Friday, December 31, 2010

Top 10 Countdown: 1 - 5

I continue with the list of my blog posts that receive the most number of unique visitors, as revealed by Statcounter for this year.  (The top 6-10 posts were revealed yesterday, here.)

#5:  How To Wear Biker Boots  (November 18, 2010)

I should have posted this a long time ago.  Of course I should have known that few people know how to wear biker boots, which is the reason that question must be entered into Google so often.  That can be the only reason -- only us bikers know the secret handshake, the concealed location of the privacy pocket in a leather vest, and the intricacies of precisely how to wear biker boots.  (As I said yesterday, sometimes I wonder why someone has to ask that question... perhaps they need to revert to wearing sneakers or loafers and refrain from operating a motorcycle.)

#4:  Wesco Boots -- Gay?   (December 11, 2009)  [This was ranked #6 last year]

As I said yesterday about this year's post #6 (Wesco Boots and Gay Culture), there is a rather frequent misconception that guys who do not work in rough blue-collar trades (such as linesman, loggers, or woodland firefighters) and who choose to wear and display Wesco boots (or, heaven forbid, make a video about them!) -- therefore must be gay and the boots are gay too.  While the West Coast Shoe Company (Wesco) does a lot of marketing to the motorcycle rider market, that marketing does not seem to penetrate among the bikers with whom I ride in the U.S. State of Merlin (that's how you pronounce it, fellas).  I am the only guy in my outfit about which I am aware who wears Wesco boots while riding.  I am gay.  Therefore, the obvious leap of logic is that Wesco Boots are gay, or wearing them makes you gay, or that only gay men wear Wesco Boots. Bullshirt. Read the original post.

3.  Where Do You Find Masculine Gay Guys?  (July 10, 2010)   [This was ranked #4 last year ... so the ranking indicates sustained and growing interest in this topic.]

I see sooooo many inquiries entered anonymously into search engines such as: "where to find masculine gay guys" or "are there masculine gay men" or "where to meet normal masculine guys" or even, "are there masculine gay men?" (as in, "do they exist?")  There is a large interest out there from single guys, mostly younger, who are looking for a guy who doesn't behave effeminately.  Perhaps there is some curiosity, too, that I am a masculine gay man who is in love with another masculine gay man. 

The challenge is that most masculine-behaving gay guys have learned skills to hide that they are gay, and remain firmly in the closet.  Society has taught them (incorrectly) that "real men aren't gay" and that there is something wrong with guys who like guys.  I could go on and on... the point is that stereotypes and heteronormative expectations are out there.  Thus, it is very hard to find a masculine gay manThis post has some ideas about where to look ... and this post explains why they are so elusive.

2.  Gay Leather Breeches  (November 1, 2010)

It is likely that this post's rank so high in readership on this blog is an anomaly, in that while this post gets a lot of unique visits -- sorta off the charts since it was posted -- it may also be ranking so high because it is recent and serves as a topic of interest to gay men who are planning to attend upcoming gatherings of the Gay Men's Leatherclan (Mid-Atlantic Leather in Washington, DC, in January and International Mr. Leather in Chicago, Illinois, in May).

I took the approach in that blog post to dispel the notion that leather breeches unto themselves are not gay, though well over 90% of visitors to that post have entered "gay leather breeches" into a search engine which directed them to this post.  I think what they were seeking were answers to any of these questions:  1) where can I find leather breeches to wear to a gay men's gathering?  or 2) are people who wear leather breeches gay (as in 'always')?

Well, whatever, this post gets a lot of readers directed to it from internet searches.  Not a surprise -- so many people like to search anonymously for information to resolve curiosity.



And ... dah-dah-dum!  Here's the Number One blog post this year:


#1:  Bulges and Breeches   (July 18, 2009)  [This was ranked #2 last year, so again, by an increase to ranking #1, it shows a sustained interest!]

Why such a high, sustained interest?  Just go to Google images and enter "Tom of Finland."  You will see a LOT of ToF images on blogs, including this one.  I grabbed this image from the net, that links to my blog post.  The post was written as a review -- admiration of superb artwork.

Perhaps, as well, images like this is where the perception of "gay leather breeches" and gay men in tall black boots comes from.

Life is short:  keep reading and I will keep blogging!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 10 Countdown: 6 - 10

In my third year of blogging, I have enjoyed writing posts about my various interests and my life -- and I've averaged a post-a-day.  I may not be able to keep up that pace next year.

I reviewed the visitor's stats for this blog over the past several months, and have determined what the most popular posts on this blog have been, as ranked by the count of the number of unique visitors to specific posts -- thanks to Statcounter, which does the hard work for me.

Interestingly, one of the Top 10 blog posts was from 2008, and three of the Top 10 were from 2009.  The remainder were posted this year.

So here goes... the Top Blog Posts on this blog during 2010:

#10:  How To Tell If You Have Vintage Frye Boots (October 30, 2010)

This doesn't surprise me at all.  Lots and lots of people are interested in vintage Frye boots, and learning how to tell the differences between Fryes made in the 1970s, then during the 80s and up to 2003 when the John A. Frye Shoe Company as we knew it closed and the name was bought by a series of companies that licensed the Frye label  to third-party shoe/bootmakers to make products under that name.

#9:  Tucking Pants Into Boots (October 10, 2010)

Again, not a surprise this ranks so high.  I get a huge number of visitors to this blog and to the "Cowboy Boots and Jeans" tutorial on my website from internet searches along the lines of "do men wear jeans tucked in or out of boots?"  I swear, I never cease to be amazed at the large number of internet searches on this topic -- probably by curious, confused, and happy-to-be-anonymous guys asking this question.  (IMHO, if a guy has to ask this question, he has more things to worry about than this matter....)

#8:  What To Wear With Motorcycle Boots? (September 21, 2010)

Again, I am amazed how search engines are used with the most inane questions by the curious and happy-to-be-anonymous guys.  So, what to wear with motorcycle boots?  Easy:  jeans, leathers, or breeches.  Simple.  Better to be booted in long pants on a motorcycle than be an organ donor wearing shorts and sneakers... just sayin'.

#7:  Hard-workin' Old Chippewa Engineer Boots (July 13, 2009)

This is the first of my blog posts from last year to be ranked among the Top 10.  I think the reason why is the image that I posted with it.  The post itself is rather dull ... just an explanation of a busy day while wearing engineer boots.  This is where "Google Images" produces hits on this blog, because whatever guys search for about dirty, muddy, or well-worn engineer boots produces this image, with a link to this post.

#6:  Wesco Boots and Gay Culture (December 27, 2008)  [This was ranked #1 last year]

It is fascinating to me that this post would rank so high on this blog -- its now over two years old. Why does it receive so many visits? I think for two reasons: the image shows up in high rankings on Google Image searches -- a tough-looking, masculine biker boot on a Harley. Second, I think the topic itself draws a lot of visitors too. I see many search engines results for searches such as: "why do gay men like Wesco Boots" or "Wesco Boots Gay" or "Gay Boot Fetish" and so forth. I'm here to dispel the notion that only gay men wear Wesco boots, or that the boots themselves are gay. They're just boots, and while I own a dozen pairs of Wesco boots, I have yet to see them make out with each other. :-)

Check back tomorrow for Blog Posts ranked #1 to 5!

Life is short:  keep bloggin'!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Year 2010 in Review

This year, 2010, has been a year of downs and ups for me.  It began on a sour note in January when I broke my fibula near my ankle, then rose to good times as I was able to remount my Harley and ride again in April, though I had progress with recovery very slowly so as not to re-injure my leg.

Then some down times again in June when my aunt almost died and I concentrated on getting her healthy again and able to live independently at home.  I do not consider it a down time when I was laid off in June, because I needed that nudge to leave my former employer.  Fortunately, I had the financial resources saved up to continue to live as I usually do, so a temporary job loss was endurable.  (And actually welcome...).

In August, I worked A LOT on our house.  I replaced 900sf of decking, four windows, three doors, two exterior deck privacy walls and rejuvenated that pear tree for the partridges.  Further, I bought and renovated a small fixer-upper house to rent to a community hero (a local cop).  I also did a number of minor repairs on several other rental properties, too.

Since my aunt's condition had stabilized by August and much progress had been made on home repairs, I finally had time to lead some motorcycle rides, and go on rides with others.  I learned that I cannot serve as a Road Captain any more because I was spending five times as long to plan a ride than most others due to my horrible sense of direction (and that I get lost so easily, despite having a GPS!)  I will not have the time to do five pre-rides for every ride I may lead in 2011, so I stepped down as a Road Captain.  It was a great learning experience, and I appreciate having done that, but I learned my limits and have to live with them.

Life turned up significantly again in September when I was offered my dream job and accepted.  Then things went "on hold" while administrative matters were taken care of and I had minor surgery to repair a hernia.  Finally, the third week of November saw me begin my new life, doing what I do best, rekindling my career, and renewing relationships with people who I worked with from 1984 to 2004 in my "past life."  (My job from 2006 to mid 2010 was sort of a "place keeper" because I knew that it would not be something I wanted to do until retirement.  It just paid the bills and kept me busy.)

Oh, and another good thing:  a transition in my community life has happened, where someone I mentored was elected to lead an organization for which I had served as President for the last six years.  It was definitely time for me to move on, and for me to step back and assume a role of "emeritus adviser."

I cannot let the year go without acknowledging work that I have done on weight-loss.  It has always been a struggle for me, as I cannot eat "healthy foods" (that give me the shits) and I am definitely not a gym rat.  I was not watching what I was eating, and I know I was drinking too many sodas, and wasn't exercising.  I had to work through some issues with my chronic condition which made the weight-gain a problem, too.  (Photo in December, 2009, on right).

The good news is that through the summer and fall, I focused on losing weight sensibly.  (Photo in December, 2010, on left).  I would go swimming once a week, which was not enough.  I began to walk ... and walk ... and walk ... and now, every day, I walk at least two miles, usually four and on good days, I walk seven or eight miles.  I gave up drinking sugared sodas -- and not being a coffee drinker, giving up my Cokes was really hard to do.  Coke Zero just didn't work for me (more shits again).  Thank goodness I don't drink beer, wine, or liquor, or the situation would have been worse!

I have always eaten fairly normal meals, but I am much more careful about my portion sizes.  It's a good thing that I do not eat out at restaurants, as their portion sizes are often huge!  And finally, what seems to have worked is that I usually do not eat lunch, but keep my tummy filled with water-water-water.  All that ==> sum total:  I weigh 38 pounds less today than I weighed on January 1.  (I gained 14 pounds during my "down time" so I actually lost 52 pounds this year.)  Pretty good!  A very nice guy from Georgia just sent me a message congratulating me on my "new look."  I tell 'ya, it IS work, but not only do I think that I look better, I feel better.  More energy, vitality, and even better sex (enough of that, as this IS a G-rated blog!)

I will continue this routine of "walking and water" for the months and years to come.  It's working.  I don't think I will loose significantly more pounds than I already have, but I will work at maintaining the progression and try not to gain it back.  (And I did this all without a physician or nutritionist yelling at me.)

All-in-all, I can say that 2010 has been a major transition year for me, and it turned out well.  I remained focused on the positive, and worked to make things better for myself, my partner, my aunt, my family, my senior legion, my community, and those I care about.  I mean, after all, that's what is most important -- being positive and productive.  Nobody likes a negative noodle, so I vow to remain a happy, sincerely positive man.

Life is short: make the best of it!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dehner Field Boots

When I served as a judge at a police motorcycle competition this past September, I strolled around during the lunch break to see what various vendors were peddling.  I avoid the guns and ammo, but may stop to talk to vendors who have products such as motorcycle gear and boots.

One of the vendors was a small shop purveying motorcycle gear, including Dehner boots.  I own and wear a number of pairs of Dehners, and wasn't interested in any more... until two things happened:  I saw a very different and interesting pair of boots on display, and I got to talk to Jeff Ketzler about them.  Mr. Ketzler is the President of the Dehner Boot Company.  It's not often you get to meet the "head guy" and talk boots.

We talked about the various materials from which Dehner boots were made, and I expressed my opinions about that "Dehcord" stuff on the shafts of patrol boots.  Mr. Ketzler wasn't defensive, but he explained that he had heard the complaints about this plastic product melting, discoloring, and cracking, and told me that they have redesigned it so the color goes all the way through.  Okay, fine -- so when it cracks (and it will) -- you won't see white cracks, but black ones.  For cops who go through a pair of boots a year, that's fine because they dispose of the boots when they are damaged.  For people like me (not a cop) who wear Dehners and keep them longer than a year, the cracking situation isn't so good.  But overall, it's a balance between cost ($400/pair for the Dehcord shaft boots vs. $700+/pair for the all-leather variety.)


While European calf leather is their finest -- and most expensive -- Dehner boots can also be made with "Voyager" leather, which is a good grade of leather but not as expensive as European calf.

Long story short, while Mr. Ketzler was there, he measured me for custom boots.  Nothing like having the Company Big Cheese do it!  (You know the measurements will be right!)  And another good thing, there was no charge for taking the measurements, as there tends to be when you deal with them directly or through a third-party retailer like Stompers Boots.  Further, I got a good discount by making a commitment to buy during the event.

Last Wednesday, the UPS guy was busy -- he delivered not one but two pairs of boots to my door.  I had to wait 11 weeks for these brown beauties, but aren't they cool?  


These boots are called "Dehner Field Boots" (more photos here) and I specified them as follows:  18" tall, made entirely of brown "Voyager" leather, and a Vibram®100 big lug sole (great for motorcycling).  The other features of this boot are that they open across the front and close with three straps and buckles.  They also have a bal-laced instep which, because the boots are custom-made and fit closely, I actually have to untie so I can put them on, then tie them again to close the fitting.  (I wonder if eventually they will break in and I won't have to untie and tie them each time I wear them. Doing that is a pain in the butt.)

I really like how these boots look, and their unique design.  I do not know anyone else who has them, so once again, I will set the example in my home crowd of having among the most unique and diverse boot collection around.  :-)

Life is short:  wear boots!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bikeless Biker

Right before Christmas, the UPS guy delivered a big, heavy box with my name on it.  Yep, a new pair of traditional Wesco Boss Boots found their way to my boot collection and on my feet.  

These boots were on sale at Stompers Boots of San Franciso, my favorite boot store.  To help the store remain in business, I snagged 'em and here they are!  They are great biker boots, 18" tall and unlined.  Because they are stock size, they fit snugly on my legs and feel great.  I can't wait 'til the winter passes and I can ride my Harley with them.  Right now, in the dead of winter, I remain a "Bikeless Biker" while my Harley sits snugly in the garage. :-(

These boots are made on a new last, meaning that they have a more narrow toe, rather than the "bump toe" of the older Wesco Boss Boots, shown here.

Life is short:  wear boots!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Brother's Day Off

Guest Blog by J, BHD's Twin Brother

In what is becoming a tradition, I am writing a post for my brother's blog to appear today.  It's the least I can do, as he has taken such good care of me and my wife during this visit.

We were supposed to arrive at 11:30pm on Thursday night, but it was snowing like crazy in Paris (France) and our flight was significantly delayed in departure.  At first I did not think that our flight would depart at all, but it did... six hours later.  We arrived on Friday morning at 6:00am.

As usual, my brother was there to greet us, with a bright smile on his face.  He must have been exhausted.  He drove us to his home, and his partner welcomed us warmly while my brother helped unload our belongings.

We slept most of Friday as we did not sleep much on the plane.  But Friday evening, our family gathered at a sister's house for a family tradition:  Friday night family dinner.  We had the "Feast of the Seven Fishes" which is a Southern Italian meal eaten on Christmas Eve.  It was a great!  Our sister outdid herself -- preparing this complex feast for 68 people!

After the meal, as a family we attended midnight mass.  Well, actually the service was at 11:00pm.  My brother waved to a lot of people -- but this is his home and where he has lived his whole life.  I was thrilled to see 3 of our high school classmates, with their families, as well.

We did not arrive home until very late... and slept well into Christmas morning.  When we awoke, once again we smelled the intoxicating scents of a huge brunch.  My brother told me that he had already been up for hours, and had fed his mother-in-law, who has quite an appetite.

We went to visit some of the younger members of our family on Christmas Day.  They had long ago torn open their presents, so by the time I arrived, they wanted to show "Uncle J" what they got.  We had a great time.

My brother left early to return to his home to prepare our Christmas dinner.  When my wife and I arrived (another brother dropped us off), it was almost ready.  My brother introduced us to three ladies he refers to as his "senior pals" who joined us for dinner also.

I was asked to say grace, and stumbled through it until I got to the part about what Christmas really means -- the spirit of peace, love, and joy that fills our hearts, and radiates from my brother and his very being.  I swear, that guy makes hard work seem effortless (that is, our entire meal was home-made, not pre-prepared) and he makes us feel so ... well, happy!

After dinner, my brother drove his senior pals back to the retirement community where they live.  He invited me and my wife to come along. It was a tight fit in his truck, but they live only five minutes away.  I had the pleasure of escorting one of these women to her door.  As we arrived, she turned to me and I saw a tear in her eye.  She smiled, and told me that it was a "happy tear" because she did not think she would be able to enjoy herself.

She confided that her husband had died in March, and she missed him terribly.  But my brother and his heart -- he kept looking after her, calling, taking her out, connecting her with friends, and keeping in touch.  She admitted that she was dreading Christmas, but when my brother told her a few weeks ago, "you're coming to our place for dinner on Christmas and that's that!" -- she could not refuse.

This is an example of what I mean when I say that my brother is a saint.  He hates being referred to that way.  He just is.  He says, "come on, you would do the same."  If I were in his boots, I probably would.  But I would also likely be oblivious to the loneliness.  My brother has a special radar that identifies where he's needed most, and does things to help.  People can tell what kind of a man he is by observing him and feeling his warm spirit.

I thought after we dropped her off, we would go back home.  But we had one more stop to make -- to our 95-year-old aunt's home around the corner.  We got there about 8:30, and I thought that was awfully late.  But my brother told me that since our aunt has Alzheimer's Disease, she has no sense of day or time.  She was awake.

She glowed when she saw my brother.  He is so gentle to her, but persistent.  He got her up, had her walk, and asked her questions that engaged her in conversation.  Shortly after we began talking, she admitted, "I have forgotten who that man is" -- pointing to me.  My brother patiently re-introduced us, and then started speaking to her in Italian. She responded, fluently.  Then he spoke to her in Spanish, and she laughed and told us a joke in Spanish.  Then he turned to my wife and asked her to speak to our aunt in French.  My wife said a few words, then my aunt lit up and spoke in fluent French.

You see, with Alzheimer's, you lose short-term memory, but you do not lose your intelligence.  My brother knows that, and respectfully engages our aunt in ways to exercise her mind and keep her going.  I am beyond amazed and impressed.  This is another reason why I call my brother a saint.  He just knows.

Okay, "basta con gushing" as my brother would say.  "I'm not all that" ... as he would say again.

Yes he is (yes you are, bro') and I love you more and more each day.  You are a treasure to hold close in my heart, as my brother.

By the way -- my brother always mentions these things on his blog -- I wore leather trousers all day on Christmas and so did my brother.  He wore a red flannel shirt and I wore a green dress shirt.  We both did not wear ties.  I borrowed a pair of his boots -- and our family noticed what we were wearing and gently teased us all day.

I love his spirit -- with what he wears, but most -- with who he is and what he does.

Love you, brother.  Ora e sempre.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas

Here is how I am dressed today -- not a full leather suit, as I once thought I was going to wear.  But as I got the leather out this morning, it was "too black" and not quite what I had in mind for the holiday spirit.  So I put the dress leather shirt (and tie) back in the closet and put on a warm red flannel shirt instead.  It goes well with my dress leather pants and my Champion Attitude red-and-black "Firebird" cowboy boots.

I took my twin brother and his wife to visit family.  It even snowed (lightly)!  I shortened my family visit as I had some senior pals and my aunt to see -- all needed some help today with physical therapy.

I have returned home at the time this was posted to start cooking dinner.  One of my brothers will drop off my twin brother and his wife to join us for dinner later.  I also have my mother-in-law with her insatiable appetite, and two senior pals who don't want to be alone joining my partner and me for Christmas dinner.  We're having prime rib (no turkey), twice-baked potatoes, fresh green beans, home-made dinner rolls (not the Pillsbury stuff), spinach salad, and two different kinds of home-made pie (pumpkin and apple).

Meanwhile, I'm singing in my kitchen as I putter around, smiling, enjoying the treasures of my life, because... I believe.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas: I Believe

I will be taking a break from blogging until after Christmas, so I can spend time with my partner, his mother, my twin brother and his wife who arrived last night (6-1/2 hours late, at 6am this morning!), as well as the rest of my family when we visit them over the next few days.

This has been quite a year for me, but I'll explain that in a future blog post.  This Christmas, I reflect on what the holiday means to me and to life in general.  Without religious overtones, which I'll leave to other blogs, let me say that I believe...
  • ... in being happy, positive, and focused on what's right, instead of what's wrong.  Sure, there are lots of things wrong, but there are many more things that are right.  My wish for the world is "quit yer bitchin' " and think of the good things that are out there, not dwell on and complain about the bad.
  • ... in the power of relationships built on trust, honesty, and integrity.  I can clearly say that the people with whom I choose to have deep and meaningful friendships have earned my respect because they are fundamentally good people.  Honest as the day is long; gentle, caring souls in their own right.
  • ... that there's a reason why we're here on this Earth.  Whatever our calling is, we need to apply our talents, skills, and abilities as best we know how to make the world a little bit better each and every day.
  • ... in service to others.  That's my makeup, and what drives my essence.  Sure, I work for a living, but I volunteer a lot as a "second job."  Serving others because I have the means, skills, and interest is a joy, not a burden.  From daily calls to older friends who are alone, to taking senior pals to the grocery store, to doing minor home repairs for others, to advocating for the betterment of my community by klonking some elected officials upside the head from time to time (figuratively speaking, of course)... all this is a way for me to serve my fellow man (and woman).  
  • ... that love conquers all and heals all wounds.  I truly cannot express the depth of my devotion and abiding love for my partner, for the man he is and for the man he has helped me to become.  Our bond of love carries us forward, and is maintained on a basis of ongoing communication, trust, honesty, and daily attention to our relationship as two human beings -- different, yet bonded at the soul.
  • ... that blood is thicker than water.  I am grateful to be part of a large family of wonderful people who are terrific each in their own right.  We respect one another.  We laugh, we play, we care.  I am truly blessed that we all get along well because we work at it.  We may have our disagreements, but when the fit hits the shan, we rise up and care for each other by doing things in significant, positive ways.  I know many families do not get along as well, and some siblings have become divided and estranged.  I am deeply appreciative how that is not the case within our family.  Our parents raised us to behave and believe this way, and we do.
  • ... that being financially responsible means that you don't spend money you don't have, and that you work out a budget and stick to it. Not using credit cards wildly, running up balances, or using those damned "convenience checks."
  • ... that masculine gay men exist, and can live a life as an open and out gay man as a contributor to society.  Naysayers and homophobes cause some who may be insecure to be hurt and to hide.  Don't let 'em win.  Be the man you are, and comfortable in your own skin.  It took me a long time to realize that, but I am much happier as a person because I did.
  • ... when faced with a choice, to make the choice that helps most, hurts least, and is legal, ethical, and moral.
  • ... that life is not always full of wine and roses.  Sometimes, you get a headache from the salycilates and pricked by the thorns -- and there are, unfortunately, some real headaches and pricks out there.  In my heart of hearts, I smell the bouquet of the wine and the fragrance of the rose and not the pain from the headache or prick.  

  • ... and, finally:
Life is short:  make the best of what you have!
From our home to yours: Merry Christmas, loyal blog readers!  I sincerely hope you have joy in your heart, boots on your feet, leathers on your bod, and a smile on your face! 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Not A Gay Social Whirl

There are some people who assume that if a guy is gay, he leads a very active social life.  Actually, a social life has nothing to do with sexual orientation, but that's beside the point.

Being in a relationship with the world's #1 recluse, a social life is not really there for me.  That is, my circle of friends is limited to neighbors, fellow civic leaders, seniors who I look after and do things for, and (of course) my family.  That's it.  I do not have a group of friends who I go hang out with at restaurants or bars.

Contrary to popular belief, I do not live a wild gay social whirl, flitting from one party to the next.  In fact, my friends know me so well, they don't invite me to dinner parties.  While I like visiting my friends, I prefer visits that are more one-on-one, and where I don't have to worry about finding things to eat that are compatible with my weird diet.

I work full-time on weekdays, go see my aunt and some other senior pals after work and on weekends, and visit family for events like birthday parties and every Friday night family dinners.  During the motorcycle riding season, I may like to ride in groups with safe riders.  But all-in-all, that's about it.  I do not choose to go out otherwise -- both by choice, as well as by the nature of the relationship that I am in and my decision that I do not socialize with other people for fun without my partner, and my partner chooses not to socialize at all.

Life is short:  not all gay guys live a wild social whirl!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Leather Suit

Okay, okay, I know ... I bitch about dressing up.  So I'm breaking my bitchfest, by treating myself to a new leather suitFormal dress pants and a dress leather shirt, with a colorful leather tie, and even a leather vest.  The pants, shirt, and vest are all from Northbound Leather of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

I got out the old black leather blazer to go with it, though I must admit it's rather ratty.  Perhaps next year I'll spring for a new one.  (Northbound wanted over CDN$700 for a black leather blazer that matches, but that was too much money for something I would not wear very much, so I didn't get it.)

These leather duds will find themselves on me on Christmas Day.  My partner and twin brother will be amazed, and the family will give me well-deserved grief when we visit them.  But that's okay, I can take it -- in full leather.

I ordered the new dress leather shirt and formal dress leather pants from Northbound Leather in November.  I received them on December 8, only to have to return them because the shirt was too small and the pants were unhemmed.  They replaced the shirt with a larger size and hemmed the pants, and returned them to me quickly.  FedEx delivered them on Saturday. 

I had to wait for my partner to leave for his trip to pick up his mother before trying them on.  Man, do these leather duds feel great!  Both the shirt and the pants are lined with satin.  It's so smooth on my skin.  The quality of the leather is absolutely outstanding: shiny, supple, and unblemished.  Northbound makes really good stuff from the highest quality leather.  Though not cheap, this gear will last well beyond my lifetime (provided I care for it, as I regularly do with my leather gear.)

So, whaddya think?  Is this Leather Dude ready for Christmas, or what?

Life is short:  get in gear!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Stompers: Best Darn Boot Shop

Stompers Boots of San Francisco is by far the best damn boot shop in the world. While that's the owner's statement, I agree with it (though I prefer not to use profanity.)

I posted about Stompers on this blog often -- in fact, this post is a repeat of one that I posted back in 2008.  Stompers has suffered through the global recession with many challenges, yet has remained in business because of the owner, Mike's, dedication and commitment.  I am repeating this post because I think it's important that the Bootmen Community support this "Institution of Bootdom."

Over the years, I have purchased about 30 pairs of boots from this fine establishment in San Francisco's SOMA district. While I would like to have purchased all of the boots I got from them in person, since I live 3,000 miles away, most of my purchases have been via the phone, the store's website, and email confirmations.

Why, to me, are they the best? And why do I link from dozens of pages on my website, including my home page, to them?

My website is visited by bikers often. Bikers ought to know where to get decent motorcycle boots and stop wearing sneakers and shorts when riding. But I also have these reasons for endorsing Stompers so strongly:

Stompers has a great selection, particularly of biker boots. Dehner, Wesco, and Chippewa boots that they carry have found their way onto my feet, as well as a pair of Sendras, which Stompers carries too. They usually have most everything in stock, or can get it quickly. That isn't true for many other boot merchants.

Stompers is particularly good about working with customers on custom orders. Most of my tall biker boots are custom, including most of my Dehners and all of my Wesco engineer and harness boots. Chippewa Boots aren't available in custom sizes, but Stompers knows how to get me fitted correctly in Chips.

Mike, Stompers' Owner, offers great personal customer service. He wants his Bootmen customers to be happy. He ensures that the order is right. He also has a wickedly funny sense of humor, and has been fun to talk to and exchange email with. I am honored to enjoy his friendship, and to have thrown hundreds of referrals his way, knowing that many have resulted in sales.

Stompers' prices are competitive, and there is not a shipping charge for domestic U.S. orders. I haven't found the quality boots that I have wanted at a lower cost elsewhere. And Stompers is really good about getting custom orders to me as quickly as possible by working with its suppliers. Price-wise, I have saved about 20% off of MSRP when ordering through Stompers rather than from the manufacturer, such as Wesco, directly. The tall brown Wesco Harness Boots custom-made to my size (calf width being the issue) shown to the right were ordered from Wesco through Stompers, among others. I have gotten a lot of compliments on these boots. They look great! I often wear them proudly with jeans or leathers tucked in when I ride my Harley.

Stompers really knows how to display boots well in excellent photography of the boots the store sells. The boots are not only displayed, but shown on guys wearing them. You can see how a certain pair of boots would look on your own feet through the images offered on the Stompers Boots website.

I was honored to see that, with my permission, Mike has featured one of my photos with my Chippewa Firefighter boots on his website, here and here as well as joining the rotation of photos that appear when the home page is refreshed. Wow! Thanks, Mike!

If you have been thinking about getting some new boots, visit Stompers Boots, either in person while in San Francisco, or on-line. You will be happy that you did.

Life is short:  support the "Institution of Bootdom": Stompers Boots!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Taking Care of My Man

Yesterday morning, I anticipated that my partner would be leaving to drive to Pittsburgh to stay with his mother for a few days, then bring her back mid-week to eat.  I mean to visit... whatever... she's joining us again for Christmas.

Unfortunately, my partner was in severe pain and could barely move.  He has a chronic condition that flares up when he works too hard.  He had carried heavy bags of stuff for his Mom from our basement to his car on Saturday.  That work caused his muscles in his legs to lock, and he was in agony.

Sometimes you have to change your plans and focus on the one who you love the most.  Goodness knows, he has done that for me this year!  So I spent a lot of time yesterday easing his pain, helping him relieve it by soaking, resting, and with some massage.

As busy as we all tend to be, when your other half needs you, all other things go out the window and you do what you have to do: make things better.  Ease tension.  Relieve pain.

While my partner was taking a nap, I took some of my elderly friends grocery shopping and visited with my aunt.  But otherwise, I hung around the house caring for my beloved best half.  In sickness and in health and all that.  I really mean it.  Even though we cannot be legally married in the state where we live, we both believe in the commitment that is stated in the marriage vows by straight couples.  Through thick and thin, good times and bad, we are there for each other.  Yesterday was my day to be his caregiver -- and I am happy to do whatever he needs.

I sure hope he gets better soon, so he can continue with his plans to see his Mom and have her join my brother, his wife, and me for Christmas.

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

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Friends for Life Terrorize the Old 'Hood

Last night, for the 38th year in a row, 14 of my friends from Junior High School and I, along with spouses, children, and grandchildren, went Christmas Caroling in the neighborhood where we grew up.  It was a blast!

While we sing off key, our spirit was enthusiastic and our joy was fantastic.  I got a huge "high" from doing this -- for so long, so many years: so much fun.

We did not go as far as we did 38 years ago.  But we saw some of our former neighbors, including a woman who babysat for me and my family when we were kids.  She is 92 now, and still lives on her own in the same old house I remember.

After getting a bit hoarse and not tolerating the cold as well as we once did (though I remember complaining about the cold back in 1972), we went to the house that one of the members of our group lives in now -- and still in the same old neighborhood -- right next door to the house in which I grew up.  My friend had bought the house from his parents, and has raised his family there.  How nice.

We laughed, told wild stories, and even pulled taffy while eating too much.  What great fun.  I regret that my partner wasn't with me, but he hates crowds.  I got home way too late, and woke early to write and post this message while seeing my partner off for a drive to pick up his mother who lives 200 miles away.  She will spend Christmas with us when he brings her back in the middle of the coming week.

BTW, I wore a pair of thick leather jeans with a flannel shirt and a leather bomber jacket, black Wesco harness boots and leather gloves -- it was cold!  And before you ask, no one said a thing about the leather.  They all know me, and know that I wear leather regularly.  It was waaaay too cold to ride my Harley, plus the streets were a bit icy from the remnants of a spit of snow we got a couple days ago, so I drove my truck over there, and was glad I had a pair of "snow tires" on my feet (the Vibram lug soles) when I walked outside on the snow & ice.

Following is a YouTube video of a song that is my "signature tune" -- that my friends turn to me to sing the  verse while they chime in (in very bad Italian) during the chorus.  The tune is Tu scendi dalle stelle which means You Come Down From The Stars.  It is an old Italian folk song, sung at Christmas.  I remember singing it with my family while we were decorating our tree, baking cookies, and especially while visiting Nonna (Grandma).

Life is short:  Buon Natale!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Going Green In Leather

As readers of this blog know, I enjoy wearing leather regularly.  I also like to wear leather that comes in colors other than black.  I mean, I like black, but I also like alternative colors such as blue, midnight blue, and grey, and now -- green!

I treated myself to a new long-sleeved police-style leather shirt from Mr. S of San Francisco.  Mr. S makes great gear, though pricey -- but their prices are competitive with other quality leather vendors, and they've been in the business for a long, long time so they know what they are doing.

The Mr. S website offers this as a "tri-color" shirt, with the body in one color (in this case, Hunter Green), accents on sleeves and epaulets in another (in this case, black), and the website version suggests blue piping.  I didn't want the blue -- to me, just green and black was enough, so when I ordered it, I asked them to leave the blue piping off.  Remember, when ordering custom leather gear, you can always ask for the gear to be made to your own specifications, including sizing and customizations.  Treat a website as a suggestion, not a requirement.

This shirt is rather formal as "BLUF" goes -- that is, a black leather tie and Muir Cap with leather jeans completes the outfit.  As my partner might say, "anything to get you to wear a tie" (giggle).

How do you like my new "Hunter Green" shirt?  Pretty cool, huh?

Life is short: make it colorful!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Brother From Another Mother

This is a brief shout-out to the man I refer to as my eighth brother, my brother from another mother.  We have much in common.  I admire his honesty, integrity, intelligence, and charm.

I regret that I do not get to see him very much, because he lives in Arizona and I live two thousand miles away in Maryland.  However, we speak on the phone and exchange email often.

I imagine that he is busy preparing for Christmas at his church, and caring for his many friends.  His heart warms my own.  His tender caring is a treasure to hold close.

So today on this blog, I express my warmest best wishes to my bestest bud, my brother from another mother, and a man who leads a good, decent life through his actions and extensions of his love.  He is a model of decency and integrity who I try to emulate in my own actions and my life. 

Life is short:  cherish your friends and hold them close.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Elusive Masculine Gay Man

I have written a number of posts about masculinity and what seems to be a rarity among men who are gay -- just being a guy.  A guy-guy.  That is how I am and how I behave.  Not putting on an act, or behaving in a way that is uncharacteristic of the man I am.  I'm just a guy who happens to be in love with another guy who is a "guy-guy."

Lately, I have received some more comments from college-age guys looking for a masculine guy to develop a relationship with.  The challenge is sex.  Lots of guys have guy friends, but when a guy wants to have sex with another guy, that's a different story.  And since society imposes rules (of perception) that "real men don't have sex with other men" (that is, "real men aren't gay"), then gay guys who behave in a masculine manner by nature tend to hide in the closet -- never revealing their true interest in other guys.

In fact, some gay men who hide in the closet may become the most outspokenly negative about gay men.  They rant, call names, and write nasty things on Facebook messages to distance themselves from the thing they want most:  a deep relationship with another guy that includes sex.

I am not a shrink, but I am asked rather often, "how do you know someone is gay?"  and "how can you find another masculine guy who is gay?"  I have even been asked, "should I wear clothes like boots and jeans for the image they project?"

Let me take each of these questions separately:

1.  How do you know someone is gay?  Well, despite some people who claim that their "gaydar" is 100% (meaning that they claim that they can "always" determine someone else's sexual orientation), that is not true.  Gay people do not have a scarlet letter branded to their forehead, nor an indicator on their driver's license that says "G" where others have "M" or "F" indicated.

As a matter of fact, last month I was with a group of people and one of them absolutely insisted that he could "always tell" if someone else were gay.  So I asked him to "give me the test."  He said there wasn't a test, but he could "always tell."  Having had enough, I asked him, "so, am I gay?"  His response:  "hell no."  You should have seen the shocked look on his face when I told him that I am gay and have been in love with my partner for well over 17 years.  He sputtered and stammered and said, "but you wear leather, boots, and jeans.  You ride a Harley.  You are President of (x organization)...."  He proved my point: he was making assumptions based on activities in which I engage and stereotypes.  Even as a gay man myself, I can't always tell if someone else is gay, and frankly, I don't even try to do so, and don't care.

2. How can you find another masculine guy?  I can go on and on again, but rather, I refer you to the original post on this matter, and ask that you read it, including the comments.  You can't simply hang a sign and say, "masculine men only need apply."  Ain't gonna happen.  Just be yourself, and become active or involved in various groups where you just might meet another guy who, like you, is interested in masculine men.

3.  Should I wear clothes that project a masculine image?  Wear what you want, and what you like.  But if you're looking for a masculine guy, he's not going to respond to the latest designer-label jeans and designer-label jacket.  Ditch the fashion, and wear what other guys in your area wear.  If you like boots, wear them. If not, then don't.  It's up to you.  The choices of what you wear on your body and your feet will not make much of a difference provided what you wear is generally within the norm (okay, I'm being tactfully circumspect about men wearing women's clothing.)

It all boils down to this:  relationships.  Every man seeking a mate -- male or female -- has to build a relationship first.  That's what dating and courtship is all about.  You build on a friendship to a level of closeness that reveals your true identity because you are completely honest with your mate and do not hide your sexual orientation in the closet.  If the other guy likes you, and you come out to him, then if he is a real friend, he will not forsake you.  He may respond with becoming intimate, or he may back off and say, "not interested in that."

But if he is a true friend, he won't hurt you.  Regretfully, though, there are times when guys let down their guard and let someone in, only to be burned by the other guy who recoils with shock and says rude and hateful things.  To reduce that possibility, my recommendation is to take your time.

Taking the time to build a relationship with a masculine guy is very hard for some people to do.  It's as hard for men as it is for women.  Younger people who are accustomed to instant satisfaction and immediate responses can't handle having to take things slowly.  But I have found that most masculine gay men are very careful and deliberate in choosing who to get close to.  Some of them have been burned before, and some of them remain very much "in the closet."  Some may not have self-identified as being gay, and are in denial.  Eventually, time will tell ... but taking the time to figure it out is not an easy thing.  (For example, I was 35 when I met my man, but I wasn't celibate... if you get the drift.)

You can find a masculine gay man if you're looking for one.  You just need to take time, be patient, and keep being true to yourself.  Good luck.

Life is short:  but in this case, take your time.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Storing Tall Boots

I received an email the other day from Stephanie who wrote:

Recently I purchased my first pair of good leather boots and am interested in how best to care for them, particularly when they are not on my feet. It seems there are three choices: hanging, standing, or in a box (with many choices in how to do each). What do you do with yours?

Good question... here are my thoughts based on my own experience on storing tall boots.

1.  Short-term storage

If the boots are worn fairly often -- about once a week or more -- then don't plan to store them. Instead, all you want to do is retain shape. Stuffing the boots with wads of kraft paper will do that. Then you can hang them, as I do, which will help keep the shape in the ankles by not having the weight of the shafts continue to press down on the ankles and cause more sagging. Hanging in a well-ventilated area that has good light (but not direct sunlight) is really the best way to go, but if space is limited, you can just store them stuffed with kraft paper and they'll be okay. Ventilation and light (part of the day) is important to keep down the chances of mold growth. Mold loves "dark and damp" on cellulose products (leather is a cellulose product) -- so avoid both.

2.  Long-term storage

For example, you may want to store a pair of equestrian boots that are worn only during the riding season. Now that it is winter in the U.S., the boots will not be worn again until Spring. If this is the case, do this: a) clean off any residual dirt and grime with a damp cloth. If the boots have been worn in areas where mold is prevalent (such as in an arena, grassy area, etc.), then get Lysol (or similar) disinfectant wipes and wipe the boots with the disinfectant wipe as the final cleaning. Do not spray boots with Lysol, as the alcohol in the Lysol will dry out the leather. But you want to remove any mold spores that may remain on the boots. Pay special attention to the area where the sole is sewn to the foot, and places such as under straps, harness rings, and boot pulls.

When the boots are clean, give them a good polishing using a good shoe polish such as Kiwi brand, Bick 4, or the like. After polishing, let the boots stand in a well-ventilated area for about a day so the residual vapors from volatile chemicals in the polish can dissipate.

Then get some brown kraft paper (like is used for wrapping boxes to ship in the mail.) Wad up the kraft paper and place them inside the boots. Don't put too much paper in or pack tightly. Air needs to circulate. But put enough in to keep the shape of the boots. Wrap the boots in tissue paper, and put them in a box. Do not seal the box with tape (as sealing a box can trap humidity inside the box, making an environment suitable for mold growth. Also, do not put the boots in plastic bags -- again, plastic traps water vapor and makes a great environment for mold to grow. I also recommend kraft paper and tissue paper, as these materials are not made from an acid process, and are less likely to damage your boots than newspaper, which is very acidic.

These are my recommendations on storing tall boots.  For more information on boot storage suggestions, see this blog post and the tutorial that I wrote on Hotboots.com.

Life is short:  care for your boots!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What Are The First Pieces of Leather Gear I Should Buy for IML?

This was a good question that landed on my website: "What are the first pieces of leather gear that I should buy for IML?"  For those who may not be familiar, "IML" refers to "International Mr. Leather," which is the largest gathering of the leather clan in the United States, held every year on Memorial Day weekend (last weekend of May) in Chicago, Illinois.  By the way, this information also applies to those who choose to attend Mid-Atlantic Leather, which is the second-largest gathering of the leather clan. This event is held in mid-January in Washington, DC.

I noticed that google directed the question to my tutorial called "Air Travel With Leather Gear" instead of my "Leather Gear Guide."  Had the inquiry gone to the latter tutorial, the reader would have been advised that, in my opinion, the first pieces of leather to buy when considering attending a leather event like IML are: 1) black leather chaps; 2) a black leather vest; and 3) black boots (of course!)  Compliment this leather gear with a pair of Levis or Wranglers and some black t-shirts.  Simple!

The great thing about chaps is that they are so versatile. You can put them on quickly, and they look good with a pair of regular jeans. You can wear the jeans when traveling, and while being a tourist. Chicago is a great, walkable town. There are a lot of things to see and do, and you might not want to wear leather when going to a museum, taking a stroll to view "The Bean," or out to eat.

A black leather vest compliments the outfit. You can wear a vest over a regular shirt, or if the weather is warm enough and you have the physique, you can wear it over your torso. Lots of guys do that at IML, from lithe gym-rats to bears to all in-between.

Black boots are de rigueur. However, if you will be wearing boots with jeans and chaps, you can get shorter boots if you wish because one doesn't really tuck jeans and chaps into boots. Doing so makes the boots look "stuffed" and often due to the thickness of material, the leather puffs out at the top of the boots and looks ... um ... "dorky." Shorter boots like Chippewa Harness Boots would be great -- those boots are very durable, very comfortable, inexpensive, and well-constructed. While Harley-Davidson harness boots are prevalent, IMHO those boots are cheap and poorly-made, because they are made in China by third-party companies under license by Harley-Davidson for the name. You pay twice as much for the name alone. Don't fall for it. Get good quality US-made boots by Chippewa or Red Wing and you'll be much happier.

Die-hard leatherdudes who have some means and money will have a lot of other leather gear. As you consider future investments in leather gear beyond chaps, vest, and boots, I would recommend: 1) a good-quality leather motorcycle jacket, 2) good-quality leather jeans, and 3) leather gloves. You can (and should) wear the jacket and leather jeans regularly, not just for IML or other leather fashion shows. The jacket and jeans are staples in many men's wardrobes.

Other stuff that is "out there" includes leather breeches -- which look hot with tall black patrol boots -- but good quality, custom-made breeches can be costly (on the order of US$400 - US$600). Leather shirts also are prevalent, but aren't as necessary in an emerging leatherman's wardrobe right away. I wear leather shirts often, but I'm the type of guy who wears his leather frequently as I go about my daily life.  A leather tie and Muir Cap completes the outfit, but again, aren't necessary.

In my opinion, leather gear that you don't need includes: 1) a chest harness -- few guys can pull off the look well. Chest harnesses look good only on very well-built men with chiseled abs. If you don't have it, don't wear something that points out an out-of-shape body. 2) You don't really need gauntlets, leather shorts, leather jocks, or equipment like floggers, whips, or chains. 'nuf said... toys are what they are. Also, IMHO "strong" opinion: leather shorts don't look good on most men. (And Chicago in May can be cool, anyway.)


Two things to remember:  1) don't bring lots of gear with you -- just a few pieces to mix and match. Most airlines charge outrageous fees to check baggage, and even more outrageous fees for a bag that weighs more than their maximum allowable -- usually 50lbs (22.7kg).  Also 2) the largest "leather mart" -- vendor displays and sales -- is at IML.  You can buy gear there if you wish. 

In summary, for the guy who is going to IML for the first time and is looking to acquire some leather gear -- get chaps, vest, and short harness boots. You'll fit in fine and what I'm recommending is affordable. (However, be sure to read my thorough explanation about the differences between "cheap chaps" and "great chaps" because if you buy cheap chaps, it will be obvious that you're a newbee on a tight budget.)

Life is short: enjoy your leather!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Bag of Wet Sand

We all have people that we "have" to work with for various reasons.  Some people are friendly, warm, and affable.  Some people are professionally perfunctory.  Some people are perplexing.  Some people are cold and distant.

One person I have to work with is pleasant enough, but dragging a conversation from her is difficult.  She is cold, but not unpleasant.  She is well-mannered, but she has no personality.  She is so much like -- what I was describing to a friend -- a bag of wet sand.  There is really no other way to describe it.  It's like you have to push this cold, damp gooky stuff around to get anything productive from a conversation.

I don't know why some people are like that.  Just stuck like a heavy bag that you have to poke and prod to deal with.  Oh well, it takes all kinds, and frankly I'd rather have someone with a personality of cold wet sand than one who is perpetually angry and agitated.

So much for civic life.  Bags of sand are out there.

Life is short:  when confronted with a bag of wet sand, build a berm.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How We Saved $8,450

I was reviewing the bills and our household budget for the past year, preparing a new budget for next year in comparison with our income and expenses.  I used an on-line calculator that compared "normal" household expenses with ours.  I realize that what some people consider to be "normal" is not normal for us.  Our "unnormal" spending habits resulted in an estimated annual savings of US$8,450.

Here is how we have not spent US$8,450 this year:

1.  We prepare our own meals and eat at home.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner -- all prepared from groceries that I cook and serve daily.  We just don't eat out.  A reliable source indicates that the average US middle class couple spends $279 each month on eating dinner out.  Since we don't do that, our savings is US$3,378.

2.  Preparing our own meals includes making lunch to take to work.  My partner and I do not eat lunch out.  Another reliable source indicates that we save US$2,080 a year based on the assumption of eating lunch out at the average cost of US$8.50 each lunch x 2 of us x 4 days/week (thinking that my partner and I are at home one weekday each week.)

3.  We don't go nuts with media.  That is, while we subscribe to services that provide television and internet, we have no-frills, basic services.  We get the normal digital & HD channel line-up, but do not pay for subscription services like HBO, etc.  We do not pay for "on demand" movies and sports packages.  We have high-speed internet, but locked in a three-year agreement that saves about US$25/month from what it could have cost us.  Therefore, I estimate the savings on television media is US$576/year (not paying avg. US$48/mo. for extras) and US$300 for internet = a total of US$876/year.

4.  We don't go nuts with cell phones.  I have one cell phone.  My partner chooses not to have one.  I do not have a data package on my cell, by choice.  Therefore I do not text nor receive text messages, or have web-access on a mobile device.  I once had that (when my former employer required it, but did not pay for it).  My monthly savings for going "cell only without data" is US$68/month, or US$816/year.

5.  We mow our own lawn and maintain it ourselves.  Neighbors spend US$900/year on lawn mowing services while my partner and I enjoy the exercise and the cost-savings. We also use compost as fertilizer, and spread it ourselves.  We rake, aerate, and weed-wack.  Yes, it takes time from other things (such as riding my Harley) but it's good exercise, much better for the environment than spreading chemicals, and is cheaper than what some of my neighbors pay US$400/year for a lawn service company.  So what if our lawn isn't perfect -- it's a lawn, not a golf course. 

All-in-all, the savings by eating at home, choosing to reduce media and cell phone costs, and mowing our own lawn totaled US$8,450 this year alone.

There are many other intangibles that affect our annual budget.  For example, we have zoned heating and cooling, so we only heat or cool parts of our house as needed in certain rooms. We have active solar, which produces electricity and hot water. We estimate our annual savings for solar alone to be about US$3,000 in reduced electric and natural gas bills.  But that is hard to estimate directly since I cannot measure what we do not consume and some of the savings are offset by increased costs of maintenance on this complex household system.  Nonetheless, "going green" does save us a lot of money in the long-run, and saves the planet a little bit, as well.

Life is short:  be financially sound.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Quality Customer Service

I am writing today to say how pleased I am with the customer service from Northbound Leather of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The story begins on a good note, in that I ordered a pair of dress leather pants and dress leather shirt on November 25, and these items were made quickly.  I received them on December 8.  The quality of the leather used is superb: soft, supple, shiny and sensuous.  I was almost giddy with excitement when the Fedex delivery arrived.  I quickly tore open the box and tried on my new gear.

However, I was disappointed to find that the pants were simply cut off to my size, and not hemmed.  Unhemmed leather garments will fray quickly.  Not good....

Further, while the website measurement instructions were clear and I followed them, the sizing of Canadians must be different.  The shirt was too small for me.  I swear, a Canadian inch =0.9 of a U.S. inch (LOL!).  Even though I've lost almost 40 pounds since May, there was just no way the shirt would fit without making me appear to be busting out at the seams.  Not good....

I called Northbound on the day I received the gear to explain the situation.  Glenda couldn't have been nicer about it.  While I had to return the garments to them, they will send me a new pair of pants -- hemmed this time -- and a new shirt in the correct size immediately.  They also facilitated the return by allowing me to use their FedEx account number, so I do not have to pay for the cost of shipping, which is expensive to (and from) Canada from the United States.

Because Northbound Leather treated me so well and were so kind and responsive, I continue to recommend them highly.  They really do make great leather garments of high quality leather.  Their craftsmanship is truly terrific. 

In further email dialogue with Glenda, I am assured that I will receive the new gear by Christmas, when I want to wear formal leathers as I visit family and serve our holiday meal.

Life is short:  get in gear!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Why Do Gay Guys Like to Wear Boots?

Google never ceases to amuse me by landing visitors to this blog who enter questions like, "Why do gay guys like to wear boots?"

In this instance, the question was asked by someone in Singapore, but it is a fairly common question around the world.

Okay, I'm a gay guy, and I like to wear boots.  Why?  I like how they look and how they feel on my feet.  Many men wear boots in the United States and around the world.

In my opinion, the number of gay men who wear boots is rather small in comparison to the overall number of gay men out there.  In fact, in my observation, it seems to me that fewer gay men wear boots than the proportion of straight men who like to wear boots.  I think that's because there are fewer gay men who are masculine guys.  To me, most gay men I have met are into fashion and like to dress up, including wearing dress shoes. 

Masculine men, gay or straight, like boots.  I'm one of 'em.  The boot-wearing has nothing to do with my sexual orientation.  It has to do with the kind of guy I am -- your regular "Joe Schmoe" in leather and boots.  No big deal.  I am who I am.  Other guys are who they are -- gay or straight, booted or not.

Life is short:  stop obsessing over stereotypes and perceptions in trying to connect one thing with another that really are not related.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Memories of Seattle

One thing that impressed me tremendously about my recent visit to Seattle was how incredibly courteous the drivers in the area were. I drove a lot while I was there, going from town to town up and down I-5 for various meetings. People everywhere were great about letting you in when traffic was heavy. They always used turn signals. They didn't speed. They didn't talk on cell phones or text while driving. Man, we have a lot to learn from them in the area where I live. DC drivers are the pits when it comes to courteousness while driving.

Following are some photos that my friend Dave took while we did a bit of touring on Sunday. We took a ferry to one of the Puget Sound islands, had lunch, and a great visit. What a genuinely nice guy. I appreciated having the chance to visit and spend some time touring such a scenic area.

Life is short: make the most of your work and travel!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Is My Twinship Unusual?

I received an email the other day from someone who has been reading this blog, and has noticed a number of "guest blog" posts from my twin brother.  Throughout those posts, and in some of his comments on some of my regular, ongoing posts, it's clear that my twin brother and I are very close.

The person who wrote to me asked what it was like to have a twin brother, as he did not have one.  He also asked, "are all twins so close -- as close as you and your brother?  And is your twin gay?"

The first part is hard for me to answer.  My brother and I had a normal childhood with typical sibling battles and squabbles.  But throughout it all, we still were best friends.  I don't know if our relationship as twins is typical, but I've heard from other twins who feel as close.

The second part is not hard to answer: my twin is straight, happily married to a woman, and is secure in his own manhood.  He figured out that I was gay before I did, but loved me just the same.  That's what is so special about our relationship.  He loves me for who I am, and I love him for who he is, as different as we are.

There are two other sets of twins in my family, and I observe that they are as close with each other as my twin and I are.  It is how we were raised.  But also, we had a "twin compact."  That is, if you picked on one of us, you picked on us both.  We defended each other fiercely.

I also have to say that since my twin brother and I are fraternal twins, he got the good looks, physical height, athletic ability, and grace -- while I got lesser of each of the genes that control those features.  As such, I was mercilessly picked on by bullies in junior high and high school at times.  My twin would always, always, defend me.  Regardless if it made him late for a class or a date.  He was always by my side.  My brother through life.

I know other people have sibling relationships that are not as close.  I am blessed, I guess.  It's what Mom and Dad made happen by how they raised us.  They expected that their children would be close, and become good friends as adults.  Our parents' expectations were truly realized.

While I am especially close to my twin -- I know (without speaking with him) what he's thinking and what language he is speaking and how he is feeling -- I am also close to my other brothers and sisters.  I love 'em all, and I know they love me.  Gay or straight, sports-ignorant or athletic, klutzy or graceful, leather-clad or in a business suit -- they love us for the men we are.

In summary: is my twinship unusual?  I don't think so.  But I know that I have a very special man as my very own twin brother, and wouldn't trade him for the world.

Life is short:  love your brother.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Working -- in Leather

My new job is very interesting, and when I am not traveling, I work from home.  Considering that I'm at home, I can wear what I want.  Thus, I choose to wear leather -- jeans and shirts, and boots (of course.)

Sure, I could probably work naked if I want, but it's cold, and I don't want to turn the heat up full blast.  Wearing leather keeps me warm and lets me keep the heat on a lower setting, saving fuel and money.  Being just a regular guy, it's no problem should I need to run an errand at lunch time and just go out in my leather, pulling on a leather jacket in the process.  No big deal.

It's "cool" wearing leather while at work!

Life is short:  wear your leather!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Brother's Wish

Guest blog by J, BHD's Twin Brother

My wife and I had an argument recently -- where to spend Christmas.  We live in a little flat in Paris, France, where we work.  Last year, we went to visit my brother, BHD, and see the family.  I wanted to go back this year.  My wife wanted to go to St. Tropez on the French Riviera, instead, and spend some time with two of her siblings who were also going to be there for Christmas.

Sure, it would be nice to take a holiday on the Riviera, but it's cold this time of year and it is extremely expensive.  I very much want to come home to see my family and have an old-fashioned family Christmas.

What to do?  I called my brother, and he listened, but didn't try to tell me what to do.  Sometimes I just need someone to listen, and my brother does that very well for me.

Our flat was very quiet for several hours.  The tension was high, and my wife and I both were feeling uncomfortable for having disagreed.  After a few hours, I gently knocked on the bedroom door to apologize.

No sooner had I said, "I'm sorry" than she showed me a printout confirming that she bought two airline tickets for us to come to Washington on 23 December.  She told me how much she enjoyed our family, and the casual, friendly, and fun atmosphere. She said how welcome she felt in my brother's home, and enjoyed spending time with my sisters.  I think as she reflected back on our visit last year, she thought more about it and how much she would like to return -- as much as me!

WE ARE COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS!  Whoopie!  Can't wait!  (Bro, don't worry, I'll bring my leather pants -- you can provide the boots!)