Friday, December 26, 2003

Atons Holiday Fundraiser 2003

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #224, December 26, 2003)

In the spirit of the holiday season, here are some photos of the recent Holiday Fundraiser presented by The Atons of Minneapolis at The Saloon on December 7. It turned out to be a very successful event, netting over $4,000 and 750 pounds of food for the benefit of the Aliveness Project’s Holiday Basket Program.

PC070035.JPG: Glen Edberg, left, and Jim Courtney, right, holding some of the 750 lbs. of food people brought to the fundraiser.

IMG_1611-vi.jpg: Atons President B.D. Chambers, left, and Aliveness Project representative Randy Hornstine, right.

PC070001.JPG: This year’s silent auction of leather goods and other merchandise was the best ever in terms of the amount of money raised. Here, some shoppers (Peter Kelly, Roger Payne and Doug Waalen) inspect the merchandise.

PC070014.JPG: Left to right: Frank Kruk, Ed Skjaret and Matt Wambach looking at the auction merchandise. This year’s auction of leather goods and other merchandise was the best ever in terms of the amount of money raised.

PC070005.JPG: Some of the silent auction merchandise. This year’s auction of leather goods and other merchandise was the best ever in terms of the amount of money raised.

PC070007,8,9.JPG: Barber Vince McGhee gives Frank Mlakar a buzzcut.

PC070044.JPG: Ron Joki gets his boots blacked by David Page.

PC070020.TIF: Photographer Paul Nixdorf, right, was on hand to take pictures of leathermen with a hunky Santa (or with their head poking out of the giant Christmas stocking in the center of the picture). Keith Cheetham is shown posing with Santa.

PC070011,12,13.JPG: North Star Gay Rodeo Association (NSGRA) royalty at the Atons Holiday Fundraiser: Left, Steve Kussatz, Mr. NSGRA 2004; right, Lady Stevens, Miss NSGRA 2004.

PC070017,18.JPG: Left to right: Ed Skjaret, Matt Wambach and Frank Kruk.

PC070022.JPG: Brian Spence and David Anderson.

PC070024,28.JPG: Brian Spence and David Anderson inspect the new Minneapolis Eagle calendar.

PC070029.JPG: Left to right: Randy Hornstine and Sherman Ford.

PC070033.JPG: Left to right: Peter Kelly and Roger Payne.

PC070037,38.JPG: Members of the Minnesota Storm Patrol: left to right, Joe Siedschlag (Sergeant at Arms), Jack Roach (Vice President), Jim Randall (Road Captain).

PC070041,42.JPG: Doug Waalen and Louie Rios.

PC070048.JPG: Ken Hoffmann.

PC070052.JPG: Michael Ballard.

PC070053.JPG: Black Guard member Karl Keturi.

PC070055.JPG: Paul Nicholson.

PC070057.JPG: Left to right: Kevin Sitter, Robert Kerr and Atons President B.D. Chambers.

PC070058,59.JPG: Left to right: Andrew Bertke, Matt Grimes, Kellen Slagle, Kelley Herridge.

Friday, December 12, 2003

The Christmas Letter I Can’t Send

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #223, December 12, 2003)

With the holidays approaching, mailboxes everywhere are filled with Christmas letters, in which people let other people know what’s been going on with them and theirs during the past year. (Throughout this column I will refuse to call them holiday letters, even if that would be more politically correct. Christmas is generally the holiday that inspires them, so Christmas letters it shall be.)

I have received many of them over the years. I have never sent one. Society may have come a long way in tolerance, acceptance and even (sometimes) understanding of GLBT people, and to a certain extent kink is discussed more openly than it used to be. But I don’t think society has yet come far enough that I could send an honest Christmas letter detailing my year and expect most of its recipients to even understand it, much less be grateful I shared.

But if I were to write a Christmas letter, it would be something like this:

Greetings of the season, everyone. It’s been a busy year with lots of activity but few changes. (Sometimes stability is nice.) Partner Bill and I will be celebrating four years together in January 2004. I’m still doing contract work in the advertising department of a major national retailer (can you guess which one?), and my leather column still appears in Lavender Magazine. In the past year Bill has even written a few things for Lavender.

Although I don’t get to as many leather events as I used to, I still get to a fair share of them. The year started off with a three-part series of roundtable discussions, hosted by Pride Alive and the Minnesota AIDS Project, on the future of leather. Attendance was about evenly split between members of the leather community and people who didn’t identify as leather but wanted to find out more about it, and we all had some good discussions. (Thank you again, MAP and Pride Alive!)

In February Bill and I went to Chicago for the annual Pantheon of Leather community service awards and the Mr./Ms Olympus Leather Contest. Pantheon is like a big family reunion, a time for reconnecting with members of my leather family and leather tribe from Chicago, across the country and around the world. Oh, and I brought home a President’s Award. (Well, it wouldn’t be a Christmas letter if I didn’t brag just a little.)

On March 1, local BDSM group MDSB hosted “Rules of Engagement,” a panel discussion about some of the legal aspects of leather and BDSM. I was part of the discussion panel and talked about “what to do if the cops show up.” The next day I was one of four judges at the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2003 Contest who chose Gregg White as the new titleholder (photos at www.minneapoliseagle.com).

In April I attended the show and banquet at Black Frost 26, a run presented by The Black Guard of Minneapolis. I took lots of photos of the show—you can see them at <www.blackguardmpls.com>.

I spent Memorial Day weekend at the International Mr. Leather and International Mr. Bootblack contests in Chicago. (I’ve been there every year since 1994.) It was their 25th-anniversary contest, and it more than lived up to its billing. (See the photos at <www.leatherjourney.org>.)

Two weekends later Bill and I spent a weekend in the woods at the Knights of Leather’s annual run, where I did an author’s reading (my first ever) of some of my columns that are in the process of being collected into a book. More on that later.

Both the Twin Cities Festival of Pride and Minnesota Leather Pride took place at the end of June. This year’s Leather Pride was the biggest ever, with events spread out over nine days.

In mid-July I traveled to Omaha for the International Ms. Leather and International Ms. Bootblack contests. While there I had a delightful interview with International Mr. Leather 2003 John Pendal.

In October I was made an honorary member of the Minnesota Storm Patrol, a new leather club in the Twin Cities. That means I have honorary membership in two local leather clubs—the Knights of Leather made me their first-ever honorary member in 2002.

Among the many activities presented by The Atons of Minneapolis, the Twin Cities’ oldest leather club, are monthly Leather/Levi dinners (details at <www.atons.net>). I enjoy them and try to attend whenever my schedule permits. I can also occasionally be found at The Minneapolis Eagle, an establishment that turns up fairly regularly in my columns. You might also see Bill and me at various art/music/theater/social events—some of which may not have anything to do with leather, believe it or not.

This year my friend and fellow leather writer Robert Davolt (former editor of Drummer Magazine), published a book of his collected leather writings for which I wrote the introduction. The title is Painfully Obvious: An Irreverent and Unauthorized Manual For SM/Leather (published by Daedalus, details at <DaedalusPublishing.com>), and I highly recommend it. A book of my own collected columns unfortunately is no closer to completion now than it was at the beginning of the year. Will I find time to finish it next year? Stay tuned.

As the year draws to a close I feel gratitude for a lot of things. I very much appreciate my partner Bill’s love and support. I am glad that for over eight years I have been able to have my column appear in Lavender. I like the fact that editor Travis Stanton gives me opportunities to write things other than my column—such as the review I wrote about Sexual Fulfillment, the book about human sexuality and relationships penned by two retired Lutheran bishops.

I’m grateful for everyone who has allowed me to interview them this year and who has appeared in my column. I’m grateful for the leather community and all the fascinating people in it. And I’m especially grateful for you, my readers, who give me a reason to think of something new to write every two weeks.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season, whatever you celebrate.

—Your humble columnist

P.S. As you ponder your end-of-the-year charitable gifts, please consider supporting both the Leather Archives & Museum (<www.leatherarchives.org>) and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (<www.ncsfreedom.org>).