September was a few months back, and since the step-aside, I've been quiet, reflective, thoughtful, thankful, and sometimes struggling with what happens next.
It really felt as if that last month of the title year was flying by and a part of me wanted to just finish the ride, disembark, and quietly leave the amusement park for a relaxing hot tub...for a few months. And then it was over. Done. There are now new shiny people, and they are wonderful and excited, and there's a lot of happiness for them and congratulations for you and life returns to normal. But does it? What is normal now? Normal shifts because normal is what you become accustomed to doing. Normal is different for everybody, because it's part of your daily routine. So scouring social media for information becomes normal. Responding to emails from pups and trainers and interested parties becomes normal. Planning your next trip, airline bookings, transportation arrangements on both ends of a trip, booking hotels or arranging hosts, unpacking suitcases, doing laundry packing suitcases and planning wardrobes, thank you notes, long range and short term plans, planning time to spend with your partner, job searching, event planning, dodging drama, getting educated, writing classes, coordinating with mosh organizers to donate snacks because some of the most common snacks will kill your puppy (honey allergy), and I'm sure a dozen more things I've forgotten - all that became normal. And that stopped. So now it's time to recapture the old normal, and that's not so easy.
Please note: I am not complaining or whining. I (sorta) knew what I was signing up for when we ran. I do my best to be open and honest here, and there's challenges along with the fun.
This was a once-in-a-lifetime journey and I will always treasure the wonderful experiences we had and the amazing friends we made. One year is great. I cannot imagine how people can manage a regional title year first and then an international circuit title year. But I took on a new load of responsibility and that became my life for a year. It becomes the new normal. And while I sometimes yearned for the old normal to return, when it did, it was not as much fun.
I spent many many weekends away from my partner. We don't live together, so we had to find time during the week - date nights, so to speak. Our former routine was Friday afternoon through Sunday night - we were together. We went to movies, out to bars, dinners together and with friends, and that was the old normal. We spent a good chunk of the last year learning to not be together on weekends, and the ones we did have, I just wanted to be lumpy and together and quiet while he wanted to go out and socialize. Now we have those weekends back, and I feel a struggle to fill the time. The new normal was to be gone and busy with events planned by others, and now that's done. The new normal was we learned to be apart on weekends (and weekdays) and now we have to un-learn that.
In the last year, I learned how to approach almost anyone and strike up a conversation, and hold that conversation for at least a few minutes. I learned how to engage people better, to open up my own life and learn about theirs. Even the ones I find really hot. That was hard! My historical behavior around people I find attractive tended to be sidelong glances, awkward approaches, and stunning opening lines like "I like beans.......<doh!>" I've gotten better. I found that I like meeting new people and seeing new places and sharing my experiences with whoever will listen to me jabber or read a blog.
That is not happening much these days, and it hit me really hard this last weekend as many of my friends made their way to Washington, DC for the Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend and I stayed home. Did I want to go? Oh yes. Could I afford to go? Not right now. So I went about my back-to-normal life and (not-so-very) quietly pouted about missing my friends.
So what's next? That's the big question. I'm still figuring that out, four months down the line. I've kept busy, and I'll backfill this blog, but it weird to redefine normal once again. But while I ponder, plan, and dream, you are all in my thoughts. And until our paths cross for the first time or the twentieth, I leave you with this..
We flew in on Friday and (eventually) made it to the hotel. Yep, I screwed up on setting up a ride, but it was an honest and well-intentioned screw up. Luckey and I shared a room with our friends Tank and Lizzie, the current Mr and Ms Atlanta Eagle titleholders. Luckey, Tank, and I arrived about the same time at the hotel and got everything squared away at the front desk, got our keys, and headed up. Lizzie arrived the night before and had the whole night in the room to herself. I suspect it was her favorite night, lol. Then Daddy and two puppies arrived. The kitty had carefully unpacked and stacked her luggage before we arrived. Then the puppies rolled in and ESPLODED in the room. I was lucky to get a drawer and a place to stash my suitcase. So yes, we determined that puppies ESPLODE all over a hotel room. Two puppies do not double the esplosion - it goes up exponentially. Ask anybody who rooms with one. And as word got out which room we were in, puppies began arriving to bark out a HELLO. Unfortunately, we were right next to a conference/class room, and all the barking disturbed the Sirs & boys Roundtable discussion - Sorry about that, Sir John!
The contest started on Friday night with a blessing from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence that was tailored to the occasion - very well done. Then it got down to business. The producers introduced a new format to keep things lively - they mixed hotwear, fantasy, and speeches into a constant stream instead of grouping them together. It was new and fun, and kept the pace moving. Afterwards, most people headed for the shuttle to the Dallas Eagle, but I knew it was going to be a long weekend, so it was early bedtime for me.
Saturday was MOSH day, sponsored by the DFW Pups & Trainers. After a good breakfast, I set out to visit the Vendor Market and get ready for the mosh. What a fun time! We had quiet pups and rowdy pups, gentle pups and rumble pups, leather pups and rubber pups, male and female bodied pups, and WE HAD FUN! Well done, DFW Pups & Trainers! You secured a safe area for the pups to play and set it up well. We did have a few runaway pups scurrying through the vendor mart and under tables, but fortunately nothing was broken or upended. We had a great deal of visibility as well, and a couple of friendly kitties stopped by to say Meow. Afterwards, I helped Rylee and Loki with the tear down and mat transport out to their vehicle - they were tired pups! It was great to get the time to visit with these fine young men who are heading up the DFW Pups & Trainers organization. After dinner at Joe's Crab Shack, it was time to get dressed up again for the second half of the contest. It was 109 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and unfortunately, the air conditioning was too overburdened to keep up on Saturday night in the ballroom. It was one hot night. The producers kept the same routine going and we heard speeches from the bootblacks and also from the hotwear/fantasy routines from the night before. Those who gave speeches the night before were in hotwear and fantasy routines tonight. Once again, it kept the audience on their toes. We were also blessed to hear Sir Jack, Boy Bamm-Bamm, and Ruin deliver their step-aside speeches. Made me cry... And, it ran long, as contests are wont to do. I met many of the contestants through the weekend, and I can honestly say I did not envy the judges their work. A strong field of men and women stood up and represented their communities well. In the end, Sir George took home the title of International LeatherSir 2013, Gattor went forward as the International Leatherboy 2013, and Paul proudly carried the International Community Bootblack 2013 title back to Seattle! Congratulations to everyone who represented their communities, and best wishes to the new titleholders! Off to the shuttle and the Eagle to celebrate! When that was done, I introduced Dominic, the Eastern Canada Leatherboy to a true delicacy - tamales - purchased from the nice lady outside the bar. These were exquisitely tasty, light, flavorful without being too spicy, and damn good at 1:30 am. I think they'd be good at 9am, noon, and 4pm as well. I tried to explain how to make them to Dom, but he just looked at me blankly. "Eastern Canada!" he says. "Just eat!" was my reply. He did, and we were happy. Bedtime came late that night after long conversations. Sleepytime!
Sunday - oh, Sunday. How early you arrive. How bright your sunshine and how miserably hot you are. 109 again. There was an entire day of activities at the Dallas Eagle once again, and shuttles to get you there. I haven't sweated so much since I lived in Oklahoma. Bleagh. But the people were great and the drinks were strong - so we had a fun time. Dinner came at a place called Hunky's in the gayborhood, and we stopped to pay homage at JRs in our leather afterwards. A long night of fun lay ahead, but I could not bring myself to get dressed again. The heat and humidity cooked me - I do not do well in heat. My leather title vest was heavy and wet with sweat. eeew. So I stayed in, napped, and visited with Lizzie. She's an amazing woman, and I learned so much from her this weekend. I promise there will be at least one post that comes along later to address some of our discussion. Thank you, Lizzie, for sharing your life and your weekend with us!
Monday was an easy, lazy day. Tank and Lizzie left for the airport about 11, and Luckey arranged for our transport (so I couldn't screw it up). We spend the day with Lawna Jocqui and had a really fun time. Lunch at Hunky's again (yum!) and a trip to a HUGE underwear store in the gayborhood, followed by dessert at the Black Eyed Pea with some of his family. Good times! Then it was airport time, so he dropped us off at DFW. Thank you Lawna!
Waiting on the plane, my thoughts turned to IPTC 2013 and our return to Dallas in one short month. Luckey and I will sit on the judging panel and we will get to speak our last time as the current International Puppy and Trainer before we pass the titles along to our successors. This has been an amazing year, and we're so thankful to everyone we've met along the way.
Great Job to all the good people who poured their time and their money and their sanity into moving this event to Dallas and making it a great time for everyone! I know it was hard work, and it paid off. Congratulations ILSb/ICBB team!
Luckey and I have been wanting to visit the great northwest all year. We see all the pups and handlers in Portland, Vancouver, and Seattle are working together and building a strong region. So we talked to Ruin Awaits for contact information and timing advise and approached SEA-PAH about visiting for a weekend. They were very gracious and we discussed the classes we could offer. The schedule was set for August 22-26 and tickets booked. Let the fun begin!
Luckey and I have never visited the region, so they offered to show us around the city. We arrived on Thursday and Josh picked us up from the airport and away we went! It was a beautiful sunny day in Seattle, and we made the most of it. He took us to a local bar for lunch, and the food was fantastic! Then we headed downtown to see the Space Needle and the parks and museums around it. Fun fun fun! Then he drove us up to a vantage point to see some skylines and harbor views - it's such a beautiful city. And the streets - wow. I thought San Francisco had some steep streets!
On Friday, Matthew took us to the Market and out touring again. I was blown away again by the beauty of the city. The people watching was great and the food (yes, eating again) very tasty. We found some phenomenal hot sauce in the Market based on the Scorpion Pepper - hotter than a Ghost Chili - it's the next generation of POW! I was impressed by the flavor plus the heat. One tiny taste made my tastebuds sing with joy and the heat lingered at the back of my mouth for 20 minutes. We bought some. Matthew invited friends over for dinner so we did some shopping for that, walked past the Original Starbucks, toured the Underground City, and ran all over the place. Dinner that night was great fun with new friends, and the food was amazing. These guys know how to put together a night of good food and Cards Against Humanity! Thanks to Baus Yukon, Pup Gadget, Pup Squeak, and Pup Amp for a great night of fun and to Matthew and Josh for hosting the evening!
Saturday arrived and we set out early to The Cuff, where we were presenting Trainer/Handler 101 and Obedience Training 101 classes. It was a pleasure to meet Daddy Jeff as we got things set up and ready for the class. He's a great guy! Before we started, we visited Doghouse Leathers just around the corner. My jaw dropped. It's got EVERYTHING! All the brands, all the names, all the sizes, all the styles, and it's all high quality merchandise. I Love This Place! While we were there, the fine folks from Raven's Hollow stopped in to visit and drop off a couple of gifts - chain maille collars for Puppies In The Mountains door prizes and the International Puppy and Trainer Contest auction basket. They drove up from Tacoma to deliver them. Thank you guys - they are beautiful! After a bit of shopping, it was time to head over to The Cuff. It's got a great space for teaching right on the dance floor, so we all got down to business. The day was well-attended and everyone was friendly and contributed to the classes. One pup even drove down from VAN-PAH to join us. Afterwards, it was time to catch a short nap/rest, and get dressed to go out for the night. We went out in our leathers and visited a great Tapas bar for dinner, and then off to The Cuff and CC Attle's. ooo, you gotta watch that Killer Kool Aid - it's potent stuff. The night was fun and social and we enjoyed ourselves tremendously.
Sunday rolled around and we were back at The Cuff for Puppy 101 and a Mosh Pit! The class was fun, as always, and the mosh was a lively one. Those pups are lively! Then we stopped by Ruin Awaits' party, because her step-aside was the following weekend in Dallas. We met some nice folks there and were grateful to be included in such an intimate gathering. Dinner was next (of course) and the options were pizza or burritos. Matthew decided to exercise his vocabulary and change out the conjunction. Why not pizza AND burritos? I love these guys. After dinner settled, we had some rope time with Matthew, Pup Squeak, and Josh. Look out, guys - that puppy has got a knack for rope!
The last two days were both sunny and cloudy, but Monday rolled in with rain - the stereotypical Seattle weather. It was really beautiful. We were set to fly out that night, and we had offers of early coffee, lunch, and social time - and we had to decline them. We were pooped! Those guys ran us ragged with fun. Even with the plentiful oxygen there at sea level, we just needed to sleep and relax and pack our bags and be lumpy. The day passed with a beautiful easy pace, and we were rested and ready for the trip home. Fortunately, the flight home was easy - no problems at all. Then, once again, it was time to unpack the bags, do laundry, repack, and head to Dallas the next weekend for International Leather Sir/boy and International Community Bootblack weekend!
Many thanks to the good people of Seattle for their hospitality, friendship, and kindness. We are always amazed and blessed to find such wonderful people in the puppy community. Their hearts are big and full of fun and laughter, and we are better men for knowing them. Thank you all!