Friday, April 27, 2012

Emerald City Hoedown 2012 • April 13-15
Spring Thaw 2012 • April 20–22

The second and third weekends of April, I had non-leather weekend events which I was intimately involved in.  Although not title-related, they still show on my title event calendar, and one of the things that was prominent in my contest application was wanting to build bridge between leather and the country-western dance and bear communities.

The Hoedown

This was the 5th year for Rain Country Dance Association’s Emerald City Hoedown.  We’ve gone from an event with a bar dance night, a few dance workshops at two sites a few blocks apart, and a big dance at a local ethnic community hall, to our current one with three days of workshops, three dance nights, and dancers coming in from as far away as Hawaii, Texas, and New Jersey.  Next year will be even bigger (as much as three times as big!), as we will be hosting the 20th annual convention of the International Association of Gay/Lesbian Country Western Dance Clubs (an organization I have been heavily involved with for the past 18 years, and this upcoming convention is something I have been aiming at for most of that time).

I was co-chair of the event this year, and we figure that there was a good 400 hours of work involved from the six of us on the committee, when you add everything up over the past year.  In addition to organizational duties, I also ran all the pre-event registration, set up and managed the sound systems, provided music for many of the workshops, taught workshops on Two-Step, Shuffle, and Line Dance Styling (titled “You’re Not Doing That Gay Enough!”), did our Saturday night announcements, and ran the small dance competitions (a line dance contest and a “Pat & Chris” (random partner) Two-Step contest).

One thing that I have been able to bring to our hoedown from the leather side of things, and to the IAGLCWDC conventions as well, is boot care.  Bootblacking has exploded in the leather community in recent years, but it is still almost unknown on the country dance scene.  We have had bootblack at at least the last four of our events, and in fact many of the Northwest Community Bootblack titleholders (Kelley, Henry, Scout, Ruin) do at least some two-stepping, so it hasn’t been a hard sell to get them here.  This year, Ruin blacked for us on Friday night and on Saturday afternoon.

As well, Ruin is a former ballroom and Latin dance competitor, so I got her to teach a dance workshop in Foxtrot during the hoedown.  She is already asking about next year, and might do a forum (non-dancing workshop) on boot care for dancers, as well.

The Thaw

Spring Thaw is the Northwest Bears’ annual event, this being the 18th year and my second year on the committee.  (For a couple months, myself and Pete were the entire committee.)  Knowing how booked I was with the Emerald City Hoedown, I refrained from doing anything but the pre-event registration (where I could heavily leverage what I did with the hoedown) and the Friday and Saturday after hours (where I teamed up with current Mr. Northwest Cub Jeffrey; I was last year’s Mr. Northwest Cub).

(This has been one of the biggest challenges of my title year, and frankly, my leather life for the past few years: learning how to say no, or at least how to say “I can’t do that also”.  With broad skills comes broad responsibility to use them, but take on too much and something has to give — sometimes you fail to do something, and sometimes you half kill yourself trying.  Neither is good.)

Spring Thaw has a lot of good momentum from running for years, but it has been something of a strain to put it together the last couple years, and this one especially.  The club needs better engagement and support from the board and the membership early in the process to make things roll more easily.  Pete and I basically came to an ultimatum point a few months out, where we needed committee members and planning involvement or it wasn’t going to happen.  We got that, but we came to another point a couple months later where we tossed out the planned “theme” for the weekend because none of our events were going to make use of it.  (The only thing worse that not having a theme to build on is having a good one and not building on it.  Like Spring Thaw failed to do last year, with an Wizard of Oz tagline and zero Oz content.)

Since Pete was also on the committee for the hoedown, we have both had an up-close view of the difference between the two events in terms of pre-planning, budget, committee engagement, and so forth.  The Hoedown was down a bit in numbers from last year but we ironed out many previous problems and things ran pretty well.  Spring Thaw was similarly down a bit but had a lot more stress in the planning stages.

We’ll be having a post-mortems on both events in the next week.  It will be interesting to see how things fall out from those.

International Ms. Leather 2012 • March 29–April 1

I decided in February to probably go to International Ms. Leather this year in January, and firmed things up in late February.  Ms. Alaska Leather Sarha would be competing, and since Alaska is in my region and I’m going to be a presenter at Northern Exposure 3.0 in Anchorage in June, there was definite reason for me to attend.  (Alas, neither Washington State Ms. Leather Momma Kat nor Ms. Oregon State Leather Ms. Tracey decided to compete.)  And of course, it gets my name and title out there a bit more.

Ruin also decided to attend, with a view what an international-level bootblack competition looks like and with the thought of competing for International Ms. Bootblack in the future (if she doesn’t win International Community Bootblack, of course!) A significant number of other Seattle attendees were there as well, including three resident former IMsL titleholders (Spencer, Hobbit, and Lamalani); Candace from Seattle girls of Leather; Daddy Wendell, with his leather gear and books in the vendor mart; and a number of others I’m forgetting now.

This was hardly my first time at the leatherwomen’s rodeo, though.  I’ve attended International Ms. Leather before in San Diego and Omaha (yes, in Omaha!), Ms. World Leather in Dallas (twice), Ms. & Mr. World Leather in Philadelphia, and whichever of IMsL and MWL was in Las Vegas about six years ago.  As a male titleholder, a women’s leather event can be a very interesting thing to go to; with most of it focused counter to the guys, we get more of a chance to connect with each other (however few of us are there) than we do at other leather weekend events.

Worked All Day, Got It All Done

Heading to light rail to go to the airport on Thursday was miserable, with steady light rain.  I aimed to catch a nearby bus, but missed it by a minute or so.  Waited for the bus going the other direction, which would also get me where I was going, but it was listed as late, and after a few minutes, I trekked to the next major intersection… and missed that bus by a minute.  So I ended up walking all the way to light rail, nearly a mile with 1/3 of it uphill.  Not that I haven’t done this before, but my right wrist had been bothering me for a couple weeks (and still is, almost a month later; I think I strained/sprained it cutting laurel branches), which made dragging the heavy bag quite a challenge, since the most convenient hand and hand position was the one hand and position I could not use.

The company I work for has a San Francisco office, so I was able to go down on Thursday, work from there on Friday and Monday, and get work to pick up some of the hotel stay, meals, and transit as a result.  In addition, I room shared with Mr. San Diego Leather Kurt Wendelborg, so once I get reimbursed from work, the hotel itself won’t have cost me anything.

This did mean that I didn’t get to attend the workshops and such on Friday, unfortunately.  There were some nice ones on the schedule.  IMsL is an oddity among leather events that way, having a raft of workshops in addition to the contest.  On the other hand, that perhaps makes it more attractive to the leatherwomen, making the weekend more justifiable for them to travel to.  (You generally couldn’t do that at a gay men’s weekend.  You’d get 6 or 8 guys at the workshops, everyone else in the lobby at 11 am, drinking and cruising.)

The hotel used by IMsL was the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway at Van Ness and California.  It is the same one used by Sundance Stompede in October, so I’ve stayed there many times.  It was interesting to see the space laid out not with dance floor in mind.  (This is also the hotel where International LeatherSIR/Leatherboy and Community Bootblack will be in July, so Ruin and I got the chance to see it with contest needs in mind.)


Thursday night was a burlesque show, a combination of strippers and stage fantasies.  I unfortunately came in right at the end of one where the gal did a striptease by removing shaving cream foam.  I did get to see the gal in the white dress doing a watermelon fantasy.  (Not as good as Lori Ellison’s IMsL fantasy, but it did spark a couple idea for me for stage fantasies for my International contest.)  (No, not a striptease with watermelons.  Sparked ideas that were way different from what she was doing.)


Friday night, they had the opening ceremonies and the stage part of the International Ms. Bootblack competition (which only had two contestants, alas).  Also included was the parade of colors for the the clubs represented at the event.  (I didn’t have anything for SML at hand to go on stage for it, though.)

They also did titleholder protocol by announcing our names from the stage and having us each stand and wave.  There were only maybe a half-dozen non-contestant titleholders present on Friday night, but this was a pretty ineffective way of recognizing the titleholders who were present, as people on the other side of the room at best knew where you were, but couldn’t see you.  Worse, though, this was the only recognition of visiting titleholders during the weekend.  There were probably three times as many present on Saturday night, including some regional and national titleholders, but no acknowledgement at all.  That was very strange, and kind of sad, frankly.  No idea if it was something that just slipped out of the schedule, or a lapse intended to keep an otherwise long contest a bit shorter — I doubt it was an intentional snub.

I got to chat with Joan Norry and Nina from Alameda Leather Corps.  I’ll be down in late June to judge their leather contest.  ACLC was my original club in the late 1990s.

I checked out the play space they had set up for the guys, which was a small room with a cross in one corner and a sling in the other.  I give them high marks for setting aside a space just for the guys, although I don’t know how much it was used.  One thing I would recommend is a tarp under the sling.  Fisting aside, lube and body fluids do have a tendency to splatter and drip when using a sling, and there was nothing under it but the meeting room carpet.

I went out to Kok Bar that night.  It was a decent enough crowd, but it sure got better when I got invited to join a couple guys (Sergio and José) off Manhunt for a fisting three-way at their place in the Castro.  That always perks up an evening.


I slept late and then ate and cruised and hung out in the vendor market and silent auction area, bidding on a few items.  Late afternoon was the Titleholders Meet & Greet in the hospitality suite.  Among others, I got to meet Northern California LeatherSIR Ray aka Volt; for whatever reason, Northern California Leatherboy Seth wasn’t able to get to IMsL, although I chatted with him online a couple times during the weekend.

After a nap and dinner came the contest, with seven contestants – in addition to Sarha from Alaska, they were from as far away as North Carolina and Australia.  I had misread the schedule, expecting the contest to run 7-9 pm, but it didn’t start until 8, I think, and then ran well past the 2 hour listed time, finishing nearly at 11:30.  So I had to keep pushing out my play date for the evening from an initial 10:30 until after midnight.

After the contest, we were supposed to pick up our Silent Auction items.  That ended up as somewhere between very inconvenient and a clusterfuck.  The items had all been numbered, but some of the items had been moved between tabled for better display or whatever.  When it came time to close up the auction, each item was put in a bag and put in order by number.  So you went to the table where your item had been and opened each bag until you found your item, and then saw if you had actually won it.  Two of my items I found (a pair of Doc Martens and a package with Guy Baldwin’s Ties That Bind, some bondage clasps, and J Lube [odd combo, yes]), but the other two I did not (and I didn’t know the numbers), and I didn’t know if I had won them or someone else had and had already claimed them.

Once you found what of your items you could, you then left the items there and took the bid sheets up a floor and halfway across the hotel to registration so you could wait in line to pay for them there.  Then you went back down, cut past the lineup of people waiting to find their items, re-found your items, and turned in the paid bid sheet.  I’m sure it made sense to someone to have people make multiple trips up and down the stairs rather than having a pay station in the auction room, but it didn’t make sense to me.

I eventually got out of the hotel and back up to the Castro to play with Mak at his place.  We had a great time, and I’m looking forward to the next time he comes up here.  (He’s an old play buddy of a friend of mine who lives about a mile away, so there’s double incentive to get him up here.)  Wonder if I can get him to bring that fuck machine he’s got?

Sunday & Monday

Sunday was wind-down day for IMsL, including a brunch (with keynote speaker) which was an extra rather than included in the weekend price.  This initially seemed odd, but I know enough about how hotel event brunches work: they are darn expensive.  A sit down brunch is going to run $35-50 per person — that’s not just food costs (although they do make a lot of extra food “just in case”) but also room rental, setup, and staff, costs which are spread out over a lot more people and time in a restaurant.  So buy making this a paid extra, they are able to keep weekend package prices lower (and thus get more people to pay for them) and also keep the brunch more intimate and aimed at the people who really want to hear the speaker.  People who need to leave early or otherwise not partake of the brunch aren’t out the huge chunk of change it adds to the rest of the weekend.

I checked in with the Silent Auction, and sure enough, the other two items I had bid on had been won by me, but hadn’t been findable the night before.  With far fewer things remaining, I was able to pick up the other pair of low boots (from a company called “Drew”!) ($55) and a box of 750 condoms ($50).  Yes, that’s a lot of condoms, but I need to have them on hand for my play parties anyway, and this was about the same price as about 150 from Costco, so a net win.  I had to ship the box of them home, though, which added another $15 to the cost.

(Alas for the new boots, three weeks later I had an accident on the scooter, went down avoiding a car that started to lurch out a parking garage and into the lane right in front of me.  Minor bruises on me, trashed the toe part of the right boot.  Ruin has done a minor blacking job on them which helped, and I’ll get them to her soon for a more intense repair.)

On Saturday, I had had another offer for a play session — for a four-way, actually — which I had to turn down since I was already scheduled to play with Mak.  But we picked it up late afternoon Sunday instead.  Not exactly a four-way — the two of us and his other half and another guy playing in the same room — but I had a great, intense time.  Definitely someone to look up the next time I’m in San Francisco.

I left his place in the Castro just about dusk, caught a quesadilla for food and a beer at 440 Castro, then headed back to the hotel.  Couldn’t decide if I was still horny for more play, or just wanted to go to sl… zzzz.

Monday, I worked from the hotel for a couple hours in the morning, then checked out and headed to our San Francisco office, and from there to SFO at the end of the work day and home again.  Spencer and Candace turned out to be on my flight back, and Spencer’s boy was meeting them at the airport, so they gave me a ride home instead of having to deal with light rail and dragging my luggage nearly a mile from there to the house.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

“Are You Losing Weight?”

Over the last few weeks, I have had lots of people ask me this question.  Twenty or more.  In some cases, these are people who haven’t seen me for months, but many see me at least once a month or so.

I last dealt with this subject about a year and a half ago, where I also observed the leftover-from-the-90s fear of that question’s implications.  Most people have been adding “You look great” these days.

Since that post, I have maybe lost another five pounds, down to about 190 lbs.  (From a height on maybe 225 lbs five years ago.)  That shouldn’t be enough to trigger these sorts of comments, though, especially all of a sudden.  Most likely, my face has become a bit more slender in the last 6 weeks and that’s what people are noticing — or else the stress of helping chaperone two consecutive weekend events to fruition during the most recent weeks of my title year has taken a toll.

Admittedly, during my title year, I am trying to reduce my weight some and generally look better leading up to the contest in July.  And at 190 lbs (I thought I was there last fall but needed to calibrate my scale by a few pounds), I’m down to where I was in probably 1998 (and I can still wear my original chaps from 1991), but I haven’t been actively dieting.

The basics of losing weight are simple: more calories out than in.  Eat less, eat better, be more active.  Beyond that, a huge part of it is in how you behave.  If you act like you are thinner, you are perceived as thinner.  Here are some ideas:

  • Wear appropriate clothing.  If you are trying to squeeze into stuff that is too small, it shows.  Bulges in bad places can make you look fat, such as over the edge of chaps or around the straps of a harness.  In the reverse, wearing stuff that is too large can make you look small, even too thin (unhealthy).  Wear stuff that actually fits right.  Also, be aware of what looks good on you.  Is black (leather) slimming?  I don’t know, but white centered around the waist can really show off a tummy, as can shirts which are too short for your torso and ride up to show the tummy.
  • Have good posture.  Stand up straight.  Don’t slouch.  Shoulders back and wide, tits up, head level.  This is true when sitting at the computer or watching TV as much as when standing.  When walking or dancing, imagine a string going from your head to the ceiling, stretching you up.  Feel tall and thin and you will project that way to others.
  • Focus on your core.  This goes hand in hand with the posture, but your core — your abs, your solar plexus — is where most of your body movement comes from.  You use it to balance yourself, to sit up and stand up, to walk and run and dance.  Just by concentrating on it a little, keeping it consciously tighter, you add a little tension to the muscles throughout your body, and you pull in your gut.  You won’t get ripped abs from this, but you will project better and show less gut.  (I ride a maxiscooter, and I have found you also ride from the core, relying on it to keep you upright and to do most of the steering via body weight shifts.  So I get added core focus there every day without thinking about it.  Riding any wheeled vehicle, bicycle on up, will give the same benefit.)
  • What is your relationship like?  While I’m single right now, which carries with it a certain incentive to slim down, being in a relationship can be either good or detrimental to weight reduction.  What one of you does will tend to reflect in what the other does.  If one member of the couple is active, the other is likely to enjoy similar activities.  On the other hand, if one is the sort who would rather stay at home and nest, the odds increase that both will, and the ability to keep weight down reduces.
  • Have a positive view of yourself.  If you think of yourself as fat, you will project that to others.  If you think of yourself as slimming down, that’s what you will project.  You don’t have to go around telling people you are losing weight, you just need to make sure you know it, and they will.
But I’ll put in one other thing to actively do:

  • Have hot, kinky sex.  Think about what it takes in terms of effort, muscle control, and energy expenditure to do stuff like staying balanced in near-suspension bondage, or throwing a few hundred strokes of the flogger, or getting fisted for a solid hour.  (And think how much you will enjoy that effort vs. pumping iron at the gym?  I’m a big fan of doing the exercise that you want to do!)
So if I haven’t actually lost more than a couple pounds recently but people are noticing anyway, it must be because of these other things.  I’m eating healthier, but also I’m avoiding clothes that don’t flatter me, I’m strengthening my core, I’m projecting a thinner (and more broad across the shoulders) body, I’m thinking good thoughts, and I’m not letting my relationships with others define how I treat my body.

And I’m having hot, sweaty, energetic sex every time I can.  Burn those calories off!