Entering California feels like the equivalent of 12 gun-shaped hair dryers jammed on high and pointed at our throbbing temples. Seven hours of desert and dehydration take their toll. Two days on the road and two hours left to Sin City.
We stop at a Chevron station eager to shake out our flat asses before hitting some hip, dyke San Francisco dance floor. Without any pockets in my bathing suit, I place my wallet on the hand dryer and take a bath in the sink. We grab an electrolyte drink and gleefully pull away.
Forty minutes later, crammed between several diesel trucks and the weekly parade of Friday afternoon commuters, my wallet whispers to me in a lightheaded way: “Bet you can’t find me.”
With more composure than I imagine I possess, I casually say, “I left my wallet at the Town Pump.” I smile to myself because this used to be my nickname in Victoria.
“Oh my God!” says Jamie while driving, “I think I did too!” She’s my best friend. We do everything together. She eventually gets off the highway, gets on the phone and calls three outlets. “Forget it,” we’re told. “Not a chance in hell! This is America.”
Undeterred, we turn the car around and start chanting our prayers. With every highway turnoff looking the same, we scan the horizon looking for our self-inflicted crime scene.
The dust-covered Corolla pulls into the station. At the front counter we ask in a polite whisper whether two wallets were turned in. “Yes, gone now, we gave them to the police,” says the station owner. “But don’t worry, it was a good cop.” He bows with a “namaste.”
Losing and reclaiming one’s security and identity in a foreign country does strange things to a psyche. When the beefy cop hands me the wallet I want to kiss his black shiny boots. Instead I sigh with a big gulp of gratitude and my next coherent thought is: “Golden showers, San Francisco Pride weekend, time to explore.” Private fantasies need good event planners.
The next night my Radical Faery friend, Stardust, puts me in his harvest gold bathtub, hands me a cup of herbal tea, sits on the toilet and proceeds to interrogate me with a 40-minute checklist out of a book called S&M 101.Within the hour I am dressed, dog collared, blindfolded, and riding public transit to the centre of the city.
I am surrounded by, but can’t see, 50,000 horny, half-dressed queers. Women pinch my ass, cup my balls, kiss my lips and strike my chest. They rub their dance-sweating pussies all over my body. Few men openly acknowledge us. A leather daddy lets me feel his chaps, hairy chest and face. Teasingly, he gropes me in response.
Concentrating on one step to the next creates a deep internal stillness. I realize that my once-craved, pseudo-celebrity status doesn’t compare to this unfamiliar feeling of peace .
The first hours pass; the bones of my feet fuse to the soles of my cowboy boots. Blind, I walk nearly 40 blocks guided only by my friend’s voice and the firm tug of the lead around my neck. He tells me we’ve arrived at the Hole In the Wall, a San Francisco landmark. He lovingly slips off the eyewear so I can take in a few minutes of history. There in the corner is a naked guy in a faded vinyl ’50s dentist chair. They’re contemporaries. The neon and wall mural is circa 1972. Jake, the sullen one beside me, is a regular. He likes my accoutrements. We drink, re-dress my eyes and head out.
Loud music again, we pass bouncers and bruise our way through a packed, gyrating dance floor before descending some stairs. A cock slips into my hand. My jeans get tugged down. Thick musty lips meet my own. It’s a backroom party and I’m dessert. I smile.
It’s a relief to not see who’s leading, what they’re wanting or thinking. I’m quiet; quieter than I ever expected to be in the presence of so much desire.
Too many hands, mouths, I pull away. Stardust asks me how I am. Words stumble.
We press on a few more blocks. The air is heavier here, it echoes more intimately with the sound of our steps. He announces that we’ve arrived at Blow Buddies, a sex club. We are told to take off the blindfold and whatever else. The collar I keep as security against the crawl of anonymous bodies. Troughs, holes, towers and tubs, clumps of men, like a colony of queenless ants striving for self-pleasure. Eye contact is furtive. I notice the stainless steel shower basin is dry. Tonight, I’ll keep that fantasy dry, too. We leave.
As the blindfold goes on again, I find myself thinking about my wallet returning, about connecting with strangers, about what fills me with joy. I’m proud of the risks I take in life, of surrendering to moments beyond my personal control. I’m led out the club, not so much dissatisfied, as wondering how my own sex life promotes or detracts from me claiming my pride and joy.
It’s coming on 4 am. The best is saved for last; a house party hosted by the San Fran Radical Faeries. The dog chain comes off. I’m at home among the hundred or so guests.
Downstairs is a playful orgy of men loving each other. I’m told the guy at the closet clothes check has been there since the early evening. I laugh and dance by myself with the music. As the sun rises, someone offers us a protein shake. I decline. I’m already full.
I’m off to the early morning GLBT Pride church service at Glide where, standing among my brothers and sisters, I know my heart will finally spill over.