Into The South (Dirty South Tour part 1 of 5)

Alaska Airlines flies from Seattle to New Orleans once a day. With that in mind, I’d decided that if we were going to have me teach on Friday night, I should start trying to get to the south on the Wednesday morning flight. That’s how it works with standby tickets after all.

Eight weeks ago, Butterfly and I had tried to get to the wedding of the beautiful Coral Mallow on a pair of standby tickets. After eight years, she and her partner were finally tying the knot, in time for her moving to Scotland to pursue her academic adventure. The warrior priestess artist dragon and her dapper musical engineering cat boy. It would be great to go, but it was not to be. We sat at the airport listing on flight after flight. After seven attempts we bowed out and decided to stay home.

Stay home, now in possession of two one-way standby tickets that could be changed to be used within 8 weeks.

With the active prodding of my sweetie, I decided to put out a call to see if I could use the tickets to try and teach in a state I had not gotten to work in yet. She knew I had a pet project to try and teach in every state in the United States, and has been urging me to follow my secret smiles. The call went out, my body itching for the road. Ready for the leaving, for the new adventure. I was Eshkol, the selkie boy… except that I knew I would be coming back to a home I love. I may be a vagabond, but I have also learned how to plant berries and understand the profound comfort of two months in one place by choice. The secret smiles found with a fireplace and the silent snow falling outdoors.

Within twelve hours I had received an email from House Je Te Vois in New Orleans, elegantly and formally presented. Now I had already presented in New Orleans at NOBLE where I had truly loved my time, so I was momentarily confused. But the email was not about teaching for them per se – they had put together a coalition representing a large number of groups across three states that wanted to bring me to Mobile, Alabama, Biloxi, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana. Yup, a formal coalition, within 12 hours. Color me impressed. And turned on. I have a serious hard-on for competency.

I flew from Anchorage to New Orleans... an idea of scale.

I flew from Anchorage to New Orleans… an idea of scale.

The math began as another idea came in from Little Rock, Arkansas, and I put them in touch with House Je Te Vois who were acting as the coalition head for the project. We then realized that the woman who had contacted me from Little Rock had someone very dear to her in Memphis that I knew from when I lived in London in 1999, and an extra day and a comparatively short drive would have me teach in Tennessee as well. Suddenly, Impact dungeon was in on the dance.

This is how magic happens. Yes, synchronicity has its place (and was definitely at play), but so does streams of emails, stacks of phone calls, wild text messages dancing between mistresses and slaves, board members and compassionate dictators. It is sitting down with pen and paper as to what order to go in, what classes to offer, how to find venues, how to get the word out with only one month between when the call went out and when the classes would take place.

Vision in hand, details were laid out by each group, fetlife announcements put out, and the next flurries into the wind. By the time groups find out about upcoming events, they often have no idea how hard the work has been behind the scenes. This coalition eventually turned out to be 11 groups across 5 states, working through hiccups and bumps, personalities and quirks, laughter and old memories. A concert like this is not the easiest of undertakings, but the music that came to the audience was truly delicious.

Unlike the attempt to get to Coral’s wedding, my first attempt to list on a flight got me on the very first flight out of the state. This meant a ten hour layover overnight in SeaTac, sex magic book (with sexy brown paper cover) in hand, curled up in the corner of the central marketplace as I drank salted mochas and flavored water. And to my delight, come the dawn, the first flight to New Orleans had space for me as well. In fact, with a packed plane, they had one row open for standby folks and I was the only once. A row to myself across the country, body stretched out in a dance between slumber and canned air.

At each step I send update texts to Prince Tristian as well as my sweetie. As I leave security at Louis Armstrong Airport name, clad in tight black jeans and the memories of Glen Boojum locked over my shoulders in his suspenders I wore, I spy his curly hair and we lock eyes with a beam. Oh yes, it wouldn’t just be good phone conversations. This man before me was going to end up a friend. And I was right. Over the next few days we tallied up the miles and meals together, the inside jokes and private text messages, the secrets locked away between understanding expatriates of the same countries.

Our first stop was food. He takes me to the Country Club, a clothing-optional pool in the city that has a great spread of food as well. This club has been there since 1884, purchased by 3 gay men in 1977 and was in relative anonymity for most of its life until Beyonce brought her crew there a while back. In the 50s it was a safe haven for gay men to meet each other in a quiet space and just be.  And here I was on its porch, wrapped in history, with my feet hitting the same floorboards as those who came before. Hidden around the neighborhood were tiny signs of tribe- a leather pride flag in a corner of a window, a hankie in a back pocket, but beautifully understated. Butternut squash ziti and memories of the gay south.

We got to LilV’s house and unloaded the car. Her dog bounded about with terrier delight, sporting a faux-hawk that ran from snout to tail. It rocked to see her. I have known LilV since I was a fetish model, as we got tied together as two curvy girls on the floor of New York studios. Such fun to see her again, and this time, in staying with her and sharing quality meals, get to have more than model-to-model knowing. Trips like this pollinate that which was already there, but also water the soil and lead to that which we did not even know was there, coming up to blossom. Laughter, stories, being… and together the three of us headed off to coffee.

The munch in New Orleans that night was at Who Dat Coffee, which I do declare has amazing cookies and chai. Frosted flake sugar cookies. Just. Amazing. Faces unfold outside having grabbed all of the seats along one side of the building. But one face jumps out as always143’s face holds back its erupting smile as she glows in her summer dress. My demo-bottom from my NOBLE weekend and her mistress greet me fondly as I do them- such a comfort to have touch-stones to the known.

As I travel around the globe, those touch-stones make a big difference. Someone with a pin on their vest to an event I went to one time. A Mr. S tee shirt on the chest of a dyke I have never met before. A name mentioned that tells me “oh, right, I’m not just free-floating here.” This is tied into the threads of my plotline already. And I am not alone. My tribe was already here, waiting. Even if that tribe is found in the form of an etched stone at Heifer International in Little Rock that transports me through time to the etched stone my mother has at Pike Place Market in Seattle. The strings weave us back together, and I no longer feel like I am floating in space.

Pull me in, weave me into your tale, and your story becomes a part of mine. Let the primary characters in my novel appear in the background of the mini-series you are producing. We become interstitial collaborations in the passions of each other’s past and future alike. I cross over into your plotline and you cross over into mine, even if it was because we both like sugar cookies, or both have taken the same lover, decades apart. Whether we have been at the same dungeon, or watched the same sunrise, or hated the same movie. You know Paddles? You like APEX? You’ve been to Kinkfest? We paint a topography to place ourselves into each other’s landscape.

I am woven in, and the night unfolds. When asked if I need an orientation, I ask for one that might work for me as I’m unsure if “queer” applies. He offers back “gyroscope.” I accept. As the night winds down we head back to LilV’s and I lay down in bed, and gratefully pass the fuck out.

10660306_10152262041232133_3803052270541436640_nThe next morning I get dropped off at Creole Gardens for breakfast made by the amazing Ms. Annie. This woman is a DJ, cook, grandmother, and former marine underwater welder. My gods she is amazing, and her grits bring me home to my Palimsest journey. For those who have not heard about my first trip to New Orleans, some of the pictures here, a piece about wearing a corset there is here, and my upper thigh tattoo is a weaving between Ramblewood, Dark Odyssey tribe and my Palimpsest tribe. It is a part of me, and this venue housed the madness of so much of it.

Ms. Annie tells me to go to the WWII Museum, and I am grateful for the prodding. I wander the halls and am on the verge of tears for large pieces of it. I feel my father in my bones. He is here in the face of the man who first greets me for the introduction to the museum, his smile contagious and a layer of knowing too much still in his eyes along with it all. The machines of war, reprints of posters, spaces to walk through artifacts and articles alike. I find Jefferson in my skin and our conversations about how museums work best. They did it well. The museum grabs… but I still wish it had had more about the long-term effects. But really, just covering the scope of this war is hard enough. So global, so massive.

10659275_10152262131842133_7601619340410714392_nIn WWII, the blood supply was segregated. Japanese-Americans fought and died while their families were held in internment camps. Navajo speakers raced through battlefields with a code that could not be broken written upon their ancestry. And our troops severed the heads of enemies and mounted them on their tanks in southeast Asia.

The world story of the US involvement is painted in its inspiring overcoming of odds… but mostly my spirit sees the senselessness of so much of it. The death marches. The waves of blood crashing upon the shore. Babies outfitted in gas masks. The Battle of Midway hits me as I feel the sense of loss in my spine all of a sudden from a man on the Japanese carrier who stands confused that just three hours ago it was supposed to have been an easy win. He is sucked under the waves. The darkness, with sound still booming in his ears. He would never see his wife and children again.

I shake the hand of a man who jumped behind enemy lines and thank him for his service before I make my way outside. The sun warms me up and I roll back my shoulders. My feet take me through the city and I meander. At Magick Glass I meet a shared-thread and learn about the amazing rice balls at Little Vic’s Sicilian that are well worth the time. A stop into Hex leads to great conversations on sex magic and what it is like for the fortune teller there to have worked everywhere from pagan consciously created communities to Disney World. Kitchen Witch astounds me with its cook book orgy. And no, I don’t go to Café Du Monde, because I don’t actually dig it that much, but I buy coffee to take home to my sweetie.

After a full day of wandering, catching up with LilV for dinner is a delight to just sit and be. Yes, my book and I had spent a good hour together at Little Vic’s, but her insistence that there isn’t good Indian near her leads to a yelp discovery. An old dodgy place she used to go to has had a change in, well, everything.

Silk Road is amazing. Go to it. It is a pan-asian fusion sort of place with a limited menu. There are 10 entrees, 6 appetizers, some soups and salads. That’s it. But as we order we ask the waiter what wine to get. You see, there is the wine menu, but they are also a wine shop, and he comes back with a $20 bottle of white that ends up pairing perfectly with the meal we had. Crawfish eggrolls with homemade hoisin sauce. Chicken wings with a candies spicy glaze. Palak paneer with fresh cheese and the spinach that is still identified in individual pieces of spinach, deeply fresh. Green curry with shrimp fresh from market and heads still on.

But for desert? After the delicious meal we walked over to Who Dat Coffee to split a coconut cookie. Because, yeah, Who Dat Coffee. We catch up on stories and come to know each other better over dog petting and cookie sharing. And I buckle in as I head to bed after re-arranging my carry-on bags so I know what I need for class the next day, clothes paired and set for the weekend, then get it all back into bags, because this was the end of just hanging out and being. Tomorrow, the craziness begins. I get nice phone time with my sweetie after she texts me, and then I curl up, ready.

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Lee Harrington

Lee Harrington is an internationally known sexuality, relationships, and personal authenticity educator. Having taught in all 50 states and in 6 countries, he brings a combination of playful engagement and thoughtful academic dialogue to a broad audience. An award-winning author and editor on gender, sexual, and sacred experience, his books include “Traversing Gender: Understanding Transgender Journeys,” and "Sacred Kink: The Eightfold Paths of BDSM and Beyond," among many other titles. He has been blogging online since 1998, and been teaching worldwide since 2001. Welcome to his world, and your chance to expand your mind and heart alike.

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