The World Naked Bike Ride

By the time I had discovered The World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR), Denver had cracked down on it’s nudity laws.  That year, a small group would still attempt to pull it off. Somehow I did get invited to participate, but I couldn’t risk getting arrested and turned down the offer.

Since I wouldn’t ride, I at least wanted to cheer them on.  So, Luke and I went to the route and played with slingshots (because we are adults) until they arrived.  Only about eight people participated which slightly broke my heart. I don’t think they got arrested though, which made my heart happy.  My heart is all over the board.

The World Naked Bike Ride is a mass, clothing-optional bike (and any “human powered transport”) ride that now takes place in over 74 cities across 17 countries.  The purpose is to raise awareness about the vulnerability of bikers (etc.) on the road, protest the excessive usage of oil, and promote body-positivity. Portland has one of the largest events ranging anywhere from 8k-10k participants in recent years.  

Let’s have a small recap of my last essay: Luke and I went to Portland during the WNBR.  We stayed with an awesome couple who had bikes for us. Luke is not a naked guy, nor does he like large crowds, but he decided to join anyway knowing that he could stay dressed.  And even though I have been doing nude recreation for years, I still didn’t know what to expect. Got it? Awesome.

Our hosts and bike ride guides  @pvergari  and  @papahoneybear

Our hosts and bike ride guides @pvergari and @papahoneybear

The ride kicks off with participants meeting up at an undisclosed-disclosed location where they pre-rally (with or without clothes) before the event begins.  Our hosts apparently couldn’t wait for the pre-rallying. Like dedicated nudists, they got naked before even leaving the driveway.

Biking our way to the location bare-assed made me slightly nervous.  It’s one thing to ride a bike naked with thousands of others surrounding you doing the same thing but It’s another to just ride randomly down streets filled with restaurants, bars, and even people’s houses, where their unsuspecting puppies would see us.  Seeing as how I try to do things that scare me, I went ahead and stripped down with them.

It had been a good while since I’ve ridden a bike.  I am not the most coordinated person and I have a tendency to trip over my own two feet (or anybody else’s feet for that matter).  Therefore, when I hopped on the bike, I immediately started flipping the wheel back and forth - trying not to fall down like a five year-old.  That would be embarrassing enough with my clothes on. Once I stabilized, I caught up with Luke and our nude comrades.

Riding a bike in the buff is an incredibly strange sensation.  You become incredibly aware of your own crotch and also that you are the center of attention.  Some onlookers seemed shocked and confused while others cheered us on. Even the puppies showed their excitement per their excessive barking.  

As you’d think, you really do feel that airy breeze right on your balls.  It made me wonder what this might feel like for a woman. I imagined how much more awesome this would be if vaginas made whistling sounds when hit with a gust of air.  That would make the WNBR a bit more of a musical experience.

Portland is not necessarily the warmest city.  This fact has made me realize why most cities that have allowed public nudity sit in cooler climates - they don’t think much of anyone is willing to take advantage of it.  As a consequence, by the time we arrived to the meet-up locations, my nether-regions had turned into never-regions (worst joke ever). I kept blowing hot air into my cold hands and cupping myself hoping to loosen things up.

Photo with  @aguynamedclair

Photo with @aguynamedclair

The pre-rally was already in full swing and about a third of the folks had already gone full-monty.  I no longer felt out-of-place as I did on the ride over. Rather, things started to feel communal - like I was now a part of something bigger than myself.  

Naturally, there was a small subsection where the gays would pre-rally on their own.  Even though it seems like I’m a pro at this naked thing, I always feel a little anxious about adventures like this.  Being exposed in front of new peers feels vulnerable. Initially, you worry whether or not you’ll be good enough.

Our hosts introduced us to a few of their friends and I even ran into some folks I knew on my own.  Everyone’s kindness quickly reminded me that no one is there to judge. Naked people just want to be free and have a good time.  Like all nude events I have attended, the energy is collaborative rather than competitive. Luke even felt inspired to take his shirt off (that’s HUGE)!

But our pre-rallying time got cut short as our hosts wanted to get towards the front of the starting line sooner rather than later.  Eventually, I would understand the need for this. Even being on the front lines, the ride, at times, would get congested. Hence, I could see how extremely stop-n-go it would get for the middle and back end.

As I mentioned in the previous essay, while waiting for the ride to begin, Luke tapped me on the shoulder and handed me his shorts to put in my bike’s basket.  I was so busy taking it all in that it took me a good moment to notice my partner, who won’t even get naked to sleep, had now bared it all for the bike ride.

Seeing Luke get THAT much out of his comfort zone made me aware of something else: we had entered a “love-bubble.”  This is when people are so happy, excited, supportive, enthusiastic, and all the other wonderful things that make up rainbows and unicorns.  The positivity is just spews from one person to the next (which sounds dirty but it’s not).

We had been in a bike love-bubble before when we did the AIDS/Lifecycle back in 2012. Concerts, or sportsball games, or even peace rallies can’t possess this energy.  All tension is gone and the air is so thick with glee, you could cut it with a knife (though you wouldn’t want to). Love-bubbles happen so rarely that some people don’t ever get to experience them.

As the ride began, things started off wobbly.  Naked bikers tried getting their bearings as several came close to running into each other (myself included).  But nobody argued or yelled about it. No one tried shoving each other or told folks to hurry up. Instead, riders offered up quick apologies, most often accompanied by laughter.

This bubble was turning out to be the bubbliest bubble of any bubble I had ever bubbled in.  I was certain this had to do with the fact that 85% of the participants had no clothes on. It sounds like a weird connection, but think about it... have you ever seen an enraged nudist?  

This is why I encourage so many people to experiment with social nudity.  Though no scientific study has ever been done, I can say firsthand that something chemically changes a person’s mood when they strip down.  Whether it’s serotonin, adrenaline, or whatever it may be, people just feel better. And when we feel better, we tend to act kinder.

Getting all of these good naked vibes while riding down public streets made the experience feel purely electric.  Not a single bystanders or onlooker had a horrified look on their face. Rather, they cheered us on - pumping more camaraderie into the air.

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Though, I was correct in that vaginas did not whistle in the wind, the experience was still fairly musical.  Every-so-often, a rider would have booming speakers attached to their bike. Even if they blasted music that I hated, I still loved the way it delighted those around me.

The people who chose to remain clothed didn’t drag down the energy.  More often than not, they helped to enhance it by sporting fun outfits - making the experience quite colorful too.  At one point, a guy pulled up next to me wearing a pineapple costume.

Think about this for second.  I got to ride on a bike… completely naked… in public… next to a pineapple!  How fucking awesome is that? How many people can even say something like that?  This is the benefit of getting to do things that scare you: bragging rights.

Then we witnessed the one thing that should legitimately scare us when undertaking such an adventure: a woman crashed her bike.  I am not sure exactly what happened, but as her bike went down, she flew over the handlebars. I thought how awful it must have felt for her big boobs to smash against the pavement.  I’m guessing lady boobs are pretty sensitive.

When I looked back to see if I should help, I began swaying into other riders and cars.  In order to not crash myself, I had to pay to attention to what was ahead of me rather than what was behind me (kind of like life).  I did at least catch a glimpse of a horde of riders stopping to help her.

Next, the riders slowed down and pulled into a public park - finding spots to set their bikes down and mosey around.

“Are we taking a small break?” I asked our hosts.

They informed me that the WNBR had reached the end of its route.  BUT THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE!  WE HAVE ONLY BEEN RIDING FOR LIKE 30 MINUTES!  We had, in fact, been riding for over three hours.  The time didn’t just fly, it completely disappeared.

Fortunately, the bubble didn’t entirely burst.  In the park, a DJ booth had been set up where a DJ pumped out some loud electronic dance music (EDM).  Flames would burst out of a pipe attached to the the booth and people would cheer as they danced around naked - many with lights attached to themselves.  I imagine this to be like a little mini-version of burning man (which is what I desperately need to do next).

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That being said, the four of us were hungry and cold and even the occasional fire-burst from the DJ booth could not keep us warm.  We needed to exit and find shelter in some trendy Portland restaurant. Sadly, this also meant I had to put on my clothes.

We found a chic safe-haven along the route of the WNBR which was jam-packed with other riders who wrapped up their night.  As we stood in line to order our food, naked people would dart in to use the joint’s bathrooms.

This helped me realize that my night wasn’t entirely over.  The restaurant had clearly become nude friendly for that evening.  Thus, when we sat down to eat, I immediately took my clothes off again.  Now, I could check another “first” off my list: eating dinner completely naked in a public restaurant.

It’s funny.  As I am writing this essay, I am on an airplane and completely wiped out after having to wake up at 5 a.m. and drive four hours to get to the airport.  This combo had made me fairly cranky (just like those screamy airplane babies). But getting to sit here and describe the WNBR has brought a sense of calm and joy back to my heart.  

When it came to the WNBR, there was no disjuncture to occur or lesson to be had.  I went in there knowing it’d be great and it exceeded my expectations. It just further solidified my theory that life is better when we bare it all.  Sure, it may feel awkward and weird at first, but in the end, we wind up relating to one another and encouraging each other.

What I did learn was that as sad as I am about my home city of Denver not allowing this, I was also grateful.  The more we have access to something, the less we tend to appreciate it. And a love-bubble like this is certainly not worth bursting.  

 

Edited by Glen Trupp

Copyright © 2018 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

Holiday Hijacking

My home city of Denver has surprisingly strict laws on public nudity.  You’d think that being the first state to legally sell marijuana in the USA, we’d be slightly more chill about it.  Really, the police should be worrying less about naked people and more about people driving under the influence of eating chips and dip.

The closest I ever got to a naked-in-public event here was nine years ago when I did the “Naked Pumpkin Run” in Boulder, CO.  Long story short, I was a thin slice of cheddar away from getting arrested.  I should write a blog post about it because the whole experience was just freakin bananas (apparently I’m hungry while writing this).

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Ever since, my naked heart has longed to legally participate in some kind of mass bare-assed event.  Ergo, when I found out about the World Naked Bike Ride in Portland, I immediately put it on my bucket list.  The ride happens all over the world.  Portland just happens to have the largest with 8k - 10k participants over recent years - making it the massiest of the mass naked events.

But trying to make this happen always seemed so complicated.  First, I’d have to find a place to stay (not too complicated).  Second, I would have to track down a bike to ride (fairly complicated).  And third, I would have to actually remember the date of the bike ride (extremely complicated… for me). 

Luke and I have been trying to plan a trip to Portland for years now.  I had never been before and he remembered loving it from way back when he went.  As we began plotting out our summer vacation, we knew this had to be at the top of our list.  Like usual, I touched based with some local Portlanders for advice.  

When I mentioned the idea of coming out to a fellow nudist on Instagram, he suggested we come out during the bike ride.  HE REMEMBERED THE DATE FOR ME!  He said we were welcomed to stay with him and his partner at their place.  HE HAD A PLACE FOR US!  He said he even had an extra bike I could use.  HE HAD A BIKE FOR ME!

When this many stars align, the universe is telling you that you need to take your clothes off and get on a bike.  This had to happen.  The only thing left was to convince Luke to do this trip during the naked ride.  Nudity and crowds aren’t at all his jam.

Having a partner who has separate interests can surprisingly be a good thing.  Relationship experts say that maintaining individual identities is key to long term success.  Luke and I can attest to that.

Luke finds it relaxing to mow the yard.  I prefer to play on Instagram.  He enjoys staying home and sitting on the couch while drinking a mug of wine.  I’d rather go out to a bar and drink club sodas.  Actually, I’d rather drink manhattans.  But I’m sober so I can’t.  Either way, as long as we don’t try to change each other, it works for us.

The tricky thing about this is that while we make great partners, we don’t necessarily make great partners in crime.  This can especially apply to travel.  With him being calm and introverted, and my being spazzy and extroverted, he wants to relax, and I want to party.  Therefore taking holidays together require a bit of compromise.

I sat down with Luke and talked to him very frankly about how this absolutely needed to happen.  He wasn’t fond of our trip surrounding an event he wouldn’t participate in, but he graciously agreed to it - knowing that it meant a lot to me.  Thank God… because I had already bought the plane tickets.

When we originally planned this trip the year before, I also had a couple other items on the agenda.  I wanted/needed to meet up with fellow blogger Michael Schneider.  And I wanted/needed to work with talented photographer Kenton Waltz.  So, I made sure to work these back in as well.

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Our vacation took off the moment the moment the plane landed.  We had to track down and get our Turo car rental (Turo is like the AirBnB of car rentals.  I should also write an essay about it because it was fucking weird).  Then we jetted over to Powell’s to see the world’s largest bookstore (it was a very girthy bookstore).  

After that, we made our way to our hosts’ home to get settled in, hang out with them, and go get some dinner.  They informed us that if Luke wanted to do the naked bike ride, they could get a fourth bike and that he didn’t HAVE to ride naked.  Luke said he would think about it.  He still felt weary about having to be around all those people.

Next we rushed over to meet Michael the blogger and the other Michael (a single dad with no kids).  They were fantastic and within a half hour we found ourselves at a strip bar where we saw male dancers go full frontal and/or eat chicken fingers (see two essays ago).

“You know where we should have gone?” said Michael to other Michael.  “The Eagle.”

“Oh, that’s right,” other Michael said back to Michael (so many Michaels).  “They have naked pool on Thursday nights.  That would have been perfect for Scott.”

In all actuality, this would NOT have been perfect for me because, out of the four of us, I would have been the only one willing to really get naked.  Being naked while everyone else stays dressed feels awkward and creepy.

It was too late for all of us to venture over there as a group anyway, but the Michaels would point out that The Eagle was on the way back to our side of town.  It would be an easy stop if we wanted to do it on our own.  

I had once hung out naked in a bar in San Francisco back in 2012 and the experience was exhilarating.  For me, it genuinely isn’t about sex (even if it might be sexy).  I’m not looking for any kind of backroom or to get some goppy knob-job.  I literally just want to strip down and casually hang out with a beverage.  

San Francisco has now outlawed public nudity.  So, having the chance to experience this  again seemed like another rare opportunity I couldn’t pass up.  I turned to Luke and begged him to go like a child begging to go to a Toys-R-Us.  Once again, he graciously agreed… as long as we made it quick.  He was tired and wanted to get to bed.  

Upon walking into The Eagle, we were greeted by a very friendly (and cute) cub who wanted to see our IDs.  Some guys had their clothes on while others were in their underwear.  I peaked around the corner and saw two naked guys playing pool.  That was it.

“Can I still get naked if I don’t play pool?” I asked the door-cub.

“Absolutely,” he said.  He explained where I could stash my clothes and that nudity was permitted as long as we weren’t doing anything naughty.

I know it sounds like I am a pro at this naked thing, but truly, each time I do something like this, I get terribly nervous.  This is why I continually do it.  It pushes me out of my comfort zone and I know I will walk away with an adrenaline rush and a new sense of well-being.  It’s ironic how getting out of our comfort zones can make us feel more comfortable with ourselves.

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Luke got a beer and I worked up the nerve to strip down.  We ran into an old acquaintance from Denver who had fallen in love with the blog.  He offered to take us to breakfast in the morning at one of his favorite brunch spots.  It was a great way to catch up with a good person over good food (that he would generously pay for).

Once I went full monty, the rush was just as good as I remembered.  Other guys followed suit and started stripping down as well.  I got so caught up in the fun that it took me a while to notice Luke had gone to sit at the bar himself - his beer remaining empty.  He looked tense.

I broke from my conversations and went over to him.  “You’re ready to leave, aren’t you?” I asked him.

“Yeah,” he nodded his head.

“Okay, let me go get my clothes and we can go,” I said knowing I needed to compromise.  

But as any naked adventurer will tell you, once you take your clothes off, it’s very difficult to put them back on.  This felt invigorating.  I didn’t want to leave.  Thus, I took my time getting my clothes and putting them back on.

Luke tapped on my shoulder.  “I’ll go wait in the car.”

“Oh, okay,” I said.  This surprised me.  He had never done anything like that before.  

When I finally joined him in the car, I could tell he didn’t just look tense, he looked sad.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I have to be honest with you,” he said. “We haven’t even been here 24 hours and this trip is turning out to be all about you.”

The moment I heard these words, my defenses went up.  My knee-jerk reaction was to tell him he was crazy - that this trip was still totally ABOUT US and that I just needed to seize these other opportunities.  He was just being too sensitive.  

But I stopped myself from verbally puking these thoughts all over him.  I know, deep down inside, that a huge corner stone in a good relationship is humility.  Owning our mistakes rather than defending ourselves means so much to our partners.  It stops us from fighting and creates an avenue for understanding, bonding, and setting things right.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath to reflect on his words.  I HAD scheduled this vacation around the bike ride.  I HAD dragged him out to meet strangers-would-be-friends.  I HAD pressured him into going to a bar he’d hate.

The thing Luke wants most in a holiday is to get quality time with just the two of us.  Even though he loved meeting the Michaels (and looked forward to spending more time with them), we hardly got a moment alone since we arrived.  Now, we would be having breakfast with company the next morning.  Plus, I still had the photoshoot and the bike ride ahead.

Luke was right.  Seventy-percent of this trip would either be things he didn’t want to do, time spent with others, or time spent apart.  While I hadn’t tried to change him, I had been completely one-sided.  I hijacked this whole thing before it even began.  I completely fucked up.

These ended up being the words that came out of my mouth while we sat in the car.  I owned up to my mistake and how I hated the fact that I did this to the man I love.  I wanted to make it up to him and told him that we could do whatever he wanted for the remainder of the trip.

Luke agreed that it would be okay for me to still do the naked bike ride and to work with the photographer.  But we cancelled the breakfast plans and, instead, went on an incredibly gorgeous hike - just the two of us.  As someone who gets caught up in being an extrovert, I had forgotten how nice it is when Luke and I are alone together, doing the things we have in common and love.

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On the day of the World Naked Bike Ride, Luke decided to join us after all.  Our hosts worked like crazy to fix the flat tires on the two bikes (thank you Jermiah and Peter, we could not be more grateful).  Once we arrived and got settled into the ride’s pre-rally, Luke took his shirt off which I never expected.

As we got in line for the ride to begin, I ended up being in front of Luke.  He tapped me on the shoulder and, instead of telling me he wanted to go, he handed me his shorts to put in my bike’s basket (I was the only one who had a basket).  It wasn’t until I looked back and saw him that I realized he also gotten completely naked.  

My mind was blown.  I never thought he would take part in something like this.  When I took the time to make sure his needs were met, he took the time to join me in getting my needs met.  And with that, my partner had finally become my partner in crime… at least for that evening.

I know that this story wasn’t exactly about the World Naked Bike Ride - something I had promised I would write when I did the experience.  But that essay will come next time.  For now, this was the story that needed to be told first.

 

Edited by Glen Trupp

Copyright © 2018 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

Insurance For Dummies

One of the ways in which I can keep myself financially afloat, while pursuing my dream of becoming an independent writer, is that I own a rental property.  The profit I make on it isn’t enough to keep me above water alone, but it certainly helps.

When I initially wanted to quit my job as a social worker and write, I decided to take some equity out on the property to keep me financially stable for a year or two.  This also meant I could create a nice little nest egg for when the time came to self-publish my book.  But in order to get that equity, I had to get insurance on the property first.

I fully admit I didn’t have the property insured.  I have this theory that insurance is a total scam.  They wouldn’t do this business if they didn’t make a huge profit from it.  So, in the bigger picture, we are the ones who obviously lose out on money.  That’s it.  I never said it was a complicated theory - or even a great theory.

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Therefore, when I refinanced the rental property to get that mouth-watering equity, I requested the lowest insurance coverage possible.  Since I wasn’t going to rent out the place to a bunch of frat boys, I felt like the risk would be small.  Though, now as I write this, it might be hot to rent to a bunch of frat boys - at least in my head.  

I successfully stretched my equity money to two full years.  My stint in bartending helped me sustain it for a bit longer.  However, the stint in bartending completely derailed me from this writing journey.  Staying up til 5 a.m. and getting wasted each shift didn’t help my creative juices  be very juicy.  It also made me a bit of a miserable and depressive psycho.

So here I am, keeping myself afloat with the rental property profits, pimping out the guest room in our home on AirBnB, and now driving for Uber/Lyft (which I hadn’t been doing when I originally wrote this).  My finances began to float in a perfect, yet very fragile balance. 

I also need to give props to my partner, who covers my half of the mortgage and utilities.  He also buys most of the groceries and all the propane I use to grill my daily turkey burgers.  He believes in my dreams of becoming an author without having to become a total hobo (or a “homobo” if you want to make it a gay joke).

 Then a day came when I got a letter from the HOA on my rental property.  For those of you who live under an HOA, I am sure you understand the anxiety this induces every time I get such a letter.  Hell, even if you’d live a block up from an HOA, you’d get anxiety.  HOAs never send letters informing you that they will be giving you some money back or telling you how much they love you and want to make babies with you.

Wait… where was I?  I just got sidetracked trying to imagine what it would be like to try and make babies with my HOA.  OH YEAH!  So, I opened the letter and there it said the last thing I ever wanted to hear.  They were billing me for $4,022.40.  My heart immediately started gagging.

The whole thing was due to a loss assessment done in 2016 for a brutal hailstorm that hit Denver.  What in the hell is a “loss assessment?”  Did this mean a bill for assessing the damage to the roof?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to pay for the actual repair?  It didn’t matter.  The HOA didn’t have enough in the reserve and now each unit had to pay their share.

Just before I reached for some matches to set myself on fire, the letter said that if we had homeowners insurance, the loss assessment could be covered.  Oh, thank God.  The insurance will cover it, I thought.  Then it hit me: I had set my insurance low in order to save a few bucks.

I grabbed the phone and dialed my insurance as quickly as I could.  Once I got connected to a call center worker, I prayed.  Please, let this loss assessment be covered.  Please, let this loss assessment be covered.

“Good news!” the call center worker said.  “You do have the loss assessment coverage.  We will be able to help cover one thousand dollars.”

“THAT’S IT?!” I screamed.  “ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS?!  BUT I NEED FOUR THOUSAND!!”

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “That’s all you had yourself covered for.”

My heart went ahead and vomited.  I still had to pay three thousand dollars out of my own pocket.  What was I going to do?!  Didn’t he know that my perfectly balanced finances were totally fragile?  Didn’t he know  this would fuck over my financial homeostasis?

It didn’t matter.  That was it.  I owed three grand.  For the rest of the afternoon, I emotionally curled up in a fetal position until Luke got home.

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“Don’t stress,” Luke told me.  “I will help you.  We are in this together.”

We’ve always kept our finances separate and, in times of need, we did help each other out.  But Luke was already covering my part of our home and more.  I couldn’t have him help pay for the hit on my rental property - especially because I was no longer sharing the profits with him (as we did before).

As much as it made my wallet cry, I told Luke “no.”  I couldn’t have him bail me out and I certainly couldn’t have him make any more sacrifices.  It was my fault that the insurance was low.  I had to face the consequences.

The only source of money that I could use to pay off this loss assessment was from that nest egg I saved before.  This meant I would no longer have the money to self publish my book.  My attempts to stretch my finances with low insurance coverage now shanked my dreams of being an author.  I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t want to think about it.

But I did know that I needed to go ahead and change my homeowner’s insurance to have adequate protection.  According to Murphy’s Law, nothing bad would ever happen to the rental property again, but I needed to make the phone call to change things ASAP.

Of course, weeks passed and no such phone call was ever made.  Making a phone call in these modern times is akin to something like taking a number two in a public restroom.  It’s super awkward and you’ll try to hold off on doing it until the last possible moment.

While driving home from the gym one day, I saw a blaze of smoke filling the sky in the distance.  A huge fire had broken out and it was coming from the direction of my townhouse - my rental property.  I thought about how crazy it’d be if it had actually been my property.  But as I got closer to the area, the smoke seemed to be coming right from my rental property.

My heart started vomiting again.  This couldn’t be happening.  I began trying to bolt my way over to the property, but those damn Denver drivers kept getting in my way.  The closer I got, the more the air filled with smoke.

I finally reached the street where I could turn down and get to my townhouse.  But an emergency responder popped up and tried forcing me to go the other way.

I rolled down my window and yelled out.  “ I NEED TO GET DOWN THIS STREET!”

“NO CAN DO!” He yelled back.  “THERE’S A TOWNHOUSE ON FIRE UP THERE!  IT’S NOT SAFE!”

“BUT MY TOWNHOUSE IS DOWN THERE!!!!  IT COULD BE MY HOME!!!  WHAT’S THE ADDRESS?!?!”

“I DON’T KNOW THAT INFO.  BUT FIREFIGHTERS ARE WORKING AS HARD AS THEY CAN.  YOU CAN’T ENTER UNTIL THEY GET THE FIRE OUT!”

Not to give you another “number two” analogy, but this was the moment I just emotionally shit my pants.  I called Luke screaming frantically.  He checked the local news sites and didn’t see anything.  I raced back to our house and began flipping back-and-forth between news channels.

The stations kept fucking with my emotions.  They teased me by confirming there was in fact a fire in southeast Denver, but they would have more details as soon as they came in.  Finally, one news station had a helicopter getting an aerial view of the fire and it wasn’t our property.  My heart could finally stop praying to the porcelain gods.

An image from the actual fire that occurred that day.

An image from the actual fire that occurred that day.

I picked up the phone immediately and called my insurance company to increase the coverage (including the loss assessment) to, the proper amounts.  The girl at the agent’s office giggled.

“This is so funny,” she said.  “It actually lowers the cost of your insurance a little when you increase it to the appropriate amount.”

This information did not make me giggle.  She just rubbed salt all over my wounds.  And it only made me feel more sour about the three thousand dollars I’d have to pay out of pocket for the loss assessment.  

I would continue to grumble and mention it to 85% of the friends I encountered over the following month.  I would complain about how my self-publishing-nest-egg was ruined and I didn’t know what else to do - that my writer dreams may not work out.

“Why don’t you just do a kickstarter?” a friend asked me one day when I told him the story.

“I don’t want to do a kickstarter,” I told him.  “It seems to be so self indulgent to ask people money from people when you don’t have anything to give them yet.”

I actually don’t hate kickstarters.  I think it’s amazing to reach out and let other help you create enormous projects that people will love.  But once people started launching gofundme pages for that European vacation they always wanted, it seemed like crowdfunding had gotten a little carried away.  

“Umm, you’re an idiot,” was his exact response.  “You already have an audience who loves your work.  Let the people who believe in you help you get this book off the ground.”

I left his place that night thinking about his words.  Sure, I didn’t want to do kickstarter, but I was also the guy who didn’t want to increase his insurance and look where that got me.  My insurance intuition had led me down the wrong road and now my original road of self publishing had been cut off.  Perhaps I needed to let go of my intuition on kickstarter too.

On the same day I finished writing this essay, I went ahead and paid the three-thousand dollars to the HOA.  It was painful to transfer all that money out of my bank account, but it had my brain wondering about those times we think we know what’s best for us.  Sometimes following such intuition  gets us into trouble.  And, when it does, the time has come to stop listening to ourselves and start listening to others.

 

Edited by Glen Trupp

Copyright © 2018 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

Grin and Bare It

Scott: In June, my partner, Luke, and I set out to discover a magical place in a far, far away land known as “Portland.”  Whenever the topic came up, people would always say the same thing: You’ve never been to Portland?!  Oh, YOU would love it there. I’m pretty sure they meant this as a compliment.

We had actually scheduled our Portland adventure last fall.  Then I had to go and blow the whole thing by having a nervous breakdown. Now that I was slightly less of a spaz (slightly), I could finally see this city AND finally meet the one and only blogger, Michael Schneider (aka @blcksmth on Instagram).  

Michael: Talk about burying the lede, Scott, with the nervous breakdown. How are you feeling?

Scott: I’m feeling way better these days.  So much of my life was out-of-whack when we first tried to come to Portland last year.  I’ve been able to get a lot of things back in whack since that time.  Life is still nervous with all I’m trying to do, but no breakdowns are to be had.

Michael: I get that for sure! A big part of my creative output is making people laugh, and I like to stay busy. Like, really busy. Like, so busy that I’m actually just keeping the lambs in my head from screaming. I also like a challenge, which is why I was so curious to meet you and see how our “brands” (haha, GROSS) could intersect. We’re both writers and a lot of our creative output is photo-based, but on the other hand you’re very body-positive and I hide my shame under layers of clothing because my naked body looks like it’s covered in cargo pockets.

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Scott: I have no doubt that many people would love to stuff many things in your cargo pockets (if said cargo pockets existed).  I have told you before that I think you should do a nude photoshoot and write a story about the experience.  It’s perfect for your brand (yes, gross, but necessary) of storytelling.  What do you think of that idea?

Michael: Haha. I think that’s the worst idea you’ve ever had! *schedules nude photoshoot* I don’t know where this came from, this aversion to showing my body. Maybe growing up Catholic? Maybe a heteronormative upbringing? What about you? When did you realize how comfortable you were with your own body?

Scott: I actually write about this in my upcoming book so, at this moment, I can’t tell you or I would have to kill you.  And I don’t want to kill you.  I like you.  What I can say is that I’m not always comfortable with my body.  That’s why I strip down and go full frontal in my work - to get out of my comfort zone, get over the things instilled in me growing up, and reminding myself that a comet won’t hit the earth when I do it.  It’s a radical approach, but it really does help my body-dysmorphia.

Portland seems like the perfect city for you to explore this.  There’s lots of naked opportunities there.  And I didn’t get a sense of social pressure to have some idealized “perfect body” like folks may have in cities like L.A.  With its “keep Portland weird” slogan, it seems like a safe space for people to be their abnormally-normal selves

Michael: As someone who moved here after living 12 years in Los Angeles, I get that outside view of Portland. It’s tough to admit, but I actually watched Portlandia to prepare for visiting this city for the first time. This is admitting something that I usually wouldn’t bring up to people who live here.

Scott: I can’t watch Portlandia.  I constantly just think they are making fun of ME specifically.  But I guess that means I am more Portland than I thought.

Michael: I think Portland is changing in a lot of ways, and still is staying the same strange Portland it’s always been. I visited a nude beach for the first time last year, and then went back a few times this year. Let me be clear: I was not naked nor would I ever be. BUT I didn’t feel judged for being clothed. I did discover that out of politeness, I would never, ever look even in the general direction of other people’s genitalia. Like, my vision would digitally pixelate it in my brain. To this day, I remain terrified of other men’s junk. It’s quite possible I’m a virgin.

Scott: I really would like to believe you have virgin-penis-pixelating-vision, but within a half hour of meeting each other, you and Michael Wheeler (@mtdubbs374 on Instagram) took us to a Portland male stripclub where dancers can famously get fully naked.  Care to explain?

Michael: Haha. Okay, okay. “Old fashioned” can mean a lot of things! I am complicated. I was just showing you Portland’s famous landmarks. I’m sure that strip club we went to is...historical. Somehow.

Doesn’t Denver have strip clubs?

Scott: Denver has one male stripclub and the strippers cannot strip down beyond a square-cut brief.  That is why, during your “historical tour” I behaved like a kid in a candy store.  But what truly made it amazing was when we saw a stripper bust out a basket of chicken fingers and eat them while dancing - honey mustard and all.  I don’t think that’s something I would see in any city.

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Michael: Can we just talk for a moment how Akiddina Candystore would make an amazing drag name? Like, she would be Australian, a kangaroo perhaps, and her reveal would be when she reached into her marsupial pouch and pulled out an even smaller, tinier drag queen? Anyway.

I think there’s an untapped market for strippers doing really mundane or satisfying things while stripping. I’ll take the stripper eating chicken fingers any day over a stripper on a pole. Where are my strippers vacuuming the rug? Strippers cleaning my cat’s litter box out on stage? I want stripper ASMR videos, stat.

Scott: What is ASMR?

Michael: ASMR are those videos where people eat pickles into a microphone, or manipulate foam and stuff with their hands, or speak really distinctively. Maybe a stripper could have a YouTube channel where all they do is eat pickles.

Scott: Oh, strippers eating pickles on YouTube are a dime-a-dozen.  Eating full frontal chicken fingers happened in real life (without some attempt to be an internet sensation).  This further proves my point. The weirdness of Portland makes it the kind of place where people can try new things… ergo, you can try getting naked.  

Michael: Not even my cat has seen me naked, Scott.

Scott: What kind of lesson is that for your cat?  You wouldn’t want your cat talking to himself the same way you talk to you, would you?

Michael: My cat seeing me take off my clothes would be like if I saw a roommate taking off his skin. I’d have complicated feelings about that. What I’m saying is, if God wanted humans to be naked, why did he invent Fall Fashion?

Anyhoo, I digress. What were your lingering impressions of Portland, now that you’re back and have had time to digest it?

Scott: I do miss the weird, little nuances of Portland - the public nudity laws, the illegalness of pumping your own gas, and the old-timey bridges.  Denver just doesn’t have that. Also, I don’t know if you are aware of this this, but even the street names are weird - Failing Street, Skidmore Street, Gleeson Street.  “Gleeson” might not sound weird but when Siri says it on navigation, it sounds like she is saying “Glisten.” They might as well have just called it “Moist Street.”

Michael: Haha. Well, “Couch” street is even worse. It’s pronounced “cooch”! After you left, we renamed a segment of Stark street after Harvey Milk, which is pretty cool, except for the fact that rampant gentrification has pushed most of the gay bars and minority-owned businesses out of that neighborhood by now...womp-womp!

Does Denver have a gayborhood?

Scott: Denver does not have a gayborhood.  We like our gays like we like our sentences: fragmented.  The bars are scattered across the city. Having gay-bartended for a brief period, I witnessed that the bars here are more competitive than cohesive.  Sometimes they try to throw one-another under the bus which made me a little jaded. I am envious of cities like Chicago where the bars support each other (or so I am told).  I find that to be a way better scene.

Michael: That’s too bad. I like the idea of The Queers having our own hood and having each others’ backs. I used to live in Chicago for a few years when I moved there for a dude and I didn’t go out that much when I was there...I was pretty boring. I hear that I missed out on a lovely community up there. But man, fuck those winters. How do you even survive Denver winters? Okay scratch that, we didn’t come here to talk about the weather. Wait. Why are we here?!

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Scott: I think we originally came here to talk about perspectives of Portland.  Then we parlayed into body issues (I do love a good parlay). We went on to dabble in some strippers.  Then we switched to gay scenes. And now we are on the cusp of weather (which Denver does have fascinating weather). So… clearly we are nailing it.

Michael: Wait where is the part where we make out? That didn’t even happen when you were here. I mean… for the writing inspiration. Ahem.

Scott: I do think making out is such a crucial part of writing.  And I know you like to go very deep yourself as a writer. But if I recall correctly (which I do), you weren’t a fan of making out with those in long term relationships when we initially talked a couple years ago.  Have your views changed on such things in the last year?

Michael: Yeah, I think I’ve been in a period of change. I dated a couple for a bit this summer, which was something I’d never done. It certainly opened up my mind to possibilities, not the least of which was that I don’t know my heart half as well as I was convinced I did. But maybe that’s what life is: a series of molting the dead skin that served you well in the past and doesn’t anymore. And maybe now I’ll go climb a tree for the season and buzz like a cicada for a mate.

Scott: One of the first pieces I read of yours, when I discovered your blog, was when a couple tried to have a threeway with you and you couldn’t do it.  Then eventually you did have a threeway and wrote about that experience. Now, you have dated a couple. That seems like a shitload of molting. I had to look up “molting,” by the way.  When we collaborate, try not to use fancy words. They are hard for me. *twirls hair*

Even after being with Luke for 11 years, I still feel like I am always learning new ways to approach relationship.  As a result, I get fascinated by the way single people approach dating nowadays (a term that indicates I am no longer young).  With you having molted all over the place, what is your approach now to dating in the modern era of technology?

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Michael: Well, I’ve always dated long distance as much as locally, but dating apps (YES I KNOW PEOPLE CALL THEM HOOKUP APPS I CALL THEM DATING APPS BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT I USE THEM FOR) have made that easier. I used to screenshot my conversations with people on the apps to be witty or sassy, and I find that problematic now. I used to chase guys in the past, and I have little to no patience with people who aren’t good at letting you know if they’re interested or not. And I feel like I’m better lately at letting other prospects know if I’m interested in them too. So I would say the recent molting was for the better.

Scott: It sounds like a lot of people could learn from your molting (God, now I can’t stop using that word).  Meanwhile, I just noticed we hit 2,046 words. This would be a good time to wrap things up before we accidentally re-write Game of Thrones.  Plus, I love the idea of ending on your dating life. But, before we go, Michael… what have you learned from this experimental joint blog post?

Michael: To send nudes as early and as often as possible. Wait, no, that’s not it. No, I think that the thing that we have the most in common is the thing that makes us exposed and vulnerable: we both find ourselves revealed, we both bare everything. Transparency and vulnerability, too, is a form of strength.

Scott:  I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Life really does work best when we keep our guards down and bare it all.  Oh, and I also learned that we should probably start a podcast together… because neither of us are overwhelmed in the least.  Now, get on with sending those nudes.

To read more of Michael Schneider, visit his blog: www.blcksmthdesign.com

Edited by Glen Trupp

Copyright © 2018 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

Pride And Passports

For someone who loves to travel, I have hardly done any international traveling.  And being on social media a lot, I feel like I am constantly seeing others jetting off to Spain, Thailand, or Australia.  Meanwhile, I’ve never even been to Canada.

Though I haven’t been to Canada, I am worldly cultured enough to know that the men there are attractive, they are into leaves, and they pronounce “out” like “oot.”  Then some forgo the English all together and just speak French.  Side note: I am not very worldly cultured, but I was excited to have my ignorance slightly improved.

My partner, Luke, and I decided to remedy this coming soon here in October.  The only problem was that I didn’t have a passport.  I used to have one from when I studied abroad in Mexico during college - a fun fact I rarely bring up in fear that someone will try to speak Spanish with me.  I never renewed it because I have a tendency to be forgetful and lazy.

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I would need to get this corrected ASAP so that I didn’t have to shell out major bucks in order to have the passport rushed.  I could hardly afford the damn thing as it was.  One-hundred and fifty bucks?!  Didn’t they have some sort of starving artist discount?

Anyway, the first stop would be to get my passport photo taken.  This would tack on another $15.  I tend to complain about money a lot as I’m living by the skin of my teeth.  Then I try to remind myself that I am lucky enough to travel for free.

I stopped at Walgreens one Sunday afternoon and when I walked in, the photo counter had all the lights off and no one was there.  I figured I’d have to come back but I asked the cashier upfront just in case.  The cashier called over the intercom to have a manager meet me at the photo counter.

When I saw this manager, I felt a slight twinge of concern.  She was a larger white woman who had cornrows.  The braids on top of her head had her natural brown-haired color and while the braids coming off her head had been dyed black.  

She also looked like she might have been the type of person who ate cigarettes rather than smoked them.  I hate admitting my judgmental thoughts about her looks, but it made me worry that if she thought SHE looked okay in photos, how could she take a proper photo of me?

This reminded me of last fall when I had to get a new driver’s license.  I especially wanted this to be good as my previous photo made me look like a serial killer.  No joke.  With my shaggy hair, creepy wide eyes, and an awkwardly open mouth, I looked like I would stab someone with a shiv any minute.

In the days leading up to my visit at the DMV, I started practicing my face in the mirror.  When the actual photo was taken and I saw the result, I was relieved to see that I looked like a nice, normal version of myself.  

So, I had taken this DMV lesson and once again practiced my “look” in the mirror before heading to Walgreens.  Thus, I had some kind of hope that this could turn out okay.  The frightening woman busted out a little digital camera as I stood in front of a makeshift blank wall. She snapped the picture and showed it to me.

It looked so awful on the little screen that I almost stopped breathing.  She asked if I’d like to take it again.  I said yes.  I mentally noted what I could have done wrong and tried to make adjustments.  We repeated the process and the next photo looked just as horrifying.

I suggested doing one last shot.  She now got annoyed.  We tried another time and it looked just like the rest.  It’s fine, I told myself.  I picked one at random and the scary manager completed the process.

When I got to my car, I opened the little card containing the 2”x2” photos.  I realized this was quite possibly the worst photo I had ever taken.  I looked like a whole other kind of criminal - like someone who would get high on meth and rob a store with pantyhose on their head.

Or maybe I looked like someone who you’d need to take a restraining order against because he kept looking through your window… while wearing pantyhose on his head.  Either way, whenever I looked at this photo, all roads lead back to pantyhose on my head.  I hated it.

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I immediately texted Luke telling him about it - hoping that with him being a therapist, he could say something magical to help me get over it.  Instead, he said the partner thing: that all passport photos sucked and that I was beautiful.  

As the person who has chosen to be with me, he has to tell me those things.  Besides, it is easy for him to say.  His passport photo is handsome.  He looks like a former frat boy who never lost his cool.  

 After shooting down his obligatory partner comments, he wrote, “Two thoughts: 1) one bad picture does NOT reflect how you look, and 2) it might be good to figure out how to loosen the power that physical image has over you.”

Dammit.  He did say the therapy thing and, like a good therapist, it wasn’t necessarily convenient.  Therefore, I ignored it and went to the gym to get my mind off the whole thing.  But I couldn’t get it out of my brain.

Halfway into my first exercise, I panicked and called a different Walgreens.  When a guy in the photo department answered, I lied and said that when I went to the other store, the woman didn’t let me see the photo first and I wanted to know if they’d let me come to their store so that I could get a replacement.  I HAD OFFICIALLY GONE TO CRAZY TOWN!

The guy said that I would have to go back to the original store to get the photo taken.  When I hung up the phone, I felt really conflicted.  Was I justified for wanting this photo retaken?  Or was I acting like a vain douche? 

I decided not to decide whether or not I’d go back to the store.  I would at least give it a night to think it over.  It’s often best to sleep on such things anyway.  Plus, I needed to go back on a different day in hopes of avoiding that weird manager lady.

That evening, I thought about Luke’s words - how it may be good to loosen that power over my physical image.  I hadn’t thought of myself this way.  With transparency being important, I’ve never been the type to alter my appearance - erasing blemishes, wrinkles, etc.

While some photos are fun, spur-of-the-moment things where I’ll snap a few shots and leave it at that, there are others when I want a particular shot.  I will take 150 photos, narrow it down to ten, narrow it down to five, consult a friend, test out some filters, and then slap one on before posting the picture.  

Even the spur-of-the-moment shots get filters.  I love filters.  They make the photos pop.  And I love making things pop.  But when I got this ugly passport photo, one of my first thoughts was, Maybe I can make it better with a filter.  This was most likely a sign that I had gotten too used to having control over my photos.

I knew what happened when I got that photo.  It hurt my sense of pride.  When my sense of pride got hurt, I felt a loss of control.  When I lost that sense of control, I felt really vulnerable.  And when I felt vulnerable, I acted like a bit of a not-so-rational person (aka crazy).

By the end of the night, I still didn’t have any answers.  Rather I came to a crossroads.  I could either keep the photo and give up that sense of control.  Or, I could go back to the store and continue the douche-trajectory.  

The next morning, I went back to look at the photo and something else ate at me: the idea of taking this sucker through customs. What if they took one look at this and not let me in their country - maybe even have me detained for suspicion of criminal activity (“I swear, officer, I don’t know how those pantyhose got in my bag!).  

Pantyhose jokes aside, I did have this legit worry that every time we could have the wonderful opportunity to travel internationally, I’d feel shitty about myself when I handed over my passport.  My ugly photo would kick off our exotic vacation via shooting my self-esteem in the foot.

I didn’t want that.  And when I couldn’t shake that feeling, I decided to go back to Walgreens and ask them to redo it.  I wished I had been strong enough to not let one terrible photo get to me like this, but I just couldn’t give up that sense of control.  

When I sheepishly walked back into the store, I saw their sign promoting passport photos.  The example featured a young woman whose only crime would be nothing other than some sexy espionage.  I wanted a photo like hers.

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The woman who worked the photo counter asked if I needed any help.  I explained the situation honestly to her - not lying at all.  She asked to see the photo and when I showed it to her, her head jerked back slightly.

“Oh, yeah,” she said.  “Let’s retake this one.”

I had never been so happy to have someone tell me I had taken an ugly photo.  I took this as a sign that I wasn’t being SO crazy after all.  When the rightful photo lady has that initial reaction and doesn’t hesitate to redo it for free, then you know it was rough.

When she took the new photo and let me see it, I still didn’t look like the girl on their passport promotion sign.  The bags looked heavy under my eyes and you could tell just how asymmetrical my face really is (how I hide this in other photos I will never know). 

She asked if I would like to do another one but I told her no.  I went in there thinking I had to either give up control or be a douche.  But when I saw the new photo, I knew that I could do both… give up some control and NOT be a douche.  Like most things, it’s not “either/or,” it’s “both/and.”

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Come to think of it, Luke never even talked about being a douche when he gave me advice.  That’s not how he talks.  That’s how I talk - which goes to show THAT’S HOW MUCH I CAN INTERNALIZE SHIT!!!  

And that’s really the goal here: figuring out how to maintain a healthy self esteem by not internalizing shit.  I think Luke was right.  It helps to settle into a bad photo knowing it’s not exactly how we look.  But it doesn’t work very well when the photo is so awful that it makes you want to barf on your cat.

We don’t need to have terribly shitty photos lying around as way to help us have a more healthy self esteem.  But I learned from this is that the opposite is true as well.  We don’t need to have “perfect” photos to get a healthy self esteem either.  

In fact, having the power to have nothing but perfect photos can wreck our self esteem even more.  If it didn’t, I could have probably reacted to this situation with a more rational approach rather than panicking, texting people, and calling up other stores and lying.

One month later, I received my new passport in the mail.  When I opened it up, I found the photo to look even worse with some distorted coloring.  But I genuinely didn’t worry about which crime the person in this mugshot had committed.  Instead, I thought about meeting some nice Canadian gentlemen to make oot with while rolling around in some leaves.

Edited by Glen Trupp

Copyright © 2018 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.