Now that it’s over, I can look back on the Western Bullwhip Safari of 2015 as a source of unexpectedly delicious moments to relish.
The bed Mary crafted to replace the two bench seats in the Windstar, with enough room below the frame and four-inch foam mattress to store boxes of books, whips, clothing, etc., was almost as comfortable as the home bed. Our only concern with the mechanics of the car was the power steering fluid, which had to be topped off periodically.
As part of our preparations, my orthopedic surgeon had given me two steroid shots. Talk about suffering for one’s art!
This tour had been carefully planned and timed, incomes and expenses balanced to the dollar. First leg was Minnesota to Los Angeles, pausing at rest stops for two-hour naps as we dead-headed west. Pounding storms hit us in the first part of the journey, but after they let up, it was blue skies all the way.
Traveling through Nebraska is a cowboy’s meditation. You still see wagon-wheel ruts alongside paved roads. Over the long miles, Mary wrote page after page in her notebooks. The landscape changed in Colorado, the mist-shrouded walls of the Rockies rose ahead of us. Ears popping, we followed the road up into the mountains, treating ourselves to a retro diner stop in Aspen. The mirrors in the place were angled to repeat our images from multiple corners between gleaming chrome and red plastic seat backs in the booths.
I saw none of the magic elite who were supposed to stroll the unused ski slopes in summer, sleep in impeccable chalets, toddle down hidden sidewalks with endless credit card comfort. Along the road, railroad tracks and horse trails cut across rock faces, burrowed through cliffs. Driving was no longer on a flat plane. We seemed to fly more than we cruised, the world winding 360 degrees around with every turn of the steering wheel. It was beautiful. I felt a surge of sadness.
The head colds we brought from Minnesota blossomed in the dry air of Utah. We slept longer than usual, gurgling and sneezing as we huddled under blankets in the back. When I’m on the road like this, my dreams are rich, insane, bone rattling experiences, slippery spears of light riding through the night further than I can understand. Into this vortex, I’d pulled Mary. Sometimes when I looked at her face, I surrendered to uncertainty.
We soared over the San Bernardino pass at night, an ocean of street lights carpeting the valley, toward the Garden Grove home and studio of Cynthia Hurt and Dmitri.
Only Dr. Who’s Tardis could evince greater contrast between its inner workings and its outward appearance. The quiet street’s houses were well kept by the mixed ethnic families comfortably coexisting here. The small front yard was a soft putting green dominated by a tree from whose low branches hung a rainbow-colored hammock. In short, it was not so much a house as it is a small estate. Each room was made for the comfort of many people, no clutter or muss anywhere. My Mary and I slept on the softest air mattress I’d ever rested on in our hostess’ dungeon, surrounded by fine whips, corsets, medical equipment and chains. Our dreams were serene and deep. The courtyard in the back led to a warm swimming pool and hot bubbly tub, an amphitheater for half a dozen of us under a night sky filled with Fourth of July fireworks from the neighborhood and nearby Disneyland.
The workshops were held in this back courtyard. I watched Cynthia lead the group through one of the best introductions to fire play I’ve seen. My own multi-session bullwhip intensive was well received, even by the more experienced whip handlers there. Unfortunately, I stood in the sun a bit more than I should have, but thanks to Cynthia, I discovered qualities in aloe vera gel that made me a true believer. I sold more books, dvd’s and Black Rock leather conditioner than I’d expected to. My personal fee was paid painlessly and with no fuss, making this a critical, financial and personal success in my books.
On the morning we left her house, we were shown her newly opened piercing and tattoo studio a few blocks away. Everything reflected quality, attention to detail, professionalism, cleanliness and sterility. It was obvious she knows her shit in many areas, at many levels
Thanks to an invitation from Magnum Godfrey, the Sonora, CA Group was our next target. From where we were quartered in the historical Sonora Hotel, we could look down onto the narrow main street in the mountain resort town being prepped to celebrate its annual Gold Rush Days. The small ballroom retained by our hostess became our workshop space. This session was marked with much laughter, more humor than most workshops. I took full advantage of my conscious folly technique with a disproportionately large iron chandelier in unexpected and highly creative ways. allowing my informal “Chandelier Club” to gain a few new members that day. The group was sweet, the questions were sharp, the learning curve steep. Dinner at Gus’ Steakhouse was a revelation on what steak could taste like.
Fresno followed. Driving, driving – the drought in California was everywhere blatant. I saw cactus that were so dehydrated they had only fronts and backs – no depth. Posters protested water policies, interspersed between lush orchards and parched plots on the route. Dust was King.
We met up with our host Mobie, who gifted me with two of the best suede dragontail whips I’ve ever seen. An accomplished country singer, he gave me his CD. We also had the pleasure of meeting Ms Domina and Master Defiant (Gary). The bed was spectularly soft, and the rest allowed us to recharge our batteries.
About 40 people attended the three 90-minute workshops and the one-hour teaser Friday night, but once again I stood too long in the sun. Thinking ahead, I’d already purchased a good-sized bottle of aloe vera on Cynthia’s suggestion. It was much used.
The evening party was an event in itself, with good eating, good music, and good whip action, including a marvelously erotic and riveting exhibition of blacklight whips.
We then tore through the night like the highwayman Dick Turpin atop Black Bess to San Diego, CA to present for Club X at the Joyce Beers Community Center. Drew greeted us warmly as he opened the doors and gave me the tour of the room. As he talked, volunteers set the chairs up. By the time it reached 60 chairs, I was hoping they’d stop, because I had no desire to be embarrassed by speaking to a largely empty hall.
I should have had no fear. Every chair was occupied, about a hundred, with a number of folks standing at the back of the house. The concepts I explained went over well, the resulting questions thoughful and on target. Several people there were into kendo, and I saw the lightbulb of realization go on above their hedas when I compared the “point and squeeze” technique to tenouchi, a sword move.
So good to see Drew, again, after all these years. The questions were good, showing me these folks already had much on the ball. An excellent evening!
Cthulthu greeted us in San Jose, in the form of a dashboard icon in Latigo John’s car. An excellent Asian dinner to fortify us, open and warm chatting, then on to the Billy DeFrank Center. We met Raven (who was promised first dibs on my next Western Tour). Uncle Abdul was electrifyingly charming.
Regrettably, we encountered one of the assholes we sometimes see. They are not as unique or rare or special as they think are. This one wanted to spend a large part of the first session questioning me on whether or not I actually made contact with my partners in scenes. I humored him, answering his questions honestly. At that point, I did not think he had an agenda. But he persisted, wanting to know why I did not show vivid whip marks in my DVD “Bullwhip: Art of the Single Tail Whip,” produced in Toronto years ago. I explained that my legal advisors recommended that I not flaunt the effects a whip can have on skin in a serious scene , because legally one cannot consent to being assaulted. On this same issue, the Spanner prosecutions had taken place in England, resulting in jail time for all the participants, Tops and bottoms alike. I also remembered HBO had taken a similar course in the editing of the Real Sex segment they had filmed of me and my wife, so I figured this was especially sound advice. I moved on with my presentation, but during the break, this gentleman attempted to dominate my social moment with other attendees with the old act of “I’m a bigger Top than you because I really whip my partners.” When he announced he always started by making strong contact with the flesh, I saw that he was undermining what I was teaching (a good scene is marked more by intensity, not severity). Undiplomatically, I told him he was an Idiot and walked away. When he came at me a few moments later, I waved him off like a gnat. I told our host I would willingly refund his money for the tickets, because he obviously was not there to share the whip experience or to hear the essence of my 30 years of whip experience succinctly distilled into an hour – with personal hands-on teaching thrown in. My host told me that would not be necessary – he had left. Now we could get back to the business at hand.
Our final destination was Victoria, BC. Our passports were tucked away safely and we’d doubled up on the use of passwords to lock our computers. Our last detainment by Homeland Security and Customs agents had left a particularly bitter taste in our mouths. Did you know Homeland Security considers the territory within 100 miles of the US border a “Constitution-Free” Zone?
After a 12-hour drive, it was Mary’s first ride on a ferry (Black Ball Ferry Line), and I took great pleasure watching her enjoy the experience. It was smooth sailing, a far cry from my transatlantic voyage to the United States in March of 1966 aboard the SS United States.
Victoria is crystal clear, superbly Canadian, ringing with an intelligent energy that makes it feel like a small college town. Our hosts, Sir Dragon Z and Loadstar, had arranged for us to have an actual hotel room – a treat, since we so often stay in guest bedrooms or sleep in dungeons.
Since this was this safari’s final destination, I was going all out so the tour could end with a bang. The space was the Burnside Gym, a gymnasium/community center. The workshops and demos clicked off like clockwork, the attendees eager and attentive. We worked our asses off, because the extra help we thought we’d arranged for turned out to be a flake with an uninterested friend looking for a free ride. Le sigh.
As a break from the weekend of workshops, we’d been told we were invited to a fetish club. When we arrived, I found out I was on the posters as the unpaid main event. Politely, I performed demos, scene after scene.
At the end of the event, I met the organizers to settle up. This was where I found out they thought I was donating my time, while I thought I’d been clear on my fee (I had no problems with any of the other stops on this tour). I wrote it off to a miscommunication, and we took a serious financial hit, but we’d made enough on the rest of the tour to pay for the gas to drive back to Minnesota. Those who’d attended welcomed us warmly, which we appreciated.
So, we did not lose money, but we did not make any, either. The gods, in their humor, had given us just enough to do the job. As other developments over the next few months impacted me on many levels, I saw I was heading for a Dark Night of the Soul. If you’ve been there once, you know the feeling, like the cold breath of a dragon on your back. But for now, the sun was shining, the trip had mostly been a success, and we had made many new friends.
On the way back, we stopped at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, one of Mary’s favorite spots on Earth. Heading to Minneapolis, we slowly allowed ourselves to reenter reality. Once more, the whips had been very good to me. And once more, I’d been given a chance to give back to them by sharing what I knew of that strange and seductive supersonic experience with others. Who could ask for more? Who could be so genuinely lucky, or more blessed by the gods?