Friday, November 23, 2007

How Leather Celebrates the Holidays

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #326, November 23, 2007)

Okay, we’ve all had Thanksgiving dinner and the holiday shopping and social season officially has started. Members of the leather/BDSM/fetish community prepare for and celebrate the holidays in many of the same ways as a lot of other folks. We shop; we bake cookies with the family; we raise money for charity and have fun doing it; and we share the holiday spirit by volunteering to help make other people’s holidays merry too.

Shopping: BIZARRE BAZAAR presented by MSDB

Last issue I gave you some suggestions for what to get that special someone on your list. Now let’s talk about where you can do your shopping for those hard-to-find (warning: euphemisms ahead) “specialty gifts,” “adult novelties” and “toys for big kids.”

On Saturday, Dec. 1, MSDB again will help you kick off the holiday shopping season by presenting another Bizarre Bazaar. This year’s new and larger location for the event is Pi Bar and Restaurant (2532 25th Ave. S., Minneapolis). Hours are noon-7 P.M. Due to the generosity of the gracious folks at Pi, there is no charge to enter the shopping area, which means more holiday dollars to spend on goodies from the friendly merchants and the great food that Pi offers. (Your humble columnist is especially fond of their desserts, meaning—what else?—pie.)

There also will be entertainment, a vacuum-bed fundraiser for the new Leather Flag, and a silent auction fundraiser for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF). For more information: <msdb-mn.org>.

Baking with the family: MINNESOTA KINKY COOKIE BAKERS

The silent auction at the Bizarre Bazaar will feature, among other items, several baskets of assorted cookies baked by the Minnesota Kinky Cookie Bakers. Each year, on the weekend before Thanksgiving, the group holds an annual non-kinky event for kinky people and their families.

Together the bakers produce thousands of cookies and holiday goodies to share, and they put together gift baskets to be auctioned off at charitable fundraisers. Children of community members join in to mix, roll, cut out, frost, decorate and count.

If you want to participate in next year’s event, ask for more details at the Bizarre Bazaar.

Having fun and doing good: ATONS HOLIDAY FUNDRAISER

How long have The Atons of Minneapolis been holding their annual Holiday Fundraiser? At least since 1995, the year your humble columnist started writing this column. I checked—that year the theme of the event was “Making the Streets Safe for Santa.”

This year’s Atons Holiday Fundraiser benefits both The Aliveness Project and Open Arms of Minnesota. The fundraiser takes place Sunday, Dec. 2, 5-10 P.M. in the Bolt Underground.

There are some changes this year. The Atons still are having a food drive (admission is a $7 donation at the door if you bring ten pounds of non-perishable food with you, a $10 donation at the door if you don’t). But instead of the silent and live auctions of the past several years, this year’s event will have more of a carnival atmosphere.

For every pound of food you bring you receive a ticket. Get more tickets and you increase your chance to win fabulous prizes. (If you’d like to donate one or many fabulous prizes to the event, please contact the Atons as soon as possible—see <atons.net> for contact details.)

Other event highlights include food and a selection of holiday carnival booths, including photos with Leather Santa (in the person of Dan Beach, Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2007) and a Santa spanking booth in case you’ve been naughty this year.

More information, including suggested food and other items to donate: <atons.net>.

Sharing the spirit: THE ALIVENESS PROJECT HOLIDAY BASKET PROGRAM

The food and other items the Atons collect at the door of their Holiday Fundraiser will be donated to The Aliveness Project. Some of it will stock The Aliveness Project’s food shelf, but much of it will be used by their Holiday Basket Program.

Founded in 1985, The Aliveness Project is a local nonprofit agency that offers a variety of services for individuals living with HIV/AIDS in Minnesota. Since 1988, their Holiday Basket Program has provided thousands of gift baskets to men, women and children throughout Minnesota affected by HIV/AIDS.

Typically, hundreds of volunteers help by adopting baskets, donating gifts, wrapping presents, baking cookies, sewing quilts or holiday stockings, and assembling and delivering both Hanukkah and Christmas baskets.

If you’d like to help by adopting a basket, making a donation or volunteering your time, contact The Aliveness Project at 612-824-LIFE (5433) or find more details at <aliveness.org>.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Leather Life’s Annual Holiday Gift Guide

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #325, November 9, 2007)

Gifts for the Material Leatherman in your life

It’s time for your humble columnist’s annual Holiday Gift Guide. Looking back over my 2007 columns, I see I’ve been giving you great gift suggestions throughout the year. This year’s guide is therefore a review of items mentioned in past columns, with some new items thrown in. For the upcoming season in which we celebrate conspicuous consumption, how about these gift ideas?

MR. LEATHER DVD: Last March I wrote about a new documentary film called “Mr. Leather.” Originally broadcast on cable network Here! TV, the film is now available on unrated DVD (unrated because it has some explicit extras—rescued from the cutting-room floor, no doubt). Filmmaker Jason Garrett tells the story of the 2003 Mr. Los Angeles Leather Contest, and the stories of each of its nine contestants. But the film is also a good examination of contemporary leather culture. As I said in March, this is a film to be cherished within our community and shared with our allies. (See a video clip at <heretv.com>.)

NON-TOXIC TOYS: My late-April column discussed the hazards of toxic sex toys. Then came all the media reports of toxic children’s toys (and toothpaste, cough medicine, pet food, and on and on). Yes, I was in the vanguard yet again.

But did that column in April prompt regulatory reforms? Nope. So if you’re shopping for that special stocking-stuffer, the same basic warnings still need to be heeded: PVC bad. Phthalates bad. Porous plastic bad. Perfumey or plastic-y smell bad. Greasy feel bad. Medical-grade silicone good. High-quality glass, stainless steel, hardened acrylic, and stone all good. If a toy causes irritation, stop using it. Be smart and shop wisely. Some merchants, such as Smitten Kitten in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, are committed to selling only non-toxic toys. (For more information visit <badvibes.org>.)

ANEROS: While we’re on the subject of sex toys . . . Is Aneros a sex toy, a medical device, or a tool for spiritual enlightenment? Some would say all of the above. Aneros is the first and only medically researched and patented prostate massager. Hands-free and self-propelled, the makers of the device promise that men can achieve “strong continuous, non-ejaculatory, full body orgasms previously unattainable through conventional sexual techniques.” Gift-giving advice: although it’s available in several different sizes and designs, only a few are recommended for those new to prostate massage. That might make your gift-purchase decision easier. (For more information, including many ecstatic customer reviews, visit <aneros.com>.)

DESIGNER GIFTS: A recent column on designers catering to the leather community mentioned Inseam Clothing Co. They sell several styles of great-fitting, versatile, uniform-inspired trousers designed and made in the USA. They also offer distinctive T-shirts. (See them all at <inseamclothing.com>.)

Also mentioned in that column was MindFetish Bedding Company, purveyors of masculine bedding and home furnishing items. Erotic-print sheets and pillowcases? Red-hankie sheets and pillowcases? Black cotton sheets with fetish-rubber trim? Leather or latex duvet covers? Egyptian cotton fetish-design bath towels? Erotic-print shower curtain? Black leather bathrobe, boxers or apron? And wait, I’m just beginning. (To see MindFetish’s entire mind-blowing line, visit <mindfetish.com>.)

A NECKTIE—IN LEATHER: This could be a subtle but effective way to push the envelope of the office dress code. You can find clip-ons or strap-ons for those interested in convenience and regular you-have-to-tie-them neckties for the traditionalist. And you can even find them in colors other than black, depending on the message you want to send.

What’s difficult is to find a leather necktie that’s a) wide enough and b) long enough to meet traditional business dress standards. Most are skinnier than what you’ll see in menswear stores, and most are not long enough to reach the beltline as business fashion designers recommend. However, Northbound Leather <northbound.com> has a complete line consisting of three widths (“narrow,” “wide” and “standard,” which is closest to the traditional width). They even have a velcro-closure leather bow tie. A Northbound sales representative mentioned to me that they can make neckties longer than the standard 56” by special order.