Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Education Group vs. “Leather” Club

“Sometimes I feel like the last soldier standing on the battlefield, and I look around and I wonder where the hell did everybody go.”  -- Michael Garibaldi (Babylon 5)

The first CAPEX meeting of the year is traditionally when a few of the older members who don’t come around much anymore make an appearance.  Last weekend (the 13th anniversary of our little club), Kitten and I ended up going to an early dinner w/ our friends Mystrys and Pet who don’t put in too many appearances.  We had a blast and spoke of many things… among them we talked about CAPEX and why those who don’t come around anymore don’t come around anymore.  My theory is that a lot of it has to do w/ the focus on education.

Last year I posted some comments inspired by something Race Bannon wrote about “over-educating our community.”  His point (I think) was that we’ve gone too far into reducing every kink to a one-hour lecture/demo (too many of which are not even that good), and that the better way to learn is through more unstructured, organic interactions, “teaching parties,” and mentoring.  My response was a sort of ‘yes-and-no.’

CAPEX is an education-based group and it’s very good at what it does.  I’ve said for years that ours is the best education programming in the region.  We bring in some great presenters, and each month we offer a 2-hour long feature demo/workshop, then after dinner we have a BDSM 101 class for (re)viewing basics or just doing some show-and-tell… and then we have a dungeon party.  In addition we have a Gateway munch each month for newbies.  We used to also offer various monthly special-interest groups for those who wanted to get-together in small numbers and work on specific skills, dynamics, or toy-making crafts, but we kind-of quit doing that b/c so many other small groups have sprung-up post-Fet that, well, there’s no longer a point in us having a CAPEX rope group when there are now two other rope groups in Charlotte.

Mystrys put it well Saturday when she said that CAPEX is a great bridge for taking people “from FetLife to real life.”  But for those who have been around for 3 or 4 years and seen dozens of different demos and workshops, there’s just not as much incentive to keep coming to CAPEX.  It’s probably not a coincidence that two of the oldest members who are still active (NCMaster and I) are both educators, so I think we both attach a lot of importance to teaching new folks.  But most people who come through CAPEX’s doors only stay about 2 or 3 years.  We have a high turn-over rate.  In the past, I know that some of our Board members looked at this only as a problem w/ our group, but I always argued it was a mark of success.  I mean, we offer all-together 20+ demos a year, and there’s only so many times you can watch a wax demo or needles or whatever.  So I always said we were victims of our own success.

And the “victim” part is what we were talking about over dinner w/ Mystrys – i.e. the down-side of being such a good education group.  Because we have this 2-3 year turn-over rate it really keeps the club from feeling like a family.  It’s hard to have a sense of community when almost nobody in the club can remember back more than a few years.  W/o collective memory there’s no collective identity.  A mythology is a collection of stories that acts as the glue that holds a tribe together.  This is how myths are built: it starts around the campfire with, “You remember that hunt where Grog broke his leg?” and evolves into, “Once, long, long ago, our ancestors lived in the earth…”  I’ve noticed that when my old friends get together we spend a lot of our time reminiscing.  It’s a bonding thing and the construction of a collective-identity.

On the one hand, it’s great that CAPEX does such a fab job of offering educational programming.  (And we have some good parties too, by the way.)  One the other hand, I can sort of see Race Bannon’s point about “over-educating.”

I’m always very dubious about so-called “leather traditions,” but when it comes to traditions in general the whole point is to take what you find to be good and dump the rest.  One thing I like in the “leather” tradition is the sense of really being a part of a group.  Whether it was a motorcycle club, a leather family, or a puppy pack, there’s a sense of belonging… which (these days) I find very appealing.  Most of the “leather” groups seem to me to be exclusive (in a good way – i.e. you have to earn your way in).  CAPEX is an open door; anybody can join; nobody is veted.  That makes sense if you want to be a “bridge between FetLife and real life,” but this, too, makes it hard to have a strong sense of belonging.  Increasingly, I see that there is some good in a more exclusive and somewhat hierarchal group… you know where you have to earn your club badge or club jacket or whatever, because it’s human nature to value things we have to work for and to devalue whatever comes easy.

Well, I don’t have a pithy conclusion… or even a “position” on these questions… they’re just ideas that keep floating around in my head.  But… I think increasingly (since about 2011) I’ve found my preference moving toward what I kind of think of as the “leather” club model.  There’s always a place for open, educational groups like CAPEX… but, well… I don’t know…  *shrug*

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Blind Boys... and Maya Angelou

Okay, Emrys, so other than the Dominion party what else have you been up to?

Well, last Friday, Shdwkitten took her Hound to see the Blind Boys of Alabama in concert.  They were very good.  I'm not particularly into gospel music... but I'm also of the opinion that good music is good music in any genera -- so consequentially I have very eclectic tastes -- and this was good music.  They have a great sound, and their live show is very entertaining.  Here's a Blind Boys clip for you; them doing Tom Wait's "Down in a Hole." (I love Tom Waits, too.)

Saturday we spent at the Pirate's place, and Ma'am took me out to see Mama.  It was okay.  I liked the way it played around w/ some elements from fairy tales -- especially Hansel & Gretel.  That story begins w/ Hansel and Gretel's father taking them out in the woods and abandoning them, where they are found by a witch... who takes them in and feeds the, but she's actually fattening them up to kill and eat them.  Mama has a similar through-line.  Parts of the movie are quite good, and it has one very cool visual effect at the end... but it's probably not a movie I'll sit through a second time.

Sunday you already know about.  ;-)

Then, last night, I got to go see Maya Angelou speak.  She spoke to a packed Colosseum -- the university basketball arena.  I had VIP seating (Very Important Puppy), so I was like 6 rows back from her.  She was wonderful!  Inspiring, funny, classy, smart, moving...  If you every get a chance to see  Maya Angelou, take it.  And it was particularly cool to be able to hear her commemorate MLK Day and President Obama's second inaugural (where he spoke pretty clearly about civil rights, marriage equality, and even mentioned Stonewall).  So I'll leave you w/ Maya Angelou reading "Phenomenal Woman."  Check it out.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Starting the Year at Dominion

Had a great time Sunday afternoon at the inaugural… that would be the inauguration of the 2013 season of Atlanta Dominion, the bi-monthly all-male play party at 1763.

Started the morning off on a puppy-fail by spilling coffee on Sir Loki’s carpet.  :(  I’m still convinced that it was somehow Tebow’s fault; I just haven’t worked out the logistics yet… something to do w/ him distracting me… and the curvature of the Earth…  (How many puppies does it take to operate a carpet shampooer?  Apparently more than three.)  I redeemed myself, though, b/c (a) I got some pins for my pack: a Saint Bernard for Sir and a beagle for Tebow – to match the Wolfhound pin I have on my leather jacket, and (b) I brought puppy treats from my Owner: bight-sized brownies she baked in the shape of little bones.

After a surprisingly tasty turkey club from Cosco, it was time to get to 1763 to set-up for Dominion.  I had (as always) loads of fun.  One of my happiest moments was actually before the party officially started:  Puppy Hunter and I got to sit around Sir’s feet in the reception area as he checked people in.  I’ve determined this is the place to be b/c we got scritches from most of the guests as they came in… lots of scritches.  I think every dungeon party needs a couple of human-pups at the door to greet people.  :)

What was really extra cool was that I got to wear a new rubber hood Sir acquired.  He was fortunate enough to find a matching hood to his original rubber-pup hood, just w/ the colors reversed.  Here’s Tebow (left) and I (right) looking all sharp:

Once the party got started Hunter (looking great in his Dalmatian zentai) and I romped about on the floor while Sir beat somebody on the cross.  Lots of good puppy-wrestling, barking, humping, licking, snuggling, ball-chasing, ball-sniffing, and all of that good stuff!

Next, Loki got to try-out some of his new electrical toys he brought back from MAL.  Not on me.  I think next time we play, I’m going to ask Sir if I can try the electrified dildo… but I’m still not entirely sold on the electrified ball crusher yet.  :-/

So instead of electricity, I got tied to the cross and beaten all to Hell.  (Thank you, Sir!)  I have some really nice marks this morning – mostly from the whip, I think… and bight marks from the Alpha Pup chewing on me.  He likes to make a bight mark first and then use it as a target to aim the whip or dragon-tail at.  And for some reason I don’t complain about this.  :D

Well, I say, “for some reason,” but I know what a big part of it is for me.  I think my masochist streak is strongly connected to my puppy-loyalty/service side.  I love making my Tops happy.  In a great scene, the best part is frequently when Sir will pause from beating the Hell out of me for a moment, pet me, and say, “Good boy!”  I can go though a lot of pain to hear that and know that I’m making Sir happy.  When I play w/ Ma’am, she doesn’t as often say “Good boy”… but when we’re really connecting it will be a look in her eyes and her smile when I can just see the pure joy she is feeling (in ripping me to shreds).  It makes me sooooo happy as her Pup to see her taking so much enjoyment from playing w/ me.  *wags*

Thursday, January 17, 2013

From Play-pup to Innate-pup

Something I’ve thought about before is the notion that there is a difference between those who engage in puppy play and those who are a human-pup.  The one is an activity that someone might engage in from time to time; the other is a part of one’s identity that one never completely stops being.  Corresponding to this distinction, in broad categories (and I got these from Loki) there are “play-pups” (boys who sometimes engage in puppy play) and “innate-pups” (those who are always “pup” to some degree).

When I first got into puppy play (going on 8 years now), it started as an activity I sometimes did… like doing a flogging scene, or a needles scene, or interrogation play (which, at that time, is actually what I was best known for).  But… over the course of our first year together, Shdwkitten and I came to increasingly define ourselves as Owner and pet.  Those roles seemed to fit our dynamic better than Master/slave or anything else.

Over the years that followed, I continued to really enjoy puppy play – especially at large events like Frolicon where Ma’am could lead me about on-leash and I’d get lots of pets and scratches.  That was always a huge blast for me!  Gradually, over those years, being a pup was becoming more and more of my identity.  About 5 years ago, NCMaster gave us a large dog kennel that one of his former subs used to sleep in, and Ma’am started having me sleep in it now and then.  Eventually she got me a new, larger kennel and I stated sleeping in the cage every night.  (The older kennel has since been passed-on to our wolf-dog, Thunder.)

Somewhere in all of this, I began to think of myself as “Pup” Emrys.  Being a puppy became increasingly part of my identity… like being white, male, a Southerner, an artist, a college graduate…  It wasn’t so much an activity I did, as who I was… even when I wasn’t on all fours barking.

While this change in who I am grew steadily over the course of 2007-2011, it really came to fruition last year.  I started interacting w/ other pups, joined Loki’s pack, and I started doing more reading and writing about pup play (started this blog and started following various puppy play blogs).  I certainly can’t see 2012 as any radical departure in who I am – rather it was much more like the culmination of several years of exploring this side of myself which has always been there.

Still… the “change” (gradual and predictable though it may have been) hasn’t been completely w/o some issues.  It’s rather unexpectedly threw Ma’am and I back to square-one in some respects in regards to how we play together.  I hadn’t really grasped that until recently when she told me: “I used to know who to play w/ you in pup-mode, and I knew how to play w/ you out of pup-mode… but now I’m not sure what to do w/ you.”  That’s been on my mind since she said it.  I can see where she’s coming from.  For Ma’am, puppy play has always been (a) non-sexual, and (b) not an S/m scene.  For her, puppy play was about treating me just like she treats the bio-dogs: playing fetch, giving scritches, walking me on-leash.  But for me, my headspace between puppy and masochist and sex is very continuous – coming out of the same place that is simultaneously very primal and very submissive.  I can move very fluidly from S/m to pup-play to sex (and love to do so)… but for Ma’am those are very different scenes.

But we’re working on figuring things out.  Last week we had one night that went really well!  Ma’am let me put on my gear and puppy hood (which she doesn’t like very much – masks tend to creep her out), pup-out for about 40 minutes… and then she let me play w/ myself and cum.  (She pulled my hood off first, but I still wasn’t too much out of pup mode.)  I think it’s a bit of a (re)discovery process for both of us, maybe.

* * *

In other news…  Very exciting weekend ahead:
Friday, my lovely Owner is taking her hound out to see the Blind Boys of Alabama in concert.
Saturday, Ma’am and I will spend w/ her boyfriend in SC… no doubt drinking ourselves silly.
Sunday is the all-male Dominion party w/ the pack.  *Woof! Woof!*
Monday (MLK Day) I’m going to see the remarkable Maya Angelou speak on “Remembering our Heroes and She-roes.”

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Winding-down a Weekend w/ Walt Whitman

We've had some fantastically, unseasonably warm weather this weekend.  That meant I got to spend yesterday engaging in some much needed cycle-therapy... and much of today was spent on the Treehouse’s upper-deck, overlooking the pound, sipping vodka, and bouncing back-and-forth between Leaves of Grass and a Harry Dresden novel.  (A strange juxtaposition; I know.  My Owner has frequently commented on my odd habit of juggling 3 or 4 or 8 totally unconnected books at once.)

Anyway… for those of you who might also be in need of a touch of Uncle Walt in your day, I found this really wonderful 5 minute video edit of “Song of Myself” on You-tube.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Slave Leia Photo Shoot

I’d say this is my claim to fame, but nobody knows I was responsible.  Maybe instead I should say, here's something random you probably don't know about the Wolfhound.  So here’s the story…

I was at Dragon*Con about… oh, like 6 years ago.  I was standing among a group of friends we’d run into in the expo room… including my friend S. who was dressed as Slave Leia (to complement her stormtrooper boyfriend).  (I was dressed as Mal Reynolds, if you care.)  We happened to be standing near this fantasy game something exhibit that had this Conan-looking throne… so on a whim, I grabbed S. and drug her over to the throne and sat her on my lap.  My Owner snapped a picture of us, w/ me looking like: “It’s good to be king!”

Well, some of our friends wanted their photo w/ S. in the same pose.  And then some other people gathered as pictures were being made… including another Slave Leia or two.

My Owner and I moved on… but apparently the photo shoot continued to snowball after we left… and then went viral.  Pictures from the Slave Leia photo shoot started turning up all over the net.  My favorite is this one which turned up on a “demotivator” poster (w/ our friend S. down front).  So fanboys all over the world can thank me for this.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Love & Marriage

I still kind of marvel at this fact:  When I first met Shdwkitten, I had recently purchased a slightly used Yamaha FZ6… which turned out to the exact same bike Kitten had been looking at buying.  This means one of two things:
(a)  It was fate that we were to come together as soul-mates, destined to spend the rest of our lives together…
(b)  She married me for my bike.

I know I’m running a little early for Valentine’s Day, but as it happens, last month a couple of our friends got hitched… and next month we have another friend getting married… meanwhile, I read of the engagement of Puppy Stryker, a stranger apart from the world of blogging.  So it all set me to thinking…

When I was in college I had this mentor: an philosophy professor who was this grouchy, crude, funny, off-color, old curmudgeon… and quite brilliant, even wise in his odd and ribald way.  He had written a book on philosophy and romantic love (which, he would joke, made him an expert lover).  In that book, he makes a useful distinction between “being in love” and “loving.”

“Being in love” is a state of emotion – it’s something you feel.  It’s a state of being you experience, in which you are essentially passive – not active – i.e. it’s something that just happens to you… often even overcomes you.  When you say, “I am in love,” you are reporting something that you are experiencing, not something you are doing..

Last month, at the aforementioned wedding, my Owner and I found this verse by Rumi which we both really liked:

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”    ―   Rumi

You can’t will yourself to “be in love”… but you can seek out those barriers you’ve built in yourself that prevent you from feeling love.

But there is another side of this.  In some ways I think it’s maybe the even more important side for marriages and long-term commitments… b/c even in the best marriages the feeling of love must ebb and flow.  There are peak moments where you love that person so much you just want to garb on to them and hold them tight forever and ever and ever… and there are also times where you need a break – some personal space, please!  But most of the time you’re somewhere in-between, just existing comfortably together.

So that’s why it’s important to see this other aspect of love, the active aspect, something you actively do: “loving” someone.  This is (to put it in somewhat un-romantic terms) a social contact. And agreement between two (or more) people to treat one-another in a certain way… no matter what… in rich or poor, sickness or health, hell or high water…

When my Owner, the lovely Shdwkitten, and I got married, we had already been together for two years and feeling a lot of “being in love.”  To me, our wedding represented a commitment to “love” one-another in this ongoing, active sense.  The best statement of that commitment I’ve seen is a piece written years ago by our dear friend NCMaster which we used as our wedding vows, speaking them together… which I want to re-post here for you.

Commitment to Our Journey

We each vow to devote ourselves to the success of us.

We each vow to accept the responsibility of making our relationship work.

We vow to live as a synergy… believing that the two united is greater than each alone.

We vow to treat obstacles as stepping-stones to growth.

We vow to dedicate some time each day to us.

We vow that “we” will take precedent over “me” or “you.”

We vow to support each other at all times and in all things.

We vow to be open and truthful w/ each other and w/ ourselves.

We vow to deal w/ issues as they arise and then put them away.

We will become what we practice each day.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Years Bound

There’s a saying that you should spend New Year’s Eve doing what you want to do more of in the coming year… which is why most people spend it at a booze-up.

The Pirate (Ma’am’s boyfriend) came over to the Treehouse.  The three of us got into the alcohol (how shocking is that?) and got silly-drunk while watching The Muppet Show on DVD (and Shdwkitten got to tell the story of her and Boymeat in the Frolicon dungeon, shouting “Pigs in SPAAAAAAACE!”).  Ma’am and her Pirate were curled-up on the couch w/ her loyal hound on the puppy-pillow in front of the fire.  They were doing tequila shots; I was drinking white whine and eating ginger snaps.  Incidentally, if any of my readers don’t already know this trick: whenever you imbibe deeply, to avoid a hangover the morning, all you have to do is drink a glass of water and take a multivitamin before bed.  Hangovers are caused by dehydration and vitamin depletion, so I’ve used this very simple trick for years, and it’s never failed me. 

We did the midnight toast (Do you know why it’s called a “toast?”  The Romans used to put a bit of burnt bread in bad wine; the charcoal would cut the acidity.)  Then it was bedtime.  I spend most nights is a large dog kennel beside Ma’am’s bed… but not tonight.  Ma’am took me up to my studio, stripped me down to collar and cock-cage, pulled on my leather hood, buckled on the blindfold, and then leashed me to the bed.  Then she whispered in my ear, “And now I’m going to go fuck my Pirate,” and then she left.

Needless to say, between the alcohol buzz, the smell and feel of the leather hood, the click of the leash, and my Owner’s parting words… I was instantly into headspace… and very horny, w/ my drooling puppy-cock straining against the cage it was locked in all through the night.  It was an amazing night!  The best part was in the morning: slowly waking-up, drifting lazily in and out of sleep, deep in sub-space, and waiting w/ tremendous anticipation for my Owner to come for me.  By the time she came, my skin was so sensitive that simply her petting me was the most erotic feeling.  Warm and fuzzy yummy goodness…

So, if it’s true that you should spend New Year’s Eve doing what you want to do more of, 2013 is off to an auspicious beginning.  *wags*