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Memorial weekend

June 3, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve brought back congested sinuses and a phlegm-y throat amongst a bunch of great memories and marks from Shibaricon.  The enormity of those memories threaten to overwhelm, and yet I keep flipping through them like a slideshow; images and moments and words running in constant stream through my head.

Shibaricon has been imbued with many different meanings for me.  If I had to give it a one-sentence summary, this is what I would write: a multi-faceted event encompassing various traits of family, community, and camaraderie.  From seeing the incredulously many familiar faces at Thursday’s meet and greet hour, to being welcomed home by Psychokitty at the opening ceremonies, to geeking out about ropes with new and old friends, to serving Max and wearing his collar throughout the weekend – I felt myself an integrated part of a whole.

Some highlights, roughly chronological:

  • Max tying his leather turk’s head collar around my neck.  I’ve only worn this kind of collar once before, for the week of Folsom 2009.  I’m glad to have gotten a little time alone with him that first night, reconnecting and rejoicing in seeing him again.
  • Everyone.  There is simply no way to list all of the wonderful people I got to meet or see again.  Thursday’s meet and greet set the pace for how overwhelmed I would feel the rest of the weekend.  I also got to see friends at the IML vendor fair as well as meet Dan Savage!
  • I feel like I didn’t actually go to that many workshops or classes.  I didn’t go to any on Monday, and missed Saturday afternoon due to a volunteer shift.  I also missed all of the Sunday morning classes in favor of sleeping in.  I do really wish I’d gone to more classes, but there is always next year, and I can’t really complain considering my late-night dungeon fun.  But I did especially enjoy Scott Smith’s Abductions and Takedowns class, Max’s Partial Suspension class, and Zamil’s Efficiency of Movements class.
  • Eating delicious cooked meals with the Boston crew and thereby saving much money I would have otherwise spent on hotel food.
  • Getting kicked around by Max before my afternoon volunteer shift.
  • A dynamic, co-self-suspension done with Fivestar, where much laughter, puppeteering, and general mischief ensued.
  • The amazing scene between Max and PopeBacon directly afterwards, one of the hottest scenes I saw that weekend.
  • Getting a bar of chocolate from Lani as a reminder of how we met at Folsom Fringe.
  • Watching Dov get taken down by 7 girls and one guy at the end of the Abductions class.
  • Taking photos of Max’s and my boots (aka baby Max boots) side by side.
  • My extensive play date with Max, which encompassed aiding him during his scene with the beautiful Symetrie, then doing his boots in the social lounge – an act which has become the closest to being spiritual and ritualistic that I have ever felt, and an act that singularly consumes my body with lust and desire.  By the end we were both filled with tranquility.  I was high, high, high, and we followed the bootblacking with a rope scene that left me snarling and panting, and with whispered words of ownership slipping down my throat and wrapping themselves around my ribcage.
  • Throwdown with Dunter at the end of Zamil’s class.
  • IML.  Getting the opportunity to attend the vendor fair, have my boots done for the first time (by someone other than myself), and just take in the vastness of the event was incredible.  I was a little intimidated at first, but was soon asking vendors for advice on bootcare and trying on leather vests eagerly.  While waiting to get our boots done, Max put rope on me and used me as a footrest.  He also got me my first leather vest, for which I have not yet thanked him enough (Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sir).  I have been loathe to take off the vest since.
  • The last hurrah at the hotel bar, hanging out with new and old friends and sipping on Bailey’s before leaving for the flight home.

Some of the more difficult parts:

  • Being in the hotel with two other conventions; one a giant frat party of dart-throwers who’ve co-habited the same venue with Shibaricon for years, and the other a high school quiz bowl competition.  As if it were not difficult enough for me to be around so many people to begin with – Shibaricon capped off at somewhere around 750 attendees this year – I had to navigate around drunk partiers on one side and intelligent and undoubtedly curious kids on the other.  There were a couple times when I just retreated to my room rather than deal with all those crowds of people.
  • Going to a convention without a partner with whom I could practice ties cut down on the classes I felt comfortable attending.  I know I probably could have found a partner fairly easily, but I felt a bit hesitant to let a stranger tie me up, even for a class.  That said, I did manage to get partnered for a couple classes where I knew others, and that was quite fun.
  • Negotiating scenes ahead of time is something I need to work on, as there were people I was really looking forward to playing with but just didn’t get to plan them out beyond “we should talk about playing!”  Not to mention all the boots I wanted to black but didn’t get to!
  • Sunday evening to Monday morning was a difficult period for me.  I could feel myself dropping by Sunday afternoon, and that combined with knowing Max would be removing my collar Monday afternoon sent me into a bad headspace.  I spent Monday morning fighting it, calming myself down, and talking as little as possible, and finally requested, once we reached the vendor fair, that I spend a little time by myself.  I had begun to feel that coming to IML had been a mistake, that I’d have been better off being alone back at the hotel.  But the hour or so I spent wandering the vendor booths helped tremendously and I was able to come out of my mood and enjoy the event.
  • Max taking his collar off.  I could have cried when he untied the leather from my neck and rewove it around my wrist.  I didn’t, however, partly because I felt no different, no less possessed and under his will, once the collar came off.  And partly because, well, I have a hard time crying anyway.
  • The flight home.  Dear lord, this had to have been one of the worst flights I’ve ever taken.  Between the extended delay, sitting in the plane through another delay, and then being delayed during landing, we didn’t arrive in SFO until after midnight.  And during the final leg of the trip, for whatever reason I had intensely painful pressure buildup in my right ear, and nothing I did relieved it.  While I could clear the pressure from my left ear, the right continued to build and build, becoming this brightly focused arrow of pure pain.  I wanted to drive a spike into my ear.

Overall, I hope to make Shibaricon a yearly tradition from now on.  A special thank you to those I met, connected or reconnected with, worked with, shared meals with, and played with, for all the memories.  And especially to Psychokitty for just being the wonderful, amazing guy he is, to Fivestar for being a rocking roommate and for co-engineering our suspension, and to Max for carving out the time during this ridiculously packed, whirlwind of an event to have me at his side.

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Countdown to Shibaricon

May 23, 2010 1 comment

Three days until I finally get to experience this epic rope-geek’s paradise that I keep hearing stories about.  Though really, the countdown began sometime three weeks back.  But I can’t believe it’s almost time!  I’ve taken note of the classes I’m considering going to, including “Hojojutsu for Pirates” and “Abductions and Takedowns,” I’ve got my volunteer shift schedule and will be working at Merchandising, and I’ve got a mental packing list of everything I want to bring.  I just hope it all fits into the laptop bag and one carryon I plan to bring with me!

But beyond classes and play parties, what I’m most looking forward to is the chance to reconnect with a whole bunch of people that I’ve met throughout the past year or so: from the then-budding rope group in Boston to the wonderful rope lovers I met at Folsom Fringe hailing from Australia, Oregon, and of course – Seattle.  Everyone will have stories to share and new rope tricks to show off, I’m sure.  So much has happened this past year.  I know I’ve grown tremendously – into my own identity, and into my kinks.  I know I’ll be bringing my boots, which are fast becoming part of my identity.

Who knows – maybe I’ll get to kick someone around with my boots, and explore that arena of play.

Three days…

Categories: rope, travelog

Still here

March 14, 2010 2 comments

(What a funny little phrase that is.  Still: meaning, a continuation of an action or state of being.  Also: calm, placid, quiet.  Also: unmoving.  Is it a continuation of being presently here?  Quietly here?  Unmoving here?  English is such a silly, profound language.)

But yes.  Linguistic digressions aside (blame my high school English teachers), I am still here.  Quiet, but here.  My five day trip to Seattle is over, and I finished writing about it in private just a few days prior – a monolithic undertaking given how much happened in such a short time span, and the intensity with which it all happened.

And as soon as I landed back in San Francisco, I had two jobs waiting for me, friends and acquaintances waiting with hugs and questions and stories of their own, and generally a life to catch up to.

So I have not been able to write here, though I have half-written drafts and millions of thoughts racing through my head all the time.  Predominantly, my head is filled with the recent memories of my stay in Seattle.

I am delighted by how smoothly I made the transition back to my place by Max’s feet.  Perhaps that is a sign that, despite our distance, I hadn’t left that place, that headspace, when I left Seattle after New Year’s.  The thought makes me smile, makes me giddy, and rings with truth.

At the same time, such a raw admission is truly frightening to me.  Each step I take deeper into this brings with it equal parts joy and fear: of losing myself inside his will, of giving up all of my control…

But I was reminded, just now, of what Max wrote months ago on this very blog:

I think being open enough to connect with people on a genuinely intimate level is the hardest, bravest and most rewarding thing we can do.

And I have, indeed, been richly rewarded.

Thank you, Sir.

Categories: love, memories, reflection, travelog

Burning Man 2009: Evolution

September 8, 2009 2 comments

After I left Black Rock City and the playa of Nevada, I had a hard time processing everything at once.  Dov urged me to just write, stream-of-consciousness style, and just see what happens.  So I got out my sketchbook, drew a bit, and then started to write.  This is as far as I got before sleep overtook me last night.

And, unfortunately, the camera I took to Burning Man is currently MIA, and it would be so much easier to express this with accompanying photos.  I took the liberty of browsing through the Burning Man Flickr account to link to some of the gorgeous, breathtaking photos that have already appeared there.  So, no, none of these linked photos are mine.  Take a look through the galleries, though – because none of this writing even begins to break through to what I experienced on the playa.

What is this place?

Everything and everyone seems wilder, crazier, and kinder here.  It is a Carnival, lit up in LEDs and fire, where alcohol and stories flow freely and endlessly.

The Temple Burn.  Imagine over 40,000 people, waiting in absolute, reverent silence, all facing a beautiful, lotus-shaped, inscribed, burning Temple.  Gasp and cheers accompany each falling petal.  As the last wooden supports begin to topple, one shrill, animal scream pierces the air, somewhere in front of me.  One man has made that noise.

The whirling, dancing flames release a collective catharsis.  Like a rolling wave, shouts and howls and screams rise up from the circled mass of people; a crescendo of raw emotion.   All around me are people hugging, people crying, people laughing.  The agony is intense and sharp.

That is what I remember feeling most strongly: Agony.

I still can’t believe the time, effort, and money put into creating mutant vehicles and art cars.  I still can’t believe that 50,000 people materialized onto a high elevation, desolate, dry lakebed.  Half the time, I felt like I was on a movie set for a sci-fi, post-apocalyptic film.  There was so much leather and metal.  Piercings and tattoos.  Sculpted idols and personal gods.

The city is most alive at night.  Lights shine from domes, tents, decorated vehicles, and people.  The atmosphere is festive and wild.  There are blue mohawks, cowboy hats, wrist cuffs.  Sometimes on one person.  There are LED fairies, unicorns, grotesque steampunk-esque creatures that paced the playa on stilted limbs.  There are Victorians, nudists, fetishists, pixies and elves, drag queens, gypsies, hippies, ravers, rennies, pirates, vampires, and everything in between.

I have never seen so many intensely beautiful people.

What is this place?

I spent the afternoon – one afternoon in a place where time ceases to function normally – tying people up in the Lamplighter lounge and watching others get tied up in my rope.  Others watched on, or complimented a tie.  I got to teach a few, encouraging those who came up to me, expressing their interest and enthusiasm.  I have never felt so relaxed and comfortable in my own skin.

Order doesn’t matter.  It seems chaotic, but somehow, things don’t all break and fall apart.  A community is formed.  Many smaller ones, as well as the greater playa community.  It is both spoken and unspoken law: “We are here, together, in this harsh, inhospitable, unforgiving place.  We look out for each other.”

The end of the road, aka on my last legs…

August 4, 2009 2 comments

Writing this from L.A., I have never been more excited to be in one place for more than one or two days.  I am here until tomorrow, when I will be dropping Guy 1 off at LAX and heading back to San Francisco to start looking for housing and work.  I’m really hoping I can get settled there, despite the unemployment rate and the high costs of living in the city.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Rewind back to Montana.  Having developed whatever stomach bug I got from the cheap ramen, I let myself be convinced by our host’s mom to stay an extra day to ensure that I could hold solid foods down.  After a night of just drinking Pedialyte and Gatorade, this wonderful mother helped nurse me back to health, all while telling me about her incredible life.

I won’t go into many details, but suffice to say she has survived many life obstacles, things I cannot imagine having to endure.  We bonded over family stories and life issues like depression and food-dependent mood swings.  Meanwhile, the Guys went off on a 9-mile hike to enjoy some outdoor time.  I was thankful that they weren’t adverse to staying an extra day, though I felt bad about the setback.

Anyway, I was very glad for the company of such a strong woman, and we have since kept in touch through e-mail.  I’ve also kept in touch with the Idaho family who rescued us from our incapacitated car.

The next day (July 22nd, if I’m keeping track of all of this correctly) we headed out to Seattle, after a brief period of panic trying to find a place to stay in the city.  Ended up getting in contact with a friend of a friend, and once again we met with an incredibly friendly and generous host, who also owns a board game store and invited us to Game night which just happened to be that night.  We learned to play Monty Python Fluxx and Settlers of Catan, and Guy 1 liked the latter so much that he ended up buying the game later in Portland.

In the morning we visited the Sculpture Gardens, Pike Place Market, as well as the Center for Sex-Positive Culture aka the Wetspot.  The guys went with me to the Wetspot after I’d explained what it was about and ensuring that I could go alone and drop them off somewhere downtown.  But they wanted to come with, and with slight reservation we headed off to the Wetspot after grabbing some groceries at the market.  Well, we went in and it was obvious the place was closed, as some construction was underway.  But I ran into Max, a contact Dov had hooked me up with for possibly attending a kink party later that evening, and managed to get an invite to said party. Exciting!

And the construction going on inside the Wetspot turned out to be in preparation for the party, and we saw a bunch of cages and hardpoints right at the entrance.  Later while we were making dinner, I found out Guy 2 didn’t even see the dungeon equipment and only realized what the stuff was when Guy 1 mentioned it.

So we make dinner from the market purchases that morning and rest up in anticipation for the evening.  All evening the guys are trying to decide whether to go to the party with me, since they got guest invites as well, or to cruise around for live bands at bars and clubs to check the night scene out.  They finally decided to go check out the bands, and they dropped me off at the Wetspot a little before 10pm.  I got a quick tour of the play space, which I really enjoyed, and then was left to explore on my own.  I found a chair in a corner and quickly headed there.  Of course.  A few guys came up to chat, but mostly I just watched a few scenes from afar.

After awhile I started to engage with more people, and by the end I was invited to help with a birthday spanking and got to be suspended by Max.  I thoroughly enjoyed both, especially the reaction of the guy I spanked.  Oh yes, I definitely think I could do more of that.  Not to say that the suspension wasn’t absolutely wonderful. It felt amazing to be back in rope again. And…well, there was some really great power dynamic going on, and once I came down the scene continued with my being forced onto my stomach with his knee in my back. Then there was a Top switchover and another guy took over, bringing pressure points and tickling into play.

Midway through this scene, one of the Wetspot volunteers came over to let me know my friends were here to pick me up.  Damn!  Clash, the top that I ended the scene with, untied me and helped bring me down. We hugged, exchanged Fetlife names, and I left with the guys, high and giddy on endorphins.

In the morning we packed up to head out to Olympic National Park.  We camped the first night there at a car campgrounds, which ended up rather complicated as we paid for our camping spot, then left to visit Hurricane Ridge with amazing views of the snow-covered mountain range, but returned to find another camper had set up camp at our spot and then left.  We looked around for other sites but couldn’t find any, so we decided to at least cook dinner at what we considered our site.  Afterwards we had no option but to wait for the other campers to return to the site and try to work something out.

It was well after dark by the time they did, and the guy who came out of his car was not happy.  We failed to compromise and instead found a small clearing somewhat in the woods to set out our sleeping bags.  The next day we left early, spent some time in the Hoh Rainforest, and camped out on the beach, which was completely surreal.  We were enshrouded by mist and fog the entire day and night, and couldn’t even see the edge of the forest that ran right up to the coast. There were giant, white-bleached piles of driftwood along the edge of the forest, plenty for making a nice fire.

Then came Portland.  We stopped there to drop Guy 2 off, his final destination for the roadtrip.  We stayed a couple nights at his new apartment and got to know his housemates, going to a bar the first night (where I proceeded to own both guys in billiards and pinball. Yeah, I’m that cool…).  One of the housemates had the day off on Monday, so he took us around the city a bit, where we visited the Rose Gardens and Powell’s gigantic bookstore (where I bought Volume 1 of Leage of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man).  That was pretty cool, they even have an entire bookshelf devoted to yaoi manga.

Otherwise though, it was miserably hot and humid the couple of days we were in Portland.  Everyone kept assuring us that this was an exception to what is usually dry heat and rain in the winter, but I was extremely happy when we headed south to Redwood National Park.

So off we went, now just Guy 1 and me, and half as much stuff since all of Guy 2’s luggage was unloaded in Portland.  What luxury!  We have an entire back seat free!  So we camp overnight in Redwood, which is an awesome place that I’d happily revisit to go through the park more thoroughly.  As it was we walked through one old growth grove, and drove through some more.  We got to see a herd of elk, including numerous bucks and a baby.  But things were a bit rushed, and I think we both just wanted to get to San Francisco.  We got into the city fairly late, and went to meet up with one of his close friends from home who’d just moved to the Mission District.

At this point I was trying to get in contact with another friend of a friend, someone I’d been e-mailing about possibly staying with him while in San Francisco.  As it turned out he lived an hour south of the city, in San Jose.  I decided to take Guy 1’s friend’s offer to stay with them the night and head to San Jose the next evening.  Guy 1 played Settlers of Catan with his friends while I perused their bookshelf and read through Volume 2 of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (having finished V.1 at Redwoods).

During the day on the 30th, we explored the city a bit, heading into Chinatown to get dim sum.  We also got to try out tea tasting which was very yummy.  After lunch Guy 1 and I split off, and I headed down Mission Street to check out the Citadel and the Armory.  I walked past both but didn’t enter either.  The Citadel was closed, and, well, I couldn’t get myself to walk into the Armory.  I walked around a lot and also got pretty tangled up with the bus system.  But finally I made my way to Folsom street and walked it from 20th to 7th street.  Lots of gay clubs and leather stores!  Big surprise there.  I didn’t go inside any that day, however.

In the afternoon I headed out to San Jose and got to experience the horror and insanity that is California highway traffic.  It was an infuriatingly long stop-and-go, just completely crammed.  I ended up extremely late to meet with my San Jose host, T.  And I hate being late.  But things worked out, and after a quick dinner T took me to a local munch to meet some kinky people.  It was actually my first munch, and it was held at a lesbian bar during lady’s night!  It was much fun, and I got to meet a bunch of great folks.

Towards the end of the night I even got my wrists tied up.  Then, on the drive home, I was handcuffed for part of the drive.

The night didn’t end there, either.  When we got back to his place, T proceeded to show me his entire handcuff collection, which was quite extensive.  He put 3 sets of cuffs on me: a huge thick collar cuff, heavy thick hand shackles, and bike locks around my ankles.  Rope quickly followed, and I found myself tied first on my back over his ottoman, then on my stomach in a severe hogtie.  I couldn’t maintain that position very long so he loosened the ropes after that.

By the end of it I was exhausted and promptly fell asleep in the guest room.

I headed back into the city the next morning to explore more of Folsom, having been given a list of stores I should visit.  So I browsed through some of the leather stores, checking out their whips and asking about evil sticks.  Alas, none stocked the latter.  (Ava thinks I’m crazy for even thinking about looking for them, heehee.  Yeah, it’s pretty messed up, I admit.)

By afternoon I was done window shopping, so I settled into a café and caught up a bit on internet stuff.  Caught up later with Guy 1, and we headed to the beach for a bit before he headed over to his friend’s for the night and I left again for San Jose.  Traffic was again fairly miserable, though I got a little more of a head start this time.  Tonight there was a party at Edges, a playspace in San Jose, so after a delicious dinner of clam and mussel pasta, we headed over to play!

Edges is a fantastic playspace, with themed rooms: an exam room for medical play, a schoolroom for teacher/student stuff, a main dungeon area, and several other areas.  It also has a social area that’s completely separate from the playspaces, making for a nice room to talk without music or darker lighting.

I got tied up within minutes of getting a tour of the place, with my legs free so I could still walk around.  I watched T play with someone else for awhile before wandering a bit on my own and striking up conversation with the few other people around.  I also ended up in metal wristcuffs by one of the DMs.  But a little while later, one of the guys I’d met at the munch, who’d offered to give me my first fireplay experience, reminded me the offer was still open.  I took him up after a little resistance (not wanting to take off my clothes), and the rope and cuffs were taken off so that I could go with him.  We went into one of the more private rooms, I took my dress off, and he laid out his fire equipment.

It was an intense experience.  It hurt, but after awhile it also felt good.  My body tensed each time the fire was applied anywhere on my back or stomach, but it was easier to take on my legs.  Then there was fire cupping, which was fairly awesome.  I still have the round marks left from the glass cups.  It’s hard to really describe the scene, but there was cuddling afterwards and decompressing, after which I just felt drained.  After helping clean up and wandering for a little while longer, I crashed on a couch in the social lounge until T came to wake me up and leave.

When we got back, I started heading upstairs to the guest room.  T was right behind me, and as I started into the room he gently but firmly redirected me to his office, where he had a large, metal cage.  There was a comforter laid out on the bottom.

I crawled inside, and he fed a pillow and blanket through the bars for me.  Then he locked the cage, turned off the light, and went to his bedroom.  And so I slept that night in a cage, for the very first time.

I slept well, in case you were wondering.  In the morning I was let out but immediately handcuffed, and that is how I took my morning shower.

I also ate breakfast and packed up my things in the hinged cuffs, until finally it was time to leave.  There was a little snag with one cuff getting stuck, but T got it unlocked and after a hug I left for the city again.  This time I had offered to help with Wicked Grounds, the new kink cafe and boutique opening up sometime soon.  Unfortunately California decided that Saturday morning was a good time to close off an entire length of highway and force 4 lanes of traffic into two exit lanes, all completely abruptly, right before said exit.  Needless to say, I was pissed.

After I calmed down at a café for a bit, I headed off to Wicked Grounds.  There I met Rose and Kitty and started moving boxes and cleaning things up.  At one point, Kitty asked how I felt about humiliation play.  Busy texting on my phone, I replied rather distractedly that I was fine with humiliation.

“Great!” he said. “Here’s a scraper, can you please scrape the gum off the bottom of the bar?”

And so I did.

I continued to help out where I could for the rest of the morning.  Kitty and I got a quick lunch at Subway, and later in the afternoon I drove Rose to pick off her kitties, who’d had to be cleaned because they’d gotten fleas.  We took them back to her apartment, and there we chatted and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon until it was time for me to pick up Guy 1 and head off to Santa Barbara.

Needless to say, I was feeling pretty good about San Francisco, though still unsure whether I can afford to live there.  Guy 1 and I headed off to Santa Barbara to try and find a beach with cliffs and caves that his brother had strongly recommend we visit based on his own roadtrip.  It was already very late when we got to the area, and trying to find the right beach was difficult.  We even got pulled over for driving erratically on a local road, though the cops let us go, even pointing us in the direction of the beach.

Finally, some godforsaken hour past midnight, we hiked into a beach and decided to just camp somewhere.  We set up a fire, and when it was apparent the campstove wasn’t working, we got water boiling over the fire for pasta.

The meal ended up being delicious, probably all the more so for being tired and cranky.  We’d also bought some wine, and broke that out to celebrate.  Once we were full and warm, Guy 1 started asking about bondage.  I perked up at that, and it soon became apparent he wanted to know more.  I’d left my rope in the car, but we made do with the string we’d brought for tying up the sleeping bag and pad.  I showed him some simple ties, and we took turns tying each other up.

By this point I had my suspicions about his intentions.  These were verified when we walked down to the water and he stripped and dove in.  We ran back to the fire to warm up, and he egged me to do the same.  I finally agreed, but only if I could punch him both before and after.  I got to punch him, and then we ran down, I stripped, and we got into the water.  It actually was quite pleasant, and then we ran back to the fire to warm up.  So here we are, both naked and wet, sitting by a campfire on the beach.

What could possibly have happened next?

It started with him massaging me.  That was pleasant, and I offered to return the favor.  Then he massaged me some more, but leaned closer, so that I could feel his back and really obvious erection.

This made me giddy.  I don’t know if it was just the strangeness of it all, since I’d been so tired and cranky when we’d first hiked to the beach, or if it was the wine, or if it was just because it’d been so long since I’d been naked with a guy.  But in any case, I felt incredibly emboldened.  I suggested we lay out our sleeping bags, and we started kissing and fondling on top of them.

I reached for his cock, and soon after his fingers slipped inside me.  My God, but that felt so good after a month’s long abstinence.  While he wasn’t quite as rough as I liked, it felt wonderful.  We jerked each other off, cuddled a bit, and fell asleep soon after.

So I suppose there isn’t too much left to write about.  We packed up and after a brief visit to another friend in Santa Barbara, left for LA, where we have since stayed since Guy 1’s flight leaves in less than 12 hours from LAX.  We spent a bit of time at Santa Monica beach which is beautiful, and have eaten out for every meal, which has been tough on our wallets.

I don’t know what it’ll be like, having to make the drive back up to San Francisco alone.  The car will feel mighty empty without any other passengers and with much less luggage in it.  I rather dread the long drive, but I can’t wait to have the opportunity to finally settle somewhere.

I guess that’s the end of the roadtrip.  It’s been an amazing month, and I am thankful I did it, and for the friends I have made along the way.  I have tons of photos to process and send out, but that won’t happen for awhile.

In the meantime, I’ve also been preparing for Burning Man, which happens in less than a month now.  Finally found a (absolutely wonderful) group to camp with, making me all the more excited to go.  Just another surreal experience to add to an already surreal summer.

But now,  it is time for bed.

Categories: travelog

WickedGrounds

July 31, 2009 Leave a comment

Hail from San Francisco!  Visiting the coastal cities has been amazing, making it all that much harder to pick one in which to settle.

There is still a lot to catch up on, but first I want to give some blog love to a new store that’s getting ready to open in San Francisco next week: Wicked Grounds.  They’re planning to open by next Tuesday, but to make it happen need as much help as possible this weekend.  I’ll be getting over there early in the morning to do what I can before we have to leave for Santa Barbara and LA.  Perhaps I will see some of you there!

Wicked Grounds font

289 8th Street
San Francisco

CA 94103

Categories: news, travelog

More tales from the road

July 27, 2009 1 comment

It is hard to pick up from where I left off the last time I could actually sit down to write.  So much has happened, and I have been overwhelmed at the kindness and graciousness of the people I have met along the way – many of them strangers – who have helped my companions and me continue our roadtrip.

After camping the night in Missouri, we spent the day driving through Oklahoma headed towards Santa Fe.  Halfway through Oklahoma in pretty sparse country, the tire that had been repaired in Cleveland ruptured, completely destroyed.  We got AAA to send us a tow truck but it took over an hour of waiting in humid, 114 degree weather before it arrived.  And then when the driver was loading up the car, he told us the blown tire was the least of our worries, because our fuel tank was askew, the straps holding it place having completely rusted through.  One strap had snapped already.

Wonderful.  20 miles later at the tire place, the mechanics used a bit of coat hanger to hold the pieces of strap together until we could get to a real auto repair place.  Unfortunately it was already too late in the day to really look for a mechanic, not to mention we were still in the middle of nowhere.  We decided to risk driving with the fuel tank held up by a rusty strap and a coat hanger to get to Santa Fe.

As we passed through the panhandle of Texas, it was getting later in the evening and we hadn’t been able to eat dinner.  We stopped at Amarillo and decided to cook dinner on a bit of grass outside a gas station.  That alone is pretty epic, and our campstove-cooked meal was all the more delicious for the long day we’d endured.  Stopped by some auto parts stores asking about my car, and had the manager of one place look at our car himself and tell us what we needed to get.  We didn’t buy the parts there, but were thankful all the same that he’d taken the time to actually look at the car.  Ended up camping at (what we thought was) a national park near Santa Fe, but it was 1am by the time we stumbled, dead tired, onto a side road and put down our sleeping bags on a hill nearby, and we really didn’t care where we were.

Only to be awoken by repeated car honking the next morning, followed by a heavily accented voice yelling at us to get off of private propery.  Oops!  We got out of there quickly and drove the rest of the way into Santa Fe.  This was Saturday, July 11th.  Being Saturday, most auto places would be closed early, so we drove around quickly looking for autoparts stores, junkyards, and dealers.  Having gotten information from the Autozone manager the previous day about what had now become a series of car issues, we had more direction and information to help us.  At this point, we needed new fuel tank straps, a new oxygen sensor, a new spare tire, and to find out why my power steering fluid kept getting used up.

Well, to make a long, all-too lengthy story short, we found straps and a donut at a junkyard, but no mechanic to install the straps.  Figuring that we’d made it this far, we took the chance to drive all the way to Colorado Springs and find a mechanic there.

We made it, luckily, and spent the next couple of days in Colorado Springs at Guy 2’s old house, where he had to figure out how to package his belongings to get it out to Portland and stuff the rest into my car.  In the meantime, we cooked delicious meals, hung out, jammed with guitars, banjos, hand drums, and harmonicas, and played disc golf.  It was nice and relaxing to be in one place for so long and get to know the people there.  But once we’d finally gotten the car more or less fixed, I at least was ready to hit the road again.  Guy 2 still had personal belongings to package and ship, and Guy 1 had a friend in Denver he wanted to visit, so I went to Denver with him to spend the night with his friend and to give Guy 2 more time to pack.

Denver was fun and beautiful, though I was sad not to have made it to Boulder as well.  We just had no time.  It was also in Denver that I fell out of a tree.  Yes, folks, gravity works and getting down a tree is always more difficult than climbing up one.  Guy 1 and I saw this magnificent old willow tree at a park we’d gone to to hang out a bit, and neither of us could resist clambering up.  It had a perfect, practically flat nesting area from which three enormous branches reached out.  Unfortunately, while trying to get down without hitting the asphalt or the tree roots with my bare feet, I instead landed on my hip and leg on hard-packed sand.

Graceful, I know.  I limped for quite a while after that, and it still twinges now and then.

Anyway, we stopped in Colorado Springs to pick Guy 2 and his bags up, then headed to Aspen to meet up with another of Guy 1’s friends.  This one was in Aspen working tech for a science forum, and could get us in on some free receptions and an amazing hotel suite.  It was all so lavish.  I would never have expected to have been able to eat the kind of food I had and sleep at such a hotel on this trip.  The dinner reception had steak cooked to order, shrimp appetizers, and a free open bar of beer and wine.

After that surreal stop, we headed west, to the Canyonlands in Utah.  It was a spectacular stop, and we camped the night at a designated campground and woke up at 4am to hike out to an outlook for the sunrise.  I was reminded once again of why I’d fallen in love with the desert, back in high school during a summer camp spent in Arizona.  The landscape is awe-inspiring and terrifying in its vastness.  Among the canyons, you at once feel on top of the world and an impossibly tiny speck of a place so much grander and vaster than can possibly be comprehended fully.  At least, that is how I feel when I see these canyons.  Pictures do it poor justice in comparison.

After sunrise we drove to another trailhead and hiked out to another outlook.  Along the way we saw many little lizards scuttling across our paths, and Guy 1 and I both tried so hard to catch one.  I finally did on the hike back, but it quickly squirmed out of my hand and fled.

By this time our food stores had been depleted somewhat, so that our breakfast before the hike consisted of peanuts, peanut butter, limes, and fruit leathers.  So we stopped on the way to Salt Lake City at Moab to buy groceries.  There I saw a family coasting down Main Street on Segways.  Fascinating.  We got to Salt Lake City early in the afternoon, to another of Guy 1’s friend’s houses.  Guy 1’s connections provided a lot of the stops we took along the way after Chicago, giving us amazing company and a roof over our heads many a night.

One commonality I’ve noticed about the families we’ve stayed with along the way is the incredible “green-ness” of their lifestyles.  At Salt Lake City the family grew a bunch of their own food, always bought from local farmers, and had recently redone their water system to use less water.

Anyway, we attended a free concert that night, then we stopped at a hookah bar before going to bed.  I opted to sleep on the porch as it was dry and warm, but woke up with fresh mosquito bites all along my legs.  In the morning we cooked a quick breakfast, packed up, and headed out for Yellowstone!  We were all pretty excited and eager to get there, so of course we ended up blowing another tire, this time truly in the middle of nowhere in the Southeastern corner of Utah, on an unpaved road with no cell phone reception.  The donut we’d bought at the junkyard that we thought would fit my car didn’t fit, and we had no way of getting a call to AAA.

On the plus side, we’re pretty sure we saw a pair of golden eagles overhead, and then lo and behold, a car came up the road where we were stranded.  After he stopped and assessed the situation, the driver offered to take us back to his cabin not 2 miles on down the road, so that we could use his landline to call AAA.  As it turned out, he and his family were staying at a family-owned cabin for the weekend to celebrate his daughter’s birthday, so the atmosphere inside was festive and cheerful.  When we finally got through to AAA, we decided it wouldn’t make sense to get towed then, as it was late and there would be no autorepair stores open.  Instead, the family invited us to stay the night in extra rooms in the very well-equipped cabin and have the tow truck pick us up in the morning.

Throughout the evening and morning, we experienced some of the best hospitality, all from these strangers, who fed us, took us out in the evening on a drive around the area, and made us feel like old friends come back after a long trip.  I can never forget those two days, with their extreme contrast of desperate circumstance and amazing generosity.

The next couple of days continued the trend.  But first there was Yellowstone.  After finally getting the car towed, the tow driver took us back to where he is stationed, which meant a no-charge tow, and at long last we rolled into Yellowstone, only to be told it was too late to apply for a backcountry permit at 3:45pm.  We ended up camping in campgrounds between Yellowstone and the Tetons, and it worked out in the end.  The scenery is gorgeous and breathtaking, as expected.  And when we did get to a backcountry site the next day, there are thermal springs and small geysers everywhere, and a nearby cold creek for taking refreshing dips.

What we failed to realize, however, was that 1) we’d pitched our tent over an underground thermal spring, so the ground was more than toasty, and we could hear faint bubbling when we laid down to sleep; and 2) Yellowstone mosquitoes are frighteningly aggressive and numerous.  Between the three of us, we used up a can of Deep Woods bugspray that didn’t seem to faze the mosquitoes one bit.  Guy 2, damn him, seemed nonplussed as he barely got a reaction from mosquito bites, but between me and Guy1 we had over 100 bites by the time we left the Park.  I was actually in tears on the 5-mile hike out of our campsite.

Yes, it was that bad.  Imagine the air literally humming with a hundred mosquitoes.  Imagine waving your arms and hitting 10 mosquitoes with each swat.  Imagine sitting in a tent and seeing mosquitoes darkening the tent walls outside.  It was something out of a horror film.

Dear reader, it is with complete, heartfelt compassion that I say, you camp in Firehole Spring, campsite OA3, at your own risk.  I swear I was lightheaded from bloodloss by the time we left that god-awful place.

(Ok, it wasn’t all that bad, at night when it was cold the mosquitoes left us alone, and we hiked down to Shoshone Lake, which would’ve been refreshing if the sun had been out.  The geysers were wonderful.)

Anyway, having finally left, we stopped to see Old Faithful, making a quick lunch of ramen and PB&J in the parking lot while we awaited for the scheduled time for Old Faithful to blow.  This simple act of sustenance would end up setting us back a day.  We all agreed that the ramen tasted off, but ate it anyway. As we headed towards our next crashing place in Montana, I started feeling sick, and by the time we got there I just headed for the bathroom to empty my stomach.  Not having learned my lesson, I tried to join everyone for dinner as though nothing had happened and tried to eat a burger.

Yeah, that also went into the toilet.  Having decided that maybe something wasn’t quite right with my stomach, I admitted that I’m feeling queasy and can’t keep food down to the host.  His mom quickly took charge, telling me not to down anything for at least 4 hours and preparing Pedialyte and Gatorade for later.  She set up an empty bedroom for me to lie down in, and I immediately fell asleep.

Whew.  Ok, this is insanely long already, and we’re only at July 20th.  Both me and my computer need a break from this Portland heat and humidity, so I’ll try and catch up to current status a little later.  Time to jump in a bucket of ice (or something).

Categories: travelog