Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Brother's Observations

Note from BHD's twin brother (I go by "J"): I have hijacked my brother's blog again, so while he said that "my regular postings" will resume tomorrow, I have changed that.


When you called me from the hospital just a few moments after Aunt Lee died, you sounded stoic, but just about to lose it.  I listened to you say, "don't fly back; it'll cost too much; Lee's sons will be here; my partner is here with me; our other siblings who live around here will be here; I'll be alright."

Bull, brother.  I know you.  I could feel your heart breaking all the way in Paris, where I work and live.

I got on the very next flight that I could, and with weather delays and whatnot, I didn't get to your house until midnight on Friday night.

Why were you shocked to see me? I am your brother, your TWIN brother. I love you. You lost someone who you cared for so very deeply, the least I could do was be by your side.

After you regained your composure from finding me at your door, and gave your partner some resuscitation (he was as surprised as you were), we rested. Then I watched you through the weekend, and here is what I observed:

* Your partner loves you so much. He was so tender, thoughtful, and caring in all matters and in all ways in what he does for you.  He has the best ability to listen and to act, without even speaking a word. He can read you better than I can. He effortlessly guided you as you made arrangements for Lee's party, knowing how forgetful you get sometimes. He was right there, reading your mind, and executing your thoughts. Gosh, I wish my wife and I achieve that deep level of understanding each other.

* You continue to say, "I'm alright, I'm alright," but you are not alright.  You are grieving.  Understandably so.  You say, "she died quickly, without pain or suffering, and she was able to stay in her own home for so long with such a great quality of life."  Yes, that's true, but you watched her die.  That hurt.  It had to hurt. But what I observed about how you were able to talk about her last moments is seeing your faith. You have deep faith that you called to strengthen you while you told Lee's sons that their mother's death was dignified and peaceful. You can attest to that, as you witnessed it. Your faith is deep, personal, and abiding. I respect it very much.

* You are strong and you held others up, but this is a big deal for you, so you need to let us help you and surround you with the love and support you need.  Our helping you helps us.

* Your senior citizen friends love you.  Their appearance at that thank-you party to hug you and to sing for us was absolutely amazing.  But you expected that. What you didn't expect was one of your friends showing up this morning on a ruse that she needed your help getting heavy groceries. Without batting an eye, you ran off to help -- then found a whole troupe of singers right at the store, assembled to sing "Amazing Grace" to you.  Oh gosh how you cried (I knew this was going to happen, bro'), but how much you loved it.  They love you and demonstrated that by their public display of affection. (So don't go bad-mouthing PDAs any more LOL!)

* You are seeking a way to fill a big hole in your life.  Take time: listen, look, and feel.  You will find your calling again.  It will not be the same.  It will not be as deep.  But it will fit the character of the brother I love.

Thank you for all you have done, and who you are -- as a man, as a brother, as a nephew, and as a caregiver. I am so very happy you brought me over to see Aunt Lee when I came home for Christmas. We had such a great visit, thanks to you. You truly have no idea just how much we love you, and are here to support you. You will have your tough days dealing with this... remember, I'm right here, in your heart.

I am sorry that I have to leave in the morning.  Know that when I say that "I am there for you," I always am.  Always.  Hell, I am your TWIN brother, and I cherish the man who is the best half of that egg that split.

Luv 'ya, big guy.  Hang tough, but grieve for our beloved Aunt Lee.  She was quite a woman, and you are quite a man.

PS: I hope you don't revoke my keys to your kingdom (that is, the access to this blog), since I wrote it after you went to bed on Sunday night so you will find it in the morning, then rearranged your other pre-written posts to appear a day later each.

Celebrate Life!

So many times I have been invited to a function after someone dies, and the words begin with, "join us to celebrate the life of so-and-so," ... and the whole event turns out to be a morbid mess of tears.

I was darned determined not to do that yesterday.  Instead, we had a "thank-you party for 'all those people'."  Who?

In my aunt's last seven months of life, she had someone with her 24 hours each day, seven days a week.  Services were split among seven people, who we call caregivers.  In my aunt's stage of Alzheimer's Disease, she could not remember their names, so she referred to them as "all those people."

Instead of having a wake (or visitation) and a funeral, then everyone "coming over to the house" and standing around with long faces streaked with tears ... we reserved a room at the community center where my aunt lived, arranged for catering for some light fare, and then orchestrated a huge "thank you" party to recognize each of my aunts caregivers.

All of her caregivers came, as well as the company President and some office staff.  A number of my large fam-damily came as well.  It was great to see my siblings and my cousins.  My aunt's sons also were there (of course.)  One of them got up first to say a few words, then I took over.

I was fearing that I would "lose it" and become an emotional wreck, but I guess all those years of media training paid off.  I spoke about my aunt and each caregiver and her contributions to my aunt's care on an individual basis, and my voice didn't crack once.  I could tell it meant a lot to them, and it was my pleasure to recognize their work.

I told stories about how each caregiver did something special for my aunt, from the one who gave her the best bath to the one who fixed her the best home-made meals to the one who ordered Chinese (and didn't think I knew), to the one who would scratch her back for hours on end.  I knew what they did... and they may not have known that I knew so much, but I don't miss much.

We gave them a meaningful gift, but also a funny "gag" gift -- a back scratcher. (smile -- you had to be there, but the back scratcher gift made everyone laugh).

It was a great time.  I was told later that I spoke for 45 minutes, and at the end, everyone was smiling, cheering, and clapping.  We had a grand celebration ... just the way Aunt Lee would have wanted it.

This blog will resume its usual content tomorrow.  Thank you for respecting this pause in my blogging content as I reflected on a person who was so much a part of my life for so long, I couldn't let her passing go without comment.

By the way... I am wearing leather jeans over Dehner Patrol Boots with a dress shirt.  That's how everyone is accustomed to seeing me -- in leather.  No big deal... just who I am.  My aunt would have expected that attire, too.

Life is short:  show those you love that you respect their wishes -- throw a party and be happy!

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Caregiver's Reflections

Many of my family and friends know that I cared for my Aunt Lee diligently during the last years of her life. While we had been close for some 20 years since she and her husband moved into the retirement community that is close to my home, I can say that since 2005, my relationship with my aunt has been much closer. I promised her husband, my Uncle Charlie, as he was dying in Sept., 2005, that I would look after her needs, but it's also just who I am -- I do those kind of things.

Each visit with her was an adventure. Back when she was more prescient, she would tell stories about travel adventures that she loved. We would go to the grocery store and do some vicious price-comparison shopping. We would enjoy meals together, and have ongoing discussions about current events.

Then matters slowly began to change. What appeared to be some forgetfulness was diagnosed as Alzheimer's Disease. My aunt was forgetting to take medications from time to time, or sometimes would forget some other things, but nothing major. ... until ... one day she left the stove on. I caught it -- no fire -- but that was a motivator for me to get some help.

Through the services of a social worker, we identified a company that provided companion care. That way, someone could be with my aunt during the daytime to help out. Anything from just having someone to talk to, to ensuring she bathed, took her meds, ate meals, and did laundry.

As time and her condition progressed, we expanded the companion care hours and I extended my involvement in more things than just visits. From ordering and organizing her meds to interacting with her physicians to handling her finances (paying bills, filing tax returns, etc.) ... in the last two years, I was pretty much managing her entire life.

Some people have asked, "why didn't you move her to live with you?" Short answer: changing surroundings to a place that was unfamiliar would frighten her. Plus, my home has lots of steps, and my aunt was becoming too weak to navigate steps. I also have to consider my partner and the tremendous imposition of such a change on his life. What we wanted most was to make sure that my aunt could stay in her own home, as she wished, and as I had promised her husband that I would make happen.

Besides exercising my fiscal and caregiving responsibilities, I tried hard to have times just to visit. To laugh. To tell stories. To have a friend come over and cut and style her hair. To speak with her in other languages. I learned that while Alzheimer's Disease causes someone to forget what she just talked about, it does not affect intelligence. My aunt was a very smart woman. She was among very few women who earned a Bachelor's Degree in 1935. She could carry a conversation in English, Spanish, French, and Italian even up to her last days.

Contrary to what some people think, Alzheimer's Disease does not cause everyone to be bitter or angry. I was pleased that my aunt remained happy, calm, and positive throughout her aging and Alzheimer's-imposed memory decline.

One year ago this week, I fell and broke my ankle. My daily visits with my aunt stopped suddenly because I literally couldn't move. While my aunt's companion caregiver still came every day, there was an observable change in my aunt's behavior. She really missed me, and withdrew. Gosh, it hurt to observe that happening.

The very moment I could hobble back onto my feet, I went over to her home. I observed that my aunt had become significantly more feeble and frail.

Then, in May, she began complaining of significant pain in her back. Turns out that she had two compression fractures. The pain became the singular focus of my aunt's attention -- she forgot to eat, to drink, and to bathe. Within a few weeks, she was a medical mess, and I had to have her hospitalized in June for treatment of mild malnutrition, dehydration, and a minor infection.

Returning from the hospital was a feat, orchestrated with the help of senior pals and family. But we were able to get her back home, into a familiar environment. I worked with her caregiving company and got personal attendants (caregivers) on-board 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You'd think, then, that my job was over. Other people were taking care of her. On the contrary, my job was becoming more intense. But I did what I had to do. And loved it. Sure, it was hard sometimes to observe my aunt's physical decline, on top of ongoing memory decline, but if my aunt taught me anything, it was how to age with dignity and grace.

Her caregiving team and I developed a great working relationship. We learned new ways of sharing information with each other about my aunt's ongoing condition and changes, as well as physical, mental, and medical needs. From a four-page grocery check-off list to a tremendous detailed log that everyone could follow to know what and when my aunt ate, pooped, bathed, and so forth. That log was incredibly helpful as I used it to interact with her physicians and to let me know about her ongoing nutritional and caregiving requirements.

I never really counted the hours with which I devoted attention to her care -- both in personal visits as well as while I was at home contacting family, doctors, and her caregiving company's management on a regular basis.

What it all came down to is asking myself, "how would you like to live until death?" -- simple answer: "at home, comfortably." That's what I did. Yes, that was a promise that I made to her husband, but it was also a promise that I made to her, and to myself. "Make it happen." So I did.

I have two recent precious memories: her 96th birthday party, celebrated on January 2, 2011, with cake, ice cream, and sharing joy with her caregiving team and two of our Delegates in the Maryland General Assembly. My aunt was presented a House Resolution recognizing her birthday. She was thrilled.

On Monday, January 24, I have another fond memory. Her caregiver suggested that since two of us were there, that my aunt should exercise by walking. I got her up, we walked into the Living Room, then rested a bit, then walked back. Aunt Lee turned to me and said, "how far did I go?" I casually replied, "well, not quite a marathon." Then Lee said in her dry wit, "well, a marathon is 26 kilometers. I have only walked two, so that's 1/13th of a marathon." That just astounded me as both a demonstration of how Alzheimer's doesn't affect intelligence, but also how she could come up with such funny things to say.

Unfortunately, Aunt Lee's condition was very frail, and any little thing could have -- and did -- set off a chain of consequences that resulted in death. On the evening of Monday, January 24, she had rapid-onset aspiration pneumonia which caused less oxygen to reach her heart, and she suffered a heart attack. Her caregiver on duty saved her life by responding immediately to call 9-1-1 and then me. Admission through the E.R. to Intensive Care at the hospital followed. While those events did not directly kill her, she was not able to recover. On Wednesday, January 26, she died peacefully with two of her caregivers and me by her side, and was not in pain. She actually had a slight smile on her face when she passed.

I am not bereft or lost or crying hysterically. I learned so much in caring for my aunt, including preparing for and accepting that death is part of the circle of life. I am at peace with myself in knowing that I did all that I could, and my aunt was happy, safe, and loved. It is fitting that our last words with each other were, "I love you."

Many times you've heard me say, "life is short: show those you love that you love them." I practice doing that all the time. Most regularly with my aunt, but also with some other precious senior pals who I look after, but who also look after me.

Life is indeed short: make it worth living by extending your heart to care for others.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Memories of Love

I'll be breaking for a bit, as my family and I gather to celebrate the joy of a rich and wonderful life, my lovely Aunt Lee.  She celebrated her 96th birthday just a few weeks ago, with cake, ice cream, noisemakers, and recognition from our State General Assembly.

She passed away today, and I was by her side, holding her hand.  Our last words were, "I love you."  I'm at peace.

Through the years, we've been close, but I have to say in the last five years since her husband's passing, we've been even closer.

When my Uncle Charlie died in 2005, our last words were a promise, "I'll take care of your wife."

That I did... and it was a joy to do.

Engineer Boots Gay?

Search engines, Bing this time, never cease to bring me amusement.  Someone from Mineola, Texas, (about 80 miles east of Dallas) searched:

"Engineer Boots Gay?" and landed on my "Wesco Boots -- Gay" blog post. 

I will not repeat myself (too much) from what I wrote yesterday.  I have learned that kids today use the word "gay" as a synonym for "lame."  The concern expressed, if someone is searching for it, is to know the opinions of other people about engineer boots.

I have to say that engineer boots are among the most masculine in appearance and design.  Their design dates back over 150 years, to the days when trains were running into new territories in the westward expansion of the United States.  With a bold, rounded toe, single strap and buckle across the instep, the boots make a firm statement.  In my opinion, the statement is that the man wearing them doesn't put up with anyone's bullsh*t.  Most guys who are man enough to wear engineer boots -- be it to have on while riding a motorcycle or just knockin' about the neighborhood casually -- are strong and confident.

In my opinion, if you have to ask, "engineer boots gay," then you aren't mature enough to wear them because you're still worried about other people's opinions.  When you grow up to become a man, you will realize that other people's opinions about what you choose to wear on your feet are lame -- not the boots.

'nuf said.

Life is short:  wear boots, engineer style or otherwise.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Autoblogging While Otherwise Engaged

Just an update ... this blog will be posting a post-a-day from posts that I have previously written for about a week.

The aunt for whom I regularly care was hospitalized on Monday night, and is gravely ill in a guarded condition.  I am focusing on "my calling" to ensure she receives all the care required.  

No more original content for a while until she's stable and I have time to think.

Keep her in your prayers.  "BHD's Aunt" will do just fine.  God knows... :-)

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

PS:  I say that all the time, but I mean it!  Pay a visit, give a call -- show those you love that you love them.  You never know what may happen, so live each day to its fullest and have no regrets.

Are Harness Boots Gay?

Here we go again, google searches of the most inane type:
These questions keep showing up regularly, and Google directs them to this blog and my website.

What the person from Fontana, California, probably intended was to inquire about the perception of others his age was about wearing harness boots.  What I learned from this blog post (link) is that the term "that's gay" is used by kids these days to mean "that's lame."  And not lame as in crippled, but as in "dumb" or "stupid."  And not dumb as in unable to speak, either.

Read this post for a humorous explanation of the evolution of American English to get a glimpse of how calling something "gay" is meant as a pejorative -- or abhorative -- statement, but not having to do directly with the sexual orientation of the person doing something -- like wearing harness boots. That post also explains how, in the mind of kids today, that "gay = lame" in their use of the language.

Nonetheless, it is not dumb, stupid, lame, or "gay" to wear harness boots.  A younger guy who enters a question into a search engine, "are harness boots gay?" is perhaps interested in the style of the boots, but afraid what others may think.  Lots of research continues to show that young people are extremely concerned about perceptions of others, as they have not matured enough to be their own person, and have not yet learned to dismiss and not worry about other people's perceptions.

So all I can say is, when you grow up and become a man, you may choose to wear harness boots because you like how they look and how they feel on your feet, and you have matured enough to care less about your peer's opinions.

'nuf said.

Life is short:  be patient with the young, for they known not what they say.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Observations From Frye Boot Fan

Note from BHD:  This is the second of a two-part guest blog series from Frye Boot Fan.  His previous post recalling how he got into wearing Fryes as a teen during the late '60s in suburban Washington, DC, is here (link).  Below, he shares additional observations.

Footwear historians note that in turbulent and unsettled times (wars, etc.), for centuries, the unconscious trend is towards substantial boots, as they make us feel safer and more protected than foot-revealing, light-weight, low shoes. It's all very psychological.

Look at that era, no more tumultuous or troubling times that I can think of in the 20th Century.  As youngsters we lived in mortal fear of getting drafted and going to Vietnam, getting busted by "the pigs," having to run away, or just let our "boot heels go a-wandering" at a moment's notice to escape parents' authority  (e.g. the series of Kay Lenz hippie-hitch-hiker-girl movies, 'Billy Jack', troubled teen flicks, etc.)

Too close to home--remember the skies glowing red all night from DC in flames in the 1968 riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King?  It was pure trauma to suburban kids--boots afforded protection.

Until Fryes hit the scene, really, the only alternative were cowboy boots.  Those were uncomfortable and bespoke red-neck culture.  Where I lived, those guys were pretty hostile to long-hairs like us.  We dallied with surplus store combat boots for a while. Those were "cool," but too grim a reminder of what might await us at 18--Vietnam service.  Frye boots were just the right things at the right time for our generation.  They were not hold-overs from any previous generation, not borrowed from another sub-culture--they belonged entirely to us.  We made then culturally-charged icons, pure and simple, not a style with any stigmas to overcome like cowboy boots.

Dress has ever been all-defining.  In the halcyon heydays of Fryes, for all of the propaganda about non-conformity and free-thinking, a more rigid and "uniform" dress code enforced by peer-pressure I cannot imagine than what we endured.  Official public school dress codes mandating: neatly cropped hair, collared dress shirts, and prohibiting blue jeans, boots, etc. in the classroom had only just been rescinded in local junior and senior high schools in '67 or so, and this new-found freedom began the whole sartorial "fashionista" trend for school kids--the excesses of which are now causing a return to dress codes in U.S. public schools (nobody I heard of ever got killed over their Frye boots, as some have been for popular sneakers).

If period advertising is anything to go by, the current chronology of Frye styles is messed-up it seems to me.  Frye marketing claimed that the "Campus" boot came "first" in the "mid-'60s", as a revival of some "1863" boot. I cannot find any ads for the "Campus" style until c.1973, even among the copycats like Sears, who only lagged a few months in ripping-off popular styles.  Double H Boots' website says they came out with their "Snoot Boot"(TM) (harness) in direct competition with Frye, around '70-'71, but HH never copied the "Campus" style.  The square snoot toe and harness, I think, came in first, but what year exactly?  Some bloggers claim to have worn Frye harness boots to Woodstock (Aug. '69).  Is there a really a pair shown in 'Easy Rider' (1969)?  Maybe we need to look more closely at album cover photos of the day. Others say Jim Morrison (d. '71) wore Fryes to boost his height, but no reference to which exact style.

If my memory serves, the harness boots appeared on the suburban DC scene c.1970 at the earliest, and the Campus boot followed in c.1973.  All of the Frye Co. ads I have found pre-1970 only show cowboy boots, and the older '40s-'50s ads shoe just the "Jet" boots, all mail-order only.  My theory is, Frye underwent some changes when they decided to wholesale boots to retail stores, and that this coincided with the new styles of the harness and later the "Campus".  The square toe harness style was quickly co-opted by long-hairs, and bikers, so Frye came out with the more clean-cut and neutral "Campus" style for the general youth market, by then trending towards bulbous toe shapes, thick platform soles and the straight chunky heels that reigned supreme during the Disco era.   More research is needed here.

BHD comment:  My recollections about Fryes are the same as my Guest Blogger's memories -- we grew up in the same geographic area, and are about the same age.  Actually, I was just under the wire of having to register for the draft back in the day.  I recall comments about "only rednecks wear boots" and thought those slurs were part of an ongoing repitoire of commentary that was hurled at me by other guys who picked on me -- typical grade-school bully stuff (though we were in high school at the time.)  To me, I just liked to wear boots, and I did.  I began back then to emerge as my own person, and with the encouragement of my family, I didn't let negative comments make me change my mind about what I chose to wear on my feet.  Plus, having strong ties to Oklahoma, wearing cowboy boots in Maryland was a way to demonstrate some pride for my mother's family roots and my Choctaw blood.

One more word:  I realize that about half of my blog visitors live elsewhere in the world, and do not know what a "redneck" is.  That is a term for someone who works out in the hot sun, such as a farm worker.  Thus, their neck would get red from sunburn.  It was usually a term of reference to someone from the U.S. South, and in the north, calling someone a "redneck" was deemed an insult.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Note from BHD:  the following post was written by "Frye Boot Fan," a guy with whom I have been corresponding lately.  He grew up in the same county that I did and during the same era, though we did not know each other. With his permission, I am posting his recollections of wearing boots in the late 60s and early 70s in the suburbs of Washington, DC, in one of the most wealthy counties in Maryland.

Cool boots were part and parcel with bell bottoms and the urge to grow long hair, none of which my parents would tolerate until I entered junior high in 1969.  Junior High was a melting pot of diverse kid-tribes from several elementary schools -- [well-to-do Suburb A] with Bohemian [Suburb B] and blue collar and collarless [Suburb C] -- as diverse as the United Nations it seemed.  The "freaks", proto-hippies in-training I fell in with; the "greasers" from the marchlands, plus the clan-less mass of collegiate clean-cut kids.  These three tribes were known as "click, soul, and rock-n-roll," in reverse order given above, "click"=clean cuts, "soul"=greasers, and "rock-n-roll"=freaks.

Dress, musical tastes and overall demeanor defined one's tribe, and there was no inter-tribal fraternization, especially between freaks and greasers, amongst who there abided the greatest animosity.  The "click" kids were seen largely viewed as potential recruits for both groups, though some of their more intrepid girls were fair game, dating into either tribe, but I digress. The "greasers" amused themselves with hot-rodding older buddies' '57 Chevys, wearing black leather blazers over white tee-shirts, or pastel yellow Banlon polo shirts; cuffed khaki trou worn too short in the legs, and black high-top "Chucks" (Converse All Star sneakers).  They maintained '50ish coiffures with plenty of hair grease, hence the name I suppose.  They listened to R&B soul music music, and hosted the occasional chain-fight rumble.  Nobody messed with these dudes--bad news.  The "freaks" of course listened to rock, formed garage and basement bands, chased hippie chicks in all their sartorial splendor, and discovered pot.

As 7th graders we of course looked to the 9th graders for fashion guidance in everything cool.  They were two years ahead of us in hair growth, as they had fatigued their parents into accepting a level of hippie dress our parents were still resisting.  This was soon to change as the pressure for hip back-to-school wardrobes and plummage was overwhelming, and parents relented in most cases.  After assorted un-cool boots all my young years, the first cool boots I had to have were Flagg Brothers chocolate brown suede, back-zipped, pointed toe, 8" Beatle Boots, with an instep strap and antique brass buckle.  These were pure crap, and only available from a Flagg Brothers store in the mall.  With all the walking we did, in all sorts of nasty weather, one pair was blown-out in three months, but they started us on the road to that loose-fitting, clunkity-clunk heel walking soon perfected.  The next boot du jour was a Jarman fashion boot, a pull-on, with a wide square toe, and likewise an instep strap and buckle. These came from a store at the mall too, and were as crap-tastically made as the Flagg Bros. fashion boots.  Snoot toed harness boots, Fryes and cheaper Sears knock-offs for the kids on tighter budgets appeared on the scene overnight it seemed in late '69--or maybe for back-to-school in '70-'71.

My first pair were Frye, sans harness, snoot toed, antique stained reddish-brown color, with an added leather 1/2 sole in the front, 3 tacks across the toe and a few at the sides.  These, like all my subsequent Fryes were bought at a Western Wear store in Washington, DC.  Why mom drove all the way down there I have no idea.  Now correctly Frye-booted, and in faded Levi's "Big Bells," frayed away at the back from being overly long and trodden under boot heels, from the waist down I was "cool" man! I recall Fryes cost $70 a pair then, a princely sum, so I only got one pair each year for back-to-school.  Consequently, we devolved a taste for beat-up Fryes, to match our beat-up everything else.  The 9D was too short, but the 9-1/2 D boots were always a bit sloppy on me, so the clunkity-clunk heel noise was accentuated. I ran the counters over badly, the heels down, and the snoot toes mushed into amorphous shapes after several months' hard wear. For us nothing was quite so cool unless it looked like it was about worn out--brand new Fryes were the exception, but they did not hold their shape for long.  It amazes me how many vintage Fryes on Etsy and eBay today have managed to keep in such good shape, especially those snoot toes, as they were usually the first things to go soft.

In 8th grade pair #2, same again, but this time with the more dangerous harness--"Dingo Rings" we called 'em.  During a favorite pastime--dodging gym class by feigning to have no gym clothes--the coach chided me: "if your mom can afford those expensive Frye boots, she can afford to buy you sneakers!"  What an asshole he was--Fryes were cool, high top black Chucks for gym were greaser-gear.

The 9th grade was passed in the harness boot, but it was off to High School in a more daring saddle tan pair.  When that pair were about shot I experimented pulling the heels off and wearing them that way. What a rube. It was back to basic antiqued reddish brown harness Fryes from then on, some with the 1/2 sole added, some without, whatever the store had on the shelf.  After high school, more of the same.  By then I discovered that an spare pack of smokes would slip down in the leg for those long weekend over-nights, parties, and forays with some exotic "B-Town girl" or another.

It seems nothing great lasts forever.  My "last" Fryes were bought in 1977 for a trip to Britain, and it seems the snoot toed harness boot was being supplanted in local popularity, as well as the store stock selection, mostly by the dreaded "Campus" boot.  This pair was an unappealing burgundy-red, with natural colored sole and heel edges, all of which I over-dyed black.  After suffering shin splints because of the 2" chunky heel, I had the heels lowered.  Other footwear was by then rotating through my young adult wardrobe, but that pair of Fryes held on in occasional wear, clumping through Austria, the Czech Republic, and the UK several times into the late 1990s.  I finally made a gift of them to a 20-something pal who was obsessed with the '70s cultural revival and dress, and they are still going somewhere up in Connecticut. Interestingly those less than desirable broad blunt Campus toes, and the heel counters, held their shapes better than the 9 or 10 previous pair with snoot toes.  The latter crushed down and looked every bit like the Campus toe eventually, but it was the principle of the thing.  To me the Campus boot hinted of Disco music/culture (I deplored) and platform shoes, and they had none of the danger or cache of the harness with snoot toe in '70.  Levi's stopped making those "Big Bells" by 1980, too, and I even cut my hair off short, at shoulder-length, and had it layered.  What were we thinking?

The final chapter--I chanced upon some '90s vintage used Frye 9-1/2D harness boots in an antique shop in Pennsylvania about four years back, and bought them for $35.  Oh how the mighty had fallen.  The insoles were foam padded, and it took the heaviest socks I could find to even keep them on my feet, meaning they were cold weather boots at best.  They were finally gifted to my '70s-obsessed young friend too.  Last week on my birthday my wife presented me a nearly-new pair of saddle tan, 15" Campus Fryes, "Black Label", and I've been clunkity-clunking all over the house ever since, and scoping Etsy and eBay for some antiqued brown harness boots with snoot toes.  The Campus boots still whisper Disco-era to me, and I need to go back to the headier days of Led Zeppelin, Zappa and the Stones, underground comics, and maybe some Levi's big bells, if I can find them in 33 waist now.

Frye Boot Fan apologizes that the photos of him do not show him in his Fryes.  Image blurred on purpose, to protect the identity of the guest blogger.  If you wish to comment, you may do so with this post, and he will see it, or you may send me a message and I will forward it to him.

Be sure to read "Observations from a Frye Boot Fan" -- Part II of this guest blog series posted 24 January, 2011.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Making Lemonade Out of Lemons

One of my blog readers brought up a point that I thought that I would address on my blog.  The point was more of a pondering related to what choices someone makes when life deals you a blow.  Man, I've had that happen.  Not lately, but when it has happened, one goes through several stages of emotions before arriving at the outcome.

When something bad happens, one can choose to wallow in self-pity and blame everyone and everything else.  Sometimes, someone else is truly at fault.  But the situation is what it is and you have to deal with it.

Unfortunately, I observe all too often that people stop at the stage of blaming others and continue to dwell on the "they did this to me" position, taking things very personally.  Then wishing ill on "them" and crafting ideas to get back at "them" while really doing nothing to change the current state of affairs.

Certainly, when I have been dealt a blow that I feel was undeserved, unwarranted, or just plain wrong, I have expressed emotions about how I feel.  I am human.  I get hurt -- sometimes too easily.

But if life has taught me anything, it is that revenge is best served by living well.  Instead of wallowing in blaming others, I make lemonade out of lemons.  That is an American expression by turning matters around to a positive rather than a negative.

I guess that is how I am wired and how I was raised:  not to let bad things get me down for too long.  Plus, I credit my partner and my family for not letting me get that way.  From listening to me rant, then reminding me that I am "better than that," to asking me to tell them what I will do about it, their encouragement helps me find a positive way of dealing with a negative situation.

Sometimes it is not easy.  Sometimes I feel that I have been truly wronged, and that "they" are total assholes who need a proverbial kick-in-the-butt.  But I also realize that sometimes things happen for reasons that I am not fully aware of, or due to politics, or that I am not the universally well-loved guy that I make myself out to be.  Yeah, there are some people out there who don't like me, and never will, and who look for ways to make me uncomfortable.  That happens in real life, in real jobs, and in the real world.  Life stinks sometimes.

But the outcome doesn't have to be crap.  I have learned that if you focus on the negative and look for ways to spread the negativity by making lives miserable of those who have made your life (temporarily) miserable, then you are only dwelling in everything that is bad -- for your psyche, soul, and sense of self-worth.  Bad-breeds-bad, negative-breeds-negative.  One can lose his mind and his soul by continuing to let this happen.

Instead, I stop, look, and listen to my expressions of how I am feeling.  I begin with one step.  I ask myself, "what is one thing I can do positive for the day?"  Likely, for me, it is finding a way to help someone else.  Making a phone call to a senior bud asking, "how are you?" or "I have to go to the grocery store, and I would like some company."  Seldom do they refuse.  I find that by being in a position of helping someone else eases my tension and negative feelings.  I deliberately choose NOT to tell the other person about how I am feeling because it results in a non-ending discourse of "woe is me."

I begin with what I can do to relieve my tension by focusing on someone else for a change.  It's not "all about me."

Depending on how bad the situation was, I may continue to do this "one-step-at-a-time" thing for days or weeks.  Then, with the passage of time and its ability to heal-by-distance, I reassess and evaluate, "where do I go from here?"

My next step is to write down these steps: Network here.  Update my profile there.  Discuss professional activities with X, Y, and Z.  Put in a public speaking proposal for a professional conference.  Sign up to testify before our local bodies politic (there is always something to testify about!)  Build something.  Fix something on our house or one of my rental properties -- or better yet, for one of my legion of senior pals.  Exercise more (such as list how many days this week I will walk 5 miles, 8 miles, 10 miles).

I will make a list of positive things I can do for myself.  I do not change my other "duties" such as my regular care for my aunt, my partner, and my senior pals.  I just make sure that I have a list of positive, focused, accomplishable and measurable activities that I can check off and say, "things are better for me because I have done this, that, and the other thing."

Life can be rough.  You have a choice to live in the muck, or (speaking in analogies): enjoy getting your boots dirty for a while, hose 'em off, and climb out of that hole.

Life is short:  lemonade is much sweeter than lemons.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Attitude: Confidence vs. Arrogance

I had the unfortunate experience of receiving a "present" -- a ticket -- on my first day at the new job back in November.  Like a lemming, I followed cars in front of me into the parking garage under the building.  I didn't know then (but certainly know now) that where I went in was actually the exit, and my ticket was for making an illegal left turn.

Okay, I did that -- first time, ever, have I received a citation.  I haven't even gotten a parking ticket in my entire 37 years of having a driver's license.

What bothered me most was that the cop who cited me behaved in an arrogant manner.  He laughed in my face and said, "you made an illegal turn, and I'm gotta getcha for that."  With an evil grin, he gave me the ticket and said that I could follow any of the options listed on it.

I am very understanding of the tough job that cops have to do, and am usually forgiving when a cop expresses his annoyance with the dumb things that a lot of people do.  I read a number of cop blogs and learn quite a bit from what they say and learn about their perceptions of us "citizens" (though one's country of origin and U.S. citizenship has nothing to do with it. That's just "cop speak" and they, like verbal lemmings, repeat what they hear and follow the pack.)

I would have just accepted the ticket and paid the fine if the infraction for which I was cited didn't involve having points assessed to my driving record.  Points are bad things, which can lead to higher insurance premiums for years.  I am very proud of my spotless driving record.  I really do obey the law when I drive, go the speed limit, park legally, and so forth.

Therefore, I decided to exercise my right to go to court. The court appearance was yesterday.  I pleaded "guilty with an explanation."  I admitted that I followed everyone else, and shouldn't have.  I even said that I was "guilty of being a lemming."  The judge laughed, but the cop stood there and continued to sneer. (I mean that. His nose was wrinkled and his face was in what seems to be a permanent grimace.)

I showed the judge a copy of my clean driving record, explained that it was my first day in a new location, and I was disoriented.  I apologized for my error and promised never to do it again.

The judge gave me "probation before judgment," made me pay a fine and court costs, but did not assess any points on my license.  That's really what I wanted, so I accomplished what I set out to do.

However, at the very end of my few minutes before the judge, he asked, "do you have anything else to tell me?"  With that, I told the judge that the attitude of the officer was less than professional, laughing at me and using a threatening tone.

I know you cops out there defend that behavior and think "us citizens" are a bunch of whiners.  Look, I work with a lot of cops in my civic life, and I am accustomed to the typical "cop attitude" of being confident.  There is a difference between confidence and arrogance. When it comes down to laughing and saying, "I'm gonna getcha," that did it.  So I told the judge.

I thought the judge would just dismiss it, as the judge always found in favor of the cops.  I don't question that -- cops are trained to record their observations and state them accurately.  Instead of being dismissive, though, the judge looked up and asked the cop, "did you say that?"  The cop admitted, "yes, sir."  The judge told him not to do that again.  Then I was dismissed to await my paperwork, then pay the fine, and leave.

Honestly, I think the cop adopted this attitude because he is assigned to traffic enforcement, and usually operates a motorcycle.  (Easy to spot the motorcop uniform of breeches and boots). But in winter, on the day he was laying in wait in that parking garage to nab me, he was assigned a patrol car.  I read about and hear from some bike cops I know that they detest being assigned to work in a car.  To some of them -- at least for that cop who stopped me -- that assignment seemed to affect his attitude, big-time.  Surly, borderline rude, and not professionally representing the police agency for whom he works.

I am a professional myself, and I expect to be treated professionally.  I have to say, 99% of the cops with whom I have spoken or communicated have been nothing but the utmost in professionalism.  This cop, however, was the bad apple in the bunch.  Heck, even his boots were dirty and unpolished, and his uniform was wrinkled and sloppy.  He presents an image of someone who doesn't care -- about himself or how he represents his department.

So, bike cops reading this blog:  shine your boots, get your uniforms pressed, and remember that we, the public, judge you as you judge us.  Be professional.  If we are wrong, we're wrong, and "us citizens" need to admit it when we err, but we don't need to be told, "I'm gonna getcha."  That's childish.

'nuf said, rant over.

Life is short:  admit your mistakes, correct them, and move on.

P.S.: When I was leaving the courthouse, I saw the cop who was the subject of this post leaving, also. He walked to his patrol car, parked next to the courthouse, in a specifically designated "no parking zone." Not a zone saying, "police only," but specifically saying, "no parking." I know that cops get offended when the public thinks that we think they can get by with violations for which, if we did it, we would get a ticket. But when he pulled a dumb stunt like that, it only reinforces the public perception that cops think they are above the law. Instead, they should be setting the example for others, and obey the laws they enforce.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Smart Phoneless

I am a throwback to the dinosaur age, I guess.  I have steadfastly refused to pay the through-the-nose charges the providers demand for a data package which would enable features on a smart phone to receive email, text messages, and surf the web.

Why is it that I am so resistant to adopting this technology?  I mean, it's not like I don't know what they are.  I had a Blackberry for a few years in my past job, and I realize that these devices can be convenient.

I am resistant for three reasons:
  • The cost -- I strongly resent how much providers charge for data packages. At over US$60/month (least-cost plan fees & taxes included), it's not worth it to me. In my opinion, paying those fees makes rich companies richer, and I can do without sending my hard-earned dollars to make these companies more wealthy. And while I love the county where I live, I resent that they impose among the highest taxes on wireless technology in the U.S. (but since this IS Snoburbia, I know the county is deriving a killing from these taxes, because everyone and her brother has two or more of these devices, each!)
  • The "tethered" results -- while I like to think that my job is important, I am not.  I don't have to read and respond to email instantly.  It can wait.  I feel so sorry for all those people I see who are constantly pecking away on their smart phones, reading and responding to email, everywhere they go (including at restaurants, at their own dinner table, at the movies, in grocery stores, and while driving. Come on, you're NOT that important, either!)
  • The annoyance factor -- face it, if you have one of those things, you're very tempted to let it drag you into dealing with it (answering a text or email, for example) and most people admit that they can't turn it off. In fact, a recent Press Release from CareerBuilder indicated that 71% of job applicants answered a cell phone call or sent a text during a job interview. Sheesh! No wonder kids these days are having trouble finding a job -- they can't put their toys down!
I also acknowledge that I have a computer available to me at home, at work, and when I travel. So when I need to check messages, I can do that. I do not need a device that enables internet-wherever-you-are because I am truly not that mobile.  Further, I truly believe in managing technology, and not letting technology manage you.

By the way, while my profession has something to do with emergency response, my day-to-day job does not require me to run when the bell rings. Therefore, I have no need to have a device to provide immediate alerts nor be used "in the field" during a response. I'll let the younger guys do the responding, and for that, they earn my ongoing, deep respect.

"You have blocked texting on your cell phone, too?" ... is a frequent question I am asked with great incredulity.  Yes, that's true.  I don't send or receive text messages.  I have no one to do that with, anyway, as my partner does not have a cell phone at all.  And I don't understand what this texting business is all about, anyway.  I survive just fine with plain old ordinary email.

I am observing that about 10% of the visitors to my website come in via various smart phone devices.  That's quite a jump in recent months.  I know that they are ways to make a website more "smart phone friendly," but I haven't a clue how to do that, and since I do not have one, I do not have a way to check it.  Oh well, one of these days, I'll consider if website changes are necessary.

Meanwhile, I live in the quietude of being "smart phoneless."  Let me tell 'ya, the peacefulness of not being tethered to some tech-toy and not having to shell out a huge amount of money each month far outweighs the convenience of having one.

A note to SJ: Yes, I am revealing another one of my prejudices -- or as I call it, one of my choices. :-)

Life is short:  enjoy being unplugged and the quiet.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bankers and Cowboy Boots

The obsession about whether on not one should wear cowboy boots continues, as evidenced by this google search which landed on my "Cowboy Boots and Jeans" web page:
The question from someone at Wachovia Bank's headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, was:  "can I wear cowboy boots with a suit?"

Well of course you can... the question is, do you want to?  Does the corporate dress code say anything about it?  Probably not.  Corporate dress codes have relaxed a lot in the past decade.  As long as you're not wearing flip-flops or crocs, you can wear anything you like on your feet.

So I return, once again, to the age-old mantra, it is not if you can but what you think of yourself and your fear of what others may say.

Get over it.  Dress cowboy boots look fine with a suit.  On those rare occasions when I wear a suit, be it to an office or a high-class social function, I wear nice-looking cowboy boots.  If the boots are well-shined and don't have dramatic flairs like colorful inlays or contrasting colors of scales from snakes, or are not dyed unusual colors, then certainly, you CAN and you SHOULD wear cowboy boots with a suit.

But only you make that choice.  What drives the choice is usually not the quality of the boot or its appearance, but your own internal fears or concerns about other people's perceptions.  Be your own man.  Boot up!

Life is short:  wear boots!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How Rich Are You?

This was an actual question that someone sent to me recently.  I have not communicated with him before. His first email to me said, "nice boots... how rich are you?"  He was from somewhere in the United States.

How rich am I?

I will answer it this way:  I am richer than I could ever imagine....

I have a wonderful partner who cares for me deeply, and tenderly looks after me.  He is my rock.  He keeps me focused, strong, and positive.  He makes sure that I am safe, well, and protected.  He loves me unconditionally.  He is a testament to strength, fortitude, endurance, and faith.  He is the foundation of my soul.  What other words may I use?  How does one measure his richness by his blessings of his best half?

I am rich with the love and support from family.  They nurture me, care for me, love me, and keep me sane and well-grounded.  All of my siblings, nieces, nephews, "greats," cousins, aunts, uncles ... the whole fam-damily -- as many as we are -- we are who we are because of our bond of blood.  My siblings, in particular, are a testament to what love is all about.  We all are different in many ways.  However, overall, our bond is deep, enduring, and its richness is undescribable.

I am rich with strong bonds of enduring friendship with people who know what a real friend is all about.  They do so many things to show their love.  Some of my friends have done that for me for over 50 years, and some more recently.  It has been said that you can measure how rich you are by the strength of your bonds of friendship.  I do not take these bonds lightly.  I do what I can to extend myself to caring for my friends as they care for me.  Each and every day I am made richer by these wonderful, thoughtful, caring souls.

I am rich with learning patience every day. I care for my 96-year-old aunt who has Alzheimer's Disease, as well as general old-age infirmities. Under the clouded thoughts and occasional blank stares lies a woman who has done a lot in her own life, and who loves me deeply. This experience of enabling her to continue to live on her own terms, in her own home, with activities and actions that keep her life meaningful enrichen me in ways that I cannot describe, and make me a better person. I have learned how to listen better, to observe better, and how to be a much more patient man.

I am rich with the ability to extend caring to a large network of senior pals. Helping them out, taking them to get groceries, fixing things and doing home repairs, preparing tax returns... these people are the net that sustain my life of voluntarism and my heart, which makes me richer than anything else: the ability to extend yourself to make someone else's life better makes one rich in his soul.

I am rich with community.  I live in an exciting place.  Right outside the door (almost) of the Capital of the United States.  I live in a state (Maryland) that is thoughtful in its approach and acceptance of my partner and my relationship (and isn't hateful, hurtful, and backward as some other states).

I live with rich diversity. My local government is provided by a county, not a city. The county is strong and vibrant.  Its government is inclusive.  It listens.  It responds.  It may take some whacks on the proverbial head to get some local elected officials and county leaders to listen ... but they do.  We're all in this together, and the richness of my community composed of almost a million residents who hail from all corners of the world demonstrates how diversity makes us all stronger and better as a people.

I am rich with strong faith.  I have deep faith and belief in powers beyond my own.  I have faith in humanity, civility, and what's right -- rather than what's wrong.  I believe....

I am rich with a job that I love.  I enjoy working.  I enjoy the heck out of doing what I do.  Words cannot describe how rich one feels when one wakes each morning and says, "oh, goodie!  I get to go to work today!  Yippie!"  (Seriously, I am insanely happy with my employment....)

Materially, I have enough resources to live comfortably, in a nice house that we built, and to have things that make life fun, like my Harley.  I owe no debt.  I do not carry a balance on any credit cards.  I live life responsibly.  I practice financial responsibility.  Because I have managed my resources well, I have had sufficient discretionary funds to buy some boots and leather items from time to time.  But I do not spend money that I don't have.

I am also rich by means of measurement with many other intangibles.  Seriously, to me, that is what makes life "rich."  It's not money or things.  It's people.  As they told George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, "no man is a failure who has friends" and he was "the richest man in town."

Yep, I consider myself to be among the richest men in town ... all because of the relationships with the people who make my life that way.

Life is short:  cherish your family and your friends.  They are, after all, what makes life rich and rewarding.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Grrrr: Web Hosting Changes Back!

Here we go again! and my personal website that I use for my family and to represent myself professionally have both been switched back to the former servers that each of them were on.  If you had trouble accessing the website(s) yesterday, that's probably why.

It turns out that the new-to-me web hosting service was trapping email that I absolutely needed for my professional job.  In a number of dialogues with them by phone, email, and on-line chat, they refused to acknowledge that it was their problem.  They insisted that they were not trapping email when I know for darn sure that it was sent, yet I did not receive it.  What was probably happening is that they have much more stringent filters on their servers and those filters trap a lot of stuff that they should not.

Further, there were other technical problems and concerns that I encountered.  I will not bore you with the details.  Let's just say that I am happy that I did not cancel my old web hosting service, so I could just point the DNS back to them for my websites, make sure the files on each site were the most recent (restored from backups), and be back in business.

Grrrrr... I wish this stuff weren't so complicated.  But it's working.  That's what matters.

By the way, if you sent an email to me at my BHD email address between 8 January and 15 January, then I regret that it is gone. I think that I have replied to all of my email during that period, but if I did not, then please accept my apologies and write to me again. I have not lost my email address book -- just the actual emails that I received during that week. (And I have not lost any of my professional email as that is processed by a secondary anti-spam filter, which retains copies of all of my email before sending it to me through my web host.)

Life is short:  don't point fingers at others when your company is to blame.

P.S.:  I am having fun with you -- if you clicked on the link to "my personal website" above, I directed you to a spoof site.  That's not my personal site.  Those who need to know what it is know where to find it.  I do not reveal that side of me on this blog.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Instead of MAL...

"MAL" means "Mid-Atlantic Leather," the second-largest annual gathering of the leather clan in the U.S.  It is going on in downtown Washington, DC, and ends tonight.  I blogged the other day about why my partner and I decided not to attend.  Been there, done that....

Instead of going to MAL, I wore full leather anyway:  long-sleeved hunter green leather shirt, leather riding pants, and Wesco Boss boots.  My partner and I went to the motorcycle show that was also in town, at the Convention Center.  It was easy to get to because we could use our Metro subway system, which has a stop right there... convenient.

We strolled around, looked at the new bikes, show bikes, display bikes, and the various vendors' booths.  While several vendors were selling leather gear (vests, jackets, and chaps), only one vendor was selling U.S.-made gear.

Most of the leather gear was cheap junk made of imported leather from Pakistan.  The lack of quality showed.  What also showed was what these vendors know about the demographic of guys who attend these shows.  I swear, some vendors only had vests and jackets that started at US Size 50 -- and up!  My gosh!  But their knowledge and decision-making about what to display for sale was, sadly, spot-on.

Funny, two guys came up to me and said, "that's a cool shirt?  Who's selling it?" -- wanting to know which vendor at the motorcycle show had it for sale.  I told both of them the truth:  they could get this leather shirt if they wanted it, but the vendor displaying it was at the Hyatt Regency, not at the convention center.  One guy said, "that's strange" and another said, "why there?"  To both, I explained that there was a "leather convention" at the hotel, and the vendor of this shirt, Mr. S. Leather, had a display there.  Neither quite understood what I was saying, but both said, "nahhh... too far away."  (giggle.) Also, what they didn't need to know was that a change this year at MAL is that you have to pay $10 just to stroll around the exhibit hall if you did not buy a full admission package.

Back to the motorcycle show: I saw and spoke with some people I know, while my partner shied away and tried to fade into the background.  We strolled around, and had lunch -- and I wasn't surprised, but disappointed, that the cost of lunch was equal to the cost of two entry tickets.  Yikes!

It was a nice way to do something different and spend the afternoon with my partner.  Photos with this post show me on a 2011 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic.  No, I am not considering getting it, or any new bike.  My 2008 Road King suits me just fine.

On the way home, I did see a couple guys decked out in full leather on their way into town.  I can imagine where they were going.  Hope they, and all attending MAL, had fun.

Life is short:  enjoy your leather while attending a non-gay-leather-dude event!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Why Do People Wear Cowboy Boots?

From another Google search, someone from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA, entered:
While this person can't spel (and since I was educamated in Oklahoma, I know we were taught the difference between "wear" and "were,") nonetheless, this person's query will be answered.

Why do people wear cowboy boots?  From my perspective, as an every-day boot wearer, I would say:

1) Cowboy boots look good -- as good (or in my opinion, better) than dress shoes, worn with slacks or pants over them.  I wear them to the office in a professional setting all the time.  So do many other men who don't have hang-ups about what's on their feet or fears about what others may say. (And no, one does not "have" to wear a cowboy hat when wearing cowboy boots.)

2)  Cowboy boots feel good -- boots feel solid on the foot.  Well-made cowboy boots are sturdy, but flexible.  They are easy to walk in and yet are rigid enough to protect the ankle.

3)  Cowboy boots come in a variety of colors, shapes of toes, and can be plain or fancy -- to fit the wearer's interest and style.

4)  Cowboy boots can have a higher heel (compared with dress shoes).  Some guys like a little more height than what God has given them.  And I'm not talking about spikey heels.  I'm talking about a "cowboy walking heel" which is 1-5/8" to 1-3/4" high -- about an inch higher than a typical shoe heel, and yet not so high as to make it difficult to walk in them.  Some cowboy boots have heels from two to three inches, or more.  I have trouble walking in heels higher than two inches, so most of my cowboy boots have walking heels -- for my comfort.

5)  Cowboy boots (or any real boot for that matter) provides better protection to the ankle which can be injured easily by a trip or fall.

6)  Some men wear cowboy boots because of the culture of where they live.  Heck, this question was asked in Oklahoma City?  Goodness gracious, lots and lots of men wear cowboy boots there all the time.

Now, on another matter, this search via Yahoo asked, "can you cowboy boots in ice?" It was from North Carolina. Just goes to demonstrate that what people enter into search engines does not have to makes sense, but ends up on this blog, anyway.

Cowboy boots with smooth leather soles on ice? Come on! Ya' gotta be kiddin'! Well, you can wear cowboy boots when there is ice and snow on the ground, but if you do not want to end up on your ass with a broken ankle or leg, you might want to re-think that ... wear sturdy, tall boots with soles that have good traction, and remember that no boot sole, no matter how big the lugs, can prevent a fall on ice. 'nuf said.

Life is short:  stop obsessing.  WEAR boots, but in the right place at the right time!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Two-Wheel Winter Blues

Only another biker knows how I feel when I look at the back of my garage and see my beloved Harley tucked in safely from the cold, with a Battery Tender connected.  Only another biker would know the irony of having the Harley's Battery Tender propped up on a snowblower stored next to it...  :-)

Some words for how this biker feels this time of year, when it is cold, icy, snowy, and non-conducive to riding:
  • Forlorn
  • Sad
  • Heartache
  • Sigh
  • Cabin Fever
  • F'kin Winter's never gonna end!
Oh well... that's how us bikers feel this time of year.

But I vowed that I will remain positive, so I will continue to repeat this phrase, "Spring will come," "Spring will come,"  "Spring will come,"  (... and the partner won't cram my limited weekend time with so many chores that I can't ride!!!!)

Life is short:  keep dreaming.  And to my fellow bikers:  I know how you feel!

Thursday, January 13, 2011 Update

Dear blog readers,

Two days ago I posted a message on this blog asking for feedback about how my website was operating.

I was blown away with the response!  I heard from people with whom I regularly communicate, but I also heard from many others with whom I have not had the pleasure (yet) of exchanging messages. (Though I wish the two guys from my home town who visit this blog every day would eventually get up the nerve to contact me.)

Overall, I received more than 90 responses to my "request for help" from all over the world.  Amazing.  Incredible.  Overwhelming!  If I did not reply to you (if you provided an email address), please understand that I couldn't reply to everyone.  I have to work, and working gets in the way of responding to email.

What I learned is that everyone said that my website is working fine, and if anything, seems to be loading faster than before.  Perhaps the drop in viewers on Monday was a residual problem of the transition from one web host to another.  Anyway, it seems to be responding well now, and actually for the past two days has had about 500 more unique visitors, on average, than comparative days one week ago.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, my loyal blog readers.  You have helped me a lot, and I am grateful.

Life is short:  be thankful for help you receive!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

MAL: Leather Weekend

It's that time of year again when the second-largest gathering of the Leather Clan occurs in the United States, at an event called "Mid-Atlantic Leather," held this year January 14 - 17 in Washington, DC.  I see on various forums and posts that I read that a lot of guys are planning to attend. (I wish my friend Paul, whose image is to the left, will be there; alas, he won't. But doesn't he present the epitome of a hot Leatherdude?  Woof!)

The headquarters hotel has changed to the Hyatt Regency instead of the old, ratty, Washington Plaza.  The Hyatt is a much nicer property, but also expensive and not very convenient to Metro (our subway system).  Though the walk from Union Station (trains and Metro) isn't bad ... I once worked at a building right behind the Hyatt, and the walk was about six blocks ... not "that" far.

Anyway, while I would like to see some of my friends from out-of-town who are attending, I do not have an interest in attending the various MAL events.  Being an old, monogamous, Maryland suburban-boy, spending time in the city is not my cup-o-tea.  Weighing the "hassle-factor" of getting there is a major part of my thought process.  There is no free parking anywhere (even on weekends), and driving into the city and out again is challenging.  Further, most of the events occur late at night, and I am definitely not the night-owl.

But wait, you say!  There's a Hotboots party on Saturday afternoon!  (2 to 4pm at the Green Lantern bar).  You have those Custom Brown Dehner Field Boots that you want to show off. (Or, let's say, show something different from the typical Chippewa Hi-Shines, Dehner Patrol Boots, and Wescos). Been there, done that... bartenders are surly, you can't take pictures in the bar, and with construction completed for new buildings near the bar, it's hard to find a place to park, and Metro is even further away.  Plus, as usual, my partner doesn't want to go as he detests social things.

There is also a motorcycle show at the DC Convention Center the same weekend.  I may be able to convince The Partner to go to that, as I scored a couple free tickets and there is a Metro station right there for convenience.  We'll leather up and look at the new bikes and gear and such ... maybe.  It's all weather- and mood-dependent (the mood of The Partner being the decisive factor.)  I've learned to take each day as it comes, and if he's up for it, then we'll go ... if not, we won't.  No big shakes.

So, if you are going to MAL -- have a great time!  The weather should be rather typical in Washington for this time of year:  cold, but not frigid; and the little bit of snow that fell yesterday should be gone by the weekend.

Be safe, have fun, and by all means:  wear your leather and tall boots!

(Image to right was found on the 'net, and is the classic image of a leatherdude who may attend MAL -- though personally, I never could understand why he is wearing sunglasses at night. Part of the "image," I presume....)

ADDENDUM: Three people wrote to me to ask, "why didn't you just reserve a hotel room and stay, rather than drive in and out of town each night?"

Answer: I am sorry that I didn't address that issue in the original post. To be honest, I conk out at 21:00 (9pm) each night. I can't handle activities that go on after that. Further, I can think of a lot of other things on which to spend US$700, which is what I estimate the cost of a hotel room for the weekend to be, with taxes, etc. It's not worth it to us to take a hotel room when we wouldn't be participating in most of the MAL events which take place after my bedtime (and also recognizing that we are truly monogamous, and we do not play around with other men.) Further, I learned from attending IML in Chicago that guys clomp up and down hotel hallways late into the night, and it's likely we wouldn't be able to sleep well. I know, I know... who sleeps at these things? We do....

Life is short:  realize your priorities change with relationships and age.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Request for Help

Dear Blog Visitors,

I mentioned the other day that I migrated my website to a different web host.  That migration took place over the last weekend.

I am seeing far, far fewer than the average number of visitors to my website.  I am wondering if the website may be responding slowly, and people are not staying on it when it does not respond, or if there is some other reason that my average number of visitors is way down -- like by half.

Will you do me a favor?  Visit my website (click here) and poke around to visit several pages in different sections. Watch how quickly pictures load (or if any do not load.)

Then return to this blog post, click on this link (or leave a comment on this blog post, or email me directly if you have my email address) to let me know your experience with it. You do not have to leave a name or email address on your message if you do not want to -- it just means that if you do not leave contact information, that I cannot reply to acknowledge your input.

Did it work?  Was it fast or did you have to wait a long time for pages to load?  Did you encounter any bugs, or "time out" errors?

I can switch it back to my previous host, which (when it was working) was very fast.  I really appreciate any time you can put into this informal evaluation.  Please know that if you wish, you do not have to give me your name or email address -- you can just provide feedback to me.

Thank you for your help!

Life is short:  too short for slow websites.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Comparison of Chippewa and Wesco Boots

I have been asked from time to time how Chippewa and Wesco engineer boots compare.  Nothing shows the differences and similarities better than a video.  Here it is! (see text summary below)

Summary of main points in the video:

Similarities of Chippewa and Wesco Engineer Boots
Note: these similarities are for stock Wesco Boss engineer boots. Wesco Boss boots can be made custom to different heights, number of buckles, color of leather, different soles, etc. But standard, stock Boss boots have these shared characteristics with Chippewa Engineer boots:
  • Made in USA
  • Construction and durability: both Chippewa and Wesco boots are very well-constructed and will last a long time, even if exposed to heat, water, mud, chemicals, oil, etc.
  • Leather: oil-tanned (dull finish) high-quality leather
  • Straps and buckles: One strap with buckle across the instep, one strap with buckle closure at the top of the shaft. (Custom Wescos can have no straps or up to four straps.)
  • Shaft lining: Unlined (though Custom Wesco boots can be leather-lined.)
  • Thread color: the thread color on the soles and boot stays is white on both Chippewa and Wesco boots (though custom Wescos can have different thread colors specified.)
  • Toes: Steel toe (note, Stompers Boots has a non-steel toe version of Chippewa engineer boots available, but the stock, standard Chippewa engineer boot has a steel toe.)


  • Height: Chippewa -- 17"; Wesco Boss -- 18" (or shorter or taller, up to crotch-high.)
  • Weight of leather: Chippewa boots are made from leather that is thinner than the leather that Wesco boots are made with.
  • Weight of boots: Chippewa -- 3 lbs (1.36kg); Wesco 18" Boss -- 6 lbs (2.7kg)
  • Sole: Chippewa -- Vibram Nitrile (moderate traction); Wesco -- Vibram 100 (big lug -- lots of traction)
  • Customization: Chippewa boots cannot be made custom. You get what you get. Wesco boots can be made custom, with different heights, leather, number of straps, soles, heel height, and other options available -- at a price!
  • Price: Chippewa -- approx. US$200/pair; Wesco Boss -- approx. US$500 (or more)

Life is short: know your boots!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I have just moved to a different hosting service.  What that means in non-geek speak is that my boots and leather website is being provided from a different server that is owned by a different company than the one I had been using since 2005.  I changed it because the company at which I had the website hosted has had an ongoing problem with downtime, and the problem was getting worse, not better.  They also were more expensive and more restrictive than the new company.

You do not have to worry about the technical details, many of which are beyond my own comprehension.  As you may not realize, my abilities with web-stuff are not as extensive as you may think.  I am learning all the time, and the learning is fun -- which is why having that website is much like a hobby.  It continues to challenge me and is intellectually stimulating.

I am posting this message for two reasons:

1) just in case you visit my website and get some strange error message, check back later.  It takes a while for the change to be fully implemented on the World Wide Web.

2) my email address is being migrated, too.  I may lose all of my email when this change takes place.  If you have sent me a message and I have not responded, please try again.  Messages sent to me on 8 or 9 January may not actually reach me.  Or they may; I do not know.

Let's hope the transition is transparent for my visitors, and goes smoothly.

Life is short:  make changes as necessary.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fitting of Leather Breeches or Jeans

Someone from Russia sent me an email recently telling me that he had decided to purchase a pair of leather jeans from Northbound Leather of Toronto, Ontario, Canada after reading this blog and how I have complimented the store's quality and service.  However, he was confused by the sizing chart on Northbound's website.

Here are my thoughts about how to determine if you should order a stock size of a pair of leather jeans or breeches, or order them custom -- and how to determine the proper sizing.  (Note, I refer to U.S. measurements.  Use a conversion chart if you do not use U.S. measurements in archaic inches.)

1.  Well-constructed garments made of high-quality leather do not stretch at the waist very much, such as a pair of cloth jeans.  The leather used for the waist, as well as double-stitching with thick thread, makes the waistband much less "stretchable" than other parts of a leather garment, such as the seat and thighs.  So if you are torn between two stock sizes, such as 34" and 36", go with the larger size.

2.  The older you get, the easier it is to put on weight in the middle.  If you get leather pants that fit tightly now, you may not be able to fit into them in a few years.  It is easier to reduce the size of the waist by using a belt (or by having the pants altered professionally) but you cannot add more to the size if it is not there in the first place.  Again: go with a larger size if you're choosing between two sizes.

3.  My experience with custom-made leather garments from Northbound has been that their products are a bit more tight than leather garments I have had custom-made from U.S. vendors such as Mr. S or 665 Leather.  I have kidded Northbound about Canadians measuring things differently. (Only a joke!)

4.  Do NOT use the measurements from a regular pair of blue jeans!  Sizes and people change.  In fact, Consumer Reports did some testing last year and indicated that men's jean sizes can vary as much as two inches in the waist.  You cannot use a pair of jeans that fit you to determine the proper size of a pair of leather pants.

How do you determine if you can purchase at stock sizes or require custom work? It is simple: have your measurements taken, and determine if your measurements at critical areas (waist and inseam) are the same as the measurements to which stock garments are made. If the measurements are the same, then buy pre-made, stock jeans or breeches. If not, then you will have to buy custom.

5.  Even if you can wear stock sizes, I still think the best way to go is to have leather breeches or jeans made custom to your measurements.  That way, you know that you will have garments that will fit you perfectly.  I have said this before, such as in my "Complete Guide to Leather Gear," but I should emphasize once again:  do NOT measure yourself!  Have a friend use a tailor's tape to measure you.  Use the form in my Leather Gear Guide to note your specific measurements.  Not only is it impossible to get accurate measurements yourself, you have to realize that you're human, and may not want to accept the results that the tape shows.  You may pull the tape a bit tighter on your waist to get the results you want -- and then end up ordering a pair of leather jeans that are too small and will not stretch to accommodate you.  Believe me, quality leather garment vendors like Northbound want to get it right the first time, and they've seen it all.  They don't care if your jeans are a size 36, but the tape shows a waist size of 39.  They will make what fits you best, so get the measurements done correctly with a friend's help.

Well-fitting leather jeans will last a long time.  I have worn leather jeans and breeches regularly for decades.  I admit, though, that leather jeans that I bought in the 1980s would not fit me today, 30+ years later.  Those garments are gone.  But once I got past age 40 or so, where my "middle-age spread" settled, I ordered some leather garments that still fit me well today -- and I wear them often.  (Though I must admit, I appreciate that with a recent 40-pound weight-loss, I have lost three inches at the waist, so now I have to wear a tighter belt than before -- and, I don't feel squeezed such that my gut rises up above the waist of the pants and hangs out prominently.)

In summary, my recommendation is to consider your age and lifestyle, as well as how often you plan to wear the leather.  If you are like me and want to get a good return on your investment by wearing leather regularly -- not just to a once-a-year fashion show & gathering of the leather clan -- then choose to have custom gear made to your actual measurements.  If, however, you may wear the leather jeans less often, then go with stock sizes, but if you have to make a choice between two sizes, go with the larger of the two.

Gear in the photos:

1) Leather shirt and breeches with LAPD markings from 665 Leather of West Hollywood, California, USA.
2) "Sailor Leather" pants from Northbound Leather of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
3)  Hunter green leather shirt from Mr. S. of San Francisco, California, USA.  (Pants are the "sailor leather" shown in #2)
4)  Blue-striped leather jeans from Northbound.

Life is short:  wear leather!