Living in Guppyville

I’m surrounded! Aaaaaaaack! Okay, I live in one of the wealthiest counties in the nation. It is easy and comfortable to live and let live, and to be open as a gay couple among your neighbors, or as I do, as a civic leader.

I’m not alone by any means. While there is no formal census, it is clear to me that among the almost-million residents of my county, there are a huge number of LGBT people.

There are also a huge number of yuppies. You know, the guy who thinks he is saving the planet by driving a hybrid vehicle when meanwhile he makes 200K a year working for a conglomeration which buys goods from foreign countries employing 12 year-olds who rip out their own rain forests for raw goods. (I borrowed this reference from the urban dictionary.)

Or the gay guys who are attorneys and buy suits and dress shoes galore from the high-end retailers, getting to-and-fro in their latest new upscale car. Or… whatever, you get my drift.

Combine the two — gay + urban professional = “guppy.” We’ve got so many of them around here that if you laid them all end-to-end, you could probably reach San Francisco with ’em! (Now I divert… who would want to “lay” a guppy? And which end? On top of each other? Would they squeal? I am ROFL!)

Anyway, I received an invitation to yet one more wonderful fundraising dinner-dance, this time to benefit the statewide LGBT non-profit. Okay, it’s a good non-profit organization, and advocates well. Good and hard-working people are affiliated with it. They need to raise funds to keep doing their work. I understand all that.

Their “Spring Formal” (as it were), being held right here in Guppyville, is priced high at $125/person, or more for such wonderful designations as “power couple” for a mere $600. And it goes up from there for various sponsorship levels along with that special “opportunity” to attend the “VIP reception” with the guest speaker du juor.

What wine are these guppies drinking who come up with this?

Actually, I’ve asked, and have been assured that they do quite well in appealing to the “cocktail-attire” guppy-set of my home county, and raise a lot of funds with this event.

Well, more power to them. It isn’t going to include us. Too rich for my blood (well, the “ask” is too high for us to feel comfortable with. We have other priorities). We will continue to make a modest charitable donation directly to them, and bypass all the froo-froo.

Also, the event is on a Sunday night — starting at 6pm for the wonderful pre-event “VIP Reception” followed by a “silent auction” then the dinner with speeches by TBD and award-winners, then dancing to music played by an unknown DJ following. My partner and I get up at 4-in-the-morning for work the next day… but apparently the guppy-set doesn’t rise early, or as early as we do. Or lives on less sleep. Or will take the next day off work… or a combination thereof.

Oh puh-leeze, gimme a break. Marketing to guppies has never resonated in our household. And it never will. We’re just not part of that set, and feel ill-at-ease and uncomfortable around it.

The night of that event will be late Spring, so hopefully the weather will be decent enough that my partner and I can enjoy a nice meal at our favorite place to eat out, “Deckview, Maryland.” We will grill a couple of steaks, bake some potatoes, whip up a garden salad, pop open a couple of Coke Zeros, and sit back to watch the sun gently set on our trees while we are dressed in blue jeans and boots. That’s our style, and our comfort level. The peace and quiet will also be appreciated, too.

Tool Belts and Work Boots

Not much time to blog today… I’m sore as heck. My partner and I spent 12 hours yesterday cleaning up that house that I bought for my rental investments. Great thing is that it is now clean as a whistle. I got all of my renovation and repair estimating done, and it will not take much to bring the house to livable condition.

I will make a few calls today to some painters for estimates. A thorough interior paint job is needed, and of all the trades, painting is not something I like to do.

Today, I file for the permits I require to do the various renovation projects that need to be done. My county issues permits for everything — there is probably one even for blowing your nose. Those things are costly! But it’s just the price I have to pay.

Next week, I will “up the electrical,” meaning that I will install a new circuit breaker panel to bring the house up to today’s power demand and safety standards. A few more weeks of after-work time, where I will install new outlets throughout (there is only one in each room) and central air conditioning, and we’ll be all set. Many years ago I got an electrician’s license because I enjoyed doing electrical work, and I was too poor and too cheap to pay an electrician to do home renovation projects (especially on my first house, which I had to rebuild literally from the inside out). Once I do my electrical work, I will ask a buddy who is a Master Electrician to connect it to the grid.

The worst part of the house is the kitchen. It’s awful. Someone installed baby blue tile all over — on the floor, walls, and countertops. That all has to go. I will break that out and replace it with better flooring and Corian countertops in neutral colors. I’ll also put in a new sink. The appliances are all in good shape and are relatively new.

With those changes, the house will be ready to go. This is the first post-WWII Cape Cod in which I have not had to replace all the windows. Someone seems to have installed new double-pane windows within the last decade. The rest of the house is in very good shape. Except for a lot of dust and some spiders, there wasn’t a whole lot to clean up. (Believe me, I have dealt with a lot worse.) The previous owner didn’t “trash” it. When the painting is done, I’ll install new carpeting.

I wore an old pair of Corcoran Field Boots as my work boots with camo BDUs. I like to wear BDUs when I do dirty work because they are loose and comfortable, and have lots of big pockets. My partner wore an old pair of Timberlands with jeans. And yes, we both wore tool belts. It just makes tools we need more handy when they’re at your waist. Sorry, no photo. I didn’t bring the camera, and my partner wouldn’t have wanted to be seen in a dusty, dirty condition. He is rather particular about how his image is displayed. I sure was happy to have his help.

I needed even more “spot help” when I was removing that old crappy aluminum awning that was propped up over the front door and steps. My tenant who occupies the house next door was coming home when he saw me struggling with it, and came over to help. Right after he got off work. Oh, did I mention he is a motor officer? Hmmm… nice “distraction” watching him in his motor boots as we tore that thing off the porch. He is a very nice guy and great tenant.

My partner and I are pooped, but we are basking in the aches and pains of a job well done.

Another House

They say that in bad financial times like these, it’s a time to buy when things are less expensive and there is a lot of competition in the market.

I have not been actively looking to buy any more houses. I already own seven houses (including the one in which we live) and a condo. Why so many? I actually lived in each of these homes as I renovated them from the inside to outside, making them liveable, comfortable homes. They are all within a few blocks of one another, in an old, mature neighborhood that is convenient to public transit and shopping. As I moved on, I put the previous house in a rental inventory that is dedicated to affordable housing for community heroes (cops, firefighters, teachers.)

Over 33 years since I bought my first “Harry-Homeowner Special,” I have learned a thing-or-two about determining if a house is worth fixing up and renting.

Last week, one of my tenants called to say that the house next to his had been vacant for some time. He said he thought he saw a truck hauling off what remained of the household contents a few months ago. He was concerned about the blight of a vacant property, which has become an eyesore and possibly worse.

I decided to look the property up in on-line records, and what did I discover but on the day I checked, the property converted to “bank owned,” meaning it was being foreclosed. I did more research, called some people, and found that the previous owners owed lots of money to lots of people, and probably skipped town. The bank that assumed ownership of the property, like most banks, really didn’t want it.

I put on my thinking cap. I checked the amount of back taxes that were due — not bad, considering. I dropped by the house after work and walked around it. The “outside bones” looked decent. New(er) roof, decent paint job, working gutters and downspouts, no broken windows, or other visible signs of damage. Sure, there were signs of neglect, but those things are minor and can be easily and quickly fixed.

I called the bank the next morning. After a couple hours of transfers and annoying “press-this-for-that” automated answering systems, I finally reached a live human being in the United States (a rarity these days) who was willing to talk to me about the property. He arranged for me to visit the property and inspect it. I brought along a good friend who is a professional home inspector. We found nothing materially wrong with the house — in fact, it was in excellent condition considering it had been abandoned and neglected.

It was time to act. I turned to the bank representative and made an offer based on what I knew about overdue taxes and the real-estate assessment. He couldn’t accept the offer then-and-there, but the next morning, I got a call from a higher-up at the bank, and we negotiated the terms. I got a really sweet deal because the bank did not want to carry another house in their already overburdened inventory of foreclosed properties.

I went to settlement yesterday, and my partner and I will be spending the day today (Sunday), cleaning up and preparing a list of actions that will be necessary to get the house into good shape for occupancy. I have a great renovation and construction estimating program on my laptop that covers all the details, down to the number of pounds of screws and nails that will be required.

Next… I pursue getting the property listed on the inventory for affordable housing so it can be made available for rent by more community heroes. Check back later!

Meanwhile, we’ve got our work boots and tool belts on!

Closet Cases

A “closet case” is defined as follows:

Derogatory term for someone who is homosexual but refuses to admit it to himself or to associate with other homosexuals. Usually he publicly and vigorously denounces homosexuals, both in an attempt to camouflage his sexual preference and as a reflection of the inner conflict he has with his own desires.

It can also be used is a slightly less derogatory way for a homosexual who is unusually careful to prevent family, friends and co-workers from discovering his homosexuality. He will, for example, refuse to live with a male partner, and may keep a phony girl friend.

I can relate in a way. In my previous job, I had a number of supervisors who were retired from the military. Historically, active and retired military are notorious for being homophobic, and several of my former supervisors proved the point. I knew that if they really knew that I was gay and lived with a man, my life at work would be hell. So I never revealed my sexual orientation. It wasn’t anyone’s business. And being a big bad booted biker, commuting on my Harley to work, that image and my usual masculine behavior diverted attention. I kept my home life at home and my work life at work, and tried hard to keep the two separated.

There are many, many men who live in a situation where they fear that revealing their sexual orientation to others will bring pain and mental anguish. Even indicating that they prefer the company of men over women can put them in a bad spot.

But some of them overreact. They assume an identity that is hypermasculine. They share wild tales of (female) sexual exploits that are purely concoctions of the mind and diversions for others. Some make up families and tell tales of married life. Some have jobs in fields where macho-bravado is the norm, such as construction trades, law enforcement, firefighting, the oil industry, and so on — so they tell stories (lies) that fulfill the image of the masculine man in that job.

However, when they’re alone, they visit various websites such as Recon, Gearfetish, Boots on Line, and others as voyeurs (sometimes called lurkers). They may have a clandestine rendezvous with another guy. But they would never admit to anyone else — family, friends, and especially co-workers — their true feelings and sexual orientation or preferences.

While I understand situations that people get into where they fear negative repercussions from being “out” or revealing their sexual orientation, I feel badly and sad for them. I know how it hurts. I know the feelings of anxiety, and like one is living a constant lie. The inner turmoil continues ad naseum.

Some men in this situation and who feel that ongoing anxiety react quite negatively toward someone — like me — who has completely “come out” and is comfortable with it. Yes, I am very fortunate that my current employer isn’t filled with homophobes. I just got a major promotion over many others that I would not have gotten if homophobia were the indiginous thought pattern.

I regret that some “closet cases” feel that they have to lash out when their repressed thoughts and anger erupts, and they feel that they have to write nasty, childish comments in reply to something that confident masculine gay men may write or say. And, typically, guys who write those silly comments do not provide a way to reach them by e-mail. They just hide behind their computer and behave like grade school bullies taunting someone. Well, “sticks and stones” and all that. I have looooong gotten over feeling hurt by such attacks. Rather, I feel sorry for those guys, and pray for them. God loves ’em anyway, even if they can’t love themselves.

Let me say once again that I realize that my personal situation is not that common. I have “grown up” to be a confident, mature masculine man. It took a long time to relax and “be myself.” I live in a community that accepts me for who I am. I am employed by a company that respects my skills and knowledge, and doesn’t judge me because I’m gay. I belong to groups and organizations where I do a variety of things, from performing repairs to improve home liveability for seniors to leading the charge against rampant development without adequate infrastructure to riding motorcycles with groups. I am fortunate that the community where I was born has evolved into being open, accepting. It has a mature sense of “live and let live.” That’s why my partner and I built our home in Maryland where I grew up, because where he lived — Virginia — was much less accepting of “us” as “us” and has become even more hatefully homophobic-by-law.

To summarize: I do not think that people who chose to live in the closet (that is, not publicly reveal their sexual orientation) are bad. I realize that for various reasons (employment, family, geographic location, etc.), they can not be more open with others and honest with themselves. I do ask that as I respect their situation, that they respect mine: that I am a masculine man who likes to wear boots and leather, rides a motorcycle, gets involved in civic life, and who doesn’t cloak his sexual orientation. There is room in this world for all of us. Live your life and I’ll live mine. (But keep the silly comments to yourself.)

Life is short: be true to yourself. No one else knows you better.

My Upside Down Life

I actually think I was born in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean — the time zone there fits my biorhythms better. That is, ever since I was a kid, I naturally awaken between 4 to 4:30am, every day. Even weekends.

On weekends when I wake up, I just snuggle closer to my partner and drift in and out of dreamland for a couple hours until he wakes up about 5:30 or 6. Weekdays, we both get up no later than 4:30.

I have always been that way — rising early and then getting to bed by 8:30 at night, or 9 if I’m stuck in a meeting or something.

I am lamenting about my biorhythms being out of whack with the rest of the world that I work with in my community. They have meetings and events that I attend that begin at 7pm if I’m lucky, or 7:30pm, which is more common. Most meetings are well-planned, and last just about two hours. But that’s 9:30pm! Too late for me. I often get up from a meeting if it’s still going on at 8:45pm and leave. After that, I can’t think well and I am just too tired to press on. (or want to.)

This is one reason why I will never run for office or become an elected official. The hours that they have to work never coincide with my biorhythms. It’s also a reason why I don’t attend some meetings or events to which I am invited — including those infernal fundraising dinner-dances. Seriously, I never quite could handle “late.”

And it’s another reason why I never really went out much to gay bars and such — “gay time” is shifted several hours later than most other’s time anyway… so there’s no way I can handle staying awake that late (which seems to me like “all night.”)

I honestly feel that my world is upside down. Everyone else seems to wake up around 6 or 7, and manage to stay awake until 10 or 11. I’m two to three hours “ahead” of everyone else. When they set meetings and events, they do it because it accommodates the schedules of most others. But not me.

I know other people who tell me that they get up early, but also stay awake until the wee hours of the morning. They claim that they only “need” four or fewer hours of sleep each night. They seem to manage, but I often wonder how they function. I certainly can’t manage on such a little amount of sleep each night.

Gay guys seem to keep really late hours when they surf the ‘net. About 30% of visitors to my website from the U.S. are visiting between midnight and 4am, Eastern Time. I won’t comment more about that — you can arrive at your own conclusions about that observation.

Well, anyway, I will just accept the fact that what they told me when we were in Australia is correct: our seasons are backwards, our hemisphere is upside down, and our time is all off. Perhaps my friends from the Land of Oz are on to something.

Life is short: (get some sleep!)

Happy Birthday to a Wonderful Man

Today I extend my most sincere well-wishes to my (former) friend, “AZ”. He is a warm, sensitive, caring and thoughtful man with a great sense of humor.

I was honored to call him my friend back in 2007 – 2011. He has a wide circle of people who care deeply for him and for whom he “cares back.” I was honored to be among them, back in the day.

I won’t belabor this blog post any more — AZ isn’t one to seek attention.

On my (former) buddy’s very special day, his birthday, he is deserving of thanks and praise for the richness and blessings he brings to his family and his friends.

Life is short: Happy Birthday, AZ!

Note (2016 update): AZ dropped out of my life for unknown reasons in 2012 and I have had very little contact with him since then.

He’s My Brother (in heart)

I received a call today from my “eighth brother,” AZ, who confirmed that the special treat that I sent to him arrived. Despite the UPS guy dropping it, it wasn’t damaged. Enjoy your special birthday cake, bro’!

As I was smiling on the way to Metro for my ride home, this song made famous by The Hollies was playing in my mind:

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We’ll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

If I’m laden at all
I’m laden with sadness
That everyone’s heart
Isn’t filled with the gladness
Of love for one another

It’s a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we’re on the way to there
Why not share
And the load
Doesn’t weigh me down at all
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

He’s my brother
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother…

Just a thought for a dear friend who is much like a brother to me.

Fa! Cosi sia!

As my nonna would say, “[è] fa[tto]! Cosí sia! — which means literally, “it is done, so be it” but in its connotation, means generally, “that’s the way it is, take it or leave it.” This Italian phrase would be her way of expressing exasperation with whatever us kids came up with.

Afraid of a spider? Fa! Cosí sia!

Don’t want to eat vegetables? Fa! Cosí sia!

Your mean sister called you a name? Fa! Cosí sia!

A bit neurotic about something? Fa! Cosí sia!

Funny, I was just saying this expression to my partner, when he was going on and on about some minor little thing… I can’t even remember… Fa! Cosí sia!

I also said it in a jesting way to a friend when I described that when he made a choice to be my friend, he had to accept some of my neurotic behaviors. Fa! Cosí sia! (and just accept me as he does, with compassion for my crazy ways.)

Everyone has differences, or some may call “weird behaviors.” For example, my partner can’t stand it when the phone rings at home. I mean, he absolutely detests the disruption. It doesn’t matter who is calling, he just doesn’t want the phone to ring. If it does, he won’t answer it. He hates the phone, period, end-of-story. If we are both at home and the phone rings and I answer it, he glowers at me until I hang up.Fa! Cosí sia!

For me, I hate cell phones. The disruption. The huge expense for monthly service, making rich companies richer. I hate the fact that a cell-phone-yapping yuppie killed my motorcycle-riding buddy six years ago.

Well, Fa! Cosí sia! — to those who might think of calling me at home when my partner is home, or calling my cell phone, which I rarely have turned on or available (it’s usually buried at the bottom of my briefcase.) Just accept that some of us are weird, are slightly neurotic, or approach some things differently from others. We’re all different.

Life is short: Fa! Cosí sia!

Best Motorcycle Boots

It’s funny, but when I wrote a blog post last week about the best motorcycle patrol boots, I have discovered that people searching for the general term “Best Motorcycle Boots” end up right here, on this blog. Update: See a newer, related post about “Best Value Motorcycle Boots” (click here)

Sooooo…. let me tell you about what I think are the “Best Motorcycle Boots” for all-around wear on a street motorcycle. (That is, not a dirt bike).

They are (drumroll…) Chippewa Firefighter Boots (model number 27422). Why boots made for firefighters? Why not engineer or harness boots, such as those made by Wesco, Double H, Red Wing, Chippewa, or others?

The reason why I make this statement are as follows:

  • Comfort: Hands down (or should I say, “feet down,”) these boots are the most comfortable motorcycle boots I have worn while riding, and I have ridden hundreds of thousands of miles for more than 30 years.

  • Durability: These boots have a steel toe and are double-stitched at all major points throughout the boot. If it’s made for wildland firefighters, it can endure the gaff of motorcycling.
  • Vibram® 100 sole: This thick, durable, “big lug” sole is like a snow tire on the bottom of my feet. It provides superior traction.
  • Flexibility: What adds to the comfort of the boot is that it is flexible at the ankle and the foot.
  • Leather lining: the lining adds to the strength of the boot’s construction, as well as its comfort. One would think that a leather-lined boot would get hot. But let me tell ‘ya, I have worn these boots on exceptionally hot and humid days that the DC area is known for in summertime. These boots just don’t get hot. Unfortunately, tall leather-lined boots such as Wesco Harness or Boss boots do.
  • Fit Technique: These boots have a unique fitting. A boot zipper is laced into the boot’s ten eyelets. There are various ways to do that, which can accommodate a wide variety of foot widths. Once the zipper is laced in properly, all you need to do from then on is close the zipper after pulling them on, and open it to take ’em off. (Note, it takes a while for the fitting to break in, but once it does, these boots are very easy to pull on and remove.)
  • Value: These boots are an excellent value for the price. And the best place to buy these boots at the most affordable price is Stompers Boots of San Francisco.

I own more than 50 pairs of motorcycle boots. I have ridden with ’em all. When it comes time to choosing a good quality boot that’s comfortable, durable, and suitable for a long, all-day ride with my club on my Harley, this is the boot that I choose.

For more information on motorcycle boots, Guide to Motorcycle Boots.

Let’s Ride!

Let’s queue up…And let’s R-I-D-E! (View from the back of the pack, taken by a buddy)

Today I led the ride that I planned out yesterday. What a great day to get out and ride! Nice sunny “leather weather,” (it was as predicted — cool at the start, and about 60°F/15.5°C by mid-day), good company, and the rumble of a Harley on the open byways of Maryland. I had a terrific time. So did some 30 others who, like me, were anxious to break out the bike and ride on such a nice day, and shake the cobwebs off our boots, leathers, and machines. We all had good times, good food, and good cheer.

That, my friends, is why I am such an avid biker — nothin’ quite like the feel of the open road on two wheels.