To tell you the truth, despite my claims of traveling alone, the truth is I have in my company a faithful companion that has rarely left my side. Its predecessor, a beautiful hand carved white ceramic dragonette, named Gregory, is much more fragile and older than itself. It is my understanding that true gentlemen, back in the days of old, carried on their persons a walking cane; however, due to the precautions of today’s day and age, carrying a steel cane is dubious and conspicuous to others.
Gregory was gifted to me by a friend back in Vancouver when I had first entered the scene. Her previous owner, an anonymous bootblack, had observed my tendency to walk around with a plastic cane. Seeing that it suited my image of formal wear and Chinese opera masks, he approached me one day and offered her to my custody at a certain price, and after careful negotiation I was bestowed her. From time to time, she became my loyal companion, never once leaving my side.
It is said that one can never truly tame a dragon but rather befriend it. Their company is only found amongst those pure of heart. I would like to think that I possess these qualities somehow. Gregory was originally made from a workshop dating back some 20 years ago, if the story is to be believed, and when the owner died her sister molds were destroyed; in theory, that would make her the last of her kind, the white ceramic dragons.
To carry a dragon cane, as my friend once put, it is believed that one must always face its head forward, never once allowing it to turn in the opposite direction. Similarly it is meant to be perched on the crook of the elbow or shoulder, at forearm length, and never dipped towards the floor. Due to her fragile state, Gregory is already showing signs of aging – cracks formed along the lines of her delicately carved base – and for the sake of her welfare, another had to take her place.
Therefore I hereby introduce to Annabelle, the intersex ‘sister’ of Gregory, a marvelous black dragon made out of a polypropylene framework, the same material used to create modern firearms. Its durability is extremely resistant to the elements and the designing company, Cold Steel, is famous for their work in swords and other archaic weaponry. Annabelle is lightweight to hold, curved in a way to allow a firm grip, and in an emergency may be utilized for cane fighting.
A true gentleman does not see a walking stick as a weapon more than he sees it as a walking fashion statement. Admittedly there has been more than one encounter with law enforcement stopping me, questioning its purpose, but fortunately my reasons are legitimate: the long roads often make my knees weak and, with other individuals, the claim of a semi-permanent injury has never been questioned.
Annabelle, like its sister, is a self-admitted asexual voyeur. It has a temperament to be reckoned with and is fiercely protective of others found in my company. That said it has never once failed to deter an encounter back home and for safety’s sake, it can be said that Annabelle has yet to forsake me on the present road ahead.
The gathering for the post-KinkFest meet was located in Chinatown, at an internet cafe, chock full of accessible desktop computers and retro arcade machines. The surrounding area and scenery is reminiscent of other Chinatown areas throughout North America, once built by landed immigrants from the Asian continent. Several pubs are situated around the avenue, notably one featuring arcade machines and coin operated games; nearby at Hamburger Mary’s, the now-former host of Portland’s Kinky Karaoke night, was located nearby a major traffic lane.
I had arrived rather early to the event and met up with another local that regularly attends these events. We chatted briefly about the city of Portland and about one another, which pleased me about his depth of knowledge to the local area. One of the most peculiar sights found in the area was a statue of a ‘green man’, depicted as a Wiccan-style creature dressed in leaves, bow and arrow in hand.
What the hell is a green man? I asked. “Oh, its a legend of a tiny brownie that appears randomly, occasionally shooting people with arrows.” He informs me. “Apparently if you got shot with one you see a great white stag in the sky or some giant tree over the city.”
Wait a minute, I interject, so what you’re telling me is that Portland has little green men shooting people with arrows that make them hallucinate? “Pretty much.” He replies, chuckling. “Haven’t you seen that sign that says ‘Keep Portland Weird’?”
Most, if not all, of the people present at the gathering share the same solemn expression as the other, that is tired and weary from the weekend before. In contrast to my free time, others still had regular obligations to attend to such as work and school and even children of to look after. The overall effect of a fun-filled weekend transitioning back into the mundane life of the working class can be excruciatingly harsh. Nobody wants to acknowledge that the fun has ended and return to the daily grind of work scheduling.
I took the time to familiarize myself to the people present at the gathering. The people here in this group are supportive, offering mutual condolensces, advice and the occasional hug. While the initial melancholy song overhead, Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn”, was considerably inappropriate; the lemonade and coffee quickly alleviates any negative sentiments to the establishment, alongside the company of the local deviants. While at the meeting, I draw up a small list of names that I gathered from response to an earlier forum posting, requesting a couch to surf on (not literally); fortunately I had a few names brought up at the time, one of which drew mild envy for the offered person’s accommodations, namely the aftercare room.
People exchange quiet banter, asking about the other upcoming event, and similarly going out of their way to engage one another about the other person’s well being. It doesn’t take very long to dispel any remaining thoughts derived from the drop. Most of the details influencing the drop between everyone are indirectly tied to the state of their current affairs, financial and personal, the contents of which I exclude for privacy’s sake. In light of their reasons, the weekend may be seen as a getaway, turning a blind eye to current problems and worries. Think of it as the kinky way of relaxation…all mannerisms of bruises and beatings aside.
Not that anyone was complaining about the weekend, of course, considering the indefinite amount of compliments and praise flooding the volunteer staff online. The considerable amount of effort that had been placed to execute an event of such a scale to such a large audience is unfathomable – the appreciation is well deserved, to say the least.
At some point during the course of the gathering, a strange incident occurred when a man outside of the cafe stopped to take photos of the hostess organizing this event. His behavior was immediately noticed by everyone including myself. I did not hesitate to pose in front of him, strategically barring him from photographing her so uninvitedly. The most noticeable trait of this individual was a red bag he held in his arms.
Gradually the gathering began to disperse and when people began to leave, only the hostess, the gentleman prior, and one of her friends remained with me. All three of these individuals I had encountered at the PDX munch, Wednesday the last; the hour was late, most of the people had gone home, leaving us by the tracks of the nearest MAX station. We began to discuss about where to go next, the possibility of food, and the safest mode of transport back to our respective homes.
When the gentleman whom I met earlier departed, leaving the hostess, her friend and I alone, what happened next was unexpected and sudden. She remarked about Annabelle openly and while I passed it around between them both, a voice called out behind them: “Hey, how much for that cane?”
We turned around. It was the man with the red bag who, only an hour or so before, had stopped to take photos of the hostess. His presence alarmed the three of us. “Hey, how much for that cane?” He repeated again. Its not for sale, I replied. “What do you want for her?” He asked, raising his voice. I held Annabelle tighter, slowly positioning it to my left – the ready position of basic Victorian cane fighting – and kept my eyes on him. His posture was rugged, shifting about as he paced back and forth. He mumbled something about how he could use a cane like that.
The hostess’ friend, whom I shall describe as being built like an ox, is a fellow of large build and an even bigger heart. He regarded the man nearby and turned to converse with her, turning our attention away from him in the hopes that he would leave us alone. How safe is this area, I asked them flatly. “Oh, this area isn’t fucking safe!” the man called out, loudly, before either of them could respond. “You never know who you’d run into.”
At that point the gentleman in our company suggested that we leave, to which I could not agree any more, and the three of us moved down the block. I began to feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, alert and aware, body frigid with tension – the man with the red bag began to follow after us, repeatedly talking to himself, bits and pieces about people getting hurt and how dangerous the area happened to be. Almost out of instinct, I slid Annabelle across my chest, placing both hands on its shaft, the position for a full swing if need be. The gentleman with us flanked the hostess beside me, occasionally glancing at the man that followed. I could not say how safe I’d felt knowing he stood by my side.
We whispered to one another about our combat experience. He and I are both self-admitted pacifists though we had our share of rough encounters. The hostess interjected our testosterone exchange and pointed out, nearly half a block of moving, that the man was still very much near our vicinity. There was a dull haze to my reality then, each of my movements felt fluid and alert, not unlike the an all too familiar “fight or flight” sensation. We decided to retreat to Hamburger Mary’s.
The hostess phoned the police while the gentleman and I stood close, shielding her from the man’s view. She played the part well and gave a solid description of the man, who continued his ravings and kept trying to draw our attention, yelling here and there about inaudible things. While seemingly trivial, this encounter raised further concerns about the safety of my travels, namely the suddeness of these situations; that her large friend, gentle of heart, shared the same tense body language as I did, the reality of an altercation became a persistent thought.
Not that I wanted to be caught in a fight with a man yelling to himself. He had a red bag and dirty clothes unlike those of a homeless person. I thought of Louie and Paul of Victoria, who in comparison were far more civilized and controlled than this belligerent man. These types of encounters are seemingly inevitable especially in larger cities, where populations of those addicted to drugs or suffering mental illness wandered at night. It seemed necessary that the two of us stood by one another, protecting the lady host, should the man threaten her safety.
I could not describe the tension in the air then. All the color and vibrant atmosphere of laid back Portland seemingly vanished in an instant. I was reminded of the previous altercations I had been involved in, whether or not voluntary, and the potential risk of injury in light of the situation. The most troubling aspect to this event was the hazard of his carrying some kind of pepper spray, melee weapon, or even a firearm. The three of us were nervous, possibly even shook up. My immediate thought was whether my travel insurance covered a trip to the ER or that of others.
Eventually the three of us entered the pub and stayed there long enough for the cruiser to arrive. The hostess gave her account of the events and the responding officers set off on patrol, calling in the incident. The gentleman and I escorted her to another MAX station further away, staying long enough to insure her a safe ride to her home. Afterwards he was kind enough to show me to another destination for food, which surprised me given how close it was from the location of the PDX munch itself. We shook hands and departed on our separate ways.
Once I got back to my hotel, it was relieving to see both their messages confirming their safe return to their respective dwellings, though both had insisted that the event was uncommon here in Portland of all places. Reminded of a possible brush with mortality, I quickly contacted back home and renewed my medical plan, Annabelle resting gently on my lap as I did.
Next Update: Night of the Yeti