Off To The Bubble – Searching For Understanding, Affection, Sex, & Connection in San Francisco
The weekend is faded and hazy, as though it’d been run through a gauzy filter, or a lens with vaseline on it. How did I start to lose it so quickly and why? With an extra two hours to ponder as our flight has been delayed I’m able to reflect and look back. But already I wonder is it possible that everything that happened actually had? In such a short time at such a short conference. (Open SF REALLY only ran two days, when all was said and done…) As the clarity of experience is indeed quite brief, and the event so full of the amazing and the unusual, the surprising and the occasionally pedestrian, arguments about semantics and understanding squeezes on the shoulders of those welling up tears at the horrors inflicted upon them in a world full of straights that don’t quite understand or care to take the time.
We came to the bubble, San Francisco, the lunatic fringe at the very edge of the United States. We came together to find, build, maintain, and understand our community, how we fit together like the pieces of an unbelievably complex and abstract puzzle, neglected somewhere on the bottom shelf in the back of a Hallmark Card Store. In the city of broad shoulders on Lake Michigan, we can only catch the most fleeting of glimpses, always just slightly out of reach, of the way San Francisco shines as a beacon of hope that one day before too long we might all, the non-monogamous, the polyamorous, the swingers, the open, the queer, the gay, the lesbians, the transgender, all of us live as we truly are. That vision seems so impossibly far at times, but in a hotel in Nob Hill in San Francisco, I caught a very real glimpse of what that freedom might look like.
Conferences are heightened times when subsets of subsets come together in number in compressed spaces, emotions run high and strong. Relationships are developed and progressed in the blink of an eye. You meet and are impressed by those who inspire you, and those inspirational people may be invited as speakers at the conference, but they’re just as likely to be a random face in the crowd that you spend a moment with post session, where they tell you something deep and meaningful and true and you can see in their story the heartbreak and pain, but the hope and confidence, the deep welling up rage that we have to feel this way at times.
Open SF represented two very important things for me on paper. Firstly, it was an opportunity to finally sit down in REALLY real life with my fellow podcasters, something that after a year and a half together as a foursome, had amazingly not yet happened. And secondly, on a less personal front, it was a moment in time where we would put forth our ideas to see what people identify with, what speaks to them, and what they find to be tedious, trite, or tremendously off base.
Here it would be, Life on the Swingset on display, with its naughty bits right up front, unapologetic and unafraid to be who we are. When early on we were pondering what a presentation by the Swingset crew would be like, we touched on the idea of political correctness and inclusiveness. Political correctness in making sure that we always use open terms, and inclusiveness such as recognizing that, maybe not everybody wants to be addressed by the greeting “Hey, guys!” But we wouldn’t do that. Because it’s so easy to find yourself in a pit of garbage language simply from the act of trying too hard. The Swingset is made up of four individuals who are hell-bent, opinionated, head strong, not always right, and rarely apologetic for the things we feel.
And they would all be in the same room at the same time, a thought that intoxicated me, knowing I’d finally be able to put a full corporeal form to Shira B. and Gavin, that I’d be able to sit across from them for meals, to talk, and whisper, and touch, and eye gaze with them.
Not to mention the shift in consciousness when I realize that this thing I started once upon a time to simply help those who are young and afraid, as I was, has grown to such a point where we are not only offering up the knowledge and advice we have, but are being asked to do so. This thing called Swingset that has, at one time or another, gotten me in trouble for posting too much, gotten me laid, helped me fall in love, forced me to fall in love, provided an outlet for pain and a pulpit to brag about my pleasure. Never could I have peered down the timeline and foreseen myself at a conference with Tristan Taormino where she came to our presentation interested in what we had to say on the topic that she wrote the book on. My non-monogamy bible. Opening Up.
Nor could I have foreseen these friendships and connections I’d make. Dylan and I had known each other for over a year when the Swingset began, but both Ginger and Shira B. Katz came into my life from the outside, and I talk to the two of them more than I talk to my local friends, family, really anyone else in my life save Marilyn. And in the lobby of that hotel on Van Ness in San Francisco, Shira B waited patiently for me to finish talking with the clerk who was seeing if he could get our room ready early.
Ginger hadn’t yet let go of Dylan, who she tackled hard along with Shira, upon seeing him in the lobby when I got full on eye contact with Shira B. She laughed and I got that woozy feeling of disconnect. The laughing voice on the headphones to my ears in the basement recording studio of my house almost two thousand miles away now had form. And gorgeous form at that. We kissed hello, and hugged and held it. So much passed in that hug, as she rested her head on my shoulder. Almost two years of relationship and emotional catch up, applying the new information to the past. Later I’d wished I’d said something wittier than “wow.” Perhaps that the infamous B stands for beautiful.
When Ginger walked over to me, it was hard to believe that almost a year and a half had passed since I’d last looked into her eyes, held her hand, touched her. Her greetings melted me.
“What are you all here for?” The clerk asked.
“A non-monogamy conference.”
“A monogamy conference?” He took another look at this small group of incredibly affectionate people in his lobby.
His eyes widened, and a grin spread across his face. “Oh! THAT makes a lot more sense.”
I could see how it might and told him so. He told me he’d taken care of the room, and handed me my key cards. Formalities finished, room gotten after a long day so far. A cramped plane ride here was followed by our introduction to San Francisco with an exceptionally long wait for my baggage at the airport that made me think, no made me certain, that someone had poked through my luggage and found fault with the sexual implements within. That I’d be rounded up as a pervert in a pervert city and taken down into the bowels of the airport to answer to pasty white men in black suits with thin ties and tell them of the perversions I get up to and how the nJoy Eleven could indeed kill someone but I instead intend to perhaps coax a gushing orgasm out of some special lady.
Realizing a misreading of the United baggage sign that implied all United luggage from all planes were coming into the one carousel that myself and the rest of my flight seemed to think was the one that would produce, we moved down to the other side of the baggage claim hidden from view by a wall and a flight of stairs. There my bag stood proudly, unmolested by the TSA, and full of the wanton delights of a hundred scattered thoughts and possibilities without a bit of expectation.
Now, we rode the elevator up in a comfortable silence, because at the moment nothing really needed to be said. We could feel each other’s warmth and energy and let the fact that we were all actually together speak to the importance of where we were, and what we were here to do. Here to learn, to teach, to confess and be confessed to, to love and be loved. There would be sex, flogging, Domination, submission, snogging, nude photography, panic, pot brownies, dance clubs, kink clubs, hot tubs, constructive arguments, destructive arguments, fellow podcast geek Cunning Minx, heroes Tristan Taormino and Charlie Glickman, heroes like Pepper Mint who brought it all together.
But not yet. Not quite.