Thanks to Lug Soles

It was a very nice day yesterday — sunny and unusually warm for this time of year at 64°F (18°C). I got out the Harley and went for a ride.

I had plotted a potential route to lead for my club, and wanted to check it out. I am sure glad I did.

A nice back road as it appeared on the map ended at a T-intersection. Turn left at the “T” and continue on another nice back road. Or so it seemed.

Unfortunately, the map has no details as to hills or terrain. It turned out that the intersection was on a steep incline! I later determined that it was a 15° upgrade. The road did not level off at the top of the hill — it just ended. When I stopped at the stop sign at the end of the road and top of the hill, I was pointed to the heavens. Heavens to Mergatroyd! (don’t know what this means? I date myself, but see this explanation).

I have never been adept at handling a manual transmission. For the life of me, I could not manage to get the bike revved enough while letting the clutch out to get the bike going without rolling back or potentially stalling. Heck! I was stuck!

Thank goodness for lug soles. I was wearing my tall brown Wesco harness boots that have a thick Vibram®100R lug sole. They are like snow tires for the feet. I was able to hold my very heavy motorcycle on the hill by the sheer pressure on my boots planted firmly on the pavement (and an assist from my brakes) while I was trying to figure out what to do. I couldn’t maneuver forward, as I couldn’t get the bike going without rolling back, potentially falling over, or stalling. I tried and tried and just couldn’t do it.

Fortunately, few cars came up behind me while I was stuck there, and I was able to signal to them to go around me while I was stuck in this predicament. Then, most fortunately, another biker on a big Harley like mine came up from another direction and asked if I needed help.

“Yep, I’m hillshy. I can’t go forward.”

He realized that I was stuck, and drove past me to the bottom of the hill to block traffic while I slowly backed up, turned around, and went back from the direction from which I came. As I passed him, I gave him a big thank you shout and a thumbs up. He waved. Thank goodness for the good samaritans out there in the biker community. I’m not quite sure what I would have done if he had not stopped to help.

BTW: I am not going on this route to lead a ride! I have learned my lesson.

AZ: This is precisely why I would not take you up on your offer to borrow your manual-transmission car while I visited you in Phoenix. If this happened to me while I was operating your car on the hilly terrain of Arizona, things would have gone to heck in a handbasket quickly, as I could not stick my boot out of your car onto the pavement to hold me while I was trying to rectify the problem. And, my dear AZ, this is precisely why I LIKE lug-soled boots. They saved my butt, big-time! Other than a bruised ego, nothing else happened. I did not drop my Harley as I was slowly backing up and turning on that huge incline. The boots held me and my bike firmly as I was maneuvering.

I am not skilled at using a manual transmission. My inability to use a stick-shift skillfully has a lot to do with being a klutzy, uncoordinated guy. This is why my family gave up trying to teach me how to dance. It’s just not within my skillset to learn how to handle such a situation.

Life is short: wear lug-soled boots when you operate a heavyweight motorcycle!

Batch cookin’

My partner and I both work full-time, and when we get home from work, we’re tired and it’s difficult to find the time and energy to cook a full-blown meal. I guess that’s why a lot of people buy prepared meals and eat out.

Instead, we “pre-prepare” our meals in advance. For example, Guido (my chef’s assistant) and I got busy on Saturday afternoon and “cooked up a storm.” We made a huge pot of Chicken Soup on one burner of the stove, and a full pot of home-made tomato sauce, which we call “Salsa del Guido.”

Sure, we can buy pre-made tomato sauce in a jar or can at the grocery store. And yes, we have been known to do that. But we prefer our own sauce, in which we include ingredients we prefer: fresh onion, garlic, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and a bit of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomato base composed of tomato puree and tomato paste. Some recipes call for wine, but we don’t use it, since I am allergic to certain chemicals in grapes.

We will add all the ingredients, mix them together, and let it simmer a good 2 – 3 hours on the stove, stirring occasionally. Then I will remove the onions and garlic, and store the sauce in canning jars.

During the week when we get home and want a quick Italian meal, I will simmer some chicken in some of the sauce and boil water to make pasta. Add the chicken to the pasta with a bit more sauce and fresh grated cheese, and in 20 minutes, we have a home-cooked meal. Served with a side-salad, in no time, we enjoy a filling, balanced meal. Then, for me, often I’m off to an evening meeting, public hearing, or whatever.

Some weekend days we get really creative and productive, and make our own pasta, such as cheese ravioli. It is simple to do, but takes some time. But there’s nothing like having your own ravioli when you are tight on time but want a filling evening meal. Ravioli freezes very well, and takes just five minutes to make once the water is boiling.

Batch cooking in advance is the way to go. We can vary what we eat throughout the week and enjoy the benefits of our own creations, without having to take hours to prepare it. And that is not mentioning the money we save by not eating out or buying prepared meals that may come in too-large portions or with ingredients that don’t agree with restricted diets such as I have to live with.

Life is short: plan ahead!

Shown below, the results of our work on Saturday: Chicken soup on the left, “Salsa del Guido” on the right

Black Friday

Yesterday, the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States, is known as “Black Friday.” The date when stores have many sales to kick off the Christmas buying season. Thank goodness I have already completed all of my Christmas shopping for this year. However, we did have to venture out to take a trip to the dump to dispose of garbage and recyclables that remained after our Thanksgiving holiday pot-luck event. We passed by many shopping centers that were packed. Going into stores on days like this are definitely NOT my preference.

I decided in honour of Black Friday to dress completely in black leather. Black leather jacket, shirt, red-striped black leather breeches, tall Dehner bal-laced patrol boots, and even my Muir Cap and Damascus gloves. A couple of yuppies in jeans and sneakers at the dump emptying their SUVs parked on either side of me looked at me with either incredulity or awe.

After the trip to the dump, my partner and I did our weekly grocery shopping. Several people in the grocery store noticed my black leather, and one young guy asked me a lot of questions about where I got the gear and boots. I was happy to explain. He seemed intrigued.

At least I thought so. As we were ending our conversation, he asked me, “what kind of bike do you have?” I guess he assumed that the gear means that I’m a biker. Yes, that’s true. But I don’t only wear my leather gear when I ride my Harley. I wear it regularly, as often as I can. After all, I have made quite an investment in it, so I like to wear it. Hey guys, it’s time to get over worries about what others may think and leather up!

Life is short: wear your leather!

My Thanksgiving Thanks

I referred in yesterday’s blog post that I had prepared several “Thanksgiving Thanks” which I shared during our wonderfully successful Thanksgiving pot-luck event at which 98 guests and 11 family members participated. We had four opportunities to share with the group, and one privately. I prepared separate “thank yous,” which I will share here.

Before I go on, let me extend my thanks to all readers, and wish you the best for this holiday season. Peace to all people, dogs, cats, and otherwise (smile; photo provided by a cousin).

  • 11:00am: thank you to my wonderful partner, who lights my life with his commitment, dedication, hard work, and ongoing support for all I do. I could not live nearly as well, as comfortably, or as loved without him. Without him, I couldn’t be nearly as involved with you, my guests, as I am. I cherish him, and value how much he cares for all of our guests here with us today, for his mother, and for Mother Nature (just ask the squirrels and birds in the back yard!) Thank you, thank you, for being the man you are, and for being my best half.
  • 1:00pm: thank you to my wonderful twin brother, [J], who traveled all the way from his home in Paris to visit with me twice this year, including a wonderful birthday week where we rode Harleys together, visited family, and had such a great time. He connects with me almost every day by phone, email, or comment on my blog. He shows very clearly how much he loves me, and how much he cares. His wife and this world are so much the better for having him among us. I cherish him and love him only as a twin brother can. I can’t wait to see him and his wife when they come to visit for Christmas.
  • 3:00pm: (this passage removed).
  • 5:00pm: Thank you to [E] who organized today’s event. Two weeks ago when [my partner] and I both came down the the H1N1 flu, I was feeling overwhelmed by the need to keep on top of the planning and organizing for when you all would be coming today, and what you would be bringing. [E] just took over, and organized it far better than I could ever have done. Thanks, from the bottom of my heart. And thanks to my family [name, name, name…] who helped all day, too. We couldn’t have done this without you, and we love you very much.
  • 8:30pm: to my partner, as we sit here alone after a long day … thank you for enduring what is very hard for you to do … to be “on” all day long, to be socially light, entertaining, and to smile all day. I know this whole thing has grown beyond what it started out to be. I also know that it is physically more difficult for you now. And with unexpected visits from family who stayed with us last week before my aunt’s funeral, and with us both having had the flu and being sick for a whole week right before that — today was even more challenging than ever before. Thank you for your spirit, your hard work, but most of all, my love, for your love.

Thank you, loyal readers, for visiting this blog!

Life is short: be thankful!

It Will Be A Piece of Pie

As you read this, it is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. As you read this, imagine what my partner and I are doing right now.

Today we celebrate our tenth year of hosting a pot-luck Thanksgiving feast for friends: mostly seniors, who otherwise would be alone today. Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a day when people gather with their families, enjoy camaraderie, storytelling, music, football games on television, and too much food centered around roast turkey, as demonstrated by my friend, the Swedish Chef, and his uncle, here:

It is unfortunate that because the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday is so close to Christmas (I think the Canadians got it right when they celebrate the holiday in October), that families who are separated geographically do not get together at Thanksgiving if they must make a forced choice on which holiday to choose to gather. Thus, about 90 people we know do not have an opportunity today to get together with their respective families. But we are happy to serve as a substitute this Thanksgiving Day.

Throughout the day today, my own family will pick up senior friends and bring them to our home. Our friends bring with them some food item that they made or bought. Their contributions range from appetizers to vegetables to breads to desserts. Or, some may have contributed plastic utensils, paper products, or even trash bags (goodness knows we need them!) All of this was organized this year by the world’s #1 logistician, a senior bud and terrific planner.

Our senior friends come in “shifts” and at any given time, we may have 20 to 30 guests, being tended to by about ten of my family (siblings, nieces, and nephews). All I do is cook two turkeys the day before, and two on Thanksgiving Day. I rotate the turkey to the carving board and then warming trays throughout the day. And that’s really all I have to do, food-wise: cook four turkeys. Everything else is provided in abundance by our visitors.

We laugh, listen to the piano, talk, smile, share, and enjoy rich camaraderie among one another. And, about every two hours, we stop the festivities for a while and conduct one of my family traditions. We hold hands and go around the room and ask each person to Give Thanks to someone for something. I have spent hours composing my Thanksgiving Messages, which I anticipate with great hope will be well-received, as they are truly heart-felt.

By the end of the day, when my family helpers, my partner, and I have cleaned up the worst of it, disposed of the mess, and put what needs to be discarded in bags or boxes in the garage (which we will recycle, compost, or take to the dump tomorrow), we give my family helpers a small gift to thank them. My partner is terrific in finding just the right gift to give to them. Then, after they leave, my partner and I turn down the lights, turn on the piano one last time, and give each other a card. This is our tradition. We turn to one another, hold hands, look into each other’s eyes, and say why we are thankful this year.

Some people think that this huge all-day pot-luck Thanksgiving event is a big deal and a hassle. Actually, after ten years, we have gotten it down to a science. With everyone’s help and organization, things roll along very smoothly. it is an American expression to say, “it was a piece of cake” when referring to accomplishing a task easily. In this case, we say, “it was a piece of pie” because everyone knows that pie is the dessert of choice on Thanksgiving (not cake.)

Life is short: show those you love that you love them. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, everywhere!

Memories of Thanksgivings Past

Tomorrow, Thursday November 26, is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a day for family, food, and football.

My first ten Thanksgivings were spent on my mother’s family horse ranch in Oklahoma. I remember when I was a kid that family all would gather in the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning. Mom would bake some fresh cinnamon buns and then put a huge turkey in the oven to roast. She would have “assignments” for all of us kids to help prepare the rest of the meal, from appetizers to yams & veggies to pumpkin pie & desserts and everything in between. While our family kitchen wasn’t huge, somehow 10 or 20 of us would manage to find a place to “be” in or near the kitchen as we proceeded through the day’s rituals. We would talk, joke with each other, laugh, share stories, and continue that bond that made us a family. I remember those days fondly.

When things got too crowded in the kitchen, some of us would go into the parlor and listen to my grandmother play the piano, sing old-style hymns in her soft lilting voice, or listen raptly as she would tell us about life on the Choctaw lands of her youth. Some of the guys would turn on the television to watch football games. That was a big deal, because we didn’t have television in rural Oklahoma until 1963. Before that, they would either listen to the radio or go outside and toss the ball around among each other.

For me, not being a football kinda guy, I would saddle up my horse and join some family members for a ride in the soft forest and hills of Kiamichi Country (Southestern Oklahoma.) We would pick mistletoe and listen to the crunch of fallen leaves under the hoofs of our horses or our boots when we got off to water the horses or hike a bit.

Yes, I have very fond memories of Thanksgiving in Oklahoma, where I spent every autumn of my childhood while my father was in Europe for his work.

At 3:00, we all would huddle around the telephone in the parlor and listen for my Dad to call. This was a big deal — a super long-distance call from Europe to rural Oklahoma was not an easy feat. But Dad always made it happen, and took time to speak with each of us and let us know he missed and loved us.

After sharing our call with Dad, the family would gather in the dining room, parlor, or porch to have dinner. Family included my grandmother, my mother’s sister and her children, as well as most of my siblings and their spouses (and later, their children). Our challenge was that with such a large family, we all could not be seated at the same table at the same time. There were some years that we had some 40 people gathered for Thanksgiving dinner. However, my family never forced the youngest children to have to sit at the “kids table” away from the others. We had a fair and even method of distributing the seating, so that some years us little kids could be seated at the main table, while other years, we got to toss rolls at or to each other while seated out-of-sight on the service porch. I never felt mistreated just because I was about the youngest child among our clan.

I recall that my grandmother would be asked to say grace, and she would do so in a firm but soft manner. We all would hold hands and when she was through asking for God’s Blessings, we then went around the room and each member of the family would be asked to say why they were thankful this year. This process could take a long time, but it was welcome, warmly appreciated, and valued (though the rumbling of stomachs could be heard as the process rolled on, so those toward the end of the Thanksgiving chain were compelled to make it brief.)

I remember one year, in particular, when I was feeling rather left out and ignored that one of my sisters spoke up during our round of Giving Thanks and thanked me — little guy me — for doing something for her. I was shocked and amazed, because not an hour earlier we had been engaged in one of those typical sibling rivalry arguments. Her singling me out for thanks really proved to me what family is all about, and that we can forget squabbles and appreciate each other, and love one another. Truly, I was blessed with a wonderful family and I don’t forget. I will never forget. I can’t forget (they won’t let me!)

Things today have changed, morphed, moved, and rearranged. I will blog about this year’s Thanksgiving at our home tomorrow. Check back.

Meanwhile, whether you celebrate U.S. Thanksgiving or are from somewhere else in the world where Thanksgiving is not your holiday, I request that you remember to Give Thanks — to your spouse or partner, your parents and grandparents if still alive, your family, your friends, and to God. There is much to be thankful for, and we should remember that…

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

Turning Fetish Gear to Functional Gear

Sometimes there are differences between men’s leather gear designed specifically for function — such as for warmth and protection for a motorcyclist — compared with fetish leather designed to have a certain sexual appeal, but not necessarily serve a functional purpose.

Most of the time, the differences in leather gear designed for function vs. fetish are minimal. If you buy quality leather garments made custom to fit by a reputable leather crafter, such as Mr. S., 665Leather, Northbound, or similar — then you will find double-stitched and reinforced seams, thick thread used throughout, and quality hardware (such as on waist closures or buttons.)

However, one of the biggest differences on leather gear made for function vs. fetish is snaps. That is, on leather gear that I have bought from fetish gear retailers, they seem to go overboard on the snaps for shirt closures and (IMHO – worse) on the fly of leather jeans or breeches.

Snaps are designed to … um… “unsnap” rather quickly. For a leatherman who meets the right guy … well, he wants that to happen. And the guy wearing such fetish gear probably wears it only to those events held a few times each year, and otherwise, leaves it in his closet or trunk.

For me, on the other hand, I wear my leather gear almost every day. I wear it when I get home from work and on weekends. I wear it when I ride my Harley, and I wear it even when the weather is not suitable to ride my bike. I just like to wear it. I have made a rather large investment in my gear, so I choose to wear it often. I have long gotten over worrying about what other people might say or think. They don’t (say anything) and if they think something, at least where I live, they keep it to themselves.

Back to the topic: leather gear with snaps is not very functional. When worn while operating a motorcycle, stresses are placed on the fly when one swings his leg over the saddle to get on or off the bike. Stresses are placed on the front of a shirt when turning a motorcycle or man-handling it into a tight parking space. Snaps do what they do — they unsnap. Sometimes in the most embarrassing of places and at the wrong times.

When I was confined at home due to the flu recently, I spent some time conditioning all of my leather gear and organizing it. I looked carefully at each garment. I decided that there were three items of leather gear that I very much would like to wear while riding my Harley, but because of the leather-fetish-snap issue, I have not been able to do so. Turning, bending, or twisting as one naturally does while operating a bike would cause the snaps on the pants or shirt to pop open. Not good….

I took those items — my blue leather short-sleeved shirt, my naked leather jeans, and my cheap CHP leather breeches — to a luggage/leather repair shop to ask that zippers be installed to replace all those snaps. When this work is done, I will be able to wear these garments again without concern about them popping open at the wrong time in the wrong place.

This is a word to bikers who like leather: it is a good idea to have custom leather gear made. Some of the best leather crafters serve the leather fetish market. But if you are arranging to have leathers made custom anyway, press further as you create your order to ask about closures at the fly and on the front of a shirt. Ask for zippers instead. I think you will be happier with the end results. Also, it is less expensive to have zippers installed when a garment is made than having them retrofitted later.

Life is short: wear your leather!

Local Bad-Boy Biker

I am known rather well in a senior living community which is located very near where I live. I sorta joke that I live on the “outside of the asylum looking in,” but perhaps it’s the other way around. When I go there, frequently I am on my Harley. All of my friends and neighbors know that I love to ride my bike, even in cold weather. I just leather up and go!

I received a phone call about a month ago from one of my senior buds who lives over there saying that his friend was turning 90, and had been talking about wanting to do something “outrageous” on her birthday (which was yesterday). The last thing she wanted to do was go to some lame birthday lunch “with a bunch of old biddies” (her words.) She wanted to go skydiving. She wanted to try bungee jumping. Her doctor and her children promised her head on a platter if she ever did those things. Lacking the permission to jump from on high, she wanted to ride with a “bad-boy biker on his Harley.”

Well, I don’t know how “bad-boy” I am, but I am a biker, and I have a Harley. On the appointed day at the appointed hour, I showed up in the parking lot of her church on my Harley, decked out in leather from head to boot (helmet was fiberglass, but who’s counting?) This is the place that my friend who was arranging this surprise thought would have the most “dramatic effect.” We were fortunate because rain was predicted earlier in the week, but we were graced with a sunny and pleasant (55°F, 13°C) day.

My friend’s friend came out of church surrounded by several of her friends. They parted the way, and she saw me idling at the curb. I revved the throttle. The Harley roared and returned to its grumbly growl.

She lit up!

The only problem was, she was wearing a dress. It wouldn’t quite work for her to crawl on the back of my bike for a ride. However, anticipating something like this might happen….

I put the sidestand down and opened the TourPak. I pulled out a jumpsuit that one of my sisters let me borrow. The birthday girl jumped into it, zipped it up, then hopped (literally) onto the back of my bike! Spry as a Spring chicken and ready to rumble! It was all I could do to get the spare helmet out and help her put it on before she was coaxing me, “come on, let’s go!”

I put my helmet back on, restarted the engine, revved it for effect, and off we went.

All I could hear for the next few miles was, “let’s go faster!” By the way she was grabbing me (especially at first), I thought I was going fast enough. I picked out some nearby less-traveled back roads with curves and nice scenery, so I couldn’t go that fast anyway. We rode for ten miles, which I think was plenty. She loved it.

Happy Birthday, M! What sheer joy that you brought to MY life!

Life is short: share the love!

Purpose of Buckles on Tall Boots

I received an email recently with some questions about boots with pull-tabs vs. buckles. Within my answer, I explained the purpose of a buckle closure on tall boots, such as Wesco harness boots. Here is what I said:

There are three reasons for a buckle at the top of tall boots.

First, the buckle closure allows the leg opening at the top of the shaft to be expanded to accommodate the calf. On most men, the calf circumference 6 – 8″ below the knee is one to two inches wider than the circumference just under the knee (which is the height at which you want tall boots to be). Thus, you can open the boot shaft as you pull boots on over jeans or leathers, then buckle the top to tighten the fit under the knee.

Second, the buckle closure will hold the boots up high on the leg and they won’t sag (too far). Boots that sag a lot can cause folds of leather that can rub against the ankle and cause sores. It’s best to have boots that are held up by a mechanical method (such as buckles), so they won’t sag.

Third, when closed snugly, top-buckled boot shafts will hold jeans, leathers, or breeches inside the boots so when you sit down then stand up, you won’t have unsightly bulges of fabric or leather above the knee. That is, it keeps the lines between the fabric or leather and the boots “clean” and have a neater appearance, as shown above. That appearance is desirable by those who wear jeans, leathers, or breeches inside boots. Seldom, if ever, do you see a motorcycle officer with baggy breeches at the knees.

Buckles at the top of boot shafts to hold jeans, leathers or breeches inside them is important if you ride a motorcycle. A motorcycle operator frequently bends and extends his or her knees when stopping, starting, and riding. (And buckles are far better than a laced boot shaft closure, because laces can easily come undone when blown in the wind, and are a pain in the butt to keep re-tying.)

Warning! I see that Wesco now defaults to offering only boot pulls, not buckles, on tall custom-made harness boots. If you want buckles as shown in the photos of some of my Wesco Harness boots here, you have to specify that you want buckles as a special instruction, and be prepared to pay more. This is why I strongly recommend working with and through a competent, quality Wesco Boot reseller. They know what real Bootmen require, and know how to explain it to Wesco so they get it right when placing an order and save you money, too, by giving a good discount on the MSRP.

I hope you find this information helpful if you may be considering buying a pair of tall boots and are wondering about having a buckle (or two or more) on the shaft, instead of pull straps.

Life is short: wear your boots!

Demonstrated Love

Yesterday, I went through the family rituals of saying goodbye to an aunt at her funeral. She led a very difficult life. She bore four children, the last two having significant developmental disabilities.

Rather than complain about the burden of caring for two severely disabled children, it was an observation pointed out during her funeral that she received her children as gifts from God, and that all she did for her who life was demonstrate her love for her children and all others.

I listened to the Priest during the funeral, and thought: “you know, he’s right. Every single time I visited my aunt, I could tell that her children required a lot of help and attention. She calmly, quietly, and consistently did whatever she needed to do, and she always did it with a smile and genuine loving care.”

She never once said, “see what I’m doing” or “woe is me.” She just loved her children every single day. She helped them learn and re-learn simple tasks to be able to function. She worked with them to help them develop into good, loving, people, as limited as they are in mental functions. My aunt among all of my father’s 21 siblings was, I think, number one in showing what love really meant, and was the epitome of someone with a caring heart.

I am sad that my aunt died, but we are all relieved. Her last nine years were very difficult, with many medical setbacks, pain, and suffering. But never once did she complain. She loved and loved and loved, and we loved her back. Warmly, calmly, quietly. She served as our family’s inspiration, and we always remember that.

I guess she noticed, because she left a note to request who her pallbearers should be, and in her note she said, “I want [BHD] to serve as one of my pallbearers, because his love, caring, and compassion is so evident. That’s who I want to carry me into the Church, and carry me Home.” Man, I cried so hard… I didn’t know she noticed.

Life is short: show those you love that you love them. May my aunt rest in peace.