We left early and had a wonderful and delicious dinner. We lingered for more than 90 minutes over the various courses of the meal. Her drinks were exquisite and my diet soda was never empty, the food was top notch and we had pleasant enough conversation. Then slightly over stuffed we made our way towards the event about 30 minutes away in South city. By pure accident (and the Blonde’s keen eye) we got Rock Star parking a block from where we would exit the theme party at the end of the night and two blocks from the entrance to the art gallery. Our main event for the evening was the 6th Annual Erotic arts festival in St. Louis known as Naughti Gras. It’s an event that I’d missed each of the last 3 years due to other conflicts and I’d been a little biter about not being there. This year I started planning months in advance.
Now we’re not regular art show people, in fact the Blonde tends to hate them but since it was sex themed we knew it was unlikely to be a snobby high brow event with people talking about the brilliance of a single skinny 2 foot long purple line on canvas the size of a grocery store. I do go to a handful of shows and gallery events every year. I’m also no stranger to either erotic or avant garde art (or theater or music). As we approached the entrance to the gallery portion of the evening there was a line to get in but they had heaters and on a chilly January night made it the 10 minute or so wait a little more bearable. There was a buzz and excitement outside and I fell into a conversation with a group of lesbians in their 40’s & 50’s who were giving me the high lights from the previous night. They were excited to be back for more and had a friend showing at the event. I smiled and admitted that I had gone to see one person’s exhibit in particular; everything else was a bonus.
The line moved quickly we got our wrist bands, and made our way into the large open room that was part party, part concert, the outer walls were lined with art and several other long walls framed in the area around the stage and quadrupled the display space. The bar was crowded but we had drinks in under 5 minutes. Though we looked like teetotalers with our diet soda’s. a Sexy Blond stood on the elevated stage next to a strippers pole at the front of the room and did a cliché over the top introduction for the next two performers. They took the stage and began an impressive aerialist routine on the pole. The crowded room drew even closer to the stage and cheered as they began and looked on mesmerized. We began to wonder though the art displays and shortly thereafter “User Friendly” by Marilyn Manson began to waft through the air as I danced and sang my way down the first wall filled with displays. We rounded the corner and were greeted with a display of single tail whips. I could feel the Blonde start to shut down. She’s never played with a single tail and I own a few that were gifts from friends but something about the entire setting was just not her thing. I took her by the hand and we just kept moving. This though is where our differences started to really show. Even if I don’t love a piece there may be elements I like such as light, or shadow, perspective or angle I’m curious about. These are things that interest me on a variety of levels. If she doesn’t like something she just keeps moving and could care less about any element within the piece. We kept moving pausing here or there. One thing that did surprise me was the number of photographs that were little more than folks bits and pieces. Tits are tits, sure there are big ones and small ones, one’s that are aesthetically amazing and some that are not. Same with dicks. It takes other elements to make them interesting, to make them well…art.
For example there was a series of photographs of a spider (I assume a tarantula) crawling over a semi erect penis. I found the pictures both horrifying and absolutely fascinating at the same time and could have discussed them for hours. The Blonde hates spiders so she ran away faster than she did with the single tails. My apologies to the artist of that series I don’t recall your name. Actually that would be the one criticism of the show, if there was a gallery guide I missed it. The labels and tags of whose piece it was were inconsistent and small. Some folks who I assume show professionally had business cards and post cards available most did not; which is fine really if I’d have thought to bring paper and not just a pen.
Somewhere in our meandering the dancers gave way to a local band that had one musician dressed in a beer bottle costume that made me feel like I was in an episode of the Simpsons and that Duff man was going to show up any minute. At one point the Blonde wondered away and as she was returning a young lady popped up called me by name, gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and then flitted away. The Blonde looked at me with a raised eye brow “You don’t know here do you?” I admitted I had no clue. She laughed and shook her head disapprovingly. To me it was normal and in a week or a month or when ever I’d see the young lady again in the context of where she knew me from and I’d be oh, right I get it now!
In various areas of the venue there were artists doing sketches, painting and what not. Performers wondering through and then something that I had never seen before that I really enjoyed began to occur. Some of the models and artists were posing by their pictures, having friends or family snap a photo of them by the photo that featured them. One young lady probably in her mid 20’s was telling people who I assumed were her parents based on the age gap and tone of the conversation about where she posed, and how it worked and it was very she was proud to have been a model. While not uncommon I loved that there were these folks in their 50’s or 60’s looking at nude photos of their off spring and beaming with joy and pride. To varying degrees I saw it happen time and again and that I think was the real magic of the entire show. That it was accessible to artist of varying levels, that people could be daring in an acceptable way and share that with their friends and family. If there was stigma or a taboo I never saw it. This alone would have made the entire night worth it for me. After we finished making our way around the gallery we settled in to watch the band for a while.
The Blonde had two favorite pieces of the night one by a local painter Jennifer Hayes whose work was a textured style of painting and featured large pieces of beach/bikini themed women. We also got to watch her paint a bit while listening to the band. A little after the fact research indicated she works in acrylics.
A little while later we drifted across to street to the theme rooms that were part of the Tropic of Cancer experience. We knew there would be a speak easy, a dungeon, and other assorted area’s set up. It was more about performance art and the surroundings. You began by walking into the Beggar’s carnival where various performers and staff members ranged from knife throwing to carnival games for prizes. The room was filled with a yellow haze that worked to enhance the ambiance. We talked to the tattooed man, ogled the mermaid, and threw a few very heavy bean bags in a game of corn hole that was manned by two lovely women in bustiers and pasties. The Victorian Brothel was next for us, it was warm and inviting and, well, crowded so we headed across the hall to the dungeon. The mistress was nice enough and there were a few things on display ranging from a spanking bench to a cross. A few floggers, whips and the like. If you’re a player it was a been there done that kind of moment if not I imagine it could have been edgy and full of wonder. She was spanking people to raise money for a local animal charity. It seemed to be being done in good fun and she was certainly cordial enough. Again though as a man bent over to take a few swats for charity from a small leather paddle the Blonde froze. She watched out of the corner of her eye from behind a pillar after a few minutes I took her by the hand and led her out. To be honest I’m not sure what is going and I of all people know her limits but it’s becoming more obvious that she is retreating to a dark place and not in a good way.
Next up was the Speak Easy. The staff was in character, the room was packed and the girls were dancing. When the show ended there was the tease to head to the downstairs portion of the show which was what I’d call more or less strip club themed. We worked our way though the room chatted with some strangers and eventually went to the rave instead which ended up being our favorite part of the night. When we got there 6 or so costumed dancers adorned in lights were gyrating in the fog, the bar was pretty empty and we ordered a few drinks and found our way to the couches. She’d never been to a rave, I had. She’d never been to a Lord’s of Acid or other Techno concert. Lord’s tours when they happen to me are my equivalent of a religious pilgrimage. Eventually the rave would garner other guests and dancers, she’d have a few more cocktails and I’d keep diet coke sales going strong. We’d laugh about the idea of me on X. She mused about what a relatively physically aggressive war monger type would be like on a drug that made you mindlessly affectionate. She joked about me dancing with glow sticks and little raver girls rather than aging punks and metal heads beating the shit out of each other.
After hanging out there for nearly an hour it was decision time did we hit the Pinks and Winks room in the basement. If we wanted real strip clubs the East side was literally just minutes away. Should we wonder back through to the other rooms, perhaps hit Shameless Grounds for a coffee or just head out.
Along the way I ran into a few friends and acquaintances of mine who I knew out of context of our usual haunts and I got to spend a few minutes chatting in a crowded bustling hall way with a highly energetic Mister Ogre of Ogre’s World before we eventually took our leave and wondered outside to find it snowing. We scrapped the idea of hitting a few bars and clubs around the City and just made the drive home with a slight detour for a few bottles of wine and snacks from the grocery store.
As I look back it wasn’t what I’d hoped for in a lot of ways. Maybe I was too sober (or completely sober which was the case) though that doesn’t usually stop me from having a blast. Perhaps next time I should hire a car and go into the evening well lubricated. Maybe I was expecting too much not just from the show but the entire outing. Maybe the pressure I had put on myself to have the Chesty Blonde at an event of any type with me was too much. Perhaps with the expectations and the strain that had been building in the past few years that nothing would have stood a chance. Maybe perhaps just maybe I believed I could truly find even a few fleeting moments in Sodom and Gomorrah in what was more or less a “main stream” public mid western event was completely misguided. I know I violated some of my basic rules for a night out. I didn’t pick the crowd, there were friends I thought about inviting along to ensure we were our own party and I didn’t do that when a couple who talked about coming in from out out town couldn’t make the schedule work. I scuttled the idea deciding to make it a night about us which there are far too few of.
I knew it wasn’t a swinger event, or a con or anything of the sort but still I expected that same kind of energy. But it wasn’t there. I loved the people in costume but the majority of folks weren’t even dressed sexy. In fairness we didn’t dress in costumes either though I do think we looked damn sexy. I did get to spend 6 hours alone with my wife which was wonderful in and of itself. She freaked the kids out talking about how we liked the rave. Apparently we’re not cool enough in our 14 year old Lily’s eyes to know what a rave is let alone go to one.
I joked about bringing back our family friendly theme parties that everyone used to love. No one seemed all that crazy about the idea. Now comes for the part that might go better left unsaid.
It was a nice night but nothing more. The Chesty Blonde said it best “I was expecting something a lot more risqué”. Me too mostly though I’m just a little sad that she and I didn’t reconnect with each other like I had hoped but that is a much deeper and far more complicated issue for another time.
After posting this one that very evening the topic of the show and the event came up again. This time it was brought up by the Blonde over all things a family dinner. She went on to explain to to our girls that she had gone in expecting it to be very x rated and that most of the night wouldn’t have gotten more than PG-13 movie rating had it been the 1980’s. In short she was expecting more of a Hustler or hard core porn vibe with sex acts and she only got body parts. The irony in this is I picked this event because while it was sex themed I expected it to be on the milder side and not a porno.
Later in the evening we discussed her reactions & it came out that she was worried that someone ask her to play “publicly” and that I would expect her to say yes to doing so with me if given the opportunity. Again I chose this event because i knew that dynamic wouldn’t be an option and that she’d never played publicly. Later in the night she asked when she thought I might see Ogre again. She then declined the offer to attend the local monthly play party at a strip club even as a voyeur. At this point label me as confused as fuck but rest assured next time she goes with me to an event I’ll use a movie rating scale to set her expectations.