Eight hours later, my head feels two sizes too small and I realize that the night before every last bit of adrenaline stored in my system had been depleted – the aching joints pointed towards this – and rolling off the bed in my hotel room, I reluctantly get dressed to head off in search of food. Glancing at the digital clock on the nightstand its already near eleven. Having punched my phone alarm off I’d opted to skip the morning classes for some much needed sleep time.
The hotel concierge is quick to direct me towards the restaurant buffet here at the hotel. For eight dollars, one may have free access to a salad bar followed by an additional two dollar charge for unlimited sandwich access. I make conversation with the waitress who inquires about the purpose of my visit. This is where modesty and polite manners count – after all those two things are severely absent in today’s culture – which results in a pleasant reaction from her. She disappears for a moment then returns shortly, informing me, “On behalf of the restaurant staff, my manager has decided to offer you a free meal this afternoon. Welcome to Portland.”
I leave behind a generous tip for the waitress, return to my room for a quick shower, then pack my bags again before heading to the convention. My wardrobe being limited by only as much as I could carry, the sunny day called for a bright purple dress shirt followed by a black vest; switching my mask to another from my collection, I adjusted my tie before stepping out.
Along the way down the street I am greeted by multiple attendees from the convention. “Hey Yellow,” one gentleman says, catching up to me. “I saw your handiwork at the dungeon last night. You’ve got a very unique style to your kink.” Thanks, but to be honest, all I’m doing is putting my heart into it. “No, really, it was fascinating to watch you play with that girl.” Which one? He laughs, “The one with dark hair.” Which one? I repeat. “Nevermind.”
Did you have a chance to play last night? “With my partner, yes. Have you been introduced yet” He directs my attention to the woman behind him, led by a chain leash. I’m afraid not. How do you do? She curtsies following my polite bow. “I second what Master said. You’re very intimate with your partners.” Well, I say trying not to grin too hard, its hard not to be when dealing with hot naked people.
Outside, the blue sky overhead marked for the beginning of a marvelous day; the kind of day that is spent with iced tea, perched aloft the concrete pillars by the convention entrance. “Hey Yellow,” a pair of women, adorned in spiked collars, leather vests, and tight black jeans. “Saw your work last night.” Thanks! “There’s a staff member looking for you.”
Wait, what? “Yeah a staff member was looking for you.” They repeat in unison. Oh shit, did I do something wrong? “We don’t know.” Am I in trouble? Giggling they teased in response, “After what we saw last night, you ARE trouble.” I bite my lip. The good kind? I teased back. “Maybe.” One of them says with an innocent look. Speak with me later, I whisper beside her ear, and we’ll find out then. She snickers, replying with a wink, “Maybe.”
Making my way to the staff booth, I inquire about the volunteer looking for me. “Oh, its nothing actually,” The person in question tells me, much to my relief. “Some of the staff have been talking about you.” Is that right? “Yeah,” She adds with a smirk, “They just want to say that you’re really talented at what you do.” I try my best to be modest, I reply, so all I can say is that I just put my heart into it is all. “That’s good,” She adds, pausing momentarily to speak with another volunteer. “Modesty counts. It’s attractive really.”
There’s a bit of break during the time of my arrival and that spelled the perfect opportunity to socialize and find out more about the people attending the convention. For starters, I chose to explore the vendor area and am pleased to renew the acquaintance of several salespeople there; some I had encountered during events in Vancouver alone, the roles of local and visitor being switched this time around. Due to my overloaded baggage it pained me to be reduced to window shopping and card collecting instead.
“All our wares are handmade,” A leather salesman, his stock aligned with a variety of impact toys, tells me. “We’ve been at the business for the past twelve years.” Good lord. Is this your primary means of income? “Heavens no,” He laughs, handing me his business card. “My wife/slave and I enjoy crafting leather from used materials that we collect, most of what you see are made from recycled furniture and discarded household items donated to us.”
I examine what appears to be a cat-o-nine-tails made out of plastic wrapped copper wiring. The sting to it is remarkable and its low price even more so. “That we made out of a broken cable line, you know the kind from a modem router.” How long does it take you to make toys out of salvage? “Around one to two weeks average. The leather stuff requires care and maintenance, having to be cleaned up and polished, before being redistributed.” But why the low price? I ask.
“I gather you’re unfamiliar with how vendors work at conventions,” He quips. No, not really. “The way it works for pricing is based off material, labor, and finally travel distance. The reason why the stuff you paid for in Vancouver are so pricey is because of it being brought over the border, along with paying for vendor space. Other times its due to sales tax in different states.” I glanced at the other vendors, all of whom had price ranges from twenties to seventy at best; the quality and expert design of the toys they sold, suffice to say, were flawless. “Most of the vendors here are from Portland directly. Another trick is to sell shelved stock, which like old produce is lowered in price to clear the shelves.”
You sound like a hell of a businessman, I tell him “Actually I am during the day,” He replies to my surprise. “Suppose you can say that what we do outside the lifestyle can be reflected within or vice versa.” That’s a reasonable explanation.
The vendors cater not only to sex toy and dungeon equipment but also towards other fetish related items such as arts and crafts, photo stills and safety tools. “I see this as more of a profitable hobby than anything,” One woman tells me, offering to zap me with an electrical taser. I politely decline. “Don’t get me wrong. We put a lot of love into our work and by the end of the day, simply knowing that somewhere out there, we’ve helped contribute towards the fulfillment of some couple – new or familiar to the scene – brings a smile to my sadistic little heart.”
It shows, more than anything, judging from the quality of the handcrafted work. The process of making these tools requires an extensive amount of personal time. For that reason, any respected propietor catering to the fetish crowd places their customer satisfaction before their own work; the income, from what I gathered out of the vendors, is merely a side bonus. The skeptical side might argue that such a statement could be said for anyone, which is a fair point when based off the commercial business attitude.
However, the structure and make of a leather flogger requires the type of experience which can only be understood by a member of the culture and lifestyle itself. There is a noticeable difference between a light, medium, and heavy flogger; first, being its weight, followed by the strap below the hilt and the center of balance. The evenly matched prongs can be knotted or smooth at the end, adding to the effects they have on skin contact; a poor quality flogger is unbalanced, its tail ends worn with raw leather surfacing after use. Improperly made it can result in bodily harm and not the kind people enjoy.
Before the lunch break is over, I manage to lure a pair of individuals into the dungeon, which leads to a bit of afternoon dancing. Besides how could anyone possibly resist the temptation of ‘getting to know the locals’ better?
Think of the gap in adrenaline or endorphin as a bit of a hangover. Picture a long night of drinking, the kind that is followed by a headache; by fueling that missing bridge, one can delay the inevitable drop, though it is necessary to pay extra caution to basic needs such as proper hydration. For that reason, the aftercare is more focused that afternoon and justifiably so – most of the people, Top or bottom, were recovering from the wild effects of the night before.
Time passes by in a blur when you’re having fun or in this case form fooling around with attractive young men and women. Eventually the sight of increased passerbys in the lobby marked for the end of the break, prompting the topless young woman to crawl off my lap, much to my chagrin.
Outside I grab a quick smoke before class begins, making conversation with someone I had spoken to last night. “We met last night, outside the dungeon.” The gentleman tells me, blowing out his cigarette. We did? “Yeah. You were talking much faster, I presume you were high as a kite.” Uh, that sounds likely, yes. “No worries, I wanted to tell you that I’ve read your blog.” Oh? Thank you! That means a lot to me. We shake hands as he adds, “The one you wrote about veterans was very touching.”
Might I ask if you were in the service? “You may ask and yes, I was.” Did you serve a tour? “I did. Afghan. The desert wars.” I remove my hat, shaking his hand firmly once more. “The bit about PTSD and veterans raised a good point.” I merely wrote what I knew about the people spoke with, about my friends back home. “There’s a sense of narrative and I admire your work. Keep up the good work.” Thank you, I reply, trying not to trip over my enlarged ego. Let me know if I can be of any service later on this evening. “Sure, the same for you.”
Stepping back into the convention floor, I made my way to the classes.
Next Update: A Brief History of Leather