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

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