Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanks to Lug Soles

It was a very nice day yesterday -- sunny and unusually warm for this time of year at 64°F (18°C). I got out the Harley and went for a ride.

I had plotted a potential route to lead for my club, and wanted to check it out. I am sure glad I did.

A nice back road as it appeared on the map ended at a T-intersection. Turn left at the "T" and continue on another nice back road. Or so it seemed.

Unfortunately, the map has no details as to hills or terrain. It turned out that the intersection was on a steep incline! I later determined that it was a 15° upgrade. The road did not level off at the top of the hill -- it just ended. When I stopped at the stop sign at the end of the road and top of the hill, I was pointed to the heavens. Heavens to Mergatroyd! (don't know what this means? I date myself, but see this explanation).

I have never been adept at handling a manual transmission. For the life of me, I could not manage to get the bike revved enough while letting the clutch out to get the bike going without rolling back or potentially stalling. Heck! I was stuck!

Thank goodness for lug soles. I was wearing my tall brown Wesco harness boots that have a thick Vibram®100R lug sole. They are like snow tires for the feet. I was able to hold my very heavy motorcycle on the hill by the sheer pressure on my boots planted firmly on the pavement (and an assist from my brakes) while I was trying to figure out what to do. I couldn't maneuver forward, as I couldn't get the bike going without rolling back, potentially falling over, or stalling. I tried and tried and just couldn't do it.

Fortunately, few cars came up behind me while I was stuck there, and I was able to signal to them to go around me while I was stuck in this predicament. Then, most fortunately, another biker on a big Harley like mine came up from another direction and asked if I needed help.

"Yep, I'm hillshy. I can't go forward."

He realized that I was stuck, and drove past me to the bottom of the hill to block traffic while I slowly backed up, turned around, and went back from the direction from which I came. As I passed him, I gave him a big thank you shout and a thumbs up. He waved. Thank goodness for the good samaritans out there in the biker community. I'm not quite sure what I would have done if he had not stopped to help.

BTW: I am not going on this route to lead a ride! I have learned my lesson.

AZ: This is precisely why I would not take you up on your offer to borrow your manual-transmission car while I visited you in Phoenix. If this happened to me while I was operating your car on the hilly terrain of Arizona, things would have gone to heck in a handbasket quickly, as I could not stick my boot out of your car onto the pavement to hold me while I was trying to rectify the problem. And, my dear AZ, this is precisely why I LIKE lug-soled boots. They saved my butt, big-time! Other than a bruised ego, nothing else happened. I did not drop my Harley as I was slowly backing up and turning on that huge incline. The boots held me and my bike firmly as I was maneuvering.

I am not skilled at using a manual transmission. My inability to use a stick-shift skillfully has a lot to do with being a klutzy, uncoordinated guy. This is why my family gave up trying to teach me how to dance. It's just not within my skillset to learn how to handle such a situation.

Life is short: wear lug-soled boots when you operate a heavyweight motorcycle!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Batch cookin'

My partner and I both work full-time, and when we get home from work, we're tired and it's difficult to find the time and energy to cook a full-blown meal. I guess that's why a lot of people buy prepared meals and eat out.

Instead, we "pre-prepare" our meals in advance. For example, Guido (my chef's assistant) and I got busy on Saturday afternoon and "cooked up a storm." We made a huge pot of Chicken Soup on one burner of the stove, and a full pot of home-made tomato sauce, which we call "Salsa del Guido."

Sure, we can buy pre-made tomato sauce in a jar or can at the grocery store. And yes, we have been known to do that. But we prefer our own sauce, in which we include ingredients we prefer: fresh onion, garlic, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and a bit of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomato base composed of tomato puree and tomato paste. Some recipes call for wine, but we don't use it, since I am allergic to certain chemicals in grapes.

We will add all the ingredients, mix them together, and let it simmer a good 2 - 3 hours on the stove, stirring occasionally. Then I will remove the onions and garlic, and store the sauce in canning jars.

During the week when we get home and want a quick Italian meal, I will simmer some chicken in some of the sauce and boil water to make pasta. Add the chicken to the pasta with a bit more sauce and fresh grated cheese, and in 20 minutes, we have a home-cooked meal. Served with a side-salad, in no time, we enjoy a filling, balanced meal. Then, for me, often I'm off to an evening meeting, public hearing, or whatever.

Some weekend days we get really creative and productive, and make our own pasta, such as cheese ravioli. It is simple to do, but takes some time. But there's nothing like having your own ravioli when you are tight on time but want a filling evening meal. Ravioli freezes very well, and takes just five minutes to make once the water is boiling.

Batch cooking in advance is the way to go. We can vary what we eat throughout the week and enjoy the benefits of our own creations, without having to take hours to prepare it. And that is not mentioning the money we save by not eating out or buying prepared meals that may come in too-large portions or with ingredients that don't agree with restricted diets such as I have to live with.

Life is short: plan ahead!

Shown below, the results of our work on Saturday: Chicken soup on the left, "Salsa del Guido" on the right

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Friday

Yesterday, the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States, is known as "Black Friday." The date when stores have many sales to kick off the Christmas buying season. Thank goodness I have already completed all of my Christmas shopping for this year. However, we did have to venture out to take a trip to the dump to dispose of garbage and recyclables that remained after our Thanksgiving holiday pot-luck event. We passed by many shopping centers that were packed. Going into stores on days like this are definitely NOT my preference.

I decided in honour of Black Friday to dress completely in black leather. Black leather jacket, shirt, red-striped black leather breeches, tall Dehner bal-laced patrol boots, and even my Muir Cap and Damascus gloves. A couple of yuppies in jeans and sneakers at the dump emptying their SUVs parked on either side of me looked at me with either incredulity or awe.

After the trip to the dump, my partner and I did our weekly grocery shopping. Several people in the grocery store noticed my black leather, and one young guy asked me a lot of questions about where I got the gear and boots. I was happy to explain. He seemed intrigued.

At least I thought so. As we were ending our conversation, he asked me, "what kind of bike do you have?" I guess he assumed that the gear means that I'm a biker. Yes, that's true. But I don't only wear my leather gear when I ride my Harley. I wear it regularly, as often as I can. After all, I have made quite an investment in it, so I like to wear it. Hey guys, it's time to get over worries about what others may think and leather up!

Life is short: wear your leather!

Friday, November 27, 2009

My Thanksgiving Thanks

I referred in yesterday's blog post that I had prepared several "Thanksgiving Thanks" which I shared during our wonderfully successful Thanksgiving pot-luck event at which 98 guests and 11 family members participated. We had four opportunities to share with the group, and one privately. I prepared separate "thank yous," which I will share here.

Before I go on, let me extend my thanks to all readers, and wish you the best for this holiday season. Peace to all people, dogs, cats, and otherwise (smile; photo provided by a cousin).
  • 11:00am: thank you to my wonderful partner, who lights my life with his commitment, dedication, hard work, and ongoing support for all I do. I could not live nearly as well, as comfortably, or as loved without him. Without him, I couldn't be nearly as involved with you, my guests, as I am. I cherish him, and value how much he cares for all of our guests here with us today, for his mother, and for Mother Nature (just ask the squirrels and birds in the back yard!) Thank you, thank you, for being the man you are, and for being my best half.
  • 1:00pm: thank you to my wonderful twin brother, [J], who traveled all the way from his home in Paris to visit with me twice this year, including a wonderful birthday week where we rode Harleys together, visited family, and had such a great time. He connects with me almost every day by phone, email, or comment on my blog. He shows very clearly how much he loves me, and how much he cares. His wife and this world are so much the better for having him among us. I cherish him and love him only as a twin brother can. I can't wait to see him and his wife when they come to visit for Christmas.
  • 3:00pm: None of you here right now have had a chance yet to meet my best friend [AZ], but let me tell you about him. He has a spirit and great heart which carry forth by example in many things that I do. I had the pleasure of visiting him twice this year at his home in Arizona. I observed directly what I have grown to know: that he is a truly special person with a huge caring heart who contributes much to the well-being of all who surround him, and to me. I cherish being able to call him my best friend and brother-in-heart.
  • 5:00pm: Thank you to [E] who organized today's event. Two weeks ago when [my partner] and I both came down the the H1N1 flu, I was feeling overwhelmed by the need to keep on top of the planning and organizing for when you all would be coming today, and what you would be bringing. [E] just took over, and organized it far better than I could ever have done. Thanks, from the bottom of my heart. And thanks to my family [name, name, name...] who helped all day, too. We couldn't have done this without you, and we love you very much.
  • 8:30pm: to my partner, as we sit here alone after a long day ... thank you for enduring what is very hard for you to do ... to be "on" all day long, to be socially light, entertaining, and to smile all day. I know this whole thing has grown beyond what it started out to be. I also know that it is physically more difficult for you now. And with unexpected visits from family who stayed with us last week before my aunt's funeral, and with us both having had the flu and being sick for a whole week right before that -- today was even more challenging than ever before. Thank you for your spirit, your hard work, but most of all, my love, for your love.
Thank you, loyal readers, for visiting this blog!

Life is short: be thankful!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

It Will Be A Piece of Pie

As you read this, it is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. As you read this, imagine what my partner and I are doing right now.

Today we celebrate our tenth year of hosting a pot-luck Thanksgiving feast for friends: mostly seniors, who otherwise would be alone today. Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a day when people gather with their families, enjoy camaraderie, storytelling, music, football games on television, and too much food centered around roast turkey, as demonstrated by my friend, the Swedish Chef, and his uncle, here:

It is unfortunate that because the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday is so close to Christmas (I think the Canadians got it right when they celebrate the holiday in October), that families who are separated geographically do not get together at Thanksgiving if they must make a forced choice on which holiday to choose to gather. Thus, about 90 people we know do not have an opportunity today to get together with their respective families. But we are happy to serve as a substitute this Thanksgiving Day.

Throughout the day today, my own family will pick up senior friends and bring them to our home. Our friends bring with them some food item that they made or bought. Their contributions range from appetizers to vegetables to breads to desserts. Or, some may have contributed plastic utensils, paper products, or even trash bags (goodness knows we need them!) All of this was organized this year by the world's #1 logistician, a senior bud and terrific planner.

Our senior friends come in "shifts" and at any given time, we may have 20 to 30 guests, being tended to by about ten of my family (siblings, nieces, and nephews). All I do is cook two turkeys the day before, and two on Thanksgiving Day. I rotate the turkey to the carving board and then warming trays throughout the day. And that's really all I have to do, food-wise: cook four turkeys. Everything else is provided in abundance by our visitors.

We laugh, listen to the piano, talk, smile, share, and enjoy rich camaraderie among one another. And, about every two hours, we stop the festivities for a while and conduct one of my family traditions. We hold hands and go around the room and ask each person to Give Thanks to someone for something. I have spent hours composing my Thanksgiving Messages, which I anticipate with great hope will be well-received, as they are truly heart-felt.

By the end of the day, when my family helpers, my partner, and I have cleaned up the worst of it, disposed of the mess, and put what needs to be discarded in bags or boxes in the garage (which we will recycle, compost, or take to the dump tomorrow), we give my family helpers a small gift to thank them. My partner is terrific in finding just the right gift to give to them. Then, after they leave, my partner and I turn down the lights, turn on the piano one last time, and give each other a card. This is our tradition. We turn to one another, hold hands, look into each other's eyes, and say why we are thankful this year.

Some people think that this huge all-day pot-luck Thanksgiving event is a big deal and a hassle. Actually, after ten years, we have gotten it down to a science. With everyone's help and organization, things roll along very smoothly. it is an American expression to say, "it was a piece of cake" when referring to accomplishing a task easily. In this case, we say, "it was a piece of pie" because everyone knows that pie is the dessert of choice on Thanksgiving (not cake.)

Life is short: show those you love that you love them. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, everywhere!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Annual Thanksgiving Piano Tune

In response to a request (thanks, Roland) and while two turkeys are roasting, I had a little time to do my annual "Happy Thanksgiving in Boots and Leather" piano tune video. Very amateur, but the well-wishes are heartfelt. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Update: I've already received a negative comment from a Str8 woman with no sense of humour. Please do what your Momma should have taught you: don't say anything if you haven't a nice thing to say. That's why I review comments before allowing them to be posted on my YouTube channel or on this blog. Negative comments are deleted, and those who attempt to leave negative messages on my YT Channel are blocked. Please, get a life. Relax, and try to enjoy life, not send comments that demonstrate that you are a short-sighted brainless boob -- especially at the holidays!

Memories of Thanksgivings Past

Tomorrow, Thursday November 26, is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a day for family, food, and football.

My first ten Thanksgivings were spent on my mother's family horse ranch in Oklahoma. I remember when I was a kid that family all would gather in the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning. Mom would bake some fresh cinnamon buns and then put a huge turkey in the oven to roast. She would have "assignments" for all of us kids to help prepare the rest of the meal, from appetizers to yams & veggies to pumpkin pie & desserts and everything in between. While our family kitchen wasn't huge, somehow 10 or 20 of us would manage to find a place to "be" in or near the kitchen as we proceeded through the day's rituals. We would talk, joke with each other, laugh, share stories, and continue that bond that made us a family. I remember those days fondly.

When things got too crowded in the kitchen, some of us would go into the parlor and listen to my grandmother play the piano, sing old-style hymns in her soft lilting voice, or listen raptly as she would tell us about life on the Choctaw lands of her youth. Some of the guys would turn on the television to watch football games. That was a big deal, because we didn't have television in rural Oklahoma until 1963. Before that, they would either listen to the radio or go outside and toss the ball around among each other.

For me, not being a football kinda guy, I would saddle up my horse and join some family members for a ride in the soft forest and hills of Kiamichi Country (Southestern Oklahoma.) We would pick mistletoe and listen to the crunch of fallen leaves under the hoofs of our horses or our boots when we got off to water the horses or hike a bit.

Yes, I have very fond memories of Thanksgiving in Oklahoma, where I spent every autumn of my childhood while my father was in Europe for his work.

At 3:00, we all would huddle around the telephone in the parlor and listen for my Dad to call. This was a big deal -- a super long-distance call from Europe to rural Oklahoma was not an easy feat. But Dad always made it happen, and took time to speak with each of us and let us know he missed and loved us.

After sharing our call with Dad, the family would gather in the dining room, parlor, or porch to have dinner. Family included my grandmother, my mother's sister and her children, as well as most of my siblings and their spouses (and later, their children). Our challenge was that with such a large family, we all could not be seated at the same table at the same time. There were some years that we had some 40 people gathered for Thanksgiving dinner. However, my family never forced the youngest children to have to sit at the "kids table" away from the others. We had a fair and even method of distributing the seating, so that some years us little kids could be seated at the main table, while other years, we got to toss rolls at or to each other while seated out-of-sight on the service porch. I never felt mistreated just because I was about the youngest child among our clan.

I recall that my grandmother would be asked to say grace, and she would do so in a firm but soft manner. We all would hold hands and when she was through asking for God's Blessings, we then went around the room and each member of the family would be asked to say why they were thankful this year. This process could take a long time, but it was welcome, warmly appreciated, and valued (though the rumbling of stomachs could be heard as the process rolled on, so those toward the end of the Thanksgiving chain were compelled to make it brief.)

I remember one year, in particular, when I was feeling rather left out and ignored that one of my sisters spoke up during our round of Giving Thanks and thanked me -- little guy me -- for doing something for her. I was shocked and amazed, because not an hour earlier we had been engaged in one of those typical sibling rivalry arguments. Her singling me out for thanks really proved to me what family is all about, and that we can forget squabbles and appreciate each other, and love one another. Truly, I was blessed with a wonderful family and I don't forget. I will never forget. I can't forget (they won't let me!)

Things today have changed, morphed, moved, and rearranged. I will blog about this year's Thanksgiving at our home tomorrow. Check back.

Meanwhile, whether you celebrate U.S. Thanksgiving or are from somewhere else in the world where Thanksgiving is not your holiday, I request that you remember to Give Thanks -- to your spouse or partner, your parents and grandparents if still alive, your family, your friends, and to God. There is much to be thankful for, and we should remember that...

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Turning Fetish Gear to Functional Gear

Sometimes there are differences between men's leather gear designed specifically for function -- such as for warmth and protection for a motorcyclist -- compared with fetish leather designed to have a certain sexual appeal, but not necessarily serve a functional purpose.

Most of the time, the differences in leather gear designed for function vs. fetish are minimal. If you buy quality leather garments made custom to fit by a reputable leather crafter, such as Mr. S., 665Leather, Northbound, or similar -- then you will find double-stitched and reinforced seams, thick thread used throughout, and quality hardware (such as on waist closures or buttons.)

However, one of the biggest differences on leather gear made for function vs. fetish is snaps. That is, on leather gear that I have bought from fetish gear retailers, they seem to go overboard on the snaps for shirt closures and (IMHO - worse) on the fly of leather jeans or breeches.

Snaps are designed to ... um... "unsnap" rather quickly. For a leatherman who meets the right guy ... well, he wants that to happen. And the guy wearing such fetish gear probably wears it only to those events held a few times each year, and otherwise, leaves it in his closet or trunk.

For me, on the other hand, I wear my leather gear almost every day. I wear it when I get home from work and on weekends. I wear it when I ride my Harley, and I wear it even when the weather is not suitable to ride my bike. I just like to wear it. I have made a rather large investment in my gear, so I choose to wear it often. I have long gotten over worrying about what other people might say or think. They don't (say anything) and if they think something, at least where I live, they keep it to themselves.

Back to the topic: leather gear with snaps is not very functional. When worn while operating a motorcycle, stresses are placed on the fly when one swings his leg over the saddle to get on or off the bike. Stresses are placed on the front of a shirt when turning a motorcycle or man-handling it into a tight parking space. Snaps do what they do -- they unsnap. Sometimes in the most embarrassing of places and at the wrong times.

When I was confined at home due to the flu recently, I spent some time conditioning all of my leather gear and organizing it. I looked carefully at each garment. I decided that there were three items of leather gear that I very much would like to wear while riding my Harley, but because of the leather-fetish-snap issue, I have not been able to do so. Turning, bending, or twisting as one naturally does while operating a bike would cause the snaps on the pants or shirt to pop open. Not good....

I took those items -- my blue leather short-sleeved shirt, my naked leather jeans, and my cheap CHP leather breeches -- to a luggage/leather repair shop to ask that zippers be installed to replace all those snaps. When this work is done, I will be able to wear these garments again without concern about them popping open at the wrong time in the wrong place.

This is a word to bikers who like leather: it is a good idea to have custom leather gear made. Some of the best leather crafters serve the leather fetish market. But if you are arranging to have leathers made custom anyway, press further as you create your order to ask about closures at the fly and on the front of a shirt. Ask for zippers instead. I think you will be happier with the end results. Also, it is less expensive to have zippers installed when a garment is made than having them retrofitted later.

Life is short: wear your leather!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Local Bad-Boy Biker

I am known rather well in a senior living community which is located very near where I live. I sorta joke that I live on the "outside of the asylum looking in," but perhaps it's the other way around. When I go there, frequently I am on my Harley. All of my friends and neighbors know that I love to ride my bike, even in cold weather. I just leather up and go!

I received a phone call about a month ago from one of my senior buds who lives over there saying that his friend was turning 90, and had been talking about wanting to do something "outrageous" on her birthday (which was yesterday). The last thing she wanted to do was go to some lame birthday lunch "with a bunch of old biddies" (her words.) She wanted to go skydiving. She wanted to try bungee jumping. Her doctor and her children promised her head on a platter if she ever did those things. Lacking the permission to jump from on high, she wanted to ride with a "bad-boy biker on his Harley."

Well, I don't know how "bad-boy" I am, but I am a biker, and I have a Harley. On the appointed day at the appointed hour, I showed up in the parking lot of her church on my Harley, decked out in leather from head to boot (helmet was fiberglass, but who's counting?) This is the place that my friend who was arranging this surprise thought would have the most "dramatic effect." We were fortunate because rain was predicted earlier in the week, but we were graced with a sunny and pleasant (55°F, 13°C) day.

My friend's friend came out of church surrounded by several of her friends. They parted the way, and she saw me idling at the curb. I revved the throttle. The Harley roared and returned to its grumbly growl.

She lit up!

The only problem was, she was wearing a dress. It wouldn't quite work for her to crawl on the back of my bike for a ride. However, anticipating something like this might happen....

I put the sidestand down and opened the TourPak. I pulled out a jumpsuit that one of my sisters let me borrow. The birthday girl jumped into it, zipped it up, then hopped (literally) onto the back of my bike! Spry as a Spring chicken and ready to rumble! It was all I could do to get the spare helmet out and help her put it on before she was coaxing me, "come on, let's go!"

I put my helmet back on, restarted the engine, revved it for effect, and off we went.

All I could hear for the next few miles was, "let's go faster!" By the way she was grabbing me (especially at first), I thought I was going fast enough. I picked out some nearby less-traveled back roads with curves and nice scenery, so I couldn't go that fast anyway. We rode for ten miles, which I think was plenty. She loved it.

Happy Birthday, M! What sheer joy that you brought to MY life!

Life is short: share the love!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Purpose of Buckles on Tall Boots

I received an email recently with some questions about boots with pull-tabs vs. buckles. Within my answer, I explained the purpose of a buckle closure on tall boots, such as Wesco harness boots. Here is what I said:

There are three reasons for a buckle at the top of tall boots.

First, the buckle closure allows the leg opening at the top of the shaft to be expanded to accommodate the calf. On most men, the calf circumference 6 - 8" below the knee is one to two inches wider than the circumference just under the knee (which is the height at which you want tall boots to be). Thus, you can open the boot shaft as you pull boots on over jeans or leathers, then buckle the top to tighten the fit under the knee.

Second, the buckle closure will hold the boots up high on the leg and they won't sag (too far). Boots that sag a lot can cause folds of leather that can rub against the ankle and cause sores. It's best to have boots that are held up by a mechanical method (such as buckles), so they won't sag.

Third, when closed snugly, top-buckled boot shafts will hold jeans, leathers, or breeches inside the boots so when you sit down then stand up, you won't have unsightly bulges of fabric or leather above the knee. That is, it keeps the lines between the fabric or leather and the boots "clean" and have a neater appearance, as shown above. That appearance is desirable by those who wear jeans, leathers, or breeches inside boots. Seldom, if ever, do you see a motorcycle officer with baggy breeches at the knees.

Buckles at the top of boot shafts to hold jeans, leathers or breeches inside them is important if you ride a motorcycle. A motorcycle operator frequently bends and extends his or her knees when stopping, starting, and riding. (And buckles are far better than a laced boot shaft closure, because laces can easily come undone when blown in the wind, and are a pain in the butt to keep re-tying.)

Warning! I see that Wesco now defaults to offering only boot pulls, not buckles, on tall custom-made harness boots. If you want buckles as shown in the photos of some of my Wesco Harness boots here, you have to specify that you want buckles as a special instruction, and be prepared to pay more. This is why I strongly recommend working with and through a competent, quality Wesco Boot reseller, such as Stompers Boots of San Francisco. They know what real Bootmen require, and know how to explain it to Wesco so they get it right when placing an order and save you money, too, by giving a good discount on the MSRP.

I hope you find this information helpful if you may be considering buying a pair of tall boots and are wondering about having a buckle (or two or more) on the shaft, instead of pull straps.

Life is short: wear your boots!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Demonstrated Love

Yesterday, I went through the family rituals of saying goodbye to an aunt at her funeral. She led a very difficult life. She bore four children, the last two having significant developmental disabilities.

Rather than complain about the burden of caring for two severely disabled children, it was an observation pointed out during her funeral that she received her children as gifts from God, and that all she did for her who life was demonstrate her love for her children and all others.

I listened to the Priest during the funeral, and thought: "you know, he's right. Every single time I visited my aunt, I could tell that her children required a lot of help and attention. She calmly, quietly, and consistently did whatever she needed to do, and she always did it with a smile and genuine loving care."

She never once said, "see what I'm doing" or "woe is me." She just loved her children every single day. She helped them learn and re-learn simple tasks to be able to function. She worked with them to help them develop into good, loving, people, as limited as they are in mental functions. My aunt among all of my father's 21 siblings was, I think, number one in showing what love really meant, and was the epitome of someone with a caring heart.

I am sad that my aunt died, but we are all relieved. Her last nine years were very difficult, with many medical setbacks, pain, and suffering. But never once did she complain. She loved and loved and loved, and we loved her back. Warmly, calmly, quietly. She served as our family's inspiration, and we always remember that.

I guess she noticed, because she left a note to request who her pallbearers should be, and in her note she said, "I want [BHD] to serve as one of my pallbearers, because his love, caring, and compassion is so evident. That's who I want to carry me into the Church, and carry me Home." Man, I cried so hard... I didn't know she noticed.

Life is short: show those you love that you love them. May my aunt rest in peace.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Another Pair of Boots Bites the Dust

These are Kenneth Cole "n-different" boots. My brother wanted me to wear "dressier" boots if I couldn't wear shoes (which I just can't) so I got these as his gift. Read about the gift process here.

I have tried to wear them several times. Unfortunately, the boots are very uncomfortable. Every time I have worn them, I have developed blisters on my heels.

I have tried a number of things to fix the problem, such as installing gel insoles, wearing moleskin on my heels, and thick socks. Nothing worked. After trying to wear them once more and getting blisters again, I finally admitted that these boots are crap and have to go.

My brother convinced me to donate them to charity. So they're gone! Good riddance. High-end style name-brand does not guarantee quality or comfort.

Life is short: wear real boots!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

On Whose Shoulder?

Why does it matter to some people that I am in a committed, confirmed, loving relationship with a man?

Why is it that some people get so upset and all a-twitter? That they make up lies and ululate that two men in a committed relationship are having wild orgies at night and are pedophiles by day and axe-murders in between?

Why does it matter if I awaken and rest my head on my man's shoulder, and enjoy a warm snuggle as we watch the sun rise and turn the trees to gold outside our bedroom window?

Why do others raise such a fuss if two guys build a home together and live a quiet, productive, and comfortable life?

Why is it that some want to see us fall apart or fail? That they resent that our relationship has endured longer than theirs that ended in divorce?

Why is it that some people think that our life together somehow negatively affects theirs? Their marriage? Their children?

Why can't people just let others live and let live?

Sometimes, I just don't get it.

Nothing bad has happened, and nothing is wrong. I am lamenting openly after reading some really nasty stuff on some conservative blogs, in the local newspaper in articles about pending legislation in the District of Columbia, and that I hear from time to time on television.

I live a solid life, within my financial means and within the law. I contribute to the welfare of society and my neighbors. I work, pay my taxes and my bills, and do unto others as I would have others do unto me. My partner does exactly the same.

So why is it that some people think that because us two guys love one another, live together, and have a decent life that the world will end and that for some reason, their marriage is at risk?

I take pity on them, pray for them, and continue to remember that they best way to demonstrate that these people are wrong is to continue to live as we do: quietly, comfortably, and well. (Living well is the best revenge).

Life is short: love who you love, care for your neighbors, and accept.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

La Famiglia

Family is family and blood is thicker than water. Despite years of long-term differences with the UltraCatholic branch of my father's family tree, we are together again, arm-in-arm, consoling each other as we grieve over the death of one of my father's sisters -- my aunt -- who passed away on Monday after a very prolonged, painful illness. (Note, this is not the aunt for whom I care and about whom I write often. That aunt is actually my father's sister-in-law, not a blood relative.)

My aunt had been in poor health for a very long time. I visited her on occasion, but did not have much quality time with her because often she would nod off or be unable to follow a conversation. Our lives and our worlds were very different. She cared for two severely developmentally disabled children all of her life (when I knew her), and that ongoing, strong and heartfelt care took every ounce of energy from her.

Her husband worked hard to provide for the family. He was very devoted to his wife and children. My aunt worked very hard, as well, though her work was unpaid, but was evident in how her children were enabled to live as happy a life as they could in their respective circumstances.

My aunt's husband (my uncle) passed away in February of this year. At the time, my aunt was severely ill and we didn't think she had much longer to live. But she proved once again how strong she was, and lived nine more months (to the day) after her husband passed.

This Friday, the family gathers. We attend the viewing, the funeral, and then all go over to my cousin's house to visit. Regardless of differences in political beliefs, or how shunned and hypocritically I have been treated by a large branch of the family tree who were taught by their Catholic upbringing that I live in sin because I love and live with another man -- we put that aside for a day. We listen, we talk, we share, and we retell childhood stories and share memories of our lives over decades of time. It is our bonds of family and shared times together that hold us close today.

I'm glad that my partner and I cleaned the house last weekend, as we have three unexpected out-of-town house guests who are here for the funeral -- a brother and two cousins. My partner is just muttering; he doesn't like to have people around, but on occasions when family calls, then dislikes and discomfort are put aside. Perché? -- la famiglia. Lei non disputa con Natura di Madre, così Lei punteggia disputi con la famiglia.

Times like this remind me that blood is blood and family is family, and as my father taught me at a very young age: family comes first. My Dad will be watching, and I will honor him. I will honor his sister, as well as pay respects for the greater good of la famiglia.

May God care for my lovely aunt, reunite her with her devoted husband, and bring peace and comfort to all.

Life is short: show those you love that you love them, even if they measure their love for you differently from how you measure your love for them.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Date for Mrs. P

When you work with and befriend seniors, there are times that predicaments present themselves that can be befuddling if not distressing. Such an event occurred on Sunday.

Mr. & Mrs. P, a sweet couple whose devotion to one another was always inspiring and fun to observe, live down the road and around the corner from me. Mr. P would ask for my help from time to time as he tended his gardens, and realized that he couldn't do what he once was able to do, such as thin the iris corms or trim wayward growth from the hydrangeas. It wouldn't take but a half-hour every now-and-then to help out. Then I would go inside and enjoy a chat over some lemonade and cookies that Mrs. P would have freshly baked.

Mr. & Mrs. P were among the first to attend our annual Thanksgiving pot-luck events which we began to hold in 1999. They would arrive early, insist on helping in some way, and were the defacto hosts -- welcoming others, smiling, singing, playing piano, laughing, and sharing their boundless good spirits with all. I always got such a charge out of every minute I spent with them. I felt regret and remorse that their two grown children only visited once each year, and each time they came, it was like, "oh boy, we're here! Aren't you happy to see me?" They seemed to ignore their parents otherwise, as they tended to their children and their busy lives. Nothing -- absolutely nothing -- is more wrong than ignoring parents who cared for you and brought you up. (Okay, enough of this rant for now!)

Last December, though, I got that dreaded phone call. Mr. P had suffered a cardiac arrest and died suddenly. Mrs. P was as strong as she could be. Both of her children came, and one stayed a week after the funeral. After her daughter left, I began to call and check in on Mrs. P more regularly. Mrs. P is a strong woman, and not alone in this world. She has built a good group of friends who began to take her out, get her involved in activities, and even go on a nice cruise this past May. Mrs. P will make it.

She had told me a couple weeks ago that her church was holding a dinner-dance this past Sunday. That dance is held every year this time. She and Mr. P would go every year, and have a marvelous time. This year, she said, she would go with some of her friends.

But she called me on Sunday morning and said those words that were hard-to-hear, "I don't want to go to a dance with a bunch of widows." She didn't come out and ask, directly, but I could hear it in her voice. She wanted me to take her.

Gosh, what a dilemma. I was still feeling weak and not completely recovered from the flu. It would require dressing in a suit (yuck). It would require pretending to move to the beat of music (believe me, when most people go "cha-cha-cha," I go "stumble-fumble-crawl".) It would require finding the energy and internal resolve to get over my loathing of dressing up and dancing. Man, this caused me to fret quite a bit!

My partner was no help. "Just tell her that you're still getting over the flu and can't go." or "just say no. You can't say 'yes' to everybody for everything." But my heart was tugged so very hard.

I thought, "man, this is a horrible time for my twin brother to be in Europe and my best friend (brother-in-heart) who is a great dancer to be so far away in Arizona." I got into the shower, mentally preparing myself ... knowing that by the time I picked up Mrs. P, I would have a huge smile on my face, even if strangled with a tie and confined in a suit.

As I was getting out my clothes and my partner was refreshing my suit with a steamer, I got to thinking about this nice guy I met a few weeks ago when I was doing my annual senior safety smoke alarm project. He was new to the area and our group. He said as he left that day to keep in touch, and that he really wanted to help out. He loved working with seniors and they sure seemed to warm up to his happy-go-lively spirit.

I took a shot -- I found his name and number on the volunteer lists and gave him a call. I explained the situation. He was thrilled to be asked, and said that he loved to dance, particularly ballroom, but didn't know where or how to find such opportunities. It was like he had absolutely nothing else to do.

I called Mrs. P and explained who D was, and was honest with her -- that I really am not a dancer, and trying to dance makes me very uncomfortable. Also, I could say honestly that I still was recovering from the flu and didn't think I had the energy to try to dance or even stand for a long time. I promised to come over and be there when D arrived to provide the formal introductions.

I did that. D looked great in a suit that set off his muscular physique, and Mrs. P looked radiant in a dark blue dress. I pinned on a corsage that I thought to pick up. She beamed. She seemed to bounce lightly down the sidewalk on D's arm as he escorted her to his snazzy black Dodge Charger. To be honest, tears welled up in my eyes as I saw them leave.

Mrs. P and D both called me on Sunday evening, and said that they had a great time and enjoyed each other's company. They each said how nice the other was, and how much they danced: every number! Whew! I couldn't have done that!

Ordinarily, I am not a matchmaker. I am very glad, though, that this situation worked out the way that it did: a win-win-win for all of us. And yep, Mrs. P has a date for our Thanksgiving event, too. How sweet....

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mooning the Neighbors

Continuing with relaying stories related to the "upside" of being down with the flu for a week....

Yesterday, my partner and I were feeling better and thought that with our big Thanksgiving event looming closer, where we will be entertaining about 100 guests throughout the day, we should get serious about doing some housecleaning.

I had on a pair of Wrangler jeans that I have worn for years, a t-shirt, and a my Chippewa Firefighter boots that are very comfortable for hard work (even vacuuming!) We moved some furniture to vacuum behind it, and even rolled up sides of area rugs to chase those darned dusty bunnies that lurk under there.

As I was moving the living room sofa back into its place, I bent over and when I stood back up, my partner broke into hysterics. I looked down and was aghast -- my pants had fallen down. Right there with the front window curtains wide open.

I knew that I lost weight when I was sick, and I still have not regained much of an appetite. Apparently, I have lost so much weight that my jeans just fell down. I knew that I was drawing the belt a notch tighter, but even with that... this is ridiculous.

I weighed myself and found that I have lost 15 pounds. I still have a long way to go, but losing 15 pounds in one week is fairly dramatic. However, this is encouraging me to keep on a reasonable eating regime even more, and with more exercise as I regain my strength, things may work out for the better. And to think, this was caused by getting dreadfully ill.

My next step is to go speak with my regular physician. I have some underlying health conditions that affect my weight and what I can eat. There are many things that are helpful with dieting that I cannot eat -- most vegetables, diet-oriented substitutes, spices, and oils. If I can find a way to control what I eat and be able to eat things that do not make me sick otherwise, then I perhaps can find a breakthrough to this weight yo-yo situation that I have had to live with for years.

We'll see...

Life is short: keep the momentum!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Changing the Image

If you noticed, I changed the image that appears with my blog and its profile.

Someone wrote to me and said that people may be afraid to write to me via this blog because my image that was there -- of me in a Leatherman's Muir Cap -- implied that I may "bite someone's head off."

I know that a old-guard Leatherman's Muir Cap portrays a somewhat intimidating image, but certainly, anyone who knows me understands that I am not one who is stern and mean.

Therefore, I decided to change my head shot image. I may find another one later without sunglasses, yet with a warm smile, which is more characteristic of my day-to-day image.

Life is short: smile! (I am smiling a lot today because it is my big sister "M"'s birthday!)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Morphing of a Website

I have had my "" website for almost five years. It began in response to a challenge from my partner who claimed that I didn't know how many boots I had or whether I liked (certain pairs) any more.

Within a year after creating it, I had indexed all of the boots I owned (at the time) and began working on indexing my leathers.

Then as I learned more about creating web pages and displaying images, linking pages to one another, and also began to attend and photographically document events that men who wore boots attended, the website began to change. It changed from simply being a personal catalog of my own collection to becoming a way to share photo galleries of guys in boots (and leather and uniforms.)

After a couple years elapsed, I began to write some tutorials. Over time, I have learned a thing or two about boots and leather, and wrote some of that information into tutorials that appear both on my website and on the website, which is run by my friend Larry and his husband, Bill. (They've been into web stuff far longer than I have, and serve a much larger audience.)

Looking now at where most visitors to my website enter, their internet search engines land them on the following pages, which are listed in rank order of activity:While a lot of people still visit various pages on my website about boots and leather, many more of them now enter my website for the tutorials and information that I share about various topics.

My email traffic reflects the same, as well. I receive 3 - 5 email messages each week from people who have read something on my website and have asked a follow-up question, or simply have taken the time to write a message to say thanks.

I intend to keep the website going and to maintain it. I also intend to keep it free of cost and advertising, and post information or images on it that I own (that is, not post pictures taken by others that I may see somewhere else on the 'net.)

I invite suggestions on tutorial topics or updates that I can create when I have time. I probably will delete some really old stuff, like the 2006 - 2008 DC-based HotBoots party photo galleries, which are seldom viewed any more and since those parties are no longer held, there is not much of an interest in those galleries.

I will continue to attend various events at which bike cops compete, take photos, and post galleries of the photos that I take. Those galleries always remain among those most frequently visited.

This blog and my YouTube channel are my only entries into the web 2.0 world, leaving my website to the web 1.0 world. I am happy with it the way it is, and have no major changes in mind for it. Further, I have no interest nor time to expand my involvement into other web 2.0 activities such as I.M., Facebook, or Twitter. I do not really care for those things.

Please feel free to write to me with any website ideas.

Life is short: surf on!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Bright Side

I am seldom one to get sick, or when I do, remain down for more than a day or two. My partner has not taken a day off of work for an illness in more than seven years... until this week.

"They" say that the H1N1 flu is mild. I guess compared with seasonal flu, it is not as severe, but let me tell 'ya, this flu is no cakewalk. The good news is that our fevers have abated, we are able to sleep better at night, and our eyes don't hurt so we can read, use the computer, or watch TV. However, we still have quite a bit of tightness in our chest, and remain congested. We are still coughing and sneezing from time to time. The doctor says that these symptoms may persist for several more days. Thus, we remain at home so that we do not expose others to this illness or make ourselves worse by trying to resume normal activity when we are not ready for it.

The brighter side of taking this unexpected week off includes good things:
  • I am able to see how my mentoring others has paid off. Two people stepped up and delivered excellent presentations at public hearings in my stead this week. I think I can retire now from voluntary public service (smile.)
  • Several people who I write about -- those who I care for by doing things with and for them -- have helped us in our time of need. They have run errands, brought groceries, dropped off casseroles and other goodies, books & magazines, and one even brought us flowers. How sweet and thoughtful. It kinda shows how love goes 'round -- the more you give it away, the more you get back.
  • One of my sweetest 'elder buds' has completely taken over the planning and organizing for our annual Thanksgiving feast. What a tremendous relief! We look forward to hosting this event in just two weeks (whew! it's coming up quickly!)
  • Since we (still) do not have an appetite, and are surviving on a bowl or two of chicken soup each day, I know that I have lost at least ten pounds, if not more. I'll try to maintain the weight-loss momentum when I regain my strength by exercising more.
  • My partner and I haven't spent this much time together in ages. We are finding that we have lots to talk about, lots to share, much to enjoy, and going through this together, our relationship is even more strengthened.
  • Being fearful that my elderly aunt who is already in fragile health might contract this illness if I were to see her, I have not been able to attend to her needs this week. Thank goodness for family and friends who have stepped up to fill in, help out, and provide that ongoing care so all I have to do is check in by phone.
  • I don't miss work at all.
  • A good buddy threatened to send a search & rescue team to check in on us. I told him that we're okay -- but that he should send the team anyway as long as they were in uniform and their boots were shined. [I may be sick, but I am not dead!]
Overall, we are taking each day at a time, getting better, but not trying to rush back into things too quickly. We will make it.

Thanks to many who have checked in by phone and email. We appreciate it.

Life is short: look on the bright side of life!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy Birthday To My Best Half

Today is a big day for my wonderful man, who means the world to me. Today is my partner's birthday! Woo-eee!

Unfortunately, his birthday will be rather subdued, as he is recovering from the H1N1 flu, which I unfortunately "shared" with him when I came down with it on Sunday. We both are staying home this week, away from people, and taking care of ourselves. One of my "elder buds" dropped off some more veggies so I can make more chicken soup, which is about all we are living on these days.

My Birthday Boy never had a big fuss made over his birthday when he was growing up. But I handle it differently. After all, I think the world of him and love him passionately. He deserves only the very best treatment and tender loving care.

Because we both are still recovering from the flu and do not have much of an appetite, I am postponing the creation of a big meal that I had planned. However, my little buddy Guido and I made him a lemon meringue pie from scratch. He is not a 'birthday cake' kinda guy; his request is a pie, so that's what he got as an early surprise yesterday. It is about all he wants to eat right now, besides my chicken soup.

I do not shower him with presents on his birthday, as he says he has everything he wants and doesn't want me to spend a lot of money on "stuff." Rather, I will give him a card in which I wrote my own greeting, a few small things he wants and needs, and my complete, undivided, companionship.

... and, of course, I'll be doing that in boots and leather. (I have recovered enough to get out of my sweats and into some real clothes, finally.)

He is my man, who I love from the bottom of my heart. I just wish he weren't sick and I was the carrier of this infection -- on his birthday of all days. But he is a very forgiving soul, bless him.

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When Did You Become Gay?

I received an email the other day from someone with whom I grew up, but after high school, we had lost touch. We saw each other at high school reunions and shared pleasantries, always with the closing comment of "let's keep in touch...," but for one reason or another, we didn't.

Anyway, my former high school classmate wrote to me the other day and told me that a Google search revealed this blog, and in it, my classmate recognized my photo, then read the lines that I state in my profile, "I am just your average monogamously partnered gay guy next door...".

The email asked, "when did you become gay?" Like it was a chronic affliction. Reading between the lines, I saw some degree of puzzlement, concern, and inquiry without trying to be judgmental. Taking this question directly as written, there are a number of ways I could go with it.

I decided before I responded to ask for more information -- what did my former classmate want to know? The response was quick and more direct: "when did you know you were gay? Were you gay in high school? Did you have a [relationship] with [former classmate known-at-the-time-to-be-gay]?"

I could answer all of those questions:
  • I didn't really understand that I was gay until later, when I reached my early 20s.
  • Yes, I was gay in high school, because I believe I was born gay; however, I didn't act on those interests. I really didn't know at the time what my sexual orientation was.
  • While [former classmate referred to] and I were in several of the same classes, no, I did not have sex with him. I just treated him like anyone else -- a friend with whom I grew up and with whom I shared some classes.
The only question that my former classmate asked that I could not answer without being rude or snarky was, "why?"

Why? Why am I gay? That again resulted in my asking for more information so that I didn't take it the wrong way. And his response was rather direct: "Why Did You Become Gay?"

I decided to reply with a clinical response: It is genetically related to chromosome Xq28, according to this study.

I did not hear back from my former classmate. I am uncertain if I will. I hope I answered the question without being critical or sounding offended at being asked. Since email lacks tone and visual cues, it is hard to interpret what was being asked and how to respond. I decided to remain non-judgmental, not take offense, and just answer the question. However, I can't help but feel that this former classmate is among the misinformed who believe that being gay is a choice. I really do not believe that I could "become gay" as much as I could "become" someone of another race. My sexual orientation is that innate (to me.)

Life is short: be who you are.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Post 600 and Still Going

Welcome to my 600th blog post. Most of the time you are reading posts that I have written a week or two ago. I write several posts at a time and save them for posting each day, unless I choose to post something about a timely or time-sensitive topic.

Having been in the blogosphere for almost (but not quite) two years, here are some things that I have learned:
  • In order to keep people coming back, you need to post fairly often. Perhaps not every day, but certainly more often than once a month or less.
  • 80% of blog visitors come from Google searches, so choosing the topic title is important -- that's what Google indexes on first.
  • Most of my blog visitors continue to find my site by using a search engine, rather than bookmark the URL. I think bookmarking is a relic of the web 1.0 times and only us old codgers remember how to do that.
  • I am happy to say that at least 100 of my daily visitors have used the "Google friend connect" feature, and come visit this blog that way.
  • Most blog visitors read the day's message then surf on. Unlike websites, blog readers read one page and leave, while website visitors may surf around much more on the site.
  • Images posted on blogs rank high on search engine image searches. Post a photo of yourself, and within hours, it will appear in an image search. Lesson, then, is to be careful with the file name of the photo. If, for example, you don't want your name revealed, then don't use your name as a file name for a photo.
  • People who know you will find your blog, even if you don't tell them about it. I see my neighbors in my home town, and in Rockville, Potomac, Gaithersburg, and Germantown, visit my blog (and website) regularly.
  • You can't keep your family from joining in and making comments (snicker)
  • People who are gay and are open about it on a blog (as I am) may occasionally suffer the consequences of someone who has stereotypical misperceptions about gay people try to post rude, snarky, dumb-ass, inappropriate comments. Two lesson from this: a) you have to set the commenting up for approval before publishing (a feature blogger offers); and b) you have to establish an anonymous commenting policy.
  • For a personal blog, if you do not have much time to manage comments and deal with criticism, then don't talk about politics or religion.
  • Blogger is not all "wysiwyg" -- it really helps if you know HTML so you can fix persistent errors with formatting and specific placement of photos if there is more than one photo within a blog post.
  • Blogging can be a great experience, can serve as a catharsis sometimes, and can be fun. When it stops being fun and seems like a drudge and you choose to stop blogging, then take down the blog so it doesn't keep coming back to others in internet searches.
  • I do not know if this is true about all blogs, but I have observed that for this U.S.-based blog, more than half of my some 500 daily visitors are from Europe and Australia, with a few from Hong Kong and Japan. None are from China (because China blocks access to anything on blogspot within mainland China).
  • I wish to thank my fellow blogger, Straightjacketed, for linking from his 'Straight-Acting' blog to mine -- he wins the prize for "delivering" the most visitors from another blog link.
In calendar year 2009, I have posted something on this blog each day. I have posted twice on a few days. Mostly, though, I have settled into a daily routine.

I hope you, my visitors, find my blog posts interesting, entertaining, or at least mildly amusing. Thanks for joining me here in the blogosphere. Remember to keep smiling, and surf on!

Life is short: keep blogging!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Dreaded Flu

Yep, I got it. Despite frequent hand-washing, somehow I have come down with the flu. Since I got a seasonal flu shot several weeks ago, I suspect, then, that I have H1N1. Yuck. I am so achy and sore, I feel like I have been hit by a truck. I have a fever and am congested.

I started feeling the symptoms on Saturday afternoon, so I guess it was a good thing that I did not go on that all-day motorcycle ride after all. Saturday night, I was miserable. Same with all day Sunday and Sunday night.

I did make a batch of my amazingly curative home-made Italian chicken soup. I was able to eat some of it, though I have to admit that I do not have much of an appetite.

I am resting, drinking my fluids, resting, drinking more fluids, taking aspirin, drinking fluids, and resting. Oh, I guess I should say that I am not going to work until after the fever breaks.

Please do not give me medical advice... there is enough of that in the family, thanks. I can not tolerate Ibuprofen, Motrin, Naproxin, or related NSAID OTC drugs. The only thing I can handle is aspirin. I can take acetominophen, but it doesn't do a thing for me (it does not reduce fever or body aches, so why bother with something that is not effective for me?)

My partner has been a trooper, getting juice for me and helping as best he can, yet maintain his distance. We fear, as close as we live together, that he is next.

Oh well, it goes to show that no matter how careful you are, it is still possible to get exposed to this bug.

This blog will probably go "on autopilot" for a while. I will blog again when I am better. Meanwhile, enjoy reading things that have been building up.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ride Or Wuss Out?

I admit it... I "wussed out." That is, my motorcycle club had a ride scheduled yesterday that revisited an annual odd but fun event that I went to last year.

However, unlike last year, it was 32°F (0°C) at the time I would have had to leave my home to meet up with the others. That's freezing. Man-oh-man, that's below my limit of tolerance. I do not have heated riding gear, and do not intend to get it. While I love to ride my Harley, I have my limits. Riding in freezing weather, even with heated gear, is just no fun. Plus, this ride yesterday included going over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Man, if it's cold on the highway, it's absolutely frigid on the bridge.

So I made the tough but realistic decision not to go on the ride. Some avid cold-weather bikers may imply that the decision was an act of cowardice. Some may simply say that I "wussed out." However, I dealt with competing choices. Did I really want to be exposed to that deep morning cold for a ride? How would I feel about being gone for a whole day and not seeing my elderly aunt who needs daily attention? Would my three sweet old ladies who I take grocery shopping be able to wait a day with short notice? How would I feel about my partner struggling through his disability in doing autumn chores such as raking leaves and preparing our home for winter, which he would try to do without me?

While I would have enjoyed going on the ride, the weather contributed to my decision not to go this year. Had it been warmer, I would have worked it out. The cold really made the decision for me. The results are a cleaner yard, leafless gutters, and a happier partner (not necessarily in that order.)

After doing all the work around the house, I did get the Harley out and gas it up and take a short ride, so all was not for naught.

Life is short: do what you have to do!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Memories On A 100th Birthday

Shown is a photo of me and my sweet uncle, for whom I cared in the winter of his life until his peaceful passing at home in September, 2005. This photo was taken just two weeks before he died.

Had my uncle still been living, today would mark his 100th birthday.

I was at his wife's home this morning, doing my usual things such as paying bills and balancing her checkbook, reviewing her meds and ensuring she had an adequate supply, and just sitting and chatting. It helps older people to have someone to talk to, listen, and share memories and stories. Her memory is failing due to symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease. She had forgotten that today was her husband's birthday.

We shared stories, laughed, and remembered the good times. I will never forget how fundamentally my sweet uncle changed my life. You see, in his last year of life on this Earth, his physical health was failing. He had to go to the doctor often. He was frustrated because his mind was still good, but he knew his body was not being cooperative. Man, he hated to have to use a wheelchair to get around.

I had left my previous job and took almost a year to spend time with him. We would visit, laugh, and enjoy what he referred to as his "lasts." His last dinner at a restaurant. His last visit to a horse race. His last meal with our large family. His last crab feast. His last meal of pasta con sarde. His last visit to our home where he enjoyed strolling and sitting in the gardens, regaling history with my partner. In his last August, on an unusually cool and sunny morning, I got him in his wheelchair and we took a "walk." We strolled around his retirement community for six hours over four miles. We talked about everything under the sun. We would stop and watch the wildlife, smell the roses, and just smile.

That summer was the most bittersweet of my life. I knew my uncle was preparing to die. He faced his death with dignity and courage. He wanted to remain at home, but his doctors required that he have ongoing care from someone more able-bodied than his wife to provide that care. I was in the fortunate position to do that. In his last few months, I spent most of my days and often many nights with him.

I am not a trained medical care attendant, but I learned from people who taught me how to provide gentle caring attention. How to help him bathe. How to help him use the bathroom. How to help him live comfortably with as little pain as possible.

He had lost his ability to see well enough to read. I would read him the daily newspaper from cover to cover. He would rant and rave about the activities (or lack thereof) by the last President. He would scream about the evil Deputy President. He would express concern about how people were being treated (or mistreated) who suffered a major calamity caused by the wrath of a hurricane for which response actions were exceptionally inadequate. These conversations kept his mind active, and helped me to learn so much.

I miss my uncle very much, but I have no regrets. He died on his own terms, in his own home, with his loving wife of 64 years by his side. I remember as he awoke from his last difficult night, he motioned to me. I held his hand. He seemed to be trying to tell me something. I thought, "a drink of water?" "do you need to go to the bathroom?"

Instead, he pulled me closer, opened his blue eyes wide, and said, "thank you. You have a lot to do so get going." That was his famous expression to dismiss us when he was tired. In past years, my partner and I would take the signal and leave, so he could rest. In this case, I just continued to hold his hand. He closed his eyes, then stopped breathing. He just quietly passed away, with peace, honor, and his dignity intact.

Happy birthday, my sweet uncle. How much I learned from you. How much you cared for me, for my partner, and for your lovely wife for whom I still provide daily attention.

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

Snuggling On A Cold Night

With the whirlwind of activity and things going on in my life over the past week, including an unusually raucous "roast" that my family subjected me to at our weekly family dinner last night to get my mind off some bad news, I just needed some peace, quiet, closeness and comfort when I got home. Who better to do that with than my partner?

He works so hard and does so many things for me that I do not want him to think that I am taking him for granted. One of the ways how I show my man that I love him is to sit with him, hold him, be held by him, and enjoy the peaceful warmth of our closeness. And we needed that warmth, because it was about the coldest night of this autumn so far (close to freezing).

In leather, or without... in his warm fuzzy flannel PJs, or not... just us. Friday nights often are our "quiet time" that we use to rejuvenate and maintain our close, warm relationship. We may listen to some soft music or we may just sit in silence.

Last night was definitely one of those nights when we both needed that closeness. I continue to count my very rich blessings by having someone who is my "best half" and who cares for and loves me so deeply always be there to hold me. (I also count my blessings by having my family and friends who support me as well; yet I am certain that they recognize that the most important person in my life is my partner.)

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

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cowboy Boots and Jeans

I am always amazed at the huge number of visitors to my website's page on "Wearing Cowboy Boots" who find it by entering phrases like "how to wear cowboy boots" or "do you wear jeans inside or outside of cowboy boots" or "how to you wear jeans with cowboy boots" into a search engine.

Now, to be honest, most guys wear jeans over boots. Jeans are worn "stacked," meaning the jeans are long enough to fold softly across the foot and across the back of the boot, but not lower than the heel. More information and instructions are on my "Wearing Cowboy Boots" page.

However, if you have nice boots, you could consider wearing jeans inside them from time to time. My pictographic "jeans and cowboy boots" tutorial is visited at least 1,000 times each week. In observing the high frequency of these visits, I decided to update it by showing a simpler method of how to hold the jeans down inside cowboy boots. Come visit the page and see ... it's simple.

Life is short: wear your boots!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Best Value Motorcycle Boots

I am writing this in response to several Google searches that continue to end up on this blog, on my post about "best motorcycle boots." There is a difference between all the "bests":
  • Best quality motorcycle boots
  • Best motorcycle boots for long-day comfort
  • Best value motorcycle boots
Let me offer some of my opinions for each of these qualifications. Remember, these are my opinions and yours or your Uncle Pete who has been riding since forever may be different. I have been riding a motorcycle for more than 30 years, and have tried and worn probably over 200 pairs of boots while riding during that time. I summarized this experience along with some research in my Guide to Motorcycle Boots that has won rave reviews and upon which this blog post is based.

In my post on "best motorcycle boots," I commented on the durability, sole, comfort, fit, and value of
Chippewa Firefighter Boots. I still believe that Chippewa Firefighter Boots fit all of those criteria exceptionally well. Some guys, though, do not like their style. However, with the ongoing sale at Stompers Boots of San Francisco at US$184, that's a bargain considering the quality of these boots.

But in the three categories listed above, here are some more of my opinions.

Best quality motorcycle boots: By far, the best quality motorcycle boots must be Wesco Boots. Currently I have 11 pairs of Wesco Boots and I find that their quality and durability is second-to-none. You can tell that by the construction and attention to detail, as each pair of boots is "built" individually by skilled bootmakers working at their facility in Scappoose, Oregon. Their "Boss" and harness motorcycle boots are of exceptional quality, and will last well beyond the lifetime of the wearer.

Features of quality in a motorcycle boot that I look for include:
  • All leather construction (no plastic anywhere)
  • true Vibram soles (not cheap rubber, "nitrile," or similar knock-offs).
  • stitched, not glued, soles. Boots with stitched soles can be resoled if necessary.
  • leather lined boot shafts.
  • Materials and craftsmanship that shows in every detail of construction. There are no blemishes in the leather, and all stress points are double-stitched.
By all means, Wesco Boots are the best quality, but they are about the most expensive of the "biker boot" variety (motorcycle police patrol boots can be equally as costly, but that's for another blog post.) However, Wesco boots are also the heaviest of all biker boots, and boots that are heavy to lug around on the feet can become uncomfortable on a long day's ride.

Most comfortable motorcycle boots: Face it, a long day in the saddle means that you have to accommodate anything that can cause discomfort on a ride. The feet that begin to hurt if the boots you're wearing are too tight, too loose, flimsy, or heavy. You can't count the number of times that you have to bend and flex your knees and put your boot down on pavement while stopped. You put pressure on your feet when operating a motorcycle and when taking breaks, and certainly when you arrive at your destination by walking around. Sometimes destinations involve hiking or walking on rocky terrain, so a comfortable motorcycle boot will do double-duty, serving both to provide protection to a motorcyclist, but also as a hiking boot.

A comfortable motorcycle boot will have built-in high-quality insoles, and the boot will be lined with leather or specialized fabrics (like Cambrelle). The boot can be short or tall, but no taller than the back of the knee while seated. (If the boot is taller than that, it will grind against the back of the knee and cause sores.)

Also, a comfortable motorcycle boot will "break well" at the ankle. What I mean by this is that the bend of the boot in the back where the shaft meets the foot -- often right at the height of the soft tissue at the back of the ankle -- is straight across and doesn't bend sideways. A "bad break" is all too easily felt when the inside of the boot rubs against the ankle and causes blisters or bleeding sores. Good "shortie" boots have a padded ankle collar which prevents this problem from happening. Good tall boots perhaps need some "training" at the ankle before wearing them regularly.

Personally, I have found that Chippewa oil-tanned Engineer Boots are about the most comfortable of the traditional "biker boots" I have worn. They are well-constructed, have replaceable soles, and are durable. I have had one pair of these boots for over 20 years and they are holding up fine, even when they have tromped through mud or water.

Best value motorcycle boots: So this brings me to what I think are the best value today in motorcycle boots. Sometimes it is easier to say what is NOT the best value: Boots that cost less than US$100. There is a reason for that -- poor quality materials (including blemished leather or leather feet and plastic shafts), workmanship that may include child labor in poorer countries, glued soles, and soles made of soft material that will leave black melt-marks on hot motorcycle pipes. Unfortunately, most "Harley-Davidson" and "X-element" brand boots fall into this category.

What, to me, composes good value for an investment are boots that will be able to withstand the typical uses that a motorcyclist will subject them to: lots of flexing at the ankles and a need for "grip" by the sole on pavement when stopping and starting a bike. The soles should be replaceable, so they should not be glued on. That's why the cheaper boots referenced above are not a good value, because they have glued soles. Also, often cheap boots are unlined, which actually makes them hotter on the feet, and less comfortable.

Boots with good value will last for years of typical regular use. That's why I continue to go back to Chippewa Boots for both value as well as comfort. You can get them short or tall, and know they will last a long time. They are not expensive when you consider that you are making a long-term investment. Think of it this way: spend US$89 on a pair of boots and wear them for a couple years, then they fall apart or you need to replace the soles and you can't because they are glued, not stitched. So in one or two years, you have to buy another pair. Alternatively, spend US$200 on a pair of Chippewa boots, and they will last ten or more years even with heavy use. Annualizing the cost, the Chippewas "cost less than half" as much as the cheaper boots cost. That is how you compute value. Don't go for cheap -- go for "relative expense" compared with "a boot's lifetime."

My two cents. What are yours?

Life is short: wear your boots!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Taking The High Road

I have been confronted with a very difficult situation in my life, which could be, to some people, very upsetting when it comes to evaluating one's self-worth and perception of same. Yeah, it's that serious.

No, nothing is wrong with my health. My partner is fine. Our home is okay. My family is okay. I wasn't fired. I did not lose an election (we did not have any elections yesterday where I live). Read between the lines to determine what else it could be.

I could respond to this situation in a negative manner. I could burn bridges and respond with a rather snarky tune. I could be hard on myself and play "shoulda, woulda, coulda." I could lay blame and point fingers.

Instead, after several days of very careful introspection, discussion with my partner, and listening to advice from family and close friends who I trust and who care for me, I decided to take the high road. That is, I am going to work through this situation and work toward my future, and do it professionally, competently, and peacefully. The importance of listening to your heart in all the decisions you make is another facet of taking the high road. And it is my heart's intent to consider this setback as a minor bump in the road rather than something worse (or permit it to become something worse by allowing it to consume me).

If anything I have learned, reacting with anger and emotion to an upsetting setback can create long-term consequences that can haunt someone for a lifetime. Internalizing misfortune can breed failure. That is, if one thinks he is a failure, then he will be one. If one imagines future success, then one is more likely to be successful. It is as simple as that.

I have begun to take specific steps and actions to respond deliberately and positively to what could be, if I let it, a horrible set-back. But I won't let it. I won't let "them" win. As my partner said, "you're the winner so act like one." As my best friend said, "I am inspired by your integrity."

That's who I am, and how I behave. It is hard. Believe me, it's rough. I have not been sleeping well and I still have some difficult thoughts and emotions to deal with. But because of the net that surrounds me, I may fall but I won't be broken. Not with the strength of the net who support me: my partner, my family, and my closest friends. I have reached out to that net, and they are there, holding me and my net firmly. I am so richly blessed, and sincerely appreciative.

Life events like this remind us not to settle in our work, relationships, and how we live. It's when we settle for acceptable, mediocre, or worse -- and not what our heart believes -- that we may feel that life has served lemons.

Life is short: when you feel that life gives you lemons, make lemonade (sweetened with the love of those holding up your net!)

Words can not express my gratitude to those who hold my net and support me; in particular, to J, AZ, and K who helped me with this post.