My experience in New Platz was weird, but I just roll with the punches.
After driving from the Bronx, I encountered a total downpour as I approached Newburgh, NY. I tried to wait it out, but it would not stop. I finally drove on, into the dark, in full rain gear and soaked to the bone. The greeting at the New Platz hostel was weird. I was wet and had luggage to haul in, yet had to ring the front door to be unlocked each of the three times (arrival, luggage, park the bike). Despite the house being for hikers and bikers in the nearby Catskills, there was no room for hanging any of my wet clothes or setting my wet suitcase anywhere. Surely I was not the first guy to ever arrive in the rain, and at night. Yet, I could not help feeling I would have received a warmer welcome had I been a leper.
One hiker was already in bed, asleep, so I didn’t want to do a lot of clunking and schlepping. Yet a family was sitting on the sofa in the common room, watching a movie in the dark, so I didn’t want to walk between them and the screen and they made no effort to turn on a light. The layout was like a century old residential house, narrow with crazy hallways so no place to set my stuff. I ended up placing one bag one place, my gym bag another, hanging my coat over a door, setting my helmet under a table, my gloves and shoes in a corner, etc, etc. My shit was spread across two or three rooms and nobody cared, noticed, or helped.
In the morning I was up at 8:30, the earliest ever for me. One hiker was long gone and a couple in spandex were heading out the door. The family had walked into town for breakfast. I was gathering my wet stuff up, hoping to run a load of laundry but it not allowed until the afternoon, when the house maid service was done using the washer & dryer.
I struck up a conversation with one of my housemates. She was young and fit, and a bicyclist touring the nearby scenic routes. I felt very old, and very fat. I was complaining about being cold and tired and stiff from the rain and long ride when she said she was about to do her morning yoga stretches and then insisted, positively insisted, that I join her. We moved the sofa and she gave me her yoga mat and she used the carpet.
She kept teasing that she was way out of practice (“I think it goes like this”) but I easily recognized the moves from my brief stint in early morning aerobics from before I left home. These were the warm up and cool down stretches, so I was not lost. I played along, stretching and bending, and before long I could feel my stiff muscles were the most limber and warmed up that they had been in weeks, maybe since leaving home. Darn it!
She told me about herself, and her various cross country bike events. We talked vegan foods and healthy lifestyles. We ended up becoming facebook friends after splitting up. She invited me to contact her when I visited NYC in July, to have a lunch or dinner with herself and her friends. I committed to take a small ride today around the local roads and enjoy some of the scenic views in the local state parks, but definitely from my scooter, not from the seat of a touring bicycle.
In early afternoon I was finally allowed to run a load of laundry and was warm from my shower and coffee so I just cooled my jets to plan. But there was really nothing to do. The town was tiny and would close up early. The hostel had a 10pm “doors locked” policy: be inside or literally go get another room (honest!). And the weather was getting crappy again, from overcast to sprinkles and with drizzles not far away.
I checked for local meetup groups and contra dances, even a movie, but there was really nothing going on. Then I visited the website for dungeon and power exchange and (while it seems improbable) within about 25 miles was going to be an open house and dungeon play event that very night. Unfortunately, it would start in late afternoon and run until who knows when, 2 or 3 in the morning. I talked to the guy at the hostel and there was no way I would be allowed back in that late, even promising to tiptoe. And I had still not even been vetted to attend the event, total uncertainty.
So while my laundry ran, I emailed my credentials (and bought a prepaid ticket) and searched online and finally tentatively rented a motel room down the road in nearby Kingston, NY. It was the closest town from my hostel and the evening’s event where I could spend the night then head out the following morning.
As the day elapsed, I received a call from the event coordinator and in 30 minutes I was easily able to prove myself to be a normal sane individual. These dungeon groups are always worried about somebody that blows in from out of town, and always worried about single males showing up being predators or weirdos. I really appreciate their double concern when I call out of the blue, not knowing a soul, while just passing through their town. So I always provide lots of info and contacts and an hour later I received an email confirmation. That was good, because the damn thing was an hour away, and I still needed to pack all my stuff up, in the light rain. I quickly confirmed my room in Kingston and my local departure and started packing.
I arrived at the event before dusk and had a dickens of a time parking my bike in a gravel lot, being top heavy with luggage and soaking wet. But I managed. The event was a mid summer barbeque and dungeon play date, so I brought deli cole slaw (as always) and enjoyed hamburgers & hot dogs just like at the VFW or any church picnic. Only with lots of leather, bustiers, kilts, and hose.
The most interesting feature was that one person did not like to be touched (and I am, of course, “a hugger”). There was a near mid-air collision which we just barely avoided. I was fine as I easily deal with all kinds of people (my whole point of being out there), but I was completely surprised. We bumped into each other throughout the evening and I would chant to myself “don’t touch don’t touch don’t touch” and keep my hands, literally, in my pockets. Learn new things.
There was a fellow picking up plates and cups, moving chairs, emptying cans, etc. I often do this kind of stuff at parties, to help out. Later in the evening I figured out he was actually a sub, possibly a slave, and enjoying having the hostess (“don’t touch don’t touch”) ordering him around: “pickup those empty bottles”. I knew about various sexual slavery (kiss my foot, polish my shoe) but a “house chore slave” seemed a bizarre sexual peccadillo. But then again, I thought, that would be darn convenient in my messy condo back home. I was careful to not talk to him, since I suspect this, too, would be a breach of etiquette as he was only to be addressed by his “mistress”, who was there playing with someone and married to yet someone else. Scorecards, get yer scorecards.
There were lots of standard scenes going on, guy/girl, girl/guy, etc, and I have still not figured out how to look casual, while sipping on a soda and snacking on potato chips while somebody whips a half-naked handcuffed partner in front of me. But I hang out, and try to make small talk with the evening’s hostess who is designated to meet and greet visitors like me. She gave me and the two other first timers a tour.
I was shocked that an obvious husband and wife in one scene turned out to be anything but. After they finished and changed I was chatting first with him, then with her about power dynamics and she gave me the crossed eye “what are you talking about?” look. They were play partners only, and he provided a service, just like Jiffy Lube. He wanted to teach me techniques & tools, and couldn’t understand my interest in just the power relationship. He was very proud of his devices, like a seasoned fisherman showing you his collection of hand tied flies, each with a story of what it is best for and how it was acquired.
I saw my first ever deprivation scene, where a young lady was duct taped to the arms, legs and back of a chair then, with straws in her nostrils to breathe, had her face otherwise ensconced to deny her sound light and touch. Eventually, for fun, her chair was lifted at different random times, and set down various random places in the room to stimulate her sense of movement and helplessness. On time it was placed in the very middle of the party so people would bump into her, once facing the door to surprise new arrivers, once facing away toward a far corner. Sadly, I left before she was released. I had read about this particular enjoyment, but had never seen it done. I personally experience claustrophobia and I fought with all my might to even look at her in that state. While I did not get to stick around to ask about her interest and the sensations, I think she was also of a “protected class” of person, not available for chatting to an unfamiliar single male visitor with lots of questions.
There is of course the coven’s alpha male, all in leather and named Sir Something or Other. He was known by everybody and well liked. I came upon him actually giving submission lessons to a set of several novice young women, which seemed very creepy to me, like an episode of sister brides. My bumping into this scene was the very first time this summer that I almost stopped my quest for knowledge. The scene was that unsettling to me. Now I am open minded, very open minded, but these adults had to know some of the 18 and 19 year olds in the “vanilla world” in this general area, probably for years. There stood a decent chance they had been a role model (a neighbor, school tutor, girl scout den mother). I was there to study power relationships, and the power imbalance and influence was so obvious it positively creeped me out.
So I quickly left that part of the building and didn’t return. Actually, I pretty much just grabbed a couple more cookies and brownies from the snack table and hit the road. I had the feeling that I got as much as I was going to get from this party.
I arrived at my motel in Kingston, NY an hour down the road, after midnight, to check in. There was a guy shabbily dressed, greasy baseball cap, riding a beat up bicycle, hanging around the front parking lot. I had parked near the lobby door to shuttle in all my gear, keeping out of the rain. I then went back out and took a late night break under the overhang before parking and covering my scooter. He made eye contact and struck up a conversation and all I could think was “oh, no, a weirdo”; probably homeless, maybe mentally ill, but I’d justtough it out. Give him a dollar and send him on his way.
Of course the experience was delightful and our conversation lasted well over an hour. He was a free lance commercial glazier, working both in NYC and here in upstate NY, going back and forth, switching between residential and commercial projects. He was on a bicycle because he let his girlfriend have his pickup truck tonight for her job (her car was in the shop). He was hanging out in front of my motel for the same reason as me, it had a nice overhang to shield away the light drizzle. He was friends with the night clerk, since he had stayed here weeks at a time when snagging temporary commercial jobs over the years. He owns a small house “in the city” currently occupied by his grown kids (boomerang kids: a long story we shared). He now stayed at his girlfriend’s place when in Kingston (we talked divorces). He wanted to get out a little at midnight, for a beer and a smoke, then visited the clerk, then he ran into me. He was of course, fascinating, insightful, entertaining, and we had more than a handful of things in common. And of course he rode a motorcycle in his teens and couldn’t wait to tell me.
Like almost every guy my age that I encountered, he was obsessed with how close he was to retirement, how much he had saved, and what he was going to do once he got on medicare and quit working. And he had a razor sharp insight into the economy, which he shared willingly and patiently with a bearded stranger in a motel parking lot on a rainy midnight. He was streetwise in the way a bushman understands gazelles without ever taking univetsity classes in veterinary medicine or animal husbandry, and he had kept himself ahead of the economy by jumping back and forth between two places and two markets. Over time, what was once just intuition was now macro economic expertise, and he shared his crystal ball willingly with me
But at 2:15am I said “Look, I gotta go to bed” and we shook hands and parted, him riding his clanky bike off into the darkness. I rode the scooter out from under the motel’s entry roof into the night air, parking it outside my room’s window so I could peek at it in the morning. I locked it tight and covered it up, although the light mist of rain had stopped. It was time for bed, passed time, way passed time.