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.

Pics from Anchorage (June 14–18)

Here are pics from my Anchorage trip.
The Kenai Peninsula, seen across Turnagain Arm, 30 minutes drive from Anchorage

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Early Leather Influences

Some leathermen are lucky enough to have had experienced leathermen bring them into the community as newbies, to serve as mentor or daddy or sir.  I’m not one of them.  I started taking my first steps into leather in 1991, and I mostly had to find my own way.  I had to learn now to navigate the leather bar and the leather scene largely by myself, gleaning info where I could from whom I could.

The internet was there in terms of newsgroups and mailing lists only.  alt.sex.bondage, soc.motss, and the Bears Mailing List were about the only resources I had.

Apparently I did a good enough job — I’m still here.  While I can name individuals who had an impact on me and how I turned out after my first few years — Don Thompson, Jeff Tucker, Mr. Marcus, Mark Dreier (of the Loading Dock), George Wong, Jeff Henness, Dave Rhodes — they were not mentors in the usual sense, nor were they early influences.

My earliest leather influences were actually fictional (or at least fictionalized) characters.

Society of Creative Anachronism

I got involved in the SCA in grad school, in 1988 or so, via friends who were also in the local Rocky Horror Picture Show cast.  For those not up on the concept, the SCA is a medieval recreation group, which includes both mock medieval fighting (even full out “wars”) and medieval arts (song, dance, food, handcrafts).

In particular, it is an attempt to celebrate the good parts of the Middle Ages.  Everyone is nobility (a lord or lady) unless they want to play other roles.  Issues of poverty, classism, serfdom, plague — those are pretty much side-stepped in favor of presenting positive re-creation.

Things I picked up from the SCA:

  • Honor and chivalry
  • Focus on the good things
  • Be able to be heard across a room or a field (I did field heraldry — outdoor announcements)
  • The idea that Sir and Master are titles which are earned by a person by exhibiting and passing on skills (whether at arms or in craft), and that a title is granted by others, not assumed by the individual just because they want it

The Desert Peach

The Desert Peach — Pfirsich Marie Rommel — is a comic book character (from the comic book of the same name) created by Donna Barr, the fictional brother of Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox.  He is a gay man in the World War II German army, stationed in northern Africa and overseeing a battalion of misfits which makes M*A*S*H look normal.

Who would think a comedy about a gay German officer could have depth and influence?  Donna Barr created a rich world and supporting cast for the character, who was presented as very competent, controlled, and principled individual.

Things I picked up from The Desert Peach:

  • Again, honor and chivalry
  • Being your own man even when those in power are against you
  • Being a leader who inspires those who follow you
  • That guys in uniform can be hot and sexy, yet with a tender side

Dr.  Frank N.  Furter

That’s right, I count the transvestite mad scientist from the Rocky Horror Picture Show among my most fundamental early leather influences.  It is easy to dismiss him, but there is a lot of depth to the character.

Think about it:

  • He embraces who he is and what he likes
  • He doesn’t let others dictate his behaviors or his fashion choices
  • He wields a mean riding crop (so does the Desert Peach, actually!)
  • He likes sex, and he likes to have it with a variety of partners
  • He recognizes the value of an entrance and a well-done performance
  • He has a vision for what he wants and he follows through on it
  • He surrounds himself with people who will support him and help him see his vision through to the end

    — Okay, he failed on that one in the end, but he tried!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Sir Without a Boy?

One of the questions I wonder whether it will come up at International is why I don’t have a collared boy either with me or at home.  The extension of that being whether a leather Sir is truly a Sir without a (collared) boy, and likewise whether a leather boy is truly a boy with a Sir and a Sir’s collar.

(I should make this completely clear: this is about a collared relationship-boy, nothing to do with Dan, my title-boy.)

On the basest level, I find that question, or at least the concept behind it, to be pretty offensive.  If we are so adamant that “leather” is what we are inside, and that “boy” is not dependent on age, experience, or even gender, then shouldn’t “Sir” also be about what is inside rather than on whether someone else has a length of chain around his neck?

That said, while the length of chain is theoretically symbolic, I know people for whom the physical symbol is vitally important to their own self-worth — boys exhibiting signs of depression when not collared and seeking collaring from any potential Sir, regardless of whether a suitable relationship exists already or not.  And I know others for whom the collar is an inseparable part of their play — tops who use a collar in basically any 1-on-1 scene they do, developing an ever expanding stable of “collared” boys.

For myself, after my last significant relationship ended a bit over two years ago, I really had no interest in trying to move into another relationship quickly.  Heck no: I was interested in playing far more than dating.  Although that relationship had ended, it had done good things in strengthening the side of my personality that sought out sexplay; I was much more able to ask for and pursue what I wanted now, and it was working.  I figured that if a relationship fell out of play, super, and if it didn’t for a while, no worries.

It wasn’t until about a year ago that I started getting that itch, thinking about an a more formal relationship again.  Of course, now with the LeatherSIR title, I had incentive to look at that possibility from a different angle, and to give good thought to whether I wanted to seek out a leatherboy with the possible intent of collaring.

One stopper for me there has been my personal feelings on what a collar means.  Most leathermen agree that it is symbolic or representative of the relationship, but there is a lot of difference on the “seriousness” indicated.  If you look online, you will find references to play collars and training collars and collars of consideration and so forth, but ultimately it comes down to the two people.  Other than collars used strictly within a play scene to establish roles (including puppy collars), to me, a collar is the equivalent of “going steady” (or more), of a relationship that has moved beyond light dating/fucking/etc., into something more serious.

So that’s the biggest piece of the question:
— Why don’t I have a collared boy?  Because I am not in a relationship with someone at a level where a collar is appropriate.

The second piece, then, is why aren’t I in that sort of a relationship?  If I’ve been thinking about it for going on a year, surely I’ve moved beyond thinking into looking, right?  Of course I have.  But if a relationship involving a collar has to be at the right level to warrant one, then it also has to be the right relationship, with the right boy, at the right time.  And that’s one of the difficulties I have had, is finding a boy with the right values, interests, experiences, and sexual focus to mesh with me.

Maybe I’m too picky — some would say so, I’m sure.  Maybe I’m good at driving them away.  Maybe I discard options too soon.  All I can really say is that I have had both play and public display (whether genuine date or just accompanying me to a leather social event) opportunities with a few boys over the past several months and I haven’t found someone with the right combination to continue forward with for more than a few encounters.

There is one definite roadblock, though: the title, or at least the activities I’ve accepted as part of the title.  Not that I’m avoiding star fuckers — hah, if a boy wants me to fuck him as because of the title as because of me, no problem (at least once).  But this year, basically every Saturday from late March to late September has been booked with a local event or an out-of-town trip or a party I am hosting.  It has been a struggle to find the time to mow my lawn this summer, getting into the dating swing where I carve out time specifically to spend building that sort of a relationship, that is very challenging.

But I’m still looking.  The right boy will come along some day and grab my brass ring, but in the meantime, I’m still going to have a fulfilling leather life (including plenty of hot sex).

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Where Am I?

Want to find me in more places online?  Here is where to look for me.

Blogs

I currently have three blogs, where you can find my thoughts about all sorts of topics, leather and otherwise:

Website

My personal website is soundskinky.com

You can find links to my blogs, my old Rubberize website (with older pics, trip reports, leather book reviews and other writing, an older blog, and porn stories), and a couple other defunct web projects of mine.

Facebook

http://www.facebook.com/soundskinky

Twitter

I have a Twitter feed, but I have never tweeted anything, and I doubt I ever will.  I would have to dig around to find and log into it.

FetLife

I am on FetLife under “NWLeatherSIRJim”.

Cruise Sites

I have profiles on a bunch of different cruise sites, all with basically the same profile text and mostly the same pics.  They all use the profile name “mykindofrain”.  The ones I check most often:

You can also find my profile (same profile name) on DaddyHunt, XtremeFistMen, Squirt, and for the next time I travel to Europe, GayRomeo.  On Bruizr, I should be under “Jim (mykindofrain)”, but I’m not sure how well their search works.

On mobile devices, look for me on Grindr, Growlr, Mister, and Scruff.  Since you can’t search for someone by name on most of those, you’ll usually have to find me as “Jim”.

Porn

Yes, it is true, there is some porn of me out there.  Not a whole lot, although if someone wants to have me do more (and pay me), let me know.

You can find a photo spread of me (from about 8 years ago) at TopBear.com, under the name “Thom”

You can find a couple home videos (a couple years old) on XTube, under “rubberseattle”.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Alameda County Leather Contest • June 28–July 2

Back in the late 1990s, when I lived in San Mateo, CA, I started reaching out to have more than the haphazard leather community I had as a commuter into San Francisco (30 minutes each way).  There was no leather community in San Mateo county, so I ventured across the Bay to Hayward, where the Alameda County Leather Corps was based.

When I saw the call for contestants for this year’s ACLC contest earlier this year, I sent them an e-mail and offered to come down to be a judge for the contest.  My membership class included Andrew “Bootdog” Johnson (International Mr. Bootblack 2008) and Joan Norry (American Leatherwoman 2008), so there’s certainly something to be said for ACLC in the late 90s; I’m hoping to make it the latest big title for the class and the club.

As with IMsL in March/April, I flew down on Thursday and stayed until Monday, to work from the San Francisco office (and get reimbursement for some of the costs for the weekend).  With the contest in the East Bay (Hayward for the Meet & Greet, Oakland for the contest), I looked to stay in Oakland and checked out places close to both BART and walking distance to the contest site, ending up at the Washington Inn, right across from the Oakland Convention Center at about $90 pert night (including tax); easily $30 or more cheaper than staying in San Francisco would have been.

Meet & Greet

I took BART to Hayward and walked the few blocks to the World Famous Turf Club.  The Turf Club has changed locations in the past decade and Hayward has grown up so much in that part of town that I recognized nothing.  The Meet & Greet included dinner (salad, steak, potato, strawberry pie).  After introductions of the contestants (Christy Ford and Jay Williams) and the judges (myself, American Leatherwoman 2011 Trinity, Ms. World Leather 2001 Annie Romano, Ms. San Francisco Leather 2012 Miss Bethie Bee, and the first Mr. Alameda County Leather 1992(?) Mark McKee) and staff (tallymaster Mark Ingham, judges boy American Leatherboy 2011 Tyler Fong), we went upstairs for the judging.

Keeping with the sexplay focus of the LeatherSIR title, and having recently been the gay presenter at a pansexual leather conference, my first question was what they would teach at such a conference.  This was intended to make them think mostly about what they feel they are knowledgeable enough to teach, plus to put in play that potential unknown factor of teaching to a kinky straight audience.  The second question was what BDSM activities they did that would be “scary” enough to do at a perceived high-end queer play party, given that some people are reluctant to attend such because they don’t feel “scary” enough.

Contest

Saturday night, the walk to the contest venue (Humanist Hall) turned out to be longer than I expected, so I had to catch a taxi to be there in time… to hang around and wait.  After about an hour, the judges and some of the staff headed out to dinner at an Italian restaurant called Milano.  Once back at the venue, the contest flowed pretty well, although with only two contestants, there was an added break needed for a costume change.

There was also a decent sized silent auction.  San Francisco Leather Daddy 2009 Gauge Strongarm and I kept outbidding each other on a motorcycle jacket and riding gloves.  We eventually talked during a break and realized that he was more after the jacket and I was more after the gloves, so we made a deal to stop outbidding each other and split the win ($50 for the jacket, $30 for the gloves — Harley Davidson riding gloves with zip-off cuffs (can’t find an image online) for varying times of year).

The contest proceeded just fine.  The standout piece was Jay WIlliams’ fantasy, where a puppy with a cigar in his mouth led onto the stage trailing chains, followed by Jay in a major genderfuck leather outfit that looked like it was snatched from (leather Empress) Snatch’s closet: corset, long leather skirt open at the front, high heels (putting him at like 7'2"), and a high collar piece.  He lit the pup’s cigar, then took it for himself.  Very hot, and borderline disturbing.

Weekend Play

Fuck yes, I got some.

Friday afternoon, I played with a 24 year-old Australian surfer boy with small hands and a nice sized cock, which both fit quite nicely at the same time.  (A first for him.)

Friday night was a bust in two directions.  Foremost was the guy Alan I connected with off AssPig.  He talked a good story but when we got back to his place, he was incredibly scattered and unable to focus on actually getting down to play, so I eventually had him take me back to my hotel.  In the process, I had to turn down Bob, who has wanted to play with me for a while, and that offended him a bit.

Bob,

I’m sorry we didn’t get to play, but don’t go calling me a flake for standing you up.  An exchange of a few messages on Bear411 two months before the trip (and none since, and no other direct contact info for in between) where we say that yes, playing during the weekend would be a good thing does not constitute a date.  If we had set a specific night of the weekend, maybe — I was there for four nights, even if you were only available for one — but we didn’t set things that well.  Sorry, but I was neither an ass nor a flake.

Saturday afternoon, I ventured into San Francisco to play with Philippe, a furry bear from Paris.  We only had about 90 minutes to play before I had to head back to Oakland and him to the airport, but that bear had a hungry hole, eating up hands and cock.

After the contest, I had hoped to get into the City for the FistCity party, but by the time I walked back to the hotel and got ready, it was 11 pm.  Fortunately, I had a backup option: Sergio and José, whom I had played with back in March.  This time, I brought my own lube, remembering their penchant for using water-based hot lube(!).  I still didn’t take Sergio’s fucking huge hand, but José set a new depth record and made it past the second sphincter!  I slept at their place until about 7 am, when I could catch MUNI and BART back to Oakland, where I caught another 3 hours sleep and then had a mediocre dim sum buffet brunch.

Saturday afternoon, I went over to the home of Brad (whom I had played with at FistFest) and Gary (whom I had played with in April), to play with them and a fourth guy whose name I don’t recall now.  Brad and I started off with some hood play and mild CBT, and then into fisting.  After a while, we switched and Gary and I fucked and fisted.

Played out, I made it back to the hotel and collapsed into bed.  Worked the next day from the San Francisco office and made it home (with no plane delay this time)!