For several years now, I have made a point of not being in Seattle for New Year’s Eve. The biggest piece of this is that if I’m in the same city I live in, the holiday doesn’t feel “special” — it’s just another night at the bar, and the bulk of the people around me are the same ones I see every Saturday night. Not that I don’t like being around them, but I’d rather spend the holiday somewhere else.
It isn’t just New Year’s Eve. Holidays = Travel, for me. I haven’t been home for Memorial Day since, um, 1995, either being at International Mr. Leather or an IAGLCWDC hoedown. I’m typically gone for Labor Day, frequently for President’s Day and July 4th, coming up is my 13th trip to DC for Mid-Atlantic Leather on MLK Weekend, Thanksgiving and Christmas are usually at my mother’s house, etc.
So in the past decade, I’ve spent New Year’s Eve in New York, Palm Springs, Portland, and often in Vancouver, BC. Vancouver and Portland are just a few hours away, easy trips, but that’s enough to satisfy my “be somewhere else” urge. This year, it was back to Palm Springs, but double strength: Christmas as well as New Year’s.
If I had to tag a favorite vacation spot, Palm Springs would be it. I’ve been there for New Year’s a couple times, for Wet n’Hot five times, and West Coast Rubber twice. There’s relatively little to do as a tourist, compared to the likes of Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or New York, so it’s okay to just lay around the pool. Even better, of course, with the gay resorts there, it's okay to lay around the pool wearing nothing at all.
For Christmas a few years ago, my mother gave me a week’s time share stay for a present, which I could have anywhere in the world. That’s great in theory — and she’s taken me on trips where we stayed at time share condos in Killarney in Ireland and Rotorua in New Zealand — but if I’m going to go for a week’s vacation by myself, it’s going to be to a good place for being a leatherman. Unfortunately, the time share places often aren’t all that convenient for that. Amsterdam? 15 miles outside the city. Similar for Berlin.
But Palm Springs? The condos are a quarter mile from the downtown shopping core, and of course a 2.5 hour trip with airfare in the $300 range makes it way easier than Europe or Australia would. And while Seattle would be in the low 40s around New Year’s, Palm Springs would be in the low 70s. Yum. So taking a week’s vacation at the end of the year sounded like a great idea.
With Christmas and New Year’s on Sundays this year, I decided to lengthen the stay a bit and include the weekends. Of course, the time share stay being only for a week, I added two nights at the start and one at the end at Chaps Inn, the leather-themed gay resort. I also invited my buddy Cliff along. He’s my ex, but we get along great as travel buddies. (And frankly, there’s no one better to have along to ensure that there are a good number of hot guys coming to visit. Cliff can talk just about anyone out of their pants and into the sling!)
The Inns and Outs
Chaps Inn is located just off north Indian Canyon, a block or two from Camp Palm Springs. It’s a small resort with about 10 rooms. Each room has sling hooks in the ceiling and they will rent you a sling and chains. Our room also had tie-down points and chain in one of the doorways. Outside, they have a decent sized pool and a jacuzzi, plus an outdoor sling and cross. (Unfortunately at this time of year, those don’t get much use. Due to the proximity of Mt. San Jacinto, the sun went away by about 3:30, so it got too cold to play outside by the time you were ready to.) Chaps Inn also features some nearly pornographic cacti among the landscaping.
The owners, Stuart and Ian, are great, friendly guys. This was about the 5th or 6th time I’ve stayed there over the years. It isn’t posh (but “posh” doesn’t interest me much), but the beds are comfortable and the setup is very nice, just the way I like it. Very recommended.
Spending Christmas on vacation was new for me. Spending it butt naked around the pool in warm weather, and then hitting the Barracks Beer Bust later in the day, that was great. (The line I used in my Facebook status: “That's the downside of spending Christmas at a clothing-optional resort: no packages to unwrap!”
The time share condo was at the Palm Springs Tennis Club, at the end of Baristo Road within walking distance of downtown and the Arenas Road gay district. The Tennis Club is right up against the mountain — like 10 feet outside the window — which was a very different sort of view. The room itself was a suite, so we could again deal with what meals we wanted to eat in (especially breakfasts), with plenty of room for the sling and other entertaining. Neither of us play tennis, and we didn’t spend any time around their pool, but Stuart let us come back to Chaps Inn a couple days to hang out there.
Knowing that Cliff and I would want a sling available beyond the days we were at Chaps Inn, bringing a portable along seemed to be in order. And while I have one, I’ve been borrowing one or two frames from friends for the play parties I host, so I figured it was time to get a new sling frame to supplement what I’ve got.
Given the cost to ship the frame and airline baggage costs, I had it shipped directly to Chaps Inn, so that I would only have a baggage cost coming back. I arranged the delivery with Stuart ahead of time, although I didn’t tell him how big of a box to expect. He pretty much knew what it was when it arrived.
My first sling was purchased in 2001 from JIMsupport.com (which is now owned by SIlver & Black Distributing, Inc.). They are highly recommended, of course, but wanting branch out and sample what else was out there, I ordered the new one from Ft. Troff. In addition to just the frame, the Ft. Troff sling frames (note: naughty pics at that link) have leveling feet on the base (although I’ve never needed such before), tie-down points at the corners (so you can use it for more than just hanging a sling), and they are the new taller design, adding a few extra inches (ahem). Oh, and they come in blue, black, or fist-friendly red (that’s the one I got).
Ft. Troff is also selling a number of add-ons for the slings: fish-eye mirrors, supply stands, camera holders, bars to attach toys to for solo sling play, and so on. Frankly, this is a great idea, enhancing the ways to set up your play space with stuff that all works together. I didn’t order any of that this time — and of course, brought my own sling and chains.
(By the way, Ft. Troff does an excellent job of turning around orders, and following up afterward to ensure that the order arrived satisfactorily. I recommend them several notches above many other leather/gear shops on the net.)
On Christmas Eve afternoon when we got there, we went to local leather store Gear for some shopping. (And Cliff shopped the staff as well.) I bought a pair of red and black suspenders and got a look at the sling mirror (note: again with the naughty pics), since they had one on display. I was able to get a better feel for it than I could from the Ft. Troff pics. The mirror is a slightly convex mirror (about 16 inches across) with a ball-joint pivot, so that the bottom can get a wide-angle view in the sling, but it can also be adjusted so that the top can make use of it as well. The frame attachment slides on when assembling the frame, and it can be used with slings other than the Ft. Troff models.
On Monday, I tried to do some due diligence and price similar mirrors at Lowe’s, Home Depot, and AutoZone, but no one had anything close to the size. So I ended up going back to Gear and buying the floor model. Made a great addition to my self-Christmas present, and I was even able to pack it into my suitcase coming home (I had expected to have to ship it)!
Take a Hike, Ike
While I said earlier that there’s not a lot to do in Palm Springs, that’s not quite true. If you want to be touristy, you can take the tram to the top of the mountain, you can go to Joshua Tree National Park, you can hike the canyons, you can do museums, there’s the Palm Springs Follies show, and of course lots of shopping. I’ve usually been to Palm Springs in July or August, with daytime temps above 100 degrees, so the outdoor stuff hasn’t had a lot of attraction, as you can imagine. (And I’ve usually gone for events, which often preclude much sight seeing — you nap during the day and play hard until the wee hours.)
(“Wee hours”. Heh. I’ve been to Wet n’Hot five times.)
We went shopping at the Cabazon and Desert Hills outlet malls at Morongo the day after Christmas. I bought a pair of jeans and four deep-dish mini pie plates (which should be great for the likes of chicken pot pie; two for me, two for my mother), and looked at tennis shoes at several places but found nothing that appealed to me. Of course, 90% of such malls are clothing stores which hold no interest for me. When at such places, I sometimes wonder if I’m missing out on some great pleasure in life by not being a straight woman or a fashion-interested gay man. For me, it ultimately comes down to two things: I already have plenty of clothes (so why look to buy something I don’t really need), and I put little value in expensive clothes (are those $200 shirts 4 times as good as the $50 ones, 10 times as good as a $20 one?). Which isn’t to say I disdain luxury and pleasure, but I seem to enjoy them a lot more when they are occasional rather than regular.
We tried one day to go take the aerial tram up the mountain. We really did. But after driving and parking and walking to the tram station, it was a 2.5 hour wait for the tram (and then the sun would be going down). We hadn’t brought anything to read and there was no cell signal up there (they should have free WiFi in the terminal!), so we drove back to town rather than hang around doing literally nothing. Sigh. We sort of intended to buy tickets online, but you have to do it more than a day in advance, and we never got around to setting a new goal date. (Oh well, not like I’ll never be back!)
We also didn’t get to Joshua Tree. Oh well.
Thursday night, they shut down a few blocks of Palm Canyon Drive for a street fair. We walked the fair, and I bought a hummingbird photo print for my grandmother. We also met up with Frank and Jeaux, who are from Seattle but have a condo in Palm Springs. We invited them to hike one of the canyons on Friday with us, a recommendation from one of my co-workers. We were before the season when the creeks run — there’s a seasonal waterfall in one of the canyons — but the weather would sure be right for it. Big rock boulders, palm trees in the oasis, a good hit of pot, and blow jobs back along one of the paths a mile or so out. Yeah, I’d hike that again.
One guy I know in Palm Springs is Bear Films star Cameron Stuart, whom I met there the previous summer. He invited me and Cliff to the play party he was hosting on New Year’s Eve. I had to twist Cliff’s arm a bit — he originally planned to go to the play party at Helios — but I knew he’d have a great time.
The party was in a three-car garage space, broken up with hung tarps and some plywood walls. I think there were five slings, plus a covered mattress and a fuck bench, plus maybe some other equipment. It was a good layout of the space, and Stuart and a play buddy of his had made sure to invite a number of fisters to ensure that there would be a good set of guys there beyond those mostly interested in just fuck-n-suck. Among other people I knew there were Bill, who I had played with the night before, and John, a buddy from San Francisco whom I have played with a could times before.
Definitely a good time. We and a couple other guys shut the place down a while after 1:00 am.
In addition to the play itself, I always like to get a look at how other guys lay things out for their parties — where the snacks and drinks are, where the lube and supplies are, the make-up of the attendees, the layout of play spaces. That stuff always helps inform and enhance my own parties.
After a play session on Wednesday, my PA piercing got too heavily abused — bruised on the inside — so on Friday, I went to Palm Springs Piercing Company (who did my lorum piercing a few years ago) and had the PA taken out. It was almost getting too painful to walk. Of course, that meant that the piercing proceeded to shrink as it healed, so when I got home, I had to go back to my old 4 gauge curved barbell, and worked myself back up to the 2 gauge over the next week, just in time to head to Mid-Atlantic Leather.
While I was at PS Piercing, I also had them upgauge the 12 gauge nipple bars to 10 gauge rings. I had one nipple pierced with a ring at MAL 2000, but it never healed well (got regular small reinfections) and I took it out a couple years later — I primarily blame the temptation of the ring as a pull toy during the healing process. In mid-2010, I got them both done with bars and they have behaved themselves vastly better and I was comfortable getting rings in now.
Cliff and I went dancing at DiGS on Christmas Eve, and I did again on Tuesday. (Tue/Sat are the CW dance nights there.) We ran into Jake, who had moved down from Seattle a few months ago.
Other names to drop in addition to those mentioned above: hunky Matthew from Gear, the guys from Off Ramp Leathers (who had just moved to Palm Springs from San Francisco, opening the store on the day we left, so we dropped in), Jim T. (who used to be in the San Francisco Saddletramps with me), and assorted guys at the Barracks and Chaps Inn whose names elude me now.