Monday, August 31, 2009

Two Headed Shower

A great thing about being handy with construction is that when I finished our basement, I built a full bath with a large shower that's quite interesting in design and function.

The rear wall is made of glass blocks. I built a light box behind it and installed fluorescent tubes. I covered them with studio gels that give color to the lighting. It really is quite stunning when you look at it.

I installed two shower heads, so the spray comes from both sides. The shower is quite large, enough to accommodate my partner and me when we need to clean up after a hard day's work, or just... well, "for fun".

What a pleasure... and let me tell 'ya, we definitely enjoy it.

Life is short: have fun!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Witnessing History

Yesterday began in its usual way with a gentle snuggle with my partner at dawn, then rising to prepare a nice big breakfast, then caring for my aunt for a while. At noon, I went to a park where my bike club was having its annual picnic. Despite dire forecasts, it didn't rain. I chatted with my buddies, had a little bit to eat, then left.

When I got home, my partner told me that "somebody" came by and left a message. It turned out to be someone I grew up with. I called her on the phone, and she asked me to go with her into downtown DC to watch Senator Ted Kennedy's funeral procession and prayer service at the U.S. Capitol building.

Ordinarily, I try to avoid these types of things due to the crowds, dealing with the heat, and challenges with getting anywhere with a view. Usually, you can see things like that on TV better than in person.

But my friend really wanted me to go with her, and gave me an ultimatum: "you be ready because I'll be there in five minutes." I didn't even change out of my jeans and Chippewa Firefighter boots ... I just followed orders.

We had a long talk while driving there, about what the Senator meant to her, what she learned by working for one of his colleagues and working with his staff, and what he meant to me, too, and our country.

My friend had a place to park waiting for her. We were able to stand right on the street and watch for the motorcade.

The motorcade was about an hour and a half late, and in that heat and humidity, it was a bit of a struggle to wait for it. Thank goodness those boots are so comfortable. We sat on the curb for a while, and my friend found a street vendor who sold her some cold sodas and a couple hot dogs.

The spirit of the crowd was palpable. Lots of people had many stories to share -- my friend included. We talked with a lot of people around us, each of whom had an interesting anecdote, humorous remembrance, or tale of the late Senator's legendary accomplishments and how he did his work. I remember meeting him once when he came to the office where my mother worked when I happened to be there, but that was a long, long time ago.

Soon I heard the rumble of some police Harleys, and then the hearse drove by with the Kennedy family in limos behind it. I was seeing history in the making. It was fascinating to watch. The crowd broke out into spontaneous applause as Mrs. Kennedy got out and greeted a bunch of people across from where I was standing. Her family also briefly visited with his staff who were waiting there. A priest said a few prayers, one of the Senator's children thanked the staff, and then they left to go to Arlington National Cemetery where the Senator will be buried with the Late President J. F. Kennedy and the late Senator and Attorney General, R. F. Kennedy -- his brothers.

Surprisingly, it didn't take us much time to get home.

I am glad my friend asked me to go with her. So many things happen in DC that are history-making. I'm close, but I do not live in the city, and avoid going into Washington on evenings and weekends if I can avoid it due to the noise, crowds, and hassles with security (and simply the fact that I am not an urban guy). But as I think about it, I realize that I am among very few who can witness history in person -- events like this one or daily history of just what happens in Washington DC -- and how fortunate I am to live near our country's capital, and work right in its heart. Kinda amazing, when you think about it.

Life is short: work toward your goals and never give up, as Mr. Kennedy did. May he rest in peace, and God bless his soul.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dehners are Dehners Not Dehner's

Dehner (dāy-nur) Boots are very popular. I own eight pairs of these boots. I bought my first pair of Dehner Motorcycle Patrol Boots over 20 years ago, and acquired my more recent additions of Dehner Patrol Boots to my boot collection from some motor officers I know. (Please don't ask me if they have more boots to sell or give away -- they do not.)

This is a bit of a rant, once again, about apostrophe abuse. Just like I wrote once before, one does not add an apostrophe to make a word plural, particularly of a brand of boots.

If you have a pair of Dehner Boots, the short-hand reference is "Dehners." NOT "Dehner's." Period, end-of-story. I am amazed that college-educated adults continue to add an apostrophe everywhere one does not belong. But then again, after reviewing hundreds of résumés from job applicants for an entry-level position, all of whom claimed to have graduated with a four-year degree from an accredited institution of higher education, I no longer anticipate that any younger person can spel or writ wurth a lik. They r so used 2 texting dat they hav forgotten hw 2 write a complete sentence wit appropriate spelling, grammar, nd punctuation.

If you would not write boot's then you would not write Dehner's or Wesco's. The correct plural in English of these boot brands is Dehners or Wescos. Period, final end-of-story.

Life is short: spell it right!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sexual Identity, Sexuality, and Sex

Let me share some of my thoughts on this subject, which include reflections from a fellow gay man who reviewed this post for me and shared great insights. I preface this post a statement that I have no professional, medical, or academic background on sex, sexuality, or sexual identity. My background is from these sources:
  • personal experience in living as an open gay man in a committed relationship
  • having loving, caring, and supportive family and friends who helped me along the way to become a well-adjusted and socially responsible man
  • knowing gay men who have shared their experiences and outlooks. Much of how we view ourselves is compared and contrasted with the viewpoints of others. Even the things we might flatly reject leave an impression on our outlooks.
I realize that if my family were not supportive during my "coming out" process, or if my friends abandoned me, or if I were in an environment at home, school, or work that was restrictive, demeaning, or socially isolated, then things would have turned out much differently. If, for example, my father were a James Dobson-esque closed-mind religious zealot filled with hate, or my mother a Regina Griggs-like ultraconservative bigot, then I probably would have become a nutcase suitable for long-term lockup.

I have stated in previous blog posts that I was born gay, but didn't know it. I think that's fairly true of most gay men. Males behave as they are expected to behave by society: that is, go out on dates with girls, have sex with women, talk and think about women sexually, and things of that nature. Men who possess feminine qualities, whether gay or straight, have a much more difficult time in society than the stereotypically butch male.

The problem is that a guy usually goes through puberty and is able to be sexually active before he comes to terms with his sexual identity. I don't think I am any different from a lot of others -- I experimented sexually (with females, males, myself, and fetish interests) long before I accepted the fact that I was gay.

When attempting to think of women sexually doesn't work, as with me when I realized that I was looking more at the guys than the girls and discovered that my plumbing worked in a particular way... then a guy figures out he is gay and works through a whole lot of "attitude adjustments" both internally and with those around him. That process, often called "coming out" is, to me, a process of coming to terms with one's sexual identity.

My family always loved me, even if they didn’t understand what “gay” meant. That love was the foundation that made my "coming out" process easier since it lead to my family’s support. Coming out wasn’t easy, and took many years. In many ways, given the closeness of my family, my coming out process couldn't have occurred in any other way since my family’s love for me wasn't contingent upon my compliance with a certain set of imposed rules and obligations.

It all boils down to the fact that yeah, I like guys. However, I have to say that sex is not the driving factor for my being gay. Sure, I enjoy sex like any other guy. But there's more to my sexuality and my gay identity than sex. It's how I look at and think about my partner. It has a lot to do with love.

Sex is about biology and mechanics. Sexual organs respond favorably in certain conditions whether or not the same or opposite sex pushes those buttons physically. Self-identification as gay, straight, or somewhere in between is more than just who one sexually responds to...it involves the total package of feelings and other issues that attracts us to each other as human beings.

I am so in love with my partner, that being intimate with him is one way that I can demonstrate to him that I love him. Intimacy is a private thing, but an important factor for an ongoing, long-term relationship. But it's not all sex. There are other things that my partner knows about me that no one else knows. There are fundamental things that we agree on without even having to talk about it. That's part of intimacy. It's a deep, abiding bond that holds us together.

I like guys, but since I have been in a monogamous relationship for so long, I'm not interested in sex with anyone else. I might find some guy attractive – after all, just because I am monogamous doesn’t mean that I am blind. Straight guys who I see socially or at the office or around my community or with whom I interact on-line have nothing to fear by interacting with me as a gay guy -- I'm not interested in having sex with them. I am interested in what they have to say as a person, and how we might share something together, like go on a motorcycle ride, craft testimony for a public hearing, repair something in an older person's home, or talk about boots and leather. It is my commitment to my man that that prevents me from having sex with anyone else. It's no different than any other couple who makes that vow and truly honors it.

In summary, to me, sex, sexuality, and sexual identity are different things. They are related, but not one and the same. I'll always be more attracted to men than women, but I'll only have sex with one guy. Does that make any sense?

Life is short: be who you are.

Thanks to “K” for his invaluable insights and ongoing friendship

Thursday, August 27, 2009

When Do You Blog?

Someone asked me, "do you really get up at 4:00 in the morning to write a blog post every day?"

... no. I schedule my blog posts to appear each day at that time. I write my blog posts often days or weeks in advance. Currently, I have about 30 blog posts that are completed or mostly done in the queue, for publication once each day for days and weeks to come.

When do I write blog posts?

I write them at home, usually either in the very early morning before I go to work, or perhaps in the evening after dinner if I have time. I do not spend time blogging at work. Blogging is personal, and I don't waste work time doing personal stuff.

How do I come up with ideas to blog about?

I have three sources:
  • What I see when I travel on public transit, on my Harley, or when I walk around the streets of DC where I work or my community where I live.
  • What I observe people look for when they search the Internet and end up on this blog.
  • Occasionally, what some people write to me about in an email message.
I avoid writing about things that are better suited elsewhere, such as about politics. I try to keep this blog focused on my passions for boots, leather, community, and my man. However, I have on occasion been known to wander off topic.

I never quite know where I will be when something strikes me to blog about. And being a rather old-fashioned type of guy, when I get such a thought and I am in a place that I can write (that is, not on my Harley), I will whip out a trusty small notepad and jot the idea down. Then later when I am at my computer, I pull the notepad out of my shirt pocket and compose the post. It's that simple.

I am having a lot of fun with this blog, and appreciate your visits!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Irresistibly Arrestable

Here is how I was dressed last night while waiting for my partner to arrive home from work. I was wearing my clandestine uniform (that is, a uniform shirt unadorned with patches, as the agency I represented is not on any official log book), Duty Belt with "appropriate" gear, and motorcop uniform breeches tucked into tall Dehner Patrol Boots.

My partner has been irresistibly arrestable. The offense? Well, he committed many "arrestable offenses" over the last week when my brother was visiting. He put clean linens on his bed every day, did laundry for us both, did the grocery shopping so I could spend more time with my brother and our family, and carried out a whole host of other things to free up my time.

He smiled, he laughed, and he had great conversations with my brother on a variety of topics. He made my birthday and the week following a great treat, just by being the man he his -- thoughtful, caring, kind, considerate, and quietly doing things that kept our household a warm and inviting place for my brother to enjoy.

His most egregious offense? He did everything he possibly could do to make me happy. To bring broad smiles to my face. To love me and care for me.

My man, my sweet wonderful man, was arrested last night. I charged him with being just too good, too wonderful, too kind... and then when he took his shirt off: just too darned studly!

Life is short: show those you love that you love them! Whew!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's All About the Boots Part 2: Biker Boots


I am an avid motorcyclist. I have been riding motorcycles regularly for 32 years. Currently, I have a Harley-Davidson Road King Classic, which I bought new last year (2008). I had the handlebars replaced so the bike fits me better. I also had the instrumentation changed to have a combined speedometer/tach. Otherwise, the bike is stock.

When it comes to boots for the bike, my three favourite pairs of biker boots are:
  • stock Chippewa Firefighter boots
  • custom tall Wesco Harness boots
  • stock Chippewa oil-tanned Engineer boots
Tall boots usually need to be made custom to fit my muscular calfs. However, tall Chippewa Engineer boots are made with a rather wide calf, so no further adjustment is necessary. (That's good, since you can't get them made custom, anyway.)

Wesco Boots are by far the most durable boots I have ever worn while motorcycling. The only challenge I have with them is that they are very heavy, and sometimes get hot out in the sun when riding all day on big Harley with an air-cooled engine. On those days, in particular, I prefer to wear my Chippewa Firefighter boots, which are durable and exceptionally comfortable.

I got all of my pairs of these boots from Stompers Boots of San Francisco, which is having a great sale right now -- 20% off all boots (even custom orders). Check 'em out!

Meanwhile, enjoy the video titled, "It's All About the Boots Part 2: Biker Boots" to see these boots closer up and in action.


Monday, August 24, 2009

It's All About the Boots Part 1: Patrol Boots

A couple weeks ago, I sent a message to subscribers of my YouTube Channel to say that I was going to have some free time during my past week's "staycation" and asked for some suggestions for videos that I might create.

I received a few responses with rather odd video suggestions, but such suggestions were not unexpected from the boot fetish community. Sorry, fellas, you aren't going to see me lick boots or do other things that are unhealthy. However, I received one reply from a fellow boot blogger who suggested that I keep the videos focused on the boots. He said, and I agree, "It's All About the Boots."

I got out six pairs of my favorite boots and created two videos. The first video features three of my favorite patrol boots:
  • Bal-Laced Dehner Boots
  • Wesco Motor Patrol Boots
  • Chippewa Hi-Shine Boots
By the way, I still really like my All American Blue Knight Patrol Boots but I blogged about them recently already so I chose some others to feature today.

I put the patrol boots that I picked out for the video on my feet, showed how to keep a good shine on them, and walked around a bit.

In the video, I stated where I got these boots -- all from Stompers Boots of San Francisco. Stompers is having a great sale that just launched this week -- 20% off every pair of boots, including special orders like custom Wesco boots. That's a great deal! Not only do you get the best prices for quality boots, you get great customer service.

Visit Stompers Boots' Website or give them a call at 1-888-BOOTMAN (in the USA) to place an order. You will be happy that you did, and help keep Stompers in business. Times are tough -- us boot guys (and women) need to step up and help out.

Here's the first of two new videos. Enjoy!


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sweaty Summer Work

Now that my twin brother has returned home (and I sure miss him), it is time to attack the long list of projects to do around the house.

One of the biggest projects for this summer is to control an erosion problem in our side yard. Rainwater coming out of the downspouts had eroded all of the topsoil in the little patch of grass that once was there, and the problem was growing worse.

On Friday morning at the crack of dawn, I rented a "mini-trencher" which is a machine that digs a trench. All well and good. The machine, however, weighed a ton and was quite a struggle to man-handle. In no time, however, a trench of some 12" (30cm) deep and 100' (30m) long was dug. My partner helped me get the machine back on my truck and I returned it... all before 9:00am. By then, however, the temperature had already climbed to 90°F (32°C) with 70% relative humidity.

Upon return from HomoDepot, the phone rang. It was AZ! I always enjoy speaking with my best friend. He gave me a good excuse to cool off while catching up.

But the work wouldn't take care of itself. So I returned to the yard and used a shovel to prepare the trench to accept black plastic pipe that I connected to the downspouts and interconnected together with Y fittings. I had to be careful to avoid cutting underground utility pipes and wires which enter our house, so through what I thought was an ingenious method of using PVC plumber's piping, I ran the new gutter drainage pipe above ground toward the back yard until I was sure I was clear of any underground natural gas pipe or wires. I then connected it to the black plastic pipe and buried it in the trench.

The underground piping runs to the far back of my property to drain into a stream. The earth covering the pipe will soon sprout new growth in the forest area, and come Autumn, I will sow grass seed in the smaller upper side yard area that should be lawn. (Spring: sod; Fall: seed).

This work took much of the day on Friday, and by 3pm, the temperature had reached 95°F (35°C) and 80% humidity. Yeeccchhhh... I called it "August ugly" though it is typical for this time of year in the DC area. (Wonder why Congress leaves for the whole month? This is why!)

I was just finishing up and smoothing over the dirt when a strong thunderstorm struck. After the storm dissipated, I couldn't help but go out and check my work. I got my Chippewa Engineer Boots a little muddy (oops), but was assured that the new drainage system worked as intended.

I had been drinking water all day, and sweat like a (insert adjective). I sweat so much that I didn't have to urinate, despite drinking at least 20 jugs of water (which I had chilled in the fridge the night before.) My partner brought me four clean shirts into which I changed throughout the day.

After completing the work, my partner peeled off my clothes and put them in the wash while I took a nice, cold shower. I felt quite refreshed. I lay down on our couch in the basement while my partner completed his work for the day (he telecommutes on Fridays). Before I knew it, I had fallen asleep. I enjoyed an hour's nap... I'm such a lazy wuss.

My partner gently woke me and I prepared our evening meal -- home-made Maryland crab cakes (using crab I picked from my "birthday bushel" that we enjoyed earlier in the week) and a light salad.

After dinner, the muscle soreness began to set in. In fact, all day on Saturday, I kept asking my partner, "did you get the license plate number of the truck that ran over me?" He would just hand me two more Excedrin and tell me, "no pain, no gain!" Such a caring soul he is (LOL!)

Oh well, it's done, it works, and I am recovering. I am glad to have this major project scratched off that non-ending "honey-do" list!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Can Spirituality Be Inherited?

This is a philosophical question that I often ask myself, "could I have inherited my spiritual feelings from my mother's distant parental lineage?"

Where I am coming from is that I grew up in a religiously divided household. My maternal grandfather was a Methodist missionary who went to Oklahoma to "save the heathens," and married a full-blood Choctaw (Native American Indian). She converted to being Methodist, and that is the religion that my mother observed.

My father was Roman Catholic. He grew up in a strict Italian Catholic family. He was required to bring up his children Catholic in order to get permission to marry. However, by the time I came along, they sorta had forgotten that. My oldest nine siblings were baptized in the Catholic Church, and the other six of us are a mix (some are more observant of organized religion than others. For example, my twin brother eventually went through training and became Catholic. I was not baptized in any church, nor have an interest in doing so.)

I attended both Methodist and Catholic churches until my parents stopped forcing me to go. Growing up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, I also attended a number of Jewish religious services (Bar- and Bat-mitzvahs and weddings). I had always questioned what religious leaders said about certain things. Later in life, when I acknowledge that I am gay, I had a lot of trouble listening to the statements made by the Catholic Church about homosexuality.

I love my man. I am no less in the eyes of the God in organized religion because I love someone of the same sex. However, hearing all that negativity and being subjected to shunning by the UltraCatholic branch of my father's family just drove me more away.

But that does not mean that I do not believe in a greater spirit. I truly think there is something bigger and more powerful out there that is guiding me. I can't call this higher spirit, "God," but I can refer to spiritual leadership.

As I was exploring my feelings of spirituality, I had some long discussions with some Choctaw Tribal Elders. I learned that how I think and feel about a Great Spirit is consistent with their form of Spirituality. I believe in the importance of maintaining harmony with nature and fellow humans. I believe a lot in the Light of the Sun, as the Choctaw do. What is odd to me, though, is that I was never directly exposed to any form of spiritual teachings from my mother's People. I only knew my grandmother and some distant cousins. My grandmother had become an avowed Methodist before I was born.

I have been wondering for a long time, "can spirituality be inherited?" I think there is something to that, but I don't know. Meanwhile, I will keep smiling, because I remember and continue to employ this quote by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.: Today, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day. Sunshine, be it from our nearest star or from light on another's face, is clearly a major part of my spirituality.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Debunking My Own Myth

My brother outdid himself with his blog post here yesterday. Believe me, I am no saint. I have made many mistakes, and have much yet to learn.

If I were all what my brother makes me out to be, I would exhibit far more patience than I do, and I would be more open and accepting of things that other people do that drive me nuts. Those behaviours like yakking on a cell phone while driving or riding a motorcycle in sneakers should not make me so crazy, but they do. Thus, I am no saint.

But let me tell you, I think the world of my brother. He has worked so very hard to get where he is in life. Everything was harder for him, and he had to study very hard in school his whole life. He worked hard, far harder than I ever did in school, and it paid off. J struggled and studied and got tutoring and help from my family, me, and others. His good grades in school were an indication of what he can do when he sets his mind to it. Me? I was a sloucher and got straight A's. Go figure. But J never resented that; he just told me, "atta boy!"

Don't throw a ball my way or ask me any questions about sports. In our birthing process, J got every nucleic acid of DNA related to sports and I got none of it. J is naturally athletic. Graceful and talented, he went to college on a sports scholarship. He earned several honors while playing football in high school and college. Me? Someone always had to tell me what side of the field to look toward and say, "yay!" While I was always J's number one cheerleader, I never liked sports and my disinterest in sports remains the same to this day.

My brother commented about how I handled a community meeting the other night. It wasn't as raucous as he made it sound. Perhaps, though, I employed listening and response skills that I learned from my Mentor and friend, who served as an elected official for 17 years in the district of the county where I live, until her untimely death. Gosh, I still miss her lots. But by acting on what she taught me, perhaps that is how I carry on her vision and her teachings.

Ordinarily, riding my Harley 300 miles (500km) in one day as my brother and I did on Tuesday is not something I prefer to do. If it were anyone else other than my brother asking me to ride that far in one day, I would have politely declined. But it was J who asked. He never asks me for anything. How could I refuse? My brother has always been a man who carries out his plans and realizes dreams.

One thing about riding motorcycles with a twin is that we can intuitively tell when we need to stop and take a break. It may be after a half-hour or an hour, but frequent stops help stretch the ol' muscles and relieve our saddle soreness.

We had a number of times when that "twin thing" happened. For example, when we were riding and looking for a place to stop, we both would head to the same gas station. We complete each other's sentences. We think alike in many ways, yet we are different men.

My brother is more comfortable in khakis and sneakers when dressed casually. He looks great in a suit, which he wears to work every day. I'm more of the Wranglers and boots kinda guy, and I do not like how I look in a suit because it makes me so uncomfortable.

He does not credit himself adequately for his diplomatic skills. He employs tact and is gentle when he communicates with others. Perhaps that's why my partner and my brother had so many long, intense conversations during this visit. My brother is the only one in our family who can engage my partner in conversation.

He is a very good husband to his wife, and a wonderful brother to all of us in the family. He doesn't forget the dates of all of our birthdays -- including the huge bunch of nieces, nephews, and "greats" that are in our large family. Again, where we are similar is that he remembers to send cards, as I do.

I was truly honored to have my brother choose to come spend a week with me for our birthday. He could have gone anywhere; taken his wife to a beautiful resort; or gone on an adventure to sate his wanderlust. But he chose to come stay with me. He chose to rent a Harley, and since he does not ride regularly, it took a lot of work for him to get comfortable riding again. But he did that for me. Further, he does not wear boots, but once more, for me, he wore a different pair of my motorcycle boots every day while visiting me to use while riding. Better yet, he kept them on while we were not riding. I think he looks great in boots; however, they are not his choice of regular footwear.

My brother has always been my soulmate and best friend, and always will be. He accepts me and loves me for who I am. It doesn't matter to him that I am gay; what matters to him is that I am happy and leading a productive, fulfilling life. Happy I am with my wonderful partner, our home, my current employment, and living in a great community where my roots run deep.

I treasure him more than words can express. My buddy, my best friend, my brother. Smart, reliable, honest, friendly, and fun. What a great guy. I love you too, 'bro, with all my heart.

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Enthusiasm for Life

Guest Blog by J (BHD's twin brother)

What's it like to know and observe someone whose boundless energy to enjoy life surrounds you? Let me tell you: it's exhausting! But it is very fun!

My brother who goes by BHD or "Booted Harleydude" on this blog (and we call him lots of other names, too), is surrounded by people who think the world of him. I would like to claim that I am his number one cheerleader, but I will relinquish il numero uno to his partner who cares so deeply for him. I am so pleased that he is happy, which makes him joyful, playful, funny, and great to be around. This is why I came back to visit this week.

You see, I have a job which is interesting but very challenging. It sucks the energy out of me. I need these visits with my brother to recharge myself. I love my wife and she's terrific. She is a wonderful partner in all respects. Her perspective on life, though, is from "old family Europe." If I have to explain, you wouldn't understand.

She is always very serious, and it takes a lot to make her laugh. That's one of the reasons why I love my brother so much, because when he was Best Man at our wedding in Venice, Italy, he was the only one who was able to make my wife laugh -- not once, not twice, but many times. She was in such a dither about the wedding, my brother intuitively realized that she needed to laugh which would help her (and me) lighten up. He did it by sharing amusing anecdotes about what he observed other people doing or saying. Because he looks so American, Italians speak freely in front of him because they do not think he can understand them, yet he speaks the language fluently. They said the craziest things, which he made even funnier when he relayed them to us.

I spent yesterday accompanying my brother on rounds he was making within the retirement community where our Mom lived. He baked two cakes very early in the morning before I awoke. One was for a friend who lives there, and just got home from the hospital. Another was for a friend of his who was feeling a bit lonely since her family never visits.

Then I became his helper when he had to fix a broken light switch for one of his "crew" (as he calls his elderly friends.) That repair was more complicated than either of us thought it would be, because the wiring was hard to reach and brittle. But it was not a problem for my brother: he kept at it persistently until it was fixed. No sooner than he finished there, he walked across the street to fix a drawer slider for another elderly friend. The drawer kept falling out every time she opened it. Not any more! (His toolbox is a cross between Mary Poppins' and MacGyver's bag -- he has everything!)

These are the little things that my brother does for other people that I observe, and he keeps telling me that "it's nothing." Well, it IS something, big guy! Few others do things like that.

We had lunch with our Aunt, who at age 94 remains bright, cheerful, albeit quite forgetful. She is generally quiet, and doesn't say much. That is, until my brother walks in the door. How she lights up! She smiles, laughs, and shares stories about our family that I enjoy hearing again. He encourages her to express herself, which helps her with her memory problems. What a caring soul my brother is.

We returned home and went for our last ride together (for this visit) on our motorcycles to return my rented Harley. We rode through the old neighborhood where we grew up along the way. My goodness, so much has changed. Funny though, several people waved at my brother as we rode by; he has held his connections to our home stomping grounds.

When we got home, his partner was just returning from work. My whirling-dervish brother greeted his partner and helped unpack his car with things he brought home from the market. Then, right before my eyes and in less than a half-hour, my brother prepared a splendid meal. He pulled out chicken breasts which had been magically marinading in the fridge and grilled them. He cut it up and put on salad rich with home-grown vegetables from his garden. What a light, delicious, and filling meal! He says he does this "all the time." Gee, my wife and I have much to learn. We eat at restaurants more often than we should.

When I thought our day was over, my brother had changed clothes again and said that he had to go to a community meeting that he couldn't get out of. He explained that factions were warring over a development project. I decided to go with him to watch him in his "community leader" role.

When we arrived, my brother greeted everyone by name. "No big deal," he says, "these people are my neighbors." My brother explained the situation clearly and succinctly. It impressed me how he remained calm in spite of some rather emotional outbursts by different parties. I think his response to emotions is to be even more calm. His voice grows quiet; his brow is quizzical but not angry; and he asks, rather than answers. By the end of the meeting, the different sides had resolved to work out their differences. That's my brother: the mediator, friend, good neighbor, listener, and problem solver.

When we got home about 9, my brother and his partner went to bed. I can't go to sleep that early. My brother, though, always has been the "early bird." I stayed up to write this blog post and check my email. I told my wife in an email that I missed her, but am enjoying this trip very much because of what my brother does for my soul.

I am very blessed to have this energetic, bright, and POWERFUL soulmate, best friend, and brother rolled into one intelligent, thoughtful, caring and impressive man. Isn't it great to call your brother your best friend? He always has been, and always will be.

Hold your friends close, and your family closer. At least, that's what my brother always says! As I prepare to return back home to Europe, I will be fondly remembering this very special birthday week with a man I love, respect, and admire. I will always hold him very close in my heart. I love you, 'bro!

500km to Cumberland and Back?

Yesterday morning my visiting twin brother, J, was up bright and early. Of course, I was up two hours before him, but for J to get up at 6:00am, I thought something was on his mind. It was. He came bounding into the kitchen with a bright idea: "Let's go visit Shirley!"

Shirley? Man, I haven't seen her in ages. Shirley was the first person to give J and me a "real" job, working at her store in the neighborhood shopping center. We were both 16 and wanted to do something productive during the summer and earn some spending money beyond what we got for mowing lawns. But nobody wanted to hire "kids," nor two of us to boot. But we were bound and determined to get a job at the same place and work together. Shirley gave us a chance, and we will never forget it. We must have done something right, because she asked us back to work for her part-time throughout high school and during the summers.
We both owe a lot to her for the faith she invested in us when we were teenagers.

We thought Shirley was "old." I mean, she was 30!!! Ancient by a 16-year-old's perspective--almost twice our age! But she took a gamble on hiring two neighborhood kids, and we proved to her that she could depend on us. She sold the store about 20 years ago and moved to Cumberland, Maryland, which (to me) is waaaaaaaaaay up there, far away. And J was dead-set on going to see her.

He said that he had called her yesterday, just to say hello. But one thing led to another... and he promised to visit. What better way to rack up miles on his rental Harley and enjoy some nice, warm sunny weather than to ride to see her?

J asked me, "can you get that GPS of yours to plot a non-highway route to get there?" I thought about it, and used mapping software, and soon enough had a route figured out that went via ferry across the Potomac River into Virginia, and up through the beautiful Shenandoah foothills. Here's the route:
It took five hours, but we stopped a few times to stretch and drink water that we had brought with us. Even as comfortable as my Road King is and his Ultra, we both suffered from "Harley Butt" which is a common occurrence on long rides.

We got there in time for a nice long lunch at a restaurant with a beautiful view of the Cumberland Gap and the Potomac River. We had a lot of fun catching up with our dear friend. She is doing very well, enjoying life, and keeping busy. Unfortunately, the ride back was daunting, and I wanted to get home before our dinnertime and to avoid storms that were predicted for late afternoon.

After an all-too-brief visit, we remounted our iron steeds. Concerned that a five-hour return would be too long, J agreed that we should take the highway back. It's shorter, quicker, and more direct. Though riding alongside big rigs at 70mph isn't our cup-o-tea, we shifted into sixth gear, clicked on the cruise control, and put our boots up on the highway pegs. We stopped only once for gas on the way back. I am glad that we didn't dawdle on the return, because we got back home just as the skies opened up with a deluge of a thunderstorm.

We had a lot of fun: two brothers out on the road on their Harleys, enjoying life, visiting with someone to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for having faith in us, and crafting the taller tail to regale to my partner over dinner last night. The hills were higher, the roads were narrower, and the snow was deeper (oops, not that!)... we just laughed and laughed. My partner just smiled. He told me as he held me in his arms as we were in bed that he was so happy that I am really enjoying my birthday "staycation" with J, and how pleased he was that J was staying with us and sharing such enthusiastic joy. Heck, that's what life is all about!

Oh, why no pictures of J? He is dead serious about not having his image appear anywhere on the Internet. I understand; he has a sensitive job. But his legs in an old pair of my Banana Frye campus boots appear here. He asked to wear these boots, specifically, because it's what we wore in high school, and he remembered them. He looked really cool in those Fryes!

Life is short: get out and ride, love your family and your friends with all you've got!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Still Believe

I wrote a post on this blog on December 24, 2008. Interestingly, it has been viewed more than 40 times in the last week. I do not know why, but for some reason, many visitors from Germany are looking this up.

I read and re-read what I wrote, and you know what? It is all still very true with what is in my heart, and what composes my soul:
  • I believe in service to others.
  • I believe in caring for my neighbor.
  • I believe in doing. Not just sitting and watching, but doing.
  • I believe in being patient until things happen, and nudge 'em along when needed.
  • I believe that a smile is the best gift to give to others.
  • I believe that life is full of surprises and without them, life would be awfully dull.
  • I believe in holding friends close, and family closer.
  • I believe in my partner, wholeheartedly, without reservation or equivocation.
  • I believe that joy comes to those who share joy.
  • I believe in Santa. Well, in his magic, his spirit, and his love.
  • And yeah, I believe in love. Love is the only thing you get back more of the more you give it away.
  • I believe that God loves all of us, including us gay guys as well as the homophobes. God loves all -- it is religion that causes separatism and some people to display hatred, which is what God teaches us is a sin.
I believe and I act. How do you display your passions, concerns, and caring?

Life is short: believe in something and show you care.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Leo Ride Leader

Today, August 16, is my birthday and one that I share with my twin, "J," who is visiting with me this week. Photo shown here was created by my buddy, David (Bamaboy), who is a real whiz with Photoshop. He has a great sense of humor, and has become a terrific friend. Thanks, man! J and I laughed our heads off!

Yesterday, I took J to pick up a Harley rental, but right after that, he needed to catch up on sleep since he was jet lagged from his long flight from Europe. While he was napping, I did a "pre-ride" with a buddy of a ride I led today. More on that below.

When I got back, my brother "abducted me" for a "let's get lost" ride. We rode about 100 miles through Southern Maryland and ended up at another brother's home, located on Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. My partner was waiting there for us. This all had been arranged in secret, though I figured something was going on.

My brother invited a lot of the family over. We enjoyed a good old fashioned Maryland crab feast, with all the trimmings. We had a great time. I just love my family. Even my partner -- the "less social" of our twosome -- said that he really enjoyed it.

Today, I led a ride for my club. Each ride gets a title, and this one was simply, "My Birthday Ride." Our destination was a frozen custard place that was far enough away that we would enjoy a nice ride through Maryland's countryside to get there, but not take all day. I appreciated that an off-duty bike cop rode in the wing position, as he had a CB radio (I do not). He was able to talk to our sweep rider so we could get the group back together when we got separated in traffic in a couple places along the route.

My fellow club buddies were great to ride with, and all said they enjoyed the ride. Probably so, because of three things: 1) I did not miss a turn; 2) I did not ride through a water hazard nor ford a stream (LOL!); and it was just a great day for riding -- sunny and warm, but not unpleasant.

I connected a motorcycle video recorder with the pencil camera pointing backwards from my bike. This shows what it's like to lead the pack. Leading the pack is something that us leos are known to do.

Life is short: get out and enjoy it!


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rapito

Guest blog

Io ho rapito mio fratello. Io lo porto via lui per il nostro compleanno. Lui scriverà dirgli quello che noi facevamo quando lui ritorna. O, se lui ritorna.

J (BHD's twin brother)

BHD sez:

This is the only abduction 'scene' I can get into! I'll see ya' in a few days when our birthday celebrations are over!

Thousand Things To See Before I Die

Have you heard that expression, "the thousand things to see before you die?" (or visited the website?) The challenge is to make a list of 1,000 things you really want to see before you die (and that website list is a great place to start).

I think about that challenge frequently, and I have made such a list (though I can't say it has 1,000 items on it.) I am pleased that I have seen many of the items on my list, but have many more to do.

What I want to see sometime
  • Machu Picchu, Peru
  • The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  • Antarctica
  • The Calgary Stampede (with Clay as a guide)
  • Harley "cruise" through the Maritime Provinces of Canada
  • Dore Alley Fair in San Francisco
Some grand locations I have seen already (outside the U.S.)
  • Great Wall of China
  • Forbidden City
  • Hong Kong and Macau
  • Tokyo to Kobe via the JR Tokaido Shinkansen (bullet train)
  • The Louvre
  • The Vatican and the Pope (John Paul II)
  • The Colosseum and Roman Forum
  • Leaning Tower of Pisa
  • Uffizi Museo e l'Accedemia (where David is) in Fierenze
  • Torri di Bologna
  • St. Anthony's Basilica in Padova (Padua, where I went to school)
  • Venice and her canals
  • Pompeii and Mt. Etna
  • Portofino e Almafi Coast via Ducati motorcycle
  • The Romantic Road through Bavaria via BMW motorcycle
  • The Parthenon and the Acropolis
  • Delphi and the Greek Islands in the Med
  • The Danube via cruise from Austria to Romania
  • Transylvania, Romania
  • Pyramids of Egypt
  • Jerusalem (and Israel)
  • The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in Turkey
  • The Kremlin and Red Square
  • St. Petersburg and The Hermitage
  • Stonehenge
  • Ireland via Harley
  • Uluru (Ayers Rock) via "The Ghan" (train) in Outback Australia
  • Great Barrier Reef (Eastern Australia)
  • The Great Ocean Road via Harley (southern Australia)
  • North to South Islands of New Zealand via Harley and ferry
  • The Taj Mahal
  • Serengeti migration
  • Victoria Falls
  • The North Pole
  • Each province of Canada
  • Most of Mexico, Central America, and South America
  • All countries of Europe, including Albania
I have been richly blessed to have had a father who wanted his kids to see their own country, and brought us to each state on summer holiday while we were growing up. Subsequently, business travel with a former employer brought me to
each state of the fifty United States (many, many times), and each territory and possession: Guam, American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Marshall Islands, CNMI (Saipan, Tinian, Rota), Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and even the Panama Canal Zone when it was held by the U.S.

Frequent flyer miles earned from all this travel brought my partner and me to a number of other places listed above, including many places in Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific. Of course, that was back when my partner could travel.

What were my favorites? I enjoyed them all; each has a great story to tell and richness of history. Where would I return? Probably Italy, as I speak the language, love the people, and know there is much more to see. Also I long to return to Australia, where we own property and have many friends.

There are a thousand more things I want to see, yet haven't figured out if I will, or if my interests have changed and I am no longer interested, or if I can or am willing to afford the travel, or if my partner will (ever) travel again.

What's on your list?

Friday, August 14, 2009

When Am I Bootless?

Someone asked me recently, "are you wearing your boots in that miserable summer heat that the DC area is known for?"

Um... yeah. Seriously, I don't own any shoes. I have no other footwear. Whenever I walk outside, I always have boots on. I may change them more often if my feet get hot. I am not one of those guys who likes a sweaty feeling.

However, there ARE times when I don't have boots on. Yep, I admit it, there are times when am barefooted. In the evening when I do not have to go outside any more, I may take my boots off, curl up on the couch next to my honey, and just relax.

There are some guys who have said that they sleep with their boots on sometimes. I never have been interested in trying to do that, much less actually do it. My feet need to breathe when I sleep.

There are times when I have been so exhausted that I have fallen asleep with boots on, only to have an uncomfortably warm feeling in my feet awaken me. Then I'll kick my boots off and go back to sleep. I just can't sleep through the night with boots on. And for me, I don't have that type of interest in boots that I would want to do that, anyway. (There I go again ... not fetish, not fashion: boots to me are practical, functional, footwear. That's all.)

Seldom am I bootless, but there are times when I am. When it is hot as blazes outside, and I am cool and comfy inside, I may not wear a thing at all... except if you label it a "birthday suit" (wink).

Life is short: wear your boots!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Public Speaking

I really enjoy public speaking. For many years, I was on the "rubber chicken circuit," traveling to conferences and meetings to present information and teach courses -- many of which I wrote. I used to travel to more than 100 conferences and events annually (mostly in the U.S.) The travel was grueling and exhausting. However, I enjoyed seeing the people I was there to meet, and getting a chance to see the sights of whatever town I was in. (N.B., I do not travel nearly as much any more, much to my relief.)

Yesterday, I presented at a conference held in the DC area. It was fun seeing a number of people who I had known and worked with for many years. (I didn't see my old boss, though several people asked me if I did.)

Over 100 people attended my session. I was quite energized and definitely "up" for the occasion.

In order to speak confidently without a script, I did what I had learned from experience. The night before, I reviewed my presentation, tweaked it a little bit, and then rehearsed it in front of my partner. He is a great "speaker critic" and gave me some pointers about some things I could explain better. He has heard it all before and knows the content almost as well as I do. I love having him as my audience. He "pulls no punches" and tells me both the good and the bad (or shall I say, what could be better.)

I like to circulate in front of the audience and not refer to notes. I keep the pace moving, quickly delivering my messages and giving anecdotes to which the audience can relate. I was definitely on "a high" from doing what, to me, is fun.

How was I dressed? Considering that the audience was dressed casually, I wore a shirt and tie, khakis, and debated about the boots. I first put on my Tony Lama "red brown" cowboy boots. Then I remembered that I was going ride my Harley to the Metro, and wanted to have boots on that would give me good traction just in case it rained. Afternoon storms were predicted. Smooth-soled cowboy boots wouldn't work.

So I put on my tall Chippewa Hi-Shine Engineer Boots (to which I had big lug soles applied), which to me looked good with the outfit. Nice and shiny. No one said anything about the boots, and I don't think anyone even noticed. Photo here shows me at my local Metro station on my bike where I park it.

Back to work today to the usual routine. I enjoyed the experience of public speaking, and hope to do it again soon.

Life is short: rise to the occasion and have fun!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Living Well is the Best Revenge

English clergyman George Herbert is credited for coining this phrase. I decided to use that phrase for this blog post which is about some observations on my past life and former employer, and why that phrase came to mind as I am attending a major national conference this week. In fact, I am scheduled to make a presentation during the conference today.

The attendees of this conference, exhibitors, and fellow speakers are from the "small world" of my profession. When I got out at the closest Metro station to the hotel where the conference is being held, I walked to the curb to wait for a shuttle bus. Standing there was a long-time colleague from a large federal agency with which I worked closely for over 25 years. She gave me a hug, and was truly delighted to see me (and me too, in return).

When I walked into the hotel, the Executive Director of the professional association sponsoring the conference greeted me, gave me a big hug, and bought me a Coke. She is always so nice, and we have truly appreciated a deep friendship in addition to a professional relationship.

Dozens of people greeted me, shook my hand, and each and every one said that they were planning on attending my presentation today. No pressure....

I met with people and attended sessions at the conference, and enjoyed being "back in my element." As I was leaving for the day, though, I saw the person who was my last boss at my former employer. I did not speak with her, but just seeing her made my stomach turn.

I got to thinking: when I left my former employer, my former boss did as much as she could to make my life miserable. She attempted to turn former colleagues who I once thought were friends against me. She did not lie (as far as I can tell), but did not refute rumors and innuendo about why I left. She engaged in a paranoid campaign to destroy any evidence of my twenty years of professional contributions.

I think she would have been happy if my life had fallen apart after leaving that job. Heck, she tried to make that happen.

If I were a vengeful person, I could have done a number of things in return for such treatment. Instead, however, I steeled my resolve. I concentrated on caring for my uncle through the winter of his life. I leaned on and received support from my partner and my family. That's when "AZ" became my best friend -- he was so exceptionally supportive during that time.

Being the saver that I am, I had enough financial resources that even without doing consulting during that period, I could have survived just fine. Then I got a job, got promoted, and am continuing to do quite well now. Sure, I had a pile of doggy-doo hurled at me, but I fended it off and rose above the fray.

While at the conference, I heard some awful stories about my former employer and some relationships that some of its representatives significantly damaged within the last month. I am very saddened to hear that. Unfortunately, incompetence reigns. That was the main reason why I left: the Peter Principle (people rise to their level of incompetence) definitely applied.

It was way past time to move on when I did, and I sure am glad I did so. I am living well because I have a wonderfully supportive partner, a loving and caring family, truly terrific friends, and I just love life! I have a great home, an embracing community, and feel that my contributions in the variety of things that I do are appreciated. It's true: living well is the best revenge. When I see my former boss at the conference today, I will flash her the biggest smile of all. It will be sorta my way of saying, "nah-nee-nah-nee-hoo-hoo."

Life is short: live it well.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why Not Sturgis?

[I am second from the right in this photo taken in front of Devil's Tower, Wyoming in August, 1995. My partner took the picture].

A few friends have asked me, "why didn't you go to Sturgis this year?" Sturgis is a general reference to the largest motorcycle rally held in the United States. The epicenter of the rally is a small town: Sturgis, South Dakota, USA, which becomes a thriving throng of hundreds of thousands of bikers during the first week of August each year. The 69th Anniversary Sturgis Rally & Races was held August 3 - 9, 2009.

I had heard about this big rally for many years, and convinced my partner to go to it with me in 1995, two-up on my Dyna Low Rider. I shipped my Harley to Denver, then my partner and I flew out and met it there. We spent a beautiful week getting to South Dakota via the Rocky Mountains and Wyoming, staying a night or two in various towns along the way. Riding two-up with all of our gear on a cruiser was not something taken lightly, nor provided for riding more than a couple hundred miles each day.

We stayed in a "dive" of a hotel in Rapid City, which we had arranged a year in advance. Oh well, it provided our own private bath, air conditioning, and a bed without bed bugs. We are not the types of guys who would enjoy camping with a bunch of rowdy drunken bikers, so we avoided the camp grounds. (That's where a lot of the visitors stay.)

For the five days we were in the Sturgis area, we rode back roads and byways that provided for fascinating scenery via two wheels. Riding right up to Mt. Rushmore was a thrill. We saw Devil's Tower, Wyoming, Lead and Wall, South Dakota, and the badlands. We were among the few "weirdos" who actually went to bed early so we could get up early, have breakfast, then mount our ride and ride ... and ride... and ride (I put over 2,500 miles on my bike during that trip!) Many others did not seem to awaken until after noon 'cause they stayed up half the night partying.

We visited the mega-destination of Sturgis, itself, three times during the rally. It was quite a scene, with literally tens of thousand bikes parked everywhere. Vendors of anything biker-related were ubiquitous. My partner bought me my "Skyrider Vest" while I was there. But besides a few t-shirts and small items, we didn't get much. We didn't have room to pack it! We did not go to any of the other events held during the rally, such as races (I'm not interested in motorcycle racing), nor parties that were more oriented to straight bikers (women's boobs and such...).

What I noticed most was the noise. Man, it was just LOUD all the time. We couldn't hear ourselves talk. Of our three visits to Sturgis itself, my ears rang and I started getting bad headaches. Some thought I was hung over -- but since I don't drink alcohol, that wasn't the problem. I bought some ear plugs that helped somewhat. But my ears rang and head ached all week. My partner had the same problems.

What we enjoyed most was the scenery. There's nothing quite like riding highways with thousands of other bikers around, and hardly any four-wheeled vehicles. Pity the poor family on vacation driving a recreational vehicle through the area, not knowing the rally was going on. I betcha they thought all those bikes were like gnats buzzing by, going 85mph when they were only going 50.

During this visit, I explored riding without a helmet. There is no mandatory helmet law in South Dakota or Wyoming. I bought some really good eye protection (sort of like goggles) and we rode for about a half-hour helmetless. Then we decided that: 1) the noise of the blowing wind was really bad; 2) we learned what "bugs in the teeth were;" and 3) we felt very uncomfortable. We pulled over and put our full-face helmets back on and were much more comfortable. I have never ridden without a helmet since then.

Why not go back? Well... it is far away and getting there takes a lot of planning. Either ride all the way and bust one's butt doing so, or ship the bike and be without it for a month before and a month after the event. It is over 1,600 miles (2,575km) one-way from where we live. Limiting our daily travel to no more than 300 miles/day (my limit), it would take more than five days to get there (provided we don't stop and see something along the way) and equally as long to get back, not to mention the time actually there. I just don't have that amount of leave to take from work. Plus, my partner can not ride with me any more, and going alone is not an option. Some guys in my club have ridden out there, but they like to ride longer distances per day that I do, so it wouldn't work for me to go with them.

Plus, I hate to say it, but as I get older, events like that are not as interesting to me any more. The noise is the strongest deterrent. Then being around all those people ... really, not something I want to do again. I would love to ride those roads again, and see things I did not have the chance to see before. However, I do not think I will. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt (and the vest.)

Life is short: realize your dreams when you're young -- life has a funny habit of changing your priorities and interests as you age.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Reprioritizing Finances

My partner and I only buy what we have money for, and do not spend what we don't have. We are loathe to take loans. The only loan we have is a small first mortgage on our primary residence, which will be paid off in a few years. We have no car or motorcycle payments ... nada ... we believe in paying as we go and saving for long-term goals. We are both products of parents who lived through the Great Depression, and their frugal approach to household finances rubbed off on both of us.

The other day, my partner and I sat down to review our finances. We had been considering having a major renovation of our kitchen done this summer. However, we had to do a major "re-do" of our upstairs hallway and bedroom flooring which became a priority since my partner accidentally ruined the carpet by carrying a leaky bottle of drain cleaner from one end of the house to the other, ruining the carpet unintentionally as he went. (Here is the final outcome of the new hallway and bedroom hardwood flooring).

Meanwhile, we continued with planning to replace kitchen countertops, flooring, and appliances, and had done a fair amount of shopping and price comparisons for this work. The problem is that when I built our house, I built an unusually large chef's kitchen -- it's 20' x 30' (6.1m x 9.1m) -- and thus it requires much more flooring and countertops than an average kitchen would.

When we computed what it would cost to have this work done, with and without labor, we realized that we have more saving to do before we can afford what we want. We're not quite there yet. Sure, we could take out a loan and have it done now, but what we have is still functional, and we can live with it for a year or two more. We may replace the old refrigerator sooner than later as it is about to break down (and we can take advantage of the energy-saving appliance purchase rebates available now), but that's about it.

Further, I've decided that while a new Langlitz motorcycle jacket would be nice, I do not want to shell out US$700 for it. It is too pricey. The motorcycle jackets I wear now suit me fine. They will probably carry me through the rest of the years that I can ride. While I can drool over such a high-quality product, reality dictates that it would be a frivolous expense to buy new leathers when what I currently have serves the purpose.

It is time to reverse three months of negative cash flow and rebuild our reserves. Our joint reserve fund had gotten down to nine months, and we like to keep it at twelve. What I mean by that is that we keep a reserve fund that will keep the bills paid and household running if neither my partner nor I are able to work and experience a disruption in income. The reserve provides a good cushion to absorb unexpected expenses, like replacing the flooring and carpeting on our home's second floor.

Life is short: save for a rainy day


Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Downside of Natural Fertilization

Yesterday, after attending the unveiling of a portrait of my close friend and mentor (an elected official who died in 2007), I returned home to work with my partner to paint our master bedroom ceiling. It wasn't difficult, nor took a long time. I was a good boy: nary a complaint nor a whimper. We just got it done and hopefully, my partner will pronounce it completed after a closer inspection later this morning.

Then I got busy with work outside. I commented in May that we have about the greenest lawn in the neighborhood because we use compost as fertilizer. It is a bit more work to prepare the compost and spread it on the lawn. But it is well worth it, in both saving the environment from spreading more chemicals to the cost savings from not buying chemical fertilizer in the first place.

The only down-side is that the compost makes our sidewalk out front really dirty. It gets brown spots on it, and then an general "overwash" that makes it appear soil-brown. But think about it -- what I am observing is what washes off the lawn after a hard rain. That could be chemicals. But it's not.

Every now-and-then, I have to clean that gunk off the sidewalk. I pulled on my tall Bama-ized Wesco Harness Boots (which have a liking of things wet) and got to work using the powerwasher to clean the sidewalk.

It took a while, but was fun. The boots worked great and while the outer leather got a bit wet, my feet remained dry. Some neighbors who were walking to an illegal meeting down the street saw me and the boots, and just waved (or tried to act invisible, since they knew that I knew that their meeting was held in violation of state law).

After I was done, my partner and I relaxed for the remainder of the afternoon and evening. See, Tef: I can relax. It's not all work 24/7!

Life is short: enjoy it, both at work and after!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Touristdar

I blogged before about gaydar, so today I am blogging about "touristdar."

What is "touristdar" you ask? Well, you can not find a definition in Wikipedia, or in a dictionary. But you know what it means: simply identifying people you see on the streets and public transit of Washington, DC, as tourists.

It is easy to identify the people who compose one of the strongest economic engines of our nation's capitol. Begin first by those who stand staring dumbfounded at the map of our Metro transit system. I, too, have stared at maps of transit systems when I have traveled somewhere. However, there seems to be an unwritten rule that one has to stare at a DC Metro map with one's mouth agape. Honestly, I haven't seen anyone stare at the map with their mouth closed! LOL!

Then, of course, due to the heat and humidity in August, the requisite clothing is comfort for the climate: shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops or sneakers. The vast majority of tourists are so attired. I understand why. It's hot out there! (However, they might find hiking boots more comfortable, because, after all, they are hiking throughout the city!)

Another way to tell that you're looking at tourists is that they travel in herds, mobs, gaggles, or clumps. Seldom do you ever see a tourist by him or herself. They are usually in groups of four: two adults, and two absolutely wrung-out, bedraggled, tired, and cranky children. The parents have that tired, wrung-out, bedraggled look about them, too. It is not easy trying to fit in visits to a million things in a few days. Pity the tourist who brings children requiring strollers on these visits. Kids that young won't get anything out of a museum.

There truly is so much to see, much of it free, in Washington. But it's sad that people try to fit so much in during such a short time. I hear them on the Metro complaining that they spent three hours at one of the 19 Smithsonian attractions in the city, and only saw a fraction of the one they visited. They had to waste a lot of time in lines and dodging other visitors that they had very little time to see the exhibits on display.

Finally, our tourists seem to wander without much of a plan. Then they encounter a long line somewhere, and just get in it and wait -- not realizing that another equally attractive sight is open with no queue.

I will summarize with some hints from a local:
  • Plan your visit to highly visited museums and attractions late in the day. Usually groups with children are gone by then. The few attractions that charge an admission fee often give late-in-the-day discounts.
  • Use on-line tourist assistance, such as visitor's information for the Smithsonian Institution, the Capitol Visitor's Center, the National Park Service (most of the national Mall and its memorials are actually national park sites), the experience DC site, or a really cool one: Destination DC.
  • Plan visits to open-space attractions early in the morning before it gets really hot. This includes the WWII Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Memorial, FDR Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and Jefferson Memorial.
  • Get an on-line ticket for a tour of the U.S. Capitol via the Capitol Visitor's Center for mid-day. Go on the tour and have lunch there in air-conditioned comfort. Lunch is cheaper there than at the Smithsonians. That is, unless you like hot dogs from street vendors.
  • Don't bother trying to visit the White House. Tickets are scarce, and only available through a Member of Congress by writing to her or him months in advance of your visit. Then you don't get to see much on the tour. It's a waste of time and you can see a lot more of what the city has to offer in less time and with less trouble elsewhere. (Sorry, but you can't just walk up to the front door of the White House, knock, and ask, "May I see Barack and Michelle?" LOL!)
  • There are 43 law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction in the city. Best boot watching is over by the Capitol Building or around the mall, especially of the Park Police Equestrian Unit. Secret Service and Park Police motorcops wear nice tall boots; most other cops -- even on motorcycles -- wear short tactical boots.
  • The best time to visit Washington, DC, is in October. The weather is pleasant and usually dry, and the crowds are much diminished. If you can wait, you will have a much more enjoyable visit then rather than during the oppressive summer heat of August.
  • Please, when looking at a Metro map, close you mouth.
We warmly welcome tourists which are the second-most driver of our local economy (the first being our federal government.) And have no worries, we know who you are, and look forward to showing you our nation's treasures.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Working for the Weekend

As I was thinking about ending another full work week with a weekend looming ahead full of honey-do projects at home, a tune began rattling around in my head. Have you had those times when a song you knew before comes back to you, and you can't get it out of your head?

The tune by Loverboy titled, "Working for the Weekend," is what I am talking about in this case. I was thinking that the bosses of the world have it all backwards: that weekends should be five days and work weeks should be two (LOL, a long-held fantasy!) with no loss of pay (HA!)....

I keep thinking that I work and work and work and work and work (five days) and then have two days off ... only to have more work. In this case, paint the ceiling of our master bedroom, mow the lawn, take care of my aunt, take my old lady "crew" grocery shopping, do some home repairs for some elder buds that I had promised, attend a community event (unveiling of a painting of my mentor), and countless other things that my partner has rattling around in his mind, but surprises me with on weekends....

It's an age-old problem that working folks face. Work all week and work all weekend. Oh well, such is life and our routine. I will be granted a reprieve next weekend when my twin brother comes home to share our birthday. Can't wait!

Speaking of weekends and getting older...

A friend offered us two choice seats to see the Beach Boys on Sunday, August 23. They are playing at Wolf Trap, which is a wonderful venue, but far away from us (relatively speaking; it's in Virginia, which is quite a drive and traffic is awful.) It's on a Sunday evening, which won't work for us. We would get home too late, and I just don't handle "late" (anything after 9pm).

Plus, I got to thinking. Do I really want to see a bunch of old guys trying to sing like they once did in the 60s? Sitting there with people my age, trying to act and feel younger? These types of bands bring back fond memories, and it's always nice to hear their songs. But I'm not so sure I want to hear them try to hit those notes -- especially the falsettos -- after reaching "a certain age." I know I can't hit those notes any more.

I thanked my friend but declined the offer. My partner sealed the deal by saying that he just didn't want to go to the performance, and I wasn't all that excited about it, either.

Here's a comparison. Posted below are two videos that I found on YouTube. It is of the group LoverBoy singing the song I am writing about, Working for the Weekend. BTW, I read the lyrics and realized that they are empty and vapid. Only the title applies. Nonetheless, the tune is full of energy and keeps your boots tapping on the floor when you hear it.

However, in comparing the version of the tune sung when it was first released in 1981 (first video below) with a later rendition sung 25 years or so later (second video below), I can't help but think that these guys should just relax and enjoy retirement. At least in the more recent performance, the lead singer didn't try to wear white boots and orange leather pants!

What do you think? Should "old bands" that us Baby Boomers enjoyed in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, keep performing in 2009? I admire them for their continued energy and perseverance. I am not sure, though, that they can sing very well any more. You be the judge.

first release



later performance (25 years later)

Ooops, this one was removed for content violations by whoever put it up on YouTube.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Review of Lucchese 1883 full quill ostrich western boots - snip toe

Nice looking, but...

Booted Harleydude Silver Spring, MD 8/6/2009

3 5

Sizing: Feels true to size

Width: Feels true to width

Pros: Stylish, Comfortable, Breathes Well

Cons: Wear Out Quickly

I wear boots every day. These boots look great, but are made from very soft leather. They flop around on my legs, rather than stand stiff and straight. The leather is easy to scuff. I think the leather is thinner than other cowboy boots I own, and am disappointed with what seems to be a lack of quality materials from which they are made.

Note from BHD: this blog post was created when I wrote a review of these boots that was invited by Sheplers via email.

Comparison of Motorcycle Patrol Boots

I have blogged a lot about how much I like the pair of All American Blue Knight Patrol Boots that I bought last year. And there continues to be a passionate following of Dehner Motorcycle Patrol Boots of which I own seven pairs and have worn for many years.

I made a video comparing both pairs of boots, noting the features and qualities of each. In an overall summary, I think both manufacturers make great boots. The style, quality, and most of all -- appearance -- is excellent.

The All American Boots are made of all leather, and have a thin plastic top coat, which some people call "patent leather." Thus, they keep a great shine with little maintenance by a light spray and wipe of furniture polish (not waxy shoe polish). The coating is thin enough that the boots breathe, so they don't get inordinately hot. The big lug soles provide great traction when I ride my Harley. Having ridden with them a lot, I have noticed that the sides of both boot shafts that face the engine have worn and discolored, and polish won't return the shine. That's a distinct problem with boots (including Chippewa Hi-Shines) that have a thin plastic top coating. The cost of these boots, which are all made custom, is about US$320.

Dehner Boots can be made custom of all leather, but the cost to the average Bootman is well over US$700. Stock Dehner boots are comparable with the All American Boots. The boots have a plastic shaft (called "Dehcord") which can discolor and even crack when worn a lot, particularly when exposed to a hot motorcycle engine. The stock boots are available from many retailers and from the manufacturer. The best price on these boots is from Stompers Boots.

If you can deal with the plastic shaft issue, the rest of the features of Dehner Boots are superb. They are comfortable, even after a long day (on the bike or when I wear them, pants over, to work.) The soles are non-lug rubber, so they do not provide as much traction as lug soles do. However, the company would change the soles if enough cops complained, and apparently they do not. And nothing can compare with the appearance.

Here is the video comparing the two manufacturer's bal-laced patrol boots. Enjoy!