Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Contest Fantasy: “Act Your Age”

At the Seattle Leather Daddy & Daddy’s Boy Contest over Thanksgiving weekend, Jean Hardy (the new Northwest Leatherboy) and I did a stage fantasy as entertainment for the contest.  (We could use more genuine leather entertainment at leather contests, rather than drag acts or burlesque strippers!)

Rather than doing anything as messy as last year’s Klondike Bar fantasy or as elaborate as the Rocky Horror fantasy from International, we went for something easy and funny and themed for a Daddy/Boy contest:

I entered the stage and sat down to read a newspaper.  The boy came in and started watching cartoons (Warner Bros., Ren & Stimpy’s “Log” song) and eating sugary cereal, throwing bits of it at me.  “Would you please act your age?” I demanded.  Drawing himself up and getting all serious (Lord of the Rings music), the boy let loose: “But Daddy!”, followed by a tirade of queer theory proclamations about age and gender being societal constructs forced on us by the dominant patriarchy… and put me solidly to sleep.  He then (to Road Runner music) handcuffed me to the stool, tied me up, draped toilet paper all over me, and dumped the rest of the cereal on me.  Then he danced away (Ren & Stimpy’s “Happy Happy Joy Joy” song and the Warner Bros. ending music), leaving me to wake up, ask for a handcuff key, and dragged the stool off-stage, still cuffed to it.

I was formerly Seattle Leather Daddy 2004.  Read the Leatherati coverage of the contest here.

Photo courtesy of Leland Carina.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

“Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Being a Titleholder (But Didn’t Know to Ask)”

  • Are you thinking about competing for Seattle Leather Daddy/Seattle Daddy’s Boy later this month and have questions or need advice about the specifics of the contest? Or Northwest Bear and Cub?
  • Are you thinking about possibly running for some other leather title in the future?
  • Are you simply curious about why we have leather titles and what they are all about?

Join Northwest LeatherSIR 2010 Jim Drew and other Seattle titleholders this Thursday at the OutWest Leather Night in West Seattle from 7:30–8:30 and we will help demystify leather titles and help you decide whether they are something you might want to do.

This will be an informal “grab a beer and chat” session rather than a formal workshop setting.  We will have a second session in the next few days at a Capitol Hill location.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

International LeatherSIR Contest

Thursday

I arrived at Amtrak in Oakland at 8:40, on time.  See this post for details on the train trip down and back.  Dragged bags to BART, then a cab from Civic Center to the hotel.  This was the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway, the same hotel that I was at last October for Sundance Stompede and in March for IMsL.

Hooker (Rik Newton-Treadway) was the first person I saw whom I knew, saw him before I even got out of the cab.  I always have an internal poll on that for any of these large events I go to.  I know lots of people here, with a dozen years and more of travelling to these weekend events all over the country, so it’s an open bet who the first one I know will be.

Check-in to the hotel was a mess.  GLPW had arranged for a check to prepay things for both rooms, but the hotel equipment wouldn’t process it.  The bank said there was no problem on their end (so I expect the hotel’s hardware or software was at fault; they probably do far fewer checks today than in years past).  The bank get me the cash, I paid the hotel, and all was well.  Kept myself calm throughout.  Boy Dan and Pope Bacon (and Jeremy on the phone) were stellar throughout.

Our region ended up as number 11 out of 15.  This put our schedule right after lunch for the interviews, which might be good — refreshed judges, not yet food sleepy — and after the intermission for the fantasy on Saturday.  Ruin was still uncomfortable about having time to change between fantasy and finals, despite there being about 30 minutes, so we definitely needed to use our alternate for her role in the fantasy.

The Meet and Greet at Mr. S Leather was fun, but it was difficult to track down each of the judges (at least one did not even get there for the M&G, I think, and one I only met as we were leaving).  It very much felt like “moth and flame”, finding a judge and circling in the near distance until we could come close enough for our own “face time”.  (It was not just Northwest Leatherboy Dan and myself with this, all the title teams were doing it.)  Contest Emcee Graylin Thornton later commented on this on Facebook, how in the desire to get face time with each of the judges, the contestants were largely ignoring everyone else at the event.

A couple of the judges whom I didn’t know before knew me from the blog and other sources, which I hope turned out to be good.  Rob Welcher says that we have met a couple times before (he is a former Seattle titleholder, from years before I moved to town), but I sure don’t recall it (and he’s hot, you’d think I would remember).  I assume one time we met would have been when Dave Lewis died.  Dan Hughes is another whom I should have met all through the late 90s, give that we both lived in the Bay Area (him in San Jose and me in San Jose/Sunnyvale/San Mateo) and attended some of the same events (Santa Clara County Leather contests, Leatherfest X in San Diego).  How did we not know one another?

Dan and I wore leather-themed T’s, some of my CFM Designs shirts (Leatherboy and Shattered Leather Flag).  One of the judges asked about them specifically, which validated wearing them vs. other options we had considered (dress leather with sash, harness, etc.).  The other contestants were in everything from leather T’s to bare chested to sash, the full range.

Intro of contestants and sort-of speeches (not formal stepdowns) from Alan, Nitro, and Luna followed at the hotel, plus more mingling.  I got a little more face time with a couple of the judges (or ass time in one case, showing off the lightning bolts).  As the evening wrapped up, I found myself as the last contestant still hanging around.  This was not because I was desperately looking for more face time with the judges, but because I knew many of the people running the event and was chatting with Randall and Mark and Olivier.

Dan and I headed to the room to ramp down and get some sleep rather than going out.  Cliff finally got in around 1 am, after a loooong wait for the shuttle service to actually bring him to the hotel from Oakland airport.

Friday

Fantasy practice was at 9:45.  We started setting up props in the hall and got in the ballroom early and used up our time getting everything situated and adjusted, with one music run through.  All of which was fine and expected, since we have several props.  We would need to practice with our third person on Saturday, since she couldn’t be there on Friday morning.

Interviews were immediately after lunch; things started probably 10 minutes late.  (I know things must have drifted late during the morning, because there were no bathroom breaks scheduled for the judges, just interview after interview.  There’s a recipe for failure!)  With only 8 minutes for each interview, that’s one question per judge, roughly.  Less if you meander.  Can I remember the questions they asked?

  • Patrick Mulcahey: Do you identify as a switch?  (My bio listed colors flagged on both sides.  I don’t use that term myself, and was able to summarize some of what is in this earlier post.)
  • Rob Welcher: Who has made a mark on the Seattle leather scene?  (I name checked Jeff Henness, Dave Lewis, Eric Bonesteel, and included myself due to the Leather Calendar and Chez Poing fisting parties.)
  • Hugh Russell: Do you plan to collar a boy, and if not, how can you mentor in the leather scene?  (Apparently suggested by his boy Kent.  I summarized this blog post.)
  • Mike Zuhl: What is a strength and a weakness of your title boy?  (I got this same question in my practice contest, and used the same answer.  He is very giving of his time and skills, but maybe too giving at times, should put himself first more.)
  • Dan Hughes: How would you advise a boy in the community who wants to play with a man who wants to bareback with him?  (Advise him to research what that means, get him to have an honest conversation with the other guy, and encourage him to be real sure he is aware of the long term implications of such a decision.  But I also cannot take a strict “No, never” line because the world is more complex than that.  This is a hard question to answer at all in a very short time.)
  • Seth Munton: Will I be comfortable travelling to all the places needed during the title year?  (Yes, I already travel to many leather events a year.  I look forward to being able to travel to places I have not gone to before.)
  • Chris Meister: He wanted to know about the “porn videos” I have done, as listed on the bio.  (They are mostly “home videos”, on Xtube and my iPad.  The application does not specify professional porn, so who doesn’t have naughty pics online somewhere?)  I don’t recall if there was a notable question beyond that.
  • Jeffrey Payne: (Writing this six weeks later, I cannot now remember what Jeffrey asked me.  It will probably come to me at some point and I will update the blog post then.)
Some of the questions were right out of my bio or seemed informed by things I have blogged about, or maybe I was just able to successfully predict the topics with my blog posts (as hoped for).

(In discussions later on with Hugh, who is from Seattle, he told me he almost asked me about my statement that “Leather is life, not religion” from this post, in light of how much religion and ritual entered the leather scene in the 1990s, but he decided that it was not a question that could be answered well in the short window we had.)

With 37 contestants — although nothing but a stage intro for the bootblacks on Friday — the four hours of the Friday contest was a huge amount of hurry up and wait.  Wrangling that many contestants is like herding cats, so we all had to stay in the dressing room rather than getting to see each others’ speeches and jock portions, unfortunately.  They need close-circuit TV or something!

My speech went very well, I thought.  I did not feel rushed, and my practice times had been around the 1:40 mark, so little chance of being dinged points for going over (recorded time was 1:38, according to the score sheets).  Crowd reaction occurred in the expected places.  The text is posted here; the thrust was showing personal growth over the past year in accepting the identity of a Sir, based on an interview question from Sir Alan at the regional contest.  I hit all the notes that judges and the audience usually want you to hit (that’s an advantage of competing many times before, you learn these things), and Alan gave me a big grinning thumbs up as I came off the stage, which meant a lot.

(If a judge didn’t like the speech content, I imagine it would be because they want people who grow from already identifying as a Sir, rather than growing to that place and thus implying some of the title year being “wasted” in getting to where you should have started it from.)

The jock strap portion went fine.  I was actually wearing a rubber jock — a prototype from Nasty Pig that they never went forward with — but it is doubtful the judges could tell, and with rubber being prominent in my profile, even if they could tell, it should have been fine.  I also wore red and black Nasty Pig armbands and my lace-up lineman boots with red socks.  I did my best to strut the stage well, cock first, and show off the lightning bolt tats.  Graylin even commented on them when I left the stage.

(If a judge didn’t like my look here, I can’t imagine it would be because I didn’t present the “comfortable in his skin” air they typically want.  Trying to lead with my crotch might have given me an odd walk; I should have practiced that more.  Also, the lineman boots are matte black while there is a shine to the jock which might have been better matched by the Chippewa boots I left at home.)

Earlier in the day, had met two guys  from Atlanta and went with them and Cliff to play in their room, which eventually also included one of the other contestants and another buddy Cliff and I know, a past IML contestant.  I had a great time tying one of the guys up and then fisting both him and one of the others — a chariot race at one point — but I eventually had to call it quits for myself about 1:15, before I fell asleep, hand in ass.

Saturday

Saturday started ugh-early with a “My Title Year” session from the outgoing titleholders, a chance to brain dump from them on all the things expected and unexpected we would face, including things like regional LSb events overlapping your own produced ones, grabbing the wrong luggage, and deaths in the family.

After lunch, the silent auction closed, leaving me with two bottles of vodka, a harness for Cliff, and a new uniform shirt and pair of pants.  The shirt fits great, but I think the pants are too tight.  I may need to repackage them for a future fundraiser.  (Or not.  I have lost another few pounds since ILSb due to changing my lunch eating habits and while tight, the pants are wearable, and I finally have ones I can wear inside my Chippewas.)

Demos occurred in the early afternoon.  We had been told we needed only one, but at the event we suddenly had to have one for each of us.  Eep!  The leather pride flag duct tape hood we had planned became the Boy demo (demonstrating submission and patience).  (Credit where it is due: Karen Yew taught the hood at Northwest Sash Bash, but I’ve since made it my own and done it for a couple demos.  We gave the removed hood to Bill Hoeppner, so he could remember the one time all weekend that Dan had been quiet.  )  I got Ruin and Cliff to do leather West Coast Swing dancing with me for the other; her in a rope harness and him in a leather one.  (Ruin popped out of the early non-judged part of the bootblacking to help with this.)  The dance demo confused many people — judge Seth Munton asked if I danced in the dungeon — but it was intended to demo envelope-pushing play in public, stuff we actually do.  Ostensibly non-judged events, these did give the chance to show some of the things I like to do.

(I am told that during the new titleholder orientation on Sunday, Randall Kinnear called out the dance demo as something he was pleased to see, demonstrating the breadth of stuff the contestants had for the demos.)

We also finally connected with our fantasy’s third person (filling in the role written for Ruin), Ms. San Francisco Leather Miss Bethie Bee, who had been a judge with me at Alameda County Leather.  We showed her the video and talked things through, then blocked it out and ran through it once on a table in the hallway.

Dan and I headed to the nearby Whole Foods Market for sandwiches for dinner.  On the way back, some driver had misjudged the traffic — or just been greedy/stupid and ended up stranded in the middle of the intersection of Van Ness and California, blocking both lanes of California from moving at all.  So what did drivers do?  Honked and honked and honked.  What purpose does that serve?  If there is someone paying attention to their cell phone when the light changes and needs a nudge, the first honk or two will do the job.  If traffic still isn’t moving, obviously it is because traffic can’t move, and honking won’t help that.  Okay, I understand the stress relief that can come from a horn honk.  Great: I’ll grant the first five or six normal-length honks as valid.  After that, though, your honk is just adding to the noise and making things worse, and leaning on your horn to prolong the honk only exacerbates that further.

The contest started at 5 pm, so we were backstage at 4 pm, but other than intros, Dan and I didn’t go on until 7:10 or so, until after the intermission.  Again, we couldn’t see Ruin’s speech, nor could she see the fantasy.

One thing I noticed while in the dressing room on Saturday night (and on Friday) was that some of the contestants (Sir, Boy, and Bootblack — yes, I capitalize “Boy” as a title, unless an individual wants me to lowercase it for him personally; “Boy” is as valid a title prefix as any and it is a disservice to those who don’t want to be seen as subs to forcibly take away the capital letter without asking) were very sociable and some were very private or quiet.  Some of the contestants I got to know fairly well — mostly the ones numerically grouped near our number, but not all of those — and some I never had but the briefest interactions with all weekend.  Some simply sat by themselves (or with their title team) off to the side, never making any social overtures of their own.

I noticed this as well on Thursday and Friday nights, after the events, and Saturday during the day: there were a few of the contestants (maybe a third) who were actively social outside the requirements of the contest, but a number of them vanished completely.  Is this just how they are as people, or did they do it on advice (or control) from their producers, keeping them sequestered to control any “mistakes” that might be made?  Hard to say.

I found this somewhat peculiar, and it marked one place that, to me, is missed in the weekend judging.  In theory, you want a titleholder who is gregarious and comfortable in social settings, engaging with everyone present whether they are a big name titleholder or not.  (See Graylin’s earlier comments.)  The bootblack contestants had an explicit Personal Interactions (or something like that) piece to their contest, specifically circled around the bootblacking activity, where the judges saw and rated how they actually engaged with individuals.  But because the Sir and Boy contestants were sequestered during the contest (and its breaks; no mingling during intermission) and often disappeared outside the contest pieces, and there was no explicit judging piece of this, there would seem to be missed opportunity to deal with some very important skill sets.

(I’m also told that one Sir/Boy pair signed off the contestants Facebook group days after the event.  That certainly smells of intentional social withdrawal, as though they were on that group through the contest only because it was expected, just in case anyone would inspect to see if they were there.)

The fantasy went well enough.  We did a Rocky Horror riff (or if you prefer, a Rocky Horror Riff Raff, heh) — bringing a corpse to life to use for sex — intended to hit Edgeplay theme notes of necrophilia, electrical play, and gender play (since we were using Ruin/Bethie Bee for the creature, completely hidden for much of the piece and fully revealed only near the end).  We also had a cool special effects rig, with a black-light lit sheet and rope light coils with an intensity slider which we could jiggle during the electricity part (which was done with a violet wand).  We had padded the timing of things in a couple places to take up time we had extra of, but apparently padded too much, so when we got to the central electricity bit, we were actually behind the music by a few seconds, but caught up easily enough.  The audience loved it (as I knew they would), and we got the antici-(say it!)-pated call backs, and several people commented that having Dan play with the violet wand on himself was superb.  A couple audience members later said that our fantasy was their favorite, and a very welcome bit of fun in the evening.  (That is, not a YAMTAR fantasy — Yet Another Military Takedown And Rape — where you’ve seen what they are doing time and again in other fantasies over the years, where you may well be marking time until this duo stops hitting and fake-fucking each other so we can get to the next pair’s hitting and fake fucking.  See more on that here.)

(Olivier Pratt posted videos of the fantasies, so we got to see it eventually.  Our fantasy and more commnetary is here.)

Did the judges like the fantasy?  Places they could have disliked things include not grasping that we were hitting Edgeplay notes (no guns, knives, or rape, after all), or seeing us as co-opting the Movies theme assigned to another region (or even the Sci Fi one), or not enough simulated play between Sir and Boy.  I won’t know until we see the scores.  The fantasy was roughly 30% of the points, so it is often a make-or-break point.  I will certainly be bummed if what we did cost me a first or second placement, but what is done is done; we had fun and we felt good about the piece.

When the results came in, Ruin won International Community Bootblack.  (That’s two of the three big bootblack titles in the Northwest now!)

Neither Dan nor I won or placed in our competitions.  I was not surprised that Sir Ben from the Southeast was one of the finalists (1st runner-up), given both his looks and his event attendance during the year.  (I was very intentionally courting the title with this blog and some of my travels during my year leading up to the contest.  Ben and joe boy’s travels appear to my eye to be much of the same.)  Sir Jack was one of the contestants with whom I had almost no interaction during the weekend, only briefly during the Demos, so his win came completely out of my blind spot.  I look forward to seeing the scores; I know I did well and won’t be surprised if I was 2nd runner-up.

Later, I went out to Kok Bar.  Former Northwest Community Bootblack Dylan was blacking there and he noted that (given two international bootblack titleholders in the Northwest now) Northwest Boot Weekend will definitely be occurring again, in 2013.

One of the contest staff from Southwest region and I had had been nosing around each other all weekend and finally got to connect at Kok.  (My finger connected with his ass, my knee connected with his groin, his back connected to the wall, etc.  Special nod to one of Big Bad Jim’s workshops at Northern Exposure.)  When we got back to the hotel, I took him to my hotel bathroom (continuing my thread from MAL of that being the best place to play, at least after 2 am! ) and fisted him face-down on the bathroom floor while sitting on his back (among other positions).  Great play buddy, and I look forward to a rematch.  Maybe I can get to Phoenix in March for their contest?

Sunday

I will post a separate entry on the Dore Alley fair later, just so I can get this already lengthy post out.

Monday

Monday, I got up, ate breakfast with Dan, and packed.  We ended up at the New Village Cafe for the third time during the weekend (I try to eat at a different restaurant every time on a trip, Starbucks excepted), because the Grubstake Diner turned out to be closed on Mondays.  Went to the Castro to cruise for the afternoon (fruitlessly), then came back to the hotel.  Got to talk to Mid-Atlantic Bootblack Raquel for a bit before heading to the train station in Oakland.  Train was over 90 minutes late leaving, and we were about an hour late getting back to Seattle when all was done.

Next Year

Next year, they are really trying to transform ILSb.  The event has been sold to Jeffrey Payne, and the organization itself is now a 501(c)3 non-profit, which may have the ability to open up a lot more pockets, especially to better supply the titleholder travel fund.

It will be moving back to Dallas, to Labor Day Weekend, which initially seems counter-intuitive vs. San Francisco on Dore Alley Weekend.  Attendance was probably higher in San Francisco because of Dore Alley weekend, making it easier for out-of-town titleholders and such to justify attending.  But to be sure, Dore Alley won’t notice a drop in attendance from LeatherSIR moving, maybe 100 people all told.

They are planning a vendor market (more than just Leather Masters from this year), and the top floor will be a play space, something notably missing this year from a “players” title weekend.  (IMsL had play spaces at the same hotel, so it was surprising that a “players” title like ILSb did not.)  Maybe I should volunteer to manage the fisting space for them next year.  Including trying out all the equipment, of course.  (I am actually serious about this: my experience with the Chez Poing parties and Equinox in Seattle certainly makes me qualified to do it, and to make sure that piece of the play spaces succeeds.)

I suspect CLAW’s success has had something to do with this revised plan.  The key thing here is that the contest itself is only ever a limited draw.  (Look at IML and Mid-Atlantic Leather to see how many come for the event but not the contest.)  The contest needs to be the event’s center, but there is a lot of money to be made from the other components of the event.  In San Francisco, Dore Alley filled that role, sending the money to other places than ILSb; in Dallas, they can keep that money within the event.  I think this can be good for the event and the titles in the long run.

I am definitely planning to be there next year.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

International Contest: Fantasy

Here is the video from my International contest:

As you can hear from the background audio, the audience really reacted well to it.  When we did it in the mock contest, one of the practice judges can be heard saying “Oh my god” just from the riding crop segment, before the music starts — what can I say, she’s a Rocky Horror fan!  Another of the practice judges knew what we were doing as soon as the music started.  And people at the contest itself (especially the boys) loved Dan playing with the violet wand on himself.

The music got played at a louder level than when we practiced on stage the day before, which makes some of the dialogue hard to hear, even in the cut-down form used for the fantasy.  As well, my voice was somewhat strained by all the lead-up to the contest — it was even noticeable the week before at the mock contest, and I cracked a bit the night before in my speech — so we used the “Juice!” to give me some actual liquid on stage.  We also got a little behind our musical cues, with is odd because we had been too far ahead earlier.

Our monster was the fantastic Ms. San Francisco Leather, Ms.  Bethie Bee, who was one of my co-judges at the Alameda County Leather contest in June.  (And thus the hard-to-hear line near the end: “This is the Beth.  Monster.  Ever!”)  The monster was originally scheduled to be Ruin (original line: “My monster is Ruin!  Ruin, I tell you!”), when we were told to try to include the entire team in the fantasy.  Then we understood her speech would be right after the fantasy, so she wouldn’t have time to change, so we go a substitute.  Then we found that her speech would be as much as 30 minutes before us, with another 30 minutes after us before the announcement of the winners, so we could have put her back in, but she was nervous about the timing and we stayed with Bethie.

As ever with the regional theme of Edgeplay, defining the meaning of the theme is difficult.  The easy targets are Guns, Knives, and Rape, but those don’t get me off in the least, and projecting that through the fantasy would be difficult.  So instead, we went for Corpses, Electricity, and Gender Play, although having fun in the fantasy can hide some of the edge.  (Apparently regional themes have been dropped for next year.  Wish they had been dropped this year.)

Did the judges like the fantasy?  I won’t know until I see the scores.  There are several things they judge it on, including Entertainment, Sir/Boy Interaction, Theme, and I’m not sure what else at the moment.  (Condition of Boots is probably in there, like throughout the contest.  Mine were wonderful, and the yellow stitching echoed the yellow lightning bolts, although I wouldn’t expect that to be noticed.)  If a judge didn’t trigger on the Edgeplay notes we went for, they might have scored low on that, or they could have felt we appropriated another region’s theme, Movies (or even Sci Fi) — which admittedly, this would have matched to very well.  And of course, they might have wanted more hands-on direct sex interaction with the boy, or even disliked the boy zapping the Sir, despite the audience loving that.

(I finally received the scores, although no notes.  I placed 5th out of 15 for the fantasy, which isn’t too bad.  Out of seven judges scores and 60 points possible, I had two scores at the very high end — a 58 and a perfect 60, the two highest scores on any of the fantasies!  [woo!] — and two quite a bit lower — a 35 and a 37.  Looking over the scores from the other contestants, there were a few with score ranges that broad, but most were tighter.)

Several people asked why we didn’t do the ice cream fantasy from my regional contest.  Both Dan and my original title boy, Danny, gave a hard “No!” to that idea.  [pout]  You’ll notice the brief presence of a Klondike bar in this one, when I ask for lube.  That was Dan’s idea.

We will be doing the fantasy again (and the ice cream one, also!) during the Northwest Leather Weekend on September 1, and presumably again at Northwest Sash Bash in 2013.

Friday, August 10, 2012

International Contest: Speech

Here is the intended text of my speech from the International LeatherSIR contest.

Good evening.

At my regional contest, at the end of the interview, Sir Alan lobbed a hand grenade question at me: “Do you identify as a Sir?”

(hand explodes in front of face)

Deer in the headlights.  I had not prepared for that question.  So I gave a dance-around reply, “I will work to embrace that side of my personality over the next year.”

(sticks out tongue and makes gagging noise)

For the next few months, as I picked shrapnel out of myself, I pondered that question.  What is a Leather Sir, both as a title and a role?  It’s not Mr. Leather.  It’s not Mr. Top or Mr. Master.  It certainly isn’t Mr. Tom of Finland Clone.

But what a Leather Sir and his boy do map to… is a knight and his squire.  And how did someone become a knight, a Sir?  Well, beyond beating the living shit out of someone, a Sir is someone who is known for his skill — at arms — and who is also sought out for those skills.  And by extension, a Leather Sir is known for and sought out for his skill at leather.

As soon as I came to accept that for myself, things started crawling out of the woodwork.  I was asked to do a bondage demo for Rubbout in Vancouver.  I was invited to be a presenter at the pansexual leather conference Northern Exposure in Alaska.  Leatherdykes stop me during country-western dancing to ask about lube for anal fisting.

No.  More.  Shrapnel.

(gestures to Sir Alan, then looks back to the audience)

So, Sir Alan, I have worked to embrace that side of my personality this year and I’m happy to firmly say that: “Yes, I do identify as a Sir.”

Whether I actually got these words out suitably, those in the audience would have to tell you.  But the audience seemed to react in the right places, and as I came off the stage, Sir Alan was smiling and giving me a big double thumbs up.  And that means that the speech was a success.

Monday, August 6, 2012

We All Scream for Ice Cream

Given my fetish focus this year on foodplay, and my regional fantasy from last year (“What will you do with a Klondike Bar?”), I had to push these two incredibly perverse ice cream commercials.

The first is bad enough:

But the second takes it to a whole new level:

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Next Time, Take the Train

As part of going to San Francisco for the International LeatherSIR contest, I decided to travel by train rather than plane.  I have been to so many events where I have jetted in right before and jetted back out right after, without a chance to have an “experience” — or where the plane flight itself was an “experience”, in all the bad senses of the word — that I decided to swap things up for this one.

In the past few years, I have made a couple trips to Portland and back on the train (about 4 hours each way) and one trip in Ireland from Killarney all the way to Dublin (about 7 hours, I think), but the last long train trip I took was way back in 1991, San Jose to Portland for Westercon (although looking at the Westercon history page, that con is listed as July 1990, before I moved to California, and the next one was in 1995, after I got out of the con circuit [I think], so I’m confused), and before that I was maybe 10 years old, travelling the coast with my mother and sister to visit grandparents in southern California.

I had to be in San Francisco for a contestants meeting at 2:30 pm.  The train was scheduled to arrive in Oakland at 8:45 am, making it a perfectly good arrival time.  If I were to fly to the Bay Area to arrive by 10 am (to get to the hotel by noon), I would be leaving on an 8 am flight and thus getting up at 5:30 am to get to the airport in time.  Ugh.  Departure on the train from Seattle, though: a desirable 9:45 am the previous day.

That’s right, a 23-hour trip each way.  To many, that would be a killer, vs.  the two hours of flight (okay, 4 hours when you count getting to the airport).  But for an “experience” trip, that mostly meant taking two more days of vacation.  It also meant that all my packing and prep for the contest had to be complete 24 hours sooner, leaving me to just sit back and relax for the journey (in theory; or fret and worry).  And coming back, I would have a full day of “end of event” decompression without needing to jump right back into work the day after the huge emotional weekend.

For those who haven’t priced train prices, cost of travel was comparable to flying.  Base price was about $315 round trip, and I got a 10% discount for having AAA, bringing it to $286.  And that includes up to three 50-pound bags with no fee.  Since I was going to a leather contest and needed roughly 85 thousand pounds of leather and boots (okay, two suitcases over 45 pounds each), that would run me anywhere from $40 to over $100 each way, depending on the airline (Southwest excepted), making the train that much better of a deal.

(If I wanted a sleeper car, the price more doubled, although that’s for two beds, so not as bad for multiple people travelling.  Of course, once you add the amenities — meals included, picture window, two reclining seats, available on upper & lower levels of the train car, toilet & showers nearby in same train car, electrical outlets, climate control, individual reading lights, garment rack, fold-down table, fresh towels & bed linens, soap & shower amenities, personal service (turn-down, coffee, paper, make-up bed), bottled water, daily newspaper, and WiFi access — it becomes a better deal.)

The Trip Down

So how did it go?

Ruby picked me up at 8:30 in the morning to get me to the train.  President Obama was still in town, so we had some adventures getting me to the train station, dodging what traffic we could and eventually having me walk a block at the end.

First perk of the train vs.  the plane: no TSA.  They weighed my bags, but there was no nasty long line for security, no “take out everything from your pockets and stand like you are being robbed”, no 3 ounce limit on toiletries — no security checkpoint at all, in fact.

Waiting for boarding, I observed the other travelers.  Not much of a difference from airport passengers.  So who does take the train?  Some of the people were just going to Portland (or even closer destinations), but others were families travelling on vacation.  (I later found that kids under 12 get 50% off on the fare when travelling with an adult.) Others I can imagine travelling by train are those who can’t fly (fear, air pressure, claustrophobia, or even legal restrictions).  And as noted, the greater flexibility with luggage is an attractant.

On board, next perks of the train: seats are wider than on a plane.  Two or even three time the legroom.  Decent amount of recline.  Tray tables that you can use a laptop on even if the person in front of you is reclined.  Footrests.  Leg rests which sort of make the seat into a bed.  Electric plugs (two of them) at each row.  Huge windows.  Who else takes the train?  People who want more comfort than planes provide.

And getting on in Seattle, almost everyone could have a window seat, with no one in the aisle seat next to them.  In Tacoma, I got a seat mate, who got off in Portland, but I then got another one for the rest of the trip.  This wasn’t too bad, given the size of the seating area.  I could even get past him to the aisle without waking him up in the middle of the night, there was that much leg room.

(On the trip back, when announcing seating in the dining car, they repeatedly referenced the train being “completely full”.  I guess this referred to the sleeper cars, since nearly everyone in coach had a double to themselves.  Quite a change from the airplane use of the term!)

The train has both a sit-down restaurant (with “community” seating; you don’t get a table to yourself) and a cafĂ©/snack bar.  I knew I was in kind of a captive state, so I had brought some snacks, but I decided to do the “experience” thing and had dinner in the restaurant — half a chicken, potatoes, veggies, for something like $12, not unreasonable at a regular restaurant.  The two guys I ate with were friendly, and when I mentioned writing blog posts on the trip, I ended up explaining some details about the contest weekend.  One had known a Mr. Las Vegas Leather at some point, so it wasn’t totally foreign to them.

Sunset came around Klamath Falls, near the Oregon border.  Southern Oregon had some great vistas, mountains and valleys with thick forests.

Much of the day and evening, I spent writing title blog posts, finally getting a few last things posted that I wanted to get out of my system, whether the judges got to read them or not.  I will have to go back to touch up formatting and add links later, since my editing capabilities on the iPad aren’t as easy as on a laptop (although I could do what I need there, I just decided to get more content instead of detailing done).

I also watched a few hours of TV on the iPad — episodes of Misfits, Smash, and Young Justice that I have had on hand for a while, not yet watched.  I brought some 18 hours of shows with me that way.  Almost all my TV watching is on the iPad these days, buying the shows I am interested in from iTunes and watching them when and where I want.

Sleep on Wednesday night was one of the big downsides to the trip.  The seats don’t recline quite enough to bed down in.  The train brings pillows by, but not blankets, so I used my coat as a cover.  I ended up in a fetal position and it kinked my lower back, which is always problematic on event trips for me anyway.  So I got a few hours of sleep, maybe 5 or 6, and not great sleep.  I had meant to bring a neck pillow but forgot about a light blanket.

The other downside was WiFi.  The Amtrak site indicated that the train has WiFi, and it does.  For those who have a sleeper car (which was a few hundred dollars more), WiFi is included (as are movies, meals, and so on).  For those in coach?  Nope.  Can’t even buy it for $10 or $15 for the trip.  WTF?  There’s an income stream being missed there, Amtrak!  (I checked their website and after going as couple levels deep, found that the info was there.  This is the only WiFi-enabled route with that restriction!)

Come morning, we got into Sacramento about 30 minutes early, so we waited there for a while, and eventually got into Oakland on time.  Amtrak used to have a reputation for huge delays — as much as 36 hours on cross-country trips, I’m told — but that wasn’t an issue here, fortunately.

I hadn’t read the schedules well enough to see that there was a BART connection from the Richmond stop and a bus connection to San Francisco from Emeryville or I would have travelled to one of those rather than schlepping my luggage 1/2 mile from the Oakland station to BART.  Live and learn, I’ve done those treks before and will again.

The Trip Back

The return train was scheduled for 9:45 pm, allowing me to sleep in, have breakfast with Dan, pack, check my bags at the hotel, and spend the afternoon cruising and shopping in the Castro.  Fruitless cruising, alas!  Bored, I headed back to the hotel early, had dinner and coffee, and then caught a cab to Civic Center BART and made my way back to the Amtrak station, getting there an hour early.

The train was late.  They projected arrival at 10:30 when I got there at 8:45, when then showed on the reader board as 11:07, but later peeled back to 10:50.  At 10:50, it got removed from the board, with no train.  We all headed out to the platform and it took another half hour to arrive.  Ugh.

This time, I had a double seat to myself.  Seattle passengers were all put in the last car.  With two seats to bed down in, sleep was much better (although I’m sure looking forward to my bed tonight and the chiropractor tomorrow!).  The train seemed to be wobbling a lot more going north, but that may be more pronounced away from the stabler middle of the train.

The last car also seemed to be much louder, squeaks and grinding noises.  I had noticed that the trip down was way quieter than plane travel, but coming back wasn’t as nice in that arena (although still pretty good overall).

Dawn came around Dunsmuir, south of the Oregon border, but I dozed for another hour or so until they announced seatings for breakfast in the dining car.  For breakfast, I again went to the dining car and ordered the Continental Breakfast: $8 for oatmeal, croissant, half a grapefruit, three big strawberries, half an orange, yogurt, orange juice, and two cups of coffee.  Total score on value for the dollar there!  I at breakfast with Will and his two young sons who were visiting from England (based on their accent), taking the train up to Canada as part of their big trip.

Although I’m still writing blog posts and reading and watching TV shows — Falling Skies, Awake, Grimm, Young Justice, and Planet Earth — I’m paying more attention to the scenery going north.  Beautiful weather, nice and calm, and a hint into what I’ll see when I ride the scooter to target="_blank">Folsom Street Fair in September.  Except for the twinges in my back — some from sleeping on the train, some from just forced posture during the contest weekend — just about exactly the sort of thing I was wanting.

Unknown how much time they made up over night.  Schedule says we are supposed to be in Eugene at 12:44 and it’s 12:39 as I wrote this, well south of there, so we were obviously still behind, I’m thinking by about 90 minutes, maybe two hours (ended up being one hour late).  Assuming the timing is viable, I will take the bus home from the station.


Updated on August 3, 2012:

Touch-up edits and added links, pic, and video.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Contest Blog -- part 1

Wednesday

Travel day. Ruby picked me up at 8:30 and we fought Obama traffic to get me to the train. After that, all was well. Had dinner with a couple random guys, and got to explain the contest to them via asking what I had been blogging about. Beautiful scenery in southern Oregon. Sleep was less than great, could not get comfortable and my lower back paid the price.

Thursday

Arrived in Oakland at 8:40, on time. Dragged bags to BART, then a cab from Civic Center to the hotel.

Hooker was the first person I saw who I knew. I always have an internal poll on that. I know lots of people here, with a dozen years and more of travelling to these weekend events all over the country.

Check in to the hotel was a mess. GLPW had arranged for a check, but the hotel equipment wouldn't process it. The bank said there was no problem on their end, arranged to get me the cash, and all was well. Kept myself calm throughout. Boy Dan and Pope Bacon (and Jeremy on the phone) were stellar throughout.

We ended up a number 11 out of 15. I think I would have ideally liked about 7 or 8 (right in the middle), but this puts us right after lunch for the interviews, which may be good -- refreshed judges, not yet food sleepy.

Meet and Greet at Mr. S was fun, but it was difficult to track down each of the judges. It very much felt like "moth and flame", finding a judge and circling in the near distance until we could come close. (Not just Dan and myself with this, all the title teams.) A couple of the judges I didn't know before knew me from the blog and other sources, which I hope turns out to be good.

Dan and I wore leather-themed T's, some of my designs (Leatherboy and Shattered Leather Flag). One of the judges asked about them specifically, which validated wearing them vs. other options. The other contestants wherein everything from leather T's to bare chested to sash, the full range.

Intro of contestants and sort-of speeches (not final stepdowns) from Alan, Nitro, and Luna followed at the hotel, plus more mingling. Got a little more face time with a couple of the judges (or ass time in one case, showing off the lightning bolts).

Dan and I headed to the room to rap down and get some sleep rather than going out. Cliff finally got in around 1 am, had a loooong wait for the shuttle service to actually bring him to the hotel.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bottoming Out: Can a Sir Take It Up the Ass?

A lot of people have an image in their head of a “Leather Sir” which is strongly influenced by Tom of Finland’s “Kake” comics.

What they conveniently forget is that a few pages of the comic later, Kake was often bottoming as well as topping.

(from Kake 13 [1973] and Kake 7 [1970], © Tom of Finland)

There is also pretty broad acceptance that a leatherboy can be, if not a top, at least not just a bottom.  But acceptance that a Sir can like to bottom is harder to come by.

Let’s be frank here: I have been in leather since 1991.  It was that nipple play scene with Jean-Baptiste that really triggered things, I guess.  I have bottomed a lot over the years and topped a lot as well.  And after more than 20 years, I have found there are things I really like to do in each role.

When pressed, I call myself probably 90% top for BDSM play these days.  My last significant sessions as a bottom for flogging or spanking or bondage were a couple years or longer ago, although there was a nice nipple and CBT scene last October.  Guys tend to come to me for these things rather than the other way around.

For “insertive play” — sucking, fucking, fisting, etc.  — I call myself 50/50, willing to take as much as I give.  And I do.  Give me the chance and I will happily hop into the sling first, but if you want the first round, just say so.  Especially for fisting, the connection is as powerful no matter which end of the wrist I am on, and I love love love seeing a guy on my hand processing the same sensations that I have had in the past; it is truly a case of bottom skills informing top skills, and vice versa.

So how does this fit in with my self-image as a Leather Sir?  How do I reconcile taking it up the ass with being a Sir?  First, I do that by remembering the Kake example above: the character we most associate with our top leather imagery wasn’t a total top and seemed to really like some bottoming action mixed in.

Second, I remember that the words I use inform the meaning they impart.  I top, but I am not a Top — I am more than that.  I bottom, but I am not a Bottom — I am more than that as well.

Third, I remember that while LeatherSir is a “players” title, as a regional and potentially international titleholder, being a “Sir” is more than just beating and buttsex.  My title agreements included both fundraising and workshops — serving the community and passing my skills onto others.  In it’s ultimate form, a LeatherSir is (to me) someone who is known for his skills in leather and who is sought out for them (and by extension, who passes them on, whether in group workshops or one-on-one with a partner/boy/someone being mentored).

A man who is not known for his skills is invisible; he may be great at what he does, but he doesn’t participate in his leather community and his skills benefit no one but himself.  A man who is not sought out for his skills is too private or too quiet — or to self-effacing to admit that his skills are worthy.  A man who does not pass his skills on will see them die with him.

These are what truly qualify a leather Sir to me.  What those skills are — be they making leather gear or throwing a whip or taking a fist in the ass — matter less than the fact that he has them, is known for them, and shares them with others.

If I can achieve that (and I think I have), then anyone who looks askance at me being really good at getting fisted (and doing it in return) is actually observing his own limits, not mine.

Updated on August 6, 2012:

Touch-up edits and added links.
Updated on August 9, 2012:

Better example images.
Updated on February 24, 2015:

Pussied-out the naughty bits on a pic to try and keep Google from blocking the blog.

RUMPUS (Seattle) • July 13–15

Over 20 years ago, Bill Houghton created Rubbout, a rubber enthusiasts weekend in Vancouver, BC.  I got into rubber in the late 1990s and started coming to Rubbout with the 8th year, while I still lived in the Bay Area.  I convinced Bill to let me put up a website for the event (and it is still up!) — all the advertising and outreach before then had been through paper flyers and rubber club newsletters.  (I have no recollection how I first found out about Rubbout, now that I think of it.  Maybe a flyer at the Loading Dock in San Francisco.)

It was coming back from Rubbout in April, 2000, driving back through Seattle to return to SeaTac airport to fly home that I firmly decided to move to Seattle.

As of this year, I have been to Rubbout 13 times, I think, only missing one year that I can recall.  For a few years, some of us have talked about replicating Rubbout in Seattle, but talking is about all we managed.  In 2011, we actually announced doing an event and then it didn’t come off.  This year was the year, though!

Several years ago, Seattle Men in Leather tried having SIGs — Special Interest Groups — where groups of members could focus around a given fetish or activity (like rubber) and get some communication and even monetary support from the organization without SML having to focus its board on the SIG topic.  The only one of these which got of the ground at all was a rubber SIG, dubbed RUMPUS (RUbber Men of PUget Sound; the alternate name considered was RUMPS), but we only managed a couple meetings before I got to busy to drive things and it went away.  But the name remained with me.

Scouting for the right time of year and weekend, I decided to target mid-July.  While other events also occur then — we overlapped onto Wet ’n Hot and Thunder in the Mountains — mid-summer is away from Rubbout, West Coast Rubber, and Mr. International Rubber, and most especially, it is warm enough for guys to be comfortable in latex.  In terms of weekends, Seattle Men in Leather has a 2nd Friday education session, a new 2nd Friday demo and social, and a 3rd Sunday brunch (with this time, 3rd Sunday being right after 2nd Saturday).  So presto, the core of a weekend event was laid at my feet.

And thus did RUMPUS play out.  In February for West Coast Rubber, I did up a postcard design and a “save the date” website (hosted off my SoundsKinky site), distributing more cards in April at Rubbout.  A variant design was used for the poster which went out in Seattle before the event.  Originally, there was going to be a registration fee for the weekend, processed through GLPW and benefitting some charity, but that went by the wayside as my busy summer got in the way of that level of planning.  I still did an online reg form, to gather some info for direct mailings next year.

The event itself consisted of:

We only had about a dozen rubber guys in total, but that was still enough to call this a successful first event, something to build up next year.  Special thanks to Bill Houghton as instigator of Rubbout and thus “grandfather” to RUMPUS; Scott and Daniel at Tribal Instinct/CockCircus for making it easier for RUMPUS attendees to go to those events; Reid and Marc for bringing down the rubber bondage equipment and running it on Friday night; Pup Gadget for taking the “pup” portion of the event and putting it together with almost no cycles needed from me; the Cuff Complex for letting us do the Saturday afternoon pup mosh; Tony at Steamworks for giving a discount to RUMPUS guys (and keeping after me to get things set up for that!); Boom Noodle and CC Attle’s for accepting us; and anyone I have forgotten.

RUMPUS will occur again next summer, although exactly when remains to be seen, based on the rest of my schedule as I learn it.  I hope to go back to the reg fee idea, which would cover admission to various events and raise some money for charity.

Sometimes at leather contest interviews, the question is asked “What will the title enable you to do?”, and no matter the answer, the judge’s response seems to be “Why can’t you do that without a title?”  Why couldn’t I get a rubber weekend to happen in Seattle in years before this, but I could now?  Because the title, and the active direction toward the International one, forced me to think more strongly about what I wanted to accomplish this year — including building stronger bridges between leather and rubber — and it got me to make commitments about events I wanted to do.  Would a Seattle rubber weekend have occurred without my having the Northwest LeatherSIR title?  I can’t say for sure, but because I ended up being the sole driver on the event in the end, there’s a good chance that it would not have.


Updated on August 2, 2012:

Touch-up edits and added links and poster.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Am I Scary Enough?

With LeatherSIR defined as a “players” title, one of the questions that bothered me some earlier in the title year was whether my kinks and play activities measure up, whether they are “enough” for the title and to carry me through to an International win.

The title of this post came from a discussion about some local play parties where some people who are on the invite list never come to the party.  When asked why, their response was that they aren’t “scary” enough to come to those parties.  While we knew they wouldn’t be on the invite list if they weren’t sufficiently advanced players to be appropriate, it raised a couple interesting thoughts about our own perceptions of both our kinks and our perceived skills with those kinks.

There is always someone who plays with stuff that is too “edge” for you, and there is always someone who plays harder or “better” at the same things you do.  If you limit what you allow yourself to do because you think other people will judge you and consider you to be inferior — because what you do isn’t as extreme as what they do — then you will never get the chance to play at all.  This is a really hard hump for people to climb over.

(This wasn’t about my fisting parties, but as I think of it, there are guys who have been on the invite list for a while who always say to keep them on the list but never actually make it to a party.  I’ll bet some are simply intimidated by the thought of a group party where there are guys who are “better” than they are — deeper, wider, just more experienced — so they don’t come and don’t get to play with a variety of great guys in a great, supportive environment.)

In the 90s and early 00s, when I was simply trying to figure out what I liked, I sampled a lot of kinks, and bought a lot of equipment (including contest auction baskets; you don’t think I bought multiple huge nasty paddles, do you?).  I’ve got probably a dozen floggers, a couple spreader and bondage bars, a wide selection of cuffs, sounds, an electric butt plug, pounds and pounds of dildos, a humbler, collars, whips, a myriad of paddles and rods… you name it, I likely have it, including some rather interesting, quirky items.  A lot of it, though, I never use.  In fact, some of it has never been used at all, by me or on me.

A large piece of this lack of use, of course, is finding the right partner for certain equipment.  You don’t spring a paddle with sharp-edged grooves cut into it on just anyone, after all.

More than that, though, as I have matured, I have also narrowed my focus.  Before, I was into (nearly) everything, or said I was because I didn’t know any better, but now I have found a few things that I really do like/am good at, a few things I like enough/am good enough at, a whole bunch of things that only lightly interest me, and a few things which definitely don’t interest me.

The peculiar side-effect of that is that stuff that I do enough to know I really like and get good at also starts to seem mainstream.  One friend a few years ago said “What I do is normal.  What he does is edgeplay.”  Another, at a recent fisting workshop, whispered “Is fisting really considered edgy?  It’s always seemed normal to me.”

Which cycles back to the original question: Am I “scary” enough?  For my title year, rather than trying to be into everything (a Sir of all trades), I decided to focus on two things: fisting and foodplay (and to a lesser extent, flogging — FFF!).  The first being something to center around, the second something to explore.  Most especially, this helps me have a kink center to bring things back to for my interview questions, my speech, and even to touch on in my stage fantasy.

Is fisting “scary” enough?  The lack of need for fancy equipment and the basic truth that it’s just a (huge!) step up from fucking make fisting seem simple to some people.  I often forget about my own journey, which took a couple years to complete the first leg of the “journey” (taking a fist), and then many more to repeat it at will.  I see that I am still building my skills, as both top and bottom, with no end in sight — I can see the vast distances I have traveled and that the road goes ever on, and that is a good thing!  While I do it often, fisting is a huge mystery to many guys, and to many others, it is an occasional event at best (so many never get truly good at it, having to always relearn atrophied skills).  So yes, fisting is “scary” enough.

How about foodplay?  This is a huge blank space on the map for most people, marked by “Here there be (hungry) dragons”.  Most guys don’t even have a solid concept of what could be involved with foodplay, beyond two obvious images: a cucumber or other vegetable as a dildo, and licking whipped cream or honey off someone’s chest.  (Or maybe that scene from 9-1/2 Weeks.  And for some people, much of foodplay actively turns them off.)  Like with fisting, foodplay really needs no elaborate equipment; just go to the kitchen and use what you find.  Super-cheap kinky play, that confuses people.  (How can Mr. S make money from this?  Is it valid if they can’t?)  Just from the curiosity factor — break out a Klondike bar for your scene and people will pay attention — yes, foodplay is “scary” enough.

Does flogging qualify?  Almost no one would question this one, although when marked up against guys who use singletails, it starts to seem like the baby brother of “real” whipping.  But that depends on what your goals are and how you implement things.  I sometimes do just standard flogging, but I like to get up close and use my hands to beat on a guy (usually in concert with pop music rhythms, to abuse the brain as well as the body).  I like to scratch (if I have any fingernails after trimming them for fisting), I like to bite, I like to spit.  Even if I don’t raise welts and break the skin, I leave my mark.

In the end, this all second guessing the competition judges, and there are a bunch of them.  Do they feel that fisting is “out there” enough, or has it become too mainstream?  Do they think just flogging is passé, that whipping is where it’s at?  Do they think foodplay is just dumb, not even worth considering in comparison to e-stim and suspension bondage and fireplay?  Or maybe, hopefully, they don’t really care what you do — “Your kink is your kink” — so long as you do something!


Updated on August 1, 2012:

Touch-up edits and added links.

Camp Columbia (Richland, WA) • July 6–8

My friends Jan and Walt have a small compound (house, enclosed yard, bunkhouse) in Richland which they open up for fisting parties (dubbed “Camp Columbia”) a couple weekends each summer, inviting guys in from Seattle, Moses Lake, Spokane, Moscow, and other places around the Pacific Northwest (especially the Eastern Washington side).

This was my second trip over there, both times on the scooter.  As usual on these ride, I wore my title vest much like bike club colors.  It is about a 3.5 hour ride (about 200 miles), 4 hours with a food break in Ellensburg.  I cut out of work as early as I could, fed the cat and grabbed my bag, and was off.  Most of the trip was in daylight, dusk coming on just around Vantage (30 minutes past Ellensburg).  South of Vantage, at Mattawa on the Columbia River and just at twilight, about 14 million bugs decided to suicide on the front of the bike, and all over my helmet and my front (shirt, gloves, and title vest).  I had to stop at the next rest area to wash off the helmet face shield enough to see well.  If Ruin had an “ick” reaction to a bit of Crisco on my vest a few months ago, I can only imagine her reaction to a splatter of bug bits!

Since the last time I was at their place, Jan and Walt acquired the house next door, doubling the size of the compound and giving more sleeping space for guests (and a small shed for an extra, private sling space).  They are talking about how they could turn it into an actual clothing-optional resort, a là Palm Springs.  I think that would be very cool.  (Or hot, since it is summer!)

Cliff and Ken and Paul had also ridden over from Western Washington, which was a surprise since Cliff had said he wasn’t coming a couple days before; I think the temptation of a good motorcycle ride helped.  I played a couple times on Friday night before bed.  The next day, several of the guys from Eastern Washington headed home.  Since July 4th was mid-week this year, Camp Columbia actually spanned both weekends, and they had been there since at least the holiday.  This (and the split week in general) reduced the number of people, but I still got to play a few times, including with hottie Nick in the afternoon.

I had a difficult time bottoming this weekend, needing far more effort to take hands than usual.  It’s not the temperature (since I dealt with that in Palm Springs in June), so it was either just the long ride making my ass weary, or so much play in San Francisco the weekend before setting things off.  I had some difficulty earlier in the week, too, so I actually lean toward the latter, and I’ve had the problem once before, where for whatever reason, it’s like a switch was toggled in my ass, resetting my ability to relax properly back to where I was 3 or 4 years ago.  As with that time, my brain knew what to do but my body was rejecting it.  And as with the previous instance, I simply kept at it and things smoothed back to my regular state by the next weekend.  (I should remember to ask other fisting friends if they have encountered this effect.)

Sunday morning, with temperatures that day expected to crest 100, Cliff and Paul headed out about 9:30 on the route to Vantage I had come down on, and I took the alternate Yakima route around 10:00, and we met up for lunch in Ellensburg.  They then headed to Leavenworth and Stevens Pass (better end point for where they each live, north of Seattle), while I took Snoqualmie Pass.  I had a fine ride back, but they got caught in traffic down the pass (probably worse because of the semi-holiday weekend) and it took an extra 90 minutes or so.


Updated on August 1, 2012:

Touch-up edits and added links and map.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review: The Leatherman’s Protocol Handbook

Yes, it’s true.  I have read that book.  The one panned so severely by Guy Baldwin and others.  (I did not buy it, though.  Someone who shall remain unnamed bit the bullet and loaned his copy to me.)

Reviews on Amazon
Guy Baldwin on Leatherati


Jeffrey Payne on Leatherati
More from Jeffrey Payne on Leatherati
John Weal’s response on Leatherati

On some level, I am glad I read the book, because now I can put the comments of Baldwin, Jeffrey Payne, Patrick Mulcahey, and others into better context.  And it turns out that the big hulabaloo is really focused mostly on a single chapter, enhanced by author John D.  Weal’s reaction to people’s comments and unwillingness or inability to defend what he claims to be factual.

I came into leather in the early 1990s in the San Francisco Bay Area.  That was the height of the AIDS epidemic, before much of anything but AZT was around as treatment.  Much of the generation of leathermen who would be lost was already gone, and their history and knowledge with them.  I largely had to self-teach myself about leather protocols across that decade, picking up bits here and there from individual leathermen, learning by observation in leather bars, and picking up info where I could from books and magazines.  When Weal goes into detail about clothing styles and guidelines, dungeon rules, high and low protocol, I recognize large portions of this as things I learned in my early years, and thus anything which falls into realms I had no connection with, I can accept as likely valid (at least to the degree Weal experienced it).  (Although some of what is listed remains bizarre: a boy would not be allowed to use the toilet seat?).  And thus, I see good value in some portions of this book.  (But not that one chapter, which admittedly casts a shadow on any other parts I cannot independently validate.)

But let’s get one thing out of the way: this is not a good book, overall.  The content of the one controversial chapter aside, is not generally a well written book, nor a well edited one, nor a well focused one.  There is little narrative through line.  Some chapters wander all over the map.  Some concepts are introduced as though the reader should know them, only to be defined pages or even chapters later.  This book needs not just an editor, it needs a producer: someone able to establish direction and make sure that a viable product comes out the other side.

Just to pick on one aspect, Weal’s own timeline is inconsistent throughout the book.  At one point, he says he was collared by his master in 1968, but his bio says he has been “actively involved with the BDSM Lifestyle for Over 35 years” [caps per the bio], which would put his collaring around 1975 (the book was published in 2010).  And thus when he speaks of the ways of the Council, or delineates protocols for boys, just which decade he means becomes even more hazy: is this now, is it the 1970s, is it the 1950s (which he was only told about by his master)?  Every time the reader encounters a head-scratcher like these, he loses faith in the rest of the content.

Weal’s writing is also mangled by his need for continual completeness in terminology, forcing him to use “Master/Sir” and “boy/boi/submissive/slave” throughout.  When those phrases show up multiple times each in a single paragraph, the brain starts to drop out entire sentences.  The need to list all the possibilities every time prevents his message from coming through.

I was always taught to try and find something good to say about anything I review, since the writer put a lot of effort into the writing, and someone somewhere thought it was good enough to actually publish and release the work.  So here goes: the germ of a couple truly interesting books does exist in here.  First, Weal could put together a book of history and stories about the early leather scene as he knew it and as was related to him by those he knew; he might have to fictionalize some of it, change the names and such, but a lot of valid insight into how things were in the circles he had access to could still come through such a book.  Second, while there is doubt shed on the accuracy of many things Weal says about “Old Guard” practices — and common wisdom says that many rituals and protocols were highly regional and even individual — an analytic comparison of “Old Guard” practices with how those things are handled and performed today could be interesting, marking how our leather society has changed (and where it has not).

But I have no belief that either of those books are ones Weal is willing or able to produce.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Riding the Bike

When I tell people I ride a “scooter”, they usually think of this:

When what I ride is this:

Not quite the same thing, eh?

A “scooter” is simply another form of a motorcycle, not particularly any more different from a standard cruiser style than a “lean forward” crotch rocket sport bike is.  Scooters are usually on the lower end of the power spectrum — the smaller ones are intended for in-city commutes, mostly — and they have a floorboard, so you usually sit upright.  Most scooters are also automatic transmission, and they usually have under-seat storage.

Mine is a Kymco Downtown 300i — at 300 cc, one of the more powerful scooters.  (Kymco is a Taiwanese company.  They also make engine parts for Vespa and BMW.) I have had this one for a little over a year (since April 2011), replacing my previous Kymco People S 125 which I had ridden for the previous 3 years.  When I upgraded to the Downtown, I stuck with a brand I knew and trusted.

When people hear that I ride a “scooter”, they picture me putt-putting along at 25 mph on city streets, doing short trips of a couple miles max.

In 15 months, I have put just short of 10,000 miles on my Downtown, with over 15,000 miles on the People S before it.  It is my primary commute vehicle — my only vehicle until the car gets some cooling system repairs — 5 miles each way including segments on the freeway, in traffic.  I ride year round, in everything from sun to pouring rain; only the threat of snow keeps me off it.

(Oh, and thunderstorms.  Lightning and motorcycles don’t seem to be a smart mix.  We usually have none of these a year in Seattle, but the morning after I wrote this post, we had our fourth one in two weeks.  And I delayed going into work until it passed.)

I have ridden my Downtown on hours-long trips to Portland, Vancouver, and Richland — the last being 4 hours each way with a rest break (which is where that pic was taken), including a mountain pass — at highway speeds, topping it out at 90 mph.  (Shh, don’t tell the cops.)  With the trunk, the space under the seat, and a bag strapped behind me, I can carry enough luggage (including my leathers) for a long weekend trip.  I can also carry my inflatable kayak (uninflated, of course) on it.  Or a dog cage suitable for puppy play.

I get as high at 74 mpg in cool weather.  I can almost always find a parking space, and parking in the downtown garages is just $5 for the day, usually with a space for me on the first level of the garage.  And insurance is $100 for the entire year.

So please feel free to sneer a little when you hear I ride a “scooter”.  I’ll do the same when I hear you complain about gas and parking and insurance prices for your car, or when I see you get your own motorcycle out only on the sunny days in Seattle (all 14 of them each year).  Even a “scooter” motorcycle beats one that doesn’t get ridden or one that doesn’t even exist.

Oh, and I’ll see you at Folsom in September.  I plan to ride down, over 800 miles each way.  On my “scooter”. 

Northern Exposure 3.0 (Anchorage) • June 14–18

GUSH!

I guess I need to say more that that, huh?  Okay: I had a great time at Northern Exposure, exceeding my expectations!

Northwest region for International LeatherSIR has a huge territory to cover — Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska — and much of it very sparsely populated.  There isn’t much that you could call a gay leather scene out of the Seattle-to-Portland corridor (no leather bars in Missoula, Montana, sorry to say), so it is difficult to really cover the region as a leather titleholder.  There are a couple small fisting weekends in Eastern Washington, though.  And a pansexual leather conference in Alaska.

I knew vaguely of Northern Exposure in Anchorage because of arrangements made for last year’s Northwest Community Bootblack Dylan to travel up to the event.  So when the call for presenters went out, I sent in five proposals: Play Party Etiquette, How to Throw a Play Party, Online Cruising, Engaging a Club and Its Board, and Fisting.  (Yes, all over the map.  Not knowing just what they were looking for — more sex or more organizational — I wanted to provide a variety of options for them to choose from.

It took a long, long time to get things settled.  I had communication that they wanted me to come, but it wasn’t until after all the other presenters’ bios and classes were posted online that we got my stuff settled.  (As the head organizer, Sarha’s time was stolen for the first part of the year getting ready to compete at IMsL.)  I don’t know if this was my lack of experience in being a traveling presenter (this was only my second such; I previously did a rubber workshop for KCLU (now defunct) in Kansas City) or added uncertainly on how to handle a gay presenter at a pan event, but it was frustrating.  Eventually all got dealt with, of course, and I had enough miles on Alaska Airlines to cover the ticket (which would be pretty expensive otherwise, even from Seattle).

Thursday

I flew in on Thursday, getting in about noon.  About the time I got to the Seattle airport, it occurred to me that this was one of the few trips I have taken in recent years to somewhere new, somewhere I haven’t been as an adult.  The last trip like that would have been to Madison in October 2010, and before that were overseas trips to New Zealand, Amsterdam/Copenhagen/Berlin, and Ireland.  Alaska is one of only a handful of states I had never visited before (with Hawai’i, Alabama, West Virginia, Delaware, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine), and there aren’t many metro areas in North America I haven’t been to at least once.

I met one of the other presenters at the airport — Dr. Clockwork, who sells violet wands.  While someone from Northern Exposure was supposed to meet us, no one was there.  I had rented a car, so I went off to get it and left my contact info with Doc in case he felt stranded.  I headed to downtown, but stopped off at Alaska Leather (a motorcycle leathers shop) and ate at Angeline’s Philippine Cuisine.

In town, I scoped out where the gay bars are — Mad Myrna’s, The Raven, and Kodiak — and then headed for the downtown tourist area.  That part of town is loaded with tourist shops, each of them having 80% the same stuff as all the others, of course.  I bought the requisite Alaska t-shirt (with a moose on it), a pair of bed shorts (red with mooses on them), and a necklace with a bear paw (not a moose!) carved on some Alaska mineral that looks like hematite.

I then headed out to the west end of town, to Earthquake Park.  Alaska suffered a major earthquake in 1964 which destroyed a couple major ports and severely damaged the Alaskan economy — and launched a tsumani which was seen in San Francisco and actually caused major damage in Crescent City, Oregon.  Earthquake Park overlooks part of the landscape which collapsed, dropping a bluff a couple hundred feet.

At The Raven, there was a “potlatch” — a small potluck in this case — and the welcome meet and greet for the weekend, with the introduction of most of the presenters.  The amount of food wasn’t quite enough for me, so I went next door to a hamburger place.  Later on, I was definitely fading, so I got directions to where the presenters were being housed, some cabins on Beech Lake, about 30 minutes north of Anchorage, and I head out there ahead of people.

When I got there and got into the first cabin, I was dismayed: bare except for a couple cots and an unlit wood stove.  Fortunately, I found the main cabin, which had futons, heat, a bathroom, and a kitchen.  I found a couple blankets and snuggled under them, working on blog posts, and was just about to doze off when others arrived, including some of the Northern Exposure crew with bedding.  Suddenly things were much more tolerable!  about half of use stayed in the main cabin, and others got fires started and stayed in the smaller ones.

Friday

On Friday, I took a couple of the workshops, including Dr.  Clockwork’s on “Violet Wands: Basics & Beyond” and Big Bad Jim’s on “How to Beat the Crap Out of Someone”.  The latter of these gave me a few ideas to use during flogging and bondage scenes regarding hitting someone with body parts other than hands and feet.

I also did my first workshop, on “Play Parties: How to Go and How to Throw”.  I first did a version of this a year and a half ago for Tribal Instinct in Seattle, toning it up a little for this.  The first half of it is influenced by the book to teenagers called Prom and Party Etiquette, by Cindy Post Senning (daughter of Emily Post), twisting its content to kink party ends: what should you do and not do at a play party, should you bring a date, should you bring a (hostess) gift, can you see the guest list, etc.  The second half is about putting together your own play party — why you should do one, what you can manage, what you need to provide, who to invite, how to manage an invite list, how to deal with problems.

I didn’t stick around for the play party that night, going out to Mad Myrna’s instead.  I got to the bar to order and heard “Jim Drew, what are you doing here?!”  The bartender was former Seattle Empress Miss MeMe (albeit in boy mode for work).  Never assume you can go anywhere incognito.  I also met up with a guy I had been chatting with on Scruff.  After a couple drinks at Mad Myrna’s, we went to the Raven and made out a while there.  Unfortunately, neither of us had somewhere we could go to fuck (etc.), so we had to leave it at that.

Saturday

On Saturday, I took three workshops.  One was Snook’s “Bill of Rights for Bottoms”, which was a work-in-progress workshop, as much group discussion about the concepts as anything.  Second was Rule of Three’s “Depersonalization and Dehumanization”, which discussed things such as bondage and masking to focus on only part of a bottom (like tits or cock), and also about using a bottom as an object, such as a table or an ashtray.  Third was slave Elizabeth (and Master Todd)’s “Slave’s Guide to Screwing Up with Grace”, which was mostly about how their relationship works, including managing/balancing the BDSM side of things with professional life and children.  Slave Elizabeth also gave a great phrase to take with me, regarding when people treat their relationship protocol as the one everyone should follow: “Your protocol is your protocol.  Your protocol is your gift.”  (My addition: “Please keep it.  Regifting is tacky.”)

I did my second presentation (we were each scheduled for three, one per day), “Cruising Online: Getting Some Ass without Being One”.  This was heavily centered around gay male online cruising, but with looks into things like FetLife and OK Cupid, including the OK Cupid Enemies Tumblr blog, which showed that het cruising can be just as full as asses as gay cruising is (as witnessed by Douchebags of Grindr).  The workshop went through details of what goes into a good online profile, including photos, title, text, and keeping things fresh.  There was also some good discussion about concerns for het women (stalking, etc.) and people in smaller communities (where the description alone in a profile can be enough to identify someone, even without pictures).  But probably the best part of the session was walking through bad examples I had found online — no pics, no profile text, iPhones implanted in faces, and so on.  (You could probably do an entire hour giggle session just with bad profiles!)

I slept in the car instead of taking the last workshop session, very tired.  It was warm and humid, though, so I only dozed.

Rather than head out to the gay bars early tonight, I stayed for the evening play party and engaged in four flogging scenes.  Two of them were with women — Marie and Monique — both of whom were newer to things (I think it was Marie’s first flogging and Monique’s second one).  I also played with one of the few other gay men at the event, former Mr. Alaska Leather (and former Seattle resident, so we already knew each other a bit) Kurt Hillyer.  WIth Kurt, both because he is experienced with flogging and because we didn’t have either gender or orientation issues to get in the middle of things, I was able to work him over harder, and we did the scene in the round, without bracing, just him standing upright in the middle of the space as I worked him up one side and down the next.  The fourth scene was the standout for me, though, as Monique had set me up with a straight (presumably) bear of a guy named Will who wanted to really be laid into.  As with Kurt, I was really able to open up on Will, not just with the flogger but with a paddle and with my hands, including fist beating on his back and even spitting on his heated skin.

I eventually had to stop playing — had to cut short the fourth scene, with Monique — because of my wrist (which has been bothering me since March), before it started hurting too bad.  Monique gave me a great gray bandana with “ALASKA” and bear and moose printed on it, and I traded her my fairly standard gray bandana in return.

I went out to Mad Myrna’s again for a beer and met up with a Facebook friend David, who knows people I do in the Seattle Imperial Court.

Sunday

On Sunday, everyone at the cabins got a late start, waking up just a little bit before the car to take those of us who didn’t have our own in to Anchorage.  Since my workshop wasn’t until the afternoon, I hung out rather than rushing.

I made the second workshop, Snook’s on “Piercing for Bondage & Control”.  She used hooks in her girl’s chest and thighs and strung them under the table.  She used some needles in the arm with a ribbon lacing, and then used needles through the fingertips and toe tips… and then made the girl remove the needle piercings while tied down.  While it was a fascinating workshop, it also confirmed for me that needles aren’t something I want to pursue, either as top or bottom; the blood and pain issues don’t bother me, but there’s just nothing in it that flips a switch for me and makes me want to try it.  Which is fine: Not My Kink.

My third workshop was after lunch, titled “60 Minutes of Buttsex”.  Actually, the workshops were 90 minutes, so I edited that to “60 Minutes of Buttsex + 30 Minutes of Fisting”.  This was a formalization of the “100 Miles of Buttsex” car workshop I did with Ruin, Ryan, and Jean in March.  While my other two workshops had small attendance, maybe a half-dozen people each, I probably had 20 people here, which kind of surprised me.  I shouldn’t have been: anal sex has some taboos attached (making it that much more attractive) and is something a lot of pan folks have tried to a limited degree (and maybe not with great success), but generally not nearly as much as a gay guy has — we specialize in it, after all.  There were bits of great discussion during the workshop, especially from Cat, a lesbian from the Bay Area, who was able to help fill in some of the holes (intentional pun) I had regarding female bits.

After that, I sat in on Lady Pact’s “Erotic Wax Play” session, but I was so tired, I kept dozing off.  Eventually FoxFinder (Sarha’s husband/dom) nudged me and had me go lie down in the presenters’ room, where I dozed and got a little sleep.

When we arrived that morning, FoxFinder had told myself and Master Todd that we wouldn’t be staying at the cabins that evening, that we would need to go back out and retrieve our stuff, that other housing would be done that evening.  Due to my workshop right after lunch, we opted to go out between the workshops and dinner, when there was a long enough break.  When we (and slave Elizabeth) got out there, Otter (who was kind of our cabin Den Mom) was dealing with the people who were renting the cabins next.  Apparently not only were we not staying that night, we were supposed to be fully out before they got there at 5:00.  Oops.  We hastily cleared things out, trying to keep further friction at a minimum.

(The incoming people run a weekly camp for “special needs” kids.  Obviously, one thing that really helps “special needs” kids is consistency, the ability to do the same things the same way every time.  Perhaps less obviously, one thing that really helps people who work with “special needs” kids is also consistency.  The woman was pissy less because our stuff was still there than because it was disrupting her consistency and thus her ability to provide such to the kids.  I sympathize, but she came across as though some of the “special needs” had rubbed off onto her.)

Returning into Anchorage, we had a lengthy discussion about relationship protocols, how things differ between gay and straight kink worlds, leather contests, and in particular about hats and covers.  Finding that we were on the same page about the subject, they asked me to do a Covering Ceremony for Master Todd, which I was surprised yet honored to oblige for.  (I won’t go into details — it was just the three of us and the Alaska countryside, short, and less formal than ceremonies you will find written out [such as in John Weal’s controversial book], but the value in such is what those involved take away from it.)

Dinner was a multi-course affair back at the event site, everything home made, including bread, cream of mushroom soup, salad, salmon, bear meatloaf, and dessert.  In between the courses, the Last Frontier Drag Kings performed.  (And Sarha fluttered around, changing outfits every few minutes.)  They also brought each of the presenters on stage for a special thanks, and for me, that included an on-stage pinning by Kurt with a The Last Frontier Men’s Club (the local leather/bear club) pin — down on his knees, fishing in my fly to find the right place for the pin — and a few seconds that I spent licking all over FoxFinder’s fist (that’s what happens when you ask me to explain International Mr. Saliva, what can I say?).

Most of the presenters who had been at the cabin went out to the FoxDen near Wasilla for the night.  I decided I wanted to stay in town and hit the bars again, maybe get myself some man-on-man action.  (And ensure having a room, bed, and bathroom to myself.)  Online hotel sites had godawful expensive rates, but remembering the name of a motel near the bars, I got a decent enough rate to stay in the city.  The bars were pretty dead, but I did connect with a guy online for some suitable play.

Monday

On Monday, I packed out of the motel and headed to Gwennie’s Old Alaska Restaurant for the Survivor’s Brunch.  The info I had was off by an hour, though, so the rest of the crew wasn’t there.  I was about to leave to kill time at Starbucks when Kurt arrived, also way early, so we went off and had coffee together.

When we got back, a few of the crew and presenters were there, and more trickled in over the next 30 minutes or so.  Food portions were huge, and I couldn’t finish mine.  As things would down, I handed out zip ties (zipper pulls on leather things, akin to a bolo tie) to several of the people there whom I had a really great time with over the weekend. 

(These zip ties are something I remember from my early days in the San Francisco leather community — you sometimes still see versions of them now without a zipper pull, with one of the cords in a fancy knot around the other — and I re-created them for my booth the last time I vended at IML.  They are a great subtle way of showing your leather to others as well as keeping a little with you even when not wearing hides.  And they can also serve as a handy collar, cuffs, or tie for CBT or other needs; I have even used one as temporary back lacing in a pair of chaps!)

FoxFinder pulled me aside at one point for a special thanks and palmed me a genuine bear claw.  Very cool.

After the brunch — including some picture taking with the Edmonton Away Team on the reindeer sculptures out front — I drove down the Seward Highway along the Turnagain Arm to Girdwood (about an hour south of Anchorage).  I took some photos and videos of the incredible scenery, had a fireweed & honey ice cream cone, and headed back to the airport for my return flight to Seattle.

Aftermath

GUSH!  (Oh, I said that already.)

I had a lot more fun at Northern Exposure than I expected to.  The largest part of that, of course, was being the sole gay presenter at an otherwise (kinky) straight event.  You never know how you will be received — embraced, accepted as just another presenter, or kind of danced around.  It was pretty much the second of those for me, which is really what you want: treat my like a person first, then deal with the gay angle only if you need to.

Despite some of the communication issues I had going into the event, it really ran exceptionally well.  (I have always believed that most events will: set things up to succeed, start the boulder rolling, and it will make it to the bottom of the hill, in part because others want it to succeed and will help.)  While I’m sure there were adventures and small panics behind the scenes — certainly with the music for one of the Drag Kings on Sunday — the only thing of significance that I noted which needs to be improved was having a large printout of the schedule.  They only had a small printout taped to a white board at first, and then we started writing in big letters what the next workshops were, but a 24x36 or so pre-printed one would be a good thing to have for next year.

I loved loved loved getting to know Master Todd and slave Elizabeth, getting great insight into a model for how a master/slave relationship can actually work, especially with Elizabeth being more of an equal partner in the relationship in many areas than the fantasy nature of such relationships would have you believe (and that much more real as a result).  I wish them the best if they choose to run for one of the regional M/s titles, as they said they may.

Almost my entire life has been on the West Coast, in view of mountains — real mountains, with craggy tops and snow, not the big rolling hills they call mountains back East (grin).  You learn to tell your location and directions by where they are, and to navigate by them.  From where I am sitting now, I can see the Cascades, four distances away (nearby Seattle, Mercer Island in Lake Washington, the Issaquah highlands beyond that, and then the mountains).  They are real, but they are a ways away — 60 to 90 minutes drive.  In Alaska, though, the mountains are IN YOUR FACE!  They are only two distances away, almost close enough to touch, looking 15 minutes drive away, maybe.  It was really amazing.

There’s an old joke that the Alaska state bird is the mosquito, and they were certainly out a Earthquake Park and at Beech Lake where the cabins were.  For whatever reason, though, I only came away with one scratchy bite.  I sure brushed enough of them away.

Northern Exposure was just days before summer solstice.  Alaska is the “Land of the Midnight Sun”, and while I knew what this meant academically, you just aren’t prepared for it until you experience it.  On Friday night, I got back to the cabin at 2:30 am, and it looked like the sun had just set.  (Fortunately, I didn’t have trouble sleeping with the odd light levels.)

I did not get to see the Northern Lights.  I don’t know if they are even visible from Anchorage at that time of year, but that’s something to look for on a future trip.  There was a cool art installation at the Anchorage airport emulating the Northern Lights on the ceiling of one of the corridors, though.  That rivaled “Flying Fish” (the stream of fish embedded in the floor of Concourse C at SeaTac airport) and “Desert Wildlife” (the half-sunk desert animals at the Las Vegas airport) for cool airport art.

I got several compliments on my speaking style and presentation for my workshops.  The biggest part of that, I’m sure, is that I’ve taught dance workshops for a decade.  But I think a chunk of the credit has to go to my father, who was a Methodist minister.  Even though I didn’t like having to sit through sermons (and often read a book in the back pew instead of paying attention), a lot of how he did what he did must have rubbed off.

I also got kudos from people for doing my presentations from a gay viewpoint.  While I did go through them and make sure that pronouns and focus weren’t completely male oriented, I didn’t try to “straighten” things up any more than I had to, presenting things as “This is the way I do it or I think it should go” and trusting that those attending the workshops were adults, able to adapt what I was presenting into their own reference frame.  (This was especially true with the Buttsex & Fisting workshop, where a couple times I had to come back around to the fact that I don’t know the details of female anatomy, so I could only generalize about things like vaginal fisting.)

At one point during the weekend, I thought “Wow, this sort of event would be great aimed just at gay guys — workshops on all sort of subjects and play parties at night.”  A few minutes later, I thought “That would never work.”  What I meant by that is that on multiple levels, gay leathermen wouldn’t be interested.  First, there’s simply the matter of number of attendees — take a leather bar with 100 guys in it, and frankly only 20% (if that) are actually players of a sufficient level to be interested in the concept, and only half of those might attend any way; the rest of your leather bar patrons are interested in leather as a fashion accessory or leathersex as a condiment rather than the main dish (and that’s fine!).  Second, gay leathermen like to think we already know everything, or at least that we can figure out whatever we need to know — we don’t want a 90-minute workshop on wax play, covering beginning steps, safety, more advanced topics, and some demo; we want 5 minutes of basics, 5 minutes of safety, 5 minutes of next stages, and then 75 minutes of hands-on demo/guided play, with the belief that we can figure out what things to try or avoid.  (We’re rebels, you know!)  Third, half of the workshops (some of mine included) were less about play and more about making relationships work and managing your leather lifestyle and such; gay leathermen again generally are not interested in that stuff (at least on the surface, and there are exceptions) — we want the sex, damn it!

If they invite me back again next year, will I go?  I would sure like to — do more exploring of the geography, and I have several other workshops I could do which would go over better for that crowd, now that I know them better.  But I would also heartily recommend that other gay leathermen (and women) apply to be presenters — to get the experience of both the weekend and of Alaska, and to bring their own spin on things to the event — and if it were a choice between me and someone else with good stuff to present, I would definitely tell Northern Exposure to go for the other gay leather presenter, to “expose” themselves further!

See pics from the trip.