Posts Tagged ‘traveling traveling traveling’
I’m catching a plane tomorrow for Anchorage, where the third annual Northern Exposure kink conference will be taking place.
NE is run by Sarha, who was just sashed International Ms. Leather 2013 at the IMsL weekend and contest in April in San Francisco. I was on the judging panel for this year’s IMsL contest, and while I promise I didn’t play favorites (Alaska rules!), I’m thrilled that my home state is representing the leather community this year, and I’m really excited to participate in the conference she produces.
The lineup looks pretty incredible. Though NE is remote, Sarha has attracted an incredible group of presenters who are teaching on a wide array of advanced topics. I’m particularly interested in the many M/s workshops that are offered, and I suspect I’ll be sitting in on as many of those as I can, taking copious notes. That’s a recent study subject of mine that I am really enjoying delving deeper into. I’m also really excited that Midori is presenting! I have been in classes of hers before, but it’s been many years, and I’m looking forward to learning from her. Lee Harrington is also going to be teaching!
Northern Exposure happens to coincide with Pride fest, so Sarha hooked me up with the folks over there, and I’m going to be teaching Writing Dirty, my skills for writing about sex class, on Thursday night (tomorrow!). I’m up against Drag Queen Bingo, so I suspect it might be a small class, but I hope we’ll have some good discussions and write some interesting sentences. I LOVE teaching writing classes, and often the ideal class number is something like 7-12, so I will be very happy with a small class.
The boy is coming with me. We’ve met at leather conferences before, but aside from IMsL in April, we haven’t actually come and gone from one together. And at IMsL, we didn’t get to play much (you know, just once or twice a day for short scenes, no big epic gang bang like at Winter Fire, no long, elaborate scene like at last year’s IMsL. I’m glad he’ll be there with me. I’m only teaching one class, Cock Confidence, aside from the writing class for Alaska Pride, so I should have some really nice time to play.
(Hopefully I’ll come back with some good stories to tell y’all.)
And, speaking of IMsL.
International Ms. Leather 2013 Sarha and International Ms. Bootblack 2013 bella join the IMsL and IMsBB alumni on stage at this year’s contest and leather weekend
I’d never judged a leather contest before. I attended IMsL the year before, but I’m not particularly familiar with leather contests. I’ve been more and more involved with the leather scene in the past few years, attending more leather conferences, events, and happy hours, and participating in more conversations online about leather and reading up on leather history and culture, but I’ve only recently really come to understand the difference between BDSM, kink, and leather, which, though related, are slightly different.
I’ve been kinky since as long as I can remember, adding sensation play and power dynamics to my friendships, playtimes, and interactions since my first adolescent sexual experimentations, and probably even a bit before that. I’ve considered myself part of the BDSM communities since … well, at least formally since about 1999 when I got my official membership to the SPCC, the Sex Positive Community Center (now the Center for Sex Positive Culture) in Seattle. But I’d only ever really gone to classes or events to gain a particular skill to take back to my bedroom—I never really stuck around in the leather community.
Until recently. Really it was Dark Odyssey that started me on that path in a significant way. I thought I was familiar with leather culture and the kink/BDSM worlds, but when I started teaching more at leather events, I experienced how different it really was, and realized how I’d longed for leather community even without knowing it. I was on the board of the Lesbian Sex Mafia in New York City around that time, too—clearly seeking some more kinky community, not just to support my own kinky efforts but also to immerse myself in and learn new, different things.
I found a lot of what I was seeking at Dark Odyssey, and I found a lot of people who really felt like my people in a new way. (I’m kind of sad to be missing Fusion, which is next week! But it was either Fusion or Northern Exposure, and I’m so glad to be in Alaska right now. I don’t know if I’ll make it to Summer Camp in Maryland in September, but I would really like to. I’ve been two years in a row and I’ll miss it if I’m not there.)
So when I ran into Glenda Ryder, who runs IMsL, at Summer Camp last summer, I was thrilled to consider the possibility of being a judge for IMsL 2013. I knew very little about the history of leather contests, what it pertains, what a judge would do (aside from the obvious, duh), but I’d attended once (and watched almost exactly 20 minutes of the contest) and was interested in being more involved with leather culture, so I said yes.
The judges judging | The judges brief moment in the spotlight, onstage, when they introduced us
I spent more time with the judges panel than anyone else that weekend, and they were lovely people I’m thrilled to know. (One of my favorite activities was passing dirty fairy tale stories back and forth with Tillie during the contest.) It was great to spend some time with KD Diamond, and Sarah Vibes, both of whom I know from New York, and to meet Woody, the current International Mr. Leather, and hear more about the traditions of leather, fundraising, queerness, and history.I spent so much time at the contest part of the conference itself that weekend in April that I barely had time to do much else—I didn’t attend any of the workshops, though I wish I had. I did send my boy to attend a power exchange relationships class called “Exploring and Deepening M/s, D/s and PowerExchange Relationships” taught by Liza and Jody, which was excellent, from what he relayed, and he took many interesting notes and gathered some concepts we still discuss. I also participated in a author’s meet and greet with Mollena, Laura Antoniou, and Tillie King (one of my fellow judges), hosted by Mr. and Ms. SF Leather, where we read some snippets of our work (and got to see many of the literarily-inclined folks at the conference congregate in one place, which totally got me hard).
Oh! And, here’s a quick sidenote: Laura Antoniou read from her most recent book, The Killer Wore Leather, which is a murder mystery set at a leather contest conference weekend. I picked up the audiobook on Audible.com for the long 5-day drive through Canada to Alaska, and Rife and I have been listening to it and really enjoying it. The reader is excellent, and the story is really fun. It’s kind of amazing to see our community through an outsider’s lens, and it’s also a very tight insider’s satire. If you want to know more about leather community, this book is definitely a fun place to start. Full review to come when we finally finish the book.
I also taught a Flirting & Foreplay class, for which Rife designed a little IMsL flirting bingo card, which was a fantastic hit. I want to do that again, and I think all leather conferences should have a flirting bingo card in their conference bags.
I don’t have tons to say about the actual contest itself, aside from that it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed being behind the scenes but still in an important role as a judge, as someone described it to me that weekend. I don’t always want to have attention on me, but I do like to be important, somehow, so that felt good. I thought the contestants were incredibly well spoken, all had very impressive resumes (and formal leather), and had both new young spunkiness and wise experience from many years of serving and guiding and participating in these communities. I learned a lot.
I’d prefer to go to more classes, and I’m looking forward to being more of a participant at Northern Exposure this coming weekend than I will be working. I hope to have some fun, learn some things, and have lots of conversations about what it’s like to be kinky in Alaska.
I’ve got lots more things to say about Sarha and how she won (she won!) on an excellent platform about outreach to leather in little towns and not just big cities, how she excited (and kinda scared) everyone with her black bear fur lined chaps (where do you think leather comes from, folks?) and how it felt to have my Alaskan identity coming together with my queer and kink identities, too. I could talk about the MC and how unimpressed I was with her racist jokes (just because you “make fun of everybody” does not exclude you from racism). I could talk about the beautiful redhead who had a pet girl on a leash with her all weekend, and a new friendship and relationship that has bloomed from a distance. But this post is already 1600 words long, and it’s time to go to bed, even though it’s 10:44pm and the sky is still light.
It’s going to be even lighter in Anchorage. I’m really looking forward to soaking up all the midnight sun I possibly can.
(Official conference photos by Rich Trove, thanks Rich!, except for the instagram ones taken by me.)
Well, hi. I’m in Seattle tonight, but it’s the last night here before rife and I and his puppy begin the five-day drive to my hometown in southeast Alaska.
It’s been an incredible journey so far. Though the drive from San Francisco to Seattle could be feasibly done in a (long) day, I took my time and leisurely drove through Oregon, watching the ground change from brown & tan grass and green trees to green grass and evergreen trees. Forest green, I think they call that color.
pit stop in southern Oregon
faery sanctuary at Wolf Creek, Oregon
Black Butte, next to Mt Shasta, Oregon
I had this illusion like I would still be able to write stories and follow up on things while I was on the road. Um, so that has not really happened yet. Which means I haven’t sent a) the dirty story that I promised when you donated some $$, or b) the information about the internship position for Sugarbutch for the summer. Sorry about that. I promise they are coming, and will magically appear in your inbox at just precisely the right moment (for those of you who asked about those things). Sometimes reality checks are fantastic, and I’m observing my behavior and the reality of the situation a lot, trying to take it in and realize what I am actually capable of. I’ll be honest, I miss spending a significant chunk of time each day at my desk, at a computer, but I’m also very glad to be outside, exploring, interacting, adventuring.
Portland tour! Stumptown & Voodoo Donuts (Joe had to get the pink donut)
Mt Rainier national park
Seattle. (Exhale. Nowhere else feels quite like home the way Seattle does.)
Greenlake, one of my favorite Seattle parks | Polaris Leather Family crest, who so graciously put us up this entire week | sunset from the Edmonds-Kingston ferry when we made a quick jaunt over to the Olympic penninsula
Seattle forest view from a dog park
Shilshole Marina | boy on the friend’s boat | the Chittenden locks, where the man-made ship canal connects the lakes to the sound
At the poetry benefit show for Tara Hardy, which blew me away. She has been one of my great life mentors, and she’s recently developed a pretty severe auto-immune disorder (among, it seems, some other things). The community rally to support her has been huge, and I just happened to be in town when a community fundraising show was going on.
Fremont (Center of the Universe) | University of Washington! the dog in the quad & the broken obelisk
Coyote Grace at the Triple Door in Seattle. If you aren’t listening to their music (and you’re a fan of smart queer poetic folk-country), you are missing out.
Rife and I mapped out the drive between here and southeast Alaska this morning, and I think it’s going to take about five days, but we’ll be stopping at some beautiful places, including Takhini Hot Springs near Whitehorse, YT, which used to be a family vacation for me as a kid and which I haven’t visited for probably twenty years. It’s such a beautiful drive and I’m really looking forward to seeing the Rockies and the continental divide and the mountains and forests of my childhood.
I ran into a friend tonight (I run into a lot of people here) who asked what I was up to, and I said I was on my way home, mentioned that my dad died last year and that my mom was about to retire and his estate still needs a lot of work to settle, and that in addition to the help I can offer, I’m going through a big transition (breakup, move across the country) and sorting through “stuff” and making order out of chaos sounds so healing right now. I still seek and need integration time. That’s the purpose of this.
And while I still feel like that is just out of reach, it’s been incredible to spend a week in Seattle, to visit my godson and my favorite people and old and new friends, to go around to many of my old haunts, to introduce my boy to my people and my many Seattle reference points, and to just feel the earth here for a while. My parents both went to my alma matter, too, and spent many years here … I’m just so comfortable here. Which, to be honest, is part of why I left—I liked it so much, but it was the first place I really landed after leaving home, isn’t there some better place out there for me? Turns out, after criss-cross traveling this country for the last four years, there’s not really. Sure, many other cities are wonderful, but this one still calls me.
I have SO many more thoughts and things to write about, I have been scribbling like crazy in my notebook about posts and outlines and theories to flesh out. Still working on the follow through, the preparation it takes to hit that “publish” button.
But for now, tonight, it’s time to call it a day and get some rest before putting the car in drive and aiming north.
For more shots not published here, check out mrsexsmith on Instagram & follow along in my adventures.
I’ve started crying on airplanes. It used to be ginger ale, now it’s wine. I probably should have eaten more than a bagel, should have had more for dinner last night than a whiskey flight and a kiss, but now I am crying and beginning to hear the beat of a second heart in my chest.
I am exhausted. I’d like to sleep for a year. By which I mean, I’d like to turn down my consciousness in order to have some rest. My rest has not been deep enough, has not penetrated my bones. Too much has happened in the past year. I opened up my chest from the back and wings sprang out, and now I cannot wear my shirts or binders or coats or old patterns anymore. Nothing fits. I am running, running to catch up with myself, when really I’m supposed to be flying. Why else would I have these new tools?
But sometimes my pen won’t move. I love and love and love, aching to make sense, make meaning, make love with my every movement, and sometimes all I can do is collapse because I’m overfull and not full enough. An underactive nervous system prone to depression and shutting down, a blank page. Still I ache and move and nourish and detox and meditate. Still I feel this pulsing in my chest, faint like something coming from within the walls, this second heart beating and every once in a while blinking a tiny little light like a pulsar star. I want to build. To do something with all of this love and throbbing energy and heat and pure life force I am lucky enough to have. I hope to never forget to be grateful for every breath of air I magically take in, every moment of reception, penetration, release, surrender, power. I can’t help but course it all through my every vein.
I am starting to cry on airplanes. It is a place I can rest, so high above my email inbox and big loves (I count five) and the ground floor surface of earth’s crust. I am lightheaded up here, stripped of the daily needs of the world, and when I drop down under my days I find this ache. This exhaustion. This ongoing fear of misunderstanding. This curse of a body, of mortality, of injustice. I haven’t reconciled. I miss the clarity and discovery of youth, of innocence. I’d like to make sense of so many things, like how the black holes grow within us and what it could ever take to fill them, like how stone can trickle away through consistent gentle water, like why humans destroy each other from the inside out. I can’t seem to find meaning in wars, but still I engage, sometimes late at night with the ones I love most. Sometimes silently stowing my own cocks in empty boxes unworthy. Sometimes desperate sorrow. Sometimes the silent blank faith of the line without the next word.
The first day I had wings, it was awkward and inconsistent. The second day I toppled over, top heavy. The third day my errands were effortless.
I guess that’s all I want. Less effort, more sweetness. Less struggle, more radical empathy. To cry because it feels good to release, above, hurdling through the sky, the taste of wine on my tongue.