Note: The previous version of this entry, much to my great frustration, has been lost due to a faulty internet connection. No, I do not have a word processor, so these things apparently just happen. FML.
Nine hours later I wake up and survey my hotel room. The constant activity of the past two days in Portland has left my lodgings in complete disarray. Empty food wrappers and soda cans are scattered all over the room desk, strewn clothing laid out on the carpeting; toy cleaners and excess gear are spread on the couch amidst flyers and business cards gathered over the course of the convention. If not for the thick window curtains, the pulsing throb inside my head from the lack of natural adrenaline would have made for a very irritable morning. Fortunately there’s still leftover bottled water and chips left and after packing my bags I immediately head out the door.
Its already late in the afternoon as I leave my hotel but the sight of black clad convention goers is a welcoming scene. From time to time as I make my way to my classes, there’s the occasional greeting from steadily familiar faces of both locals and others visiting from out of town. The burger joint is teaming with activity and the diners sporting the distinctive blue medical bracelets are an indication that I wasn’t at all far from welcome company.
Just as I am about to enter my classes for the day I make a terrible discovery.
For the weeks prior during my travels I had carried on my persons a camouflage colored agenda through which I collected information such as transport, local figures, and events in cities that were part of my travel route. Try as I might it became clear that I had lost it from my possession. Despite my frantic search in my hotel room and the class rooms that I had attended, reporting it to the lost and found staff, the agenda was nowhere to be found. In a single stroke of bad luck I had instantly lost weeks of information and sources. Needless to say this was a terrible and irrecoverable blow to my travel plans.
With that discovery I resigned to sitting outside for some time, wallowing in despair, smoking through my cigarettes like no tomorrow. Unbeknownst to whomever discovered the agenda, part of its contents were personal information in case I lost my travel documents, written in code and cipher (See: Cantonese). Though the chances were slim, the risk of its contents falling into the wrong hands remained an absolute thought during my stay in Portland, and a harsh lesson of making a potential crippling mistake. My discomfort was not unnoticed, however, and people expressed their sympathies throughout the rest of the day. Word spreads fast in the convention and it is testament for the support our community provides for its own.
I meet up with several fellow Vancouverites visiting for the convention and party. Apparently my departure had not gone unnoticed – after all the goodbye note I had posted resembled a suicide note. The bits and pieces of news I hear from back home is comforting though I tried not to concern myself to them lest I begin to feel the effects of homesickness too early in my trip. Familiar company, in parts of the world unfamiliar to a person, is the best type of company one can ask for. Later on in the evening, I arrange to give a sampling of my learned skills to one Vancouverite in exchange for his good will and regards to people back home. Cheers on that.
Having borrowed a pen I sit through my classes and take as many notes as I can. Its hard to focus with a building headache that lingers throughout the day. The concept of adrenaline/endorphins is one that will be covered within the upcoming entries. For now I describe the effects of a long night of kinky fun to be akin towards a hangover, and like the effects of having one it is staved off by means of further activity; focusing on tasks that require attention is difficult but possible with the means of Power Point presentations and pamphlets.
You might wonder why it is that one would pay to attend a classroom when there are numerous free resources spread around in written or digital form. My personal philosophy is that a hands-on class, enabling one to ask questions like an academic course, is an educational experience. The wealth of knowledge required to participate in fetish cannot be disregarded due to the risks of injury. While there is no definitive method to a person’s kink, the ideas that are shared should be seen as a guideline to be developed from, and the experience of those practiced in the field can provide valuable insight to new skills and fields of fetish.
It is important to take the time to explain the dynamics of safety and technicalities. Any one person can pick up a flog or a whip and claim to be experienced in its usage. However, there is a significant difference between a person merely fabricating these claims to another who is familiar with the actual skill and knowledge of the subject. There is no harm in expanding one’s knowledge to these subjects, whether or not to better perfect them, and similarly no room for being ignorant of what they comprise of.
Suffice to say, in short summary, the classes of KinkFest vary from beginners to advanced techniques; ranging from background introductions of the presenters, the basic safeties and procedures, and the mentality and physicality of varying practices. All of these classes are entertaining on their own part, in that the witty humor attributed to the kinky and bizarre are prevalent throughout each lesson.
“If the police ever knock on your door,” one presenter says flatly. “Be polite. Be civil. Find out what it is that they’re asking from you and remember to act like the world’s greatest bottom. Yes, Sir. No, Sir. Do not argue. Cooperate. The misconceptions of being able to talk your way out of what they think is domestic violence will get you in trouble.”
No kidding. Here in the United States, the congressional laws of old still exist, enough to leave a vast amount of discretion within different parts of the states. Portland, being a notable exception, has with it some degree of tolerance being the nicknamed ‘Home of the Strange’. One of the city’s popular landmarks is a slogan that reads: ‘Keep Portland Weird’. Those words may describe the general outlook towards alternative culture but even with these notions much of the fetish events are kept under the radar.
“Have you had much luck finding the other deviants?” asked one Domme in passing. “I’m all the way from the East Coast. Let me tell you there’s no impact toys sold in the sex shops there.” You’re pulling my leg. “No, I’m not. The law considers that floggers and whips are dangerous instruments, torture devices, prohibiting them from public distribution.” That’s fucking absurd, I add. “Yes it is. However, that’s why the East Coast is big on rope and electro play.”
In other words, I chip in, people can still attach alligator clips and muscle stimulators to one another while floggers and paddles are restricted from use. The Domme gestures to her toy bag and pulls out a device with a voltage meter. I step away from arm’s reach. “That never stopped anyone from finding their way past these laws. Most of the toys you find people carrying in the East Coast are all hand crafted.” Did you make any of these toys yourself? I asked, pointing to the handles protruding from her bag. She passes me a hair brush, turning it to the flat side and smacks it against her palm. “People are clever. They find a way to improvise.”
Part of me remained curious as to how it is that a large scale convention could take place here in the West Coast, given the crazy laws throughout the United States, so I took my time to ask around. Back in Seattle, the laws are liberal towards the LGBT movement and often turn a blind eye towards these matters, from what it is I’ve been told. There is a strange twist to the laws back in Washington, and that is a strict prohibition mentality against the serving of liquor in private facilities. Not that liquor and BDSM should ever mix in my opinion.
“This is Portland.” One of the staffers mentions to me, regarding the convention’s history. “It wasn’t always a big event like this but its grown over the past few years. What began as a small West Coast convention for kinky folks has evolved into one of the most prominent gatherings all over the Pacific Northwest.. There isn’t necessarily a law against these things per say, but because ours is a non-profit event, the money going to renting space and paying for the expenses of speakers and presenters, vendors and facilities, there isn’t much that tax-payers need to worry about.”
Another Portland local describes the event to me from their perspective. “The convention itself isn’t some giant themed party that caters to everyone in the social class. This isn’t some rave or a club event. It’s strictly a conference first, a party second; the rules of conventions like the San Diego Comic Con applies here too – no drugs, no alcohol, and the volunteers have kept a clean track record for providing a safe and entertaining atmosphere.” They pause momentarily then laugh, “Fuck me. I sound like a commercial.”
The outside opinion of the convention is held with certain curiosity. Like any other organization running an event, reputation is key especially with a culture as edgy and risque as ours. While Portland maintains a penchant towards the alternative, featuring such annual events like the Naked Bike Ride, the fetish scene is one that vanilla locals find nowhere out of the ordinary; most, if not all of the Portland locals, are curious but do not quite share the interest to explore firsthand of this event.
“It’s some kind of a fetish party isn’t it?” A bystander asks me, glancing at the passing kinksters. Yes and no. There’s vendors and presenters all across the country that cater to fetish. The woman laughs, shaking her head, “It ain’t my cup of tea that’s for sure!”
As the last classes come to an end, the lobby of the floor is packing with people preparing to head out for their return trips, amongst them several Vancouverites and Victorians. I take my time to bid them farewell, exchange hugs (and the occasional pinch of my backside), and part of me is saddened by their departure. “I gotta work tomorrow.” One Vancouverite explains. “I don’t think I’ll attend the party tonight. Long drive home and such.” Be safe out there, I say, embracing them. “You too! You’d better come back with stories or I’m going to hurt you!” I smirk. Maybe I’d like that. “Fine. I’ll give you a lecture then.”
“Say hello for me will you?” Another Vancouverite says, hugging me tightly. “I’ve got friends down in San Francisco whenever it is you get there.”
“Young man,” A gentleman from Wyoming says, shaking my hand. “It was a pleasure meeting you. Please keep us posted on your journey. Take care of yourself. Come by if you can.”
Gradually I watched a majority of the convention goers leave and despite any misgivings of their absence or my lost agenda, I straightened my tie and prepared to attend the last party of the KinkFest. Hey, at least there’s more room in the dungeon tonight.
Next Update: KinkFest by Night Part Three