Nice Not To Be Missed

I was exchanging email with a friend who was telling me that he wanted to go out for a motorcycle ride this weekend, but he had to drive out-of-state to attend his niece’s wedding. I commiserated with that unfortunate situation. This exchange reminded me of one of the unintended benefits of being from a large family. That is, it’s nice not to be missed.

Let me explain. I have mentioned before that I can’t dance worth a lick, and don’t like to be subjected to dancing if I do not have to. Further, I don’t like to be around straight people whose tongues are loosened with alcohol. Sometimes they say some things that can be downright stupid, ugly, or inappropriate in my presence. You know: typical stuff that falls out of guy’s mouths when they are posturing for the Alpha Male position at social gatherings (like wedding receptions or club banquets.)

Then I remembered what I have been doing for the last decade (or longer) since at least 1995 when my partner refused to attend any more weddings with me. He absolutely detests social gatherings, and won’t go with me (especially to wedding receptions with my family. Admittedly, those events can get rather large and loud). Going alone isn’t any fun for me. I feel like a third wheel or … worse.

Anyway, what I explained to my friend is that these days, if invited to a wedding, I decline if it is out-of-town. Traveling to an out-of-town wedding is not my idea of “fun.” It is more like an unnecessary expense.

If I am invited to a wedding that will be held nearby, then I attend the church service, then split. Yep, I’m a real party-pooper. I may show up to the church on my Harley in a suit and polished motorcycle boots, go in, say hello to the family, say my Dominos and Biscuits and all that, then once the bride and groom have left, I hand my gift to someone else who is going to the reception, mount up my iron horse, throttle up and skedaddle.

It really IS a benefit to be in such a huge family, because no one really misses me. Sure, some say they do, but they’re just being nice. Most get so drunk that they can’t remember the next day who else was there. So it does not matter if I do not go. No big shakes.

I guess I am continuing to disprove some typical stereotypes about gay men. Not all of us: 1) like to dress up; 2) can dance or enjoy it; 3) like weddings or wedding receptions. I guess I could add another: I couldn’t tell you what the bride was wearing, and I don’t give a flying frig, anyway. I guess this commentary flows from being about the only gay man I know who didn’t give a rat’s patootee about the wedding that happened in London yesterday.

Life is short: be thankful (sometimes) not to be missed.

The Juggling Act

Man, this week has been nuts. Believe it or not, I am still recovering from jet lag from my trip to Alaska last week. Either that, or I’m reacting to tree pollen which is extremely high this time of year. The trees in our backyard forest were slow to leaf out this year due to a damp, cool Spring. But this week it has warmed up quite a bit, and the trees have “popped” with lots and lots and lots of pollen. Greenish-yellow film is all over everything. I’ve had to keep the windows closed to keep that stuff out.

My work is going well, but has really ramped up. A huge conference now to plan and conduct in early June, mandated by action in Congress. The short notice isn’t really that much of a surprise, but now I’ve got 14 – 16 hour days running up to that event. The Boss said, “we are relying on your unique set of talents.” How’s that for pressure? LOL!

I thought that was enough, but then the Super-Big Cheese — the one in charge of the whole agency for whom I work — sought me out yesterday to give me his insights on what he wants done. Man, I didn’t even know that he really knew me. I mean, he knew I was here, tangentially, but apparently last week several people advised him that I was who I was and was at his service, so Boom! Busy! Colleagues trying to be funny said, “that’s why you’re paid the big bucks.” Ha!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my twin brother is in town and is also working long days by attending a lot of meetings in the city. He arrived home the past two nights late and tired. I give him something to eat and chat for a few minutes, then head to bed. He stays up for hours, working. I see him in the morning, and have the pleasure of preparing breakfast for him before he heads out to conquer the world of his diplomatic mission.

My partner remains steady as a rock. His work is busy, but not overwhelming. His schedule is dependable and predictable. He isn’t fussing that I’m having to work so many hours this week. As he said, he figured this would happen once they got to know me at my new office and learned how I could apply my skills and talents to meet dynamic and ever-changing demands and needs.

No more travel for me for a while except from home to countless meetings related to this big deal event coming up. That’s fine. It’s what I do. It’s what I enjoy. I have an incredibly talented and dedicated group of colleagues and collaborators on whom I will rely to get this done.

Confucius said, “choose a job you love, and you won’t have to work a day in your life.” I do love what I do… but it IS exhausting!

Life is short: keep busy!

Posted in Job

Pause to Remember

This is a brief pause to remember what happened on April 28 during the year I was 12 years old. That morning one of my older sisters came into my bedroom early in the morning to tell me that my father died.

It was a Tuesday. I had last seen my father the previous Sunday in the hospital. He was gravely ill, and I think he sensed that would be the last time he would see any of his children. He struggled to remain conscious and alert. I remember that he held our hands, one by one, and told us that he loved us, he loved our Mom, and that he wanted us to be good — good people, good citizens, and good to each other.

That Tuesday morning was hazy. I remember calling my closest friend and gave him the news. My friend went to school and told everyone else. I think one of my older siblings called the school to give them the official news and to explain why none of us would be going to school the rest of the week.

My sister took me to her house. I remember that a lot of people were there. Family, family friends, neighbors, and so forth. I dunno, it all was a daze. I knew that my father was dying, but when the death actually happened, I went into shock.

I don’t remember quite when I saw my mother next. Perhaps it was even the next day. She also was in shock. But she was a strong, strong woman. She held us close, and looked after our needs. I remember that she even took me to a store to get a suit to wear to the funeral. She even let me buy a new pair of boots to wear with it, while my twin brother who already had several suits got a new pair of dress shoes. Always looking after us kids — not herself. I don’t know how she did it.

I was discussing these memories with my twin brother who is visiting this week. His memories are about the same as mine. He said that he remembered sitting next to me for almost the whole week. We were inseparable. We both remember that our siblings — all 13 others of them — each spent time with both of us, hugging, thinking, talking about our respective memories and stories about our father. We had a lot of sibling bonding going on that week, and no sibling squabbles. I think my Dad would have been proud to know that his last wishes — that we all take care of each other and show our love and respect for one another — continued in the immediate period following his death, and to this very day. His legacy holds us close.

Our huge family surrounded us. My father was the first of his siblings to die. All 21 of his brothers and sisters and their families — aunts, uncles, cousins — came to pay their respects and did things (or tried to do things) to show that they cared. One particular cousin, closest to me in age and with whom I had fought like she were a sibling — was particularly close and good to me. I think my father’s death was a turning point in our relationship. We have been and remain fast friends and very very close.

The funeral was also a haze. The long black limos, the police escort from the church to the cemetery, the pictures in the paper and front-page news story — I have copies of those papers that we looked at last night, and I didn’t remember that well at the time. My Dad was a very well-loved man by many people, and highly regarded for his diplomatic work in Europe during its post WWII reconstruction.

I think what I remember most outside of the funeral and such was what my Uncle Joe did. Instead of sit around looking forlorn, he took several of us kids out for ice cream, then to a park to play (or swing, or whatever), and just spent time with us. Getting us out and away from the heavy feeling at home was the best thing he could do for us. He just knew intuitively what to do. No one asked him — he just did it. I sure miss him. He always took such good care of us kids, especially after my father died.

Later today when my brother returns from his meetings in the city, we both will head over to the cemetery where our parents were buried to leave some flowers (from my yard) and to reflect on a man we would have liked to have known longer than we did, but who we loved, admired, and cherished. This cemetery is just a mile from my home; I go there fairly often to reflect and to remember. My twin brother is lucky: he gets to work in the very same office that our father once did in Paris. He has photos of my Dad and various heads-of-state throughout his office. That’s gotta be impressive (and he says “daunting” to live up to that legacy.) (My opinion: if anyone can do it, my twin can. He’s the impressive one!)

Anyway, thanks for reading this brief pause and flow-of-memory. It’s never easy when one’s father dies, especially at such a young age. With the support of loving family and friends, we got through it, together. That’s what Dad wanted.

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

Benefits of Wearing Leather Every Day

As my partner was doing our laundry, he remarked, “there’s less laundry than usual since you have gone back to work and telecommute most days.”

I said, “yep, do you know why?” He smiled, looked at me, then came over and said, “I love to hug my man in leather.”

I wear full leather most of the time when I do not have to go to a meeting or my “real” office. Thus, fewer clothes have to be washed. And continuing with my thread of explaining how we make financial decisions, we do not bring our laundry out to be cleaned. We do it ourselves. Easier, cheaper, convenient. And since we don’t dress up much, we do not wear clothes that would have to be cleaned at a dry cleaner. Okay, there I go again with my “anti-suit” prejudice, as well as my frugality. So be it — I admit to both.

Life is short: wear leather! (and save water by doing less laundry! LOL!)

PS: Now that it is significantly warmer, the days I telecommute may find me just wearing a pair of shorts (no boots, either!) Too warm for leather and it doesn’t make sense to pay for air conditioning just to cool the indoor air enough to make leather clothing tolerable. I’d rather keep the AC off during the day and be (almost) naked. Shhhh… don’t tell the boss that a conference call I was on from home found me in that state. I am so glad (for their sake) that these calls do not have a video component! LOL!

Hey, Bro!

My twin brother is here!  What a surprise!

He was scheduled to visit and attend a meeting in Washington, DC, in mid-April. The date of his meeting changed indefinitely, so I did not think that I would see him until perhaps this summer. He even posted a reply on this blog yesterday (to throw me off the track).

Meanwhile, his meeting got rescheduled — to begin today — and that big lug didn’t tell me! He just showed up and surprised me yesterday morning!

Yesterday, I was working at home and heard a truck on the ordinarily very quiet street. I peeked out, and saw a DHL truck. That is a freight carrier ordinarily used in Europe. My brother told me in his blog comment to expect something from DHL.

I was in the middle of something, so I finished my thought, saved it, and as I ws getting up to go to the door, the doorbell rang. I thought that it was the DHL driver asking me to sign for a delivery. I opened the door — and there was my twin brother handing me a box. Apparently he arrived about the same time that DHL did, so my brother delivered it personally. What a character, that guy!

Technically, I had the day off work on Monday, but was working anyway to catch up on a backlog due to all that travel last week. However, once my brother arrived, I said, “that’s enough for the day,” and turned the computer off. We caught up, laughed, had lunch (at home) and while waiting for my partner to arrive from his visit to his mother’s home in Pittsburgh, I prepared a home-made lemon meringue pie (my partner’s favorite).

My partner showed up about 2pm. We helped him unpack and settle in. Meanwhile, I baked some potatoes, grilled some fillets, made a salad, and enjoyed dinner with two men who mean the world to me: my beloved partner and my twin brother, my two best friends in the whole world. What a great day!

My brother will use our home as “home base” and commute to his meetings in DC this week. I will enjoy having him around. My partner likes him a lot too, so this is great for all of us.

Life is short: cherish family!

18 Years and Going Strong

Today marks our 18th anniversary … yep, my beloved partner and I have been joined at the heart for 18 years now, going strong, loving life, and each other.

The tune, “If There Hadn’t Been You” by Billy Dean (released in 1991) makes many points in its lyrics and hauntingly beautiful melody that means much to me, speaks of our relationship, and sounds like what I would say. Seriously, I truly believe that I would have been lost and incomplete if it had not been for the loving graces of my partner and what he has done for me.

Read the lyrics, then play the video embedded below and have a listen. Share our love.

“If There Hadn’t Been You” ©1991 by Billy Dean

A man filled with doubt, down and out and so alone.

A ship tossed and turned; lost and yearning for a home.

A survivor, barely surviving; not really sure of his next move.

All of this, I would have been, if there hadn’t been you.

[refrain]
If there hadn’t been you, where would I be?
If there hadn’t been you here for me?
I made it through times
I never would’ve made it through.
If there hadn’t been you.

A man filled with hope who finally knows where he belongs.

A heart filled with love more than enough to keep it strong.

A life that’s alive again, no longer afraid to face the truth.

All of this, I would have missed, if there hadn’t been you.

If there hadn’t been you, where would I be?
If there hadn’t been you here for me?
I made it through times
I never would’ve made it through.

If there hadn’t been you on my side,
You In my life,
All my dreams would still be dreams,
If there hadn’t been you.

All my dreams would still be dreams,
If there hadn’t been you.

Happy Anniversary to my best half, my best friend, and the love of my life. 🙂

Leather on Easter?

Someone sent me an email asking, “can you wear leather on Easter Sunday?”

Well, you can. Question is, do you want to?

I do. Happy Easter! (for those who celebrate this holiday). Today I’ve got a lot to do, and I’ll do it in leather (or in a pair of dressy leather pants, anyway.)

I will begin the day by taking several of my senior pals to an Easter Sunday sunrise service at oh-dark-30. The weather is promising to be cool and dry — perfect for an outdoor service. I plan to wear a light blue regular dress shirt, my dark blue leather tie, and a my dress leather pants over a pair of dress instep Dehner boots. I do not have a leather blazer that fits, so I probably will wear a light leather jacket if I wear any jacket at all. But not a suit jacket or sport coat (blech…).

Some among you may be aghast: No.big.deal. It’s what I wear. The leather pants are dressy, and look nice — as nice as (or better than) a pair of dress slacks. They look good with the boots, too … or the other way around: the boots look good with them. Not with leather tucked into them. There are times when it is not quite appropriate to wear leather tucked into tall boots, like at Mass.

After the early morning service, I’ll return home. I have to drive my truck to the service, as I am giving a ride to four other lovely ladies. After I drive back home, I will yank off the tie. No ties where I go next! I will take off the dress shirt, too, and put on a blue denim shirt and wear a thicker leather motorcycle jacket, hop on my Harley, then go pick up a senior pal who is celebrating her 85th birthday and take her to a celebratory brunch. After that, I will ride over to a sister’s house. She and her husband are having an Easter Egg Hunt for the grandchildren — some of my Great Nieces and Great Nephews. I will enjoy playing with the kiddos and having (another) Easter Brunch with the fam.

But the day isn’t over. After that, I’m heading over to a brother’s house to do the same thing with his and his wife’s grandkids — all 18 of them. Then we will enjoy lunch.

Where’s the partner, you ask? He’s up in da ‘burgh (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA), visiting his mother for Easter. He wouldn’t join me anyway with my family festivities. Kids and noise and joshing and loudness bother him quite a bit.

After a long lunch with this part of my family, I plan to drop by a niece’s house. She and her family just moved into a new home, and they are having a cookout as an informal housewarming.

So yeah, I’ll be in leather and boots for the day. Perhaps riding the Harley gives an “excuse,” but even if the weather were cold and lousy and I had to drive my “cage” all day, I would still have my dress leather pants on.

I don’t know quite what it is about guys having conniption fits about wearing leather pants or jeans. I think a lot of guys would *like* to do it, but have hang-ups about being thought of as “gay” or a “rock star” or a “punk.” Oh cripes, not the case. These guys need to think about what makes them believe this stuff. Who told them that or what did they read that influences them to abhor wearing leather pants? If they are dressy, then my opinion is: wear leather pants and enjoy. ‘nuf said. (I sure have said enough about that on this blog!)

Happy Easter! To answer that email: Yes you CAN wear leather on Easter, and it’s okay to do so. It is not a fashion faux pas to do so. At least not in my world.

Life is short: be the man you are, and comfortable in your own skin (and the skin of cows!)

It’s All About Attitude

Not unexpectedly, my circuitous route from Alaska to my home in Maryland hit a severe snag with ugly weather. By the time I arrived in Chicago to connect with my last flight home, the flight to my home airport was canceled.

I kinda figured this would happen.

I was not the only one in this situation. Most flights for the remainder of the night were canceled. Hundreds of people got stuck in this unfortunate situation.

I observed many people becoming upset and angry, which caused the airline representatives to respond in-kind. Bad behavior begets bad behavior, so it seems. While being delayed and stuck overnight isn’t fun, it is not the airline’s fault. Yelling at them, demanding that “I have to get home for [insert lame excuse]” does not help anyone.

When I arrived in Chicago and saw that lovely word “canceled” next to my flight number, instead of going ballistic, I found a quiet place and called the airline. I was pleasantly surprised that a real human picked up the phone after I pressed zero at the automated annoyance (sometimes called “automated attendant” or “call router.”) While the agent began her conversation with me intensely, expecting that I was going to yell, I maintained my composure. I simply said, “I was on flight number ### which has been canceled. Have I been automatically rebooked or will you rebook me?” A few keystrokes on her computer later, I got the last seat on the first flight out in the morning. Had I waited in line at the ticket counter, goodness knows what flight (next week?) I might have gotten stuck on.

However, I still had to wait in that long line to get a discount coupon for a hotel stay. While the airline will not pay for a hotel room if the flight is canceled due to weather, they often have negotiated rates with major hotels, so it is worth it to wait (and wait and wait and wait) to get that coupon.

Five ticket agents were helping customers at the ticket counter. The line was moving slowly. I observed that the agents were just nasty. Some of them made snarky comments that, in my humble opinion, were not deserved. Sure, the jerk who yelled at one of them needed to be dealt with in accordance with his negativism — but the rest of us do not deserve to be treated as if we will all act like that.

While waiting in line, I observed two agents say loudly, “I’m off shift” and walked away. It is a very sad situation when any airline does something like that. They know they have a lot of customers who are unhappy. Abandoning them that way — even if the shift is over — is a poor way to maintain any form of customer relations.

When I finally got to the ticket counter, I smiled a big, broad smile and said, “I’m sorry about this situation. I have gotten rebooked, so I am only seeking a hotel discount coupon.” The agent was so surprised that I was smiling and nice about it, she called the hotel to make sure they had a room for me, and then gave me a voucher for breakfast at the airport. She said that she knew that the hotel offered free breakfast, but did not start to serve breakfast until 7am. My flight is at 6am. She figured out that I wouldn’t get the free breakfast, so she helped me out. I thanked her profusely. She said that she did it because “you were the first nice customer I’ve had all night.”

Hmmm… there’s a lesson here.

I waited for the hotel shuttle, got to the hotel, checked my email and wrote this post, then crashed into bed.

I hope to be home on the day this post appears on this blog. Wish me luck!

Life is short: you can get better service if you maintain composure and be pleasant — even in unpleasant situations.

How Much Do Leather Cowboy Boots Cost?

Yet another question entered into a search engine and landed on my website.

Frequently I receive questions, “how much did those boots cost?”

Honestly, it varies. New cowboy boots can cost as little as US$50 (if they’re machine-made plastic) to well over several thousand dollars for one pair of custom-made  all-leather boots. For my preferences, I usually choose commercially-made cowboy boots from reputable makers, such as Tony Lama, Dan Post, Nocona, Lucchese, and several others. I choose boots that are comfortable, good-looking, and generally go with “business casual” clothing which is what I wear to my office. I like my boots to be made of all leather. Further, I want them to be comfortable and to wear well, so I look for a pegged sole.

I have some custom cowboy boots made by Champion Attitude, and a few pairs of Buckaroo boots by Olathe. However, while those boots are nice, their heel height and style don’t quite work for how klutzy I am when I walk, so I wear those boots when I don’t have to walk very much.

I do not have boots made by some of the top custom cowboy boot makers, such as Paul Bond. While I like the beauty of these top-notch bootmakers, I realize that having boots that cost well over US$800 per pair (most of them are in the thou$ands), it is not worth it to me. I feel that I would have to frame them and admire them as art. Well, in reality, I would wear them, but not enough to justify in my warped way of thinking that the investment was worth the cost.

Having said all this, I have not yet answered the question: how much do leather cowboy boots cost? Boots that meet a minimum of my standards — all leather, comfortable, pegged sole, reputable manufacturer — cost in the range from as low as US$180 to as much as US$400. Beyond that, I usually don’t consider buying them. Sure, I may look, but I often ask myself, “why on earth do you want a pair of cowboy boots that cost over US$600 when you already have so many pairs?” — good question. That self-questioning holds me back from making many purchases (believe it or not.)

Life is short: have (and wear) at least one pair of cowboy boots.

Gays and Black Boots

This stuff drives me nuts, but honestly, I don’t pay much attention and do not let it bother me because I do not suffer fools well.

From Bothell, Washington (a suburb of Seattle): “Why do gays wear black boots?”

I can tell that it was written by someone who is not well educated and who is straight — the pejorative term “gays” is a give-away to both conclusions.

Now, to address the question. Well, there is no answer for stupid assumptions. Honestly, where do some people come up with this garbage?

Most men’s boots come in black or brown, and you’ll find cowboy boots with more colors — the most common besides black and brown is black cherry, cognac (orange-burnished), tan, and there are also men’s boots that have inlays or accents of blue, red, white, and other colors.

So, ding-dong from Bothell, hear this:

Not all men’s boots are black.

Not all gay men wear boots.

Granted, most motorcycle boots are black — but then again, I would venture to say that the vast majority of bikers who wear black boots are not gay.

Gay men who wear boots wear more colors of boots than only black. Sheesh — look at my cowboy boot and motorcyle boot collections. I have boots of all colors. And I’m gay. So what?

Get an education, friend. Wise up and then go speak with some gay men. You may be surprised to learn that they’re people too, much like you — and me!

Disclaimer: I have been to Bothell, Washington, and know that most of the people there are fine, upstanding, well-educated people. There are exceptions everywhere, so this post was not meant to take a swipe at everyone who lives or works in Bothell. I betcha you can find some equally ignorant people near where I live, too.

Life is short: stop looking for stereotypes.