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.

Brother:

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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. I recall comments about “only rednecks wear boots” and thought those slurs were part of an ongoing repertoire 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.

Frye-ography

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.

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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.

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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.

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.