Friday, June 29, 2012

Seattle Pride • June 23–24

After two weekends away — Palm Springs for FistFest and Anchorage for Northern Exposure 3.0 (URL to come) — it was good to not be away from home for a weekend.  But that didn’t mean I had a free weekend.  This was Seattle Pride.

Northwest Leatherboy Dan was up from Eugene.  Last time, he stayed with me, but this time he decided to get a hotel, to give me some “recover from being gone so much” space.  He didn’t have to do this, but I understand the choice: I usually prefer to ensure I have my own space during a potential “play” weekend, rather than be dependent on someone else (and rather than occupying them, forcing them to tend to me rather than their own preferences).  I’ve always been more of a solo traveller, self-sufficient and wanting to make my own path.

Leather Community Picnic

The weather report for the weekend originally looked less than fabulous, and Saturday sure held to that.

Generic Leather Productions of Washington held their 6th annual Leather Community Picnic in Cal Anderson Park.  This year, they (we, since I was involved in the planning, too) moved it from the far corner of the park to a more central location, to increase the visibility.  We arranged with Local Dogs (a hot dog cart owned by one the GLPW members) to supply dogs and drinks as a fundraiser, which required some permitting and extra costs.  A poster was designed, printed, and distributed around the city.  Events were posted to Facebook, Fetlife, and so forth.  All the sorts of things which should have made the picnic a good success.

But it rained.  And not just Seattle sprinkles.  It fucking rained.

Realizing that we would likely get at least sprinkles, I dug around at the last minute and found my REI screen house.  Boy, were we glad I brought that, so there was someplace handy for people to get out of the rain a bit (although with mesh sides, it was hardly a real rain shelter, but it helped a lot).

A decent number of leatherfolk braved the rain, including most of our local titleholders (and some of the Oregon ones) and two of the SEA-PAH pup/handler pairs, who were planning to have a pup walk.  But after a bit over two hours, we called it a day and broke everything down and headed our separate ways.

The rain stopped pretty much as soon as we left, although we were all wet and the ground was soaked, so we wouldn’t have wanted to hang around anyway.

Contest Prep

One of the main reasons Dan came up was so that we could plot out the Demo and Fantasy pieces for the International Contest next month.

We had discussed a couple ideas for the Demo.  At one point, I wanted to do a kink swing dance demo with Ruin, but the demo needs to be Sir/boy.  Dan and I also discussed a depersonalization demo based on a workshop at Northern Exposure, but we came back around to something we’ve done before that we both liked and we think can carry some more pleasant weight than depersonalization.

We also fleshed out the Fantasy, based off an idea I came up with during the burlesque show at IMsL in March.  I can’t provide any details here, but it will hopefully come off fun, with some good title team interactions (not just Sir/boy stuff but incorporating Ruin as well), and some edgeplay stuff (our regional theme this year) which is not the old gun/knife/rape stuff.  I typed it up that evening and sent it off to Ruin, and she loved it.

I now have to build some set/props for it (I’m hoping just a couple hours work) and figure out what to do with music.

Saturday Night

I have long disliked Saturday night bar stuff on big event weekends.  If you aren’t out early (and I am never able to manage that easily), then there are long lines and inflated cover charges (supply and demand!) everywhere and you can’t change locations without more lines and more cover charges.  I recall at least once in the Bay Area (for Pride or Folsom, I don’t recall which), driving 30 minutes into the City, finding 30+ minute lines out the door on every place I might want to go, and driving home instead.

This year, I rode to the Cuff, saw about 100 in line, then rode around the block and over to Diesel.  There, I was able to walk right in.  It was packed in there, but at least I could get in, get to the bar, and find some people I knew.  I got to talk for a bit to International LeatherSIR 2010 Hugh Russell (one of my judges for the International contest), who was out with his partner (I think; I’ve never met his other half before that I recall, but this wasn’t one of Hugh’s boys); Hugh told me he has been reading this blog and is pulling together questions for my interview.  (Mmm, hope the blog won’t have backfired on me!  No, must remain confident that this better allows me to control the interview, both by ensuring I have better thought through various issues and by helping to feed what I want to talk about to judges who do read some of the blog.)

I gave a good hard cruise to a cute shorter bearded guy named Greg, and it paid off enough to get me a night of make-out and cuddle/sleep at his place, although not much more than that.  He expressed that he’s recently had some bad drama in his life, and I think that may have led to a reluctance to go further (nor to go back to my place).  I’m hoping to get the chance to know (and play with) him some more in the near future.  We shall see.

Pride Parade

A few years ago — perhaps coincident with moving the Parade from Broadway to 4th Avenue — the leather community became irritated at potential random placing of our group in the parade, where if we were in the back half of the parade, we could guarantee having a low turnout.

Other groups around the country have also had the same issue.  Some have tried raising a stink and giving an ultimatum of “Give us better placement or we won’t attend” (to which I hope the local Pride committee replied “Fine.  One less group we have to wrangle, more room for others”).  The Seattle community took a different tack and would gather funds from various groups who would be marching under the banner to provide a “bribe” to the committee in order to get better placement.  This year or last, though, we have formalized this and changed from a “bribe” to a formal community sponsor, ensuring us a spot along with the other sponsors in the first third or so of the parade.  (This makes me at least much more comfortable with the process.  Words have meaning, and “sponsor” carries a much more positive, legitimizing weight than “bribe”, even if the net effect is the same.)

In order to further entice leather participation, Seattle Men in Leather advertised that they would be providing some snacks and coffee and encouraging light “street play”, to turn the pre-parade wait into a sort of Sunday Leather Social.  I didn’t get to the staging location until 10:45 or so, so I don’t know how well this actually worked, but turnout was some of the best I have seen, between Seattle Men in Leather, the Center for Sex Positive Culture, a truck of SEA-PAH pups, Seattle Girls of Leather, GLPW, Leather Reign, and all of our Northwest titleholders except Mr. Oregon State Leather.

With the disco music from one of the nearby contingents, Ruin and I did some West Coast Swing dancing on the street.

The weather report had only promised sun through the morning, changing to a 30% chance of rain by early afternoon.  But the weather report was wrong, and the entire day turned out to be sunny and warm enough (not hot, but suitable for going shirtless during the parade).

For the length of the parade, I was twirling my flogger, including using it some on Dan and Ruin and Ms. Oregon State Leather Ms. Tracey (and a handful of bystanders), as well as loaning it to Tracey to use on Dan.  I was very nervous of my right wrist, which has been problematic for months (and flogging sessions in Anchorage the previous weekend didn’t help), so I swung mostly from the elbow and shoulder or with my left and I seem to have escaped most aggravation.

We gathered most of the titleholders after the parade for some pics, although Seattle Leather Daddy Ryan and Seattle Daddy’s Boy Damien had to head up to the Cuff immediately.  I’ve been generally pleased with the pics of me from the parade, both the posed ones and the candid shots, because indeed, I didn’t look fat to myself in the pics.  I has been a few years since I’ve been willing to be photographed shirtless and not cringed at the pics.

Click here for my Flickr photostream of the event, with more pics.


Pup Gadget on the street and the Seattle Pups & Handlers truck behind us.

Regional Titleholders

Northwest LeatherSIR Jim, Ms. Oregon State Leather Ms. Tracey, Washington State Mr. Leather Colby, Washington State Ms. Leather Nyx, and Northwest Leatherboy Dan.  Photo courtesy of the Seattle Gay News.

Northwest Title Team

Northwest Community Bootblack Ruin, Northwest LeatherSIR Jim, and Northwest Leatherboy Dan.

Street Dancing with Ruin

Tah-dah!  Big finish!

Regional Titleholders

Washington State Mr. Leather Colby, Washington State Ms. Leather Nyx, International Mr. Bootblack/Oregon State Bootblack Nick, Ms. Oregon State Leather Ms. Tracey, Northwest Community Bootblack Ruin, Northwest LeatherSIR Jim, and Northwest Leatherboy Dan (kneeling).  Photo by Mike Graves.


Several years ago, after losing a lot of money on the weekend, Seattle Out & Proud cut loose the afternoon festival and concentrated just on the parade.  A local community organizer picked it up and has managed to turn PrideFest at the Seattle Center into a great event.  (Especially when it is sunny!)  Two stages of entertainment, shopping and community group booths, food booths, and dancing in the International Fountain are hallmarks.

Rain Country Dance Association, our local GLBTQ country-western dance club (which I’m one of the founders of) again this year had an info table inside Fisher Pavilion.  These are low-cost tables for non-profit community groups, sports teams, etc., and there is a beer garden half in/half out of the pavilion which keeps people flowing in the area: a great option for us.

I was scheduled to staff things at 4 pm, so I decided to ride home, change attire and drop off the title sash.  Going home was great.  Coming back should have taken 20 minutes and took 50, as I took the freeway, bypassed the usual exit because it was stuffed with traffic backed up from the parade and festival, and then rode pretty much all over Eastlake, Denny Triangle, and downtown trying to get around things and back to the festival.  (Would have been another 15 minutes in a car, I’m sure.)

Phil and I staffed the table, which have giveaway beads and candy, plus info sheets about country-western dancing, postcards and a banner for next year’s hoedown, and a computer slideshow of dance pics.  At about 5:15, the number of people walking around was dropping, so we consolidated to a half table, and a bit after 5:30, Pete came back and we packed things up and headed them back to his car.

Getting home, I took a short nap and then thought about going out for some evening partying, but decided against it.  The best place for that would be the Cuff, at the end of their street party, but they charge a hefty cover all day, even after the entertainment is done and crowds are thinning.  I don’t like to pay more to get in than I’m going to pay for the drinks I’ll be consuming while there, and I don’t dance to thump-thump music, so it wouldn’t be worth it to me.

Updated on August 2, 2012:

Added picnic poster.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pics from Palm Springs (June 7–10)

Here are pics from my Palm Springs trip.   I’m trying to get better at taking and posting pics.

The base station for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
And a video of the tram ride:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Thoughts on “Old Guard” Leather

This was prompted by a post on Fetlife’s Gay Mens Virtual Leather Bar from several months ago.

Here is a collection of thoughts on the subject of “Old Guard” Leather.  It is not intended as a complete survey of the subject, nor even a complete picture of my own views on it.

Codewords and Definitions

  • When someone describes himself as “Old Guard” or “Old Guard trained”, this is a code phrase, attempting to distill a communal understanding of what this person accepts and expects into a sound bite.  Which means that if you don’t have the same understanding as he does, the communal part of it can get lost.
  • What are they guarding?  Does it even need guarding?  Or are they guarding against something?
  • Interesting definition of “old guard” (from Wikipedia): “A conservative, reactionary faction that is unwilling to accept new ideas.”  Boy, that doesn’t sound like something positive for the leather community.
  • The Wikipedia entry on “Old Guard” leather is is pretty sparse, and loaded with “citation needed” notes, indicating pretty clearly that it shouldn’t be trusted as complete (and maybe not as accurate).
  • So far as I know, the term “Old Guard” in reference to leather generations dates only to 1989, to an editorial from Andy Mangels in Drummer Magazine.  Like many things dubbed ever-so-important to leather today, the concept didn’t exist at all 20-some years ago and didn’t gain the mindshare it does now until somewhere around the turn of the millennium.
  • As a lover of puns, may I offer up that leathermen who like old Thor comics are Mid Guard?  Or that leathermen who are graphic designers and typesetters are Avant Guard?  Or that anyone who wants to battle about this subject should be required to say “En Guard!”  (And that if you don’t get these jokes, I think you need to get out more.)

The Myth of “Old Guard”

  • Some people treat “Old Guard” as an identifiable or definable era or set of people, typically as a set of originators, although the actual definition or identification is never pinned down.  Unless you buy into “intelligent design”, though, you recognize that the leather community as we know it was not created wholesale on the first Sunday after autumnal equinox (the old traditional date for Folsom Street Fair, of course) in 1956.  What we have today is what evolved from what we had years ago.  Whatever we had in that never-quite-definable era that is dubbed “Old Guard” also must have evolved from what came before it.
  • As a result of that evolution, tagging any particular era or generation as “Old Guard” and implying that they were the start, or at least the first self-recognized group, has problems.  In general, no grouping of leathermen is going to say “We were first”; they will say “The guys who came before us were first”.  Which is why we can’t pin these things down, box them up, and put a nice bow on them (with a fancy shibari knot, of course).

The Truth of “Old Guard”

  • If you feel you have to tell me you are “Old Guard”, then you probably can’t show me.
  • If you have to tell me you are “Old Guard” because you’re not allowed to show me, then I know you’re full of shit.
  • Proclaiming yourself as “Old Guard” is one-upmanship, a way of saying “I’m a real leatherman (and you aren’t).  Prove me wrong.”  (Challenge accepted!)
  • Saying that you are “Old Guard” or “Old Guard trained” tells me clearly that you aren’t.  It invites me to look for the cracks in your claims, where otherwise I would be content to take you at face value.

FistFest (Palm Springs, CA) • June 7–10

There are two major weekend-long non-leather kink events taking place in Palm Springs each year: Wet ’n Hot and FistFest.

Wet ’n Hot is primarily for watersports (piss) play.  I got into watersports play in the late 1990s, and went to the second or third Wet ’n Hot event in 2000, when it was primarily occurring at Cathedral City Boys Club.  My interest in the event waned over time as attendance dropped and non-watersports “pig play” became much more prominent at it.  (I also found it increasingly difficult to incorporate watersports play into play scenes, especially after the Puget Sound Pissers Society [PSPS] folded.  In large part, this is because while everyone has to piss at some point, it’s only at a group party where there’s always someone who has to piss now.  You can rarely make piss play the centerpoint of an extended play session with one other person, needing to make it a small portion of a larger scene instead.)  A couple years ago, I revisited Wet ’n Hot and found that attendance and energy and piss content had picked up, but my own interests had shifted more to fisting.  So after attending the 2011 event and spending more effort angling for fisting scenes than piss scenes, I decided to move on/over to FistFest.

I had heard of FistFest before, but I had some trepidation.  Was I good enough to fist with the “big dogs”?  Let’s see: I play an average of at least weekly, I both top and bottom, I’ve been to fisting play parties in several other cities, I host regular parties in Seattle with 20+ guys at each one, I’m making regular advancement in my skills in entry time and depth and width, I have been experimenting with lube formulas…  Fuck yes, I’m good enough!

Bill U. from Seattle (who has managed the local fisting parties in years gone by) invited me to room share with him, and advised me to come Thursday and leave Sunday (vs. my original plan, to arrive Friday and leave Monday).  He arranged to borrow an additional sling stand from a buddy in Palm Springs, so that we would have two available; I just needed to bring a sling and hanging stuff.

Thursday was marred slightly by heavy traffic going east.  (I flew into LAX.  It’s right now about $50 more to fly into Ontario [halfway to Palm Springs] than the Los Angeles airports, and about $70 more than that to fly direct to Palm Springs, so if you also have to rent a car in Palm Springs, $120 more vs. a couple hours driving and gas in each direction can be a hard sell.)  I was expecting to arrive about 4 pm, but it was closer to 5:30 when I finally got there.

Not that such stopped me from playing that night.  After a couple trips to the store for play supplies and some food — breakfast, especially — I prepped for play, and played four times that night.  (I remember Bill from Philadelphia and Ton from Palm Springs, but other names escape me.)

The title vest was on display in my room all weekend, hanging from the sling frame and visible from the window, and I was wearing it on Friday and Saturday nights.  I also met last year’s California Leatherboy, Mike, at the event, although we didn’t get a chance to play.

On Friday afternoon, Bill U. and I took off to take the Aerial Tramway up Mt. San Jacinto.  Cliff and I tried to do this in December, but found a 2+ hours wait and no cell signal at the base.  Now on the edge of summer, we got on the first tram after about 10 minutes wait.  Up top, we took some photos and Bill had some lunch, and then we walked down to the valley floor on the other side to hike around there for a short bit before catching the tram down.  I got some video of the tram ride down, which takes about 10 minutes with the tram rotating full around 2.5 times.  It’s actually a pretty cool ride, and the entire trip was worth the $23 or so that it cost.

(Back at the host resort, we missed a fisting workshop and a door prize raffle, and the chance at afternoon play.  Oh well, I’m sure I’ll get plenty of hand-to-ass exposure during the weekend!)

Friday night, more play (of course): Carl and Sparky (I’ve played with Carl before, at HellHole in San Francisco), Richard (who was told by Ton to keep an eye out for me; love those pig-to-pig recommendations!), and a couple others I am forgetting.

Saturday afternoon, I played for a couple hours with Brad.  Great guy and he made me actually shoot three or four times in the session; assgasms are one thing, but ejaculation is a bit rarer.  We could have kept playing a while longer, but he had dinner plans with buddies.  (We later realized why we each looked a little familiar to one another: I had played with his other half when I was in San Francisco in April.  We briefly met twice that afternoon, once in the playroom and once in the kitchen, but didn’t play that day.  He’s setting up a four-some for the three of us and another guy when I’m in San Francisco again the weekend before July 4th.)

I went out to catch the room lottery for next year (since there’s more demand than rooms at the host resort, they do a lottery, which is a bit fairer and rewards those who attend one year with a chance at a room the next), run by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.  Ran into my past Palm Springs play buddy John, in Sister face; he seemed to think I knew he was a Sister, but I don’t recall it (doesn’t matter, though).  They also had a ticket raffle, with prizes ranging from lube and gift cards to a portable sling.  I bought $20 of tickets and really recouped my money with a Square Peg toy (the Worm) donated by Gear leather and fetish shop and a gift certificate for a stay in the Master Suite at the Canyon Club (made even better by the certificate being able to be used on weekends rather than just weekdays, as is often the case, although not on event weekends).  Hmm, need to wrangle another trip to Palm Springs in the next year, and not during an event or holiday…

Saturday night led off playing with Marty, whom I had met the night before but now found him on the resort lawn with two guys slobbering over his “larger than average manhood” (it was a good 9 inches… a very good 9 inches!).  After I had a go at swallowing his cock, we packed up from there back to the sling in my room where he fucked me a bit and then fisted me.  Yummy!  Following that, Brad and I tag-teamed Gwynn.  I then got to play with Ken, a leather buddy I’ve known and been hot after for 15 years or more, but never got the chance to play with until tonight.  I hope it won’t be another 15 years, because Ken set a new depth record for me!  The night closed with one last session with Gwynn.  Again, I think there’s another name in the mix that I’m forgetting.

I cruised around some later Sunday morning before I had to drive back to Los Angeles, this time to Burbank airport, but not much was going on.  No further fisting, anyway.  The trip back was on Delta, with a plane change in Salt Lake City.  And what do you know, but just like two weeks before with the trip to New Orleans, there was a plane issue and an added delay.  They almost cancelled the flight, but got us on another plane instead, and we fortunately made it back to Seattle in time for me to not have to cab it home this time.

When travelling, I try to not hit the same restaurant twice (Starbucks and other coffee shops excepted).  For a fisting party (or full weekend), I eat light.  Thursday night was tacos at El Pollo Loco, Friday night was a pulled pork sandwich at Big Mama’s Soul Food, and Saturday was a quesadilla and a taco at Santana’s.

Bill has a room reservation set for next year’s event, apparently on the third floor where there’s a balcony with room for several slings outside.  I’m looking forward to it already!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Why Do You Keep Competing in Leather Contests?

This isn’t an uncommon question for people to ask me.  Anyone who knows me in the leather community knows that I have competed in a few contests in the past (and won a couple).  Even then, they probably don’t realize how many I have actually been in.

Is there a world record for competing in the most leather contests?  If there is, I’m probably the record holder.  (Paging Dave Rhodes.)  Let me see, I think it’s 16 contests now…

(You’ll forgive me if the years are off for some of the above.  Between “Just when did I run for that?” and contests run in year X being labelled as year X+1 [when they end], it can be hard to pin down the right number for a given contest.)

Yeah, that’s a lot of contests.  And in a community where few people ever run for a title and those who do and don’t win rarely try again, it’s a huge number of contests.

So why do it, and why do it again?

Each title contest is different, of course.  Some like the Saliva and Piss contests are purely for fun.  Rubber contests are somewhat different from leather contests, and likewise with the bear contests (“cub” doesn’t quite map to “boy”, to start with).  Some contests I’ve entered because I wanted the title.  Some because I wanted the prizes!  Some because I hate contests with only one contestant.  For Northwest LeatherSIR, it was because the outgoing titleholder asked me to run.

So there’s part of it.

But there’s another big piece that a lot of people don’t get (or don’t think about, anyway): beyond becoming a big name leather titleholder, adored by millions (well, dozens?), what else is the competition about?

I’ll give you a hint: I have also competed in country-western line dancing for about 8 years, and country couples for just over a year.  I’ve won a couple competitions there.  But no one in that world asks me “Why do you keep competing?”

Look at any Olympian athlete or beauty queen.  They don’t compete just one time.  They compete at various competitions at various levels.  It’s about honing your skills, learning what works, and about becoming the best you can be.  That doesn’t happen in one shot, it happens over months and years, over multiple contests.

So that’s the real reason I do it: to hone my skills and be the best I can be.

Of course, then the question arises: hone which skills and be the best you can be at what?  This is the core reason that a lot of people don’t understand leather contests.  They don’t see value.  They see people strutting across a stage in fancy or sleazy outfits, giving “speeches” which often don’t say much of anything, and maybe presenting fun (or boring) skits with fake BDSM in them.  Then they think of hot sex dressed in almost nothing, or a pup on a leash, or thrashing someone with a flogger, or the deep connection that happens with a fist embedded in someone’s ass, and they don’t see how the two worlds mesh.

What they miss is the “community”, the public face and shared ritual of leatherfolk.  All the hot sex in the world doesn’t make a community.  A community needs people beyond the one or two you are having sex with.  It needs shared experiences and public faces.  It needs group rituals.  And that, then, is the titleholder and the contest — the most public of faces and the most group of rituals.

The value in competing in multiple contests: honing my “be a public face” skills, being the best “public face” I can be.  That’s ultimately why I do it: because I see the value to the leather community in having quality men (and women) as our public face.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

IAGLCWDC (New Orleans) • May 24–28

One of the downsides to being involved in more than just the leather community is that the other activities you are involved in all also have weekend-long events that you have to attend.

In this case, it was the annual convention of the International Association of Gay/Lesbian Country Western Dance Clubs.  Usually held over Memorial Day Weekend, this was the 19th annual convention, held in New Orleans.  It was also my 18th of these conventions; I missed the first, in Louisville in 1994, only because I didn’t know it was happening.  (Next year’s is the 20th annual, and we will be holding it in Seattle.  I’m one of the co-chairs.  We are already hip-deep in planning.)

People ask me if a trip like this is Business or Pleasure.  I answer “Professional Obligation”.  Over the years, my duties and activities at these events have grown to take up so much time that I hardly get any dancing in.  This year, I taught one line dance workshop,  had a 2-hour meeting of the Dance Competition Committee, took part of one dance workshop, served as club delegate for a 3-hour meeting, DJ’ed a couple hours of line dancing, practiced for dance competitions, competed in one couples dance and five line dances, DJ’ed a couple more hours of line dancing, and served as the primary spokesperson for advertising our hoedown convention for next year.  (I also spent abundant time in the weeks before the convention prepping banners and postcards and websites and registration forms for next year’s event, and competition music for this one, to have them ready in time.)

I didn’t even get into the main ballroom for dancing either night.  Oh, I could have, but I went out to the leather bars instead.  In this case, I’m fine with that limited dancing.  I have been dealing with a sprained wrist for over two months and an injured ankle for one month, to the point that my actual dancing needed to be curtailed if I was finally going to heal.  And of course, one of the things mentioned in my International contest application is liking to travel around the country and getting out to the local leather venues to see how different communities operate and what I can learn from them to bring back to my own.

(Writing this a few weeks later, my ankle is doing a lot better.  My wrist… well, it was improving until dealing with luggage on two trips and four flogging sessions at an event.  Sigh.)

This was not my first time in New Orleans, having been there for a weekend mini-hoedown back in May 2004.  That one was much freer for sightseeing, thankfully, since this time, I barely saw anything outside in the daylight.

Rawhide 2010

On Thursday, after about an hour of line dancing on Bourbon Street (literally on the street, in front of Napoleon’s Itch), I took my sweaty self a couple blocks over to Rawhide 2010.

Curiously for late on a Thursday, they were charging a door cover despite there not being any event going on.  Rawhide 2010 has a darkened area around its putative pool table which serves as a pseudo-backroom, where a very blind eye is turned to furtive cocksucking.  My best guess is that the cover to ensure income from guys who really only want to come for the dark area.  Since Rawhide 2010 is only a couple blocks from Bourbon Street, they may get a lot of slosh over from that of guys who, if allowed, would just slip in to get their rocks off, nothing more.  (I recall that the gay bars in Amsterdam had a one-drink-minimum policy, for exactly that reason.)

Phoenix/New Orleans Eagle

On Friday, I walked to the Phoenix, all the way into the Garden District (our hotel was on Canal Street at the foot of Bourbon Street), about a 30 minute walk.  I got myself one street over from Bourbon so I could actually make good time without dodging drunk crowds.

When I was in New Orleans a few years ago, the Phoenix was a block or so from Cowpokes, the country bar.  My memory (which may be faulty) is that Cowpokes went under due to damage from Hurricane Katrina and the Phoenix was also damaged.  Apparently it rose from the ashes.  (Come on, you knew a line like that was coming, with a bar with this name!)

No cover at the Phoenix.  It’s not near enough to Bourbon Street to deal with slosh over from there, so it’s a destination rather than a crawl stop.  But like Rawhide 2010, it does have a backroom area, in this case the “New Orleans Eagle”, the second, extremely dimly lit bar upstairs.  (I assume it’s just a different name for the second space, not a separate business in the same space.)

At the Phoenix, I joined a conversation between D., an older leatherman than me (and if he is really 60 as he claimed, he’s got a damn fine body for his age!), and T., a young newbie.  The conversation started because T. was wearing a harness under his t-shirt, too shy to take the shirt off.

Mostly, I let D. talk, so I could see where he was coming from, what his leather past had been and how it differed from mine (my leather upbringing having been West Coast based).  I was also keeping an eye on T., to be sure I could provide a counterpoint to anything that D. said which I didn’t agree with.  (The most interesting quirky thing from D. was talking about a hierarchy of leather roles, listing Master and then higher on the pecking order than that, a “Dungeon Master”.  New one on me.  Regional, maybe regional from an era before me?  Hard to say.)

Vibes from D. were that he was putting the make on T., but with D.’s boy running around (upstairs to the backroom) and D. saying the guy had never been fucked “covered” (ie, bareback only), I wanted to make sure T. was aware of what might be going on.  Indeed, there was an open-ended invite for T. to come over, and for me to fist D. and fuck his boy on Saturday, which I declined due to the barebacking.

Eventually, D. and his boy wandered off or left, and T. and I talked a while longer, made out a bit, and he ended up giving me a ride back to my hotel.

Phoenix Redux

Saturday night, I headed back to the Phoenix again (this time by cab).  No D. this time, but T. was there again, and this time he quite willingly took his shirt off.  (Progress!)

We got to talk about a variety of leather-related subjects that night, and eventually headed upstairs to the Eagle, where we also go into a nice cocksucking session, and a touch of spanking (a first for him).  (And he did a very good job, especially given the 2 gauge PA.)

Later, he again gave me a ride back to the hotel.  I made sure that he had my contact info and the open invite to call or email anytime he needs to, especially if he needs a long-distance sounding board or mentoring.

T. strikes as a newbie leatherboy with a lot of good potential.  Good head on his shoulders, good instincts, just needs some experience to round him out and set him on the road to finding himself a good place in the New Orleans leather community.  (I should dig up a bit of contact info for him, for some guys who can maybe help be local mentors.)

Returning Home

Alas, New Orleans this year was horrifically expensive to get to.  Not being a hub city makes it bad enough, but this year was exceptionally bad, as bad as getting to the MontrĂ©al convention in 2003 was.  I even looked into flying into Shreveport or Baton Rouge and driving (like I did a couple years ago for a hoedown in Austin, going into Dallas instead), but I realized that even without considering my time for driving, car+gas+parking would mean I would need to save $200 or so on the airfare to make that viable (and savings with other airports weren’t even close to that much).  I did eventually get a flight for under $500 on Southwest, going through Phoenix with a plane-change and then Houston, and Nashville and Chicago (with a plane change) coming back.  And I only got that price because I flew back on Sunday, having to leave the hoedown right after the brunch and thus missing even more dancing opportunities.  Ugh.

I got a further reminder why I dislike flights with plane changes in the middle: we were late leaving Phoenix because of a plane issue, turning my 90 minute layover into 5 hours.  And we were late leaving Chicago coming back as well, turning that 1 hour into 2.5 hours.  I did get a $100 voucher in compensation for the Phoenix delay, at least.

This then also got me back to Seattle after the last light rail train, giving me three choices at 1:30 am: bus, Shuttle Express, or taxi.  (Or I could have slept in the airport floor until the train ran again at 5 am.  Not gonna happen.)  Bus would require two bus change, with 30 minutes or more between each one, and a 6 block walk at the end, getting me home around 4:30 am.  Shuttle Express ($37+tip) had about a half-dozen people waiting, so I asked how long I could expect to have to wait.  Well, they won’t go until they have at least a half-full van going to your part of town, and there was no one queued up for my zip code.  So 20 minutes, an hour, longer?  She couldn’t say, that depends on what dispatch gets in.  (Note that we were the last flight due in that night, so no one else would be getting in the Shuttle Express outbound queue for quite a while.)  Which tells me at least an hour, and could be God knows how long.

So I half-cussed at her and caught a cab about 30 feet away, and we were gone in under a minute.  At that time of night, I was going to pay whatever, just get me the fuck home.  We ended up taking a slightly longer but faster route (which probably cost me a couple dollars more), for $42+tip.  While that was hugely over the $2.50+walking the train would have cost, this was very useful info for the future: the difference between Shuttle Express and taxi to my house is roughly $5.  While I will still take light rail as my preference, I will never again in my life take Shuttle Express to/from my house.  $5 extra is soooo worth the convenience of “now”.

One of the advantages of getting home even at 2 am on a holiday weekend is that I had Monday free, and so I had set up a play date with Larry for Memorial Day afternoon.  Well rested by sleeping late, we fucked and fisted and pissed the entire afternoon away.  Delightful.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Are “Earned Leathers” Important?

There has been a significant attention in the leather community in the last few years regarding “earned leathers”.

One of the questions in my contest interview was whether any of my gear was “earned” leather, and my response was roughly “I earned the money to buy my leathers, and I have several items I acquired second hand, but no, not in the traditional sense of the term.  However, I have loaned or gifted items to other leathermen in the past.”

“Earned leather” is an attempt to capture one of the (mythical) rituals attributed to “Old Guard” leathermen, which holds that bottoms/subs/slaves/boys enter the leather scene with no gear and acquire it from others along their journey as they pass milestones in their leather life.

The truth behind this myth, of course, is that in an earlier era, there wasn’t a decent shop or two in every major city catering to the gay BDSM crowd were you could go and purchase the gear you needed (wanted).  Leather gear was harder to come by and proportionally more expensive than it is today, so not everyone could reasonably have a full wardrobe to choose from, especially a newbie.  Pieces were treasured, maintained, and handed down as appropriate; some leather was heirlooms, not mere clothing.

The myth also holds that bottoms/subs/slaves/boys are not to acquire leathers on their own, only from their tops/doms/sirs/masters/daddies.  Presumably at some point, when they have achieved enough, they may directly obtain the items they need.  Of course, the myth also dictates that everyone comes into the leather scene as a bottom and transitions to being a switch or a top at some point; logically, the transitions from being a bottom and the transition to being “allowed” to acquire ones own gear occur at the same time.

We no longer expect that everyone starts as a bottom (and maybe we never really did expect that) — where would we get those 22 year-old “masters” from, eh? — although we arguably still hold it as an ideal.  (There’s the myth in action for you.)  And thus I would submit that “earned leathers” likewise is an idealized (idolized?) scenario which only really plays out in the leather world in isolated cases.

When I came into the leather scene in the early 1990s in the San Francisco Bay Area, “earned leather” wasn’t a phrase I ever encountered, probably not until nearly a decade later.  (Then again, I only lightly connected with Drummer and related magazines at the time.  Maybe if I had been more aware of that piece of the leather community, I would have encountered it, or maybe not.)  Lots of other concepts that we embrace strongly today likewise weren’t conversed about in any circles I ran in during the 90s: leather care, bootblacks, polyamory, service tops, and so on.  (I do recall that the San Francisco Eagle and the Timberline in Seattle both had bootblack chairs in the 90s, but I don’t think I ever saw them used for that purpose.  Not once.)

So for me in my early leather days, the concept that I needed to find a top who would identify leather life milestones and present gear for me when I achieved them wasn’t even in the air.  Lacking that in either concept or reality, I naturally purchased items for myself that I felt I needed to partake in the scene — a vest, then chaps (custom fit, and I can still wear them 20 years later!), then non-cowboy boots, and so on).  Later, in the 2000s, I have provided items for men I have connected with to ensure they could partake as well — rubber boots for one guy, a vest for my boyfriend and later a uniform shirt when he competed for a national title, a harness and a rubber shirt for another boyfriend, and I have loaned items like vests and harness for boys who I was taking out and about — but these haven’t been “earned” items in the ritualized sense.

Don’t think that I don’t support the idea as a concept, though.  I know tops who have been in a “covering ceremony", ritually presented with a master’s cap; a boy who only earned his collar via an extreme display of trust in a scene; a leatherman who lovingly describes being gifted with a special leather jacket from a top now long deceased.  The power of ritual is immense, within a couple or as part of a small community, a leather family; it imbues power and value into the object beyond any intrinsically, physically there.

I just don’t support the idea that “earned leather” something that everyone in today’s leather community needs to have experienced, and especially that not having “earned” your leather leather somehow lessens either the items or the leatherman himself.  The personal value of the experience of “earning” your leathers does not make you a “better” leatherman.  Someone is “better” (both quantitatively and qualitatively) because they have skills or community connections or practical experience or depth of character, not because they have gone through a particular ritual that others have not.

Leather is life, not religion.

Fundraising Through Better Fisting #3a and 3b

When planning the third of my title-year Chez Poing fisting parties, I had three dates potentially available (the first three Saturdays of May), so I queried the dozen or so guys who are my “regulars”, attending almost every party to find out their availability.  None of the dates were available for everyone, of course.  But feeling horny (or masochistic), I decided to do two parties in May, on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays.

First Party

The first Saturday was May 5, Cinco de Mayo (or as I referred to it, “Cinco de Mano”!).  It was also the date of the “supermoon”, the oversized moon which became full just about the time it was at its closest point to Earth.  Seemed to be an appropriate date for the party!
We had great weather that weekend.  Attendance, however, was low, only 18.  But looking back at my records, last year’s May party was also low (only 14 guys), so maybe there’s just something about May — it’s getting warmer and staying light later, so guys are feeling the need to get out and about.  At least one cancel came from a couple guys who worked too hard on a house project and ran out of energy for playing.
Not that I’m complaining, of course.  The guys who attended had a great time, and that’s all that is really important.

Second Party

The second party was on May 19.  Clean up for the party was way easier since I had just done it all two weeks before.  Weather wasn’t nearly as nice, but that didn’t stop guys from attending, as we had 25 attendees, making this one of the best attended parties yet.
I’m going to definitely target nice weather at a time of year when people are really looking forward to such as a major attendance anti-driver.  Come the next party, in August, when another sunny warm day isn’t as special, that influence will be reduced and guys will simply be horny and wanting to play.
The two parties raised another $140 (after expenses) for my travel fund.  Next party will be Saturday, August 25, for my birthday.