Sunday, July 8, 2018

Nap Rooms and Small Acts of Survival

I need to sit down for a bit, I said.

You know there’s a nap room? my friend replied.


I followed my friend thru a door down a short hall. Sharp left.  There is was.  A long and narrow room.  Four bean bags. Lighting not dim but not bright. The base beat from the main room of the club below came up thru the floor.  The brighter disco music from the bar down the halls permeated lightly as well.

Whoozy. I felt whoozy.  It wasn’t as bad as I’d worried it could be.  I laid down on the bean bag.  I thrashed about a bit first like our dog does sometimes before settling into a spot. I’m big. Six foot three and more than 200 pounds.  So the bean bag was disproportionate. I didn’t want to be greedy by taking more than one. 

This felt safe.  Like a place I could be for a while.  My molly was peaking.   Cresting. Overwhelming.  Why doesn’t every club have a nap room?!  I’d thought I’d thought that but I said it out loud.  I said it out loud many times that night.  Any many times after. 

Tonite will be different.  Tonite this whooziness will pass and I’ll stand up and rejoin the party. The party downstairs. Down the hall. Up on the roof.  I just need some time.  Some time in this nap room.

People rotated in a checked on me.  Sat on a corner of the bean bag and talked or just sat.  Other partiers came and went. Mummer mummer prattle tattle bahaha.  I closed my eyes and listened.

Do you want an Adderall?

YES! Please.  

My hope hoped that addy would be like a life preserver tossed out to me on a line.  The addy will pull be back to land and I will be able to stand without the whoosh and the whoozy and rejoin the party. 

And it did.  I did.  I leaned forward off the bean bag and my thighs and quads found my knees and my calves and my feet and I was upright again.  Sturdily standing I put one foot in front of the other and left the nap room.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

August Wilson Wrote 10 Plays that Chronicle the 20th Century African-American Experience

This is a short piece I wrote about August Wilson Century Cycle published at this week. Wilson wrote ten plays, each set in a different decade to tell collectively thru different stories the 20th century African-American experience in America.

Playwright Lorraine Hansberry's 'A Raisin in the Sun' as Black Activism

The first of my articles for was published earlier this week.  The assignment was to 800-100 words on the artist (Lorraine Hansberry) and the work (A Raisin in the Sun) - the cultural and historical context and continuing legacy and relevance.

...The Younger family is waiting for a $10,000 life insurance check resulting from the father’s recent death. The windfall represents a kind of liberation to the family with the central conflict over how to spend the money...

Monday, February 19, 2018

Drag - Rid the Id and Let the Ego Run Wild

Someone reminded me recently that while roaming the merch and seen-and-be-seen pathways of RuPaul's NYC DragCon 2017, my boyfriend managed to opine for Screening by Mashable: Day Jobs of Drag Queens

I ended up closing out the video with things I don't mind being quoted as saying.

"I hate to say something completely cliche but it's all drag."

"And at the end of the day we get to put on costumes and get rid of some of the id and let the ego run wild!"

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Defenseless (Salt Lake City, Utah - 2014)

I just needed to point my skis down the hill and go.

“POINT YOUR SKIS DOWN THE HILL AND GOOO!” my instructor shouted up at me.  

He didn't shout at me like a coach encouraging little leaguers.  He wasn't Burgess Meredith bellowing and berating at Rocky.  He instructed me.  Loudly.  Forcefully. Relentlessly.

We stood apart on an empty slope on “green” run in Snowbird, Utah; 20 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City.  It was mid April and the snow was good, the air cold, and the sky a pervasive gray.  The sun was nowhere to be seen though it back-light the sky leaving that “bright clouds” effect.  This was my third day of skiing. Ever.

“POINT YOUR SKIS DOWN THE HILL AND GOOO!” he instructed up at me again.  

The really shitty thing about mutherfucking skiing is that the only real way to get back down to sanity and safety is to ski down the cocksucking run.  It’s a billion times harder to hike down the hill in the vices, er boots, you wear that pitch you ever forward.  If I had wanted to quit and march down to the lodge I would have passed out and died on the way from sheer exhaustion.  And I didn't want to quit.  I wanted to ski down the hill.  I was paying a lot of money to learn how to do this.

I looked down at my feet and gathered my intention to move.


This guy never let up, for Christ's sake. He was a good guy. He was ruddy, rough, and humorless.  He was a big man with a raspy voice and a red face from all those days on the slopes.

On the lifts, going down the runs, in the cafe, the instructing never stopped.  If I tried to articulate my fear or get clever about my tiredness, he wouldn't allow it...or even acknowledge it.  He was the single most earnest and inexhaustible teacher I had ever met.  

So I was left bare of the sophisticated defenses I employ to diffuse intense moments.  And I had never faced fear like this before.  Paralyzing.  I stood at the top of that hill, a 43 year old man, with my beginner lessons giving me a pretty good foundation.  I should have been able to go and I couldn't.  I had never had that experience; the feeling that I don’t know how to move forward. I live my life at a breakneck pace, with boundless confidence.  There I stood with none of that.


I looked up.  Shimmied my skis straight.  I looked down the hill.  Never a more perilous drop had anyone ever seen.  I tipped the skis down the slope and moved forward.  Then I turned, shifted my weight so that one heel pressed hard and I moved horizontally across the run.  



In what felt like 20 minutes, but what was no time at all, I arrived at the flat part where my instructor stood.  I wish I had felt exhilarated but the experience was more like shock; a disbelief that I had been up there and now I was down here.  Looking up it was neither as far nor as steep as it had been when staring it down.  

I didn’t die which is insipid to say.  I never thought I would die.  I didn't even really think I would hurt myself.  At the top of that slope I just had no idea how I would move forward and get down the hill.  And now I was there.  Or at least that much further.  There were still a half dozen stretches to go and then we would just go up and ski down more.

“Good,” he said as a matter of fact and not as praise.  “You did that.  You looked where you were going, right?  When you’re walking in New York City do you look at the ground or out in front of you.  You don’t worry about your feet taking you where you want to go.  You trust that they can do that, right?”

“Well, I do look at the ground a lot.  The sidewalks in New York can be treacherous, filled with cracks and potholes.”

He interrupted me, “So you’re that guy; looking down, bumping into people!  You’re the guy I have to look out for when I’m walking in that city!”

I gave up then for good.  He was right.  Even if he was wrong about walking in New York City which requires looking up down and sideways and behind you at all times.  My arguing with him was an equivocation with myself.  His lessons were right and profound.  To really get somewhere I must look out at the destination, or at least in the direction of my intentions.  Looking at my feet gives false comfort.  Trust instead that my feet will take me where I set my intention.  If the feet fail then I would have fallen onto soft snow and then got up and went again.  If I would feel out of control then I could slow down or stop without leaving the experience or evading my emotions.  

It was an extraordinary experience that day to face paralyzing fear.  The advantage of aging is confidence.  A sureness in yourself, in your capabilities.  I knew for myself that the things that might have brought me down - like a divorce, a job loss, a housing crisis and a recession, did not break me.  I was battered and bruised but resilient.  Or so I thought.  That fortitude also somehow managed to bury my vulnerability.  But that day on the slope, the challenge and that instructor laid me bare.  And that felt…..terrifying and exposed.  I didn't overcome that fear.  I went straight through it all the way down that hill.  

Did that feel good?  No.  Satisfying.  Perhaps.  A part of myself, the part that feels sad, scared, angry, was rescued that day.  Pulled back to the surface.  Emancipated, but just a bit.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Blog Post - Daddy Got Weepy at the Leatherman (NYC & Chicago, 2011 & ‘12)

It was the Sunday before Memorial Day.  I was standing in The Leatherman booth at the market at IML (International Mister Leather) in Chicago deciding on which paddle to buy.  

That’s when the bewildering tears came, creeping out of the corners of my eyes at first.  

First let me explain to the uninitiated IML takes over an entire convention hotel in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend every year.  It’s a competition where the crown princes of 2012 leathermen contests around the world come to compete for the literal title of “International Mister Leather.”  

Concurrently thousands of men to come to gear up in leather, rubber, neoprene/, puppy play, and/or wrestling singlets or whatever else makes those men feel good and empowered.  Fetishes are played out between parties with always readily available sex.  It’s a good community of sex positive guys letting their freak flag unfurl and fly.  

I was 41 then and looking pretty good, fit, in jeans, boots, and my leather vest; sort of an afternoon leather daddy casual approach for midday fetish and gear shopping.  Already tall, my boots added an inch or two and then my leather trooper cap created some imposing height.  And there I stood shocked by the tears falling lighting from the corners of my eyes.

The proprietor of The Leatherman asked me about the boy who had assassinated my heart over the past 36 hours.  As soon as I said his name, tears crept out like water moving through the cracks in a stone.  The emotion welling inside found the fissure and took that opportunity to travel to the surface, no longer willing to stay subjugated.

So, there I stood, buying a paddle, a leather daddy crying like a menopausal woman.  Or like a man shocked by emotions forgotten for lack of exercise, who had been inspired by a little bit of love. My unintentional defenses were pushed out of the way.  I didn’t feel at all embarrassed.  It felt good.

There was also some sadness, anger, and regret mixed into those tears.  They felt like they had came from broken hear that had refused to fail.  I was divorcing and still separating from my estranged-future-ex-husband who had moved out of our home almost a year ago then.  Our five-year marriage ended several months before that.   

Divorce, as a process, is not quick or easy even when it’s amicable. Dissolution of a marriage is an incomprehensible miasma of paperwork.  It’s a lawsuit where one spouse is forced to sue the other for divorce, even when they both agree on how they want to separate and divide the assets.  Then add to that a home with an upside-down mortgage during a recession.  The severing of that presented only options that went from bleak to dismal.  

Friends, people who, I suppose, are concerned kept asking, “Are you and (he) still friends?”  The question always perplexed me.  Why should I have been friends with the man I was divorcing?  

It’s just one of those questions that people ask.  

I also get asked, “Are you getting along?” and “Are you talking?” These are variations.  It’s so automatic, like one of those things that people just...say.  But why?  It seems to come out of a sympathetic interest in my well being.

Is it a roundabout way of asking if our breakup was acrimonious?  Perhaps the real question is do you hate each other? Are you so angry at him that you cannot tolerate the sound of his voice?  I would prefer those questions because at least they’re honest.  

Were we friends? That question confused me.  

So, in case you’re wondering, I did talk to my ex.  The logistics of the divorce and separation of property kept us talking for months and months.  I never asked him how he was doing, though, or how he was coping.  

I would say I didn’t care but that’s tin.  The truer thing is that I deliberately severed my concern.  And I remember the moment when I made that willful break.  It was conscious and probably cruel.  

He and I decided to end our marriage after a couples therapy session where that suddenly felt unavoidable to me.  After that I cut-off a simple, sincere ritual; an innocuous daily act of reaffirming our love for each other.  When we left or came home, when we hung up the phone after talking to each other we would say, “I love you.” In person we would punctuate that with a kiss.  

Within a week of our decision to separate, months before we would physically leave each other, I said to him, “We can no longer do that.  Or say that.”  

If we were going to end our marriage then our actions had to follow our intentions.  

In that moment he looked so sad.  Tears welled up in his eyes fast.  He paused and took a determined breath.  “Okay,” he said, “I understand.  I get it.” It was as if the loss became palpable to him in that second.    

It was part of my project management approach to problem solving.  When someone presents me with a problem, I propose a solution.  Then I break it down into phases and start assigning resources - mental, physical, emotional.  I don’t even pause when something awful happens to me.  Instead I react with an action plan and then immediately implement.  It’s so intrinsic that when someone asks me how I’m feeling as I go through something awful, I’m quite surprised by the question.  

Acknowledging the end of our marriage and terminating my everyday care and concern for him.  Done.  That, to me, was a tangible step in separation.  

It’s a hyper-functional coping mechanism and it served me well.   I lost my job in mid 2010, as part of the detritus of a corporate merger.  That was about four months before we decided to end our marriage.  The mortgage needed to be paid so we lived together, slept side-by-side, for months after agreeing to end our marriage, until I found a job.  Only then could  we could afford to separate.  That kept us living together through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years of 2010 into 2011.  

During those weeks and months after that, before he moved out, I marshalled my acuity and spirit into finding work.  My severance was paying the mortgage.  His salary could not alone.  I couldn’t accept the failure of my marriage and losing my home to the bank.  Or selling it at a loss so that I would be over 40 and carrying mortgage debt for a home I had to abandon.  

I found job at the start of 2011, and he moved out a month later.  

Living alone after a long term relationship took twice the effort because I was used to doing only half the work.  Buying groceries, laundry, dry cleaning, paying bills, walking and feeding the dog happened with the same frequency but now I had half the “staffing.”  And new jobs require effort learning and meeting and trying to impress. Layer on that the refinancing and divorcing went on for another two years until they were done.

What I didn’t do until that Memorial Day weekend in 2012, was cry, or feel sad, or miss what I had lost.  It hadn’t occurred to me to mourn the loss of a love.  My ex and I had wanted to have children.  We were going to adopt.  We had even registered with an agency.  

But I could cry at the mention of a boy I had just really met the day before.  Those tears were stealth but also fierce.  At that improbable time and place, while trying to buy an instrument to deliver corporal discipline, a compassion overcame me.  It defyied want or logic or even any awareness that I had subjugated my love, hurt and loss.  

What was it about this boy that called forth this warmth and capability for loving, if not yet love?  

I call him “boy,” because that’s the play.  The boy is submissive to the Sir who is dominate.  Really they are both equal partners in that relationship or even if it’s only for sex.  The sub gives his service to the dom who controls and guides the boy.  Perplexing at first, I found trust and caring in that exchange that was profound.  That boy gave me the opportunity to allow myself be dominate without self-judgement, to let that part of myself off the leash with someone who wanted that from me.

This was all new to me.  This boy was guiding me through the code and protocols.  He was a sexy, beautiful guy still in his twenties with a shaved head and a scruffy beard.  He was a bit shorter and more sinewy and slender than me.  A boy really.  And a total dork.  He would yammer on about his knitting and then tell me about the St Andrews cross he has built in his apartment so he could be restrained and flogged.  He went on about rollerblading and then his dog and then asked if I would be willing to use him as a footrest some night while I watched TV at home.  (There is a surprising intimacy in that domestic scene he proposed, isn’t there?)

I was charmed.  That I knew as I looked around for a paddle to use on his naked ass.  Why thinking of him made me cry was perplexing but so great.  It was like letting out a breath that I had been holding onto for more than a year.  

The manager of The Leatherman man put both of his hands onto my shoulders and squeezed them.  “That is a beautiful thing, man.  It really is.”  That simple grace and humanness almost sent me into delirious sobbing.  I recovered and wiped away the tears.  I bought two paddles - one that made a provocative snapping noise on impact and another blunt one that was sure to leave more red and sting on a bare white ass.

I wish I could write that this was the start of the next big romance of my life.  That I’m writing this with the lovely, eccentric boy under foot.  When it comes to my alter ego as a dom leather daddy Sir, I’m a dilettante at best (though my play is sincere and earnest when it happens).  And the boy...evaporated.  Post-IML he wasn’t ready for dating or for dating me.  Who knows?  I don’t.  

That may seem like a sad ending to this story, but I don't’ see it that way.  A submissive boy helped his Sir rediscover the heart he had been too busy to see that he had lost.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Blog Post - I Am a Sex Tourist Pig (Berlin, September 2011)

The social code between a man and his Manhunt tricks can get murky. This became apparent to me two months ago in Berlin as I sat stunned, on the receiving end of an assault of text messages, trying to understand my obligation and assess my blame.

My phone had been vibrating and chiming at intervals that day, or at least since I had woke up at 2 o’clock in the afternoon to announce text messages from Brad. By 4 o’clock his pique had escalated to this...

WTF? Is this about your cock on your terms on your schedule??...Are you really a prick?

By an equivocation made up of white lies and delayed text responses (which I blamed on AT&T routing to the German carrier), I had tried to diffuse our one-sided dust-up. I’m sorry I missed you and I just got your text, sort of things.

Throughout the day the idea of sex with Brad again, for a second time in many, many months, had started to give me a dread. I wanted to creep away from my promise to meet up with him again.

By early evening, I had decided not to keep our “date” although I had not been that direct. I had suggested he come meet me at the bar rather than his flat. As I walked to PrinzKnecht, an unpretentious Berlin gay bar, to meet some new friends (friendly Parisians), Brad fired a fusillade that hit my phone as five separate text messages:

I am trying to hook up with yiou now. But the point is you dont want to meet now, right? Lets try some honesty here.

--2 seconds later--

Ok. You are a fucking prick. You send me a text telling me you are in a 3some! Then you want to blow me off tonight because you need to recharge. Then yo

--3 seconds later--

u only offer to meet on your time and your terms. And you lie about not seeing the text i sent you earlier. I dont think i've ever been so disrespected

--4 seconds later--

by a stranger. Guys should reduce you to your cock. Because you behave like a royal prick. Shame on me for feeling bad that i had to work last night and

--5 seconds later--

couldnt meet you. You are nothing more than a sex tourist prick.

I had met him in NYC many months prior through Manhunt, while he was in the States on a work trip. He was an American ex-patriot living in Berlin. He was an attractive man: forty-something, lean, sinewy, handsome, white, middle-American type of man. We had some good sex and light conversation in his hotel room one evening after work in the middle of a week. I added him to my “buddy list” so that we could hook up again should his work bring him back to Manhattan.

Folsom EU prompted our near reunion. Folsom in San Francisco is an annual celebration of leather and fetish that gives license for men to gear up and meet and play. This is the European sister event in the capital of Germany where kink is already unhinged at any time of the year.

After I had booked my travel I hit up Brad on Manhunt to try to reconnect. He jumped at the opportunity and, this is the moment when my sense of ick emerged, he insisted on having my first two nights in Berlin once I arrived.

I was going to Folsom EU alone and had no agenda other than to gear up and drop into the rabbit hole like a leather clad Alice. Not having plans or people binding me, it was difficult to defer to his pre-booking the two evenings. So I said sure. Hookups planned in advance always go into the calendar as tentative anyway. That’s the online sex experience and I don’t hold my tricks or my self to the standards I keep with friends or even acquaintances.

I arrived in Berlin the morning of September 7th, which coincidentally was my 41st birthday. Brad was MIA that night and that was a minor relief. The next morning, er afternoon, when I woke up I popped open Grindr (an app that uses GPS to establish proximity and immediacy at the moment of horniness) and it started to light up like a switchboard. A compact, muscly German with a shaved head and a goatee chatted me up: “Looking?” And soon after, “I’ll be at your hotel in 20 minutes....and can I bring a buddy.” I hadn’t been awake 20 minutes at the point. I dissolved a Viagra under my tongue for faster effect and showered and then my guests arrived.

They stayed for a couple of hours of sex with a few substances in the mix. The whole scenario was so debaucherous and immediate that it still pleasantly shocks me. In America there is a lot of negotiating about when and where (“host” or “travel;” everyone wants their sex delivered to them in NYC). The gay sex stateside just didn’t happen that easily. It could be easy but not completely without effort.

Maybe the European gays took their sex in stride or it had been a by-product of Folsom where kink and sex and fetish went to mingle and celebrate for a week. Also, Berlin was a city of non-stop sexual availability and indulgence. The bars all had backrooms and in many places it was more backroom than bar.

Brad re-emerged by text as I was “taking a break.” I told him how I was preoccupied, figuring the context of our acquaintance and the spirit of Berlin and Folsom would make that acceptable, treating us like members of a fucking brotherhood. Turns out he didn’t find my high-jinks amusing. Later when I tried to worm out of our meeting he let me know...

I moved heaven and earth to make sure I could be free for fucking tonight.

But I was sexed-out and he wanted me to travel to his place. I invited him to meet for a drink at PrinzKnecht and take it from there. He balked. (This was all by text. Never once did we talk.) And that’s when his condemnations went over-the-top.

Was I “nothing more than sex tourist prick?” Did I deserve that condemnation? I had tried to be polite albeit indirect. Folsom EU is sex tourism. It’s not just sex tourism. What is the norm where a week is spent dressing in leather; going out to bars and clubs where sex and fisting is not just available but anticipated and expected? Add to that excess depravity, apps on iPhones and iPads that made men available immediately in the intermission between sleeping and going out again.

To receive that kind of vitriol was upsetting to experience regardless of my culpability. To then feel mostly blameless somehow made the whole episode that much more confusing. I suspected that I was getting the sewage from other disappointments in his life. Still, I was rattled that night and intermittently for a few days after. Although I didn’t feel responsible for his bile, I did assume some guilt for having inspired the fury and hurt palpable in those messages. Instead of being nice I cold have been forthright, honest. Maybe that was my fault. I kept pondering about the etiquette and integrity we owe to each other in a realm that is purely or mostly just sex, largely virtual, and transitory.

The next night I saw Brad, across a bar, the next night at Lab.Oratory, a sex club spread out through a cavernous, abandoned factory building. The number “950” had been marked on my arm. It was meant for me to use when claiming my clothes later that night as I had stripped down to a leather jock strap. The club suspended admission at 1,000 men that night despite a queue a ¼ mile long outside.

We saw each other for a second before I could avert my eyes and look away. Lab.Oratory was large and crowded so avoiding each other was possible and, I felt, rationale. I turned around a moment later and there he was talking to a new friend of mine who was standing next to me. My new friend then turned around to introduce Brad us!? I didn’t know if they knew each other or whether Brad had maneuvered this awkwardness.

“Do you know....?” my friend said to me.

“No. I can’t. I won’t,” I sputtered out and walked away. I suspected that Brad wanted a reaction and I refused to satisfy his bad behavior. I spotted him again again that night, once-or-twice, but he kept a distance; lurking in corners and staring, or at least that’s how I experienced it.

I did not see Brad again the rest of my week in Berlin.

Two months later the episode nagged at me. A hook-up, a no strings attached tryst, was not a situation where I would have expected a blowup of ethical relativism. In the vapor of Manhunt and Grindr what do we owe each other? Nothing, except to enjoy each other and endeavor to please one another in our fleeting moments together. And everyone should have a pleasing orgasm if he wants one. Pleasing. Pleasant. Sexy. Fun. That is all we can expect and nothing is guaranteed. That’s all I will agree this context. That is my social contract with the men I meet for sex through the Internet.