Friday, April 30, 2010

Recovery "As Tolerated"

My orthopedic specialist told me on April 16 at my last visit with him about my broken leg that I could resume my usual activities "as tolerated." We had a bit of an argument over wearing boots vs. sneakers, but otherwise, I took his information as a release from imprisonment.

... little did I know what he really meant ...

I have to admit that I was in denial. Complete and utter denial. I exercised like crazy, went to physical therapy, got my boots back on my feet, went back to work, my schedule got busy, and I even went for a ride on my Harley.

Meanwhile, the ankle swelling and pain persists. I limp sometimes, even though I don't think I should. I can walk up stairs normally, but still have to go down stairs one-at-a-time. I can wear most of my motorcycle boots (except police patrol boots with tighter insteps like Dehners), but I can't wear most of my cowboy boots (still way too tight in the instep.) I still get very very tired at the end of the day, much more so than usual. And that's completely bewildering to me. I'm eating normally, exercising, and sleeping my regular eight hours. I'm doing everything right, yet I am exhausted every evening.

... the doc said to expect this. I didn't (want to) believe him ...

So you're not seeing me blog much about actually riding my Harley for a reason. I am admitting to myself that I am just not ready. Yet. I'm getting there, but the recovery is much, much, much slower than I had hoped, wanted, or have found it to be.

Life is short: admit when you're wrong.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Handling a Motorcycle

This is my third installment on motorcycle-related info. Previous posts on The Fit of a Motorcycle and Buying a Motorcycle have been viewed a lot. Doubled my readership in the last few days.

I have been riding motorcycles now for over 30 years. I started out on a Kawasaki 440, which was a great starter bike. It was peppy and fun, and even handled cruising on the highway, though I could tell that it better suited to slower speeds on the back roads. It was a cool little bike -- big enough to get me places, but small enough for me to handle. I could sit on it and walk it to fit in a parking spot, or stand and push it on those occasions when I forgot and parked on a downhill incline. I even dropped it once -- it slid out from under me on wet leaves -- and I was able to right it by myself, tuck my tail between my legs, and ride it home.

Unfortunately, that bike's engine developed problems pretty quickly, and it was getting more and more expensive to have repairs done. I sold that bike after two years and replaced it with a Kawasaki 750 "LTD". That also was a cool bike, with a bigger engine that handled highway speeds better. It was smooth and comfortable. The fit was great. However, as it had a bigger engine, it also was heavier. I really strained the only time I forgot and parked it on a downhill incline to get it out of that space. I had to have a friend help me roll it up a ramp when I had it towed when I got a flat. That additional 100 pounds made a huge difference in how I was able to handle it.

However, a heavier bike rode more smoothly on the highway. I took the 440 once over a huge suspension bridge, and thought I would be blown off. I was scared witless. I rode the 750 over that same bridge, and the ride wasn't as scary. Probably because, by then, I had been riding a lot more, had taken more training, and was more secure in my capabilities.

A few years later, I got tired of repairing the 750LTD, and bought a Kawasaki 750 Vulcan. I had it in 1993 when I met my partner. We rode on it two-up, and it handled the two of us rather well, though a bit cramped. It was nice when we rode together, because he could help me maneuver the bike if I needed help.

My partner convinced me to fulfill my dream -- buying a Harley. I ordered a gorgeous new Dyna Low Rider in October, 1993, and it was delivered in February, '94. I learned that Harley cruisers and touring bikes all had the same size engine -- in that year, it was 80ci (1310cc). That was almost double the engine displacement -- and weight -- of my previous bike. And I noticed it right away. When I sat on the bike, I could barely move it. It took a lot of strain, stress, and struggle to get the bike parked in a tight spot. I have to admit, at first, I was daunted, intimidated, and frightened. I became more distressed when I dropped it one week after I bought it, because it just wanted to go somewhere and I couldn't control it. Fortunately, when I dropped my Harley, the only thing that was damaged was my ego.

I was determined to figure out how to handle the thing. Again, while cruising, the bike handled fine. I felt very comfortable, secure, and confident while riding it. But when it was stopped, and I had to creep up at a light to fill a gap or move it into a parking spot or even into the space for it in the back of my garage, I had a lot of trouble. I couldn't handle the weight. I was never a weight-lifter, and my inexperience was showing.

You see -- where this is going -- when you are riding a bigger bike, there's no problem. Big bikes handle the road very well. With a low center of gravity, big bikes cruise smoothly and efficiently over the open road. It's when they're stopped that one has problems.

I went back to my motorcycle safety instructor, and I also spoke with some other, more experienced, bikers whom I trusted. The advice they gave to me are skills that I still practice today on my Road King:

1. Never park facing down hill. (no brainer!) If you have to park on a hill, move in perpendicular and then turn so the back of the bike rolls down hill. Then you can use the power of the engine to get out whilst moving foward.

2. Get more comfortable man-handling (lugging) the bike. Move it to a level, debris-free solid surface. Stand up and straddle the seat. Grab the bars. Walk the bike. Move it forward, move it backward. Move it, move it, move it. It's may seem odd, but this procedure really works. You become more comfortable in knowing how hard to push, where to push, how to stand for better leverage, and what the drop-angle is (and stop before you reach that angle.)

3. Pick a corner of a parking lot, and practice parking the bike backwards in that place. Drive up to it facing forward, but then turn perpendicular. Kill the engine. Put the bike in neutral. Walk the bike back and forth so that its rear tire is facing the back of the space, and the bike is parallel to the space (or curb.) What you're doing is practicing how to park it on a downhill incline. Practice in a level area first, then practice on a hill. The more you practice this handling technique on your own, the better you will be at it when you're with a group and don't want to be embarrassed because it's evident that you can't park your bike.

4. Practice stopping the bike and putting the sidestand down BEFORE standing up and dismounting. This may sound silly, but the more you practice this technique, the more it will become ingrained and will be something you "just do". Why do this practice? Because, unfortunately, this example is common: you arrive at your favourite biker hang-out and see a bunch of friends. You enthusiastically drive up, cooly swing your leg over the seat to dismount the bike, and walk with the biker swagger toward your buddies ... and hear a crash. You look behind you and see your bike on the ground and your friends in hysterics. What happened? You forgot to put the sidestand down. OMG, happens all the time. I see it two or three times each year.

5. Learn how to pick up your bike if it falls. Inevitably, this happens. The bike tips over and you can't stop it, so you give it a controlled lay-down. Sometimes the bike slips on ice or gravel. Whatever... bikes fall over. It is not a macho-Harley "requirement" that you can't have help lifting it up. In fact, even The Motor Company says that you should get help lifting a bike that has fallen over. I don't know what it is about Harley-rider-thick skulls that insist that if a guy drops his bike, then anyone else standing around has to stand there laughing with arms crossed while the guy struggles to pick up his bike. Help him, and accept help! If, and only IF, you are all alone, then follow these instructions for Lifting a Heavyweight Motorcycle.

In summary, as bikes get bigger but their owners do not gain strength proportionate to the increase in a new bike's weight, then you need to learn and adapt new skills in handling the bike. Recognize that the weight of a bike, especially something like a big V-Twin, can be daunting. It can cause strange and scary thoughts to mess with your head. It can even cause you to re-think your decision to go for a ride, or even to own the bike. Take time to practice the techniques described above. They really will help.

Life is short: go ride!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Blogger Buddy's Birthday

Here I am with my buddy, Kevin, who traveled to my hometown (actually, my County Seat), to do some research for his doctoral dissertation. Kevin has frequently commented on this blog and has provided me lots of useful information that has inspired me to develop material for this blog. I have frequently quoted him. Man, he's so incredibly gifted with the way he thinks and expresses himself.

Kevin is a very insightful, intelligent, and fun guy. He's a Bootman, too. He had on a pair of really cool black ostrich leg cowboy boots last night when we met at a restaurant for dinner. I wore my Champion Attitude black ostrich - burgundy biker cowboy boots, which are about the only boots in my cowboy stable that I can wear at the moment.

What a delight it was to meet Kevin. I truly enjoyed meeting someone with whom I had been communicating via email for several years. We enjoyed a wonderful conversation about a variety of issues from current events to boots to his studies and things going on in our lives.

It also happened to be Kevin's birthday! Woo-hoo! He didn't tell me it was his birthday, but I "have my ways of finding out" (giggle). It was truly my pleasure to treat him to dinner and enjoy his company.

Thanks, buddy, for the warmth of your friendship, for your kind and insightful commentary, and for your smiles.

Life is short: enjoy your friends!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Fit of a Motorcycle

I wrote a blog post yesterday where I shared some of my experience and recommendations on buying a motorcycle. I commented in that post how incredibly important the "fit" of a motorcycle is to the rider. How well the bike fits you determines whether you feel comfortable on it. I can tell you from my own experience: if you're not comfortable on your ride, you will find excuses not to ride it, which defeats the purpose, eh? I mean, why own a big hunk of metal that collects dust in the garage or rusts in the drive?

That's exactly what happens to a lot of bikes, unfortunately. The buyers get excited and go buy a motorcycle. New or used -- it really doesn't matter. They might buy some nifty new accessories, saddle bags, or chrome and dress it up.

They get on it and ride it to show their friends. Hey, cool bike! Cool you!

But then they ride it some more, and find that after a while... um... the back is achy. Wrists are sore. Rump hurts. Elbows, knees, or shoulders feel tight, cramped, or are just plain ol' painful.

A rider may not develop all of these symptoms, nor experience them all of the time. Perhaps the rider strained a muscle playing ball the other day and the soreness is made worse by riding the bike. It will go away... sooner or later.

Face it, though, none of us are getting any younger. Demographics of the "average" motorcycle rider are showing that bikers are an older lot -- like by decades -- than they averaged back in the '50s.

We may find that sitting on a motorcycle seat that has a very thin amount of padding between the butt and the bike's frame becomes mighty uncomfortable. We may find that sitting in a position that requires us to reach forward or hunch over causes pressure in the lower back, or on our joints.

The position in how we are seated on a motorcycle is "the fit." The more comfortable the fit of a bike is for you, the more likely your body won't be complaining after a long ride. Conversely, if the bike doesn't fit you well and your body starts nagging you at the end of the ride, then you will be more likely to choose not to ride it as often. I'm not saying that you will decide all of a sudden to stop riding your bike ever again. But you will start finding excuses not to ride... other things to do... other priorities. Before you know it, you have a very expensive and heavy paperweight out in the garage.

This happened to me when I bought my Harley Road King in 2008. Before that, I rode a Harley Dyna Low Rider. The LR had a low seat height, yet the sweep of the handlebars and the position of the foot-operated controls moved me into a comfortable seating position. My arms were slightly bent, my back was straight, my feet were able to reach the controls with deliberate by minor movement. It was perfect.

The Road King fit okay, or at least I thought. I could operate the controls, and I didn't feel as if I were stretching. However, I went on a few rides and after about the first 50 miles, my back was achy. My shoulders, too. I would get home after a day ride and go soak in a hot tub. Then I found myself saying, "oh, I have to clean the gutters or treat the deck or clean out the garage," and I found myself making excuses not to ride. Heck! After spending all that money on a new bike and there I am -- not riding it!

I also have to say that some of my reluctance to ride (or not) had to do with feeling comfortable handling the bike. That's fodder for a future blog post.

Meanwhile, I thought that I had to do something to fix this situation. Since my body wasn't going to get younger or less achy, I spoke with other guys my age (and older), and asked them what they did. Each one of them told me that they did something to adjust the bike's fit for their bodies.

Motorcycles come pretty much "one-size-fits-all" yet not all riders are a standard 6', 185 pounds. Some of us are shorter, some are taller, some are lighter and some are heavier. Some are men, but there are a lot of women riders, too. Some have full range of motion of all joints, and some do not if past injuries or surgeries affect it.

I went back to my dealer and spoke with the parts manager. I asked him to look at how I was positioned on the bike. It was pretty clear when he looked at my seating position what the source of my ongoing discomfort was. The riding position required me to lean just a little more forward to reach the controls on the handlebars. Then that caused me to put pressure on my lower back, which caused both my back and butt to hurt.

He also looked at how I operated the foot controls, and found that I could reach all of them comfortably, safely, and well. He didn't recommend changing anything down there (which was do-able if necessary.)

He recommended that I get a different set of handlebars so it would adjust my seating position to a more upright position, and let me bend my elbows a little bit. The new bars weren't expensive (though labor to install them and make the fly-by-wire throttle work with them was). However, after having the bars replaced, it made a world of difference to me and to my ride.

There are other things that can be adjusted either by a motorcycle owner or a professional, besides the rise and pull-back of handlebars. The foot controls can be adjusted, shortened, or put on risers. The overall height of most street bikes can be lowered (or raised.) Seats can be replaced for both comfort as well as where it places you relative to the bike's frame and controls. Shock absorbers can be adjusted as well to make slight changes in the rider's position (mostly height) on a bike.

Next time you're out riding and you are feeling that you're getting sore and it's time to head back, ask yourself if you are returning because it's been a long day and you're just tired, or if you are returning because the bike isn't feeling comfortable. Next time you asked yourself, "clean the garage or take a ride" and the choice is to clean and not ride -- then absolutely go get the fit of the bike adjusted!

The fit of your ride determines the happiness of the biker, as well as her or his comfort. Enjoy them all.

Life is short: go ride!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Buying a Motorcycle

From time to time, friends have asked me for advice about buying a motorcycle. They're interested, but are bewildered with so much information on the internet and not knowing whom to trust or what is accurate or potentially misleading.

I am glad they asked. Having "been there, done that," perhaps I can assist. I am not an expert, but having owned and ridden motorcycles for over 30 years, I am experienced.

First of all, I strongly recommend taking the Basic RiderCourse offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (provided you are in the U.S. If you are in another country, find a beginner or basic motorcycle rider's course equivalent). Such a course is available usually through a state's motor vehicle administration, many community colleges, and some private groups. Riders are provided a small bike on which to take the range practice and tests. Upon completion of the course with a passing grade, riders usually qualify to receive a motorcycle endorsement on their driver's permit.

Then consider buying a previously owned motorcycle. Sure, you can buy a brand new bike, but it is likely that you will ride this bike for two or three years, then want to get a bigger bike. A used bike in the 500cc - 750cc range, like a Honda Shadow or a Kawasaki Vulcan fits the bill for a good starter bike. A new bike is worth less than half of what you pay for it the minute you drive it off the dealer's lot. A used bike saves money, and is a better value for starting out.

I do not recommend buying a "crotch rocket" or sport bike for your first bike. These styles of motorcycles require more skill and experience to ride than a simple cruiser. Also, sport bikes can be very uncomfortable by requiring the rider to be seated on it in a forward-leaning position. For similar reasons, I do not recommend a touring class motorcycle for a first bike, either. A Harley Road King or a Honda Gold Wing require a lot of experience to handle them while moving slowly or stopped, and can be intimidating to a new rider due to their size and physical requirements to move them.

To find listings of used bikes, I recommend using CraigsList.org, if it is available for your area. It's free, and there are usually a lot of listings of mid-range bikes for sale. While you will see lots of Harleys for sale, I really recommend a bike with an engine displacement no higher than 750cc for a starter bike. There aren't any Harleys made with an engine of that size. Remember: the bigger the engine, the heavier the machine, making it harder to handle. If you are unaccustomed to handling a motorcycle, you want to get one that you can ride and that you can handle maneuvering into parking spaces and while it is stationary. Big V-twins, like a Harley, tend to want to fall over and go places you don't want them to go, so start small(er) first. You will be happy that you did.

eBay Motors also lists used motorcycles, but often those bikes are far away and there's no way you could physically inspect it or test ride it. I never recommend buying a bike sight unseen, even from your favorite Uncle Biker Mike. Look at it, ride it, test it: that's the only way to buy a used bike.

When you find a bike that fits your price range and size, get a biker buddy to go with you and check it out. Here is a little known but very important reminder: wear the gear that you plan to wear on the bike when you go to check it out and test ride it. That is, wear your leathers and boots, as well as bring your own helmet. You want to feel how your gear that you intend to use while riding fits with you and that bike. Also, simply, you will be ready for the test ride since you will be properly geared.

Don't even think about showing up to check out a motorcycle while wearing shorts and sneakers. Also, even if your state does not require a helmet, bring one anyway and wear it while test riding the bike for your safety. Also, a seller shouldn't accept the responsibility for allowing someone to ride his bike without a helmet, because if the rider crashed and got injured, the bike's owner would have a measure of responsibility.

Ask the owner about how the bike has been maintained: how frequently has the oil been changed? Brake fluid? Transmission fluid? Belts? Has the bike ever gone down or been involved in a crash? Check it over for tell-tale signs of damage or repairs from a crash. If you see such evidence, be careful because obvious damage may be indicative of more serious problems.

Get on the ground and look under the bike for leaks. Look under the engine and especially under the place where the oil filter is, as well as the transmission. Both oil and transmission fluids are prone to leaking, so check under the bike as well as on the engine itself for signs of leaks, drips, or even dried fluids that leaked at one time or another.

Ask how the bike's electrical system has worked. Does it always start on the first push of the starter switch? Do all the lights and turn signals work? If your state requires an inspection, has the bike recently been inspected and may you see the inspection certificate? If the owner can produce such documentation, then it is evident that s/he is above-board and honest.

Bring a tire pressure gauge with you. Check the tire pressure. Ask the owner to show you the label on the bike, or the bike's owners manual, or the label on the tires so you know what the proper tire pressure should be. It is quite common that the pressure in motorcycle tires is a little low, as tire pressure is the most frequently overlooked regular maintenance requirement. Before test riding, try to get the tire pressure to where it needs to be if it isn't.

Also, while looking at the tires, check for signs of unusual wear. Is there wear on one side of the tire more than the other? That could be a sign of riding on improperly inflated tires for a long time. See if there are any large rocks embedded in the treads. Ask if either tire has gotten a leak or hole in it, and how it was repaired (or if it were replaced.) Also, ask when the tires were last replaced. Look to see if quality tires made by a reputable company are on the both the front and rear.

While looking at the tires, examine the rims. See if there are unusual dents in the rim as it meets the tire. If the wheel uses spokes, look to see if the spokes are all straight, undamaged, and none are missing. Damage to rims or spokes could be an indication of the bike having been involved in a crash, or the tire having been damaged such as by striking a curb.

Sit on the bike and feel how it fits you. Can you reach the controls on both of the handlebars without stretching (or cramping?) Can you reach the rear brake peddle and the gear shifter without stretching or cramping? (Ask yourself: is your gear getting in your way? Too tight? Boots too tall? You really don't know how leather gear works with a motorcycle until you actually try to ride one with your gear on.)

The fit of the bike to you -- your body and your height -- is incredibly important. If it doesn't fit well, then you're not going to ride it. Don't let the owner tell you about after-market products that can adjust the fit of the bike for you, such as a new seat or shocks. Listen, if the bike is already two to five years old, you're not going to keep it for more than another few years anyway, so investing a lot more money to adjust the fit isn't a good investment.

While sitting on the bike, look down the fork. Is it straight? A bike that has been down may have a twisted or damaged fork, which can be costly to repair. A fork that isn't straight will cause the bike to be off center and not ride correctly, particularly at highway speeds.

Check the mileage. Ask how the bike has been ridden. A bike ridden for many short trips has incurred a lot more engine wear than a bike ridden for fewer longer trips. Bikes are made to be ridden, but frequent stops and starts are hard on an engine, and cause it to wear much quicker than a bike that has been ridden for longer trips. The total number of miles is not quite as important as the total number of trips -- especially short trips. So ask about that. If the owner is factual about how the bike has been ridden, then you're building confidence in him as a seller. If he isn't giving you detailed information, than he may have something to hide.

Ask to see mechanical maintenance records, and if the state requires it, annual inspection certificates. If the bike has been serviced regularly and usually at the same location, that's another good sign. Sure, an owner may change his own fluids (oil, brake, transmission), but repairs beyond that, such as belts, cables, electrical, etc., should be done by a professional, and there should be records to validate that.

Ask about the brakes and how recently they were serviced. Usually brakes require servicing a bit more frequently than other parts nowadays. (During a test ride, listen for squeaks or squeals. Try both the front and rear brakes separately and listen for rubbing or unusual noises.)

Ask about the battery. Most motorcycle batteries last just two or three years. Ask how old the battery is and when it was last replaced.

Ask how the bike has been stored for the winter. If it were stored in a garage or heated storage facility, that's good. Even better if a trickle charger were kept on the bike's battery during prolonged periods of non-use. If the bike were kept under a cover out in a parking lot, then that's not so good. Bikes kept out-of-doors while not being ridden for months can develop some serious problems that you can't see, such as condensation inside the gas tank causing it to rust from the inside out. Or gumming of the fuel lines, or a host of other maladies. I would shy away from a bike that was stored out-of-doors for long periods.

Prepare for a test ride. If the owner wants a deposit, offer to let him hold your car keys instead (but you keep the registration in your possession). Look, if you want your car back, you're going to return the bike. If he wants money just for a test ride, then back off. Something's wrong.

You may choose to meet for a test ride at a parking lot. That's a good idea, because you can have room to practice turns, stops, starts, and the braking. Do a couple emergency stops, and make sure the bike remains true and straight, and doesn't skid. (If, as a new rider, you are uncomfortable doing that, have your buddy do that for you while you watch.)

If you liked the answers to the questions that you asked and if the test ride went well, then you're about ready to make a purchase. Ask to see the bike's title. Only consider buying a bike that has a "clean" title. Never, ever, accept a bike's title that has anyone else's name on it than the person you are dealing with. And never do a title transfer without indicating the real name of the owner and the buyer, their addresses, and the actual mileage. Don't allow the mileage to be under what's true. There are various reasons why a seller or buyer would want to leave the mileage off of a title during transfer, but that is never a good idea. Doing so can catch up with you when you want to sell the bike when you're done with it, and put you in a position of claiming more mileage on it than you put on it, thus lowering its value and any return you may get on it in a future sale. (In many states, stating inaccurate actual mileage on a title during transfer is illegal.)

It is a very good idea to use a bill of sale or contract to conduct the sale. If the owner can't produce one, be prepared and have one ready. You can find a sample motorcycle bill of sale on the Internet just by searching "motorcycle bill of sale." Download it and adapt it for your needs.

Hope this helps. Get out and ride!

P.S.: Only after writing the information above did I find a more thorough Used Motorcycle Buying Guide by Adam Glass. None of the content in what I wrote above was taken from Adam's copyrighted work, though there are a lot of similar ideas and concepts (but Adam's is more comprehensive as he has been working on it for a number of years.)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

17 Years With The Man of My Heart

Today marks our 17 year anniversary. Yep, 17 years ago, I met the man who fundamentally and profoundly changed -- and improved -- my life.

I wrote a rather sappy but sincere blog post about him titled Bootprints of Our Journey on March 31. I decided to post it then rather than wait until now. It gives a rather strong description of just what I think about my better half, and would serve as an appropriate anniversary tribute. My brother's blog post yesterday was much appreciated by both of us (thanks, J!)

I debated about writing another long, sappy blog post, but decided against it. Not because anything is wrong or has changed. I sense that visitors to this blog know darned well that I am committed to my partner, and that I love him with all of my heart, and every fibre of my being. Another long sappy post spilling out my inner-most feelings gets rather boring for readers. I mean, it is my partner and I who share these feelings. We know it, that's enough. But if you wish, you can read my previous anniversary tributes for 2008, here and for 2009, here.

So, just what DO you say after 17 years of a strong partnership? "I love you" seems inadequate. "Bend over" strains the limits of the G-rated nature of this blog (giggle.) "What's on TV?" is probably more like it.

I think what has led us this far is mutual trust, respect, and feeling secure and appreciated. We ensure our finances are sound, and we owe no debt. We take care of each other and our home, and those in our lives whom we love. We have worked hard to earn what we have, and have worked equally hard to earn each others' commitment in the true sense of what a partnership -- for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish -- truly means. Yeah, we're as equivalent as being married. It's a nice feeling.

I will spend the day with my beloved better half. We will probably do what he considered to be fun: work around the house. But I will also take him out to dinner. We rarely go out, but we'll make an exception. I will dress in my leather finest, and he will dress comfortably (it's a casual restaurant). We will raise a glass (of Coke) and give a toast to our partnership and another year since that memorable moment when I met the man who has become my heart, my soul, ... my "better half."

Happy anniversary, my love. I LYAWM!

Life is short: celebrate!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Family Well Wishes

Guest blog post by BHD's twin brother, J

I asked to write today's post on this blog since I wanted to wish my brother and his partner a very happy anniversary, and be the first one to do it. Their actual anniversary is tomorrow. I'm sure my brother will post something about it.

My brother and his partner will be celebrating 17 years of being together. I most sincerely regret that they can't think back to a wedding like my wife and I do, and sit and review photos in an album like we do. As gay men, getting married is not permitted where they live -- yet -- so they do what most gay men do, and celebrate their anniversary as the day they met, rather than the day they had a formal civil ceremony where the state recognizes their relationship.

It's sad for me that my brother and his partner don't have the same rights and recognition that my wife and I have -- just because he loves and is committed to a man and I love and am committed to a woman. It's just blatantly unfair. I know my brother is among those who are "working on it." But he also works hard on a number of issues that pertain to the health, well-being, and safety of the community. Especially of his beloved seniors for whom he cares.

All of us in the family embrace our brother and his partner as our own. We love them. We hold them closely in our hearts. We cherish their relationship and commitment, and stand by to assist in any way we can. That is what family is for, and what our parents taught us and would expect. But it's more than that: we do it because we want to.

Happy anniversary, brother & [*] (Gosh, I wish you let me use your names on your own damn blog, bro'!)

May you share joy, peace, and contentment for many more years to come.

Warm hugs always,

Your whole fam-damily!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Boots and Ankles

Last December, well before I broke my leg, I ordered a cool pair of Nocona cowboy boots. They have a dark blue full quill ostrich foot, and black shafts with blue stitching. Unfortunately, the boots were backordered. I finally received them on Wednesday of this week. (I guess Nocona had to wait to have sufficient orders to set up the line to make this style and color of boots again.)

However, as delighted as I am to receive these new boots, I can't pull the right boot on my leg. My darned ankle is still swollen and the doc says that I will continue to experience swelling of the ankle for up to a full year! Arrggghhh!

I am able to wear more of the boots in my collection, but I can't wear cowboy boots yet. Biker boots -- particularly engineer boots -- fit fine. I am learning that cowboy boots have a tighter fit where the instep meets the shaft, right at the ankle. I probably could force the boot onto my foot, but it would hurt. Also, I probably couldn't take it off by myself without damaging the boot or my ankle, or both.

I'll just have to suck it up and wait. This is so darned frustrating. Oh well, I have said before and I'll say it again... I am a patient man. At least I try to be. :-)

Life is short: appreciate unswollen ankles if you have them! Then wear your boots!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Delete ... Delete

Any time you're "out there" on the internet and you connect your email to your blog and/or website, then sooner or later you will receive messages from people who are, well, rather bizarre, or who say strange things.

I get email from Pakistani leather vendors all the time. They're not strange, as they are persistent. They do not see or read the message on my page that says clearly that I don't want to hear from them. ... delete ... delete ...

Then occasionally I get propositions for sex. Well, I take that as a compliment in a way, but also find it annoying. ... delete ... delete ...

From time to time someone will write to ask if he can "service" me or my boots. ... delete ... delete ...

Every now and then, I get messages from some very lonely men. I feel sorry for them, but I'm not a matchmaker. Sometimes they write just to communicate with me. That's okay, but most of the time, they write with odd requests, bizarre notions, or write so confusingly that I have no idea what they're asking or what they want. ... delete ... delete ...

I have received messages from children less than age 21. Either they don't read my message that says that if you're under 21, I won't respond, or it could be the cops testing me. For my own safety ... delete ... delete ...

I swear, on nights of the full moon, I have received very odd email messages offering things like a new pair of boots in exchange for [bleep] or wanting me to meet the person somewhere (more like a demand than a request). ... delete ... delete ...

I even received a message from a guy who begged me to let him stay with us in our home because he wanted to "see for himself how a gay couple lives." Oh Jimminy Crickets ... delete ... delete ...

A few times, I have received a rant or negative message from a jealous wacko or one of those ultra-religious zealots ... delete ... delete ...

Then there's the guy who wrote me an email, and when I didn't answer in an hour, wrote again and kept writing until I responded. I tried to explain that I don't sit at my computer waiting for email to come in. I have a life. I'm busy. When someone gets demanding and rude about it ... delete ... block ... delete ... ("block" referring to blocking that person's email address from writing to me again.)

While I am a tolerant and accepting guy, there are some times when I have received email from a U.S.-born-and-raised person who cannot spell, use grammar, write, or otherwise compose an intelligent sentence. Or even a sentence for that matter ... delete ... delete ...

------------------
In reading the above, it sounds like I receive a lot of email and that most of it is from strange or bizarre people. Actually, neither are true. I don't receive a lot of email ... enough to make things interesting, but not enough to overwhelm me. And most of it is well-composed, written by adults acting like an adult, and recognizes and respects that I am a gay man in a monogamous relationship.

I say that I will respond to every legitimate email message that I receive. That's true. However, I reserve judgment as to what is or is not "legitimate."

Life is short: be normal, and I'll write back. Be bizarre, and I won't. Simple as that.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wear Whatever You Like

My fellow blogger, Straight Jacketed, amused me yesterday when he closed a post on his blog with a line, "To adapt a catchphrase from the indefatigable BHD, life is short: wear whatever you damn well like."

You know, he's right. He's damn well right. The other day when I went with my partner to a trolley museum, I knew that it was likely that I would see neighbors and even some local elected leaders there. Regardless, I chose to wear a pair of comfortable lightweight leather jeans and my Wesco combat boots with the jeans bloused into them. (That is, the ends of the leather jeans tucked a little bit into the top of the boots, and then the remaining leather bloused over them so they have a sharp appearance.)

For me, it was comfortable. I also like the masculine appearance of the boots and leather. Funny, I noticed when I processed the picture for this blog that I have grass stains on the boots. Yep, I have been mowing the lawn while wearing them, and it shows. At the stage of recovery from my broken leg, the lace-up, taller combat style boots give the support I require, as well as are comfortable for all-day wear.

One of the museum visitors looked at me and said, "you look like a 'storm trooper'." Ha! I got a big laugh out of that. The other people I knew, including community leaders, didn't bat an eye. They talked to me, looked at my face, and not at what I was wearing.

I am comfortable in my own skin, and comfortable in a cow's skin, too. Nobody cares what I have on my feet or legs. Seriously. For those who obsess about what other people think about what you're wearing: forget it.    N-o    o-n-e    c-a-r-e-s!

Life is short: wear whatever you damn well please.

P.S.: I am highly honoured to be labeled "indefatigable." Thanks, man. I get fatigued. I just hide it well (giggle.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Social Stigmas in Choices of Jeans

I received an email message the other day from a guy who wrote to me with a question about jeans:

Are there any stigmas associated with guys who wear Dickies jeans to say, a western dance club or concert?

He probably wrote to me after reading my tutorial on jeans and boots. Lots of guys obsess about whether to wear jeans inside or outside of boots. Some have questions about the "right" type of jeans to wear with boots. This probably was the case with this writer.

Here is what I said in reply:

There's nothing wrong with wearing Dickies jeans. If that's what you like, then that's great. Dickies jeans aren't as common in some parts of the country as in others. I have seen lots of guys wearing Dickies jeans and boots in Oklahoma, for example. I don't see them much around Maryland where I live, but they're just not found in our local stores as much as Levis and Wranglers.

Dickies jeans are less costly than Wranglers or Levis, but are well made so they are a better value. Wranglers and Levis have a cost mark-up just for the name. Dickies doesn't have that reputation. So actually, you're making a statement when you wear Dickies jeans that you appreciate good value and quality.

In my opinion, people who judge others because they're not wearing the most popular name-brand apparel have some growing up to do. Believe me, I live with that all the time where I live in the DC area.

One thing to consider is that people make judgments by how people LOOK in what they wear, and not only on the actual clothing. Stand tall, smile, and look confident. That can go a long way into what others perceive about you, regardless of your clothing choices.

So wear your Dickies proudly. Thanks for asking.


Life is short: wear what you like, proudly.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Weekends are Too Short

Whoever arranged things so you have only two days off on a weekend didn't get it right. Don't we all feel that we need or at least want to have twice the time? Too bad we all can't convince our employers to reverse things, and give us five-day weekends and only have to work two days each week with no reduction in pay. (giggle.)

Yes, my doctor cleared me to ride my Harley when I saw him on Friday. The joy, though, is bittersweet. I do not have much time to take a "journey ride" on it. Sure, I got out for an hour on Saturday, but that was all that I could manage to squeeze in.

My partner wanted to go to a newly re-opened nearby trolley museum yesterday. While I would rather be out riding, and I would love to have him with me as my passenger, he is physically unable to join me as a passenger any more, so our joint activities no longer involve the bike.

The museum visit was lame, I have to admit. Not much to see. My partner was disappointed. We have ridden the trams in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Toronto, Vienna, Munich, Frankfort, and the world's largest system in Melbourne (Australia), among other places. What we saw at this local museum was negligible in comparison with real, active trolley/tram systems elsewhere.

But it was what he wanted to do, and considering that he gave up his life to take care of me while I was recovering from my broken leg, doing something he wanted to do was the least I could do for him. I went along and we made the best of it. He loves trolleys, and they are the feature of this museum, but there wasn't much to see. The "free ride" went around a little loop and was all of two minutes. It was kinda cheesy. But... there we were.

By the time we got home, I got busy editing a video for another political candidate I am supporting. Then it was time for bed. Where does time fly? Well, obviously, not from the seat of my Harley (LOL!)

As I started this post, I'll say again, weekends are too short.

Life is short: starts on a weekend.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Feels Sooooo Good!

Within my crazy-busy weekend, I carved out some "me time" to get back on my Harley since the doc said the broken leg was history. It was wonderful!

First, I carefully checked the bike over from front to back, from tires to seat to cables to lights to controls. The bike has been sitting idle on a trickle charger since last I rode it in the middle of January. Then I broke my leg, and couldn't ride.... What a long, dreary wait. Fortunately, everything was fine and the tires only needed a little air.

I wasn't sure I would have time to go for a ride on Saturday. I had some friends offer to come over in the morning and ride with me, but I had to turn them down because I had commitments for my community work. A meeting, building a website for a political candidate, taking some elder buds grocery shopping, caring for my aunt... all these things plus some work around the house take time.

My partner and I had a meeting of the minds, and he agreed that I just had to get it out of my system: I had to ride! So by early afternoon, the critical things were done, and I had time to get booted and on the saddle of my beloved Road King.

I pulled on my new Champion Attitude harness boots that have burgundy leather shafts that match the Harley's colors, and black ostrich feet. Kinda cool, and different. They fit well over my jeans.

I pulled on my leather jacket, rolled the bike into the drive, and it started up right away. I carefully engaged the clutch, dropped it into first, and off I went ... around the cul-de-sac to get used to riding again. As I was doing this maneuver, a biker bud who I know rode over. He said that he thought he would check to see if I were going for a ride since he saw a post I had made on a public forum. His timing couldn't have been better!

We rode on some back roads and byways, slowly but surely. My bike loves to ride, and the boots enjoyed their first experience being used as they were designed: biker's boots!

We didn't stay out long. I had another meeting to attend in the late afternoon. But it sure was nice to get out.

My leg is a little sore, in all honesty, and as I am writing this post on Saturday night, I have ice on it. But I also have the biggest smile on my face! Woo-hoo! I am reintroducing you to Booted Harleydude: biker, community caregiver, spirited worker, ... all these things. But most of all, I'm a very happy man.

Life is short: there is life after a broken leg!


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Oh Doc, Sneakers? Ya Gotta Be Kiddin!

I saw the orthopedic specialist yesterday afternoon, and as expected, he said that I have recovered from the broken leg and I can resume my regular activities "as tolerated." Woo-hoo!!!

At the close of his examination, he turned to me and said, "wear sneakers for the next few months." Yeah, right.

I said, "really, why?"

He said, "you will still have some swelling, so the sneakers can expand to accommodate it."

I said, "what about boots that lace up?"

He didn't know what to say. He just smiled and said, "sneakers will be fine. You won't be able to wear boots for a while."

Little does he know. I've already been wearing boots for three weeks. I have choices of boots that can accommodate the minor swelling that I have and do not cause me any discomfort. So to heck with the sneakers: "resume normal activities as tolerated" means, to me, wearing boots. That's that.

Now, to work on carving down that huge list of "gotta-dos!" then get out a ride!

Life is short: wear your boots!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Getting Busy

While it wasn't any fun being confined to home during the period of recovery from my broken leg, at least I had a good excuse. I couldn't walk, and Mother Hubbard partner wouldn't let me go out at all, period, for any reason except to the doctor for scheduled follow-ups.

Now that I have returned to work and am resuming a more regular personal schedule, the demands on my time have skyrocketed. Turns out that several organizations that wanted to hold meetings and have me attend during the time I was laid up with the broken leg decided to postpone their meetings until I was better ... and then schedule their meetings all at once.

This week, I have been to four meetings in three days, and I'm already feeling quite tired. How did I get myself into this? Yeah, I know: that word "yes" has something to do with it. I really have trouble saying "no" when I have no specific reason (like a broken leg.)

I educated three groups that they can do quite well without me, so I am weaning off regularly attending their meetings. There are others, though, in which I serve as an officer or as a leader or as a past-but-sage adviser and to which I have made commitments. I am backing one county and one state political candidate and serving as their webmasters, and we have to meet to get their sites updated. So I'm there at all these non-work-related meetings. Tonight I have a family dinner, followed by three meetings on the weekend, caring for my aunt, and so on will keep this "former" hobbler moving.

I am trying not to get my hopes up too high, but I hope the doc says that I can get back on my Harley when I have my next visit with him today. That'll be wonderful. Then to find the time to get the bike checked out and me on it... and not offend my partner too much with my more frequent absences. He has grown accustomed to my being home all the time, and likes it. He dislikes it when I'm gone. Now I'm gone more... and more... oh brother. Such is my life.

Work has been hellaciously busy, too, so all day I work-work-work and barely have time to eat the lunch that I bring with me. But that helps keep me occupied, and feeling productive.

I am not completely recovered. I still am sore and am moving slowly. However, I am wearing two boots and walking on my own, fairly well, without limping. I'd say I'm at 95%.

If you send me an email and I don't reply... don't take it personally. I literally just don't have the time to respond to email quickly. I will, eventually. Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Typical Weekday In a Gay Couple's Life

I was reading a recent article titled Myth of the 'gay lifestyle' justifies bias by LZ Granderson. He made many good points about the fact that there really isn't a difference between how gay couples and straight couples live. He made many other good points, too, so be sure to click on the link and read the whole article.

His life with his partner is different from ours. His partner pays for a gym membership, while my partner works out with gym equipment at home (we abhor ongoing expenses). He has adopted a child; we don't have children.

My partner and I are different from other people in other ways, but that doesn't have to do with being gay. I thought I would describe what a typical weekday is like for my partner and me.

I naturally awaken between 4:00 and 4:15am. My partner rises and goes to a bathroom down the hall where he keeps all of his messy shaving stuff. That leaves the master bath available for me. I use it, brush my teeth and wash up, and perhaps take a quick shower. Ten minutes later I am getting dressed for work.

I go to our kitchen and prepare breakfast and lunch for both my partner and me. I usually cut slices from a home-made loaf of bread. I toast some bread for breakfast. I make sandwiches and add some lo-cal snacks like cereal and breadsticks. I fill two small plastic containers with juice. I add a cup of yogurt to my partner's lunch, too. I may prepare an egg or muffin, fill glasses with OJ, and sit down for a moment to enjoy my breakfast. I leave my partner's breakfast for him on the kitchen table.

I get the paper from the drive and leave it on the kitchen counter next to my partner's lunch, then go back up to my home office and get busy with things like a small consulting practice, or answering constituent email. My partner rushes in, embraces me and gives me a kiss goodbye. I work for about another half-hour, then leave myself.

We both commute into the city and work all day at our respective jobs (which are far apart enough that we have never met during the day). Being frugal, we don't "go for coffee" or eat lunch at restaurant. We eat our own lunches and enjoy snacks we've packed for ourselves.

On my way home from work, I stop by my aunt's home to check on her, and perhaps visit with some of my elder buds. By the time I get home, my partner is just arriving as well. I change clothes to the typical jeans, t-shirt, and boots and prepare a home-cooked dinner. While dinner is cooking, I call some older friends to check in with them. I serve dinner promptly at 6pm. We talk about the day and enjoy our meal media- and phone-free. During this time, I may also bake a cake for a friend's birthday, another loaf of bread, or both. I enjoy multitasking in the kitchen.

On a typical evening, after dinner I head out to a community meeting. I am involved in a variety of activities and groups. I leave those meetings so I can be home by 9pm at the latest, even if the meeting has not ended. My partner and I then go to bed.

If I have a "free" evening (i.e., no meetings), my partner and I will relax in our basement. He may watch something he has recorded on our DVR, while I slave away at my computer -- answering more email, reviewing plans, updating candidate websites, keeping abreast on the latest local news, and so on. I shut all that off by 8pm and curl up with my partner to have some "us time."

Since we do not have children, our lives are different from the gay guy whose story prompted this one. We don't go to a gym before work. We don't dine out with friends, and we avoid shopping for anything other than groceries. Sure, that makes us different from other couples but our differences from others have nothing to do with the fact that we are gay. We are frugal home-bodies. We enjoy our home and reap the benefits of not spending money at gyms, restaurants, or expensive gadgets like smartphones.

Our typical weekday is similar to a typical weekday of any couple who work for a living. Kinda boring, isn't it? I have no idea what those who think that "the gays" are out to impose their "gay agenda" on everyone else. They are afraid of what they don't know. They are afraid to admit that perhaps our life is just as normal and sane as everyone else's. Face it, they're just afraid. When fear controls thinking, bad things happen.

Life is short: enjoy your life, however you live it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ripped Off!

Crime happens even in the nicest places, and even where you feel the safest: at home. Don't let me frighten you -- I am okay. I am peeved, but I am okay. Here's what happened.

On Monday night, I left my truck on my driveway in front of my house instead of inside the garage. The garage door makes a heck of a lot of noise when it opens. My partner had the day off on Tuesday, so I thought I would be a good schnook and park my truck on the driveway so I could avoid opening the garage door in the morning when I left for work so my partner could sleep later.

When I went out to my truck at 5:30, I clicked the remote to unlock it. I opened the back liftgate, where I had remembered that I left my backpack. It wasn't there. I thought that was odd, but perhaps it was in the back seat. I went to the passenger side and opened the back door, and saw a slew of paper all over the seats and floor. I then opened the front passenger door and saw more papers thrown all over, and the storage areas open.

Then it finally dawned on me: DAMN! I'VE BEEN RIPPED OFF BY A THIEF!

What was strange, though, was that the thief actually dumped my backpack into my truck -- thus why the papers were all strewn about. He/sh/it left a portable flash drive and even my umbrella which was in the pack. But the pack was gone. It was inexpensive, but was a gift from my partner to me because he knew that as I was first returning to work, I couldn't carry a briefcase.

As I looked around, I noticed that my console storage area was open and empty. I don't keep much in there but a tire pressure checker and a couple of CDs. The thief left the CDs. I guess he/sh/it doesn't like Linda Ronstadt or the Doobie Brothers. No accounting for taste in thieves.

Upon further inspection, my glove compartment was open, but everything was still intact, including and expensive pair of sunglasses that belong to my partner.

I grumbled, woke my partner and vented, then realized that there wasn't anything that could be done about it, so I just went ahead and drove to the Metro.

It was there that I noticed that my cane was stolen. Who would take a cane? F*$&! I just walked slowly and carefully to the Metro and then to my office from my destination station. It really wasn't a problem, but I am still very puzzled about what the hell would a thief want with a cane? Perhaps he/sh/it has a need greater than my own?

My partner was peeved that the cane was stolen, as he searched hard to find just the right one for me, and bought it as a gift to aid in my recovery. Now both of his "recovery gifts" -- the backpack and the cane -- are gone.

It's my fault for leaving those things in the truck. But at least I didn't leave anything else of greater value to be ripped off.

I hope the thief rots in hell. Meanwhile, I'll just park in the garage, leave more lights on, and pray for he/sh/it's soul.

Update: the thief must have developed a guilty conscious because when I arrived home yesterday afternoon, I found the cane propped up against my garage door. No one saw a thing. Weird....

Life is short: sometimes, it's not fun, either.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wet Homecoming

My partner arrived home yesterday after spending several days visiting his mother who lives in Pittsburgh.

I arrived home from yet another physical therapy session for my ankle soon after he did. He looked tired and sore. We had a lot of catching up to do, so I though what could be better than to take a break and go soak in the hot tub. It will help relieve his soreness and will help my ankle feel better, too.

I stripped him and he stripped me, and we carefully got into the tub and turned it on.

The rest is our business, but let's say that getting reacquainted was FUN (and wet)!

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

Monday, April 12, 2010

Two-Booted Again!

To heck with what the doctor says, and Mother-Hubbard partner. If the leg is flexing well and doesn't hurt, and the ankle swelling is down, then two boots will come on.

Funny, someone I know who broke her leg said that her doctor insisted that she wear sneakers for months after her cast came off. She has to wear an "air cast," which is a supportive device, and it will only fit into a sneaker. Yeah, I was given one of those, too. I use it at work, walking around with one boot on my left foot and the air cast and a sock on my right, rocking back and forth as I walk because it makes my height uneven.

But when I go outdoors, walk to or from the Metro, or to the grocery store, or to visit family and friends, then two boots come on my feet and that's that. I can't wear the air cast with a boot. The air cast is too big to fit inside even my largest boots. I definitely will NOT wear sneakers. I don't own any, and have no intentions of buying a pair just to wear for a few weeks. Plus, I shant sully my booted reputation. (LOL!) So I choose boots that secure my ankle and are big enough to accommodate minor swelling.

I have no pain. Every now and then I feel a twinge of slight discomfort, but no pain like I had been feeling where the leg broke. So I pronounce myself recovered -- even if the doc and Mother Hubbard Partner say otherwise. Okay, bop me on the head. Mom always said that I had a hard head. My Nonna always said, "testadura!" (but then she said that to all the male members of the family LOL!)

As a testament, I put on a pair of new motorcycle breeches that I ordered and arrived the week after my leg broke. I couldn't think of wearing them for a long time. I also put on my Chippewa High Shine engineer boots to show ya: I'M BAAAACKKK! Bwa ha ha! Watch out! Soon I will be back on the Harley!

Life is short: be optimistic (and be booted while you're at it)!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Living Safely

Every April, I plan and organize an event that I call "Senior Safety Saturday." That is when dozens of volunteers visit homes occupied by seniors and install safety devices like grab-bars, non-slip flooring, better lighting, and new smoke alarms (when the current alarm is more than 10 years old as alarms don't last forever, so it is recommended to replace them every ten years.)

I truly feel as if I have 99% recovered from my broken leg. I felt great! Actually, I began the morning by swimming 30 laps. That helped improve the flexibility in my ankle, which is still a little swollen.

I got to our site at 7:30am, and was met by some volunteers who had all of the supplies set up under a big tent. We welcomed the other volunteers and a county official gave them a rousing thank-you. We also thanked our corporate sponsor who funded the supplies that we needed with a $5,000 credit account at a building supplies retailer.

Once all the volunteers checked in, I went to check on some of the more difficult installations. I felt well enough to help out, and even climbed a ladder to install a smoke alarm. I am not quite flexible enough to squat in a bathtub to install a grab-bar. But that's okay, we had plenty of able-bodied helpers.

I'm so jazzed. I am smiling the hugest smile I have smiled in a long, long time. The weather was great, the event went exceptionally smoothly, and best of all: 53 seniors are safer in their own homes. They can continue to live comfortably, and safely, at home.

What a great day!

Life is short: live it by doing service for others. Believe me, what you pay forward is paid back. I sure saw the benefit of that when I was laid up for such a long time with my broken leg when so many of my senior friends helped me out.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Lonely Sunrise

Sunrise is my absolute favourite time of each weekend morning. Some may think that I'm crazy, awakening as the sun comes up, especially each day a few minutes earlier as we approach the summer solstice. Nonetheless, I have always been an early-bird.

I have often written about weekend sunrise time. That's when I will softly snuggle close to my partner, lay my head on his chest, and click the remote to open the blinds and draw the shades so the floor-to-ceiling windows in our bedroom reveal the glorious trees in the forest just outside. It truly is a magnificent, dramatic sight. Because I built our house, I designed and built our rear bedroom wall entirely of glass so our view would not be blocked by gypsum or wires.

Watching the squirrels jump from branch to branch, and scurry up and down the trees is delightful. How much energy they have! We love watching them play "catch me if you can."

The green leaves are randomly jeweled by the bright red feathers of cardinals, orange-and-black feathers of Baltimore orioles and redwings, and even the occasional blue, green, or yellow finches. The birds add a special sparkle not only with the colors, but also with their songs of joy and merriment. Heck, I even enjoy the sparrows and wrens. What they lack in color, they make up for in song. "Hmmmmmm" Can you hear that? It's our friendly humming birds stopping by the nectar feeder. Amazing how they can hover in mid-air.

The diversity of the trees (14 different species) adds to subtle differences in shades of the leaves and their bark. Especially as the sun rises and grows from a hint of orange to brilliant yellow to bright white.

Ahhh... sunrise. How much I enjoy viewing the brightening of a new day. New hope. New horizons to conquer. New things to do. To live, to love, to share.

Alas, I am alone this weekend, as my partner is away visiting his mother. I still watched the sun rise on our forest before getting out of bed this morning. I have to admit, though, it wasn't the same. There is something special about holding the one you love as the day renews.

Life is short: Enjoy the sun, enjoy the day, love life.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Winter to Summer

My goodness, almost exactly two months ago, I was writing about being blasted by multiple winter storms that relentlessly pounded our area with huge amounts of snow and strong winds. I was confined at home with only a splint on my broken leg, scooting around on my butt when I had to move. It was frigidly cold, gray, and awful-looking outside.

How things have changed so quickly! For the last week, we have had record-breaking heat. Temperatures in the 80s and 90s (27 - 32C) and bright sunshine. Tree branches that were gray and looked lifeless last week are now leafing out quickly. Pollen from trees, grass, and flowers has skyrocketed. TG I'm not terribly affected by seasonal allergies. I am walking, albeit slowly, on my own two feet! Woo-hoo!

Once again, as is typical of the DC area, we have gone from Winter to Summer, with nary a hint of Spring in between. The calendar may say Spring, but the heat, humidity, and sunshine say different. Sure, we will get a storm that will cool things off, and we may even get a few more days of cold-and-dreary, but for the most part, Spring has fully sprung into Summer and we're out and about, on our Harleys, and havin' fun!

... thus is my continued optimism, as I still can't ride my beloved bike just yet, but soon enough... I'll be booted and on the saddle of my trusty iron horse once again. Meanwhile, I am enjoying the warmth. I also am enjoying seeing my solar array at home producing more power than we're using, so my electric bill is a negative number. I always like that!

Warm regards!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tell Me A Story

You know the old saying, "tell me a story and I'll tell you no lies." Well, you know how that goes.

For my first major foray back into my community life, I chaired a meeting last night with a civic group. There are three factions within the group, each of whom have various reasons for being so passionate about their position. I like passion: it demonstrates that the person is seriously concerned and it is not a petty matter to them.

However, I also get highly irritated when people lie, and pretend they aren't. They give you this look like, "believe me, I am telling the truth," but all other mannerisms give them away -- the darting eyes, fidgety hand movements, and stammering speech.

You'd figure if any profession can tell a good story and make it sound believable, it would be a lawyer. But last night, I caught a lawyer in a series -- not just one but several -- outright fibs. He claimed certain details as fact, when there was no proof. He cited figures that sounded implausible, and another person speaking after him proved that the lawyer could write the next edition of How To Lie With Statistics. What blew it was that he cited research from someone who I know personally. I know my colleague's work. My colleague wouldn't have said that. To prove it, I called my colleague right then-and-there and put him on speaker phone. The lawyer turned white as a sheet.

I wasn't born yesterday. I can just tell when someone is trying to twist the truth to make something come out in their favor. Their problem was that they do not realize that I've been around the block once or twice, and know a few people. The look on that guy's face when I called the author of the paper from which he was quoting -- and the fact that I had the author's phone number in my cell phone's directory -- was exceptionally amusing.

Look, if you are going to make a statement in public, certainly back it up with facts and figures. But also make sure that those facts are supported and can be verified independently. Otherwise, it will catch up with you and could work against you.

Lyin' eyes and darting gestures will also always give you away.

Life is short: speak honestly (and stop flailing your hands!)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Women Bikers

I enjoy riding my Harley, and I enjoy riding with other people. It is fun to share experiences and the open road with a group. I particularly enjoy riding with the group with which I ride now, which is composed of men and women who share the same goal: "ride and have fun."

There are a number of women bikers in this group. I see more and more women riders each year. I think that's great! Certainly the "motor company" (Harley-Davidson) has observed that women riders are a large and growing market. They are much more attentive to the needs of women riders nowadays than years gone by where they pretty much made "one-size fits all men" motorcycles.

I share the joy with my friend Sue who lives in Australia. She rode a motorcycle when she lived in the U.S., and when she moved back to her home country, she set a goal to get herself a Harley. She just bought herself a beauty -- a 2010 Dyna Street Bob! I envy her, in a way, being able to ride those lovely roadways Down Under. I shan't forget my experience riding a (rented) Harley along The Great Ocean Road from Melbourne to Adelaide. Wow, that was an experience!

I also share joy with a former next-door neighbor who knew me when I was born. She actually was my sister's childhood best friend. As we've moved around, aged, and such, we sorta lost touch. But my sister found her on Facebook, and a couple years ago when my sister was visiting, the two of them (her old friend and my sister) came over to our house to transfer some old reel-to-reel tapes onto cassette so they could hear themselves as children. Their laughter filled our house, and my heart.

My sister's friend is a biker. Like my friend Sue, she had set her goal to get herself a Harley this year. She enjoyed riding her smaller, Japanese bike, but she wanted to move up to a Harley. She bought a 2008 Fat Boy, and took delivery last week. She has been riding and sharing her joy with me and others. I can't wait to go riding with her as soon as my doc says that I can.

The enthusiasm, the fun, the joy -- all of it -- is wonderful for me to observe, and to participate (when I can.)

Now, we'll have to work with those boot manufacturers to get my women biker friends some decent biker boots. But one step at a time: ride and have fun! Share your joy! Show your enthusiasm! You go, girls! Grrrrrrrrrr!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bloggetory

These are just some rambling remarks that add up to today's bloggetory...

* Sunny, bright, warm days yet not being able to ride my Harley yet makes for a frustrated biker, itchin' to get out! Livin' with Mother Hubbard who holds me back is such a delight... (smile). He does love me.

* I am getting better each day after breaking my leg. The swelling of my right ankle continues, but is noticeably less. The ankle and foot flexes more, especially when I go swimming, and doesn't hurt. Yea! I AM recovering!

* Swimming is helping not only with the ankle/leg recovery, but also with my weight. I have lost six pounds since the day the cast came off. These are "real" pounds, and not just "water weight" ounces. I'll keep this exercise regimen going, and add brisk walking to it. I know I need the exercise. Walking and swimming both help me feel better. (I've never be the gym rat, so at least I have found some exercises that work for me and that I enjoy.)

* I mowed the lawn! Well, half of it anyway. It is amazing how something as simple as lawn-mowing can make someone happy! But it impressed upon me that I really am getting better. Soon enough, I'll be able to tackle those hills (our side yards).

* I am sick and tired of wearing combat boots! Okay, they provide excellent support of my right leg and ankle, and because they lace up, the right boot can accommodate a little swelling and yet still close. I just don't think that combat boots are good to wear all day (at work) and as I go about resuming my life. But ... well ... they ARE boots, and that's what I wear!

* I still remember Rick, my riding buddy and community collaborator, who was killed by a cell-phone yapping SUV-driving yuppie seven years ago today. I truly regret that my state's legislature remains spineless and will not pass a bill that restricts the use of hand-held wireless devices while operating a three-ton killing machine.

* Senior Safety Saturday is comin' up fast! Woo-hoo! We've got a lot to tackle but we're all ready for it! Can't wait! Heck, I just might get myself out from behind the registration table and drill a hole or two to install a grab-bar, install a light or three... we'll see.

* first of four county budget battle meetings have begun this week. Tonight will be my first "foray" back into my community role since I broke my leg. I am not testifying tonight ... just observing ... and gaining fodder for future conversations. But again, despite the tedious and tense nature of the content of the meeting, the fact is that I can go!

* I am enjoying the "little things" -- accomplishments that were taken for granted before my leg broke. For example, I drove myself to pick up my aunt to bring her to our house for Easter dinner. I actually prepared Easter dinner myself, with no help! I went out to our forest and picked a bunch of flowers to decorate the table. I brought some more to a neighbor who is not feeling well. I was able to go fetch the newspaper from the drive. All these "little" things add up, and add much to my psyche-of-renewal.

Life is short: enjoy all of it, even the little things!


Monday, April 5, 2010

Wesco Disappointment

The company that makes Wesco Boots has fairly recently come out with a variety of "new" colors and finishes of leather. In addition to traditional black, brown, and redwood, you can now order boots in "burlap" (tan), burgundy, and red, as well as with the roughout side of the hide facing outward.

Wow... how "interesting." I have seen some guys display new Wesco boots in different colors and thought most of them looked nice. (Personally, I am not fond of red leather on Wesco boots, but that's my opinion.)

For an ultimate last purchase of custom Wesco boots for my own collection, I worked with Mike at Stompers to craft a truly unique pair of harness boots. Burgundy roughout leather foot and vamp, brown harness straps, and brown roughout shafts. I placed the order in January and began the countdown on the usual long wait to get them.

The boots arrived at my door last Thursday. I was rather surprised, because usually they send an email saying the boots were shipped, but this time they didn't. Regardless, I was thrilled! There's nothing like the feeling a Bootman has when he sees that big Wesco box on his doorstep!

I brought the box inside and eagerly opened it. The colors of the leather were fantastic. The 18" height, buckskin leather lining, and thick Vibram 100R lug soles rendered quite a masculine & commanding appearance. Of course, the quality of construction was superb. But I could tell when I looked at my new boots that the shafts were narrow. Wesco has my custom sizing form on file, and for this particular pair, I had even specified the calf circumference to be one half inch wider than the measurements on my form. But they just didn't look right.

I sat down and took off the boot I had on my left foot and tried to pull on the new left boot. Damn... waaaay too tight. No way could I pull it on. I didn't try to pull harder. I knew that Wesco screwed up and the boots weren't made right. Damn! I have to return the boots to be fixed and resized.

Look at the photo: the new boot is on the right, standing next to an older pair of brown Wesco harness boots on the left. You can tell simply at a glance that the calf circumference is much smaller than the older boot which was made to the same custom measurements that I had on file with Wesco.

I have heard some stories lately that Wesco has been messing up a lot of custom orders. Unfortunately, I found that out for myself. The boots have been returned. I hope they get it right this time. (I resent that the guy from Wesco told Mike in an email that he thinks my measurements have changed and they didn't make a mistake. He will find out that they were made wrong the minute he looks at the boots. I know my boots and do not register this complaint lightly, nor am I trying to get Wesco to resize my boots for free due to my own error in judgment.)

I'm not too upset about this situation, though. Because my right leg is still healing and my ankle still swells a lot, I cannot wear those new boots on both feet right now if I wanted to. I can't wear tall boots yet. The doc says that the ankle swelling will remain a part of my life for several months. By the time the swelling resolves, it will be typical Washington hot-as-blazes summer. That's not a time that I can wear tall, leather-lined Wesco boots.

For now, the delay caused by having to have the boots returned, fixed, and sent back to me is okay. As I have said before, I am a very patient man. I wish the situation were different in that my right ankle was normal and the boots were sized correctly in the first place, but that ain't the case. I'll wait. Sometime months from now, I'll feature those new boots here and on my website.

Good things come to those who wait... and wait... and wait. But what a horrible April Fools prank. It was no joke!

Life is short: wear your boots!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hoppy Easter

The memory card in my camera sizzled, so none of the photos that were taken with it yesterday were readable by my computer. Here is one photo that shows yesterday's get-up. The photo was taken by the daughter of some of my friends. I'm the one in the middle. Enjoy! Happy Easter!

Why Not Be A Passenger?

I was conversing with a close [straight] friend who lives in a distant state the other day, saying that I was longing to get back on the saddle of a motorcycle. I am unhappy because the weather is gorgeous and yet my Harley remains in the garage, unused, because my doc says I can't ride yet until my leg heals some more after I broke it in January.

My friend asked, "why not ride as a passenger?"

It was a simple-enough question. If I can't put my feet down and man-handle a big motorcycle, I could, at least, ride as a passenger, right?

Well... no, I don't think so.

My partner does not know how to ride a motorcycle, so he couldn't take me. My very close biker buddy friend who wouldn't bat an eye taking me as his passenger was killed six years ago by a cell phone yapping SUV-driving yuppie. And, unfortunately, I do not have any other friends to whom I am close enough and who can ride a motorcycle to ask.

Sure, I belong to a motorcycle riding club and often ride with them on group rides. Unfortunately, I observe that most of these guys, if not all, are wary of me. I am the only "fully out" gay guy among them. (I figure if statistics are accurate, there are other gay men in the club, but if there are, they live completely in the closet.) The club members are friendly enough, but keep their distance socially. I think they're afraid of "gay by association" if they get too close.

I have to admit, I keep my distance, too, mostly because I'm not the social animal that other, younger, single guys are. And the guys who aren't single and who are sociable always bring their wives to social occasions (many of whom are riders themselves.) My partner is so anti-social that he rarely comes to me to any biker-related social events, so it is easy to perceive that I am not all that sociable. And, as I have said before, I don't like to stay up late and drink beer. Thus, I avoid most biker social events because the hours and activities are incompatible with my preferences. I can understand, then, why there are distances in our relationships, and the distances aren't all related to the fact that I am a gay man.

Regardless, when my friend asked me simply about whether I could ride as someone's passenger, I thought, "nope, ain't gonna happen." I really don't know anyone (or think I know anyone) who is man enough, secure enough, and courageous enough to take me as his passenger.

I also have to admit that being a motorcycle operator for some 33 years, it would be darned hard to be a passenger. I think I would naturally try to drive, or to put my foot down, to lean, or otherwise make things unintentionally difficult for the operator.

I commended my (straight) friend for being such an open-minded guy. He is not naive, but since he is not gay, he does not have much of an idea of what I live with. Homophobia comes in a variety of forms. Most of it is not overt. But it shows, for example, as people consider how close to get to me -- or how not.

Life is short: dream of the day when things like this don't matter.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hobbling Hoppy Easter!

Today I have modified my plans. Usually on the Saturday before Easter, I put small packages of Easter treats (sugar-free Peeps, jelly beans, and chocolate eggs) into my Harley's TourPak, then while dressed in a full bunny costume, ride around the senior's community near me and deliver one of these packages to special senior pals. This has become somewhat of a holiday tradition, and even was featured in The Washington Post a few years ago. It's a hoot! It brightens the spirits of my friends and is so much fun to do.

Well, unfortunately, I can't ride my beloved Harley yet. My doctor told me not to think about riding until at least mid-April. At first I argued, but now I realize that he was right. My leg still hurts a lot and the ankle is still swollen. But it WILL get better! I just have to give it some more time.

But this darned leg isn't going to stop me from brightening the day of my senior pals or stop me from my tradition! I'm just changing it a little bit. My partner ordinarily goes to visit his Mom for Easter, but because he is still worried about me, is staying home this year. He will drive me in my truck. I can and will wear that bunny costume! I will become the "hobbling hoppy Easter bunny!"

Watch out! There's a cwazy wabbit wunning awound wilver wing! Bwa ha ha!

Woo-hoo! Life is short: show those you love that you love them! Happy Easter, Pasqua, or whatever!

Friday, April 2, 2010

You're Too Damn Happy

I received an email the other day from someone who said this: "You're Too Damn Happy." He went on to say, "all this stuff about your partner and how all these old people took care of you. Bullshit."

And that's all he said.

Hey, fella, the reason why I didn't reply to your rant via email is that there really isn't anything I could say. It is obvious to me that you're hurting. I truly am sorry about your plight and mental state that drove you to write to me and say what you said.

Is my life perfect? No. I've got a lot of things going on that I choose not to blog about. Seriously, people don't want to read about the bad stuff. I have read blogs by others who have complained about life serving them lemons, and usually it comes across badly. It sounds like whining and ranting, which nobody wants to read. There are a few exceptional people who can make a rant sound funny. I mean belly-laugh funny. Unfortunately, I don't have the skills to write humorously. So I usually choose not to rant, whine, or whimper about things that suck. (Though I might have sounded a bit whiney as I was dealing with my broken leg.)

There is so much tension in the world, lately driven by tea-bagging morons, but before that, driven by the economy, politics, or other matters -- it would be easy to get sucked into an uncivil demeanor and to wallow in negativity.

I deliberately choose the opposite. Perhaps it comes from my upbringing, when my parents taught us to look ahead and to look forward. Perhaps it comes from being secure and self-confident. Yeah, some bad things are goin' on in my world, but I can handle it. I can, because -- yep, here I go again -- of that 'net that I have supporting me. Heck, even from Australia, my friend Sue commented the other day about the sunny outlook that I have, and that I have inspired her to smile as she walks along the beaches of the sunny coasts of Australia, a place that I have truly enjoyed visiting.

You see, we're all in this world together. The physical world in my home and community, and the larger world of people with whom we engage via the 'net. Through the power of positive outreach and support, I firmly believe that we can make the world a better place -- one step at a time.

'K, I'll take it: I'm too "damn happy." Heck, I'd rather be "damn happy" than "sucky sad." Smile and get a life, buddy.

Life is short: smile. Make them wonder why.