Sunday, December 10, 2006

Mr. Philly Leather and a New York Visit

Mr. Leather Competition

Went to the Mr. Philadelphia Leather competition this year and it was a blast.

The whole Nov 10-12 weekend was a Leather fantasy starting with the Kinky Carnival at the Bike Stop on Quince. And sandwiched between that and the Victory party on Sunday was the competition itself.

Best friend Jason and I dutifully donned some leather and made our way to the Mask & Wig club a venerable U of P institution that remains here in center city Philly while the rest of the U of P sprawls across West Philadelphia. The Mask & Wig is an old, old building that harkens back to a much earlier time in this city’s history. There aren’t many of these buildings left as the city is intently creating parking lots and condo buildings and smothering history. Soon, there’ll be lots of parking lots but no reason to park since everything else will have been razed to make parking lots. Can you spell short sighted?

This clubhouse has a wooden interior that makes you feel as if you’re at some ancient campsite’s clubhouse. The walls are filled with caricatures and objects (dare I say fetish totems) from past members. This is a good old boys club – but one with a twist. The good old boys, while they are cute young men, put on a show every year in this clubhouse. A drag show – and I’ve heard that some of them are quite something to see. Never yet been to one but I’m hankering to go.

The Mr. Leather competition was held on the stage upstairs with Ms Carlotta Tendant as the hostess. Speeches were made, contestants introduced, and the game was on.

The four male contestants had to go through their paces – leatherwear, sexy outfits, formal leatherwear, speeches on topics, answers to questions put to them by Carlotta, and not least, the fantasy scene. One involved a housepainter and his assistant – don’t we all have that fantasy? Don’t we all want to hold some sexy painter’s brush? Another was a businessman or maybe even a politician, who after stripping off his suit and tie made hot time with his visitor or constituent. There was an Odd Couple take-off in which sloppy Oscar finally gets his revenge on Felix – but what revenge! Felix gets fucked doggie style and both he and Oscar seem to be enjoying themselves. Revenge is sweet. The fourth fantasy rounding out the show was a seasonal one: Santa and his elvish helpers have a holiday romp that we can only dream about. That is if Santa is your fantasy man.

The big winner for the evening was John Loesch – Mr. Leather 2007 – a handsome, sexy guy who will do us proud. He lives in Collingswood, NJ a very gay town just outside Philly. He’s the captain of the Philadelphians MC and hopes to promote the Leather community and its activities.

New York

Went to New York for Jason’s birthday. The weekend after Thanksgiving is one of those mad hectic times but although the crowds were huge, it wasn’t bad at all. We met wp with friend Yurong who is a lovely person and had a great Korean dinner after seeing Mama Mia. The Korean restaurant was a midtown establishment in a very Korean centered area – lots of restaurants and though it was late when we finished, there were scads of young, very cute Koreans hanging about outside the restaurants, bars and clubs. Made me curious and hot.

Eralier that evening we went to The Leather Man shop in the Village – a great, great place to buy whatever strikes your fancy in leather. And the way they do business is unbeatable.

Next afternoon, Jason and I had a great lunch at a place called Papillion – we dined with his colleague Karen and her family. And, the place has a “free” something if it’s your birthday. In this case, Jason got his entire meal free.

Later we returned to the Leather Man where I bought Jason his birthday gift – a rather wonderful harness. One which I’ll eventually get for myself. It’s a great contraption which is easier to step into and out of than other harnesses. But, David, our salesperson, said that people do often get them tangled up and in most cases there’s no remedy except to bring it back to the shop and have them untangle and readjust. And that’s the great thing – they fit each item to you specifically – no charge! Of course, Jason did not waste the opportunity to shed his clothes and try on the harness before and after adjustment.

That night we had a birthday dinner with several friends, including Yurong, and went to The View atop the Marriott Marquis on Times Square. It’s a restaurant which revolves 360 degrees giving you some spectacular views of the city. It takes an hour for it to turn completely but you’d never know it. Everything is priced as high as the building – and you come away with a thinner wallet but richer for having seen the city the way it lets you see it.

The next day we had some time to go back to some shops and just enjoy the city and then it was back to Philadelphia and the workaday world.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Happy Days Are Here Again!

I sat watching the returns roll in on Tuesday with great anticipation. After all, it wasn't the first time in the past several years that I felt we would take back the House.

But this time, several factors made me worry about the possibility of victory. One was the media hype. For weeks they'd been saying that the Democratic Party would win, that republicans were on the run, dispirited, disorganized. But they hyped it so much and so often that I imagined a horde of crazed gop'ers running to the polls just to show the media how wrong they were. Two, the nefarious voting machines. I mean, after you have the head of Diebold stating categorically that he'd do whatever it took to deliver a Bush victory (and apparently did so), how could we not worry about key congressional races being similarly stolen.
But, my fears were unfounded. And we even took the Senate!

Now, though the Democrats have several promises to deliver on -- and I have no doubt that they will, they also have the task of setting some past wrongs to right. And so subpoenas will fly out of the House, panels will be set up, investigations will be held, and maybe, just maybe, the American people will get a few answers to the many questions that have arisen in the past six years.

But right now it's time to sit back and bask in the glow of victory.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

An Interview With Me

I was honored recently to be interviewed for Dee Ann Palmer's mystery site. I'll see if I can get the text and place it here.

Here's De Ann's site:

The Interview may or may not be archived.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Indigo Ball

I attended the Indigo Ball on Friday, the 6th. What an event! A fundraiser for the William Way GLBT center here in Philly, this black tie party is something I don’t think I’ll miss in the future. Of course, this was a special one for me, so it was even more meaningful and wonderful but that doesn’t change the fact that this event is something not to be missed. It was elegant and spectacular. The venue – the ballroom in the Hyatt Bellevue is dazzling.

I was one of the guests of honor this time around. The Center is celebrating thirty years – not just thirty years of existence (because it is actually a little longer than that) but thirty years of having some sort of physical facility. This is no mean achievement – we are one of the few major cities that has a bricks and mortar center. And it is ours (no mortgage) and it is large (26,000 square feet).

Why was I there as an honoree? I was one of the Founders. More than thirty years ago a small band of us got together, formulated a plan, and got a lawyer. We did our homework and in 1975 put together incorporation papers. I was one of the persons who signed that document. There were five of us and pretty much I’m the only one left. One other person may still be with us but no longer lives in Philly. Others came along in those early days and during this 30th Anniversary celebration (which is scheduled to last a year) the Center is honoring those who lit the fire and kept the flame burning. After helping to found the place, I became the first co-director and then the real work began.

So, as two of the earliest pioneers I and Arleen Olshan were invited to the Indigo Ball and duly recognized. There were representatives from the eras of the 80s and 90s who kept the center going through some interesting times.

I was a kid back then, in college and wanting to change the world. And that, as it turns out, is just what we did. I’ll be telling that story.

The celebration at the Indigo Ball and the recognition we received felt good – for a lot of reasons. Not just because we were remembered and our contribution acknowledged but because we could see that what we started so long ago was flourishing. The building, named the William Way Center (after an activist who was instrumental in getting the building and whom I knew) is magnificent and getting better each day. It houses programs – some of which stretch back to the early days, like peer counseling, and some that are new like Way Gay U (with lots of course offerings). It houses a library which was a dream of mine and of others and for which materials were collected even before we had our first physical location on Kater Street. And, it is in the heart of the gayborhood – this is so important. It rises as a symbol and remains as a home for all of us right where many of us live, where many gay businesses are located, and where GLBT events are held.

The 1970s were heady days and those of us who lived through them will tell you that they were also filled with fear and fun and frenetic activity. We were in the process of building a community – Stonewall galvanized us and then it was up to us to build on that. And so we did. From time to time I’ll tell more of this story. It’s something I’m working on in any event as part of a memoir.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Organization has always been my own personal bugaboo. You’d think that for a librarian, I’d be organized. But that isn’t the case. And just so you know, when I was in Information Science school, none of the professors were what you’d call paragons of organizational ability. Not outwardly anyway. Stepping into one of their offices was much like stepping into mine – books and papers everywhere. Files piled on files. And worse. Yet, they always seemed to get lots done. Many of them were highly accomplished people, published in all sorts of places, speaking at any number of conferences. I know, it’s not good to point to bad examples and take that as the benchmark. I’m just pointing it out as a curiosity. Most people think, librarian = organized – but it ain’t necessarily the truth. We know how to organize not necessarily how to be organized.

And therein lies my problem – if I were organized, I could do anything. Well, at least I fantasize that I could do anything. At the very least I could have more control over my own life and that wouldn’t be half bad. I’m not a control freak (well, who isn’t a little?) but I would like to have more say over how my days goe and how I manage time. Organization is the key. I just know it.

Coming up with the solution is not so easy. But maybe, just maybe… a cute, personal secretary/administrative assistant who works cheap. And if they could throw in a little personal coaching – like “Stop procrastinating! And get busy!” That would be good. I’d pay extra for that.

One of the things on my plate these days is Mysterical-E – an online mystery magazine, which as our front page says is:
A Dangerously Good, Free ezine, packed with short stories, articles, reviews. Focusing on mystery, crime, suspense, fantasy, spec fic; and featuring neo noir pulp inspired art Thrilling, Exciting, Mysterious, and Smart - It's Mysterical E!

And if I do say so myself, it’s pretty good. The staff and the material are all top notch. Of course, we’re always looking for new staff and submissions.

There was a mad rush to get Mysterical-E out on time and almost exactly on the date we’d set for this issue. But we did it. I was away on those three adventures while awaiting the artwork and a couple of columns. When I got back, the dash to the finish line began. And I’m happy to say we made it. Jason and Ginny helped immeasurably and I couldn't have launched the issue without them. The Fall 2006 issue is up. This is the seventh issue since I took over the reigns at M-E and it’s been a lot of fun even though it’s a lot of work.

I’ve always loved mystery – maybe it ties in to my sense of wanting organization. The detectives bring organization and order to a very messy world. Most mysteries usually begin in either of two ways – you get a glimpse of a “world” in which things are running happily along, the world of the characters where everything has a place and things work the way they should. Then something happens to turn that world upside down – a murder, a theft, something. And it’s got to be set right or else. That’s where the detective comes in – whether she or he is an amateur, a professional, a trained P.I. or just an average shmoo who stumbles onto the crime – they get to set things right. The other type of mystery usually hits the ground running – meaning it opens with the crime or the aftermath of the crime. Then we get to see the effects of the crime but still the detective sets everything in place again.

That’s the beauty of mysteries – they bring order to an unordered, sometimes inexplicable world. They make sense out of baffling circumstances, and bring a miscreant to justice.

Is that why I love them? Maybe in part. Maybe I just love the tone and feeling of some of them. But most of all, in the ones I really love it’s the characters. After all, character is what makes all fiction memorable.

But that’s another story.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Naked Soap

I guess the operative words at GNI were/are friendly, convivial, hospitable – and all the synonyms Roget can supply. Right from the very beginning, everyone was terrific.

We found our way to registration and the handsome guy in the office, the one with the cute smile and the slim waistline, was sweet. He handed us each a GNI bag (suitable for carrying all the little necessities for which you no longer have pockets), and a bar of Naked Soap. A nice touch.

He then told us to rush over to the dining hall where would could still get something to eat (dinner would be ending in 15 minutes). We pointed to our clothing and he told us to just go on and not to worry. People would understand. And they did.

There weren’t too many stragglers left in the larger dining hall but no one raised an eyebrow as we scooped up turkey, veggies, and the fixin’s and sat there in shirts and shorts. I felt more and more at home, more relaxed, more like ripping my clothing off and getting into the spirit. But I also felt hungry, not having eaten since breakfast.

Later that night, after meeting the cabin mates, sitting through the opening session, and lolling around the cabin getting to know the guys, we went to the disco.

Yes, a disco. The Tropicana, specially set up by GNI for this gathering. A totally naked disco. A large building on the grounds had been converted to a disco hall – one side with drinks and tables, the other a genuine, disco ball, disco lights, loud music disco. And it was wonderful.

Until you’ve seen hundreds of naked men dancing and enjoying the fact that they are free from any encumbrances, you will not understand it. The utter joy on the faces of some of the men was uplifting. They were ecstatic and jubilant as if they’d been freed from some prison.

It was also a little surreal – one remix, included the flower duet from the opera Lakme (I’m gay, we know these things), woven through with the inevitable disco thump-thump-thump. It was a beautiful mix infusing the air around us with a kind of magic. As this music cascaded eerily over the naked bodies, a jet of snow-like confetti spewed out over evryone and smoke rose up from jets around the base of the room. It was almost sensory overload. I felt transported. It was surreal but in a very, very good way and I allowed myself to luxuriate in it.

Jason, for his part, was dancing atop a pedestal and looked transfixed with happiness. So did the guys staring at him.

It’s just one of the moments I won’t ever forget.

At some point Jason decided he wanted some air. So, out we went into the quite cool night air. It can get a bit chilly in the mountains, even in August. We traipsed down darkened pathways until we came to the wooden bridge which crossed a narrow band of water and led to the other side of the lake. Other men walked ahead and some trailed us. Most of them met around what was to become a blazing campfire. Not as big as a bonfire yet bigger than a campfire – this served as a meeting point for a handful of men each evening.

Walking toward this group, on the darkened side of the retreat grounds, was eerie. I thought about times I’d had in the Boy Scouts, camping out in the open, taking walks at night, being surrounded by guys and filled with this unnameable longing. Now years later, I’d put a name on that feeling and here I was surrounded by guys again. And everything seemed new: the air was cold and fresh, the sound of the gravel crunching under my feet was crisp, the night sky blazed with stars. More stars than I’d seen in a long time. I could even see the Milky Way, or what the Chinese call the Silver River. It was magnificent. Dizzying. I wanted to stare into the sky for a long time, but there were other things at hand.

Each night, I couldn’t wait for the fire to get going so that at least one side of me would be warm. Once the flames rose up, licking the logs and sending showers of sparks into the air, I got a better look at the men standing with me. There was a warm camaraderie in the way they stood, in the way they stared. They spoke, sometimes in hushed tones, about their lives and loves. Then silence would sweep over the group and we enjoyed each other’s company. The company of like minds, of similar longings, of hopeful expectations.

It is something I don’t wish to forget. Like the bonfires of my Scouting days, the flames consumed the logs but forged new bonds between strangers.

Slowly, as the flames died back, men would leave the circle and tread back to their cabins. Often it was only then that some of us actually noticed the chill in the air. Before that the fire and the company served to warm us. Sinking back, one by one, into the darkness sapped the warmth.

But not for long.

Each day we woke to something new – whether it was a volleyball game, an erotic massage workshop, or… well… there are just some things you have to see for yourself.

And there were shows to fill an evening. They were all unforgettable – from Jolene and Stormy Weather entertaining an auditorium of naked men, to the naked talent show. And believe me, all some of these guys had to do was stand there and look pretty. But they weren’t just pretty… uh… faces, yeah that’s what I mean, faces. No, they all actually had talent. These boys could sing or play the piano or cello, or do whatever it is they said they could do. These guys had talent. Which is often the one thing missing in talent competitions.

And not just talent. It takes guts to get up in front of an audience and perform – and to do it naked? It takes more than guts.

If I had to sum it all up – GNI showed me how to free myself, that guys can be decent to one another, that we can love ourselves (and still find room for improvement), that one experience can make a difference in a life.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

GNI -- I love you

To continue the adventure theme: the third week was the best of all. That’s when my friend Jason and I attended the Gay Naturists International annual gathering. GNI is a longstanding organization promoting naturism and more.

As S. said to me as we stood in the dining hall, “I don’t know why you waited so long.” S. knows something about him and knew all along this would be something I love – but he never pushed. A characteristic of this movement – it’s all in your own good time.

Truly, after I got there, neither do I know why I waited so long. It was a fantastic experience and I’ll make some plans for next time.

We arrived at the Pocono retreat in the early evening. The place was idyllic. Beautiful rolling green fields, a lake, volleyball courts, two pools, and men, men, men – all nude and all friendly.
Being a first timer at this event, my first glimpse of the scene had the feeling of fantasy about it. I spied men walking in the distance, no clothing between them and the wind. Men sitting under trees having lively conversations. Men moving from cabin to cabin, strolling about the grounds, just standing about. None of them wearing a stitch. And the peaceful air of contentment which pervaded the place was hypnotic.

When Jose helped us with directions to our cabin, I was hooked. He was adorable and his deep brown eyes never strayed from mine as he spoke to me. The scarf around his neck and his name tag was all he wore – that and a pretty smile.

The temperature was perfect, the guys looked great and so I knew this was the place for me. If only it were a permanent settlement!

We made our way to the assigned cabin and, my heart fluttering just a little, climbed the steps to meet our cabin mates. We were greeted even before we reached the top of the steps. J. our cabin coordinator and the others welcomed us warmly and made us feel comfortable immediately.

After all of the preliminaries, including dragging our bags, choosing our bunks, and removing our clothes – we were ready for the first night. And what a night.

The opening parade of organizations, introductions of GNI staff, and Carol Channing to entertain – while all of us sat there, bare as babies and feeling good.

All the butterflies had left my stomach and flew somewhere else, all my tiny trepidations scattered to the wind. I have to say that I approached the GNI gathering with just a little nervousness. Not being one of the gym-sculpted elite (not yet anyway), I imagined fields of such men and wondered how I’d feel among them.

It will suffice to say that although I’d been bopping around various clothing optional venues over the years and seeing men whose bodies were less than the standard gym-bunny physique, I still had issues with myself. At clothing optional places you still have the comfort of knowing that you can cover up if you want. Was I ready to throw that safety-towel away? Would I be able to love myself the way I should?

Finally having the courage to attend a GNI gathering, due in no small part to my best friend Jason, proved to me that I am ready. Probably have been ready for longer than I even knew myself. It just took the gentle push that Jason gave. And there I was, cock to the wind, a smile and a badge.

I have to say that GNI ranks up there as one of the best things I’ve done for myself. Yeah, yeah, I know – going to a nudist camp one of the “best” things. But really. You have to learn to love yourself. You have to force yourself to know that you are worth as much as anyone else.
I listen to and read a lot of Louise Hay’s work – and as encouraging as she can be, it’s still tough implementing her lessons. But when you do, it’s worth all the effort.

GNI is like that – maybe there’s a bit of hesitation, maybe the butterflies are as big as tanks, but once you cross that line there’s no going back and you learn that it is easier to love yourself than not.

Well, there’s more to the GNI story and that’ll be in the next post.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Life Gets Interesting

Life just keeps getting more interesting. And the past three weeks have been quite fun. I’d have to say that some of my experiences in that time have been enlightening and even empowering. Some of it was just beach-bumming and relaxing in cool summer breezes, but much of the time was an eye-opening jaunt.

Especially the gay nudist days. I mean, spending time with about a thousand other gay men, all of us nude, is an experience not to be missed. But more about that later.

The first week of this August adventure began in the Poconos at The Woods, a great, relatively new, gay campsite. I’d been camping in Plein Bois outside of MontrĂ©al and this was similar in organization and feel.

While Plein Bois is a clothing optional camp, it has a rather large section where nudity is required. You can pass through that sector but if you’re going to stay for any length of time, you’ve got to shed the outer trappings (and I mean that in a lot of ways). Besides, one of the two pools is located there and all these delicious nude gay men are hanging around. Why not lose the clothing?

Both camps are also mini gay villages. In addition to the campsites (both primitive and with electricity and water) there are cabins, and permanent sites with permanent residents. These perms go all out in most cases – big trailers, cable TV, elaborate front yard, even more intricate decorations.

And friendly?! All these guys are exceptionally nice, welcoming, and willing to help.

The Woods is purely clothing optional – your choice of attire. And the Woods is co-ed! But lots of guys choose to let it all hang out. While I was there, a lesbian couple staying in a nearby cabin, chose the hardly-any-clothing route. I kind of liked the spirit of those two – it couldn’t have been easy when everyone else there was male.

And, yes, I did say cabin. Though I have a tent and like using it, I was not in the mood for setting it up and worrying about cooking meals over a fire. There were a number of guys there who did just that but there were far more who opted for cabins or who had their own trailers. And many of them went off site to eat!

The weather was gorgeous most of the time and the nights clear. I remember staring through a stand of pine trees at the moon, full and bright, bathing the whole place in a silver light. The hum and echoing drone of insects created strange, almost otherworldly, background music.

I couldn’t help but wonder about what things would be like had some other line evolved into intelligent life forms instead of primates. Would we be the ones swinging in trees making night noises to lull the snake people to sleep?

Oh yes, the clothing optional part. Many of the campers chose to gad about sans clothing. Especially around the pool and clubhouse. But Occasionally I came across a totally nude guy out walking his dog (yep, pooches are allowed but they’ve gotta be leashed). There were trails that led into the woods and here, too, one could find a naked brother hiking.

Weekends are supposed to be more crowded and I’ll find out some time this Fall.

After this, it was home for a few days then off again for a bit of time at the beach in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. A great town with a big gay presence. Staying at a clothing optional, gay hotel was just part of the fun. Again, two hot tubs graced the Shore Inn. It was a bit of a walk to get to the center of town, but then, I need the exercise.

Hitting the beach is one of my favorite things – it’s only recently that I’ve come to appreciate a vacation where one relaxes and rests. Though I still like sightseeing, the pleasures of lolling on a beach or lounging by a pool are more appealing than ever. And when that beach or pool has a clothing optional policy, even better.

After a few days of sun and sand, it was back home to do laundry and prepare to trek out to meet up with hundreds of nude gay guys.

More on that next time.