Sunday, January 31, 2010

Boots Are My Footwear

Not that long ago, someone sent me an email and said, "I have been reading your blog and website, and you say all the time that you only wear boots. Is it true that you don't own even one pair of shoes, like trainers?" He was from the U.K., where "trainers" means "sneakers" here in the U.S.

I replied with a simple but honest answer, "yes, that is true. Boots are my footwear. I do not own any shoes of any sort, and have no intention of having any."

He replied the next day saying, "I find that unbelievable. You say that you work in a management position in an office. You lead some sort of organisation in your community. You gave a eulogy recently at a funeral. You must wear shoes on those occasions!"

My reply was factual: "I have been wearing boots as my exclusive choice of footwear since I was at least ten years old, and probably before that. Because everyone who knows me -- at the office, in the community, and everywhere else -- has only seen me in boots, they expect nothing else. Granted, I ride a motorcycle and have a reason to wear solid, protective boots for safety's sake. But boots are on my feet at all times (when I am awake, healthy, and physically able to walk), not just when I'm on my motorbike. For more formal occasions, I wear dark (black or black cherry) cowboy boots with a normal heel and semi-rounded toe. I do not 'overdo it' by wearing boots made of exotic skins or colours or that have high heels or sharp 'X' toes with a suit or in a formal setting. Wearing boots is just who I am and how I have always dressed."

My correspondent replied with a different line of questioning, "so what do you wear to the gym?"

... well, that presumes that I go to a gym. I replied by saying, "I use the swimming facilities at a University near me, and can walk barefooted between the locker room and the pool. I do not engage in physical activity there that requires use of sneakers. While I enjoy walking a lot, I have boots that are quite comfortable for walking as exercise."

The guy with whom I was communicating replied by saying, "thank you for your explanation about wearing boots all the time. It may be a difference of culture or experience. While I like how boots look on some men, I would never think of wearing a pair of boots except only on the most informal occasions. I would not wear them to work, or with a suit. I would expect a mature man such as you would share the same perspective. I have learned that this is not true. It is very interesting to me. Thank you."

I thought that was a civil reply to a discussion of different perspectives. I have found this line of inquiry to be similar with some men in my own country (the U.S.) as well. There are some guys who would never think of wearing boots at all, and some who might own one pair of boots that they may wear once or twice a year on informal outings. Some men wear boots more often. I realize I am on the extreme, by wearing boots exclusively and refusing to consider, much less actually wear, shoes.

Thanks, G, for your insights and for your permission to post this message on this blog.

Life is short: wear your boots!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

When "They" Are Wrong

The proverbial "they" got the weather forecast all wrong for the area where we live in Maryland, USA. On Friday, "they" were predicting that we might get 1" (2.5cm) of snow. The big storm was supposed to stay south of us.

"They" were wrong. It began to snow at 9am, and snowed all day. "They" kept changing the forecast, upping the amount of snow expected for our area each hour. "They" finally issued a winter storm warning after noon. Heck, we already knew that.

Here I am with a broken leg, and a disabled partner. My beloved partner is doing the best he can to take care of me, do our grocery shopping, AND shovel the snow from our drive and walks. He cannot operate our snow blower. It is too big, heavy, and hard for him to handle.

There I was... inside, with a tear running down my cheek, holding myself up on crutches watching him work. Man, I feel so guilty. I wish I could help him. He is working so hard. My partner said that we had 7" (17.5cm) of snow when he got out there in the late afternoon... and snow was still falling when he came in.

Bless him... nary a complaint nor whimper. His first question when he came in the door was, "how are YOU?" The least I could do was heat hot water for some cinnamon herbal tea to warm him up.

This too shall pass, but I'm feeling rotten.

Thank goodness that neither he nor I have to cook dinner. We still have about a dozen casseroles that my senior pals brought over during the week. That was so sweet of them. And they've been calling all day, as well. They knew that I would have a lot of trouble sitting still, so they have been calling me to make sure that I didn't do anything stupid, like try to put weight on the broken leg or worse -- go outside. I swear they have bugged our house, because they "overheard" my thinking. (No worries, I obeyed doctor's orders to remain indoors, leg up, and on ice.)

Life is short: show those you love that you love them, because when they love you, they'll do anything for you, even if it hurts.

Update: Someone sent me an email to ask, "why don't you just hire a teenager to do the shoveling?" Man, I wish that were possible. Unfortunately, one of the few downfalls of living where we live is that the teenage kids who live in our area have no work ethic. They don't lift a finger to do any work around their own houses, much less work-for-hire to do manual labor like shovel snow or mow lawns for other people. That's quite different from how it was when I grew up, but is a sad fact about the poor work ethic that parents have accepted in their children today (in this area).

Two Guys on a Harley

I belong to a Harley-Davidson motorcycle-related discussion forum on the internet. Recently, someone posted this question:
Would any male motorcycle rider make a trip (say a few miles) while allowing a man to ride (seated) behind them on the their bike? Or vice versa?
You can tell from the way the question is worded that it is already prejudged against two guys riding together.

As of the time I was writing this blog post, there were 30 replies. There were three types of responses:

1. "Only in an emergency" such as this: I would ride a guy ONLY if his bike was broken down. I would need an excuse to spout verbally.

2. "Give a ride to share the fun" such as this: I have given those less fortunate to own a Harley or any bike for that matter the thrill of being on one. Takes a few days for them to get the grin off their face...lol. None of them had any issues with their ego and I am comfy with myself.

3. "Incredulity" such as this: back in time it was normal to see two guys on a bike.....man how times have changed. Other related statements included riding with male family members (family doesn't count) or two males riding in Europe -- apparently it's not an issue Across the Pond as some people make of it here in the U.S.

This thread of dialogue is, to me, a demonstration of the ongoing tension felt by straight guys who are insecure with their own sexuality and gender that they feel that they have to demonstrate the hypermasculine male image on a Harley, which means never carrying a male passenger unless the passenger is your son or nephew, or a friend who had an emergency. There were, unfortunately, a number of homophobic responses to that discussion -- and some who even said that they were proud of their homophobia. Pity their small little minds....

In my opinion -- it shouldn't matter if a guy rides as a passenger on a Harley being driven by another guy. My partner and I rode all over the country that way, and never once -- even in the Bible Belt where homophobia is omnipresent -- did anyone say anything. We weren't waving the rainbow flag or strutting around in our chaps (without any other clothes on), but we also weren't hiding the fact that we were very close; staying in the same hotel room; speaking with words like, "our", "us", "we" and so forth. It was pretty clear that we were not related (such as brothers).

I think the on-line Forums tend to bring out the most outspoken, and do not necessarily demonstrate the majority of the thinking in the country, or the world for that matter.

My perception: secure men don't care. If you worry about whether anyone is going to question your sexuality or gender by giving a male passenger a ride on your Harley, then get some professional help to work through your gender identity issues. Secure straight men as well as gay men have it figured out already.

Life is short: stop worrying about what other people think, and be yourself.

This is a photo of me with my best friend. I couldn't find one of me and my partner in digital format that would illustrate the point of this post.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Brother Who Happens to be Gay

I haven't blogged about this in a while, but since my family has taken over my blog (thanks, sisters, thanks brothers), I thought I would return to writing my own pieces, and describe a bit of what it is like for me to be the "brother who happens to be gay" in a large family.

I have a very large family. Sometimes, too many to count. But seriously, if you count my siblings, their spouses, their children, and their children's children, there are 159 people ranging in age from zero to 68. And that's just my immediate family. My father came from a family larger than that -- so if you include my aunts, uncles, first cousins, first cousins once removed, and first cousins twice removed, we're closing on 400 people.

Do I know all these people? Well... some better than others. I know who they are and their names because I took on the responsibility of keeping my father's family tree and genealogy. So at least I know who my family members are by name, date and place of birth, current location, and relationship back to my paternal grandparents.

When it comes to my immediate family -- my brothers and sisters -- we have an ongoing, healthy adult relationship. It took a while for that relationship to develop. Being the youngest, my twin brother and I were always treated as "the kids" and it took a long time for our older siblings to accept the fact that we were adults. I "came out" as gay when I was in my early 30s. Some of my family accepted me as being gay right away when they found out, and others did not. In fact, some said that they knew it all along and were just waiting for me to say something. Those who were more reluctant to accept that I was gay had interference from their respective spouses. Yeah, there are some of my brothers or sisters in-law who don't speak to me unless they have to. Yet there are other in-laws who are as close to me as one of my own blood siblings. It varies.

I think what helped to develop a positive, adult relationship as a gay man, and a gay brother, with my siblings, their spouses, and offspring was an example taught by my mother when she died. It took her a few years to accept that I was in a relationship with a man. But once she accepted that, she grew to love my partner. When she died, we found a note where she designated my partner to be a pall bearer at her funeral -- the only "son-in-law" so designated. That made a powerful statement.

I live a positive, up-beat, normal life with my partner, who I treat as an equal and as a spouse. As readers of this blog know, I am well-connected in my community and do a lot of civic work. My family recognizes that and values my contributions. They have supported me all the way in various "campaigns" and in some big events such as our annual Thanksgiving pot-luck or "Spring fix-it-up-for-senior-safety" gigs.

They're there for me, as I try to be there for them. I show up at their kid's school plays, football games, birthday parties, or other important events in their lives. We are intertwined. We are family.

It's not easy being the "odd-ball out" as some people have described being a gay brother among a large family of heterosexuals. But I am not treated as being odd, or unusual, or "different." As our family continues to grow and move along life's highway, I am considered as one of those who contributes to our growth. I provide various ways for us to keep in touch through the internet, email, websites, and so on. But my family also works at keeping in touch and together.

I know that I am very fortunate to have a family like I have. I have heard from gay men who have been ostracized and excommunicated from their respective families. I feel very sorry for them. Most of the time, the negativity directed toward them was not their fault. Often, organized religion plays a very negative role in disassociating family connections. (That's why I personally have a lot of trouble with the term "Christian" when people who claim that title act with bigotry, hatred, and hypocrisy.)

I am not saying that I have all lovey-dovey relationships with each member of my family. Some of us are closer than others. That's going to be the case in a large family. I am, admittedly, closest to my twin brother J, but then again, you would expect that. But what I can say is that I have earned the respect of each member of my family, and even if they have personal reservations about homosexuality, they realize that "it" is among their lives and they have gotten accustomed to having a brother who happens to be gay. Not "the gay brother." To me, that's the difference.

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

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sister Act

Guest blog by R, G and C, BHD's triplet sisters

We figured if our brothers could get into the act yesterday, that we could, too. We are four years older than BHD and J, and are fraternal triplets. That means that while we share the same date of birth, but have enough physical differences that you wouldn't call us identical. We think similarly, and oddly enough, we each have married and have had five children a piece -- two of whom share the same birthday, and three of whom share the same date of birth (figure that one out!) These coincidental birth dates of our children were not planned, but happened by serendipity.

If you ask BHD, he would insist that we were put onto this earth to torment him and J, his twin brother.

Never! They were put on earth to torment us! We couldn't have boys over without B and J giggling behind the curtains, or putting fake spiders in the drink glasses. It was no wonder that we would pretend to chase them around and jump out to startle them in the upstairs hallway.

As we have grown up -- speaking for ourselves, because our little brothers will always be our "little" brothers -- we realize that our brothers are pretty good people. Some of us have moved apart, while R and BHD live in the same area. Regardless of our physical location, BHD has worked hard to keep us together by implementing internet technology as long as 14 years ago when he created an email distribution list for the family. Now he runs a website for our family to post messages, pictures, and updates about what we are up to. It even integrates with Facebook.

As much as we had some sibling arguments when we were kids, we have become close friends in our adult lives. In particular, we'll never forget that BHD saved G's life. Literally.

We know this is not a family blog, but we have seen how much fun J has playing with BHD's blog, so we thought we would chime in together and say, "we love you, little brothers!" Catch you in the ether! And BHD -- don't go chasing little old ladies any more. You're not as young as you used to be! (Alas, good deeds never go unpunished, do they?) We look forward to seeing you on your Harley and in those boots at our family reunion in July!

Life is short: love your brothers; they need all the help they can get.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

When the Helper Needs Help

Guest blog by J, BHD's twin brother and M, BHD's big brother, the doctor

Our poor ol' brother broke the lower end of his fibula in his right leg, near the ankle. Fortunately, the ankle is fine. Being a complex joint, breaking the ankle itself would probably mean surgical procedures and a very lengthy recovery. A broken fibula is bad, but it will heal by itself and no surgery will be required. (M saw the x-rays through incredible marvels of technology, and confirms BHD's doctor's observations).

He was fortunate to be wearing boots that provided strong ankle protection when he fell. Had he been wearing sneakers or regular shoes, then it is likely that he would have broken his ankle and his life would be changed forever. For us, as his brothers, we are now convinced that his boot-wearing probably saved him months if not years of pain and inconvenience.

For now, while he is uncomfortable when he is waiting for the pain and swelling to subside, he is being well-tended by his partner and the older folks I met when I visited with him over the years. From what we hear, his partner is providing the TLC that our brother requires, including help with bathing and changing clothes.

Our brother's older friends are taking shifts to spend time with him during the week while his partner is at work. Our brother told us both in a rather emotional moment on a recent phone chat that "paying it forward is being paid back." That is, he has put a lot of time and attention into caring for his senior friends, and now they are enjoying being needed, and helping him.

All of us who love him have told him only to say, "thank you" and not say that he is undeserving. If anyone deserves kind, caring attention, it is our brother ("big" to J, "gentle" to M).

He worries that all of the people he cares for will need help that he can't provide during his recovery period. So from afar, we are helping to organize an in-fill capacity to provide his services while he recovers. Our sister will begin to look after our aunt, and a couple nephews will do what is required to care for some of his senior friends who need physical help that our brother, until now, has provided without fanfare or attention. That's just how he is.

Believe me, accepting the role of being helped is not easy for the helper our brother is. Our role, living so far away but being close to him as brothers, is to help him accept that, and to know what he says all the time is true--

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Horrors of a Hobbler

My friend who felt guilty because she thought that she caused my fall which resulted in a broken bone in my leg near my ankle came over this morning to fuss over me, but she had to leave at 11:00am. My next caretaker was due at 11:30. No problem; I can be by myself for a half-hour.

No sooner did she leave, then the man in Brown (UPS Delivery) pulled up. I hobble over to the door and he put a box inside, which I can't bend down and pick up, because I can't bend down with crutches! I looked like someone who would have appeared in an I Love Lucy show, with all the gyrations I was going through to try to lift up that box.

I began kicking the box down the hall, when the doorbell rang again. This time, it was FedEx. He didn't wait; he left a big envelope that contained pain pads for my partner on the front stoop. Pain pads? My partner requires these for his disability. I thought it was oddly juxtaposed that here I am in such pain, and I have to retrieve a box from the front porch with pain pads in it!

I began trying to pick up that package up when I dropped not one, but both of my crutches and then lost my balance and settled down to my left knee (fortunately, I didn't fall). There I am in PJs out on my front porch, cold, and in pain! I betcha the nebby neighbor across the street was watching on his private video system and laughing his head off.

TG my next helper arrived early. Imagine, an 80-year-old woman trying to help a 52-year-old bearish guy up off the ground. Somehow through the use of leverage and ingenuity, with a dab of patience, we made it. I got resettled into my comfy chair and got ice back on the ankle. But for a while there, I was afraid my partner would come home to find me frozen out on the lawn!

Sheesh... no more doorbells for me!

Check back for updates on The Horrors of the Hobbler, a new mini-series suggested by my best friend, AZ, to be written, published, and sold shorty. LOL!

Painfully Annoyed

So the doc says the ankle fibula bone in my leg break is clean, but severe. The swelling remains pretty bad, and the pain is awful. I don't have much of a tolerance for pain, but I am more annoyed with my sudden lack of mobility than anything else.

My partner, bless his caring soul, has been doing so much to help me. Thank goodness we have an open floor plan, and I can rest comfortably in our family room with the computer and just rest. So yes, I am resting! It had to be something like this to get me up and off my feet and stop running around all the time.

My best friend, AZ, suggested that I put a note on the door -- "I'm home, but pardon me for not answering. Come on in!" More food has arrived than we will ever be able to eat, but no complaints there. The outpouring of concern -- both here at home from my senior pals and my family -- and on the Internet with my Boot buds and blogger pals -- has been incredible, and very much appreciated.

Meanwhile, the pain drugs are working, at least to allow me to have a good night's sleep last night. Foot up on four pillows, turned sideways in the bed. Quite a sight!

My partner went to work today, but M will be here at 7, E at 10, F at 12, P at 2, and L from 4 'til bedtime. They won't let me be alone, and I have no worries about a need for a thing.

The pain drug makes me groggy and emotionally weak. I get tears in my eyes at the slightest things. Calls, email messages, visits... all so sweet and warmly appreciated. But they make me cry sometimes. A good cry; nonetheless, it confuses my partner when he sees me with tears rolling down my cheeks, because he doesn't know if I am in pain or just being emotional.

If I don't reply to a message you have sent right away, know that it was received and I thank you for it, from the bottom of my heart. Soon enough, I'll be back in form, up-to-speed, and booted once again. But for now, rest... rest... rest.

Life is short: pay it forward and it comes back with love.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Casserolled

My friend, "M", who I was escorting yesterday when I took my tumble, fell, and broke my ankle leg is taking things personally. I wish she didn't feel responsible for my being a klutz. Heck, these things happen!

She spent most of the day with me today, insisting on helping out, even though my partner was home. But he just let her take over, which made her feel better.

My friend got the word out and my elder buddies have been streaming to my house dropping off lots of food. I am ankle deep in wall-to-wall casseroles. I have run out of room for all this food, but I can't turn it away -- not after someone went to all the trouble to make something for me! My partner has put some of it on ice in coolers. I wish I could eat some of these dishes, like jambalaya, soups, and zucchini dishes. Alas, my chronic colitis won't allow it. But it's the thought that counts, right?

"M" stayed the whole day, even while my partner took me back to the doctor for a follow-up evaluation. When we arrived home this afternoon, ten more plates and boxes of goodies had been delivered. Honestly, I don't know what we are going to DO with all this food!

These people are so sweet to go out of their way to help this one-booted klutz. I give a great deal of credit to my partner for putting up with the constant doorbell ringing and disruptions. He has been right there, at my side, for whatever I need. Bless him, and bless my senior buds. They're the best!

Life is short: what goes around comes around!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Broken Ankle

Sunday afternoon, I was escorting an elderly friend into her home. Sidewalks were slick with rain. She began to fall. I caught her but fell myself. I broke my right ankle lower fibula, according to x-rays at the urgent care facility.

I visited orthopedic specialist on Monday and was told that I have to wait about a week for the swelling to go down before I can get a cast. No cast, no walking! I'm stuck at home for a while.

Fortunately, my elderly friend was not hurt. My partner is taking good care of this old broken-down one-booted klutz. TG that I can telecommute.

More later.

Life is short: even for us klutzes!

We Are Equal Yet Different

I received an email from one of my loyal blog readers, BootedPaul, with whom I have enjoyed exchanging email for years. He wrote to me with observations about some recent posts on this blog.

He said: ...[it] has been my interest in having both partners equal and able to share equally. It is not a relationship that is discussed or promoted very much, but you certainly need appreciation for letting others know that it can be done and is enjoyable.

Thanks, Paul. I have written many blog posts about my partner and our relationship. We are indeed equals in our relationship and how we share our lives which are closely intertwined. We have been together for almost 17 years. During that time, we have grown and developed a bond that is as endearing as it is enduring.

There's a lot of stuff on the Internet about gay relationships. I see many postings from gay men who talk about enjoying a dominant/submissive relationship. The "sub" does the work, the "dom" directs. Or one man in the relationship is the "Daddy" while the other is the "Pup." Or the bitchy queens ('nuf said about them.) Our relationship as equals is not often viewed on the 'net -- though I think there are a number of us "equal relationship couples" out there (some of whom I have met) but few post stuff about their relationship. It's not really "news" for a blog or Forum posting when things are going well, is it?

Both my partner and I are independent, forward-looking men. We are as comfortable in our own skin as we are in leather, jeans, or nothing at all. We know who we are. We're not perfect; we continue to learn from our mistakes. But what makes our relationship work are four things: trust, respect, listening, and love.

I trust my partner with my life; with my finances; with my insecurities, wants, and desires. I can be -- and am -- as honest with him as he is with me. We never do or say anything that can cause us to doubt the other's veracity. If I go visit my very handsome best friend in Phoenix, my partner knows all about it and wishes me a good time. If I meet a visiting Boot Buddy for lunch or dinner, my partner is informed ahead of time and then asks me how it went (he is always invited, but he is not the social sort.)

Our mutual trust particularly extends to finances. I handle "the books" and every few weeks review our joint finances with my partner so he knows where every penny of our combined funds has been spent, allocated, or budgeted.

We both recognize that many relationships (gay or straight) have failed over fights about money, or when one partner steals from the other. While my partner is paid a higher salary than I am, it doesn't matter to either of us. We contribute equal portions of our income to keeping our household and lifestyle secure and debt-free.

I respect my partner as my intellectual equal. We may have had different upbringings and formal education; nonetheless, I respect that he has thoughts, ideas, and interests that are valuable and contribute to my life-long learning. He does the same with me. Again, a difference is that my formal education achieved a much higher level than his; yet, he is my equal and we respect that we each can and want to learn from one another.

Respect is also demonstrated in how we speak with each other. How we listen, and how we respond. Never in a million years would either of us belittle the other -- publicly or privately. My partner is a man who commands respect by how he acts and who he is. He would say the same thing about me (in fact, he did, the other night when he watched a public meeting that I led).

Listening is not often mentioned, but is important to describe about what makes a relationship work. Gay guys tend to blab a lot. Goodness knows I've been guilty of that. My partner has always been a superb listener. He hears things not said. He responds to cues about which he becomes aware because he's not trying to be the talker. My partner has taught me a lot over our years of being together -- shut up and listen! You might learn something! How true... how true. I make a strong effort to listen to what my partner says, so I can hear what's important to him, and respond thoughtfully. My partner can do that in his sleep. I need more practice (smile).

Love? That's the age-old enigma. People say that they fall in love and then sometimes things change, and they don't love each other any more. Both my partner and I can say that our love is enduring because when all is said and done, love is what we have beyond anything else. We could lose our home to disaster; we could lose our jobs; other bad things could happen. Though we have taken measures to protect our lives, lifestyles, and financial security, we know that our love for one another is the foundation of our relationship, and is really all that matters.

Speaking of love -- I also like my partner. He's a cool dude. Fun guy. Witty. Smart. Playful. Generous. Romantic. He also can be a pain in the ass sometimes, as I can be hell sometimes too. There are a few times when our level of "like" for the other is challenged. But never our level of "love." It's always there.

We like to do different things in different ways. I am the Booted Biker of our duo, and he was happy being my passenger on the Harley (when his disability didn't prevent it). He likes to sit and watch the animals in our forest while I like to get out and ride my Harley. I'm running around fixing things for seniors, and he's buying the parts I need to keep my "Mary Poppins/MacGyver Bag" stocked. He is the master gardener and I'm the muddy-booted hole-digger. He's the coupon clipper and I'm the guy who writes the grocery list in the order in which you'll find the items in the store. He's the football fan and I'm the skydiver. He's the movie-buff and I'm just in love with his buff bod. Whatever... you get the point. We are equal yet different. Just the way WE like it.

Throughout all of this, I haven't mentioned sex yet. Yes, sex is important and we enjoy a pleasurable sex life. But there's much more to our relationship than sex. I have to say, though, that we wouldn't have much of a relationship without sex, so yeah: sex is important. Being equals, we know what pleases the other and we take care of each other in the way that is most enjoyable for the other.

Intimacy is important to. The intimacy we share through our trust, honesty, as well as sex, makes our bond strong. If the hours in the day were long enough, I'd be happy just to lay in bed next to my partner and snuggle the whole day through, listen to him, talk about life, and just, ... ahhh... relax in the comfort and security of the arms of my man (and vice-versa).

We are here to affirm that it is quite possible that two gay men can be equals, and be different. We earn each other's trust, we respect each other's differences; we listen to one another; but most of all, we both remain deeply in love with the man of our lives... forever... endearingly and enduringly. He is not my "other half," he is my "best half."

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

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Booted for Work

Today I will be getting down to business in renovating that house I bought a couple weeks ago. It seems that the more I get into it, the more I find that requires repairs. Windows were replaced by a crew on Thursday, and they did a nice job... except the moldings around the frame on the inside of all of the windows crumbled or broke.

My mitre saw and I will be busy today crafting custom-made frames and moldings for 14 windows. I am using oak, rather than pine. Oak is a hardwood, and will be more sturdy. I will custom-cut each piece to replace each frame and molding, and my nailgun will make short order of attaching the pieces to form the frame and moldings around the frame. My partner, the painter of our duo, will paint the newly-installed wood after I install them.

I figure this process will take all day. While I am there with the saw, I will do some more carpentry work, too. Darn it, though, I don't have power in the house (yet), as I have to do some rewiring in advance of having the furnace replaced with one that will accommodate central air conditioning. That doesn't happen until next week. Meanwhile, I will use my generator to supply the power required to run the saw.

How am I booted? I got myself a pair of 8" Timberland Pro Work Boots that I snatched up from Boot Barn by finding a huge discount certificate on-line. The boots are very comfortable, so I understand why all the boot guys rave about them.

So today as you enjoy whatever you're doing, think of me, in blue jeans and work boots, doing carpentry and home renovations. Wanna help?

Life is short: get booted right for the job!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Shopping for Leather Jeans or Chaps

I received a comment on a blog post the other day from the guy who owns Eastern Oregon Leather and who made those really cool wrist cuffs for me and my partner.

He said: "the pair of [leather] jeans I got is turning out to be really cheap. They are off the shelf from the net and the seat is already stretching out. They fit fine the first time I wore them but now it looks like I have a load of crap in my seat .. Lol! Live and learn. I am now looking for a custom shop to get a good pair."

I also received an email from a guy in Germany who said: "Your leather gear looks great on you. You said that some of your gear is more than 20 years old, yet it looks new. It isn't like the gear I ordered by the internet. Where did you get it?"

I learned the hard way about buying leather gear and perhaps I can share some information with guys who are interested in getting a pair of leather jeans, chaps, or even a leather shirt so the gear will fit them well and remain good-looking as it is worn for years to come.

Here is what I have learned:
  • Leather gear designed for the masses, such as sold on some straight biker-oriented websites (leatherup.com and Jamin' Leather are prime examples), looks good on guys who model it for photos on their website, and appears good the first time you open the box. But as Shane said, when you wear it a few times, it begins to stretch, sag, and get baggy in the wrong places. If you want to continue to wear it, you will have to have it professionally altered, often at a cost that is more than what you paid for it originally (unless you have the skills and equipment to do alterations yourself.)
  • There is a reason why leather gear that has prices significantly lower than gear sold by leather-oriented retailers is cheap: the quality of the hides is usually poor. It is probably made of splits, not top grain leather, but is polished, buffed, and the leather is stamped to appear as if it is top grain. But it doesn't behave as top-grain leather when you wear it. It usually squeaks, stretches, and can tear easily. It may discolor when exposed to water, rain, or heat from a motorcycle engine. The chemicals used to make it shiny wear off quickly, and then it looks dull, or develops discoloured patches ranging from gray to black. Sometimes it can look like it has "leather pox." (Not a real disease, but you get the point.)
  • Construction of a leather garment is important! Cheap gear shows short-cuts in manufacture -- anything from single-stitched seams to x-pattern stitches where rivets would work better (corners, pockets -- like on Levis) or a shortage of pockets to (my pet peeve) cheap snaps in the fly so when you swing your leg over the saddle of a motorcycle, your fly pops open.
  • Sizes S-M-L-XL are attempts to fit everyone, and usually don't (fit everyone).
  • "Cut-to-length" jeans or chaps are a sign of cheaply made-for-the-masses gear. Leather jeans or chaps should be hemmed, not cut, to the right length. Hemming requires the use of a sewing machine and needle strong enough to work on leather. If you simply cut off the bottom of a pair of jeans to fit the length of your legs, then the ends of the legs will fray and the seams will come loose.
  • Be very careful about using eBay, Craigslist, or other on-line auction sites. Remember: used gear fits someone else. No two people are exactly the same. The previous owner may have caused the leather to stretch in the seat or knees. If you wear size 34 denim jeans and see a size 34 pair of leather jeans, it is NOT likely the fit will be the same. You may end up with something that doesn't fit you, and that you cannot return. Don't use on-line auction sites to buy leather unless you really know what you're doing and have experience with choosing gear that will fit you.
Good quality leather gear will outlive the person wearing it if you care for it by conditioning it from time to time and hanging it up when you are not wearing it. Leather is a long-term investment. As such, here are my tips for shopping for leather gear:
  • Make a decision on how often you will wear the garment. If you will wear it more than once-a-year to a leather fashion show or gathering of The Great Leather Clan, then get quality, custom-made gear. It will fit you better, look better, and be made better. If, however, you are unwilling to wear leather pants, chaps, or a shirt more than once or twice a year, then you probably can get by with the cheap stuff, as a long-term investment isn't worth it.
  • Don't be intimidated or afraid of shopping at a leather-oriented retailer like 665 Leather, Mr. S., Northbound, or equivalent. While these retailers may have images on their website that may be frightening or cause eyebrows to raise among the straight guys, these businesses are in business for a reason: they craft quality leather garments and they know what they're doing. They have measured and made leather gear for all sorts of people -- big, small, tall, short, black, white, Asian, male, female, transgendered, and people with physical disabilities. They don't care what you look like; they're not looking for the next sexy model for their website. They want you to be happy with quality gear that you will wear. (Which brings me back to point 1: get over your own hang-ups about wearing leather.)
  • Use the retailers website to gather information and to determine what turns your crank, but especially for the first few forays into purchase of leather gear: visit the store in person or call them on the phone. Don't order based on an image and fill-in-boxes on a website alone! When you visit or call a leather retailer, they can discuss with you many options that may not appear on their website. Options may include:
    • different colour of leather other than black.
    • a zip fly instead of snaps.
    • a zipper all the way around from front to back.
    • measurements they need so they can create gear thats fits all parts of your body: ankles, calf, lower leg, upper leg, thigh, hips, butt, waist, abdomen, tummy, chest, arms, neck.
    • hidden zipper front closure of a leather shirt (very functional!)
    • number, size, and placement of pockets.
    • piping (colored strips that define pockets and seams).
    • striping down the outside of each leg.
    • color combinations, such as for pocket flaps, epaulettes, or yoke.
    • Closure for chaps, such as a belt or snaps.
    • Bottom leg closure, such as zippers to make a tapered end so the leather will fit into tall boots smoothly.
    • Lots of other stuff, too. The point is, unless you actually speak with someone who is making leather gear for you, then you may miss out on getting options for leather gear that makes it "uniquely YOU!"
Custom gear made to your specific measurements may cost two to four times as much as off-the-'net stuff will cost, BUT buying one item that you will wear for years is a better investment than two or three items that may quickly stretch, bulge, discolor, or rip and that you will not be able or interested in wearing for more than a few times, or that you would need to have repaired or altered by a professional.

When I consider buying leather jeans, chaps or shirts, I consider these retailers:

665 Leather of North Hollywood, California.
Mr. S Leather of San Francisco, California.
Northbound Leather of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

I have purchased many leather items from these retailers, and have been very pleased with the quality of the garments and their construction. The choices of leather they use is superb. Craftsmanship is excellent. Customer service is also very good.

In summary, when it comes to buying new leather jeans, chaps, shirts, jackets, vests, or the like, you get what you pay for. Buy cheap, get cheap. Make an investment in the good stuff, and it will last a lifetime. You will enjoy wearing it, and perhaps become like me: wear it often, with pride.

For more information, read my Complete Guide to Leather Gear. I hope it helps you make wise decisions for long-term investments in quality and gear you will enjoy for a long time.

Life is short: wear your leather!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Suits Aren't For Me

Last Friday, a guy half my age who started working in my office about a month ago wore a suit to work. I kidded around with him in a good-natured way by saying, "you must be having an important meeting!"

He smiled and said, "no, not really. I just like to dress up."

...there I was on blue-jean Friday in Chippewa Firefighter boots and blue jeans mumbling to myself.

After I returned to my office, I began to think aloud: "oh yuck!" and "is he serious?" I shuddered several times. My visceral, negative reaction woke me up. I thought, "my goodness, why do you feel so strongly negative about dressing up and wearing a suit and tie?"

Honestly, I just absolutely can't stand it. I looked back on my childhood and tried to remember just when it was that I developed such an aversion to dressing up. I cannot remember for the life of me. I have always disliked dressing up.

Intrigued, I called my twin brother and asked about this. My twin, unlike me, has been Mr.-suit-and-tie his whole life. He truly seems to enjoy dressing up and wearing suits. He told me, "heck, you never ever EVER have liked to dress up. I remember that Mom put you in a suit for (our sister's) wedding when we were 6 years old, and you promptly went out and jumped into a mud puddle!"

Perhaps the revulsion of the outfit is not so much the outfit but what it is supposed to represent. We have been fairly well indoctrinated to believe what is viewed as the uniform of success. People who make the rules wear suits. People who are "wannabes" wear suits, too (like the new guy in my office.) Whereas people who carry out the rules wear uniforms, polo shirts, and khakis.

For many, wearing a suit to work conveys a perception of success and being seen as "professional" -- not just to themselves but to others as well. My friend Kevin and I will create our own definition of dressing professionally. It doesn't have to include wearing a suit every day, especially if the office dress code is "business casual." I am regarded highly in my profession and have an international reputation which was earned by my contributions to my field, not by wearing a costume.

This is an ongoing "problem" for me, if you call it that. As much as I enjoy wearing leather and boots, I feel equally the opposite about wearing suits and shoes, but there are those times when I just can not avoid wearing dress clothes and a noose (oops, I mean "tie.")

We all wear costumes to work and the most attractive are those who wear the clothes and don't let the clothes wear them. I have blogged about something similar as it relates to those who wear leather as a costume versus those who do so because of function or that it simply suits them. The latter do not have the slightest interest in the "leatherman rules" or roles because the clothing doesn't define them. Leather is just clothing -- nothing more, nothing less. At least, that is how I perceive it (and my friend Kevin, too, who gave me these words.)

I dress up if I must, such as for a funeral or a wedding or a required meeting with big-wigs in agencies with whom I work. After all, I am in a management position and such attire is more the norm for people at my level. But I consider dressing up to be a chore. I get a chill up my spine every time I see that commercial on TV for whatever-suit-sales company it is where its CEO says at the end, "you're going to like the way you look." Yeah, right... not me.

Believe me, I have tried a number of ways to work this out. My partner had me fitted by a good tailor in a nice-looking suit as a gift for one of our first Christmases. He said I looked great. I felt miserable. I have had tailors fit me for a tux for the very rare times I have had to be part of a wedding party or attend a formal embassy dinner. I had these continuous chills running up and down my spine until I could get that damn monkey suit off my back.

Anyway, it was an interesting internal self-exam. It affirms what I already know: suits aren't for me. And if I ever had to wear shoes, the defibrillator would have to be nearby, 'cause someone would have to use it on me.

Life is short: enjoy it in leather and boots!

I appreciate my friend Kevin's thoughtful advice and experience which contributed to improving this blog post before it was published.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How I Learned to Write

Lately I have had several people compliment my writing style, and I am thankful for the kind words. Someone asked me, "how did you learn to write like that?"

Let me begin with a little history, to which I'm sure many can relate. In 7th through 9th grade, I disliked English composition classes. I struggled and struggled with writing the required compositions. My mother would patiently help me think about what I was trying to say, but it was difficult. I had trouble with noun-verb agreement, using adjectives, and understanding constructions like "there, their, and they're" and "who and whom" and "its and it's."

I have to admit, I also detested writing because, at the time, we had to write on paper with a pen. I did not have a typewriter at home. Typewritten compositions weren't accepted in junior high -- the teachers thought that if you turned in a typewritten paper, your Mom wrote it for you. Home PCs were not available (though Eniac and Edvac were invented at the time, they were more for marveling at science, not for the masses. Man, I'm old!) I detested writing in cursive. My resistance to the physical act of applying pen to paper contributed to my overall dislike of writing, as well.

In 9th grade, we were required to take a foreign language (back in the day when studying a language other than English was a graduation requirement). I did not want to take Spanish or French because I already spoke Italian fluently since childhood, and thought I would have trouble with those languages because I would get them confused. The only other option was Latin. Latin? Why that? Well, it's different, and it was taught by a very well-regarded teacher. I enrolled. Sic volvere parcas et alea jacta est.

Thus (or should I say, ergo?), I learned to write well for four reasons:

1) Latin taught me how to structure my English. I finally learned about subject-verb agreement. Latin taught me all the parts of speech and how they worked together. I finally learned all of the tenses of verbs, and when to use them. I learned not to infinitives split (after Latin taught me what an infinitive was!) I continued to take Latin throughout high school and continued studying it through four semesters in college. I learned that the language is not dead, as it lives in many modern languages, including English.

2) I had inspiring teachers. In addition to my Latin teachers who were great, I also had an English teacher in 10th and 12th grades (same person) who was absolutely incredible. She taught with great energy and passion. She asked us to write about what was in our hearts and on our minds. Not just for function, but to express oneself. I learned to take risks in writing that made me write better, stronger, and more clearly.

3) I received a typewriter for a birthday present in the summer before 10th grade, and my Mom "suggested" (forced?) me to take a typing class. It turned out that doing so was the best thing that I could ever have done. While my mother could not foresee how important learning how to type would be due to the widespread use of computers at home and in the workplace nowadays, she knew that if I learned how to type, that I wouldn't find writing to be such a chore (and she wouldn't have to type my papers!) In high school, teachers would accept typed compositions. They didn't care how they got them -- just that they got them. So I typed away! I even won the school speed typing contest that year (first male student ever to do that!)

4) My very patient mother had a special way of helping me with my English compositions. She did not to review and edit, but rather, she had me read what I wrote aloud to her. Then she would ask questions such as, "what do you mean by that?" or "how could you say that differently?" or "what is the main point and where's the summary?" She could always spot where I had gone astray, but through her questioning technique, I learned to spot the errors myself. By reading aloud, I could hear what was not right and self-correct. My Mom had a gift for bringing out the best in all of us, and I do not think she even knew it, or how thankful we all are.

There are two writing skills with which I continue to have trouble. The first is writing succinctly. Ha! Look at how long some of these blog posts are! The second is placing an adjective before the noun it describes, instead of after it (as is done in Italian). I enjoy the boots black (and brown, and other colours).

By learning that writing can be fun and a joyful way of expressing oneself, and also by learning how to type, I have found that blogging is a way to continue honing my writing skills.

Life is short: write what you think! (So sez Mrs. D from 10th and 12th grades)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Combining Passions

Yesterday was a day of service in the United States, where to honour the memory and ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are encouraged to take time to serve others. Both my partner and I had the day off from work as a holiday.

The day began with the early arrival of our friendly Man in Brown (UPS delivery) where I received a pair of Berliner Riding Pants made by 665 Leather of West Hollywood, California.

I quickly changed into the riding pants and put on my 665-made grey leather shirt. They made a great combination and felt wonderful with tall Wesco patrol boots!

Side note: I have always said that when you're having leather gear custom made, to give the maker a call and discuss your interests. These riding pants are different from what is usually offered because I prefer a zip fly (instead of snaps), tighter closure at the leg opening (like breeches so I can wear them with tall boots over them), and a higher rise at the waist, so they will fit me better. If you want something made the way you will like it so you will wear it more, then by all means, call the maker and discuss options. Doing that will result in a product from which you will enjoy a lifetime of wear.

When we rose at 6am, I had prepared Cialda (waffles) for my partner and me. I cleaned up the breakfast dishes, then mounted my Harley and rode to a food bank where I volunteered for about six hours, helping them to sort out donations, clean up, and repair some broken shelving.

Turns out I was not the only guy who was wearing leather and boots while volunteering! A very nice guy was also wearing a pair of leather jeans and engineer boots (with a denim shirt.) He doesn't ride a motorcycle, but he once did. He gave me his card and asked me to get in touch, as he is seriously interested in buying a motorcycle and getting back on the road. He was quite an enjoyable helper/companion for the day's work.

It had warmed up to be a very pleasant day, with temperatures reaching 55°F (13°C) by mid-day when finished my shift and left. I rode for about 30 miles (48km) while enjoying the wonderful day. Ahhhh... boots, bike, and leather.

What a wonderful way to combine my passions of community service with riding my Harley fully geared.

Life is short: combine your passions!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Yet Another House

I am not one to take advantage of the misfortunes of others, but there are times when people walk away from an investment, and banks and local governments intercede to take over ownership of properties.

Such was the case recently, once again, where I was notified that a house right next to one that I already own as an investment property was coming up for auction on a tax sale. The previous owners had disappeared and the county would accept a rather token offer plus back taxes and fees to dispose of the property.

I had been reading in the local newspaper and seeing spots on TV news that such "hot properties" were becoming involved in bidding wars, and like the hyperescalation of the housing market we observed in 2007, that investors and first-time buyers were competing with one another to bid at such auctions to acquire properties.

Because this house was right next to one that I already own, I was interested in it. Especially because there was great value at a very reasonable cost. I found a way to inspect it, and it had "very good bones." While it was built in 1946, apparently someone along the way updated some of its features, plumbing, and electrical systems. It needs to have air conditioning installed (I can't imagine how a house of that size in this area could still not have central A/C).

When the auction for this house was held, I expected to see a crowd, or throng, of investment bidders. I was very surprised that there were only two others going for this property. They didn't know what they were doing. I only had to bid US$100 more than they did, and I won, upon presentation of a substantial cashier's check. Of course, I had the "privilege" of going to the bank and drawing a cashier's check for the remaining balance the same day. But it's done, and the deed is now in my name! Oh boy! The house is in an established, livable, walkable, safe neighborhood. I will have to invest about US$50K to fix it up and bring it to current safety codes and standards, fix the landscaping, repair the driveway, have it sided (removing the crumbling clapboard) and install a new roof, but overall, it is worth it. Its assessed value is more than three times what I have and will put into it.

I have been spending some time going through it from attic to basement, from shed to under the front porch. I have been using an estimating program on my computer to determine just what needs to be done. Now I am determining what repairs I will do myself and what work I need to hire others to do. It's a balance, but I have outgrown re-roofing houses, thanks. Or chopping out broken cement and replacing it with asphalt. I know how to do the work that is required, but my poor ol' achin' body isn't that interested (or motivated) in doing such physical labor any more. Nor do I have the time to do all those things by myself.

Soon enough, the house will be properly renovated, and I will seek out a deserving servant of our community -- law enforcement officer, firefighter, or teacher -- and arrange a rental with them. These are the people who rent my other properties. I don't get market rent, but I get great tenants, along with the good feeling of being able to provide affordable housing to the people who serve our community yet can't afford to live here.

My partner thought I had lost my mind when I told him about this potential investment. However, once I got into it and we determined that the financial requirements were within our means, I "went for it." You see, I don't expect much from Social Security, 401K investments, retirement, or pension plans, so these houses are my "retirement fund." Hey, if you can do it, do so! Considering the market, now is the time to invest if you can. Housing prices have, in my opinion, hit bottom. That's why I moved quickly on this purchase.

Life is short: invest wisely!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Leather Weekend!

It is Leather Weekend in Washington, DC! Time for Mid-Atlantic Leather. Alas, I did not participate in any of the MAL activities, either official or unofficial, such as the HotBoots gathering yesterday afternoon. I didn't even travel more than a few kilometers from my home, out in the suburbs of the city (about 20km from downtown.)

In honour of Leather Weekend, even though I chose to do other things and not participate, I wore full leather commencing Friday evening and all through the weekend as I went about my daily life.

Saturday morning, I wore
a short-sleeved leather shirt and leather jeans over Chippewa firefighter boots. When outdoors, I had a simple black motorcycle jacket on. I presided over a public meeting with my community group, followed by grocery shopping with my senior friends, then doing our own grocery shopping, too. I checked in on my lovely aunt and ran some errands, as well.

On Saturday afternoon, my partner felt well enough to put on some leather gear, and asked me to put on my LAPD leather uniform. We modeled our new wrist cuffs about which I blogged the other day. These cuffs have a great masculine appearance and feel great. My partner loves his, as I enjoy wearing mine. After taking some photos, we watched a movie at home. (Haven't done that in a long time!)

Today I have a meeting with a state senator as we prepare his campaign re-election website, and I work with him on his bill regarding a requirement to use only hands-free mobile devices while driving -- a perennial issue for me that our spineless state legislature can't seem ever to pass out of committee despite the weighty evidence and studies about distracted driving.

Since rain will fall all day today, I have on my naked leather jeans, long-sleeved leather shirt, and lug-soled Wesco Harness boots that give good grip while walking on wet pavement.

After the meeting with my senator, I will change leathers to "more grubby" (such as an old pair of cheap leather jeans and shirt), change into Wesco Combat Boots, and get to work on renovating a house I bought a week ago.

I had a rather typical weekend. Busy with things I do in my regular life, but nothing special. I would like to have hung out at the MAL host hotel for a while and visit with friends who are in town for the special leather weekend; however, my partner is recovering from a set-back he had with his disability, and could not walk nor stand for more than a few minutes. I would not have left him at home while I went off to socialize with the booted leatherdudes, as doing so would make him feel bad, which is the last thing I would want to have happen.

Enjoy your leather! Wear it more often than once a year at MAL, hear?

Life is short: enjoy it in boots and leather.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Leather Belts

I received an email the other day that asked, "I was wondering have you or your partner ever given someone a belt spanking." (there were a number of typos and misspellings, but that is what was meant.)

It caused me to think (there I go again) ... being a vanilla leatherman in a monogamous relationship with another of the same ....

I guess there are ongoing visual impressions, and perhaps misunderstandings, that anyone who wears leather gear -- particularly the "old guard BLUF" style gear -- enjoys carrying out or observing S&M activities, including hitting someone else with a belt, spanking, or such.

I am not saying that those who enjoy these types of activities are wrong or bad -- BUT... my answer was:

"The only use that my partner and I have for a leather belt is to hold our pants up."

...and that's the truth.

Then the guy wrote back almost immediately and pursued with this statement, "no i ment for punishment" [sic]

My reply was rather terse, as I was becoming annoyed. I said:

"You did not understand me. We never have or ever will use a belt for punishment, period. That's it. We don't do that. We never have done that. We never will. The ONLY use we have for a belt is to hold our pants up. How can I be more clear?"

Generally, I try to be patient with people, but sometimes they just don't get it. The writer may have other "issues" about which I am not aware. But that's it. I do not intend to communicate with him again on this matter. If he cannot understand what I wrote, then there is little more that I can explain or do.

How many belts do I have? Six. I have owned most of them for so long that I do not remember where or when I got them. The belt that I wear most often is a standard western 2" black leather belt -- you know, the kind on which you can change buckles; one belt is a a brown version of the black western belt; one is a brown western belt with conchos; one is a garrison belt that I wear with uniforms; and one is a Sam Browne belt with shoulder strap that I also wear with uniforms; my last belt is a 2-1/2" belt with pyramid studs on it, which I wear with leather jeans.

That's it. I do not own any of those 1" thin leather dress belts. I hate dressing up. My 2" western belts work on my dress pants on the rare occasions I have to wear that garb.

I am rather boring when it comes to belts.

Life is short: keep your pants up (in public).

Friday, January 15, 2010

Partner, Husband, Spouse?

I refer to the man of my life as my partner. We met on April 25, 1993, and began dating, seeing each other on weekends, then more often. We traveled within the U.S. where I brought him to states he had not previously visited before -- twice long-haul on my Harley, two-up, saddlebags full of clothing. We traveled to Australia, New Zealand, and Europe together, including a wonderful (to me) and scary (to him) motorcycle trip on the windy roads of the Almafi Coast of Italy, and a very scenic trip on the Romantic Road in Bavaria, Germany.

Then he worked with me as I purchased an old farm that was to be developed, and I built it out while turning gray in the process. We built our dream house on one of the lots. This is our home where we have built our life, and plan to live here 'til we can't climb stairs any more.

I think of him as my "best half," which is a better reference than "other half." And certainly a better reference than "boyfriend" which is far too casual. He is, to me, my heart, soul, and very essence of being. My soulmate, best friend, treasure, listener, cuddler, lover... all these words that function more than just as labels. He means the world to me.

We know gay men who have married in states where it is legal to do so in the United States, and some gay men where it is legal to do so in their respective countries. The state where we live isn't "there yet" but may be... eventually.

For now, I refer to him as my partner. But that sounds so business-like. He is for all intents and purposes my spouse. But I have this funny feeling about calling him a husband should we marry some day when/if our state makes it legal to recognize a civil marriage ceremony and afford us the recognition and status that man/woman marriages provide, with all the rights and responsibilities thereto pertaining.

Funny, the other day, someone did a search on this blog for the word "wife." As if I had one. The only thing that comes up in that search is references to my twin brother's spouse -- his wife. Sorry fellas who may think something-or-other, I have not had and never intend to have a marriage to a female and thus have a wife.

My partner is definitely a masculine man. He is everything a man could be, and more so. What a blessing it is to have him, to love him, and to call him my own. Calling him my spouse will be wonderful... someday.

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

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Bro', the Biker

This is just a happy little note to congratulate, publicly, my best friend and brother-in-heart, AZ, for successfully completing the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic RiderCourseSM and passing with the highest score in his class.

I am a strong supporter of taking motorcycle riding courses, even for the experienced rider. There are always good pointers to learn, as well as information that one may not have known. The MSF courses are excellent, and come highly recommended!

I am always proud of my younger bro' and all the things he does. Hopefully, some day, I may go back to Arizona and ride with him. That would be wonderful!

Congrats, 'bro! Keep the rubber side down and your sunny side up!

UPDATE: I spoke with AZ on the phone this morning, and he told me that he got the motorcycle endorsement on his driver's license! Woo-hoo! All legal! Let's ride!

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

Note: this photo was taken in February, 2009, when I rented a Harley and AZ joined me as a passenger for a ride to Sedona. We both wore DOT-approved helmets, even though Arizona does not have a helmet law. We believe in wearing proper protective gear, including sturdy motorcycle boots, each and every time we ride.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cuffed

This is a really cool, stylish, and exceptionally well-made wrist cuff that I just received. My partner also received one. When he's feeling better, we both will "model" our cuffs together.

The wrist cuff is made by Eastern Oregon Leather Factory. The guy who owns the business and makes this gear is obviously very talented.

I received an email from the company owner last week, asking for permission to reprint a portion of my Complete Guide to Leather Gear which appears on my website. I responded, giving my permission. Now part of my Guide appears on the Eastern Oregon Leather Factory's Website, here. I appreciate that he asked me, and honored my copyright. I am happy to share if I am asked. I commend the owner for doing the right thing and for his honesty.

Hey, leatherguys, or someone looking for something different, hand-made, and special. You should check out the products available from Eastern Oregon Leather Factory and get something. Great watchbands, cuffs, and bracelets, with more to come, I'm sure. The prices are very reasonable.

My partner and I are now the "best cuffed men" here in Maryland! (Smile -- go tell that to my bike cop tenant. He will have a big laugh out of that!)

Life is short: share your work and enjoy the recognition of being published!


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Why Not Mid-Atlantic Leather?

Grey Black LeatherIt is time for the annual rites of leather passage, the second-largest U.S. gathering of The Great Leather Clan, at the gay men's (and a few women) cowhide convention called "Mid Atlantic Leather" or for short, MAL. It is held in downtown Washington, DC, over the weekend of Martin Luther King's Birthday Holiday. This year, January 15 - 18.

One would think that with the interest and vast assortment of leather gear that I have, including some just for fetish wear, that I would be anxious to attend MAL. It is in my hometown and the weather forecast is decent. It would not require all the expense and hassles of flying anywhere. As financially frugal as I am, that's a good thing :-)

I would like to see some people I know and meet some men with whom I have communicated by email. I have received a few invitations by email to meet some fellow Boot Brothers for dinner one night during MAL or a meal on Monday morning before they leave for their respective homes.

Regretfully, my partner's disability has flared up severely. He is in a lot of pain and is immobile. His pain has grown worse over the last week, and he is in no shape to get around anywhere. I don't go to events like MAL without him, so if he can't go, I won't go. My primary job will be to take care of him until he is back on his feet and able to walk.

Further, the problem with an event in your own hometown is that your own life doesn't stop. I have a number of commitments over the weekend that are unavoidable. Plus, I have to admit, I hate trying to get around DC. It is hard to find a place to park, and now that they charge an arm, leg, and your first-born to park on the street, I don't want to deal with it. (Public transit is not an option because it is too far away from MAL event locations for my partner to be able to walk to.)

My partner and I have enjoyed "guy watching" at MAL in years past. Some of the behavior I have seen at these gatherings of the Cowhide Clan are amusing. Many guys follow each other like lemmings, flitting hither-and-yon to the fetishwear expo, the events, and other non-published get-togethers. Many are texting and calling each other on their mobile devices. (I probably wouldn't be allowed into MAL any more because I have no desire to carry a personal cell phone in a holster on my belt.)

One year, I took some focused-on-boots video of guys walking around the lobby of the host hotel, and received the most amusing rant from a closet queen demanding that I take the video off my YouTube channel. Sad but true, there are a lot of once-a-year leather dudes who go to MAL. But then again, it is a time of freedom to butch up in leather and be with other guys who share the same interest. I get it. I felt that way when I was younger, too. There is sort of a fantasy thrill to being decked out in leather from head to boot around all those guys in leather gear and sundry fetishwear.

Most guys are interesting to talk to, and have backgrounds and stories to which I have enjoyed listening. I could possibly visit the Hotboots party on Saturday afternoon (2-4pm, Green Lantern Bar), or afterwords sit out in the smokin' tent and have a good discussion. I have done that for many years, and it's been an enjoyable way to spend some time.

But... as I said above, I live with a man whom I love tremendously, and with whom I share a monogamous relationship, but who is having severe physical difficulties right now. My focus must be on him.

Life is short: have fun on the edge of leatherdom.

Like Your Boots Snug?

I was exchanging email with someone who was asking me about being fitted for Wesco boots. Owning a number of pairs of Wescos, I have some experience that I was happy to share.

During our email exchange, he mentioned that he wanted his boots to be very snug (close) against his legs. He mentioned that with lace-up boots, it is easy to adjust the fit so they boots would be tight. Since he was considering ordering pull-on boots (like the Wesco Boss or Harness boots), he said that he thought having the boots lined with leather might make them more snug against his legs.

There are several things that I mentioned in reply, such as you will save a LOT of money ordering custom Wesco boots through Stompers Boots of San Francisco rather than the manufacturer.

I also described the "unfortunate" thing that happens to your legs as you age. I hate to say it, but as you get older, your legs will become wider and you may develop problems like vericose veins. Even if you work out regularly, your calf muscles begin to lose tone and expand. Just a little bit each year, and overall they don't get too big, but by your late 40s or 50s, your legs will probably be 1 to 1-1/2" wider in circumference than they were at age 30.

If you like "snug" boots and fit yourself snugly by providing very accurate but close measurements of your calf circumference in your Wesco order, you will find that your boots will outlive your ability to wear them. Eventually, your legs will get wider and you just won't be able to squeeze them on. Your huge investment now will be rendered useless to you, and either you may not wear the boots any more or sell them and be lucky to get half of what you paid for them originally. (Believe me, I've "been there, done that.")

My recommendation: even though Wesco doesn't recommend it, I suggest adding 1/2" to 1" to your calf measurement on the custom sizing form. (The main reason in my opinion as to why Wesco doesn't recommend adding to your calf width measurement is that they know that legs get bigger over time, and that snug boots now will become non-fitting boots later. Thus, Wesco may get another sale later on when your boots don't fit you any more.)

Another thing to know about is a major and frequently overlooked (or not thought-about) matter: as you age, your become susceptible to DVT -- deep vein thrombosis. This is where a clot forms in a vein in your leg due to poor circulation. The clot could break free and end up in the brain, causing a stroke, or in the heart, causing cardiac arrest. it's very serious, and happens more often than people realize. It could happen to anyone, but those who smoke cigarettes or take medications that affect blood circulation (such as pain killers, blood pressure, or certain asthma drugs), are more at risk.

When you wear boots snugly on your legs, you are significantly increasing the "odds" of getting a clot, even at a younger age, because snug boots will reduce blood circulation in the legs and feet. When you take your boots off - BAM! A stroke! I know someone who was 41 years old and had this happen. It wasn't pretty.

My personal recommendation is to get boots that allow room around your legs so they are not squeezed. Consider if you will be wearing leather breeches or jeans tucked inside the boots.

So be careful and cautious before choosing to make your boots snug tightly on your legs. Just a word of warning, in case you didn't know.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Life's Ultimate Final Exam

I posted on this blog that the woman who served as my very first mentor had died on Christmas Eve. She took me under her wing when I was a 17-year-old deer-in-the-headlights, freshly-minted volunteer for a non-profit organization. She taught me more than I can relate here, or for that matter, more than you would ever want to read. This woman was 41 years older than me. In many respects, she was like another mother. But different from that. I'd say that at first she was a teacher, then she became a listener, she served as a helper, a guide, a leader ... but most of all, a true friend. Together we formed a close bond of friendship that endured 'til the end of her life.

Yesterday, I had both the honor and the fear of serving as the person to give the eulogy at my dear friend's memorial service. (Note, this is a different friend from the gentleman about whom I blogged on Friday. It is regretful that several deaths of people I have known and loved have happened recently).

One thing I want to bring up here on this blog, which I mentioned during my eulogy, was why I am smiling, why I talk about being positive, and why I look at the bright side of life. It was my dear friend who taught me that. She had setbacks and adversity to deal with. In her later years, she was in pain and medical problems were rather severe. But not once did she complain. She always, always, always had a cheery disposition and nice things to say. I try to follow the example that she left for me: look at the bright side of life, and make lemonade when life serves you lemons. What an enduring lesson that I hope beyond measure that I have adopted in my day-to-day life.

Rather than bore you with my ten minutes of eulogy content about someone you don't know, let me affirm what comes from my faith. This is a spiritual faith, not a religious one.

I believe in the circle of life. You are born not knowing anything or anyone. You develop relationships with people, and you learn (provided the adults in your life nurture you well). You grow up, perhaps have a family, and do productive things. Hopefully, you care for others and help improve your world in some way or another. With any luck, you have taken time to have some fun along the way, too. You retire, but don't stop working. It just changes the schedule of your work. Then you die. If things went well during your lifetime, you have taught and influenced others who will continue to make your works carry forward into the future. Thus: the circle of life. (Purely my own statement and thoughts, not "borrowed" from elsewhere on the Internet.)

Look back and ask some tough questions:
  • Did I make a difference?
  • Will anyone be able to say what I have done?
  • Did I leave a smile on other people's faces?
  • Do those whom I loved know that I loved them?
To me, these are the questions for the ultimate final exam.

And I can say that while I am not perfect and have much to learn, that my faith -- and striving that the answers to these questions be affirmative about me -- is what drives me to love, to care, to extend a helping hand, to serve the community, to share smiles and joy, and overall: show those whom I love that I love them. Not just say or talk about it, but do it.

My wonderful friend did those things for me and countless others, each and every day that I knew her. That is what I said in my eulogy -- how the circle of life goes around, and how my friend passed the ultimate final exam with a 1000% score.

And this is what my partner does for me, too. He helps me be positive, bright, and forward-looking. His caring love, deep concern, and strong support enables me to remain happy, positive, and keep a smile on my face. I surround myself with happy people, and smart ones, too, because they keep me strong and they will be the ones to answer those questions about me on that final exam.

Life is short: live it fully, love it completely, and by all means, show those whom you love that you love them.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Typical Saturday

Yesterday was a typical Saturday for me. Here's the run-down:

Stayed in bed way past our usual time to rise. While we both awoke at our usual 5-ish, I snuggled longer with my honey 'cause it was so friggin' cold out. We just felt cold and didn't want to get out of bed. Finally crawled out of bed at 6:30. What's the world coming to?

Pulled on my naked leather jeans, flannel shirt, and Chippewa Firefighter boots. Got the daily paper from the drive and began scanning it. My partner pulled out the coupon sections and began cutting away. He's a whiz when it comes to matching cents-off coupons with weekly specials so we save more on groceries we buy.

Prepared breakfast of home-made waffles, bacon, and OJ for me; added grapefruit and fruit juice for my partner. Quickly mixed a bundt cake to deliver later and got it in the oven. Signed 10 birthday cards for senior buds and two family members whose birthdays are coming up this next week. (The cards were already pre-addressed and stamped. It takes me a full day, but I prepare about 200 cards a year in advance and put them in a weekly organizer.)

By 8, I got on-line, paid some bills, caught up on email, updated a website for a political candidate who I am supporting, and reviewed some preliminary development plans for a project on which I am testifying in the coming week. My partner changed the linens and started doing laundry. Our division of labor: he does the laundry and I do the cooking.

At 10, I drove to the nearby retirement community to check on my aunt and some other senior friends. Delivered the cake to one of them. She has been feeling especially lonely since her family moved away. Paid my aunt's bills, including her quarterly estimated taxes. Replaced a faulty light switch for one of my friends, and reset the remote on a TV for another. Got the quarterly tax payments for five others prepared and ready to mail. Visited and shared with these cherished members of my senior crew.

At noon, I went back home and picked up my partner for the joyful experience of weekly grocery shopping (smile). Had a short chat with a couple of constituents at the store. Came home, put stuff away, and then my partner and I went to a fixer-upper foreclosure house that I bought earlier this week to review what cleanup was required and start organizing our "attack plan" for required renovations.

By 3pm, we returned home. I got the mail and recycled about three trees. I began to do some batch cooking. I like to prepare tomato sauce, soups, stew, and pasta when I have some time. These things keep well refrigerated or frozen, so when I have less time during the week in the window between arriving home and rushing off to an evening meeting, we can still enjoy a home-cooked meal.

I spoke with some siblings and checked on some of my senior crew by phone throughout the pasta-making time. My partner is accustomed to my multi-tasking. You can't see him in the photo, but he is right with me helping me make the ravioli.

At 6pm, as usual, we had dinner. TV and phone turned off. We always enjoy an uninterrupted evening meal. I prepared a light salad with crab, which we enjoyed with some bread -- did I say I made that, too? Yeah, I bake a loaf of bread once or twice a week. Much healthier and less expensive that way.

After dinner, my partner and I jarred the sauce, stew, and washed the pots and pans, dried them, and put them away.

By 7:30pm, I was pooped. We retired to our basement. My partner turned on his usual blather recorded on Tivo, while I caught up more on the computer. I have to give a eulogy on Sunday for my first mentor who died on Christmas Eve, and worked quite a bit on preparing for that.

At 9pm, I printed out the eulogy I had written and read it to my partner aloud. He gave me some pointers, which I sat down and incorporated. By 9:30, we were in bed. I have a big day -- an emotional one -- on Sunday.

So that's a rather typical Saturday for us. Hope you enjoyed the "tour."

Life is short: wear boots and leather while enjoying it!