Sunday, September 13, 2015

Late Summer Report, and a New Look!

Time to change things up! This fall I'm making some changes. New hairstyle in the works. Possibly a tattoo if I can swing the cash. And a re-fresh for my blog.

So what's been going on?

In August I had the honor of coordinating the Bootblacks at Chesapeake Leather and Pride, at the Baltimore Playhouse. Darn it was hot. But we had a good time.

Then a week later, I served on the Bootblack team at the Master/slave Conference, in Rockville Maryland. Yay for air conditioning!

Here I am serving as a footrest for a shiny pair of boots. Oh this was fun:

Nice tread marks on my knees here, from another customer:

A pair of oil tan work boots, before:

And after:
I've been thinking a lot about this blog, and why I don't keep it up more, since I do love to write. 

I think because I do a lot more things with my life than bootblacking. 

This blog is titled "A Bootblack's Journey" and I think I need to incorporate more steps in my journey than just the ones with boots on. they say, "to be continued." 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Hey I Received a Bootblack Title; Now What Do I Do?

I know I haven't posted much recently, mostly because of work and other things and, thank God, lots of busy bootblacking.

In June I was honored to receive the title of Philadelphia Bootblack 2015 and I'm still wondering what exactly to say about it. I'm happy, of course. I have a black and blue leather sash that I wear to Leather events. I was in the Philadelphia Pride parade, so hot I thought I was going to pass out right off the truck into the crowd. Wondering if even a handful of people looking at me even know what a Bootblack is.

At this point I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I'm supposed to do with this title.

I've gotten some good advice from other title winners. "Don't burn yourself out," they say. "Do what you can." While others caution on overspending. "I've known title winners who have gone bankrupt during their title year," another friend tells me. Yikes.

As an introvert type, I don't care for the spotlight. I like working in the dark, my hands on leather, caring for the person in my chair. So I'm just not sure what I should be doing.

Like caring for leather in a dark, hazy leather bar, I am feeling my way along.

  • I try to get to as many places as I can reasonably afford. 

  • If I am asked to do a demonstration, I am happy to do that. 

  • I will work charity events, as many as I am able to do.

  • If you ask me, "So what IS a Bootblack, anyway?" I will tell you as much as you want to know.

That's all I have to say right is an obligatory pic from my big day...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thoughts on the Amtrak Disaster, and Stories Ended Too Soon

On Tuesday night, the unthinkable happened: an Amtrak train on its way to New York rounded a curve going at over 100 miles an hour, and derailed. Over 240 injured, eight dead.

It's been difficult to focus on my work today. I've been on that train to New York many times in the past. 

And now the stories are beginning to surface: the dead, who they were in life, the good that they did for the world. It is all the more devastating because I am sure this disaster could have been prevented. 

Every human being has their own story. At work every day I look out my window, and as people pass by, I wonder what their story is. I will probably never know. And on Tuesday night, the story ended for eight people.

If there is any good that can come out of this, it is the acts of heroism displayed by not only the emergency personnel, but the neighbors, who were also among the first to rush to the scene and offer aid. These are wonderful stories to hear.

One of the things that attracted me to bootblacking was the emphasis on Leather history, on stories. Bootblacks are often called the bartenders of the Leather world, because we listen to your stories while you sit in our chairs.

In my very few years of public bootblacking, I have heard so many great stories. Confessions, even. I treasure every story I am given. Because it really is a gift, when someone opens up to you in that way.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Bootblacking has taught me a lot. Some practical things, some just related to personal growth.

On top of the list would be that I have a greater appreciation for the things I have. Owning good quality boots, shoes, leather...and taking care of them. Ever notice at shoe stores, the shoe care shelf is in the back corner, if they even have one? Most shoes today are synthetic and don't need much care, but plenty of leather gets sold too. They just don't want you to take care of it. A few scuffs? Throw 'em away and buy new! 

Maybe it's because I'm getting older, but lately I've felt a real need to simplify my life. Not just the physical stuff around me, but my life choices, as well.

It's as if the first 50 years of my life I've been in brownian motion, snowflakes in a snow globe after it's been shaken, and the flakes are starting to settle.

This morning I skipped my gym workout yet again, because of my work schedule. And I realized my work schedule is never going to settle down enough for me to fit in the drive to and from the gym, plus the workout. Wouldn't it be better, I started thinking, to simplify my routine so I can save that $60 a month? Buy a set of weights and get my cardio through walking rather than a treadmill? 

I've also started thinking about my life goals. What do I really want to do with my life? 

I want to write, and publish, continue my freelance work, take care of my family, read a lot, be fit and healthy, and continue my bootblacking work wherever I can. 

Just like those rocket boosters that fly off the spaceship after it reaches space...anything that does not further my goals must be jettisoned from my life.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Happy Busy Stuff! And a Star Trek Reference.

Soooo...I had a bootblacking gig yesterday! 

This was a new place for me, the Rainbow Room in Atlantic City, so I wasn't sure what to expect. 

Would my stand fit? As it turned out, no, the space was too small, but that's good too -- the less stress on my back, the better.

Would I know anyone there besides the host? Yes! Some friendly faces and met new ones. 

Would I be busy? No, I wasn't -- but I'm not complaining.

Let me stop here and talk about "complaining."

Of course every Bootblack's preference is to be busy during their shift. More tips, more leather love, and the time flies. But we've all had those moments, hours, when things are slow. Or, in yesterday's case, a new event at a new venue, beautiful spring day -- there's bound to be a lower turnout.

I worked on two pairs of boots and I was thrilled to pieces to work on them.

The first pair: gorgeous, buttery soft oil tan engineer boots. A sexy guy wearing 'em, too. I spent lots of time making sure that Huberd's was worked in. :-)

The second pair: high-shine Corcorans, done whilst the customer was enjoying a cigar and a glass of Scotch. He was so happy and relaxed. Again, I spent lots of time to get the best shine I could.

Some Bootblacks might complain, "Oh, two pairs all night, what a waste of my time." 

I guess it's the glass half-full or half-empty thing. I prefer to see it half-full. I'm just grateful to get the work that I do. 

Some Bootblacks get to do what they love once a week or more. I am lucky if I get once a month. So I feel like saying to them, "Kwitcherbellyakin', it could be a lot worse."

Another good thing: I spent most of today working on leather projects I've been sitting on. I finally had some time to pre-cut paracord for boot laces. I am getting tired of laces falling apart and then having to cut new cord. So I measured and singed the ends and bundled each pair into its own baggy. Black, purple, yellow, red, blue. 

And I finished those boots I was working on all winter. Here is the before:

And here is the after:

Close up of the nasty toe box, before:

And after:

It's easily seen that I haven't fixed everything. I would say this about maxes my skills in shoe repair. I can glue stuff, I can patch, I can burnish, I know how to use dye. 

A lot of Bootblacks might look at these pictures and say, "You should have done xyz" or whatever, and I love the advice, I really do. 

But I decided long ago, I'm not Super Bootblack.

I don't expect to win, much less run for, a major title. I don't have the time, the personality, the looks, the wardrobe, the marketing savvy, all that stuff you need to win titles.

To borrow Dr. McCoy's words...I'm just a simple country Bootblack.

I do the best that I can, and try to learn new things by observing others. That, with good tools and products, plus the love in my heart, will have to be enough.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Well, I Tried. ;-)

I haven't kept up the daily writing here, but I am glad I at least made the attempt. 

Besides the current boots project I'm working on, I haven't had much to say. I don't have much bootblacking going on, until the end of April.

Here is a recent pic of the boots I'm working on. The repairs have been done (except for the toe caps, those are next) and now they are getting a good soak of Huberd's.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday Thoughts

I have always had a deep spiritual side to me. One of the things I feared when I got into the kink scene was, would I lose that part of me? Even worse, would I care if I did?

It is true that I haven't gone to church in at least a year, although I see the parish priest (Episcopal) in town many more times than that.

I used to be very active in the church but over the years I grew disheartened, wondering what was the point of that hour every Sunday morning in church. The world seemed to be ever sinking into despair. So we (the family) just stopped going.

Bootblacking, however, has changed me in so many ways. I am more confident than I used to be. More lighthearted. Happier. I always have something to look forward to. It has taken hold in my heart and shows no sign of letting go.

Here are some more photos of that project I'm working on. Today I worked on repairing those Irish pennants -- er -- "flags" that I talked about in another post. Below is the before, just on the left side of the boot:

And next is the after. It's not very exciting. In fact I just noticed another flap (grrrr) on the right side there. But I think it looks a little better.

After I get all these flags glued down I will do some more burnishing and then apply some Huberd's. Will that soak in for a few days or a week.