Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Winging It

I do not travel nearly as much as I once did. Back in the day with my former employer, I would travel, on average, about 150 days each year and go to about 70 cities both large and small across America. I might also have traveled once or twice a year internationally.

I would try to choose the same airline, so I could build miles and status to receive perks like early boarding and an occasional free upgrade to first class.

My travel is not nearly the same any more. I may travel just a few times each year nowadays. I have to use different airlines, and my once preferred carrier does not offer nearly as many choices as it once did. Thus, I have no status on any airline and am like anyone else. When I do fly, I wait for the cattlecar placement on the plane.

Take, for example, the recent boarding experience that I had for my return flight home from Phoenix the other day:

Passengers boarded before me include first class, preferred members, families with babies, disabled people, people with wide-set eyes, purple left thumbs, green feet, and everyone else.

"We are boarding by zones. Only board when your zone number is called."

Everyone queues up anyway. (But the agent enforces the "boarding by zone" rule.)

"Attention, we are now boarding Zone 90" calls the gate agent.

Finally... That's me.

"Sir, we have run out of middle seats in the back of the plane. Would you prefer to be strapped to the right or left wing?"

Ummm... I guess the left. I do not have it in me to be a right winger.

"Okay, sir, step out here. Good! Straps nice and tight? That's great! (Who says you're not into bondage!) It may be a little windy, but the view is excellent!"

This is a joke. This is only a joke. For the above post, this blog tested your bad joke deciphering system. This is only a joke. Actually, I got to sit on the tail...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Reflections on a Visit With My Best Friend

By the time you read this, I have returned to my home in Maryland, snuggled a warm hello with my partner, returned to work and my daily hectic life.

Photo above shows my buddy AZ and me relaxing after working through the weekend. AZ had to work for his employer and I offered to do work for him on his house. I felt good about accomplishing a lot of things that needed to be done.

Last time I visited AZ, I was taking vacation time and was there to have fun and explore the state where he lives. I enjoyed a different visit this time. It was "work focused" instead of "play focused." What I did is what friends do for each other: I helped him with things that I could do using my skills as an electrician.

AZ knows how to be a rock-solid good friend, and I am honored by and cherish his friendship with me. AZ is also very good to many others -- such as the owners of the little dog sitting on the couch above my right shoulder. These friends had gone away for the weekend, and AZ took care of their dog. That is one small demonstration of what a good soul AZ has, and why so many people think so highly of his quality of character.

I wish I had more time to stay perhaps and play a little bit in the Grand Canyon State (Arizona), but that just isn't in the cards right now. I have a workload beyond belief at home (both for my employer and in my civic life), and I just couldn't take more than one day off. That's how things are for me for the days, weeks, and months to come.

Life is short: help others using your skills, knowledge, abilities, and giving your time.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Too Hot For Fun

Late September in Phoenix this week finds daytime high temperatures reaching 108°F (42°C). With only 13% relative humidity, when you step outside, you dry out and bake.

Last time I visited my best friend, AZ, here in Phoenix was in February. Back then, the daytime highs were much more tolerable, at about 85°F (29°C). I rented a Harley and we rode together to Sedona for a day trip.

During this visit, AZ had to work all day Saturday and some of Sunday since his office was moving. I could have rented a Harley and explored more of Arizona, but I really do not want to sit on an air-cooled engine producing heat from under me when the sun is beating down such heat from above. It's just "too hot for fun." Thus, I offered to do a number of home improvements for my buddy while remaining indoors and out of the sun, heat, and dryness.

I did take a nice break, though, to have lunch on Saturday with a former colleague who I worked with 20 years ago. It was great to catch up on each other's lives.

While AZ or my other friend were driving me to various places, I saw a few bikers braving the heat. I was not surprised that almost all of them were in the same stage of unsafe undress: shorts, sneakers, t-shirt, and no helmet (there is no helmet law in Arizona). I know it is uncomfortable to ride a motorcycle in such heat and that is why those motorcycle operators wear light clothing like that and nothing on their head but perhaps a pair of sunglasses. However, personally, in my opinion, I would feel more uncomfortable if I were not wearing boots, long pants, and a helmet. Thus, if protective clothing made riding uncomfortable due to the heat, then I probably wouldn't ride (or ride less often.) Again, this is my choice and my opinion.

I look forward to returning to cooler temperatures and more humidity. Funny, it is common to complain about the weather in the DC area, but I miss it. Gimme that cool, damp leather-weather and a warm snuggle in the arms of my man.

Life is short: appreciate what you have.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Best Friend Is Alarmed

Greetings from my my best buddy's house in Phoenix, Arizona. There I am, on a ladder, wearing safety glasses and steel-toed Chippewa Firefighter boots. I am installing wireless interconnected smoke alarms for my best friend's safety and my peace of mind.

It is important to have adequate smoke alarms in homes. About 90% of people who die from exposure to toxic smoke produced by fire die in the place they feel safest: in their own home. Many of these fatal fires happen at night while sleeping. One smoke alarm in a hallway is insufficient, especially if you sleep with the bedroom door closed.

The best thing to have is an interconnected smoke alarm system. Such a system is designed such that if an alarm on one end of the home away from bedrooms detects smoke and its alarm sounds, all other alarms will go off too -- including those inside bedrooms where people sleep. That way, they can be awakened and have a chance to get out and away from toxic smoke that can kill them (then call the fire department once out of harm's way.)

The problem though with older homes is that wiring is not already present behind walls and ceilings to connect smoke alarms to the home's power supply and to each other. However, a leading smoke alarm manufacturer has solved that problem by inventing and selling battery-powered smoke alarms that interconnect wirelessly. Now all you have to do is put batteries in the alarm and attach it to the ceiling in the correct locations, and you're done. When one goes off, all the others go off, too. It took me five minutes a piece to do the installation (but shhh... don't tell AZ that; let him think that it was really hard and took me all day long LOL!)

I now feel better that new wireless smoke alarms are installed and working to protect my best buddy. These were my housewarming gift to him (labor included). Now, on to install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI) outlets in the bathrooms and kitchen....

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

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Sorry, no time to blog much at the moment. My best friend and brother-in-heart, "AZ", picked me up at my hotel after my conference ended on Friday. We enjoyed dinner together, then went to his house. We prepared a list of things that we needed to get from the local building supplies retailer so I can do some home improvement projects at his house while I am spending the weekend with him in Phoenix.

Check back...

Friday, September 25, 2009

How Appropriate

This photos shows the sculpture outside the meeting room where I led my sessions yesterday. Man, they must have known that I was coming. How appropriate!

I wore my cowboy boots, as usual, throughout the day and several others wore their boots, as well. We felt right at home.

Welcome once again to Arizona!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Boots in Flight

This post is about some amusing things I heard at my home airport in Maryland, aboard my flight, and after arrival yesterday in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, where I am leading a major event for my work.

I traveled comfortably, in a pair of Wranglers and Nocona Rattlesnake cowboy boots.

Here goes:

Arriving at the airport whilst checking in
  • [Airline agent inquired]: Do you have luggage to check? Why?
    -- because I can't travel without at least one change of boots each day for the five days I will be there. [I think she actually believed me, but I couldn't tell]
  • [a guy taking off his wing-tipped dress shoes in front of me asked]: Do you have to take your boots off to go through security like I do?
    --No; I enjoy being wanded, frisked, and delayed
  • [kid with Mom] Mommy, what are those things on his feet?
    Honey, those are boots
    Mommy, where's he going?
    I don't know
    Do you think he is going to ride a horse?
    I don't know
    Mister, [looking at my boots then at me] Are you going to ride a horse in Texas?
    Kid, thanks for noticing the boots. No, I'm going to ride a horse in Arizona.
    Oh! Wow!
Aboard the plane
  • [Flight attendant said:] Nice cowboy boots!
    Why thank ya', ma'am!
  • [Woman on aisle seat in my row exclaimed:] Those are some boots!
    No, there are only two
  • [Sneaker-wearing guy waiting for the toilet asked:] Don't those things (pointing to my boots) get hot?
    No, but they look hot!
Upon arrival in Phoenix
  • [Good looking young guy who sees me at baggage claim says:] Man, those a really cool boots! I've always wanted a pair of boots like that. Where did you get them? I got them from a cousin who owned a boot store in Oklahoma. I have seen them on-line for a decent price at [He smiles and says that he will get himself a pair.]
Welcome to Arizona!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Identify the Boots: Answers

This post is a follow-up to my "Identify the Boots" challenge posted on this blog yesterday. I asked you to guess the three models of two brands of boots worn by motor officers at a bike cop competition that I recently attended.

The first pair of boots, shown here, were most numerous because there were more cops from that police force than any other at this event. If you guessed dress instep Dehner patrol boots, you were right. Classic in design, form, and function, these boots look really good on a cop in uniform. These boots in this photo were worn by cops who come from a wealthy jurisdiction, and their boots show it. The boots aren't cheap (even though the boot shafts are made of "Dehcord") but have a commanding appearance that is hard to beat.

The next pair of boots are worn by many motor officers nowadays. These are a classic engineer boot (note the strap across the instep closing with a buckle). The boots have a thin plastic topcoat that gives them their name: "Hi-Shines." Yep, if you guessed Chippewa Hi-Shines, you're right. These boots are comfortable, well-made, and much (much!) less expensive than Dehner boots. These boots are leather lined and made of all leather (unlike stock Dehner boots.) I know from personal experience that these boots are very comfortable and can easily be worn all day long.

The third pair of boots have a bal-laced instep. If you look closely, you will see that the shafts crease a lot around the ankle, and have some more folds along the shaft. That shows that the material from which they are made is thin. While the material is indeed leather, the leather of these boots is thinner than competitor's boots. Guess what they are yet? Okay, here goes: Chippewa Motor Patrol boots. These boots are about the same price as their "hi-shine" brothers. Unfortunately, the finish discolors (turns dull and grey) when exposed for any length of time to a hot motorcycle engine. Also, the soles are soft and often leave melt-marks on hot motorcycle pipes. These boots are chosen by some motor outfits because they have the same appearance as bal-laced Dehner boots, but cost half the price.

Well, I hope you enjoyed playing this bike cop boot guessing game. Join me for another booted cop adventure next Spring.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Identify the Boots

Often when I'm around a bunch of bike cops, especially when they gather for an event or competition and come from different jurisdictions, I play a guessing-game that I call, "what brand and model of boots are those?"

And you know what, I guess I have been looking at and wearing boots for way too long, 'cause I haven't guessed wrong in quite a number of years.

In the booted gathering in the photo above, can you guess which brands and models of boots you are seeing? I'll give you a hint, there are only two brands and three models.

Take your guesses and return tomorrow for the answers.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Picking Up a Heavyweight Motorcycle

No matter how careful a rider is, no matter how skilled, no matter if he is a professional or someone like me who rides for freedom and fun -- there may come a time when the rider drops his bike.

In the case shown above, the officer was attempting to ride very slowly through a course, lost control, and dropped his motorcycle. That happens even to the best of them.

What the officer is showing is what we are taught in advanced motorcycle safety training courses. Here is how to lift a heavy motorcycle if it is dropped:

1. Stop the engine and if you can make sure the bike is in gear (so it won't roll once it is righted). If the bike is on it's right side, put the sidestand down before trying to lift it. If the bike has a gas petcock, turn the valve to the "off" position.

2. Back up into the bike with your body. That's right! Don't face the bike to try to lift it -- use the power of your legs to lift it. It is safer for your back and your body to do it this way.

3. Place your butt in the mid-section of the seat (back toward the motorcycle), not too close to the edge. Keep your back straight and your head up.

4. Grab the handlebar grip with the hand closest to it. Pull the handlebars as close to the gas tank as you are able. Find a place to grab with the other hand.

5. Put your feet fairly close together, about 12" (30cm) apart. Press the bike using your legs and rear to lift it up. Your hands will guide it. Take small steps backwards. Once you have the bike sufficiently lifted, reach the hand that is not on the handlebars over and grab the other grip. Straighten the handlebars.

6. Be careful to go slowly enough that you don't push the bike over onto the opposite side.

Before remounting and restarting the motorcycle, check it carefully for damage that may interfere with safe operation. Cosmetic damages like a broken turn signal lens or scratched paint do not interfere with your ability to ride the bike. However, damage to steering alignment, brake pedal, gear shifter, or other parts may require that the bike be towed to a repair shop to be fixed before being ridden again.

That's it! Don't be embarrassed, because it happens to almost all bikers eventually. Using this method, you can lift the bike yourself -- even a bike that weights many times your own weight. The trick is using leverage to your advantage, not mere physical strength.

Life is short: ride safely!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Last Ride of Summer

I led the longest ride I have ever led yet, over 330 miles (530km) yesterday. Of course, that included getting lost and arriving at our destination via a "very scenic" route. Nonetheless, it was an absolutely stunning day, with bright sunshine and clear blue skies, with very pleasant temperatures -- just perfect for a long motorcycle ride. My Harley rides so comfortably, I did not get sore nor was I wrung out when I got home with over 100 digital photos and video that I took. Hmmm... what could that be about? After I process all of them, I will announce it on my website, but please be patient.

I was looking at a lot of these:

While admiring the expert motorcycle riding skills of a lot of these:

and took this video while I was at it:

Consistent with my "don't be specific about where and when" policy, I will not say the name of this event here on this blog, else it might attract people looking for that event using Google or other search engines. There are some people who have not understood this gay man's blog, so I choose to be circumspect. Meanwhile, enjoy the views -- I sure did! Woofity-woof!

By the way, I only refer to the ride yesterday as my "last ride of summer" because autumn begins on September 22, and I will not be leading or going on a ride until after autumn starts. But no worries, autumn is a great time to ride, and I intend to do that when I can!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Commenting Policy

UPDATE: The content below was updated in February and September, 2010. Here are the changes, in brief:

1. I will accept anonymous comments if the content of the message contributes to the quality of a post.

2. I will delete any comment that has an embedded link to a commercial company. I do not allow other people to endorse products or services on MY blog.

The rest of my commenting policy remains as previously written:
I do not allow anonymous comments on this blog. Anyone who wants to post a comment may sign in using his or her google or blogger account, or use the "anonymous" option to submit a comment, but he or she must give a name or screen handle, and be consistent about it.

What's the problem with anonymous comments?

1. Civility. Anonymous comments encourage nasty snark-fests of the worst kind. People write comments behind a computer screen which they would never make if they had to sign their name. It's one of the worst aspects of the internet and helps destroy the potential of this medium for communication. It can also have a chilling effect on people who want to engage but would like to disagree agreeably. While some blogs enjoy controversy generated by flame wars as it attracts readers, I do not have an interest in doing that.

2. Responsibility. If you're going to write something, you should own it.

3. Negativity. This goes along with civility. Some people write nasty things behind the screen of anonymity that reveals much about their lack of quality of character and integrity. I will not abide negativity related to sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, or that expresses intolerance.

If you wish to comment on any post on this blog, feel free. Sign in with your google identity OR use the anonymous option but include your name or screen name.

I will review all comments and decide if they will be published or not. For example, you may refer to me by "Booted Harleydude" or its short-form, "BHD", but not by another name. References to me by another name get deleted because I separate my blogger identity from my personal identity. That's not the same thing as anonymity, because my blogger and website identities are the same and have been for over a decade.

Also, I will delete any comment that includes and embedded link to a commercial enterprise. I do not allow other people to try to endorse products or services through MY blog. If you want to do that, write your own blog.

Ultimately, my blog is an expression of my personal opinions. If you don't like my opinions, say so and own your remarks, or surf elsewhere.

Acknowledgment: some of the language used above is from the anonymous commenting policy of a blog written by a friend. Used with permission.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Where I'd Rather Be

I admit it, there are some days when I wake up and say to myself, "oh gee, same routine ... go to work, work-work-work, come home, fix dinner for my partner and me, go to a meeting, get back by 9, go to bed, ... rinse, lather, repeat."

There are some days when I would rather not continue with the same routine. Don't get me wrong; I love my life and enjoy what I do for a living. But after a while, the routine gets awfully boring, repetitious, and well -- so "routine!"

Pictured above from a photo captured from the 'net somewhere, is where I imagine that I'd rather be, in boots and leather, riding off into the wind down a deserted road -- perhaps in the desert such as shown in this photo, on my way to see my best friend and my brother who live in Arizona. (Hmmm, come to think about it, business brings me to Phoenix next week. Can't wait! Unfortunately, I won't be renting a Harley this visit.)

Anyway, thanks for sharing this diversion of a daydream with me. Don't you have days like this? You'd rather be anywhere than where you are?

Life is short: enjoy what you have, yet continue to dream.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Light in the Dome

Last night, I went to a reception where an award was presented to a dear friend of mine. The reception was held in a building on the U.S. Capitol grounds. I was so happy for my friend who certainly deserved the award she was presented by a well-recognized national organization and before several Members of Congress.

It was a pleasant evening. After the reception was over and award presented, I decided to walk to the Metro station at Union Station to go home. As I walked by the U.S. Capitol Building, I noticed that the light was on in the rotunda. That is a signal that Congress is still in session.

It never ceases to amaze me -- I pinch myself sometimes -- here I am, walking down the streets of the capital of the free world, right past the building where important legislation is debated. Regardless of one's political beliefs, it still is quite special to think about the work that goes on there and its affect on our country and the world.

This is where I work, and live in the suburbs nearby. What a very special place, this city which serves as our nation's capital.

[Sorry the photos are a bit fuzzy. There's only so much you can do with a camera in a Blackberry.]

Life is short: appreciate your surroundings

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How Does a Typical Group Motorcycle Ride Work?

Sometimes I talk about group motorcycle rides on this blog. They're enjoyable and fun when managed well. Let me explain how a typical group motorcycle ride works.

Each ride is led by a person who fills a position titled "road captain." In serious, safety-oriented motorcycle clubs, the road captain will plan a route for a ride well in advance, including pre-riding the route to note any potential road hazards, difficult turns, narrow roads, etc.

The club will announce the ride in advance, so others can see that it is coming up and decide if he/she wants to go. But in all honesty, most people make the "go-no-go" decision on the morning of the ride, since (obviously) motorcycle riding is a weather-dependent activity. One does not have to register in advance -- riders just show up. The number of riders can vary from a handful to over 50, depending on a number of variables (weather, competing choices, duty to family and home, etc.)

One club with which I once rode announces rides via email only one or two days before a ride. Due to the poor announcement timing, I have not been able to ride with them in years. (That group operates on "gay time." If you don't know what that means, don't ask.)

On the day of the ride, the road captain shows up at the designated location from which the ride will depart at least a half-hour early. He or she greets and welcomes all riders. At the designated start time, the road captain will gather those who have assembled and go over group riding procedures and describe the route, noting anything he/she learned about the route during the pre-ride. A well-prepared road captain will provide a "ride sheet" which details information about the ride route in writing, noting turns and distance of each leg of the trip.

The road captain often designates another road captain to be a sweep rider. This person rides in the very back of the group. His/her responsibility is to follow and stop with anyone who may have to pull over due to a mechanical difficulty, or help if there is a crash.

The leading road captain will take the front left position and assemble the group, two-by-two, behind her/him. Once everyone is assembled, the ride takes off.

We ride at the posted speed limit in a staggered formation (not two-by-two). Not all riders have the same skills, and some feel very uncomfortable if the ride goes too fast or the group falls apart. The road captain will use hand and turn signals to pass information back to the rest of the riders about upcoming turns, stops, or road hazards such as railroad tracks, potholes, road kill, etc. He or she may stop along the way to allow the group to catch up if they got divided at a turn or stoplight.

Usually group rides are to a destination such as a restaurant. As they say, "live to ride, ride to eat" (smile.) We have an enjoyable meal together, then saddle up and make our return. Sometimes people choose to return on their own, and some ride together. The return is often by a different route, and gets back to the general area where the ride started. But by then, most people turn off and make their way home, wherever that may be.

The road captain will turn in a report to the club, noting the number of riders, and any notes about anything that may have happened on the ride.

And that's it.... A well-organized and managed group ride will be well planned, announced well in advance, and will be able to accommodate riders of various skills and abilities. The overall theme of a group ride is to "ride and have fun," and that's what it's all about.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Should Learn My Own Lesson

I have observed and mentioned before on this blog that a certain humongous search engine owns blogger, and therefore it almost instantaneously indexes blog content such that it comes up in searches almost immediately upon publication.

Such was what happened with a blog post that was formerly here on this date.

I should learn, in particular, not to post words or phrases that may be searched and then show this blog where what they were looking for is not really what I was writing about.

Unfortunately, at least two people, if not more, totally missed my point and accused me of missing theirs. This is not the forum for such "discussion." I deleted that former blog post. I will remember to be more vague about certain things so that searches will not land someone on this blog who doesn't understand the full context of the stream of thought about which I write, over time. My regular followers know what I'm talking about. My one-time visitors do not, and I regret any misunderstanding.

And remember, September 11, 2001, is a date, not a number.

/ bhd 9/16

Monday, September 14, 2009


Here's a photo of me with a woman who took me under her wing back in the 70s, and taught me everything she knew about working as a volunteer leader in a major non-profit organization.

She always was kind and thoughtful, and has a sense of humor that kept me rolling. Thorough and precise in her work, she taught me where to look for information and how to help clients in a genuine and case-specific manner. I was amazed at how quickly she could cut through the b/s and find the answers to challenging questions, and come up with creative resolutions to many situations.

We became fast friends, and served together on the Board of Directors of this organization for about 15 years. As friends, she and I went hot air ballooning, where upon a bad landing she broke her leg but said that she loved the experience. She watched me skydive often, and had she not had a doctor tell her that she couldn't go with me, I think she would have.

What we didn't tell the doc about was the number of times that she got on the back of my Harley and went for a (short) ride. We always laugh about that. When I accompany her somewhere, which nowadays is pretty much reserved to the dining room in her retirement home, her friends always ask, "is he the guy who took you on his Harley?" In boots and leather, I smile back and say, "yep, that's me. Do you want a ride?" The aghast reaction is amusing to watch, especially when my mentor says, "you ought to try it -- he doesn't drop people off the back any more." (giggle)

My partner and I spent a wonderful day this past Saturday visiting my friend, my mentor. He adores her and I enjoy watching the two of them interact, laugh, and smile.

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

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Today I write about kindnesses that I have observed and that have been extended to me, to others, to those I love, and to perfect strangers. Humanity is a strange and complex thing. When it is extended to others for no reason other than to be kind, gentle, thoughtful and caring, it warms my heart deep down to my soul. Today I point out a few people whose kindnesses are observed, valued, and appreciated:

My partner, the love of my life. Each day, I observe what he does to make my life easier. He carries out lots of actions at home "behind the scenes" to free up my time so I can carry on the crazy-busy life that I lead. He is my cheerleader and champion. When I came home the other day a bit dejected about an issue at work, he listened. Then he gave me support by describing my skills that I can engage to overcome this challenge. He demonstrated how much he believes in me. How blessed I am to have him as my best half.

My best friend, AZ, has been pulled many different directions in the past month, what with buying a home, yet caring for two dear friends who were hospitalized and needed attention which he freely gave without equivocation. Further, a close mutual friend has been going through a very rough time. AZ has expressed in thought, word, and deed how compassionate, thoughtful, and caring he is. It is no wonder why I adore him so much, as my adopted eighth brother.

Mrs. K, one of my "elder buds," who learned from me that my aunt needed to get exercise every day. Without asking, Mrs. K shows up at my aunt's door and says, "let's take a walk." Gently, carefully, and slowly, they stroll around the neighborhood. They stop to observe baby fawns, families of geese parading their young, and squirrels playing in the trees. To hear my aunt describe what she sees is wonderful. What a kind, sweet, thoughtful daily gesture that my friend, Mrs. K, extends to my aunt because Mrs. K likes me. She never knew my aunt until a month ago, and now they're fast friends. What a joy, what sheer delight, in receiving this help for someone who I love dearly.

Man on Metro. I do not know this gentleman's name, but I see him regularly on my ride home from the office. Without fail, he assists people -- lost tourists trying to figure out the confusing Metro map and system, older or disabled people who need a seat, or just picking up discarded newspapers. He demonstrates thoughtfulness in all he does. He thinks no one notices. I do. He sets a great example for me.

G, the grocery store associate. She greets us by name every time we go to the store when she is there. She mentions good buys to consider. She is joyful, friendly, and such a happy person that you can't help but smile. She puts up with a lot of grief from the me-me-me people who go to the store and complain about stupid stuff, yet always, she demonstrates kindness in a thousand ways.

F, a mentee. I am working with her on a vexing local issue in my community. She listens exceptionally well, communicates with clear and concise understanding and grasp of difficult details, yet with humor and grace. While I am teaching her the finer points of community service and activism, she is teaching me about working with people who do not always "get it." What a great team we have made. Oh, did I mention, I just love her smile, too.

O, a very hard working man in our community. He works from sun-up to sun-down seven days a week, earning a meager income to support his family both here where we live and in his home country. He never complains, and he always is working. Rain, sun, heat, cold, whatever... he is a true demonstration of what "work ethic" means. And he does all of his work with kindness and thoughtfulness to those for whom he provides service. As if they were his family. He teaches me that despite ignorant comments directed his way about his situation in life, that actions speak louder than words.

Kindness means a lot to me. I observe it in others, and try to emulate the good things I observe in what I do.

Life is short: be kind to others.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

How has being a biker impacted your life?

That's a great question. A regular reader of this blog asked me this question, so I pondered it and I thought I would post a public response.

I guess I can say that being a biker has made my life more fun. It has given me a good reason to wear boots and leather often, and it has introduced me to some really great people who have become friends with whom I enjoy a shared passion. Riding a motorcycle is a heck of a lot more fun than driving a car. I go crazy cooped up in a cage (as bikers call cars.)

Before my partner became disabled, we rode together frequently, with him as my passenger. We loved riding two-up, and went to some interesting places. Riding together drew us closer so motorcycling impacted our lives by helping to build a strong bond built from having fun together.

Motorcycling has also brought sadness to me, when I witnessed a very close friend get killed by someone who was talking on a cell phone while driving and ran into him, killing him instantly, right before my eyes. That incident has made me very passionate about banning the use of cell phones while driving, which I advocate for before our spineless state General Assembly every year, and will continue to do so until the law passes.

That incident, plus training I have had over the years, has made me much more aware about what is going on around me. I am more vigilant not only when I am operating my Harley, but also when I am driving my truck, or just when I am out and about in general. I pretend that no one else can see me. I try to keep a lot of distance in front, in back, and on both sides of my vehicle. Then if another driver does something stupid, like turn in front of me, weave while yakking, or stop short, I have room around me in which to maneuver or take evasive action.

How has being a biker impacted my life? I do not really know any other ways in which it has. Being "a biker" is only one facet of a complex personality. Sure, I may arrive at a public hearing on my Harley, and I may dress a bit more casually than attorneys who are there in pin-striped suits and dress wingtip shoes and who arrive in their expensive luxury automobiles. But that is how I am anyway -- I have often said that my twin brother got the "suit genes" and I got the "jeans genes." Even if I did not learn how to ride a motorcycle and operate one for over three decades, I think I still would be wearing boots and jeans and shunning dress clothes anyway.

There are some people who apply stereotypes to bikers as they apply stereotypes to gay men. Some ill-informed, closed-minded people expect all bikers to be loud drunken savages who speak derogatorily about women and make boastful comments (positioning their masculinity.) Honestly, most "real" bikers -- at least those with whom I hang out -- are not like that at all. They are thoughtful, caring, concerned men and women who enjoy the same passion as I do -- riding a motorcycle and having fun while doing so safely.

Yes, there are some bikers who behave in ways that fulfill the stereotype. There are gay men who behave in ways that fulfill a negative stereotype as well. We are all different. Some bikers ride with a helmet, boots, and appropriate gear all the time, even if not required by law. These are the responsible bikers who do not drink alcohol if they're going to ride a bike. These are the bikers with whom I enjoy riding.

There are gay men who work hard, and contribute to society in a number of ways. They care for their families and friends, and help their communities by working as a civic leader (as I do), or serve in a publicly elected position (as I have.) Then there are some gay men who are irresponsible, and expose themselves to serious harm and risk. I won't describe it -- you can figure it out -- and these are the gay guys who do not read this blog anyway.

What I am saying is that we are all different, and we as individuals are complex. We have multiple interests, talents, abilities, and approaches to life. Bikers can be gay men and gay men can be bikers, as the two are not mutually exclusive.

Pardon the tangent... how as being a biker impacted MY life? It has brought me fun; it has taught me to be more vigilant; it has helped me to demonstrate to others that the "biker lifestyle" and the "gay lifestyle" are not mutually exclusive.

Life is short: be who you are.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I always take time on September 11 to remember my mother. I know, a lot of people remember this date for another reason, and I'll get to that in a moment.

September 11 is the date on which my mother died. I blogged about it last year, so I will not repeat myself.

It's been eleven years since the fateful date of her death. What's happened since then? My partner and I settled into the house that I built, developed a stable, productive, and deep partnership together, and have led quality lives. We have had many fun and not-so-fun experiences, learned a lot, and each of us changed jobs once -- moving on to better things for each of us. We have matured, grown, and have deepening respect for each other, and for others.

My Mom influenced me in many ways. She always told me to keep smiling, and keep plugging away because life is short -- you only reap what you sew -- so plant your roots deep and care for your family, your neighbors, your friends, and Mother Nature. That we do.... Thanks, Mom, for your continuing inspiration in my life, and for your love that endures beyond your physical presence on this Earth.

The media contrived "9/11" to refer to the U.S. attacks on that date. That media contrivance drives me absolutely bonkers, but the reference isn't going to go away, no matter how wrong it is. (I remind you, FDR did not refer to "12/7" as a date which will live in infamy.)

Right after the U.S. attacks of September 11, 2001, I spent six months in New York City (on-and-off; not permanently) providing relief and working on a series of special projects. While I had visited NYC several times before that date, the ongoing exposure to the city in that "post-September 11" timeframe taught me many things. It taught me about the endurance and perseverance of humanity, and of New Yorkers. It taught me that people can rise to overcome many challenges. And it taught me that I really don't like New York City.

My feelings have nothing to do with the people, as it has to do with long-term, ongoing memories that I would rather not think about. I have not returned to New York City since February, 2002, and have no intentions of going back. It just hurts too much. Plus, I am not a city boy. I do not like crowds, noise, late-night activities, and the expense. I am much more relaxed and comfortable in my simple suburban lifestyle, with my partner by my side, and enjoying the view of Maryland's back roads and nearby areas from the saddle of my Harley. My needs are simple, and I much prefer quiet and peacefulness than noise, dust, dirt, and "busy-ness." Not for me.

Mind you, nothing is wrong with New York City. Many, many people call it home, and many more visit every year. Great for them. It is a marvelous place. It's just not for me nor my partner.

Life is short: remember those you love.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Leather, Breeches, Boots, Bike

My partner took this photo of me at my request on Monday when I decided not to go on a motorcycle ride, and we decided to "play" instead. You saw the results of some of this "play" in my last blog post.

I really liked this photo and the image portrayed, so I thought I would post this one, as well.

Life is short: Say, "grrrrrrrr!"

Gear description

Disclaimer: I (the "officer" in this image) am not a sworn law enforcement officer. Nothing in this image should be considered anything other than demonstration of my "avocation" and interests. I had to put this disclaimer here because there are some people who just don't understand....

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Driving With Improper Footwear

I found this wayward character operating a vehicle with improper footwear.

I said, "license and registration, please." The open-toed footwear-wearing miscreant produced it, revealing that he had won the vehicle about a month ago, and was on his way to donate it to a children's charity.

"What's with that footwear? It's unsafe to use for operating such a vehicle!"

"Oh, sorry, Officer, Sir! I don't know what I was thinking, Officer, Sir! I promise, I won't wear them again, Officer, Sir! Perhaps you can suggest some 'proper' footwear, Officer, Sir?" Then he flashed me a huge smile, looked at me with those deep baby-blue eyes, and flexed his pecs. Man, with that nonverbal behavior, this guy can get by with murder.

However, I let him off with a warning this time. His response? "Thank you, Officer, Sir! I promise, I will be good and correct the errors of my ways, Officer, Sir! Nice patrol boots, Officer, Sir! May I see them up closer, Officer, Sir? Perhaps your uniform requires cleaning and pressing, Officer, Sir? Do those boots need shining, Officer, Sir?"

"Sure, fella... there seems to be a concealed weapon in your waistband that I have to check out in person. Follow me down the street to a more secluded spot."

"Yes, Sir, Officer, Sir!"

Life is short: have fun!

Photoshop skills credit: David (Bamaboy) whose talent is only exceeded by the quality of his character. And for those who don't know, the errant vehicle operator is none other than my studly partner who enjoys my wacky sense of humor. Additional disclaimer: I (the "officer" in this image) am not a sworn law enforcement officer. Nothing in this image should be considered anything other than demonstration of my personal interests, or "avocation." I had to put this disclaimer here because there are some people who just don't understand....

The Go or No-Go Decision

Every biker faces the dilemma that I faced yesterday morning. Based on what I was observing out my window, as well as what I was hearing on weather reports on television as well as reading on-line, the question was, "will it rain and should I go on that ride today or not?"

Sunday night, quite unexpectedly, it rained. Monday morning at dawn when we awoke, the ground was wet but the streets were dry. The clouds, though, were low and leaden. The weather forecasts from six different sources were all over the place. None were in agreement.

It is very difficult to predict weather in the part of the United States where I live. The Chesapeake Bay is not that far away, nor the Atlantic Ocean for all that matter (meteorologically speaking). Both of these bodies of water strongly influence our weather. There are mountain-ettes (foothills of the Appalachian chain) to my north and west. Then there is all that hot air from Congress... (but wait a minute, they're not in session right now.)

Anyway, I had cleared my calendar to be able to go on a long motorcycle ride with my club. However, it really looked like rain. It felt like rain (by that, I mean that I was achy.) The scheduled ride was toward the west, where the radar on television indicated that rain was falling and would be worse as the day went on.

I called the club's phone number where ride updates are posted, to hear if the ride leader had cancelled the ride. He didn't....

... but I made that difficult and very disappointing decision not to go on the ride. Being the superstitious sort, I figured that if I did go on the ride, it would rain cats-and-dogs. However, if I did not ride, then it wouldn't rain.

The latter proved true. It did not begin to rain until 4:30pm. I would have been home by then (or close to it!) I don't get to ride very often with my club, and I missed a great chance to do so. Oh well... nothin' I can do about it. I guess, overall, I would rather be safe and dry than sorry and wet.

Monday, September 7, 2009

No Labor Today!

Today in the United States is Labor Day, which is the holiday that marks the unofficial end of summer. The holiday is late this year. Schools have been open for a week or two in the area, and most people have returned to work. The Metro has definitely been more crowded, and predicted to be worse on "Terrible Traffic Tuesday" when everyone and everything, including Congress, is back to work (or at least, "back to the office.")

The past two days of this three-day weekend have been very busy for me and my partner. Our "honey-do" list around the house had several major items knocked off of it, from building a new book shelf for my partner from salvaged red oak (including routed edges and corners), installing new quarter-round in the hallway, preparing and seeding the lawn area that I tore up a few weeks ago when I installed underground rainwater drainage piping, and replacing batteries in about 20 smoke alarms for seniors. I dunno, there were dozens of other little things that were accomplished, too. Soreness prevails.

I did manage to drop by two birthday parties for family. That was fun, albeit too brief.

Today, however, I absolutely insisted on having the day off. Enough with the honey-do list! I hope to go on a long ride on my Harley with a group, weather permitting. My fellow riders are great, and it is, after all, a holiday! No labor today!

Life is short: get out and enjoy it!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Christmas Presents and New Years Surprises

'Tis the season that all of the "Christmas Presents and New Years Surprises" in my family have birthdays. That is, 12 of the 15 of us siblings have birthdays ranging from mine on 16 August to mid-September. We collectively refer to those of us with August birthdays as our parents' "Christmas Presents" or the September babies as "New Years' Surprises" up through and including our "last rose of summer" (my 'little' sister, all 90 pounds of her, was born September 20.)

My Dad was a diplomat and worked in Europe for six months each year, returning to the U.S. to bring us back from the Oklahoma homestead to our Maryland home by mid-December each year, so we would enjoy Christmas there.

Do the math... when is nine months after Christmas and New Years? Te he... hiya, Mom & Dad, here we are!

While some of us were multiples, such as with me and my twin, we each enjoyed our own separate birthday party, even if it were not on the actual date of our birth anniversary. Thus, this weekend, one sister is having a party on Saturday and a brother is having his on Sunday, even though their actual birthdays were last week and next week, respectively... go figure.

I'll be the bad Biker Dude Uncle/Great Uncle who shows up on his big Harley to terrorize the kiddos, give them rides on the bike, and share the joy of family, extended family, in-laws, out-laws, and sundry others. My partner will enjoy blissful peace back home... he does not attend these parties with me. (Large families can be somewhat overwhelming, but I am accustomed to it. I mean, after all, I was born into one!)

I will bring a card, good cheer, and a huge smile for all. That's what life is all about: love for family and our caring concern for each other.

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

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Boots In, Boots Out

This may be hard for some people to believe, but I am not trying to establish a record of how many pairs of boots can be owned and worn by one man. I did, however, briefly hit a new record by receiving a new pair of boots -- Guide Gear engineer boots -- that I picked up on a surplus sale for only US$20. This brought my collection up to 150 pairs of boots.

However, the very next day, I shipped a pair of my boots to a buddy (he will reveal himself at a later point in time.) These were my Chippewa lug-soled engineer boots that I bought from Stompers on a close-out sale in 2007.

The Chippewa boots were labeled size 10-1/2D yet my feet swam around in them so much that they were more like an 11EE, which is my friend's boot size. No matter how thick my socks nor how many additional insole/inserts I put in the boots, my feet continued to "swim around" in the boots and therefore they never felt right. They're great boots, but not my size and since they were a close out since Chippewa stopped making them with a lug sole, not avaiable in my size.

So, for now, my boot collection remains stable at 149 147 pairs (oops, in June, I had to discard a pair of Harley Harness Boots and a pair of Corcoran Field Boots, but I forgot to delete them from my list until now.)

One pair in, one pair out... and that's probably what it will be like for a while. Again, believe it or not, I do not envision buying any more boots, but I'm not one to turn down a great deal or opportunity.

Life is short: wear your boots!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fascinating Photo

I usually blog about my life, but in this case, I am blogging to display a photo that my buddy David (Bamaboy) sent to me yesterday. He is a tremendously skilled photographer and Photoshop editor.

The photo above shows a Banana Spider, which is indigenous to the part of the country where David lives. He says this species of spider is not poisonous, but man -- it sure looks scary! Just as scary as some of those really bad spiders that I ran into in South America and Australia. (Fortunately, I never was bitten though I came close a couple of times.)

Anyway, I thought for something different that I would post a photo that I enjoyed viewing. I hope you like it too!

Life is short: show your friend's skills

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Caring for Leather Gear

Lately, I have received several email messages asking about leather care, and wondering how often I care for and treat my leathers.

Generally, I am not one who obsesses about my leather getting mud or dirt on it, or splashed by rain. But I want my investment to last, so I care for it as I use it. This time of year in North America, the temperatures are dropping so it's time to get the leathers ready for more regular wear. (Yippie!) I remove the gear from my closet and rub a "leather wipe" (described below) over it, re-orient the gear on the hangar, and hang it back up.

Details on care of leather garments is below. I took this from my Complete Guide to Leather Gear that I wrote last year. The most important thing to keep in mind is that leather is a tanned and treated animal skin. Much like our skin, leather is porous and needs to be treated with care.

Condition it when you first get it: The first thing you should do after you purchase any leather garment is to treat it. You can almost always find leather care products where you make your leather purchase, or at any good shoe or western store. What has worked best for me is Lexol Leather Conditioner. This product comes in a bottle. Just put a little bit on a damp sponge and rub it all over your leather gear. Hang the gear to dry away from sunlight and heat sources (like a heat vent.) Do not use spray treatments -- these products do not work as well because the oils that are in the product that help the leather have droplets that are too large, and tend not to soak in.

Hang It Up: Just like your momma told you, hang up your clothes! This is really important for leather. When hanging leather gear, remember to keep it cool and dry. Always use broad and padded hangers, as metal wire hangers will distort the shape of leather. Leave some space on each side of each piece of gear while it is hanging so air can circulate around it. Leather gear can stick together if packed too tightly, and cause damage that can't be fixed. Remember never to store leather gear in plastic bags or containers because they need to breathe. Sunlight can easily cause leather to fade and dry out prematurely. Keep your gear out of direct sunlight when you store it.

Regular Care: Right before you hang up a piece of gear, check it for dirt, stains, or other gunk and clean it off. If it's generally clean, use something like "Armorall Leather Wipes" or "Lexol Leather Wipes" and give the gear a light going-over, ensuring you cover stress points like knees, crotch, butt, shirt sleeves, and anywhere else that your body moves and causes the gear to crease.

Spot Mud, Dirt, Salt, and Stain Removal: Use a damp sponge moistened with water only -- not saddle soap or detergent -- and rub it on the gear, particularly heavily soiled spots, in a circular manner. If a stain is stubborn, rub off as much of it as you can from the leather, then use Lexol Conditioner on the spot. You may need to treat the gear several times. Be persistent -- it will eventually come off. Be particularly attentive if the gear were exposed to salt applied to roads during the winter. This salt can quickly dry out leather and leave it permanently damaged.

Stain removal from suede: Try this old tried-and-true technique. Remove the crust from a piece of bread and let it dry out until it is hard and stale. Rub the stale bread over the stain to remove it. It really works!

Removal of Mold and Mildew: Mildew is a name for a variety of common molds, which are in the Fungus family. Mold feeds on dead organic substances, including leather. Mold will cause leather to decompose, leaving thin patches which will become holes in short order. Mold propagates by spores, which are omnipresent; you can't keep the mold spores away from leather, but you can make the environment unsuitable for their growth. Mold will grow when leather is the least bit moist, especially if kept in a dark and warm place, such as a car trunk or storage chest with limited or no air circulation. Thus, the most important thing to do to prevent additional damage is to dry the leather carefully (see below) and then keep it in a dry, well-ventilated place.

If Leather Gets Wet: Drying leather the correct way will lengthen its lifespan. Leather gear should always be air dried in a cool area away from sunlight. Humidity and heat will cause excessive drying and result in the eventual cracking of the leather. Hang the wet gear on a wood hangar. Find a cool, non-sunlit but NOT DARK place to hang it. Wet gear hung in a dark place will get mildew very quickly, and perhaps mold that will ruin it. Make sure air circulates in the room where it is hung. If air doesn't circulate naturally, use a small fan to keep air moving in the room, but not to blow on the gear.

What to Avoid: Soaps, solvents, silicone, wax, and harsh chemicals are not a good for leather gear. Shoe polish should only be used on boots, but never on leather garments. Avoid spraying hair care or deodorant products while wearing leather gear. Overspray can stain and discolor leather beyond repair.

Professional Cleaning: If you find you cannot clean the item yourself, you can get it done professionally. Look in your local telephone directory for a dry cleaner that specializes in leather items. Some dry cleaners are not familiar with the processes involved in the making of leather and the glues used in the making the garments. It never hurts to make a few phone calls to find someone who is knowledgeable in cleaning leather. It may cost from US$40 - $80 for this service.

Life is short: enjoy your leather gear!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Leather Intimidator

Public and private schools in the DC Metro area have all opened. Many kids who attend the DC public school system ride the Metro. I see them on my way home from work. They often complain about not being respected, but they deserve no respect by the way they behave on the train. They yell, run around, use profanity (including cracks about "gays,"), make obscene gestures, eat, and drink -- and get by with it for two reasons: 1) there are no Metro Police on the train car on which they are carrying on their antics (the cops can't be everywhere); and 2) most regular passengers are afraid or intimidated by them. One regular rider on my train is an older woman, who looked like she was very afraid on Monday afternoon when the kids were behaving so abominably.

Yesterday afternoon, I turned the tables. As I was leaving the office, I stepped into the restroom and put on a pair of leather jeans tucked into a pair of tall patrol boots (H-D Police Enforcer Boots), a leather shirt, dark sunglasses, and a cop ball cap. (I had no insignia on my leather shirt; I'm not so stupid as to try to impersonate a law enforcement officer.) I was dressed as a complete leatherman.

I walked to the Metro station near my office, and was not surprised that nobody on the street said anything. I noticed a few people glancing at me, but there were no comments.

I got on the train just as a herd (or should I say a shrewdness of teenaged apes) boarded it. They began their usual routine of running around and acting out. While there were seats available, I chose to stand, holding a rail in the middle of their mob. I just glared at them. I didn't say a thing. But I gave them the hardest, most stern look I possibly could give.

The kids looked up at me and gave me a quizzical look. I continued to glower. Amazingly, the kids settled down. Each took a seat, and began talking with his or her seatmate in normal voices. They put their food and drinks into their backpacks. They actually behaved like calm subway riders.

As the train continued on its route, and more seats became available at each stop along the way, I continued to stand -- as if I were standing guard. A cop in full uniform boarded the train at one stop and got off two stops later. I laughed (to myself) as he gave me a salute upon his exit from the train, and I tipped my cap at him. The kids noticed that (evil grin). The kids remained calm and quiet.

The kids got off the train at the stop before mine. I guess they were on their way to terrorize the local mall which has developed a reputation for large groups of wild kids running around on weekday afternoons.

When the train approached my station, I walked toward the exit door. The old woman who was so afraid yesterday began to clap. Then the rest of the passengers did, too.

The power of leather is amazing. I just might continue to wear leather on my ride home every day... until the kids choose to ride another train or go somewhere else.

The leather and boots felt so good and the coolish, sunny weather was so fantastic that when I got on my Harley at the Metro station, I decided to take off for a nice ride. I rode 50 miles (80km) and still got home in time to prepare a nice dinner for my partner and me.

As leathermen say, "Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr!" It works!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why Bikers Wear Chaps

Over the 33 years I have been riding a motorcycle, I have acquired a number of pairs of chaps to use while riding. Chaps perform a great function, of keeping the legs warm on cool days, as well as are easy to put on over street clothes and quick to remove when one arrives at his or her destination.

While chaps do not provide the fullest protection as a pair of leather breeches may offer, nonetheless, well-fitted, quality chaps are often chosen by bikers like me who commute on their bikes to get to work. Seldom can someone who works in a regular job wear leathers all day. Leather jeans or breeches are not acceptable at my place of employment.

However, on mornings when it's cool out -- as it has been the past couple of mornings lately with temperatures about 60°F (15.5°C) -- a biker needs something additional on his legs to keep warm. Dress pants that I wear to work aren't nearly warm enough. Plus, I don't want my pants to get dirty.

Some bikers I have met or know have "gone on the cheap" and buy inexpensive leather chaps from on-line retailers that cater to straight bikers. Cheap chaps are thin (usually 4 to 5oz weight leather), sometimes made of cowhide splits (not top grain leather), and often are pieced together rather than being made of one solid hide. Cheap chaps (US$100 or less) are pretty much worthless.

Good chaps usually cost in the range of about US$200. They are fairly functional and usually have a snap or belted front closure with rawhide strings in the back for adjustment. They generally are sold in sizes S-M-X-XL and thus may not fit the wearer well. You may notice puckering at the crotch area and the chaps will feel loose or baggy in the seat and thigh. Often those chaps will have a zipper closure down to about the mid-calf, then snaps to close down to the foot. They usually are made to one length, and the seller says "all you have to do is cut or hem them to the desired length." The snap leg closure is functional, but often the snaps oxidize during use by getting wet with road spray or exposure to the elements, and become unusable.

Great chaps are fitted to the man wearing them, and may cost in the range of US$350 - $400. Measurements provided to a leather crafter are used to make chaps that fit well in the seat, thigh, and lower legs. The legs are long enough to go down to the boot and have double-stitched hemmed ends. Zippers for motorcycle chaps usually are sewn on the outside of the leg, to prevent scratching a motorcycle's paint. Great chaps usually have pockets on the front, are made of thick 8oz top-grain leather. There is usually one solid band of leather across the back, or if rawhide strings holding grommeted ends together are used, the ends are spaced close together. The front of great chaps usually closes with a five-snap fitting (or a belt; your choice).

You can get more information about choosing chaps and where to buy them from my website in the Guide to Leather Gear.

Real bikers wear chaps (and boots) often.

Life is short: leather up and ride!