood tests and a liver test.

My partner does not handle medical emergencies well, especially when he is the center of the emergency. I advocated for him throughout the process, and took care of his needs. Thank goodness for Maryland's progressive laws, as I never once had to have an argument with anyone about my role in looking after my partner's needs, or receiving information from medical professionals about his condition.

Fortunately, the overdose was not of a medication that could do long-term harm, nor produced bad side-effects. The situation was more of a scare than anything else -- but it could have been much worse. Some have asked if we are going to sue the pharmacy. Our response is, "why?" They admitted the error, paid for the emergency room visit, and disciplined the pharmacist who made the error. The State Pharmacy Board is also investigating. While we likely have a "good case," a resulting punitive award just would spike the cost of medical care in the long-run. We aren't out to make money out of this. We just want things to quiet down and for my partner to be okay. He's okay; just frightened.

Anyway, I'll be back to blogging more actively now that my partner is okay and I can begin to get back to a more usual multi-tasking routine. This past week was rough, but we survived.

Life is short: read the package inserts!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

It's Not Wesco's!

I was just reading a blog that amuses me. It is called Apostrophe Abuse. Its tag line states, "Links and visuals illustrating an orthographic pet peeve."

I continue to be annoyed but try not to let it bug me (too much) by the number of educated adults who add an apostrophe and an "s" to make a word plural.

No joke, here is something from an email that I received the other day:
I want to thank the volunteer's who helped out at the (event) last week. We had a great showing! Thank's also to the RC's who led ride's.
Or this one:
I have always wanted a pair of Wesco's. Those boots are cool. I have some questions about Wesco's.
Worst but funniest example yet:
Its a good picture of your Wesco's. I like it's composition.
Okay, enough already. The plural of Wesco is Wescos. That's it. I have many boots made by Wesco. I refer to them as "My Wescos" or "My Wesco boots".

We will not be able to take adults back to elementary school to learn the simplest of lessons about what an apostrophe does in the English language. Primary uses are either to indicate possessive form of a word (This blog is BHD's Musings) or a contraction, such as it's a nice invitation but I can't get away since I have much to write about the abuse of the written English language.

Think of it this way: if you would not write boot's as in I like to wear boots, then you do not need an apostrophe in the phrase, those are great looking Wescos!

The examples above were written by people who were born and educated (?) in the United States (who should know better.) I am forgiving of typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors from those who write to me from other countries where English is not the primary language.

But theres no 'scuse for Merkuns to get it so rong so offen.

Life is short: dump the apostrophes!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Green Savings

I opened our bill from the power company the other day. The bill for the month of May is always our lowest, as we are usually able to refrain from using air conditioning (yet). With longer day length, we do not need to turn on lights for more than about an hour before we go to bed at night.

However, I was pleasantly surprised when I read past the gobble-de-gook to the bottom line of the bill to see that the power company owes us $55.24. That's right, our "bill" was a credit instead of a charge.

Eleven years ago, almost to the day, I was building our house. We had finished the framing and had the roofing rafters installed when the solar panels got delivered. It was still months before they would be installed, so I recall figuring out a location of where to store them securely until it was time to do the installation.

I had researched what application would be best for a residential setting at our latitude. I bartered the installation for electrical work on another guy's house and by September that year, the system was working.

Generally, the solar panels produce enough electricity to provide adequate power for our household's ordinary needs, such as for the refrigerator, freezer, clocks, and some (fluorescent) lighting at night. When our power demands are greater than that, such as when we need to have the air conditioning turned on, then we draw power from the grid. But in those weeks with cool weather and long days, our system actually produces more power than we use, and our meter runs backwards. That's right, we sell our excess power back to the power company. The company is required by law to pay us for the value of the kilowatts of power produced over demand.

Most months of May, we still incur a bill, though it is low. This was the first time that prolonged cool weather (since it has rained so much) with long days resulted in a huge credit. While my neighbors are griping about their electric bills being so high, we're basking in the glow of a wise decision to install solar when we built the house.

Let me tell you, installing an active residential solar power system is not for the faint of heart nor is it cheap. We figure that even with tax credits and other government incentives provided at the time of installation, it took about seven years for us to realize enough savings on our electric bill to pay for the added cost of installing the solar panels and hooking it all up. As an electrician, let me tell you, the hookup was incredibly complex. However, we are happy with our decision, and have the "greenest" house in the neighborhood! (Kinda goes well with our green lawn LOL!)

Life is short: go green!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

When Coming Out Does Not Work

Last week at the grocery store, I bumped into someone who I remember being close to in Junior High and High School. She got married almost immediately after high school graduation, and moved with her husband out of state. She never came back for high school reunions. I had not seen her since we both were 17 years old.

When we recognized each other, we smiled and said hello. It was evident that we both were in a bit of a hurry, so we exchanged contact information and promised to follow up.

That evening, I sent her an email. I brought her up-to-date since high school graduation. I mentioned the names of some of our mutual friends and what I knew about how they were doing. I also said that I had built a house and settled down with my partner, and explained that we had been together 16 years now, are happy, and are going strong. I also remember that her mother and mine had gotten to know each other, so I asked about her Mom and sadly explained that mine had died.

Two days later, I received a reply, which surprised and deeply disappointed me. At first, she caught me up on her life and family, including the status of her Mom (who has Alzheimer's) in one paragraph. Then in five subsequent paragraphs, she ranted about my being gay, and said things like "when did you go do that?" and "why?" and then railed all the anti-gay quotes from the Bible. She explained that she had become Christian, and that she wanted to "save me."

Oh please... it's obvious that she has become brainwashed from what she has been taught to believe. It's so sad, too, because when I knew her, I thought she had a fairly open mind. Not now....

I replied by saying this:

Thanks for your message. I've been gay since I was born, but did not realize it until I was in college. I did not "become" gay, I was born that way. If you can not accept it, then I'm sorry. I live a solid life with a man I love deeply, and who loves me. We work, we care for our families and do civic work in the community. We're no different from any other couple who loves one another.

Then I signed my name and that was that... and I have not heard from her again.

By serendipity, a very similar situation happened to my best friend, AZ, who got in contact with his former third grade girlfriend, who replied to his catch-up email with a similar response to the one that I received. So sad... so disappointing.

What's really sad to me is that people who call themselves Christians tend to act the most hateful toward anyone who is not like them, especially toward people who are gay. This contradiction in the teachings of the Bible is beyond me. But I know I am not the only one who has pondered this irony. You're take?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What a View!

Some days I just love my job! Tuesday was an inspirational day.

Photo above: my transportation. Behind it: Ft. McHenry, the fort that was attacked by Royal Navy ships during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. It was this battle, witnessed by Francis Scott Key, that inspired him to write a poem titled "Defence of Fort McHenry," later named The Star Spangled Banner when it was set to music and became the U.S. National Anthem in 1931.

Photo above courtesy of a colleague.

Photo below: among the sights I saw, our Maryland Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Should I or Shouldn't I?

You have all seen them... the bikers with the patches that indicate affiliation with a club or (h) chapter on the back of their jackets. Even me -- I have an old leather jacket that has (h) chapter patches on the back.

BTW, I am not allowed to say what [h] stands for on this blog, but if you really want to know, write to me and I'll explain.

I have been saving for a while, and have decided before the cooler, Fall weather sets in, to get myself a real honest-to-goodness Langlitz Columbia Jacket, as described here. Yep, it's time to move up to the best leather jacket for bikers that the world has to offer.

I had a long conversation with Dave Langlitz the other day about whether he could have patches sewn onto my jacket when it is made. Yes, he said, he could have that done. But he also gave me some information that caused me to re-think that option.

He said that it is likely that the jacket will outlive me -- and that it could not be sold on the used market with patches sewn on it. He also said that if in the unforeseen circumstance that the jacket is made for me but it didn't fit, he could not re-make another jacket since the first one had patches on it.

Dave further suggested that perhaps I have the patches applied to a vest, and wear the vest over the jacket. Then if I wanted to go somewhere without the patches showing, I could just take the vest off. However, considering the bulk of the jacket, a vest on top of that and on my body would make me look like the Abominable Leatherman. This really isn't an option for me.

My partner suggested that I have the patches applied to a solid but thin piece of leather which I could attach to the back of the jacket with snaps. He further suggested that I consider using another thin piece of leather for the patches that go down the front right side that face forward, and snap it on as well. Snap-on- snap-off.

Knowing myself, I wear my old jacket with patches regularly, and haven't really had an occasion where I did not want to have patches on it. For example, I don't go into gay bars (anymore, but even if I did, I wouldn't wear that jacket. I have others.) From knowing how and when I wear my old jacket, I know that I would likely get a lot of use out of the new one if patches were on it. However, that does not negate the diminution of the resale value of the jacket down the road.

Should I or shouldn't I? I conducted a poll on this blog, and it came out rather evenly divided. Oh well, I'll figure it all out eventually.

Life is short: get the best gear and wear it!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Gorgeous Ride

Everything came together today, including time for a long motorcycle ride with some buddies. The temperature was perfect -- low 80s (27°C) with a very low dew point, so it did not feel sticky. And it finally stopped raining! The work on our home renovation needed to take a pause. My aunt and a few others I check on regularly are doing well, so it's time to RIDE!

We rode on Maryland's twisty and hilly byways through three counties (though it seemed like more) to the Antietam Battlefield. The scenery was spectacular, with the sun filtering through the tall trees, and (most) all you heard was the thundering roar of the Harleys in front of you. I rode mid-pack, which is a comfortable place to be. Not in charge out front, not in the rear safety position -- just out f
or a ride with fellow safe riders as we prepare to lead this ride again for visitors to a rally in a few weeks.

For visitors to this blog from outside the U.S., Antietam is an historic location, now turned into a national park. The battle that occurred here on September 17, 1862, was the first on "northern" soil in the U.S. Civil War, and was the bloodiest single-day battle in U.S. history, ever. It is located near the town of Sharpsburg.

I so much enjoyed getting out and shaking the dust off my Chippewa Firefighter boots (which are my most favourite to wear on a long ride when the weather is warm). I got a little sun (though sunscreen blocked the burn) and put 160 miles on my trusty Road King. It truly was a very special day.

Life is short: let's get booted and ride!

Oh Yeah, It's Pride

Happy Gay Pride Week in DC. I had almost forgotten about it. Well, actually, I keep up with the news and knew that this past week was Gay Pride Week, but it's really not a big deal for my partner and me. In fact, the only reason why we went into the city on the culminating weekend of Gay Pride Week in 2007 is when my friend Larry (of hotboots.com fame) was visiting. We joined some other guys for a rather poorly-attended "hotboots" party at a now defunct bar in the city.

Honestly, there are many other things that we would rather be doing today than go into the city and mill around with tens of thousands of LGBT people and their supporters. There's something about gay pride festivals that draws out the queeniest of queens whose actions and statements (when shown on TV) demonstrate the stereotypes that straight people perceive about gay people. It just kinda makes me nauseous. And since my partner is the recluse's recluse, he would much rather be anywhere alone than surrounded by all those people.

Later today, a group of us will saddle up on our trusty throbbing motors and head out to the Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland, on beautiful back roads all the way. This break was earned after more work on our home's hallway renovation project yesterday. Uggghhhh.... but I digress.

Why not attend the Gay Pride festival? ...Been there, done that, got the sunburn. It truly is much too intense for us. Plus, it's not an event where I would expect to see many people I know. My social circle is pretty much "suburbanite home-body."

Further, we have no need to go to an event to surround ourselves with gay people so we can be "who we are." Heck, we are who we are all the time, regardless. We live openly in an accepting atmosphere both where we work and at home, as well as in the community where I volunteer quite a bit. It's not necessary for us to go to a Pride event because we're already out, 365/24/7.

Some guys have told me that they like to go to the Pride festival so they can check out other guys or be entertained. Well, not us. I am not interested in checking out other guys when the best one is by my side. The entertainment at Pride festivals does not suit our tastes; I can live without the bunga-bunga-bunga throbbing noise played loudly at gay events. The throbbing noise I like best is that of my Harley (LOL!).

I anticipate that I will be home from my motorcycle ride in time to grill dinner out on the deck, fill a tall glass with ice water, put my boots up and sit with the man of my life while we watch the sun slowly sink behind the trees in our forest. That's the life. Far more quiet, peaceful, and certainly much less intense and dramatic. Ahhhhh....

Life is short: know that you can have pride in being who you are without having to attend a once-a-year festival to display it.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Balance: The Company You Keep

If you define balance by the company you keep, then look no further than my sphere of influentials. They truly are the ones who balance my life. They keep me sane, focused, involved, and loved. Who are these life-balancers?
  • My wonderful partner: He stands with me in life and has profoundly improved the "me" I have become. I can not say enough about his qualities of faithfulness, caring, integrity, and ... (this is a G-rated blog.)

  • A great family: a large raucous bunch who treat their little brother with respect, dignity, graciousness, and lots of love. Yet they never let my head grow too big; they're very good about keeping me grounded.

  • My twin brother: He is in every sense of the word my "bestest friend" and soulmate. We are different men. He loves to wear suits, ties, and dress shoes and I can't stand those things. Other than that, he's pretty cool. (smile).

  • My eighth brother, "AZ": He has done so much to pull himself up by his bootstraps and live well where he is now in his life. I admire him so much, for all he does for and with so many. He helps to balance my life by reminding me to take care of me.

  • My 94-year-old aunt: She is a warm, wonderful woman who I love dearly, and care for regularly. Her memory is lacking, but her charm is endearing.

  • A circle of close friends. I am afraid that if I tried to name all of them, I would forget to mention some, which wouldn't be right. Let's suffice it to say that I am richly blessed with caring, thoughtful, and generous friends who keep me safe, sane, grounded, and who help me in ways too numerous to count. There are those I have known my entire life and some I have met more recently. They listen, they love, they care, and I am indebted to them beyond what mere words can describe.

  • Senior buds: they get regular attention and give it back. They have opened my eyes to so many things and help me to remember that life truly can be joyful if we want to make it be that way.

  • Fellow motorcycle riders: they give me a chance to have a break from the chores and endless errands to get out and enjoy the scenery and camaraderie of fellow enthusiasts.
To have a balanced life, one has to surround himself with the best people who won't be afraid to tell you when you're getting out of whack, when something could be done better, when you need to be grounded, or who will give you that occasional "attaboy" when you've done something good. They stand by your side through thick and thin, and love 'ya all the same. They never get catty, dramatic, or nasty when providing advice or ideas.

I truly believe that my life is indeed well-balanced because of the company I choose to keep. After all...

Life is short: let those you love show they love you (and love 'em back!)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Balance: Life Activities

My fellow blogger buddy, Tef, pointed out in a post on his blog on June 11 about how he is taking some time to do some things that he enjoys during a prolonged break, which he titled "recuperation." He described that doing these things helps to bring balance to his life, and keeps him sane. He described content of my blog posts and stated that I have a balanced life. Thanks, man, what a compliment! I am honored, truly.

Sometimes I really wonder how balanced my life is. I presume it depends on how one defines "balance."

If you define balance by looking at the variety of things that I do and the people with whom I interact, then I guess you can say that my life is fairly well-balanced.

I have a full-time management position with a well-respected non-profit organization based in Washington, DC. The work challenges me every day, and requires superb skills of balancing time and schedules, responsiveness to staff, and tedium with financial accounting. But I love it. Great place to work, great staff, terrific intellectual stimulation.

But wait... there's more! My life outside of work is, um, "rather full."

Being involved in my community as a civic leader has defined, at least for me, what "civic duty" means. It is not always fun. It sometimes is tedious and tiring. It has taught me how to remain calm and build consensus. Ultimately, this volunteer work makes our home, our community, and our state a better place to live, work, raise a family, and enjoy life.

Caring for seniors is a joy, not a responsibility. Sure, there are times I feel overwhelmed or stretched, but I look at it this way: isn't it nice to be in demand? Tools and smiles are on the way....

Keeping up our home and the rental properties I own is a non-ending set of ongoing tasks. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by that, too, but it all works out, eventually, even with competing demands for my time.

Blogging, maintaining my websites, reading (yes, I actually do read real books, at least one a week), playing political wonk, etc., etc., occupy a lot of my time as well. These activities also bring balance my life through diversity of activities.

Getting a chance to go swimming or for a long walk does not happen nearly as much as it should, but I enjoy those activities as well.

Writing letters to elected officials, public agencies, and private companies to lodge concerns, complaints, or suggest actions is something I do often. Call me "rent-a-kvetch," where the rent is free for the satisfaction of resolving a pesky problem or advocating for a good idea.

In summary, I presume that one can say that my life is balanced, while others may say that it is out of control. However you measure it, I often think to myself (and discuss this with my partner and brother) that the activities I do are not to win affection nor to win titles or certificates of achievement, but rather to exercise what is to me a very spiritual thing: to provide service without expectation of reward or compensation. That's my "life calling," as taught to me by my parents, demonstrated to me by them and my mentors, supported by my partner, and carried out by me each day.

Life is short: show those you love that you love them, and remember to smile each time you do! ... and tune in tomorrow to this same blog channel for the second in the series on balance: people!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

You're Talkin' To the Wrong Guy

On Saturday, I spent a good bit of time at the destination of a motorcycling fundraiser activity organized by my club. I rode my Harley there, and was dressed "traditional biker" -- meaning I was wearing jeans, t-shirt, Chippewa Wildland Firefighter boots, and my leather vest with patches on it related to the club. I looked like any other biker/club member.

I guess because it looked like I knew what was going on or that I was in charge (I wasn't, but perhaps at the time I may have been giving directions on setting up the grilling station), a visitor walked up to me with a buxom brunette. He said that he had opened a franchise of a restaurant in a local strip shopping center, and that on Monday nights at 8pm, he would be offering specials on wings and beer, served by fine young ladies like her (pointing to his companion.) He explained that he was trying to appeal to the biker market and wanted my club's help in patronizing his establishment.

Okay, I can understand that. The economy still sucks and fewer people are eating out. He knows that a competitive restaurant that uses an owl symbol for a logo and the owl's call in its name has a "bike night" every Thursday night, so he wants to get in on the action.

What he didn't realize is that he was talking to a guy who doesn't eat out, who doesn't stay up late (defined as after 9pm), who doesn't drink alcohol, who is gay, and who finds that owl place distasteful and won't patronize it.

I tried to be nice, but when he persisted to ask if I personally would come to his "bike night" next Monday night, I first said, "well, no; it's too late." I explained that for me, 8pm is just too late. I also explained that appealing to responsible motorcyclists by offering reduced prices on beer is not such a good idea. A responsible biker will avoid drinking alcohol if he will be riding his bike, such as back home.

The franchise owner thought about it and said, "that makes sense. How about if I offer $2 pitchers of soft drinks and hot wings served by (the girl with him), would you come then?"

Ummm... no. I'm not really interested. As I said, I just don't like to go out after work. And I can't eat spicy food. It doesn't agree with me. But that's just me. My diet is strange.

But the guy persisted... "we really need your business, and you can have fun being entertained by (the buxom babe.)"

I finally had enough. I smiled at him and said, "look, I'm gay. I am really not interested."

The franchise owner's jaw dropped, but I have to give him credit for not saying something stupid. He just said, "well, can't blame a guy for tryin'." Good response! I told him that I appreciated what he was doing and although what he was promoting isn't something that I was personally interested in, I would still be happy to let others in the club know about it. He said thanks and he and his companion went on their way.

Hmmm... this masculine gay man has done it again -- broken stereotypes without even trying.

Life is short: be the man you are, and enjoy life!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Smilin' Biker

I am always a sucker for a smile on anyone, but especially my family and friends. Recently, I "accused" my buddy Clay of not smiling in a series of photos he had posted on the Internet. I have seen his smile before, so I kidded with him about being so serious.

The same day this email exchange was bantering back and forth between us and among some other buddies, I had to go on some quick visits to some of my senior buds after work. It was pleasant, so I used my Harley to go on these visits, dressed as shown. Quarterly estimated income tax payments are due soon, so it was time to help my friends make out the checks and get their respective payments in the mail to Uncle Sam and the state.

To each and every senior bud I visited, I shared a huge warm smile and a hug. One of them made me laugh by saying with a return grin, "I never saw anyone who was always so happy -- and even when paying taxes, yet!"

When I got home from these visits, I asked my partner to take a picture of me. I especially wore a big smile. It was my intention to hold the photo to post for Clay sometime. But he beat me to it with a series of very nice photos, all of him with huge grins that he said that I inspired. Bless him.

I am glad that I coaxed a smile out of him. He is a warm, thoughtful, and humourous man who I am proud to call my "booted twin."
The smile I am wearing in this photo is for him, and for all others who I know and don't know.

Remember what I quote often, by H. Jackson Brown: Today, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day.

And here's another one I recently found that I like:

A smile is the light in the window of your face that tells people you're at home.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Childish Antics

Every now-and-then, I like to put on a uniform. I am not a sworn peace officer, so I don't wear such an outfit around my community. In the past, I may have worn it to a fetish event. Nowadays, I wear it at home sometimes and have fun with my partner.

Like all my other leather gear and uniforms, photos of me in this uniform are on my website. These pages on my website are mature. That is, they have been there for several years. So enter "CHP Uniform" into Google or any other search engine, and the page on my website comes up rather high in the rankings.

Trouble is, there are some people who stumble upon my page on my website and either don't understand, or behave stupidly when they see it. For example, last week someone who frequents a forum having to do with handguns posting a link to the CHP Uniform page on my website. While he didn't say much, the replies he got indicated to me that there remain a lot of very childish people who are active with these forums, and say all sorts of silly things.

Well, I have three responses to that:

1. Sticks-and-stones ... just as I learned in grade school, this phrase still applies to adults who act as if they are still in grade school. Your names will not hurt me, and if you think you're being funny, I feel very sorry for you. (One even ridiculed Diversity training -- it's obvious that such training does not work for some people.)

2. I am a confident, masculine gay man. Just as I wrote in a blog post last December, I still feel that confident and masculine gay men still scare straight men. They can't figure us out, so they pick on us and say silly things because they lack self-confidence and are insecure.

3. I have temporarily relocated my CHP Uniform page on my website. I'll wait until the kiddies who linked to it grow tired of not finding the page then I will bring it back to where it was. Meanwhile, if you looked on my website for my CHP Uniform page and ended up on the Stompers Boots website, either buy a pair of boots from Mike or be patient and check back later.

Why people who are supposedly mature adults have to behave this way is beyond my comprehension. Oh well, I know the risks I take with such an active presence on the internet. I live with it and move on. Life is too short to let childish antics and name-calling bother me.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Home Renovation: Phase 1

Renovation of the upstairs hallway in our home is under way. Nine days ago, my partner accidentally ruined the carpet that once covered the hallway wall-to-wall.

Rather that just replace the carpeting, which would be far too simple and not take enough time, we decided to install hardwood flooring instead.

Over the next few weeks, this will be our project. Before we began to work on the floor, my partner and I repainted the walls and baseboard. We did that last week. While I was away on travel last week, my partner (ever the perfectionist) repainted the walls two more times.

Yesterday, we tore up the old carpet and padding. We also worked carefully to remove old carpet tack strips that were against both walls. Then we pulled up staples that were embedded in the underlayment (plywood flooring underneath.)

The dark gray area on the right in this photo is an area that I had to float with a compound that brought the floor back to being level. Over time, that spot had developed a dip, so I fixed it before we put flooring back over it. I also carefully walked all over the hall to check for areas that squeaked. When I found a squeaky area, I screwed the flooring in that area onto the rafters underneath. The floor squeaketh no more.

We took the old carpet, padding, and other junk to the dump. That's my partner's rule: create debris, and get rid of it. Don't let it stick around nor accumulate. When we got back, we cleaned the floor carefully, to prepare it for the next step: applying the engineered wood flooring product. Check back for another blog update soon on how we're doing.

Life is short: wear your boots (while you work! I wore Chippewa Engineer Boots in the morning and Wesco Harness Boots in the afternoon.)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Grillin' in Boots and Leather

Here I am, grilling dinner out on our deck in boots and leather last evening. It was quite pleasant about dinnertime (6pm). Considering it had been raining for several days, it was especially nice to get outside to cook and eat dinner. The temperature was perfect for lightweight leather pants and a pair of patrol boots.

Funny, I spent most of the day yesterday grilling. Instead of leading a ride for my club (since I get lost in a paper bag), I went to the final destination in the morning and helped fellow club members prepare for and grill the dogs and burgers for the participants in the ride. I left in the early afternoon to get home in time to do some chores around our house.

I prepare a home-cooked dinner every night, since my partner and I prefer to eat at home. When it is not raining, I usually prepare our meals on the grill on the deck off the kitchen. I have gotten pretty good at grilling vegetables (peppers, carrots, potatoes, corn, squash and zucchini -- all veggies my partner loves) in addition to various meats on the grill. Then we eat outside, talk about life, our plans and dreams, and watch the sun slowly sink behind the trees.

Life is short: wear your boots and leather!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Memories From More Retired Boots

You are seeing the heel of a Corcoran Field Boot. I decided to put these boots on with a pair of tactical police pants last week to see how they went together. I had forgotten how comfortable these boots really were.

An hour later, my partner asked, "what are all those black things on the floor?" I looked, and notice that the heel on my left boot was crumbling apart. Day-yum!

I don't quite know what it is, but this is the second pair of military boots I have owned that have had a rubber heel crumble. The first pair whose heels crumbled were Bates "Floataway" Patatrooper Parade Boots. Now these!

There is a type of rubber product between the heel plate and the bottom of the sole that apparently dried out and as soon as I put weight on it by walking, it just crumbed apart. So once again, I have another non-functionable pair of boots.

I spoke with a friend who is a cobbler, and he is familiar with the boot and this situation. He said that he could not resole the boots due to the way they are made, and advised to throw them away. Are you sure? Yep. Day-yum!

While I wore these Corcoran Field Boots on a number of skydives, these weren't the boots I had on when I achieved my record, so they don't have a particular significance other than being darned comfortable boots. Tell 'ya the truth, much more comfortable than traditional Corcoran II jump boots.

My favorite memory while wearing this particular pair of boots is really a funny story. I was skydiving near Sacramento (California, USA) on a windy day. I was able to control my chute and land on dry land, but my fellow skydiving buddies landed in a rice paddy. I went to look for them and when I found them, they were sunk in muddy, wet goo and holding their arms high in the air. They were being held at gunpoint by a farmer. The farmer was from Vietnam, and must have had flashbacks at seeing guys in Camo landing by parachute on his land. We negotiated our way out of that situation, and laughed about it for years after.

These boots are gone, but not forgotten. I wonder now what other of my military boots are going to fall apart next....

Life is short: wear your boots (as long as the soles aren't crumbling!)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Shooter Booted

I got home from a conference I had been attending about an hour before my partner came home yesterday, so I thought I would try to update my website by taking some pictures of a pair of boots that I bought while on a business trip to Kansas City in early May.

Darn, though, it was raining. Oh well, the boots got a little wet on the outside, but withstood the rain just fine.

These are Boulet Shooter Boots. They are 18" tall and are very comfortable. I posted a page about these boots here on my website.

Now, if I can only find the time to take pictures of another pair of Tony Lama cowboy boots I bought on that trip. Can't do it when my partner is around as his list of "honey-do" projects is unending. Updating my website is never on his list, and I can't manage to get anything else done when he's on his mission with his lists. (smile).

However, this is the longest length of time between acquiring a new pair of boots and having time to take pictures and post them on my website that has passed since I created my website. Oh well, it will all get done, eventually.

Life is short: wear your boots!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Memorable Boots Retired

These are my old Harley Harness boots. I have owned them for about 20 years. They were the most comfortable boots I had in my collection. I wore them as work boots.

My memories of these boots and what I was doing while wearing them include:
  • renovating most of my properties

  • building our house

  • mowing the lawn -- about a zillion times

  • doing lots of dirty-work out in the yard
I was wearing these boots when I was replacing the wiring in my mother-in-law's house on Memorial Day weekend. After a few hours, my left heel was aching. That was unusual. I took the boot off, and noticed a big hole in my sock and some blood on it. I discovered that I had worn the inside of the boot so far down that the nails that hold the heel onto the sole were poking out. The skin on the heel of my foot had been cut.

I changed boots, of course. No Bootman worth is salt would travel with only one pair of boots.

These old favorite boots are not possible to save. I tried putting in a gel insole, only to discover that the nails tore it up. I tried to hammer the nail heads back down, but couldn't get a hammer inside the bottom of the boot (and believe me, I tried!)

I have to tell 'ya, I am very unhappy to have to "retire" these boots. I can't throw them away. I am thinking of bronzing them. These boots have been on my feet for some of the hardest work I have ever done. My fondest memories while wearing them is that I had them on most days when I was building our house. Another fond memory of when I had them on is when my partner carried me over the threshold into our house when we moved in.

My partner thinks I'm nuts to get all nostalgic over an old pair of boots. He told me just to throw them out. I can't quite do that, so I've hidden them away... for now.

Life is short: wear your boots!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Profound Effect of a Blog

I am at a federal government training facility this week. The statue in this picture is here on campus. It is moving and inspirational. (Sorry for the lack of picture quality; I still am not on board with this Blackberry thing).

I come here about twice a year to co-teach a course that I helped to write years ago, and have updated from time to time. It is a challenging and intellectually stimulating course, and fun to teach. I happen to be here this time to attend and speak at a national conference being held here. It's enjoyable to come up here and see people (facility management and training course managers) I have known over many years.

As I was sitting with one of my colleagues during a bit of down time, he said that he had noticed a change in me that he liked. He said he noticed that change the last time he saw me (last fall), but didn't say anything then. His comment was that I am clearly relaxed, happy, and seem to smile much more than ever. He said that I laugh often, and teach with renewed energy and passion. His question to me was, "what happened?"

Well, it's like this. Five years ago I was in a job that once was enjoyable and fun, and made me feel highly productive and valued. I was generally a happy guy, but often I would let daily stresses show themselves by how I acted. I was sometimes short, sometimes pompous, sometimes "Mr.-know-it-all."

Then things took a real bad turn for the worse due to a re-organization. 18 years of fun were destroyed in one horrible year of sadness. I had become the most miserable, unhappy person. I would come home from work and chop my partner's head off with negative, angry retorts. I was very hard to be around. I left that job in the Fall of that year, and don't regret it.

Then my uncle needed me. Over the course of the year after leaving that miserable job, I saw him through the winter of his life until his gentle and dignified passing, at home in familiar surroundings. I had begun to document how I was feeling in a diary of sorts. I would record how I was feeling, what I was thinking, and what I thought I wanted to be when I grew up. Assisting someone who was dying started a change in me. I stopped taking myself so seriously, and I began to celebrate the little things in life that make it grand.

Soon after my uncle died, I accepted an offer of a position at a well-respected non-profit organization in Washington, DC, and within a few years, was promoted to a management position. It's a comfortable, supportive, and professional place to be. Good people help bring out the best in me.

I also converted that written diary to a blog. I began to document daily activities, thoughts, ideas, and my passionate interest in boots and leather, life as a masculine gay man, Harley rider, and my concern for seniors and their safety in order to continue to live independently, as I had enabled my uncle to do. I frequently write about my partner and his profound, important, and life-altering impact on my life and how it is so much better because of him.

Yes, I think often about what I will write on this blog. Usually, it is about joy, happiness, and smiles. Fun stuff, like riding my Harley, and interacting with family and friends.

I guess that's it: my diary and then this blog have had a profound effect on my outlook on life. It causes me to think about what I want to say about myself to the world. So I say it, but more importantly, I act it. I am more relaxed. I look for ways to express joy and happiness. I poke fun at my own foibles and failures, 'cause I'm not perfect by any means. I no longer think I have the answers for everything. I love to learn. I love life.

I frequently say, "Life is short: show those you love that you love them" or "wear your boots and leather" or "be safe out there." All these things... an effect of a blog, which has translated into daily life that is more rich and rewarding.

Sum it up by saying that it's noticed by people with whom I work professionally, by my family, by my the man who means the world to me (my partner), by my friends, but most of all -- and what's most telling -- is by people who did not know "the old me." A conference attendee stopped me in the hallway last night and said, "That was a great presentation you gave. It inspired me in my work. You made (our profession) sound like fun! Thanks!"

Yep: Life is short -- make it fun!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lost In A Paper Bag

Ever since I was a kid, my family has always kidded me about my serious lack of a sense of direction. I have to admit it, I am so "directionally challenged" that I would get lost in a paper bag.

For my blog visitors from other countries, the American expression "get lost in a paper bag" is used to describe someone just like me. Someone who, given the choice of turning right or left, goes straight. Someone who says to himself, "the sun sets in the west, so turn right."

I have no idea how this came to be. I have always been that way. When I started to work in Washington, DC, in the '80s and using the Metro to get into the city, inevitably I would come up out of the station and turn the wrong direction, confidently marching down the street for blocks until I realized that I was going the wrong way.

Oddly, as a skydiver, you can show me a visual image peering down upon the Earth from the sky, and I can find where I need to be (for example, land is always better to touch down upon than water!) Give me a map, and I can verbally explain to you where something is, and how the map indicates how to get there.

But put me on my motorcycle (or in a cage) with a written set of directions (start here, go 0.3 miles, turn right on X road. Go 1.4 miles, turn left on Y road)... I can't find it. I swear, the roads aren't there! It is like I am in a completely different state (or on a different planet.)

Friends have said, "just get yourself a GPS. That will solve your problem." I fear not, but to be honest, I have not tried it. I remain seriously fearful of distracted driving since I witnessed my friend get killed by a cell-phone yapping SUV driver. When I operate a vehicle, I want to have both eyes on the road ahead and everything around me (sides, rear) 100% of the time.

This coming weekend, I had offered to be one of several leaders of a motorcycle riding event. Others who will lead rides for this coming weekend's event are doing pre-ride on Wednesday night. A pre-ride gives ride leaders a chance to familiarize him or herself with the route. Unfortunately, I can not do the pre-ride then. It doesn't fit my schedule, nor do I want to ride in the evening when I'm tired while trying to remember turns and landmarks. I know my limits. Also, landmarks look different in evening twilight than they do in full daytime sunshine.

I spent two hours last Sunday afternoon trying to ride this route by myself. I got hopelessly lost several times. I would find parts of the route, then inevitably miss a turn and wind up somewhere else. Darn! I am just not good at following written directions.
I gave up and tried to come home (getting lost several times in the process.) Oh well, I enjoyed a ride on a sunny day, even if I did not know where I was.

When I got home, my partner was still painting the upstairs hallway. (He is such a perfectionist.) He handed me a paint roller, and I began to help him while explaining my predicament and concerns. He just shrugged it off, and said to forget it. He did not realize how upset I was -- but in hindsight, he was right in the sense that the world isn't going to end if I can't lead a ride because I do not know where I am going.

I wrote a message to the overall ride organizer to say, "take me off the list of ride leaders... nothing is more embarrassing than trying to lead a ride for others and getting lost."

Some readers of this blog think that my life is all full of roses and nothing goes wrong. Well, lots of things go wrong. However, I let it pass, and move on with life. I will think of something that makes me smile, tell a story, share a moment with the man of my life, or take a stroll in our back yard park to watch the birds, squirrels, and rabbits play. Soon enough, I am back on track.

Meanwhile, don't follow me. I do not know where I am going. But I try to have fun while getting wherever that may be!

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Cop's Coming Out Process

I mentioned in a previous blog post that a fine young motor officer contacted me for some conversation on how to deal with coming out to his boss and peers in his Police Department.

It's interesting -- I have received more visits to that blog post than most others I have written. In one week, more than 1,000 unique visitors have read it, and it has been linked from two message forums that are supportive of LGBT issues in the workplace.

I also have received over a dozen email messages. One of them, in particular, was exceptional in that it provided me with some suggestions of additional resources in which my buddy might be interested. One of them is bluepride.org, a website specifically for and by the LGBT law enforcement community. The other was a book titled, Coming Out From Behind the Badge, which is a chronicle of a gay cop in Canada who worked through the coming out process, married his man, and is doing well.

I forwarded those thoughtful messages to my buddy. I also have had several conversations on the phone with him. And now, here's an update directly from him, in his words (reproduced with his permission):

I just had "the talk" with the District Commander and my boss. I explained to them factually that I am Gay. I said that I wanted to let them know because it was important to me to live an honest life. I felt that hiding my sexual orientation was causing me to live with less personal integrity. If I value anything, it is that others perceive that I do a good job and am a man of high integrity (as I have learned that you are).

Further, I realize that everyone else in my Department "has my back" as I have theirs. I want them to know that I am no less of a Police Officer because I'm Gay. I do not want any special favors or treatment.

I also told them what you suggested, that I appreciate that the Department is included in the [local government's] non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation. I said that nothing had happened that caused me to come speak to them, but every now-and-then guys talk and say things that have made me uneasy. But I'll deal with it as it happens.

I sat there waiting for their reaction. I was so nervous. At first, neither of them said anything. My heart began to beat hard. I was sweating. The Commander reached over and shook my hand and said, "thanks for speaking with us. I appreciate your honesty and candor. Your work here has been outstanding. How can we help you?"

[some content deleted here to protect privacy]

I feel so much better now. Thanks!

Well, buddy, you did the hard work. I admire your strength, determination, and most of all, your integrity. I'm here for 'ya, and look forward to ongoing conversations.