Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, folks! And for visitors from other countries to my blog who continue to be in awe or bewildered about our quaint American customs, let me explain that this is a non-religious “holiday” oriented to having fun. The holiday is focused on children, but these days, many adults enjoy it too.

It is a traditional Halloween custom to wear a costume of some sort on this date. Children used to dress up as ghosts and ghouls, but nowadays are more likely to wear a costume depicting some current character in popular television shows or movies. Some may even dress as the scariest person in current news: Pom-Pom Palin (man, that woman really frightens me!) The kids go door-to-door after dark and yell, “trick or treat.” Frankly, I have no idea what will show up at my door tonight, but we’re ready. We have lots of bags of treats to hand out.

So here’s a twist — my rather traditional, staid office will be having a Halloween luncheon today for the staff, just for fun. We were encouraged to wear a costume. Well, okay… I have yet another “excuse” to wear a favorite uniform. I have two books of citations ready to hand out: one for those not in costume, citing them for failure to share the spirit of the holiday, and one for those in costume, citing them for failure to comply with the company dress code. In the former situation, if someone not only is not in a costume but actually has the nerve to wear a suit, they will get a double fine noted on their citation!

Some readers will remember that my family has a tradition of having dinner together on Friday nights. We are not doing that tonight, so that my siblings with grandchildren can enjoy sharing the evening with them, and some will stay home to give out treats for the kiddies. Some of my nieces and nephews are planning to go to parties, as well. For our household, my partner will be watching his boob-tube while I will give out candy to the kids, then go to bed early, as usual. We are planning to rise early on Saturday, where I will give my partner his treats (that is, a really good breakfast) before I head out on a long motorcycle ride to watch pumpkins being catapulted. More on that over the weekend.

Update: My partner has the silliest sense of photo imagery humor. Click here!

Happy Halloween! Be safe and have fun!

Out the Back Windows

I just love the view out the back windows of our home this time of year. I know what’s coming next, which will limit my motorcycle riding, but increase the leather-wearing!

Happy Autumn! (and scroll down to see a video that I did in the back yard during autumn last year).

Enjoying fall in our backyard retreat…

Living In A Microcosm of Multiculturalism

Pictured here are candles shown in a Wikipedia article about the Indian holiday of Diwali.

I am not from India, though I have been to that vast, historic, and fascinating country on four visits, the most recent being after the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. But that’s another story.

I live in a wonderful community, and celebrate its richness of diversity — of its people, races, religions, cultures, etc. — any way one may classify it. My particular neighborhood is a microcosm of multiculturalism. Each household represents something different. In our little neighborhood set within suburban sprawl, we have residents who observe at least eight religions, reflect four races, range in age from 0 to over 90. Some are retirees; some are working couples. Some have parents or grandparents living at home to care for the kids. Some have small families, and some have large ones. Residents hail from more than 15 countries beyond the U.S. My partner and I contribute to the diversity as well (we’ve often joked to ourselves as being the “token gay couple”). Generally, we get along well and share our backgrounds, histories, hobbies, interests, and cultures with one another.

For example, right before Christmas, I bake a loaf of raisin bread for everyone in the neighborhood. My partner and I are both half Italian, and it is an Italian tradition to share bread at Christmas, which is the symbol of sustainment of life. We wrap each loaf in a ribbon and bring it to our neighbors, one-by-one, sharing good cheer, hope, and blessings for the holiday and the New Year.

My Indian neighbors across the street celebrated Diwali yesterday. They light candles and put them in little wind-proof holders and line their steps and walk with the twinkling lights. It’s nice to see when it gets dark. I learned that Diwali is also known as the “Festival of Lights.”

As I was preparing to leave to attend a public hearing yesterday evening, my neighbors walked across the street and gave me a box that contained home-made sweets. There I am on my driveway, in a leather jacket, jeans, and cowboy boots. I even had a Resistol hat on. They greeted this cowboy with good cheer and warm embraces. It was their way of sharing their holiday with us, as we share ours with them.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the day-to-day issues of things going on at work, at home, around town, and in our tanking investments, that we fail to observe the humanity and culture right down the street, around the corner, or next door. I sincerely appreciate that my neighbors help to educate me about what they value, and that they think enough of us to prepare a box of treats to share, and explain their holiday to us.

From all the struggles and strife that I went through in developing our neighborhood, and continuing to serve as the President of our Homeowners Association (among a few other civic activities), it is things like this small action — sharing a cultural tradition — that make me feel so good, and that make me feel that all my work and grey hairs were worthwhile.

Life is short: show those that you love (or like) that you love (or like) them!

Rain on the Chippewas

Yesterday morning, the local weather weasel said that it would cloud up, but remain dry all day, then perhaps rain a little in the evening, if it rained at all.

Considering that it was 50°F (10°C), I put on my red-piped leather chaps, favorite leather jacket, and a pair of warm gloves. I had already put on my Chippewa Hi-Shine engineer boots. Those boots are just comfy and good-looking as heck. I find I am wearing them often when I ride the Harley to Metro and then walk to work in the city.

Long about noon, the weather weasel was proved wrong, wrong, wrong. It began to rain. The wind picked up. The temperature dropped to 42°F (5.5°C). Ugggh… I hate riding in the rain.

When I left work and arrived at the Metro station where I parked my bike, there was a steady, but gentle, rain falling. It was windy and cold. I wore my Harley jacket to work, so I had it on and it was warm (enough).

I walked to where I keep my Harley locked up, shook off as much rain as I could from the cover, and put it in a saddlebag. I got my chaps out of the TourPak, and put them on, along with the gloves. Thank goodness I had the forethought to have my full-face Shoei helmet, which provides better protection in wind, rain, and cold. I put it on and adjusted it.

I brought the bike to life and slowly walked it backwards to the exit drive. I also thanked myself for having lug soles put on those Chippewa boots. They were providing excellent traction.

Using only the rear brakes when it was necessary to slow down, I rode slowly home. Made it safely. Not a problem. I just don’t like to ride in the rain, cold, and wind. But those are the risks you take when you are cheap (I don’t have to pay for parking the motorcycle), when you like to ride as much as you can, when you have the gear that provides proper protection, and when you have had training in how to handle a big, heavy, motorcycle in the rain. I reduced the risk as much as possible. That’s what the gear and the training is all about.

Keep riding as long as you can — but don’t trust those weather weasels!

Growing Beyond Leather Fetishism

I think I can say now that when I wear leather, it is for functional purposes only, not as fetish wear. The last fetish leather event that my partner and I attended was IML in 2007, and to tell you the truth, both of us didn’t have a good time. When Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL) weekend followed in January, 2008, we just didn’t want to go. When the ASGRA rodeo was held in September, just up the road from where we live, we just decided that we had been there enough, and didn’t want to go.

I knew it would happen, sooner or later. I’ve just grown beyond leather fetishism. (I have blogged about that before). As I have settled into a permanent, monogamous, relationship, and as some things have changed in our lives that make it less desirable or even interesting to go to leather fetish bars or events, I have arrived at the conclusion that it’s time to go through my leather gear and cull out the stuff I won’t be using any more.

I will keep most of my leather coats, jackets, jeans, pants, and breeches, which I continue to wear while riding my Harley or just “around”. I like how they feel and look. I will also keep certain leather shirts and vests for the same reasons. But other than that, the rest of the stuff will be moving along, over time.

These types of things happen when one gets older, settles down, never goes out to dinner or to attend social gatherings, and is “married” to a guy who doesn’t like to be around other people. Further, in scanning the pictures from the recent Folsom Street Fair, I realize now more than ever, I’m really not into that scene. Seriously, I have just grown beyond it. I don’t think it is wrong. I do not think poorly of the guys who attend those events. I am very glad they have fun when they go. Those events, and the fetish wear that goes with it, just are not for me any more.

This is a fairly monumental decision in my life, but not unexpected. It was like when I gave my cherished Tonka toy trucks to a nephew when I was 13… I still liked them, but had grown beyond them. I have “grown beyond” (in age and interests) leather fetishism, but not leather functionality. That is, if the gear works for my continued passion in motorcycling, then I’ll keep it.

My visits to IML, MAL, and the Folsom Street Fair will be on-line. That’s okay with me, and my partner. I’m curious if this type of thinking has occurred with other monogamous couples as they have aged and settled down. If this has happened to you, leave a comment.

Doubled Up

As much as we could have been called “lazy bums” yesterday, today we made up for it and doubled-up our work. Today, we got everything done on our list, plus more.

We went to church early, and I was wearing my dress Nocona ostrich inlay boots with a nice pair of slacks and dress shirt (no tie; I just don’t wear ties unless I absolutely must). After returning home, I changed clothes, and put on jeans and Justin roughout cowboy boots while taking my aunt and her friends grocery shopping.

It was a beautiful day, perfect for yard work. There was a lot of it, but we feel our yard and gardens are ready for winter now. (If you’re interested, I wore my Thorogood Station Boots for this work.) I even got to spend a couple hours in my gourmet kitchen (while Dan Post cowboy booted), making a five-apple pie and focaccia from scratch for dinner. My partner loved it! Nice crunchy crust, with tasty toppings.

In between, as I multitask regularly, I took several phone calls from seniors requesting rides to the voting polls on Nov. 4, and organized them using an on-line database that I built and posted to a secure side of one of my websites to align those needing rides with drivers and requested time slots. My co-organizers can access the database and update it real-time, so we all know what the others are doing. It’s a cool way to make all this happen and avoid double-booking or missing someone.

Man, I’m tired and a bit sore. But today was highly successful and we got a whole lot done. After I showered and changed before dinner, I put on my very comfy Chippewa Firefighter Boots, just ’cause. I would have liked to have been out riding my Harley, but I try to balance fun with work and community commitments. I feel good about all we got done today. I anticipate I will retire early tonight, and sleep soundly. I’ma pooped!

Lazy Bums

When I was growing up, if I happened to have a rare day to sleep later than my Mom, she would call me a “lazy bum” when I awoke. It was always used as a light-hearted expression, not meant to express anger or that she was upset. Usually, I was awake hours before others.

To this day, I rise well before dawn during the week, and usually my partner and I rise at dawn (or by 6:30am) on weekends. And we are usually in bed by 9:00pm, as we were last night. We both were just beat after a long week.

Today, Saturday, it was rainy and dark as dawn broke. My partner and I got up to use the bathroom. But it was cold and still dark. We crawled back into bed. We intended to snuggle for a little while, then get up and go about our day.

Well, um… we fell back asleep, nestled in each other’s arms, all warm and cozy. When we finally awoke, it was after 9:00am! Oh-my-gosh… I haven’t slept 12 hours in … I can’t remember when.

We showered and dressed (me in a pair of leather jeans and boots, naturally). We went to visit a dear old friend. A mentor, of sorts, who looked after me 30 years ago when I had begun service on a Board of Directors of a major local non-profit organization, and with whom I have remained close. My partner adores her. The two of them just gabbed away. My partner generally detests social situations and talking with anyone. But it was a pleasure to watch him interact in such an animated way with one of my oldest friends.

Well, that’s been our day… being lazy bums and giving attention to someone we admire and love. I’m sure we will make up for it tomorrow when the rain has stopped, leaves will need to be raked, the lawn will require a trim, I’ll need to take my aunt and some of her friends grocery shopping, and lots of other stuff. But taking time to rest (thoroughly) and spend quality time with a dear old friend was important too.

As I often say: Life is short — show those you love that you love them.

It’s Fryeday!

I have blogged often about Frye Boots, and have been disheartened about their demise since the brand was bought out by a holding company that operates out of Great Neck, New York, for cheap, low-quality boots now made in China. Yuck.

Good ol’ vintage Frye Boots are what caught my eye back in high school, and remain a fond selection today. I recently acquired a pair of true “vintage” Fryes via a great eBay snag. I have to admit, though, that the boot shafts were rather narrow, so I took a few weeks with each boot to apply a boot stretcher to resolve that problem. They fit me fine, now. A thick pair of socks is required, too. Fryes never really were that comfortable. Back in the day, my feet could take more abuse than they can now.

These new-to-me Frye boots were confirmed by men more knowledgeable than me to have been made some time in the early ’70s. Cool! Just like what I wore when I was in high school.

I fondly recall seeing a guy in my home room who wore these really cool olive-colored Frye Harness boots. He looked really good in them, and set the trend. Soon after he began wearing them, a lot of other guys started wearing them, too.

I see this same guy from time to time on the Metro as I come in to work. But he reacts to me in a “high-schoolish” way. Meaning, he won’t talk to me, or even say “hi.” He just runs the other way. We weren’t friends in high school, but you would think as an adult he might have the courtesy at least to reply when I say “hello” to him. But he doesn’t. Oh well, no big deal. He was kind of aloof in high school — nothing has changed. Well, one change. While he wears jeans to wherever he works in the city, he wears loafers now. Yuck. He would look better in boots with those jeans.

I will enjoy my “Fryeday” today, enjoying my vintage Fryes and hearing that distinctive “clunk” on the floors of my office as a move about.

Life is short: wear your boots! (Fryes, if you’ve got ’em!)

Wearing Leather in Public

I continue to be asked from time to time, or read comments on various boot- or leather-oriented websites that there are some people who wonder about wearing leather (or just boots) in public.

I differentiate between leather gear that is purely fetish-oriented and leather gear that has an ongoing functional purpose. That is, leather gear such as leather pants with a codpiece, a harness, leather jock, or full leather cop uniform is purely fetish wear. “Functional leather,” as I call it, are leather garments made for purposes such as for providing protection while riding a motorcycle, as well as for general fashion. Items such as a leather blazer, bomber jacket or coat, and leather pants fit the bill.

I have a lot of leather gear that I have acquired over time that fits the “functional” category. I wear this gear regularly in fall, winter, and spring. Sure, I’m an avid motorcyclist so I have an ongoing “excuse” to wear and be seen in leather. But I don’t ride in the rain, or when there is snow and ice on the ground. Even in those months when I’m confined to using my truck to get me from place to place, I still choose to wear leather pants, jeans, shirts, vests, and jackets.

I explained in my posting titled, Who Am I In Leather and Boots? about why and how I wear functional leather around my community — to meetings, visits with family and friends, or while out and about running errands and such. It’s no big deal. But to summarize, as far as I am concerned, wearing leather in public is not a problem for me because everyone who knows me knows that wearing boots and leather is my “signature” in casual and informal settings.

I don’t wear leather all the time. There are places I go and things that I do where wearing leather is not appropriate. For example, the “business casual” dress code at work is not so “casual” as to accept me wearing leather jeans. At church, I might wear a leather blazer and nice looking cowboy boots with a pair of (cloth) slacks. (My partner is always in a suit, but that’s who he is.) If I am testifying before a county board or council, I may even wear a shirt and tie with slacks (and dress cowboy boots). It really varies. All guys change what they wear depending on what they’re doing and where they are going. Leather is just a part of my wardrobe, not the entire thing.

If you are hesitant about wearing leather in public, keep these things in mind:

  • Your self-conscious feelings are more of your own thoughts than anyone else’s. Most people really don’t care. Seriously.
  • Think if your hesitation to wear leather in public is out of concern about how you perceive yourself and the image you portray to others. If your image-as-perceived-by-others is that important to you, then dress the part and forget wearing leather.
  • If it is not common for you to be seen in leather, then someone may say something. If they do, what can help turn the situation around is to be prepared with a response:
    • Your primary response should be non-verbal.
      • Smile!
      • Stand up straight
      • Give a clear indication that you are pleased to be wearing leather.
    • Consider saying something like one of these comments:
      • Like the jeans? I think they’re cool!
      • My wife (or partner) gave them (pointing to the leather item) to me for my birthday. Doesn’t s/he have great taste?
      • I like how this vest looks with this shirt!
      • I haven’t been more comfortable in my life in a pair of jeans.
      • I thought these leather pants were stylish. They look great, and feel even better!
      • Thanks for noticing! Isn’t it (pointing to the leather garment you have on) nice looking?
      • Grrrr… those hoodlums might run in fear now when they see me (giving an evil grimace, of course, all in jest).
      • Just wait until you see the Harley I’ve picked out at the dealership!

By expressing delight and pleasure in your gear, you will both improve your own self-confidence, as well as invite anyone asking about it to share your joy. If they see you as being really happy and comfortable in your gear, expressing confidence and style, they will either join you and give a compliment, or at worst, just remain quiet.

In summary, these are the tricks to wearing leather gear in public:

  • Get quality, good-fitting gear. (Read my Guide to Leather Gear for info about why this is so important.) Cheap gear from websites that cater to straight bikers looks crappy and hangs funny on everyone except the model wearing it (and for whom I betcha it was tailored).
  • Choose when it is appropriate to wear leather, but choose to wear it more than once a year or on Halloween.
  • Express pride, confidence, and happiness while wearing it. Smile, stand up straight, and look like you enjoy it.
  • If it is not common for you to be seen in public in leather and someone says something, smile back, and point out what you are enjoying about it, and invite them to share your joy.

It really is that easy, and isn’t as hard as some may think. It begins by looking inward, and losing the fear of worrying about what others think.

Life is too short to be worrying about what others think. Wear your boots and leather!

The Temperature Threshold

This time of year can be frustrating. It has been cold — almost freezing — in the morning when I leave for work, yet pleasantly cool, but not cold, during the day.

As a “civic activist biker”, I advocated strongly for a bill that passed a few years ago which provides free parking for motorcycles at any Metro subway station in our county. Being cheap, and also wanting to continue to take advantage of the bill that I joined with others to fight for, I really want to continue to ride my Harley to the Metro as long as I possibly can.

But every biker has his limits. Yesterday, when the thermometer read 32°F (0°C), I wussed out. That’s an American expression for failing to participate in something due to lack of courage. Yep, I didn’t have the courage yesterday to deal with the cold. Soon enough, I will become accustomed to the cold again, but at this time of year, such temperatures still seem to be a bit of a shock to the system.

This morning, it was a little bit warmer than yesterday. Wow, a whopping 3°F increase, making the morning temp to be 35°F (1°C). I was dithering a lot as to whether to scrape the frost off my truck and crawl into it, and just pay the cost of parking it at the garage, or steeling up my courage to leather up and ride.

Well, I chose the latter. That is, I put on thick, warm socks, my Chippewa Hi-Shine Engineer boots, which are lined and comfortable (and look good with street clothes at the office), my thickest chaps (my old Mr. S Biker Chaps were the selection), and several layers on my body. Undershirt, warm dress shirt, and a vest. On top of that, I zipped up my Taylor’s Leatherwear cop jacket, which has a very warm Thinsulate lining.

I got my full-face Shoei helmet, which blocks cold better than my 3/4 SuperSeer helmet, and adjusted the vents to ensure that the face shield wouldn’t fog. Then I picked out a pair of warm motorcycle gloves.

I do not have heated gear or heated grips as some people I know have. I mean, heck, it’s only two miles to the Metro. How cold is it, really? Guys in Minnesota or Wisconsin are probably laughing like heck at this whole thing — they ride all the time when temperatures are well below freezing (and probably in shorts and sneakers, to boot). But for us in the Mid-Atlantic, these temperatures are about the low limit of our tolerance, or what I call “the temperature threshold.”

I continue to learn that the windscreen on my Road King really performs well in blocking the cold air. Having ridden a Harley for 15 years that did not have one, I was always having to bear the full brunt of wind chill. According to the National Weather Service Wind Chill Index, the temperature today on a bike without a windscreen at the speed that I ride to the Metro would feel like 12°F (-11°C). Brrrrrrrr! But today, it was almost heavenly. I felt the cold, but it wasn’t unbearable. In fact, it was almost unnoticeable.

It’s good to have the right gear for riding in temperatures like this. Heck, with what I learned this morning, I might even challenge temperatures colder than that. As long as there is not any ice or snow on the ground, I imagine perhaps I could be riding all winter. We’ll see.

(Sorry, no photos of this get-up. It’s not possible to operate the camera with thick gloves on!)