Tip: This is the follow-up to my falling out story. If you haven't read the first part, just click here. You can then follow the link at the bottom of that entry to return here for Part 2. Don't worry, this is the last excruciatingly long entry, and they'll be short and sweet hereafter!
I had been encouraging Joe to return to playing the violin for a few months. He didn't have much free time, and his passion for tennis seemed to be occupying what leisure time he did have. At one time in August, he had considered bringing his violin back from Washington D.C. with him after visiting his brother, who was the violin's current custodian. He returned empty-handed though, and although I was disappointed, I certainly didn't let it show. I also felt that Joe was more interested in trying to assert his masculinity by playing tennis with gay hook-up buddies, and perhaps he found the hobby he wanted. Anyway, everyone must make their own decisions on how to manage hobbies and activities.
Our symphony's season was in full-swing, and I found a concert that Joe was sure to savor. Midori was performing as the guest violinist, playing Prokofiev's Violin Concerto #1. I showed Joe the program, and he was very interested. I offered to buy tickets for both of us to attend the Friday evening concert, and he happily agreed. Neither of us wanted to miss Midori, and I was very curious how she would handle Prokofiev's music. This would also give us more opportunity to bond, and as concerned as I was about Joe's lifestyle, I was hoping that he could develop some trust in me to the point where I can offer some intervention later on.
Friday rolled around, and Joe came home right on schedule. This was a rare trait that I always enjoyed about Joe: He was never late, and up to this point he was not flaky in the least. We changed into business casual dress, and I prepared some music for Joe to sample, particularly since he had not heard any part of the concerto yet. We left the house and arrived at Davies Symphony Hall in plenty of time. I could tell that Joe was already having a good time, and we anticipated the works that were on the program: Copland's Appalachian Spring, the Prokofiev concerto, and Dvorak's Symphony #8.
We seated ourselves in the 2nd Tier, and we chatted about things that have happened to each of this so far this year. He was making great conversation for the first time, and I connected with him well face-to-face. For the first time, the timid Joe that was my roommate seemed to retreat, and a more likable and confident personality replaced him. I attributed this to the environment; a hall filled with musicians, surrounded by great people with similar tastes in music.
The concert began, and after the Copland performance, Midori moved out to center stage and performed the Prokofiev Violin Concerto #1. Her playing was splendid of course, though she ran into some trouble in the second movement, which was a brisk scherzo. She didn't receive a standing ovation, and we tended to agree with the audience's reaction. We were both elated by the Dvorak performance and related to it well.
As we exited the main chamber, we talked more about the music and violin technique. As we moved downstairs, we were almost out the door when I asked Joe to join me for a minute in the gift shop, where I noticed a CD that I wanted to grab. While we were browsing the CDs, Joe looked over to the right and noticed Midori standing near a stair railing, signing autographs!
He proclaimed, "Ohhh, there's Midori! But I don't have anything for her to sign!"
I directed him to the rack where a few Midori CDs were on display, and he paid for one then moved toward her. She was slowly being led out by her small entourage, and it appeared that we had just missed her.
"Oh no, they're leaving..."
I prompted Joe, "This is your chance! You have to go up to her and ask her. She won't come to you!"
I was hoping this would be a quick lesson on being assertive, and he passed! He walked up to Midori, making eye contact with her. Joe asked for her autograph, and she smiled and happily obliged. She asked him his name (he forgot to state it when he first walked up to her), and she signed the CD sleeve notes. She met me momentarily and was then led away from the crowd.
I looked over at Joe, who was inspecting the autograph he just earned with a most amazing smile on his face. We then walked towards the exit, and he mentioned a few times that he couldn't believe he met Midori. He was absolutely glowing, and I felt that energy too. I had not seen Joe this happy since I met him, and this gave me a deep sense of satisfaction. The night was a success!
He mentioned to me how much he revered the evening, and later that night we did a few house chores together. I felt that we had crystallized our fledgling friendship, and with only two weeks before I moved out, I was relieved that I would depart as his friend with some memories to our names.
His friend Gerard was over several times that week, and they made more noise than usual when they were in Joe's room together, revealing to me (and the neighbors next to us) that Gerard wasn't here just to bake cookies! Gerard was well aware that Joe and I had spent a little time together, and I sensed a sudden competitive nature to his visits. I finally had to inform Joe about the noise and how it carries through the whole unit, even into the living room. He apologized and stated he wasn't aware that it was so obvious, especially since I didn't say anything. We laughed it off, as I claimed that I was letting him know mainly for the sake of the other two roommates who would be returning very soon. But just as clear as day, Gerard was now peeing on his territory. I shrugged this off as well, reminding myself that after all, I am dealing with college students here, and I may have been this way when I was his age too.
Over the past few weeks prior to this, I had noticed things that had not occured before that caught me unawares. Several times while I was outside in the rear watering the garden, as I would turn to face the house, I would see Joe watching me from inside his room through the window blinds, which were almost always closed, day and night. The first time I just ignored it, but the next two times, I saw him looking at me for more than just a moment, as if he wanted me to see him observing my motions in the garden. I also had an offbeat encounter once in the late evening, after I showered and changed into comfortable shorts and a shirt. Joe was standing just inside his doorway, peering at me as I walked toward the kitchen from my room. My eyes met his, and I sensed a familiar gaze that I had been trying to shrug off.
Was there an unspoken sexual tension between us? The answer is an obvious and unmistakable YES. It had been present for over one month. It added a level of complexity to what was already a dilemma, but I am very strict when it comes to roommate situations, and I would never disrespect the current state of our association. Furthermore, he was dating Gerard, but I soon found that to be of no consequence.
I discovered casually that Joe has suggestive profiles on nearly every gay hook-up site, including gay.com, downelink.com, fridae.com, dudesnude.com, manhunt.net, and at least four others which I won't disclose. Thus, I could not understand why Gerard would feel threatened by my bonding with Joe, as I assumed he already knew that Joe was hooking up with others on a regular basis. The possibilities were many, but it's too awkward to just walk up to Gerard and say, "Don't worry, Joe is just a roommate." I chose not to entertain the awkwardness at all, and I just ignored it.
I suggested that we clean the house thoroughly before the two roommates return, for several reasons, one of which was to allow Joe to create a good impression to the returning residents since he would be their roommates for the foreseeable future. We decided to clean on Thursday, three days before I was to move out. We also decided that decorating the lobby with streamers and flowers would make for a great homecoming for both of them. I found that the flower shop below my office would give me $100 worth of flowers for $50, and this would be ideal. We agreed to grab the flowers here, and perhaps show Joe my office while we were in the area.
Thursday rolled around, and Joe came home in a strange mood. He clearly wasn't looking forward to cleaning, and I can't blame him, for none of us really enjoy this dreaded task. But he was pouty, more than ever. I started some cheap conversation with him, then I led into the question: "Are you feeling ok today, or is there anything you want to chat about?" He nodded his head and said "I'm just tired, let's just get this over with."
He became even more fickle as we began cleaning, complaining about the vacuum cleaner, about the arrangements to pick up the flowers, and a few other petty things. I did not give into his mood at all, and actually I acted cheerful in hopes to turn him around. It was time to pick up the flowers, and he reluctantly joined me out on the street.
We grabbed the flowers and I showed him my office. He seemed calm in my office, and I just hoped he could stay that way for the rest of the evening. I wanted so much to pose the question about his drug use again while we waited for our flower arrangements, but I sensed that it would be very untactful to ask him in an unfamiliar setting like this. We grabbed the flowers, two radiant bouquets of exotic red, white, and yellow flowers. We marched back to the house, finished cleaning, then began decorating and arranging the flowers.
Joe enjoyed the decorating, and he mentioned that he never really decorated a room before with ribbons and streamers, but the end result was just right; very inviting but not too loud. The first roommate returned the next morning and just adored the work that we did! The same night, I arrived home, and shortly afterward Joe came in, alone. We found ourselves in the kitchen, and as we were chatting, he seemed detached and inattentive. I asked Joe about a local event, and he replied by mentioning that he thought he heard that the "Governor of San Francisco" might be attending.
I stated casually that it is the Mayor of San Francisco that may attend. I probably should not have corrected him, but he didn't seem upset. He nervously corrected himself.
I smiled at him with a hint of concern, and he responded by saying, "Sorry, I'm just drunk right now... Oh my God..."
He then left to join a few of his friends at a birthday party. The next day, I packed my meager belongings and prepared to move out. I spent most of the day at my office, and I returned in the evening. The female roommate was there and when I went to my room to finish packing and cleaning, I noticed that Joe had some company. As I began cleaning, the noise coming from Joe's room was as loud as ever, almost as if he forgot what I said before. There were groans, moans, and some bumping against the wall. This wall adjoins the kitchen, and when I was in the kitchen briefly, it made for a very unpleasing environment.
I became annoyed for several reasons. I did alert him to this level of noise before, and furthermore it was my last night in the house. I felt that Joe could have respected me a little more as a departing roommate (as well as the woman who had just returned). Joe and I had also agreed to redecorate the lobby again at 11:00, since most of the decor had fallen down and the last roommate would return tomorrow afternoon. It was 11:30, and the noise was still emanating from his room.
I finally had enough, and I walked out into the hall and knocked on Joe's door. I honestly didn't care who was "visiting" Joe in his room, and I wasn't sure whose head would pop out. After about one minute of shuffling and rustling, Joe opened the door and emerged. I informed him that I would appreciate my last evening to be peaceful, and that I could hear everything. I mentioned that the woman could surely hear the noises as well, since she was still awake. He apologized and said, "We'll turn it down."
Turn it down? I caught him off-guard, and I assumed he was trying to attribute the sex session to a cheesy B-movie on television. I realized quickly that I should not have knocked on the door while the all-too-familiar activities were happening. I simply walked away, unable to confront him on his sketchy behavior. I continued packing in my room, and about 10 minutes later, Joe and Gerard emerged from his room and left the apartment uneventfully.
He did not return the next morning, and I finished moving out. I was quite disappointed that Joe behaved in such a manner on my last night as a roommate, and I emailed him expressing this dissatisfaction. I sensed the friendship was quickly deteriorating, so I felt that it was time to be frank about his drug abuse.
I posed the question, asking what party drugs he is using, and whether he feels that he is losing control of his drug abuse. I clicked "Send." The response came 30 minutes later:
Your constant observative and instrusive behavior, to the extent that you make medical suggestions to me, causes me concern. "Friends" do not passive aggressively attack their friends with suggestions of drug abuse. Over the past couple of weeks, you've also questioned me and the choices I've been making. Friendship is built on trust and your questioning of my answers does not exhibit this trust. The choices I make are my own. It is far to difficult for me to continue a relationship, in any capacity, with you due to how much work it is on my part. I cannot associate with people that don't trust me and constantly criticize the choices I make. You are not my Father and I do not wish to take on the role of being "taught" by you. I care not if you wish to beleive me about this evening's events or the previous evenings.
It is unfortunate that things had to end this way, but I refuse to be victim to circumstance any longer. I need not your advice, I need not your help, and I need not the pain of your friendship.
- Joe -
I have failed. More than anyone, I should have been able to influence his self-destructive lifestyle in some way or another, but I did not. I wasn't tactful enough, and as a result, the friendship all fell apart in a matter of 30 minutes. I was not able to warn him that severing a friendship has repercussions and consequences that he doesn't realize at the moment, but are now beginning to surface. With someone as volatile as this, I normally just forget about the whole situation and move on to bond with others, albeit a little more cautious than before.
But in this case, I cannot stop worrying about Joe. I feel that drugs have once again stolen from me a friend that could have become a dear companion, and I can no longer do anything to affect his life for the better. It is a sad story: A doctoral candidate becoming overwhelmed by life and resorting to drugs to deal with each day, until the inevitable breakdown occurs. I am frustrated that his other acquaintances are not intervening, and I know it's possible that many of them abuse drugs as well. For this reason, I refuse to refer to these people as his "friends."
I spotted him several times in the neighborhood since this turn of events. He did not look healthy, and he was literally sending out distress signals. But it is now out of my hands. It is true that no good deed goes unpunished.
(By Daniel Culveyhouse | See the 6 comments | comment here)
I am just warm and fuzzy that many of you found yourselves in high spirits after reading my last few posts. A point to ponder is that there will always be forces against our control that work against our will, and while we attempt to improve ourselves and those important to us, tragedy will sometimes befall us. Our responsibility is to embrace these challenges and work through them for everyone's sake. Recently, I had an unfortunate rupture in friendship. At its surface, it's a rather sad story, but you'll soon realize that there are a few important messages, one of which is a message of hope. It's a long story, so I'm going to throw it at you in two parts.
I moved into a warm and spacious abode in the Castro neighborhood in early June, for a brief one-month sublet. I grabbed the room of one of the housemates who was traveling abroad, and I had already made acquaintance with the second. But I had not met the third, a mid-twenties Asian grad student who had just moved in as well. An hour after I moved in, he came to my room and introduced himself. I'm going to morph his name to "Joe" to respect his personal privacy. Joe was short, soft-spoken, clean-cut, and polite. He had a very timid yet friendly demeanor that I thought would make for an ideal housemate. Things were uneventful for about a week, and we only spoke once briefly about his coursework at his university.
The Revolving Door
Then, on that first Friday evening while I was alone in the living room watching some documentaries, the doorbell rang, and Joe emerged from his room and answered the door. I recognized the visitor that slipped through the front as a local guy who admired Asians— many many Asians, if you get the picture. They retreated toward the rear of the house into Joe's room, and it wasn't surprising to hear plenty of noises shortly afterward. I turned the television up a little, and about one hour later, the person slipped out. Later in the evening, Joe struck up a conversation with me, but of course neither of us brought up the subject of his sexual activity. I learned that he was a PhD candidate in his course of study, and that he was also a violinist. I found him to be interesting to talk to, even if he was a little timid, as I always enjoy meeting musicians and bonding with them.
The week afterward, this happened again, and this apparent revolving-door action continued for the remainder of my stay at the house. Although I was not around most of the time, I couldn't help but to notice this activity, particularly on Friday evenings. I just hoped that my new housemate was taking all necessary precautions to engage in safe sex at all times, but I never mentioned anything about it and just acted oblivious to his behavior.
I was about to move out, but our other housemate emailed me stating that he was leaving to Peru for a few months and asked me to sublet his room through the end of September. I enjoyed the house and agreed, somewhat reluctantly though. The new room was right next to Joe's, and I honestly wasn't sure what kind of household "activities" the summer would bring, especially in the late evenings while I would be trying to sleep. But I knew that I would enjoy maintaining the garden in the back (see the photo to the right), and this was also enticing.
Interestingly enough, when I moved into the new room, Joe's hook-ups stopped, and he eventually revealed that he was dating someone— a 20-year-old college kid. "Well, at least that's a start," I thought. That should make things at least a little more tranquil around the house. But either way, I couldn't really blame him, because after all when I was his age (around 26), I was probably twice as wild and "active" as he was! But regardless, respect for one's roommates should always be a priority when inviting men into the house for sex, and I am glad that he quickly became more sensitive to me as a roommate.
A Warming Up
As the weeks passed, Joe and I became well acquainted with one another, sharing many of the same interests, particularly programming, social networking websites, and classical music. I landed a job at Friendster, and he was always eager to hear of updates and new features that we were rolling out. Joe also eventually introduced me to the 20-year-old that he was dating (let's call him Gerard). This guy acts rather childish, and I found it difficult as a 35-year-old to even relate to him. He would sometimes enter the house with Joe, either high or tipsy, stumbling around, and acting rather goofy and uncouth. However, in contrast to Gerard, Joe always seemed sober and reserved.
Gerard turned 21 sometime in late July, and on that night, Gerard's very young friends joined him in Joe's room, making way too much noise for anyone's comfort at 2:30 in the morning! I did not mention anything that night, but the next morning, I started a pleasant conversation with Joe to see if he would bring it up voluntarily. He did, and he mentioned that he made them leave after a bit since they created a ruckus. That was good enough for me, and although he didn't apologize (and I didn't ask for it), at least he was mature enough to address it.
In August, Joe and I got to know even more about each other. We discussed science topics and sampled classical music on occasion. Since I worked at Friendster, we connected as friends through that website, and we read each other's profiles on other social networking sites. I discovered on another site that he made it very obvious that he dates around, particularly looking for dates who also play tennis. It was none of my business, but after all, he does publicly announce that he is into mixing sports with hook-ups, for the whole world to see. But still, I never mentioned it and kept out of that private area of his, slowly putting some distance from him for two reasons. First, as a general rule, a gay man should avoid bonding too closely with other gay housemates. Second, I generally set boundaries with men who are this sexually indiscriminate yet act so introverted.
A Painful Discovery
In addition, I noticed some personality traits in Joe beginning to surface. Majorly he would act calm and content, but often I sensed that he was disturbed and unhappy, even appearing overwhelmed on occasion. As I encouraged him to talk more about the events in his life, I discovered that he had been through a turbulent break-up less than two years ago. He also told me about a week in his life where everything seemed to go wrong and fall apart. By this time I had become concerned as a friend, and I wanted to ask him about his approach to drugs, and whether he has used them in the past. I was primarily worried about possible drug abuse since we are all WELL aware that drug use increases the likelihood of risky sexual behavior. By this time, I noticed that my views toward Joe were important to him, so I wasn't sure whether he would be truthful. I posed the question on drug use.
He responded very slowly, "Yeah, a few years ago I did, but now, not as much as I used to."
Thus, the problem surfaced right there before me. This was the first time I heard a cry for help in his voice, even if he did not intend it. He was in trouble, and I couldn't just cut him off coldheartedly. We had bonded with many common interests up to this point, and I did care about him. I now knew that drugs were an issue, and I was glad that I candidly observed his behavior and noticed the first warning signs of the downward spiral of drug abuse. Of course I could not confirm a major drug problem, and it was just a perceived situation at that point. But personally, I was almost convinced that my new friend was becoming a victim to the sketchy scene of substance abuse in this crazy city of ours.
This was a precarious situation for me. I know that drug abuse is common in the younger gay scene, but this guy was a PhD candidate for shit sake! His workload was already quite heavy, and it was about to increase with the start of a new semester. I had a full-time job, unable to spend any time with him other than to strike up some small talk, and I was not deep enough into a friendship with him to start lending advice. The young Gerard that he was dating was clearly not offering any kind of remedy to Joe's current state, and it was possible that Gerard may even be exacerbating the situation with his own social decisions toward drugs, alcohol, and sex.
Several weeks later, I was laid off and returned to my own consulting business once again. This also gave me more personal time, and I quickly realized a way to ease into a stronger friendship with Joe and comfortably confirm the problems that I perceived. Then I could move on to the next step once I discovered how mild or how bad the problem was. It was September 10th, less than one month before my sublet ran out.
To be continued... A Falling Out, Part Two: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
(By Daniel Culveyhouse | See the 7 comments | comment here)
Way back in 1990, while listening to old classical music on vinyl records in a library, I made an inadvertent discovery that became my road map to life. It was an excerpt from Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, used in Vaughan Williams' Symphony #7. The symphony, also called Sinfonia Antarctica, contains passages that pertain to Scott's failed 1912 expedition towards the South Pole, but nevertheless I related to it personally. I also knew that I would carry it with me forever. I had yet to experience the wisdom it contained, but now that I look back, I have arrived at the final destination of the poem. The destination is not the South Pole, but rather, maturity.
The passage suggests that you don't truly live life until you experience everything in the first four lines. Here's the excerpt, along with my interpretation below. Be sure that you absorb the words, as this might be just as inspiring to you as it was to me:
To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;
To love, and bear; to Hope till Hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;
Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;
This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;
This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory.
-from Prometheus Unbound, Act III,
Percy Bysshe Shelley
It is now the year 2005, and I have arrived. In the first line, like most of may gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, I have certainly suffered woes.
The second point is very difficult to digest, and most of us die without truly learning how to forgive. Well, here it is: I hereby forgive everyone for even the most cruel acts committed upon me.
Then, just like the third line suggests, I have defied the crush of corrupt government, adversity, employment discrimination, and two recessions. I endured this without ever submitting to defeat.
And most importantly of all, as the fourth line suggests, I have learned to love myself, to love those around me, to never lose hope, and to help everyone walk the rocky path of life.
I hope that everyone remembers in the worst hour that life embodies all of the above. We must suffer in order to grow, and we must wholeheartedly forgive jealous and evil actions, however difficult that may be. Don't worry, I'm not an idealist, I'm not at all religious, nor do I subscribe to any goofy cults. I simply believe in the power of the human mind. Life is just overwhelming, in surprisingly good ways!
Tonight, I will be attending a concert at Davies Symphony Hall in our fair city of San Francisco. The SF Symphony Orchestra will be performing Vaughan Williams' Symphony #6 instead of Sinfonia Antarctica, in which these lines above are recited. I would have loved to hear this spoken passage at the beginning of the symphony, but maybe there is no need, since I have already lived up to Shelley's message.
(By Daniel Culveyhouse | See the 3 comments | comment here)
If it is true that everyone is capable of finding true happiness, then why, you may ask, are so many of us miserable? That question, along with its hundreds of possible answers, is as complex as the meaning of life itself. Thousands of self-help books have been written on the subject, but yet most of them fall out of print rather quickly, virtually unnoticed or quickly forgotten. Millions of psychologists around the world (count them... millions!) pour their heart into making people happier by prescribing their personal self-improvement regimen, only to find their patients coming back time after time, having failed the trials of life. Doctors, authors, and average Joes are all sending out mixed signals and conflicting beliefs on the human condition, but few people seem able (or willing) to make sense of it all.
Regardless of your age, by now you have certainly made an observation about this world... that something is wrong. You are correct. We have all asked ourselves, "If life is such a miracle, then why can't every single living being learn to be happy?" The truth is, we can all achieve our own true happiness, and the answer, not surprisingly, lies within ourselves. And although we're right that we live in a world of both fortune and famine, of goodwill and human atrocity, our own state of mind is something that we can control and improve, every day of our lives.
I have come to realize that I have achieved a state of rapture that I previously had not believed possible. I was able to find this kind of joy in a rather challenging time, which is a testament that happiness exists as a power within, rather than as a product of luck or fortune. I currently own very little, I am trying to manage a hefty amount of debt, I am trying to survive in a market that is just starting to recover, and my business is only now starting to show some promise for growth. Yet, I have discovered that I am able to find strength in all the challenges that face me on a daily basis. By pondering world history and advancement in the areas of science and medicine, I consider myself very fortunate that I live in such a time of longevity, prosperity, and relative peace. Just like our grandparents would never imagine our advances in technology and space exploration, we can hardly imagine their world of yesterday where massive world wars and a bone-crushing worldwide depression were tearing away at society year after year.
Our grievances and bickering are so petty in comparison. We have never had it so good. Personally, as a gay Westerner in the 21st century, I feel that I hardly deserve the virtually sedate life in San Francisco. I am able to explore a city abound with culture, countless attractions, and huge conventions. I can frolic about this diverse community of attractive gay men from every corner of the world, most of whom are oblivious to a time or place where homosexuality is a crime punishable by death.
Besides falling in love with my city, my passions also fuel my happiness. I love classical music, and this is a perfect place to grow as a musician. I am ecstatic about flying, and although I probably cannot make a career out of aviation, I still share the cockpit with my friends from time to time. I am also becoming actively involved in the cryonics community, and it is easy to find like-minded people in my area. I always count my blessings and keep everything in perspective, and I hope that I am encouraging others to do the same.
I know, life's battles are many, and often they seem endless. And because of that, I promise that I will have something inspiring to share with all of you every week. Break-ups are a bitch, but you can overcome them and learn from them. Job layoffs are grueling, but there is another job out there with your name on it. Toothaches are excruciating, but for goodness' sake, help is just around the corner. Cancer may threaten your life, but doctors and new technology will give you a good fighting chance to live.
For most of us, life gets easier and easier every year. But for those who have not yet discovered how to empower yourself and achieve true happiness: just remember that regardless of your past, and regardless of the burden of misfortune, you can still find that inner peace.
And you will be happy, if only you let yourself be.
(By Daniel Culveyhouse | No comments yet | comment here)
Plew was ready to be whipped, and the crowd was ready too. I wondered what they expected, but regardless, we can't do just anything to titillate our crowd. Van lifted his right heel and planted it on the slave's chest. He uncoiled a flogging weapon (probably a scourge) and then lambasted the slave from side to side. Lightly and playfully, of course! After some of this minor punishment, he turned the slave around, his back now facing the crowd. He lambasted the slave's back with the scourge a bit more, and the slave's skin turned a pinkish red. Thus ended the punishment, and the crowd seemed enthralled, even though we were very tame with our fetish display.
Van then demonstrated his finesse with his 20 foot whip. The two photos below show Van in action. He was able to crack the whip, but had to be wary of the perimeter the crowd had created, since our fetish entourage did not carry any malpractice insurance! He decided not to punish the slave with the whip, as this is a very delicate procedure and may cause "discomfort."
|Cracking the whip|
|Casting the whip|
Van was now ready to release the alpha slave. Just as he began unfastening the latticework around Plew's appendages, Midori graced us with a visit, right out of the blue. Her obscure name, back story, and true identity are all a mystery to me, but we took plenty of photos, and maybe you can begin to build your own hypothesis around this brief encounter. Below are three photos of Midori with our entourage. For one of the poses, Van showed that he can execute a genuflection in high heels! This is a bonus talent.
All the while, we forgot that we still had our slave bound and blindfolded. Oops! We also realized at this time that Van had a "wardrobe malfunction." He split the strap on one of his shoes, forcing us to wrap his foot with black tape to fasten it to the broken high-heel shoe.
|Midori and Van|
a Hot Topic
We freed our slave, and we then marched onward, towards the sausage stations and the pedal-operated masturbation machines. I couldn't quite fathom the sight of these machines in action as we passed the booth where they were being demonstrated. I did not take pictures either, though some of you may have wanted to see some visuals of this new craze. I pretended that I never heard the megaphone announcements explaining how their machines operate, but look at me. Two weeks later, I'm blogging about it. O.K., next subject.
We pranced down Folsom, hit the end of the fair, and returned to the center where sausages, beer, and lemonade were being served. I somehow wound up with a polish sausage, and looking at what I was eating was giving me flashbacks of the pedal-operated masturbation machines. As I ate, I looked around to realize that we were in next to a large dance area, so we retracted our huge canopy and hung around for many photo opportunities.
In the first photo below, Van poses with Hamilton my canopy-mate, who kept the rickety canopy stable and in one piece! The second photo includes Van, Plew the slave, and me. The third one, Van announces our exit strategy out of the fair.
|Van and Hamilton|
|Daniel, Van, and Plew|
|Planning and Plotting|
We then attracted some fair-goers and evildoers, and we invited them all for pictures with Van. We somehow attracted a pair of Southern Comfort Twins, both of whom were easy on the eyes (first and second photos below). I couldn't find the Southern Comfort booth where they bought their drinks. Before I could ask them, they vanished into the alleys of fetish and foolishness. Another mystery, for after two hours of roaming, we never did see a Southern Comfort booth. They must have smuggled those drinks into the fair!
|Southern Comfort Twins|
|Van Flanked by Twins|
Then, things got a little holy when we realized that standing to our left was a knight in full chain mail. I didn't catch her name, so herewith I dub her... Sir Dyke-celot! Then with Van wielding his dreamcatcher once again, they started looking like a band of medieval crusaders. So, I snapped a photo, and to my astonishment, I captured a sunburst along with the Holy Crusade. But Sir Dyke-celot had vanished into thin air by the time I pressed my damned shutter. There were other men who seemed to form the crusade, and here's one that I managed to capture (far right).
|A Holy Crusade|
After about one hour, we had enough of this area, and we assembled the canopy once again to make a most memorable exit away from Ninth Street. As we prepared, we grabbed one last bystander in an outlandish costume for one last photo opportunity. She didn't give her name, so we'll just refer to her as the Geisha Unit. Inspect her wares in the first two photos below. We then tossed Geisha Unit aside and down towards Ninth Street we descended, towards the portable toilets, where Van got a little dirty (last photo).
|Geisha Unit in Pose|
|Geisha Unit Tasting|
|Van Hearts Potties|We exited the fair gracefully, albeit exhausted. We disassembled our props and peeled off the leather gear that had been constricting and asphyxiating us for most of the day. Many of us realized that this was the best time we have ever had at Folsom Street Fair. It wasn't so much what the fair had in store for us, but rather how we affected masses of people, causing thousands of dropped jaws, high-pitched shrieks, salutes, and many other reactions we have not seen until this day. It was a bonding experience, and I was glad to be one of the crusaders.
Thus ends our story of Folsom Street Fair 2005. I was originally going to split the story in three, but I censored quite a bit, leaving two parts to offer to my readers. There will be plenty more events like this that will demand a story, and I'll be there to tell it. Something that you'll most certainly want to read about next year on this website: BURNING MAN 2006 !!!
(By Daniel Culveyhouse | See the 26 comments | comment here)
It's finally happening. After six years of incubating in this strange but lovable city of mixed people, mixed signals, goodness, and darkness, I think I am finally breaking out of my shell. I have been to Folsom Street Fair before, but I never really participated or volunteered. I was just an anonymous bystander, mostly to observe and absorb the totally fierce cults and scenes sprawling over San Francisco's SoMa district. This year, however, I seemed to be cast right into a traveling circus that stole the whole show. And since there were certainly plenty of photographers to capture this outrageous crusade of eight homos, you get to read our tale in three parts, fully-illustrated!
I have known Van for four years now, and he is without a doubt a master of creativity. He's one of few who can marry creativity and fetish to totally shock masses of people on a regular basis. That is talent, and I finally had to be a part of it. Saturday, the day before the fair, I met up with him and his friend to attend a party in South of Market, sponsored by the creators of bigmuscle.com. And no, I'm not going to reveal my bigmuscle screen name! This was a rather tame party that only seemed to hint at what was happening over the weekend in San Francisco, but judging from the army of national and international party-goers there, it was obvious to me that the big fair on Sunday would be another blockbuster event. The fair was well-set to top both the Love Parade and the huge anti-war protest, which were both happening as we attended this party.
The next morning, we assembled around 11th Street and Folsom as planned. What made it exciting was that we had no idea what half-baked traveling concoction Van had dreamed up this time, until we arrived. We all busted our guts laughing over what we were seeing. He dressed himself and added accessories, and then he slapped some leather gear on me. This was really the first time I wore any leather at all, but it felt quite comfortable after a few minutes. I didn't bother with a harness and just chose a black tank instead, but the others went all out. We learned how to use Van's other props and then formed ranks and stood pretty so spectators could see our entourage for the first time. Here's your first look below. Just click on any of the photos for a full-size popup and then resize the popup even larger if you wish.
With our first few steps, we were already drawing a crowd. Van, now a towering high-heeled dominatrix wielding a staff and a whip, was flanked by a few slaves, while Vinus and I brought up the rear with a canopy to shield all of that easily burnt skin. At first, we had a few prop malfunctions, but Vinus and I quickly got the hang of it (no pun intended). We kept whacking Van's dreamcatcher staff, which stood almost 9.5 feet tall. Below is a close-up of the staff's centerpiece of Hollywood aliens and freak babies.
Daniel, David, Van, and Vinus
|The 9.5 Foot Dreamcatcher|We could only plow through small chunks of the crowd, as we were ground to a halt by batallions of spectators with cameras. Each time we stopped, the spectators seemed to create around us their own human perimeter of about 20 feet. This made sense, since Van's whip had a reach of about 20 feet. Smart crowd! After inching through three blocks, we decided to stop and tie up one of Van's slaves.
Van is a leader in rope art and its many applications in the field of bondage, and he's not afraid to show it. This time, he brought many bundles of Japaneses rope to use on the Alpha slaves. He chose a slave then chose a convenient lamppost as the torture site. As he prepped his slave and organized his gear, the crowd around us created another smooth, circular perimeter of about 20 feet again. How the hell do they know how to do that? I know that only a few of these people have ever found their way to this fair, unless all of these visitors know what to expect and have fetish balls in their own hometowns, which is unlikely.
First, we have a few photos of Van's slave being tied up (and the human perimeter around us), and then I will show you the whipping process. It's quite a bit of work, as every single knot must together form just the right latticework, or the whole experience is nothing more than another slave whipping on a street curb. Click for popup enlargements and then make sure to continue reading below.
|Shuffling through Bags|
|Prepping the Slave|
|A Patient Crowd Awaits|
|Almost Time for the|
|The Slave and the |
|Barking out Commands|
|Ready to Whip|
David the Alpha Slave was doing well at this point. Of course, we take safety into account, so we made sure he was well-hydrated, and Van had him select a "safe word," when uttered, acts as an emergency stop to prevent injury. After a quick photo opportunity, I gave the slave a few sips of water, then Van uncoiled some spanking gear, teasing the crowd with anticipation. And that's what I am going to do now to my crowd. Come back tomorrow for Folsom Street Fair 2005: Part Two.
(By Daniel Culveyhouse | See the 1 comment | comment here)