Friday, February 8, 2013

Silence equals consent.

Just recently, the Portland Eagle booked a drag show by the name of Shirley Q Liquor. The performer is white, performs in drag as a woman, and wears black-face. Feel free to pause and go look on YouTube. The act is blatantly racist.

Eagle's are known in various local communities as leather bars, and exist in a meta-state where things that happen there reflect on the leather community as a whole. Despite this bars infrequent leather nights, its still to the outside viewer seen as representative. Therefore, the leather community was supporting racism.

After a plethora of mis-steps and community pressure, the bar cancelled the act. Great. 

I'm a white male that despite my sexuality passes as straight. I grew up in a different country, in a poor/lower class neighbourhood where races and cultures blended together. I'm privileged. So when this situation came up, despite not knowing the depth of the insult, I at least knew that the act was racist and didn't need to be supported by me.

I struggled with what to say. I worried that if I spoke up at all, that I would cause more harm. I'm learning what language to use and what not to use as I go and could unintentionally hurt someone's feelings. Its a risk and a conversation I'm willing to have. I'm willing to learn and make mistakes, otherwise how will I learn. Silence equals consent.

At the core of this for me is the lack of respect. Racism is disrespectful at least, and hate at most. Its fear given a voice and sometimes a purpose. If we don't speak out or act against it in some way, it will happen again. Silence equals consent.

Making fun of any group is not respectful. I still struggle with why it seems OK for a member of the group to make fun of the group, but for someone outside the group to do it is an -ism of some kind. Why is it ok at all? Just because someone is one of us doesn't give them a pass.

While I cannot speak for the bar, or for the leather community as a whole, despite what you may imply otherwise, I can only speak for myself. As a leatherman I do not support racism. Or any -ism for that matter. Its just not respectful.

Don't let the fear of getting it wrong prevent you from speaking up. Like the movie says, say something. Say Anything. Just don't be quiet. Otherwise how will we know you don't like it either. Silence equals consent.

Friday, July 20, 2012

July 20 - 22

7/20/12 - 7/22/12 : Coaching Weekend, Seattle, WA

The Northwest Leather Sir/boy/bootblack family Jim Drew, boy dan and Ruin were getting ready and prepping for their run at the International titles. They were in between producers, and so Greg (McG) had been appointed as their liason. He was going to run them all through their paces, with the kind assistance of some local talent. Unfortunately, Greg was not able to make it, but I had still been invited to help them out.

Often found without his pants.
Chester Chopps
I came up on Friday and was hosted by the wonderful Paul and cooked for by his delightful boy Cole. They have truly been a blessing whenever I am in Seattle, and am really glad I got to spend some more time with them as well. Cole made the most amazing scones I've ever and I would be surprised if he doesn't own his own restaurant someday. We went out drinking and ended up visiting not only The Cuff, but also a newer bear bar called Diesel, which was cosy. Not too big, not too small, but just right.

The next day we subjected the title holders to interviews, mock questions, primping and fluffing techniques, and listened to their speeches - giving them feedback about all of it. This was my first time really judging other people, and it was fun to help them improve themselves and their presentation. I spent some time watching Ruin with her mock technical boots, and offered what advice I could. By the end of the day, they seemed more confidant and ready for their contest.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thunder In The Mountains

7/13/12 - 7/15/12 : Thunder In The Mountains @ Denver, CO

I had ran into the event producers, Brian and Rich at IML while I was speed shopping, and they had generously offered to let me attend. As this was an event I had wanted to get to while I lived in Texas, I jumped at the chance. It was an opportunity for me to do boots, and maybe play too.

I got in on Friday, and of course immediately I ran into some kinky people on the shuttle ride to the event - one of them heavily tattooed and sporting vampire teeth - you had me at hello. We chatted about San Fransisco, tattoos and the event itself, and then went our separate ways.

Raisin Toast!
As an aside here, when I lived in a poly house with C & V, V and I had a fever for raisin bread, but specifically for raisin toast. We bonded over it most mornings, and so we came to call each other Raisinbro. Imagine my delight to find that my Raisinbro was also coming to the event, and we were able to share a room together. It was just like old times (but without the toast).

He was already there, so after a quick room check-in, we walked down the street to a Steakhouse to enjoy our first meal together. It was great to catch up with him, and to have a good meal to start the weekend. It was pretty hot out though, so we ended up calling a shuttle from the hotel to pick us up.

I attended a meet and greet wherein hobnobbing and pea-cocking took place, and then did a quick change for the play party. I had barely got in the door when I was invited to a multi-boy beat down, which I was eager to jump into. My knee had been bothering me, so I stayed supportive close to the outside, but then jumped in when I forgot about it. I think there were at least 8 people involved in beating up 3 boys? It was a lot of fun.

Then I got to play with Boss Bondage, where he tied me up with rope, and then beat the crap out of me. He was careful to make my bad knee less attractive to play with and keep it out of the way, but totally made up for it on my other side. Note to self - if I'm bootblacking anytime after, make sure to negotiate out my hands. I may need them the next day. I got some painful carpet burns out of the date, and I cried hard, which was very much needed. I was so drained afterwards that I barely even noticed until the next day that my knee issue was non existant. Hurray!

I had breakfast with my Raisinbro, and then we parted ways for most of the day going to various classes or doing boot shining. Saturday saw me getting a lot of time in at the boot stands. As is typical for a lot of hotel events, they had risers set up draped in black tarp to protect the floors, but this was the first time I had a milk crate as a seat. It left some fun impressions on my bum when I stood up.

I was able to make it to a few classes as well when not doing boots - of note was Chuck Renslows one on SM in the 21st Century, more of a history pathway leading up to today, very fascinating. I now know how the Leather Archives & Museum started. Also went to a class on the Theater of Cruelty by Sir Hugh, and was pretty blown away with how slick his presentation was, and his use of the space in the room. If you can ever get to a class he is presenting, do it.

The evenings play party came very quickly, and I was able to share my love of needle dreamcatchers with Levi and Brad - simultaneously I might add. We couldn't take photos inside the play area, so here is one I made for a family member. Levi and Brad helped each other with their breathing, and I threaded them both separately. After capping the ends, they both ran manically around the dungeon while I calmed down. They chose to take each others needles out later, which left me with a free slot to play in.

Jim had been wanting to play with me after the multi-boy beat down, so we headed to the men only space. I got to play in a vacuum cube and then we got to the beating, but there was less crying this time. Afterwards we flopped into chairs in the lobby, ate cookies, and talked about how great our respective days were.

Again after breakfast I was able to attend more classes and do more boots. I got to go to a class by Sandy 'Mama' Reinhardt, explaining all about her family. I'd heard of her in my travels, and of the family, but it hit home a lot more when hearing her perspective on it and where it all started. There was not a dry eye in the house.

I rushed around to other classes, first one on venipuncturing, and then another class on gay mentoring by Sir Hugh, which was again very worth the time. He talked about how a Daddys first act with a boy was to show him how to cruise. It was an very interactive class, with a lot of discussion of everyone involved. After that I just did boots until the event was shutting down.

I was finally able to get to have dinner with my title Dad, Jim Deuder, and we went back to the steakhouse where I had my first meal of the weekend. It was great to hang out with him and talk, and he passed on the mysterious black book of mystery, passed down the International Bootblack family tree since the dawn of time. It was a highly ritualised affair, which was interesting in a public setting, but eventually after several hours and several hair clippings, we were able to celebrate.

Overall a fantastic event, the classes were really varied, and the play spaces were full of amazing energy.

Friday, July 6, 2012

July 6 - 8

7/6/12 : Scotch and Cigar Social @ The Eagle, Portland

Despite this being a weekend at home with Sandra, there was clearly time to go by the Eagle, and shine some boots for the guys enjoying their cigars. It was a pretty low key affair, but I was able to do a few pairs of boots, and get a partial cigar in for myself. The rest of my weekend Sandra and I played games and just enjoyed not having any other plans at all!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Primal Pain

6/29/12 - 7/1/12 : Primal Pain, Edmonton, Canada

This is a smaller event in Canada that I had heard about by meeting Big Bad Jim in Alaska the year before. He had mentioned it casually, and we had discussed what went on. It took a whole year for me to go, but I was so ready. I'm my head this was an extreme challenge weekend, and mostly of the mind, but the body had to do it too.

After finding folks online to carpool with from the airport, and the car adventures along the way, we arrived and checked into the Queer room - a much smaller set of bunk beds, and getting to room with Tillie was an extra bonus. They run a mentor program at this event, so if you've never been before, someone will explain things, or hold your hand, or give you Mentos.

I'm a pretty social person and had no problems walking around talking and introducing myself to people, and immediately getting involved helping dig a thirty foot long fire pit. Before we actually got to walk it, it had to be lit and cool down, and the sun go down too. So, in the meantime I went off to go walking bare foot over a couple of feet of broken glass. No feet were harmed as a result.

Once the sun had actually gone down, it was time to go back and walk on the hot coals. There was a ceremony of sorts involved, and everything was done in a very respectful and consensual way. There was a short science lesson, and some time to be personal while the fire kept burning, and then it was time to walk. A trial by fire literally. It was pretty amazing to be involved in the construction and then the application. Needless to say, yes it was hot, and I got a couple of small blisters, but that was also because I didn't follow the instructions well - my brain got the better of my body and I curled my toes a couple of times. I got to flirt and talk to folks after, and also helped beat on a drum for a little while - it helped.

Before Hooks
 Saturday there were to be suspensions and an energy or hook pull. I was up early talking to people again (I think there's a theme here), and then I was found to go get hooked for a suspension. I was the first one for the day - which was both flattering and a little nervewracking. You can totally tell I was ready right?

About to go up
I didn't bring any music with me, so Elwood chose something country - which did not work for me at all. Instead, he chose an album by Tool, and of course the song Third Eye had to come on while it was happening. The hooks themselves were intense. I had done hooks before in my front, but I guess in order to hold your weight, hooks in your back have to go a little deeper, and also be a bigger gauge. Four hooks in and I'm starting to drift off into that other space.

After a carefully supervised walk outside, we got to a small meadow with a crane set up and Elwood went to work threading rope through a rig, and then to my hooks. He pulled the tension from the rope holding me to the rig, and just held on.
Starting out

I danced from one tip toe to another, slowly testing my weight, feeling the hooks, feeling my stomach. It was the same sensation as right before stepping out of an airplane with a parachute. Elwood was patient just letting me figure it out for myself. I put more weight into my shoulders, slowly leaning more and more forward, and less on my toes. At some point Elwood pointed out that I've not got weight in my toes anymore, and I should just pull them up - which I did. And then he pulled the rope up, removing any choice for me to put my feet back down.

My body had its own shock moment - I want to dry heave, I need water badly as my mouth is a desert. I fart really loud and fear that my body is letting everything go. But the fears are unfounded. I take some sips of water and all is ok. I am separated from my shadow.

Just cresting
Finally there
 I start to play, testing how I can turn myself around, or swing in a direction. The pain of the hooks is still there, but its cushioned now with the endorphin rush I'm experiencing. I look around at the people and the environment. There are more people watching and there than I remember, but going up it was just me and Elwood looking at each other.

I look back at him now and smile - and he sees that I get it. He pulls again on the rope so I'm higher and then I start to feel the other world calling. People around the crane are talking and having fun with each other, but I ask for quiet so I can experience this for myself.

On a quest
I now have one foot firmly in the other world, and I start to journey. I'm a large tiger, prowling the grasses next to the lake. I'm running and jumping, eventually pouncing on a bird. And then I'm the bird, flying up and over the lake - looking for my next meal. I dive bomb the lake and become a fish, swimming quickly to shore, only to climb out and start the journey all over again. I think I go through this story about twice more before I start to feel myself back in the real world more fully.

My body is finally done, and down I come. Of course I'm bratty about it, and keep my legs as high as I can so I don't touch down, and when I do, Elwood pulls the rope again so I go up. We laugh and I promise to bite his head later. My legs feel ridiculously heavy, and my shoulders still have a good feeling like I have wings there.

The rest of the day just drifted by. I sat with people, I participated in some drumming, I ate and had community all around - and through all of it, there was a pervasive sense of calm. It felt very comfortably like home. I felt very open - so I took the rest of the day as easily as I could. Another participant also had an opportunity to do a Kavadi ritual - lots of spears were placed in her using a large rig and limes were attached to the ends of the spears. It was awesome to watch, and walk around with her, and then later we sat and connected with each other.

A raptor?
Sunday was another calm feeling day, and it rained a good portion of the morning, but that didn't stop me connecting with people. I showered with a friend, gave an impromptu boot class, and crawled on top of Jim. Despite him trying to scrape me off by crawling under tables, I was able to successfully bite his head. I helped someone with their suspension, gave a mace a blow job, did some arrow bending with my neck, and finally with Elwood we got to be raptors and pack hunt someone down in the field. The time went so fast on Sunday, and then it was Monday and time to leave.

I'm so happy I went to this event. Not only did I get to connect with a lot of people, with good conversations and shared experiences - but I was made to feel at home and welcomed. The food and kitchen folks were amazing all weekend, making sure we had food. I pitched in and contributed my time and energy, and it was well received. Whatever definition of community you use, this felt like one to me. Ride the Pig!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 18 - 28

6/22/12 : L.U.R.E @ The Eagle, Portland, OR
This was my official congratulations party put on by Tarsus and the Eagle. I was thanked and talked to by lots of people, and finally started doing some boots too. Welcome back, now do my boots! I did a few pairs, was done for the night and did some celebrating instead.

6/23/12 : Seattle Pride @ Seattle, WA
Sandra had a work engagement for the next week and so was travelling to Seattle anyway - so we were able to road trip up together which was great. Also traffic going to Seattle at 7am in the morning was really light so we were able to get there and check into her hotel pretty quickly. Did I also mention it was literally 2 blocks from where I needed to be for the parade?

It was great catching up with various folks from the Seattle area while we waited to get going, and Wendell who had invited me, also then invited me to ride on the back of his car that was driving in the parade. Given how touchy my knee had been recently, I took him up on the offer, and after the two mile trek, was very glad I did. Afterwards we took a few snaps and then enjoyed the delights of the pride fair. Also - Unicorns!

6/24/12 : Seattle Erotic Arts Festival @ Seattle, WA
I had been asked by Lily to do a bootblacking demonstration for a demo booth they were running at the Arts festival. I would have two time slots to do some boots, and bring some sexy into it. While I waited there were lots of really cool art to look at, some for sale, and some not. They had lots of other tasting type events at the space too, so I was able to watch some violet wand and some rope demonstrations.

In the absence of people waiting around to get their boots done, I used Lily as my victim client and set about on her high shine boots. I was able to successfully figure out how to produce a high shine by humping the boots with my jockstrap. After that I had people asking if they could get their boots done.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 1 - 17

Getting back home was a little surreal, but after a whole bunch of laundry and starting back to work, I was beginning to feel the drop. Now I had to start looking at events to go to, places to contact, investigating various options, and trying to budget for all of it. Fortunately there were plenty of local events I had already committed to, to keep me occupied while I figured that out.

6/1/12 : Scotch and Cigar Social @ The Eagle, Portland
This was an unofficial welcome home. Lots of folks heard I was going to show up, and showed up themselves. Lots of congratulations and pride in me being able to bring the title back to the North West. I did not do a single pair of boots.

Also during this week thank to the magic of Don Hood and Tarsus, I was able to get my patch sewn onto my vest that I bought. It fit perfectly, and was very happy with how it looks. Someone recently pointed out to me though that with the image being made from boot material, I might try shining up the cap and heel of the boot.

6/8/12 : Beartown - Bearpocalypse @ The Jupiter Hotel, Portland
My first time blacking a pair of boots since IML. I gave myself that time to reset and make it more fun again. Did a few pairs on people I didn't know and a couple of regular folks came back for a spin. And of course the place was thick with bears and cigar smoke. Yum.

6/9/12 : Portland Leathermen Potluck @ Private home, Portland
I had been asked a few months back to help host this particular potluck with Les Lewis. His partner Rick was out of town on business, and I was conveniently close to him to help. Of course now he was telling people that Mr. IMBB 2012 was hosting with him. This was a nice relaxed gathering of men, who were also very congratulatory and proud I had won.

6/9/12 : Dirty Playground @ The Sindicate, Portland
On the tail end of the potluck was a queer play party over at one of the local dungeons, in which I had also agreed to do boots for a time. I was able to get there, do my boot shift and even got to play with one of my friends for a good amount of time. Nothing gets my blood flowing like a good impact scene. This is a queer play party that has recently got off the ground and I wanted to make sure to go by and support them.

6/16/12 : Pride Play Party @ The Sindicate, Portland
This was my Oregon title family's joint event - a play party the night before the Portland Pride Parade. Ms. Tracey, Tarsus and I hosted a dungeon night to try to raise funds for our respective charities. We had a good crew of people working with us, and the setup and tear down was ridiculously easy. Turn out was not tremendous, but given it was also Pride weekend, it was not surprising. I did manage to play with a newer guy to the scene though, which was a lot of fun.

6/17/12 : Portland Pride Parade @ Portland, OR

One of my last obligations as the Oregon State Bootblack was to march in the Portland Pride Parade - and despite the pacific north west's constant threat of rain, the sun came out and made it all better. We marched through the downtown streets ending at the fair, and I was accompanied by my lovely wife as well*. Hurray!

* The man in the picture with me, Dominic, is not my wife.