With the alarm I roll out of bed and head off into a shower with great water pressure and beautiful smells in it. Clothes refolded and organized for the last legs, I smiled at the small number of books left. Folks may not know, but to sell a book I have to pay to get them wherever I am going, and if they don’t sell, I have to pay to get them back home. I usually cram my carry-on with books, hoping I can fake my way into having it “look light” as I lift a 35+lb carry-on into the overhead. This trip I had shipped my books ahead, and was hoping I had guessed right. It turns out I should have packed 5-10 more Sacred Kink, and a few more of each of the others, but eh, so it goes sometimes. Folks can happily email me and I’ll sign and ship them.
No, really folks. Email me. At firstname.lastname@example.org – I’ll sign and ship the books you want.
Bags and boxes in the car and off the 3 of us headed to breakfast. We were joined by a few others… including the amazing S.J. Tucker! OMG I love Sooj. Love love love. Squee, I was bouncing to get to see her.
On the way to Little Rock, I had texted Sooj and told her I would be driving past her stomping grounds. She replied with asking when. Well, tonight. It turns out she was returning from tour that night, and was game for breakfast in Little Rock. I was so very happy. Sooj is how you make a Lee happy I think.
A small crew of us gathered at had nibbles (including a strange variety of pancakes to choose from), then off we go to Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Kingfisher trail is not much of a hike, but it let a friend of mine with some walking challenges join us, and still see a wide variety of the native plants of the area.
There were trees so large that I could climb inside them. Slowly I scaled, boots on sliding floor, memories of so many hands that had come before. Ascending into the darkness with a trickle of light at the top, streaming down through the slowly thinning black. Wood. The living rings of the past making a cradle for me, a hidden secret. A whisper. My fingers clinging until I found a place to stand and breathe in with the trees, out with the leaves. Feel the roots.
Oh, wait, I realized there were other folks outside.
And, back on the walk. Knotted roots, small plants, and ready for goodbye kisses (okay, not really *ready* per se), before Sooj headed her way with kisses, and the rest of us made our way to the Heifer International headquarters in downtown Little Rock.
I have been a big supporter of Heifer International. They work worldwide to feed others. This is not about giving food aid. This is handing people cows so that they can breed cows, milk cows, feed themselves. The rule? Pass on two of your second generation to another family. And so the agreement continues from there, that those two cows get passed down the next generation… and slowly it continues to the world.
They have been doing this work for nearly 70 years, and their headquarters are an example of their mission. Recirculating water, appropriate water draining, reusing materials, smart heating, integration of construction into the environment for best energy use due to light availability in the day… really amazing. Take the building tour when you go. And I say when.
Inside the main building, they have great information. The distribution of funds when a tee-shirt is made. The amount of water it takes to raise different plants. How we can help communities build real resources. How one chicken can help feed a family. How to change the world.
On the way out, I stopped at the gift shop. Folks may not know, but I have a hankie collection. Years ago I got turned onto the hankie code when I was a baby queer leather kid, and have slowly built an obsession. Even in the world at large, I flag every day. Grey for bondage. Red for fisting. Micky Mouse’s ass for… well, fisting Mickey Mouse.
So I got a Heifer bandana. Two actually. One for myself and one for Butterfly. So, what does flagging Heifer mean? I’ve decided that flagging Heifer left means Donor, and right means Volunteer. So I took the rope hankie out of my pocket, shoved it on the left pocket, and drove away.
Packed up, and sporting a new hankie, Lagavulin and I packed up the car and off we went, off to Memphis!
Memphis. Stories flooded back to Parker and I on our beautiful, awkward, loving, tasty, music/movie/museum-filed trip here years ago. But this was ages ago. New day, new Memphis. New Memphis was food, friends of friends, and dungeons.
The first stop, after the drive through West Memphis that always confuses me name-wise, was the amazing Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana. Unlike most “Mexican” restaurants in the United States, Las Tortugas does not apologize for cream dripping from its grilled corn, the messiness of peeling chunks of meat off of the slab for the tacos. Its horchata needs stirred, and the only way you know about some of the specials is if you know the kitchen workers, the owners, or can banter in Spanish for a bit to find out what is on the hidden menu. But even if you order from the normal menu, it is a mouthwatering experience that makes me want to go back to Memphis just to devour it again.
It was great getting to meet and hang out for a while with the sweetheart of an old friend and acquaintance. There is something rich about not just knowing one face of a friend. So many of us in our culture only get to know one side of a human.
Imagine each person as a gem. As a diamond, a ruby, an emerald, a soul. We are cut of so many sides, and instead of saying we are a core being wearing masks, instead we think of ourselves as a being with many sides. One side is who we are at the office. I turn and this is the face of myself with my parents. This side with my best friend, and again we turn to the side with the bus stop stranger, the person we are in faith groups, in sexuality groups, when alone with the silence of the woods. They are all us, they are all true, unless that side has been veiled. But they are all us.
And so it was getting to know another side of a friend. How they dance with a soft smile with their dear one. How a sideways glance shows an inside joke, and I get to peer at a side that feels like a secret that I am blessed to see. It is not my side of him, but it is a true side. I am a peeping tom, a spy, and it is a gift.
And did I mention earlier dungeons? Oh yes indeed, dungeons.
Impact of Memphis is an expansive space built inside a warehouse building, snug back in the industrial area of town. Perfect location because no one else is there at night, and there is security in knowing that. Inside it is one of the best-appointed dungeons I have ever seen. And I have seen a LOT of spaces around the globe. Giant chain webs, adjustable 3-dimension moving X-frames, a rack, huge multi-spray shower, chain winches, cages, black-light room, massage room, social rooms, full bar space. Huge amounts of diversity. Though its décor is lacking (they have gone for the minimalistic all-white approach) for my personal taste, I can imagine that if, on a Saturday night, if it had 150 people inside, it would be great.
It was a class on erotic roleplaying. I love doing that class because we get to build our lexicons of roles and emotions, work on how we evoke our inner selves and don the concepts of the roles that are not embedded in our psyche. Cats, Villians, Daddies, Princesses, Ponies… good stuff. The smiles, the ahahas, the pondering moments.
After everyone left, I fitfully slept, first on the couch and then on the rack. This was, of course, after enjoying myself on that giant movable X-frame that I strapped myself into and… enjoyed myself, took naughty selfies, and enjoyed the shower.
At 4am my ride arrived and Lagavulin and I grabbed a bite at Denny’s and gave orange juice to strangers, before I headed off to the train. The train was full of tourists from Japan, England and Eastern Europe sharing the platform with me as trains sped by. As their group leaders called them into gaggles like a mother goose, I joined the locals and talked about why we were each here. Time with family. Work commute. Going to a concert.
And off I went, back to New Orleans. A ride from LilV to the airport, barely making it (the train had been late), but success. Hugs and love, a goodbye to the south. What a tour!
It had been Anchorage to New Orleans to Mobile, Alabama. Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi to Slidell, Louisiana. Little Rock, Arkansas to Memphis Tennessee… and back to New Orleans. What an amazing Southern Tour of 2014. Amazing people, beautiful country, touching moments, great laughter, and memories to carry for a lifetime.
Thank you to everyone who helped make it happen, and the magic of it all.
Yes, this blog entry is… what, 10 months late? But, here it is. The last leg of that amazing tour. I adore you all.