Men Wear Boots!

On Thanksgiving day, among our 106 guests, my partner and I enjoyed the company of a gentleman who owned and operated a western store in Oklahoma, but moved “back East” after he sold the store to live closer to his children, all of whom settled in the sprawling ‘burbs of Maryland. He lives in a retirement community where several of my family members live, and where I visit often. I met him when someone referred him to me when he needed some minor electrical repairs done.

We hit it off great — especially the first time when I walked in his door and he made remark about the boots on my feet. I remember what he said to this day: “Men wear boots!” That is a statement he has made to me each time I have seen him over the past dozen years or so.

It’s unfortunate that my friend’s children and grandchildren, all of whom live within five miles of his home, only go to see him about twice a year. They expected him to drive over to their houses for holidays, birthdays, or other family events. As he aged, he stopped driving at night, and last year, he stopped driving all together. He acknowledged that his reaction times were much slower, and he was afraid of all of the other “kooky drivers” on the road.

Unfortunately, his family’s ignorance persists. They told him that they were going this-way-or-that for Thanksgiving, and that none of them could pick him up or spend any time with him on the holiday. It’s so sad… family so nearby and so callously ignoring their own father.

We were delighted that he joined us for our holiday event. My niece picked him up (along with some others). He walked in the door with the biggest smile on his face. Surreally, the cacophony stilled. He exclaimed, “Men Wear Boots!” and handed me a box.

Inside the box was a pair of black Dan Post Vegas Cut ostrich toe cowboy boots. These are really cool-looking, dressy boots! He said that he noticed that I wore boots like those (in a different color) when I saw him earlier this year. He ordered them from his old store. He said that he thought I would like them. That’s for sure!

In turn, I handed my friend a box that I asked a close friend from Oklahoma to send to me. In the box was real honest-to-goodness mistletoe, which grows parasitically on trees in Oklahoma. He had mentioned that he missed his “Okie-toe,” a nick-name he has called the plant since his childhood. He told me that when his wife was alive, he would hold it over his head and chase her around with it. On Thanksgiving, he shed a tear as he removed the mistletoe from the box, held it over his head, and accepted a kiss from my niece, and a hug from me (a Christmas-time custom: anyone who is under mistletoe is to be kissed.)

There are little things that we learn about each other, build friendships, and extend bonds beyond age, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Thanks, “F”, for your gift. I can see from your eyes that you enjoyed mine.

Life is short: wear your boots, and show those that you love that you love them.

The Gay Comfort Zone

I am continuing to enjoy an ongoing dialogue with a partnered gay man who inspires me to think. He’s a smart guy who writes exceptionally well. He lives in a state north of me, one with which my partner is quite familiar.

Lately, he wrote:

Many gay people I know are what I refer to as “separatists.” They don’t keep close straight friends and spend their time either at the gym or with gay friends. Their conversations are about gay issues. It’s like there’s an invisible wall between them and the rest of the world that they just don’t seem to want to pass through.

He acknowledges that he is generalizing and that it is a particular segment of the population to which he is referring, not the whole. But I have noticed that, too. The few gay people that I know around the area where I live tend to behave that way — they only socialize with other gay people, go to the gym or out to eat only with ‘their own.’ I rarely see them with ‘straight’ people.

For me, on the other hand, the vast majority of my friends and people with whom I socialize are ‘straight.’ I love to ride my motorcycle, and several years ago, I rode with a gay motorcycle club. But just like my buddy said, all the members of that club talked about was whatever ‘gay drama’ was going on at the time, themselves, and gossip about other people. They did not pay much attention to what was going on in the world around them. Sometimes they chided me for being so involved in my community with issues related to development, planning, zoning, schools, and transportation.

Having little patience with gay drama, I left that club and joined another motorcycle club in which I believe I am the only member who is openly gay. The club members like to ride; I like to ride. That’s it — we ride! No drama, no ‘issues.’ But I observe during conversations with club members that they are keenly aware of the world around them, and some, like me, get involved in trying to make our world a better place.

My buddy and I both feel that perhaps we do not have the same feeling of “solidarity” with the gay community as the other gay people we respectively know. We both understand that our respective upbringing and masculine outlook undoubtedly affects the way we relate to other gay men.

We live, for all intents and purposes, as straight men when it comes to the every day. It is just who we are. Both of us are not pretending or in any way avoiding any part of what makes us who we are. Take it or leave it, what you see is what you get.

My friend continued:

I have to remember that just because I live this way, many others do not and that’s fine. But because I do, I believe I tend to see things from a more global perspective and not from a corner of one very small segment of the population. I believe in the statement “think globally, act locally.” Unfortunately, I think man gay people pledge their allegiance to “think locally, act locally” (or “think within the community, act within the community”).

I have shared with my buddy, and all who know me, that I am a community activist — but I define my community as the neighborhoods and geographic region where I live, not ‘the gay community’ as some may think. He replied, in kind, as follows:

It is noble and responsible of you to speak out at meetings in your community. I find your conviction in politics and community welfare refreshing. So much of “our” community (by that I mean gay people in this country) concern themselves with things that are quite frankly self-centered, or gay-centric, and don’t stop to think that they might be able to use their energy for the “greater good”.

I was humbled by the demonstration of my buddy’s respect for my community involvement, and appreciate it.

So my buddy and I muse, “is there a lack of willingness in the gay community to reach out to the greater community? Are they afraid of not being accepted, or of being taunted or rejected by others? Do men in the gay community feel uncomfortable, or spurn, getting involved in issues outside their gay comfort zone? What do you think?”

Recovery

Thanksgiving at our house was fantastic, fun, and filled with great people and good cheer. We had 106 guests come over throughout the day, and my wonderful partner, sisters, brother, nieces and nephews helped everyone feel welcome.

And man, did we have the food! Four turkeys were sufficient — in fact, we still have some left over which will make for good turkey soup and other “eats” for the weekend. We did, however, manage to give every guest a full plate to take back with them when they left, so the amount of leftovers is minimal.

Our special guest was very entertaining, and truly enjoyed his visit with our neighbors. He brought a contribution of pumpkin pie and sweet potatoes that he made himself! Our guests brought many varieties of foods, as well. I was good — I just nibbled a little bit throughout the day, but didn’t overdo it.

One of my visitors once owned and operated a western store in Oklahoma, but relocated back here to the east to be closer to his family when he sold the store. He presented me with a new pair of black Dan Post Black Vegas Cut boots — the toe is in ostrich, the rest in leather. Man, they are very dressy and great looking boots! He said that he noticed I wore boots like that when I visited with him this past year, and thought I might like them. In my research, I found that the boots had been discontinued in 2007, but he found a pair at his old store and got them for me. What a terrific present! I’m sure I will enjoy them.

The only challenge I had throughout the day was my back. It went into spasms on Wednesday night — an old problem I deal with from time to time that lingers from my more active skydiving days. I had to take a lot of aspirin throughout the day. I was moving about as slowly as some of my guests.

But that didn’t deter from the fun, joy, and cheer throughout the day. We have great neighbors who helped out, by loaning space in their driveways for extra parking — one of them even went out several times during the day to direct people on where to park. How nice! My niece played the piano for many hours, which we all enjoyed. I have no idea what games were on the TV in the basement media center, since I don’t really follow sports at all. But my partner who knows sports stuff ensured that the “game of the moment” was tuned in.

Today my partner and I will be cleaning up — though my family did the majority of that last night before they left. The inside of our house looks as spotless as it did when we began. Just a trip to the dump with about 15 trash bags of bones and garbage. For my “green concerned” friends, we have 28 boxes of recyclables, so we will put less into the waste stream than we’ve done before.

While today is “black Friday,” with lots of folks going shopping, I am staying home (except for the trip to the dump). My partner, bless him, is out at this minute taking advantage of a sale at a crafts store. He is getting some artificial flowers to put at my Mom’s grave tomorrow. She would have been 91 on November 29 had she been alive. He is always so thoughtful. I’m so glad that they got to be closer before her death ten years ago.

Well, on to returning the house to some semblance of order, and perhaps some well-deserved rest. Thank goodness, too, I have the day off from work, so we don’t have to rush too much to get things done.

I’m glowing with great memories of a wonderful event, and thank my partner, once again, for his help as we prepared, conducted, and recover from this once-a-year extravaganza. I will post pics of those new boots soon!

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m kinda busy getting ready to entertain about 100 people tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S., so I thought I would share some joy (and a little demonstration of my odd-ball humor) with the following video, produced during a little “down time”. Enjoy!

Most importantly, I extend my very best wishes to my partner, my family, my life-long and newer friends — especially my loyal blog followers. Share your joy with those you love. Remember, life is short: show those you love that you love them, each and every day!


A Peek Inside The Closet

Over time, some people have asked me, “where do you keep all those boots in your collection?” … fair question.

I live with someone who doesn’t like clutter, and who has some trouble walking so we have to keep the floors clear so he won’t trip. In fact, that’s how my website began back in early 2005. My partner had entered our bedroom and tripped over a pair of boots. Let’s say the resulting “discussion” wasn’t pretty. But what happened soon after that is that I organized my boots and took some pictures, which eventually became the hyper-organized view of my boot collection on my website.

This past weekend, my partner and I spent a significant amount of time doing housecleaning in advance of our big Thanksgiving event. Some people do this once-a-year scrub-the-baseboard thorough cleaning in the Spring. We do it now, since this is the only time of year that we entertain.

As we were cleaning, my partner was saying things like, “these boots seem to be multiplying,” or “they’re like rabbits… you have one, then it seems like you have six.” Then, entirely on his on volition, on Saturday afternoon he removed a bunch of clothes that he doesn’t wear from a section of one of our closets and said, “install some more shelves for your boots here, now that there is room.”

I decided to go through the same closet and find clothing that I won’t wear any more — mostly t-shirts and golf shirts with my former employer’s name on it — and gather them for donation, too. Removing those clothes from the closet opened up a fairly large amount of room. In fact, so large, 27 pairs of boots fit nice and neatly on new shelving that didn’t take long to install, and newly-opened closet floor space. Best yet, the boots are so well-organized that it is easier for me to find boots that I want to wear, from tall cop boots to motorcycle boots to cowboy boots to work boots. Because I change boots several times each day, having that number of boots at the ready is great. No longer do I have to run into the basement boot closet for a day’s choice. Instead, I can just rotate boots from the basement closet to the upstairs new storage area once a week or so.

Hmmm… and to think that at one time I once resisted all this “get your stuff organized” commentary from my partner. I found it a drudge and a chore. But now, I know that going through these periods of cleaning and organizing has long-term benefits. (Including additional “benefits” that my partner showed me for his appreciation on my being a good sport about doing this work with nary a complaint. Whew!)

Life is short: Wear your boots!

What Is It With Pakistani Leather Vendors?

In the past week, I have received numerous emails like this:

Dear Sir,

We are feeling proud to introduce our company named as (x). Our company is working since 1995. We are specialized in making following goods.

1. Leather Wears
2. Motorbike Wears
3. Textile Wears
4. Gloves Collection
5. Leather Accessories
6. Leather

From what I can tell, the message sender is trying either to get me to serve as a third-party retailer in the U.S. for his products, or just buy his products directly.

I am sure that they figure that a guy like me who has a fair amount of leather gear that I wear for motorcycling and just around might be one of those “rich Americans” who would buy stuff from them. But I wasn’t born yesterday. Despite their claims, leather from Pakistan is of inferior quality. I have seen it over the years, and can tell from its thin and uneven surfaces, rough splits, blemishes, and other visible signs that the leather isn’t nearly the top-grain quality that one would find at dealers such as Northbound, 665leather, or Mr S. (For more details about choosing leather gear, read the Leather Gear Guide on my website.)

They find me by surfing the web, landing on my “leather gear” page, then finding my “write to me” page. I can see how they enter my website and then zero in on finding a way to send me one of their poorly-written proposals.

I’m not sure if it will work, but I found a website called “Block A Country” that generates code to install on websites that will, I hope, divert visits from anyone in Pakistan. Seriously, I am NOT interested in any leather gear from Pakistan! I have quite enough, thank you. I am really not planning to buy any more leather gear at all from anyone. I have other things of much higher priority on which to spend my limited discretionary funds.

The Unicorn

I grabbed this photo off the ‘net, but I swear it looks just like a deer in our back yard. We call him our “uni-deer”. He comes over and eats the food that we put out for the birds, squirrels, and other fuzzy critters.

He is a timid sort, as white-tailed deer go. He takes off the moment he senses stirring from our house. I have not been able to get close enough to take my own photo of the cute little guy.

I often see him by himself… perhaps he has been shunned by the other deer who make fun of him for being different, much like the reindeer wouldn’t let Rudolph play in their reindeer games.

I saw him again this morning, after my partner put out the morning buffet. As we were doing housecleaning in the family room which has a view of the back yard, we both looked out the windows and saw him munching away with the birds and squirrels scattered around. Then I think he “felt” us watching. He looked in our direction, then lunged over the stream and bolted down the deer path.

That got me started singing The Unicorn Song that was made popular by the Irish Rovers. My partner is rolling his eyes and hoping that I’ll change my tune. LOL! I tend to sing dumb little songs like that while doing mundane work, much to my partner’s dismay. (I don’t sing quite on key whatsoever.)

Anyway, a nice diversion as we proceed with a thorough scrubbing of the inside of our house, releasing those dust bunnies to the wild.

Have a joyful day!

Holy Thanksgiving, Batman!

The title of this post is courtesy of my evil twin, Clay, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is a terrific friend and warm, passionate man. And he has already been through Thanksgiving this year!

Come November 27, 2008, my partner and I will host our usual Thanksgiving pot-luck. We offer hospitality and good cheer to seniors who live in a nearby retirement community who otherwise may be alone on the holiday. No one should be alone on Thanksgiving. So for the ninth year, we open our home and welcome guests bearing bowls, plates, and carriers of food.

I cook the turkey — our guests bring everything else. That includes side dishes, breads, sweets, and for those who don’t cook or who do not want to bring a prepared item, they donate plastic plates, cups, utensils, and trash bags. Lots of trash bags. We will need ’em!

Last year we set what we thought was a record with some 90 guests. I cooked three turkeys last year — two on the day before and one on Thanksgiving Day itself, so we have that wonderful roast turkey aroma. This year, I have upped my order for fresh turkeys to four 30-lb birds. Yikes! My turkey farm buddy will bring them over on Tuesday.

We don’t really have an invitation list, but word spreads. This year will probably be a record-breaker, as fewer people are traveling for the holiday due to the sucky economy, reducing their holiday travel to Christmas or Hanukkah only. Calls and emails have been flowing, and keeping it all organized with who is coming, what they’re bringing, and when they are coming is a monumental task. Thank goodness for a spreadsheet and the Internet, where I can keep our information secure, yet available to me and my partner, regardless of location.

Lest you think we live in a mansion and can seat 100+ people at huge table at one sitting, that’s not the case. We ask people to come at different times (call ’em “shifts”) throughout the day, and spread food buffet-style in the dining room, and drinks on the island in the kitchen. Guests can mill about to pick what they would like to eat, and sing along with the piano in the living room, visit with friends in the family room, more friends in the basement media center watching football games on TV, and, God willing decent weather, spill out onto the decks across the back of the house.

I’ve learned that we need to tell them that we will offer them transportation, claiming a lack of parking. The problem in past years is that people coming for the 11am to 2pm or the 1pm to 4pm shifts didn’t leave … so by 6pm, the crowds were uncomfortably large. In the past few years, toward the end of a guest’s assigned time, one of my little elves will find the bowl or plate that our guest brought her food on, pack it with a full serving of a variety of foods from the buffet, wrap it up, bring our guest her coat, and say it’s time to go. Some leave as more arrive. But this method keeps the Fire Marshall from citing me for overcrowding. Also, giving away all the foods helps keep older people well-fed, and the leftovers to a minimum.

I am indebted to my partner for his good cheer and accommodation of our guests. He is the best host for older people — he loves to just sit and listen to story after story. Our guests love to talk, and my partner really listens. He is also a great behind-the-scenes helper, and extremely patient with me when I tell him, “gee, I can’t say no” when a new person calls to ask to come, along with “what can I bring?”

I play “swirling chef” — ensuring the foods that are brought are served appropriately, the turkey is hot and not left out too long on the warming trays, and my elves know what may need to be done next. And yeah, I will be wearing my brown custom leather jeans and tbd-brown cowboy boots, and a festive shirt for the occasion.

My “elves” — 14 of my family members; 3 sisters, 1 brother, 6 nieces, 4 nephews. Who knows, maybe even a partridge in a pear tree (with the crowds, I probably wouldn’t notice.) I am exceptionally indebted to my family who do all the “grunt work,” from picking people up and taking them home, putting their coat in one of the designated bedrooms, ensuring our guests have a place to sit comfortably and are served, if need be. I also appreciate that my neighbors help out too, by loaning folding chairs, space in their driveways for people to park, and space in their fridge for us to store our “regular food” so there’s room for the turkeys!

I couldn’t do this without my partner and my family — and that’s what Thanksgiving is all about: family, friends, good cheer, warmth, happiness, and lots of food! We give thanks to our family, our friends, and our neighbors for accepting us warmly for who we are. We ask no more.

Just see me a week from today, sprawled out on the floor from exhaustion. But it’s a good feeling to share such a wonderful day with such great people.

Organized

So here’s the back of my newly reorganized garage. My bike, a few of my less-often-worn boots (mostly Fryes), my biker jackets and most-frequently-worn chaps. The boot storage is relatively new. I wrote a step-by-step instruction guide on this storage method which was posted on the hotboots.com website, here.

The motorcycle helmets (I have several) are inside the house. I don’t want gas vapors from my truck or my partner’s car to damage the helmet lining, which many reputable motorcycle magazines and experts have warned about.

I mentioned in a blog post the other day that my partner and I spent some time reorganizing the back of the garage so I can park my bike back there. I’m glad that worked out, so my Harley is warm and snug against winter’s wrath, but remains available should I want to go out for a ride when weather permits. I have, however, discontinued using my bike to ride to the Metro in the morning. It has just been too blasted cold.

Before I put the bike in it’s new storage area, it got a good washing. Lingering dirt and road spray could lead to premature dulling of the paint, or worse: rust. The battery is on its trickle charger. The fuel is stabilized. My lovely Harley is in its “winter nap” mode. sigh….

I have been “accused” sometimes of being over-organized. I guess that comes from leading a multi-tasking life. I have to be well-organized to get everything done and be everywhere I need to be! But ask my partner — he will tell you honestly — if I didn’t have my head screwed on, I would probably lose it. Thank goodness for calendars and lists (and his patience). I’m not one to use one of those technological gadgets such as a PDA or Blackberry. I’d probably lose it, and resent paying monthly service fees to keep rich companies richer. Plain old lists work fine for me. (Some day I’ll blog about my sticky-note office!)

I guess you could say that my website is evidence of my being hyper-organized. If that’s the case, well, so be it. At least I know what I have, what I like, and where it is! For the real evidence of my personal organization, though, just watch me at a public hearing sometime….

Have an organized day!