It felt like a dangerous precipice and I was hanging over it. Here, at the very edge, became the physical manifestation of all those fears.
Don’t let go.
It screamed through my mind, don’t let go, don’t let go. Part of my wanted to push away, to claw back to a position of safety, back into control.
How did I lose my control? I was in control, powerful, having feeling that I was doing what I wanted to do, exactly where I wanted to be.
I was above.
And then strong arms were around me, comfort there, power, and then edged backwards.
My hands clasped around shoulders, and suddenly I was dangling, feeling as though I would be a thousand miles away if I drop.
Fear took hold of me, overwhelmed me and I wanted to cry out. I felt words form on my lips, wanting to tap out of the moment and call for safety. The fear of falling over the edge of that drop was too much for me, I was sure I was going to topple over onto the floor, that there was too much too hold, too much for any one other person to think they can carry. Rocking backward again, closer to the edge, I locked my legs and could feel all the muscles (which I have been overworking) tighten up, trying to find balance.
There was no balance—instead all I had was that looming cliff of the fall. The purring in my ears, growl, acknowledgement that I am about to lose the game the same way that I already lost control, was both a pleasantness and an amplification of my own screaming internal terror. I thought the familiar litany and worked to control my fear. I am not my fear. My fear is not who I am. The chasm I feel opening and yawning before me is not the chasm I think it is.
And if I fall?
The arms tightened around me again and rocking forward I had a moment to breathe. Desperation in my arms made me want to shoot forward and find a handhold, anything to keep from being slipped backward again to be held over the rabbit hole; that deep dark yawning chasm that is the metaphorical down. I had been down so many times, willingly, unwillingly, through the dark and into that vast pit of terror: the buried things from my past, the fears, the unworthiness, the shadowlands that still whisper with voices detailing the list of my inadequacies and I wondered to myself as I took a trip down those dark halls if I ever deserved to escape. The rabbit hole was not real, not a true thing.
Yet it felt so real right then, in that moment the drop felt like a physical drop into all that fear, all that uncertainty and unsureness, as real and true as walking in the real world. I was sure I whimpered, I was sure that my fear was palpable and with it, even inside of it, even though I feel my body shaking, trembling with it, my arms coiled to flail and reach out, I just held on.
This was an act of trust that I did not think I was capable. To let go and to know that I was capable of managing myself and to know that the arms around me would not let go; this was simply a moment of driving me over, near the edge, walking along the razor to find that it did not always cut so deep or so bitter as had been anticipated.
The edge was not the beginning or the end.
I felt like I was nothing but plays on a theme.
The game played on.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
It felt like a dangerous precipice and I was hanging over it. Here, at the very edge, became the physical manifestation of all those fears.
Monday, October 28, 2013
“I want to touch you.”
“And what does that mean?”
That was a good question. How could I explain what it meant? I could visualize, but I wasn't sure I could conceptualize or put into words what I meant. It was like the swirl of light and power that buzzed back and forth between us as we sat and talked, making us an isolated undisturbed spot in a room full of people.
“What does that mean?”
I don’t know, and I do know.
So long since I have had unfettered touching that wasn’t somehow mixed up in my exodus. The last two months have always felt like either the last bar or the coda, an extension added on, thinning it all out and stretching what little was left of myself across oceans of time and space and the accumulated loves, laughs and memories of twelve years.
There was no fresh start.
The linger of a hand in my hair for an instant was sometimes all I felt when I thought about it, at tug, a signal that pulled me apart to the core…or a hand in my hand, soft lips on my cheek and then the lingering afterglow of parting, all touches so final, all things so last…last, and then extended by memory, scent, smell, taste, the details filled in with a thousand remembered experiences.
All of it pulling me apart and between two places.
“I want to touch you.”
What did it mean? It meant I wanted to find some way to be grounded, to reconnect with myself, to make things new. To feel not lingering sadness, but lingering joy at being in the presence of others. To feel like I could trust someone to touch me without pulling away, flinching back with fear, with worry, with desire that could not be satisfied. How many times have I had to pull away over the last two months, not because I didn’t want to fall into those outstretched arms, but rather I was afraid to let go into them for fear of losing all sense of hope and the tenuous grip I had left…pulling away to spare myself pain while leaving a trail of disaster and destruction in my wake? My own. Others.
“What does that mean?”
In my mind I could picture exactly what I meant; the visuals were easier than words to express. Touching was being embraced in an envelope of warmth that encompasses without losing, where this was not destruction but building, where when I felt my muscles tense to flight I controlled them and allowed acquiescence instead, relax, let go…hands. Hands and fingers and skin brushing against skin, an exploration, a sharing. Pacing, always pacing, thinking, anticipating where to direct, a way to control the tension, while building energy. Movement. Scent, breathe in, sharing scent, knowing another, feeling safe with it, friend, pack, safety, trust…taste, lips parting and teeth gnashing, exposure, exposed necks, open hands, allowing something to come in.
To be whole again.
A touch that didn't hurt, that touched that sadness and set it free.
The back of my neck, the base of my spine, felt both the tension from my instinctual fear of all touch, and my regained control.
There could be new things.
There are new places.
I was not dead yet. I had not finished living. My life was not over. I had never been interested in going gently, not now, not yet.
“I think it is hard for me to explain what that means. But I want to touch you.”
Smiles, passive, active energy tossed about.
And then nothing but sensation, letting go, freedom.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Cate killed herself on Saturday.
I did not find out in the best of ways. It started as conjecture, with my boy saying at 10:30 at night “Well, it looks like Cate died.”
I just stopped. My heart started beating and I thought of all the Cates I knew. I said “Who...who...what are you talking about?”
He named off a chain of people by which information was flowing his way. I just started shaking my head and shaking. I rushed to my computer and pulled up my own information, thinking surely this is like one of those celebrity someone-has-died sort of things.
“Cate hung herself Saturday night,” was the message.
There it was.
And that was that, there was no refuting it, no way to argue that this was not in fact a true thing. Something had driven this beautiful girl to seek out the best final peace she could get.
In 1997, she pulled me into her room and pointed at the wall there, “Look what I’ve done,” she said and pointed to the wall. In three-foot-high letters she had plastered across her dorm room: “WHO AM I?”
Cate was always full of laughs. I loved her—you couldn’t help loving her. She used to sit in class in a big oversized sweatshirt and a short grey skirt, masturbating along with the discussion. She’d be quiet and was almost amused she could get away with it.
She cut her hair short.
In 1997, it was a hot summer night. The piano had been moved to the back of the gym basement. I sat back there alone, sweating and playing. She scared me when she came in.
“That was beautiful,” she said.
“I was really just fucking about.”
“Play something else.” I did.
She sat beside me.
“It’s as beautiful as you are.”
“I’m not beautiful.”
“What are you talking about?” she asked me. I smiled and played some more, feeling that overwhelming throbbing attraction that was so beautiful and so overwhelming. First loves. First loves are always like that.
“What was that?” she asked. I told her what the song was about.
“Put your hands on the keys,” I commanded. She did. I told her to play and she banged at the keys and I followed along.
“This just makes me feel so many things!”
“What are you feeling?” I was being sly, hoping she felt what I was feeling.
She looked at me and I stared straight into her. Her hands were suddenly in my hair and her tongue was suddenly in my mouth. We walked to my room and spent the next 18 hours there.
In 1997, I went to work in a building by myself to pay for my tuition. It was a hot day. The grounds manager brought me lunch. Three hours later I was in agonizing pain. Cate found me.
“I hurt, Cate, I hurt so much.”
“You should go to a hospital.”
“No, I just...maybe I just need to lay down. It’s probably just food poisoning. Faulty tacos.” I laughed.
She stayed with me as I half-walked, half-crawled across campus and up to my room. She came to check on my an hour later. I was pale, flushed with sweat. She convinced someone with a car to drive me to the hospital. She held me as I shook in pain in the backseat. She stroked my hair, she whispered soothing things in my ear.
In 1997 I sat on a hospital floor shaking back and forth in pain. I recited my name, my mother’s maiden name, my father’s name, my social security number, over and over again until I passed out. She sat with me the whole time. When I blacked out from the pain she went to the nurses. The nurses were angry. They thought if I was in that much pain I should have taken an ambulance. I was a poor college student with next to no health insurance. I would have laid in my room and died if Cate hadn’t helped me down the stairs and crawled with me to the car.
“She stopped moving about 20 minutes ago. Do you think you might want to admit her now? I think she may have died.”
In 1997 an incompetent nurse complained about not being able to put a catheter on me because of my size. Cate (who had spent some time getting acquainted with me) ended up guiding her hand. The ultrasound showed a massive, horrible growth. They later had to run a CAT scan. They decided it wasn’t immediately fatal, but I would need surgery and soon. Cancer was tossed around.
I lay sweating in the bed after drinking the fluid for the CAT scan. Cate sat and held my hand. She asked me if I wanted anything from my room. I asked for my blankie. She made people drive her back to Armstrong house to get my blankie and my pillow. I laid on her bosom, sucking my thumb, and went to sleep with her there. She came and got me the next day and helped me check out. Carried me to my room.
She asked me if I wanted anything, and brought me food. It was to be the only solid food I ate for a week. She went to England the next day. I didn’t see her again for a year. When she returned, she found me in the basement. I smiled to see her. She smiled to see me. We ended up hot and heavy in a bathroom stall in the gym basement.
We talked on and off. I knew her adventures. I knew her battle with depression. I knew I had a deep love for her. I knew she would always be one of my first loves.
My last memory of her was at Godot. She was playing guitar. “I’m going to teach myself the accordion,” she said. She played Tori Amos' "Talula" on the guitar.
She traveled far and wide, a member of a roaming bad; she visited countries, lived like the poor, lived hand to mouth, but lived. She lived so much, so fast. Maybe too much, maybe too fast.
On Saturday we joked about drinking.
On Saturday she killed herself.
She saved my life, and now, here I sit and wonder if I didn’t listen hard enough, or maybe if I had paid more attention I could have saved hers. I won’t know. I can never know.
I missed her before last night.
I miss her even more now.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
It had been a while since I had been to the Chicago Theatre; the last time was to see Tori Amos with the Bard. That had been a show during the catastrophic tonsillitis of 2009 which had finally ended with my tonsils on the cutting-room floor. Tori was as Tori always is, a dynamic and amazing presence on stage, who brings with her playing the sort of raw sexuality that makes me feel as I watch her that I am not watching someone play piano and sing, but that I am rather watching someone have full-on dirty, filthy sex with a piano that culminates in an orgasm for everyone in the building. It’s filthy, it’s hot, and it leaves you damp and wanting more. Yes, well, it is Tori Amos. That was the Abnormally Attracted to Sin tour. I bought and wore a pin that read “Goth Slut” for at least four years before it finally ended up lost in the ether somewhere. So many variety of things lost in the ether somewhere; such was my life.
The theater was still beautiful and unwieldy, with all sorts of different kinds of intricate carvings. We went through a quick security check. I checked my bag and bought a vodka—it being that kind of evening—before going off to find our seats. We were seated in the first row on the upper balcony, which afforded a great view of the stage as well as allowing some room to stretch our legs.
Much to my amusements there were hipsters on every side of us. The theater was crowded but not necessarily packed, and I was excited to see both Widowspeak (the opening act) and Iron and Wine. I was also amused by just how many people kept going in and out to get booze, as I couldn't recall seeing that much swilling of the drink on previous shows there, but then, once I’ve camped out my seat, I rarely leave to get another drink. Drinking is what you do before the show starts, not during.
Widowspeak came on quietly and filled the theater with ethereal magical voices. Her soft lead vocal was a nice compliment to the drums and guitars and she had the floaty onstage presence of Mazzy Star. The sound was lovely, but this was when it became clear that something was not quite right in the land of sound planning. The sounds from the stage seemed just a bit off that I found myself straining to hear, even though it should have been quite easy to make a connection in this theater. The Chicago Theatre has great sound, and a good sound engineer should have had no problem with that.
Even with the sound trouble I enjoyed the set, and was only further excited for the next. Since it was between sets I figured this would be a good time to go to the bathroom, and hey, while I was out there, why not some vodka? where I was promptly carded, even though I had not been downstairs. Fortunately I was with the Electrician, who bought the drinks, but the bartender was quite adamant that I not touch the drinks. This lead to confusion all around for me alone.
Iron and Wine was up next. We got back to the hall in time to meet with a few Shimer students that were hanging out there talking to the Bard. The show was coming up rather quickly, so people were quickly back in their seats and hanging out to enjoy the Iron and Wine.
Iron and Wine, the former guitar-only act, was paired up with three backup singers, brass section, string section, and a pretty decent drummer. All together he was outfitted to bring the party to the yard, and that is really what he did. While his band was in top form, and he was lovely, his sound engineer clearly had no idea what he was doing. The sound was not managed as well as it could have been. Fortunately for us, though, Iron and Wine did the equivalent of a musical striptease, starting off with the full band and then slowly as he worked through the evening, peeling it off, slowly but surely, until he stood alone, a man naked with only his guitar, his voice, and his lovely sense of humor.
He engaged the audience, asked them for songs, joked with us, and laughed. When someone shouted out "Freebird!" as seems almost inevitably when you expose yourself musically on stage to the taunts and snide comments from the crowd, he actually started into the well-known refrain. And while he didn’t finish it, not a person in the house would have been upset if he had continued all the way to “Free as a bird now.”
We clapped our hands and swayed, and I let myself drown in the sound of it, luxuriating in musical release until we were finally dismissed to a large encore, and sent back out into the street of the bright fall Chicago night with music in our heads. The drive up LSD was glittering and had that magical city-night quality that comes at the end of a good day.
Monday, October 14, 2013
Iron and Wine was good. The next thing I was looking forward to was Mark Lanegan at the Old Town School of Folk Music. I had been there sometime ages ago, lifetimes past, when I still lived in the U.S. and myself and the Boy tried to entertain ourselves in interesting ways. He was taking singing classes there for a time, and I would go and buy Robbie Robertson albums and other Native American folk singing to rock out on when I wasn’t working or borderline depressed.
It was a thing, it was a time.
Mark Lanegan was also a long time ago. Another trip down memory lane to when I first discovered him as a part of the Screaming Trees. Long time ago. Nirvana time ago. He nearly lost me, but he didn’t. I kept coming back to his music, and have listened over the years as he evolved into a solo act. So when I saw he had a new album out this month I looked for a tour and found him coming to Chicago.
I bought tickets, good tickets. Part of my expatriate rehab was going out and doing things. I figured if I went and did more things I would find something here that made me feel like I was at home. So far I have done many things. So far I still don’t feel like this is home. At least I’m having a good time.
I got two tickets.
Then I realized I had forgotten to get a date. I figured I had almost a month to figure out the date problem.
Thus started almost a month of not getting a date.
As the night of the concert approached, aside from feeling particularly untouchable, I was desperate to not go to see Mark Lanegan alone.
So I told Young Kubrick he was coming with me and I’d buy him dinner. That seemed to do it. (Demanding a date is almost always better than asking.) I decided where I wanted to eat, instructed him to meet me there, and then spent a day listening to Mark Lanegan at work.
This was a bad idea.
Mark Lanegan has one of those voices, a voice like Nick Cave has: it makes me want to do things to myself. What is worse is its effect: his voice makes my panties, my thoughts, and my inhibitions melt away on the smooth basso of it, until I am left drained and wanting more—all for the sound of a voice.
It’s that good.
I left work in a worked-up state that was entirely unacceptable and thoroughly excitable, and executed my plan to have a bottle of wine in a little Italian restaurant that I found just down the street from Old Town. The owner sold me on the cheese plate and a South African Pinotage, and I enjoyed my book, sitting on the patio with a bowl full of olives while waiting for Young Kubrick. It was a very familiar experience, reminding me of my favorite restaurants long lost in Asia, leaving me instantly comfortable and immediately homesick for my dear sweet Koreanized world. Young Kubrick and I had mussels and calamari as well once he arrived. The cool autumnal evening of Chicago grew dark around us as we got pleasantly drunk and ran down the street to the show.
We found that our table (we had a small four-seat table) was already occupied by a girl, and so I asked if she was there alone. She responded in a heavy accent that she was.
“Well, you could not have picked two better people to have shared a seat with,” I smiled back.
We got some wine and sat down next to her. She was a nice girl, doing a second or third Master’s degree, originally from Ukraine, who had traveled up from Iowa for the show. We were later joined at our small table by a bald gent who had nothing to say to us and spent most of his time staring at his phone while waiting for the show to start.
I was amused.
Then the lights when dark.
And the first act came on.
UPDATE: This will be finished, but the thing with Cate really threw me off. For right now I just need to continue moving forward. I will get back to this. It was an awesome show.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
“Do you want to go see Iron and Wine?” the Bard asked.
She had originally told me about this at some point in May, and I was quite interested then, even though my status of being in or out of the country was unknown at the time. As it were, I ended up being in country much sooner than had been expected, as the company that wanted me wanted me tout de suite. The emotional, physical, and mental turmoil notwithstanding, by the time Iron and Wine was to come to Chicago I would be mostly settled back into the country.
Granted, there were still so many pangs, but it was getting easier day by day, alhough the growing longing to go home just kept getting bigger.
Such a funny thing is home.
(I’ve distracted myself, and here I was talking about Iron and Wine. To continue.) I’d heard about the group way back in around 2007 or 2008 and had listened to a few albums. It was good music for when you needed something subtle, although it didn’t speak to me in the same way as Liam Finn, in that boy-with-a-guitar sense, but I liked it.
There was a request for the Boy to come with me, and I said I would ask, which resulted a series of very amusing conversations.
“Would you be interested in going to see this?” I Played Iron and Wine music at the Boy.
“It’s not the sort of thing I would feel compelled to claw my ears out to get away from.”
“So is that a yes?”
“It’s not exactly a no.”
So. I love him, but he can be difficult.
Several more conversations later finally we got down to this one.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather spend the night soaking naked in a tub full of hot water eating a gallon of ice cream and possibly a jar of salsa?”
“Well when you put it that way, it does sound like a more pleasant evening.”
I think it was the salsa that sold him on it. In the end he opted out, I opted in, and we tried really hard to find someone for the fourth ticket. Interestingly, between all the people we asked we managed to be entirely unsuccessful in the finding of a fourth and decided we would just have to enjoy it the three of us.
At 5:00 we clocked out of work and went to wait for the Electrician at a dinner/bar place.
“Do you have dirty martinis?” I asked.
“Yes. What kind of vodka would you like?” Ah, I do love that about this country. They actually ask, and even then their shelf vodka is not that bad.
The waitress rattled off a list that included Stoli, and I lamented the cost of Stoli, to which she responded that actually the Stoli was pretty reasonable, so I went that way, and was a few minutes later graced with vodka. Which I happily drank while contemplating the joy of chicken wings. The Electrician managed to find us, even though we were on a rather large patio, and this led to some amusement pouring over the menu.
It was the Bard that pointed it out. She handed the menu to me and pointed while still giggling.
“Baked chocolate-chip cookie dough, served with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.”
The menu got passed around and we all had a fit of laughter.
“You know, once you bake it, doesn’t it become, by its very nature a cookie?” I asked.
We were engaged in fits of laughter and finally decided that before we left the restaurant we would have to find out about this so-called “baked cookie-dough.” We ordered one and it came in a hot black skillet that the waitress happily set down, along with a third (fourth?) martini for me, and forks all around.
We all took up a fork and took a bit.
“Well, it’s truth in advertising,” says the Bard.
The Electrician and I just keep eating and finally it has to be said. “You know, This is nice but I can’t help feeling like if they had left that in the oven for a few a more minutes this would be a really nice cookie.”
“My thoughts exactly,” said the Electrician.
We laughed some more and polished off the ridiculous cookie-that-almost-was. I felt bad for this concept of baked cookie dough, I think perhaps Plato would have felt my pain on this one. By not really cooking the cookie dough to make a cookie, weren't we, then, denying the cookie it’s inherent purpose; whereby keeping it from its purpose didn’t we negate the nature by which the cookie ultimately became good? Yes, I think Socrates could have appreciated the conundrum of the cookie.
Finally, having finished whatever passed as our ridiculous mishmash of dinner and cocktails, it was time to get on with the show, and so, on we went to getting.
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
“Are you coming?” The Electrician was asking and for good reason.
That had sort of been the question of the week. I spent the last weekend gallivanting around Chicago, mostly tripping out on the most excellent Iron and Wine concert and I knew that I would be spending at least three out of four nights in the upcoming weekend on a couch. With a looming book deadline I didn’t really think I could justify taking the time off to go to the Taste of Kink.
But then, it is the Taste of Kink.
“All right, all right. I’ll wrap this up and catch the train, but I will probably be a little late.”
Indeed, forgetting that unlike Korea, where you have a train every 15 minutes and always more than enough people to take the train, the trains here are constantly being cut back and cut back, which has the effect of producing even fewer riders, which then reduces the hours even further. It is frustrating, but I managed to catch the four o’clock train, which put me in the city right around six. Unluckily for me there had been the equivalent of a pop-up monsoon on my way to the city, making all sorts of trains late and generally being quite annoying.
I managed to meet a new friend, as I am working on a project to make friends (which is so far going abysmally, and I’ll either write about it later or I won’t) who offered a ride to the event. The trains, however, also had him running late, so all in all it was just a running late sort of night. We drove up, chit-chatting, talking about Chicago, and I tried to prepare the newbie for what he was about to get into.
“Basically we are going to the local dungeon, or at least, one of the local dungeons.”
“There will be naked people. I’m really interested in checking out grinder play.”
So far he was holding up, I was amused. At the same time, I was not going to waste time on friends who can’t deal with the fact that I am kinky. I gave up on that about three years ago, and I was not about to revert to pretending to be different versions of Sara with different people. I have been slowly consolidating the many face of Saradevil into two: Work Sara and me. Sadly, this meant the world now had to deal with all my awesomeness. It would be difficult. The world may not make it out alive.
We managed to get there in one piece, and I even mostly managed to remember how to get us there from LSD. Since new friend couldn’t stay for longer than thirty minutes we parked (most illegally) and headed into the dungeon. It had clearly flooded earlier, but they had managed to mostly get the water problem shored up by the time we got there. I started saying hello to the variety of people I knew while having my ID checked and getting mostly signed in.
Once all in, I went to find the Bard and the Electrician, who were over in a dark corner with the antique vibrators on display. “What, no electroplay?” The Bard turned around, showing that she was in fact all wired up. “Dammit, I wanted some. Oh well.” And with that (as I am wont to do) I slipped out of my dress and into a silk bathrobe. (The bathrobe is more fun for these sorts of things. Although it looks like a pretty silk dress, I still feel indecent wearing it in public.)
I grabbed the newbie and dragged him around to see different things. I made a cursory stop at the dildo table, as they had a few I didn’t have and was very curious about and made a note to come back later. They also had the most interesting collection of fucksaws I had seen, and that I definitely wanted to see more of. There was some needle play in an opposing corner, which I was less interested in, and someone doing vacuum compression play and straightjackets. Of course there was a rigger on the rope set doing suspension on all sorts of women, someone doing introduction to basic canes, and another with a nice flogger display, who got a little put off when I asked if it was elk hide or deer (It was most likely elk—a little stiffer than deer, but too soft to be buffalo or regular cow). Then I took the newbie around the corner to the grinder area, where they were doing grinder play.
I was very interested in the grinder, but after listening to the instructions decided I wasn’t in the mood. One, if you are wearing any synthetic fiber you have to take it off, and two, the line was REALLY long. Not surprising, as it looks super cool, but cool or not it was time to take the newbie back to his car.
“Uh, we should hang out again.”
“Sure,” I said enthusiastically, having walked him to the car in my bathrobe. I felt so indecent; however, I was really quite decent.
He drove off. I’m pretty sure I’ll never see him again. .
I went back in and back to the dildos and fucksaw table where someone was doing a fucksaw display, i.e. she was having it used on her while we got to watch. There is something fascinating about being able to watch these things in person versus seeing them used in porn. One, this was a real person in front of me, and two, the reactions were very much authentic and real, and this made it fascinating. It’s a much better gauge of weather or not you need to own one of those things when you can actually quiz someone about their experience. This is not to say that was arousing, as in general I didn’t find this to be the case for myself, personally, but more of a fascinating chance to get a glimpse of it. Granted that was the entire point of the Taste of Kink: to provide a taste, a quick glimpse, into the things you have not tried before that might be interesting to try in the future.
Once one person volunteered, more usually lined up, and I moved on from there to see what was happening with the vacuum play. Basically its like this, you're Han Solo and the vacuum bag was your carbonite. It was fine to watch, but I get really claustrophobic sometimes and that much compression really worried me. However I did enjoy watching it being done to other people, so I watched for a few minutes, amused, before heading back over to see how things were progressing in other parts of the dungeon. It was getting close to the end, which meant packing up soon.
“So, do you want some?” Some being an antique vibrator and wanting meant pretty much exactly what one would think it meant.
“I knew I was going to end up being used as a vibrator test dummy.” Not that I minded. I had pretty much turned the entire of kink community of Chicago into fans of antique vibrators due to my love of my dearly departed Andis vibrator: 6000 rpms, non-greasing, self-contained motor…sigh, I loved that machine. (Also, everyone should at some point have a vibrator that plugs into the wall.)
“Gear up and game on,” was basically how that went, which inspired the crowd of exactly one person to request if he could get the same treatment. “Well,” he said “she seems to be enjoying it,” pointing at me. She (being me) at that point could barely stand up, because that is what a turn-of-the-century vibrator will do to a lucky victim.
“Sadly we have to pack up to go. But next time.”
Cause that is how the kink scene rolls, there will always be a next time.
I later asked the newbie if he was all right or if I had scarred him for life.
“I’d hardly call it scarring.”
I was still pretty sure I’d never see that one again, although I was also still pretty amused.
Monday, October 07, 2013
I dreamed of you last night.
I don’t even know who you are anymore, though. Are you Korea, the country that I spent so much time in that it feels more to home like me than the one I was borne in? In my dreams I walk the cold smooth streets of that country. The lights flash around me, languages and smells drifting up that are all foreign and strange. I am wrapped in them, and in them I am exactly where I want be. I walk those streets like I own myself, and maybe that is because here is a place where I feel totally as if I own myself, the good, the bad, the ugly.
There are strange words on my tongue in my dream. I dream of languages. I see the faces of friends, morphing into one another, so many friends, so many years. I am the passage of years. I have been inside it. The halls are gray and you are there.
I try to talk to you but every side of you is the wrong side of you. I am spinning around lost and trying desperately to find you.
The room is full of chairs and children, children I have known or taught, or the children that I was. I knew what we were doing was about to be ended and I was trying desperately to stop it. I was on the run from an idea, and I kept thinking if I just keep going back, if I keep going into the room I might affect change.
In the room though, is stagnation, over and over again the same: fascinating, interesting, but stagnate. The learning is non-learning, and no amount of pleading will change things. The actions are the same over and over again, stuck, and I want desperately not to be stuck in it. I keep moving back and forth between the room and an endless hall that seems to surround the room.
I look for you.
You are inside the room.
You are outside the room.
Finally there is an alarm, and I know the alarm means the end, it is over, there is no going back into that room.
I am distraught and open a door to a new place. I hear myself saying “I am haunted by my life without you.” I see this pushing you further away as I say it. I watch you disappear away.
And then there is a shift and I feel that well of uncontrollable emotion that I know will overwhelm me soon, that I know eventually I will be helpless to hold back.
There you sit in front of me.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
I shake my head, no. I feel my shoulders tremble.
“Come here.” And you hold out your arms, and I fall into you, and I cry, sigh, letting go, expressing myself and feel free and safe, at peace, at home, and then you are not you and you are not there and instead I am me, awake, an alarm playing softly in the background with another day dawning.
I have dreamed of you so often, last night, the most real. Still, afterward, thinking back on the dream, I am not even sure who you are, just that you are out of reach, and that I am haunted by the dreams of you.
Sunday, October 06, 2013
The sun set on Blondie, with Debbie Harry swishing into the night and then it was and Ms. Mayhem and I (along with about forty of our new best friends) waiting for the Violent Femmes.
“I’m going to go to the bathroom before this gets started,” says Ms. Mayhem.
“All right. I’ll be here, holding down the stage.”
The exodus after Blondie and the stage push had put me up not to far from center stage. I wasn’t dead center, but I was damn close—the reward of a well-planned stage squat. Being that I was on my own I decided to see what was left in my flask while leaning over the railing and waiting for Ms. Mayhem to return.
“So that was an awesome, set, huh?” said the guy next to me.
“Wasn’t it just?” I offered him the flask, which he happily took a swig off of. This began the conversations you have when you are standing on a rail, stage squatting for a Violent Femmes show. It turned out the guy was from Cleveland and had come up with a bunch of friends—whom he suspected were off getting drunk somewhere else and possibly watching the Rancid show. As he said the words, Rancid suddenly kicked off and we took a moment to enjoy the strains of the music floating over the stadium.
“I was going to go try and see Public Enemy, but I don’t know, this seems more important,” he said to me. I could only agree.
So we traded stories about why we were here, who we were here to see, and generally got to be friends.
“I figure we may as well get to know each other since I’m going to be pressed up against you for the next hour and a half.”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure my friend is not coming back,” I said.
We talked and traded stories about the Femmes. Is there anyone that did not discover the Violent Femmes as a teenager and use this band to work through the terrifying loneliness and isolation that maturation and adolescence brings? For those that suffered through high school without the Femmes, I’m sorry. The universe owes you something.
When I first heard about the Riot Fest lineup, Danzig had not yet been included, but the Femmes were always the headline show for Saturday night and that was a show I wanted to see. Surprisingly, they were not the closing act, as Blink-182 was playing after the Femmes, but I figured the fact that I had absolutely no interest in seeing Blink-182 would just make getting out of the park easier when the Femmes finished.
We watched as they set up the stage for the band. It was not too hard to set up for the show. Acoustic guitars. Drums. Xylophone. Some extra mikes for brass section. They were ready to go. The crowd was ready too, happily waiting and cheering and chanting and tossing beach balls about for the start of the show. When Gordon Gano walked onto the stage, there was a deep breath, and then he started belting into the microphone, “When I go walking, I strut my stuff, and I’m so strung out…” I’m positive that he continued to sing but at that point the crowd was practically throwing themselves at the stage and every single person in the audience was screaming out the lyrics—me, Cleveland, the drunk divorcée who kept shouting “You got me through my divorce!” during what little silence there was in the song—all of us, we sang those words.
Here is a song that had become something more: not just lyrics to dance and sing along to, but an anthem, a chant, a powerful spell, and as we all were gathered there together, all singing and dancing and jumping along while screaming out those words, there was this collective sigh of almost orgiastic release. That here, in these words, we had all grown, had all overcome something, those were our power words. Those were the words we could always turn to, and they were words where we would always find some kind of solace, comfort and shelter.
It went on that way. When he went from "Blister in the Sun" to "Add it Up" followed by "Kiss Off," a few of us in the know just started to realize what was happened. And then he confirmed it from the stage. “As some of you may have guessed by now,” Gordon said, “We are playing the first album. We released this album over thirty years ago. Way back when they used to print these things on records. So, this is the point where you would turn the record over. Now, please settle in and enjoy side two.” And we did. It was an awesome set crammed with the Femmes that we all adored. He finished it up with "Black Girls," "Held You in My Arms," and finished with an encore of "American Music." Perfect, absolutely perfect set.
Cleveland and I shared a hug as the crowd broke up, most of them going to see Blink-182. I found an empty port-o-let and then had some road food, which I think was cheese off a discounted slice of pizza. My brain was fuzzy from all the amazing music and dancing and drifting into experience. Leaving the park was much the same as the previous night. I grabbed a pedicab and hightailed it to Western where I managed to get a taxi with more ease, and before I knew it I was happily ensconced in an apartment, a glass of wine in hand, and a desperate need to get out of the corset I had been wearing for over 8 hours.
There was picture taking and drinking for a bit until I finally passed into a bone-weary sleep. When I woke up the next morning every single bone in my body hurt from the jumping, headbanging, thrashing, and walking. I felt like I had been worked over by six angry punks fighting over a bag of heroin. The pain and strange bruises kept a smile on my face all the way home.
Saturday, October 05, 2013
Debbie Harry danced onto the stage from the far right. She was wearing what looked for all the world like a witches cape with a very long, very pointy hat. The band started bleating out the opening chords of “Atomic”, which caused Ms. Mayhem and I to start jumping up and down and screaming—as is appropriate when you are on the stage in front of Debbie Harry.
As the show continued she played every single hit Blondie ever wrote, and as she sang she stripped down and down until she was every bit the punk-rock goddess she had been some thirty-odd years ago. She moved across that stage with the lithe step of a teenager, and everyone in the crowd sang, screamed, and danced along. When she broke from "Heart of Glass" into a riff on "No Sleep Til Brooklyn," we cheered and shouted for her even harder. She sang as the sun dipped down low below the horizon, and we sang and danced with her into that wonderful dark twilight that is Chicago on a warm autumn night.
It was a mixed set with a few new songs here and there, but not a single moment of the hour was wasted and when it finished all I could think was I want to grow old like Debbie Harry, or Patti Smith. I want to have all that power and beauty in my old age, to be commanding, and dangerous and adored, and beautiful. To own the stage.
These women are so beautiful, so magical, and so engaging, to be them…perhaps I have enough magick to pull it off.
Friday, October 04, 2013
We walked arm in arm to find some cola and water, and managed to do so after wandering around to about five different tents. Our wandering took us past the carny game where you swing a big hammer and maybe win something for hitting the bell.
“I’ll win you something for buying me a water,” said Ms. Mayhem.
And so she paid to take a stab at swinging the hammer and didn’t do so bad. I took a swing at it myself, but we did not successfully win; however, we were allowed to choose a toy for being cute riot girls. From there we discussed our plan for Blondie and as the Screaming Weasels finished up we wandered up pretty much to the front of the stage and got our spot on the rail.
Once situated at the rail we continued our talks about life, love, sex, and so on.
“Was he good?”
“What kind of condoms do you use?”
“Mostly just the usual.”
Here the conversation stopped.
“The usual?” I repeated. “Oh no, I’ve got lovely condoms, you simply must try some.” I pulled out my magical condom bag (I don’t leave home without it). The condom bag is a peacock bag that was a Christmas present from my beautiful Artist. I like to keep it full of condoms so that I think about her and all the times we ended the night with a victory garden around the bed. It’s handy.
“Far out, man, yeah,” said a guy just behind us on the left.
“No, just your conversation is awesome.” We started chatting with him and the cute busty girl he was standing with, and before you know it I was passing out condoms to a group of about ten people. “I’ve done condom testing. I swear, these are the best condoms money can buy, tell your friends.”
I should be a spokeswhore.
There are many thank-yous, and as the sun dipped below the horizon, the magical hour of seven approached and suddenly the drums on the stage began.
Thursday, October 03, 2013
I woke up Saturday morning feeling mostly refreshed and only in a minor amount of physical pain from being on my feet for four hours. Thus began the day of Riot Fest, Part Deux. I had some lunch with the Bard and the Electrician before I slid into a corset (with some tying assistance from the Bard), and headed back out toward Humboldt Park. I managed to make the fest around 3:00 which gave me some time to wonder around, catch a few different nonessential acts for me and browse the merch.
From a stage I heard some aged punk rocker scream “I’ve never had to play in so much sunlight before. Some of you guys here are old enough to know it, but some of you kids here are not, so just know it: don’t let the assholes get you, man, be yourself. Be your-fucking-selves. Don’t be a fucking sellout!”
I smiled and kept wandering.
Thing about this park is that it is freaking HUGE. While I felt I had plenty of time to find everything, it took me almost an hour to find the merch tent, and of course, it was merch tent day two, so the stuff I wanted to get from yesterday's shows was gone, and I was left with today's selection. I picked up a T-shirt, stuffed it in my bag, and walked through the carnival.
There was a pretty interesting carnival going on last night, with fire spinners, light dancers, a few different carny games, and a big Ferris wheel. I walked through the game section and had some very nice carny hand me a ball and try to convince me to play a game. I kept tossing until he had convinced a few other looky-loos to play and then went back to my wondering. I paid a few dollars to shoot off an air gun, and then decided I should get some water and use the bathroom before settling in for what was going to be a good long stage squat while I waited for Blondie. I also wanted to get a little diet cola, as—considering the booze situation at the site—I had decided to bring a flask containing some decent vodka with me (and seriously, who throws a riot festival that is beer only? Who thinks that’s okay?).
There was a line up for the various port-o-lets and so I picked a line and got it in it. The girl in front of me turned around, and then turned back to face the port-o-let and then turned around and gave me a hug.
“You know, I have been here all day thinking I wanted to be social and no one was here to be social with me,” said Ms. Mayhem. I smiled.
“Well, wasn’t that handy? This was not on purpose; I actually have to pee.”
“I pee like a man, so you can go after me.”
We took our individual turns in the loo, and then (very Korean style) after dousing in hand sanitizer, she slipped her arm through mine and said “I really need to eat. I think I saw a tent that was doing vegan blueberry pie puffs; come with me?”
“Sure. I also want to grab a coke.”
“That’s 29. I’ve been counting Mohawks all day. That’s 29. Not a bad one, but I think the spikes are a little redundant.”
So we started walking and talking. Ms. Mayhem filled me in on the goings-on in her love life, which I had been following from afar as we walked toward the tent that might provide her with vegan pastries.
“Do you want one?”
I shook my head. “Low-carb.”
“Right, yes, of course. I knew I needed someone to take care of me. Now that I’ve eaten, I can’t remember eating.”
“We should get some water. Do you want to stage squat with me?”
“Who are you squatting for?”
“Yes, that’s perfect! That’s the last show I want to see and then I was going to take off. I’m tired, I’ve been here since nine.”
“Let’s go then.”
Wednesday, October 02, 2013
The thing was, I was exiting the park with about six to eight thousand other people just after the show on a Friday night. That is a lot of people suddenly descending on Chicago, and we basically all had the same idea. I started walking, but realized that I was almost literally getting nowhere fast.
The streets were jammed, packed full of people, all in varying stages of inebriation. I was basically sober, having had only two shitty bottle of white wine (because apparently the only alcohol being served at Riot Fest was wine or beer and the wine was only white), so I had not actually had much to drink.
Now I was standing on a sidewalk, aware that it was almost 10:45, I was tired, and I was surrounded by a thousand people I did not want to get to know better. I also noticed that up and down the street pedicabs were running full out. Much like in Asia, pedicabs are bicycle-powered cabs where you can jump on a bench in the back and get a ride to somewhere. In my 12 years in Asia I never actually ridden a pedicab anywhere. Granted, they are not nearly as common in Korea, although they were all over China on my few visits there.
However, here I was confronted with something like a mile and a bit walk in boots I hadn’t worn for eight months; after a long evening of thrashing and mostly having been on my feet since six p.m. I was ready for a break.
I hailed a pedicab, and luckily for me he stopped.
I had listened to a gang that had jumped in a pedicab earlier, and as I didn’t know exactly where I was in the city I said (as if I knew exactly where I was in the city) “Just take me to Western.”
“Is that okay?”
“Yeah, sure, hop in.”
I got into the back and talked to my friendly cab pusher. He was a nice Ukrainian kid who was working to make a living in Chicago. He told me that almost every pedi-pusher in the city was here and tonight was one of three or four days a year when they really managed to make bank. It was a tough racket, but he enjoyed it, and he liked meeting nice people.
The ride was comfortable and fast, and I enjoyed the wind in my hair and being able to sit after having been so long on my feet. The night was clear, stars bright, and even though it was not passing swiftly, the lights of the city were a beautiful sparkle as I relaxed on my way to Western. When he dropped me off he smiled.
“You’ve been good company, don’t worry about it, you’re light to carry. Just a tip is fine.”
I smiled and gave him a twenty and thanked him.
Now I was further away from the riot catastrophe but still surrounded by people, those walking much faster than I was, who were now all gathered at Western trying to get a ride. Still a good hundred people and all crouched on various corners. I realized finally that I was just going to have to take the bus until I got far enough North to get out of the fray. The bus, then, it was.
Me, and about 80 other people crowded onto the bus at around eleven, and thus began the long slog. The bus was going to Berwyn, which put me in my neighborhood, so I stood. There were no seats. It was late, and my phone was close to dying.
I texted the Electrician and the Bard to let them know I was on the way. The Electrician texted back that he was going to be at the club and I considered heading that way as well. I managed to stand on the bus for all of forty minutes but somewhere after Belmont I decided I was done, got off the bus, and grabbed a taxi. For a few more moments I toyed with the idea of going to the club, but changed my mind and directed the taxi toward home, where I managed to make it, eventually, by around 12:35.
I was insanely tired, totally sober, wanted a drink and to sleep. I figured I could try one or the other and poured a small glass of tequila, which I promptly passed out into without even really managing to drink. I vaguely remember Young Kubrick stumbling in on me later to introduce someone, but tired, exhausted, naked, and trying to sleep I barely managed to raise an arm before drifting back into dreamland, where Glenn Danzig crooned at me in my dreams.
Tuesday, October 01, 2013
I watched the wings of the stage where the band queued up, and there they were, the two long-haired guitarists looking almost as good as they had in our sweaty, sexy dreamy youth, and then there was Glenn. Considerably older, and with a bit of a beer gut, but still a small little bundle of rock and roll rage. He took that stage and he owned it.
And even through the weirdness filter that sometimes comes when I revisit things that recall my teenage angst. I loved it. I jumped and thrashed and screamed along with my favorite tunes. When Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein joined to play guitar we as a crowd screamed harder. The mosh pit waved the crowd as people threw themselves back and forth and we adored Glenn as he paraded. It was awesome.
Since I was on the rail, I let the small child from behind me come on up and stand in front, but after awhile he went back to his Mom, complaining of the sound. She asked for just one more song. Fortunately I had some very nice earplugs—a gift from the Irish—made of silicone for swimmers. I didn’t happen to need them at the moment as I wasn’t actually finding the sound that loud (later I would learn they were having speaker problems throughout the festival so it really wasn’t that loud), but then again I wasn’t eight.
I broke off a piece from the plug I never used (safety first) and broke that in half to make to ear plugs for a child. I tapped the kid and motioned with my hands (there was no way he could hear me) and showed him what to do. He looked at me and then his Mom, so I showed her the case. Then I pulled her close and in her ear shouted “I’m a teacher.” She smiled and told her son it was okay and he put the plugs in. She gave him a thumbs up, and after playing with them for second he just beamed from ear to ear and gave her a thumbs up back. The silicone earplugs are awesome and when you use them right you can’t hear ANYTHING at all—even if you are standing in front of a speaker it comes out completely deadened.
The rest of the show was a riot-stomping, thrashing madhouse, and I finished it shaking, entirely spent, and ready to head home. Just before the encore the mom tapped me on the back and said a thank you, before starting to snake her way out of the crowd toward home. I waited until the lights came up and we were sure it was over and then waited for the crowd behind me to break up a bit. As things started to even out I figured it was time to make an escape. I wasn’t worried because I had a plan. Go, get a cab, go home. I figured it would be no problem.
Sometimes, I need to think things through a bit more thoroughly.