Carter/Johnson Leather Library August 2011 - Volume 1 - Issue 8
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Our Newest Storyteller!
This Floating World, the youngest docent at the Library received her storyteller’s staff. The awarding to the staff is a special rite of passage for members of the Library.
Thank you’s this month go out to:
- NDDS for their GENEROUS contribution to our travel budget.
- Tori S. for becoming a Defender of the Library. She is our first.
- Thomas L and Staylace.com for an AMAZING contribution of over 100 books, magazines and pieces of personal memorabilia that will soon become part of the Library gender corner
- Tristan Taormino for her wonderful contribution of books to the Library
- Mark M and Patricia J for a copy of their book “The Essence of Tantric Sex”
- The women of Kink Academy for their interview
- Phoenix B for the spirit and blessing of buffalo
- To everyone who stopped in to say hello
There have been so many new things added to the Library this month it was difficult to know what to pick. I have been so focused on books and magazines in these last issues that I’ve neglected to showcase some of the other things the Library has for visitors to enjoy.
There are a number of portfolios of art and posters that are part of the collection. Many of those cases contain posters from events past and present. There are also posters announcing new books, as well as movies with a kinky theme or twist. This month, eight new movie posters were added.
- Exit to Eden
- I want what I want
- Story of O
One of my great joys is taking people through the Library and showing them the many hidden gems of kink history that are on the shelves. Exploration and discovery often lead to the question, “Can you tell me more about this?”
This month I would like to tell you a story about not one book, but three.
History of the RodWhen Jill and I were kinklings, in the early ’70’s we were given a number of wonderful books to read. Most were written between 1945 and 1970. One of the few exceptions was an 1880 book called “A History of the Rod in All Countries, Flagellation and the Flagellants” by Rev. William Cooper.
Since I had a passion for flogging, I started reading this tome with a great deal of curiosity and interest. In 500 pages, Rev. Cooper covered the history of the whip and its use, from Egypt through the Victorian era. The author covered the use of the whip as a form of discipline through the ages from slaves of many empires to nuns in convents and students in military schools. But Rev. Cooper didn’t stop there. History of the RodHe included chapters on the more pleasurable uses of the whip and the birch rod in the bedroom. There were poems in praise of flogging, stories about those who sought out the favours of women skilled in wielding these instruments, all sorts of anecdotes about the “flayed bum” and illustrations that went with the stories. Cooper cited a number of earlier references in this text and at some point I decided that I was going to find a few of the books mentioned in his pages.
“The History of the Flagellants Eight or nine years ago I found one of those referenced tomes on Ebay, “The History of the Flagellants”, by Jean Louis DeLolme. The opening bid alone was more than I had ever spent, but being able to hold and read a book from 1783 proved to be an offer I just couldn’t walk away from. The seller asked if I would like to come and see the book before I purchased, so I took a three hour drive to central Pennsylvania with cash in hand. This rare text was in wonderful condition and still had its original etchings intact. My wallet screamed, but I came home with my prize. ( OK. Yes, I had soup for a month to take the major dent out of my bank account. It was worth it.)
DeLolme’s text was written about the”The History of the Flagellants flagellation practices of various pre Christian religions as well as the flagellation cults that sprang up during the 13th and 14th century. Delolme went into detail about the reactions of the Catholic Church with regard to this zealous form of self mortification and said that his work was a commentary on an older work called the “Historia Flagellantium” written by Abbe Jacques Boileau.
In October of 2007 a copy of History of the Flagellants came up for sale on Ebay. There was very little description about the book and its condition, just a purchase price of almost $1000. The book went up for sale three or four times. Finally I wrote the seller and suggested that he might get buyers for his book if he lowered the opening bid. I also sent him source references from rare book sellers in Europe who carried his book at a much lower price. He thanked me and dropped the bid to $600. There were still no takers. Finally he added the “Make an Offer” option, so I did. My offer of $200 was turned down as I expected. Every few weeks I would see the book for sale with the “Make an Offer” option. This went on for months. In May of 2008 I made the same offer to this seller that I had made many months before. I expected to be rejected. Within minutes of placing the offer I got an acceptance and jumped for joy.
The book was in the Midwest and I wanted to add insurance to this valuable new addition. I wrote the seller immediately and asked if he would include the cost of insurance in the shipping price. His reply was basically “What are you talking about I rejected your bid. Weeeelllllll, I cut and pasted his Ebay acceptance into the body of an email and sent it back to him. Evidently the seller had meant to reject my offer and hit the wrong key. I reminded him that his Ebay contract with me was binding and quickly sent him the Paypal payment. The book was MINE!!! But the biggest shock was yet to come.
Through all the months I had been watching the book, I just assumed the seller was offering an earlier copy of DeLolme’s work. Imagine my surprise when the box arrived with its precious cargo and upon removing its content found not a 1775 “History of the Flagellants”, in English but the 1701 French “Historia Flagellantium” by Abbe Jacques Boileau instead!!! An even greater mystery is that bound into the back of this VERY special book are 24 handwritten pages in old French. Are these the notes of one of the disciples of Abbe Boileau? Perhaps they are the notes of the author himself. One day we may find out.
These three books are the oldest pieces in the Library and are displayed side by side. The 1783 and the 1701 are in their own case just waiting for you to put on gloves and lift the lid.
Tales from the Librarian
Adventures at Floating World A Littles Encounter.
Littles can be amazingly insistent. Anyone who has ever been on the other end of a cute pout or foot stomp and given in, will understand this story.
I was more than a bit bleary eyed Saturday morning as I wandered the cavern called the New Jersey Convention and Expo Center desperately looking for coffee. I could smell it, but the equivalent of a two city block walk pre java, was not computing in my non caffeinated brain. I passed the Littles area and two youngins were enthusiastically engaged in coloring.
“Ms Johnson”, the little girl called, “when can Littles come into the Library?”
“Anytime you want” I replied trying to resume my search.
“Nnooo”, came a pouty voice, “When can we have special Littles time in the Library?”
OK, I stopped and had to think for a moment.
“Exactly what would you like?”
The little girl stood up, and trying to juggle her stuffed dog, a hand full of crayons and a coloring book, showed me the page she was filling in said, “I want to come draw in the Library while you tell me a story. We all do. We want story time, and coloring books and toys just for us.”
My mouth, desperately seeking Java, engaged before my brain could stop it. “Humm,” I said. “That could be an interesting project. Can we talk about it later?”
“NNOOOOO”, came the whine followed by a foot stomp. “Promise now!”
Either I gave in or coffee would never reach my mouth, so I said, ” You tell the Littles that there will be things for you to color and story time in the Library by November. OK?”
“OK”, She replied and then sat back down and started to color again.
A few minutes later I found, and dove into much needed coffee and wandered back to the Library area. As I walked back, I was thinking about what I had just promised. Hell, how hard could this be, just get some coloring books and crayons and some Ungerer story books. This should be a cake walk.
The problem with caffeine actually hitting the bloodstream and brain is that I began to put the pieces of my promise together. “Wait a minute”, I thought, “these aren’t your every day teenies. They are kinky kids.”
Within the hour I had sought out one of my favorite people and sometimes Little and asked for her advice. “Lolita, I promised the Littles that the Library would have special time for them. They need something to color. Should it be straight, or should the Library create a kinky coloring book?” Lolita and I talked for about ten minutes. And she convinced me that kinky kids need kinky pictures to color. But I didn’t have to get fancy or elaborate. The Littles just needed easy pictures to color and Littles time.
I guess November really IS doable. One coloring book coming up.
Ziggy’s Corner: Adventures at Floating World
In The February issue of the newsletter “Tales From the Librarian” talked about the take a book-leave a book area that we chose to name Ziggy’s Corner. Ziggy’s Corner launched at TesFest, July 4th weekend with over 30 books and magazines. For the first day or so it was actually difficult to get people to believe that they actually could take a book from the shelf and keep it.
The first person to want a book said that he had no book of equal value to leave in its place. I assured him that the value of what he took had nothing to do with what he left, just that he had to leave some little bit of himself for someone else. After a few minutes of contemplation he left and a few minutes later came back with a tee shirt that he put on the shelf in exchange for the book he wanted. Within fifteen minutes someone else came into the Library, saw the tee shirt, asked if they could have it and in return left two videos. Over the next few days of the event at least ten books and magazines were exchanged from the shelf.
During the weekend of Floating World a stop at Ziggy’s Corner and an explanation of its contents became a regular part of the Library tour. After now having Ziggy’s Corner available for two events, I realize my thinking about it was old fashioned and kinda limiting. There have been lots more than just books left on the shelves. People have left toys, vet wrap, DVD’s from Two Knotty Boys, comics and even event pins. Guess I’m going to have to change the sign from “take a book – leave a book”, to “take something and leave something for someone else”. It has been wonderful to watch the idea catch on, especially with The Next Generation.
To see what’s on the shelf in Ziggy’s Corner, come visit us in the Library.
Floating World: A Personal Recollection
This month the Library was at Floating World. The event was filled with memories that made the weekend very very special. This newsletter, I am going to let many of the event pictures tell the story for me, but there are a few highlights I would like to try to put into words.
We opened the space as we always do, with an evocation to those whose stories we would share, to come and be with us. Right after the evocation, our youngest docent received her storyteller’s staff. For those who volunteer with the Library, receiving a storyteller staff is an honored rite of passage.
In West African tradition, storyteller/griot is the second most honored person of the tribe. The griot/storyteller is charged with remembering the history of the tribe and sharing those stories with the generations to come. At the proper time the griot is given an apprentice or apprentices so that the tribal history can be passed on to the next generation. When the senior deems his junior knowledgeable enough to sit in the story circle and speak of the ancestors, he/she is given a special staff so that all may know that he/she is a trusted wisdom keeper. The staff empowers its holder to call upon the old wisdom and the spirits of those who created it. Jaki has earned her staff
It seems to me that this Floating World brought more TNG’s to the Library than ever before. I watched with pride and occasionally tears as “20 somethings” came in, sat down and lovingly held their past. Some trembled, a few cried. I sat back and listened to Jaki sharing her story and making a whole new generation feel at home in the Library.
A very special Library member from Seattle gifted me with the bone of a young buffalo ritually hunted for a special feast. I was humbled and honored to receive a fetish of such spiritual power.
Leather History Conference 2011
“Because They Died”
There have always been things in Jill’s and my collection that are hard to put in categories. With the help of Jez the Library Genie we finally came up with a name for all the “stuff.” We are going to just call it “STUFF” and will be telling you about it as we find it.
Last year in San Francisco, two members of the Library Board of Directors took time from International Sir and boy to enjoy some of the neighborhood shops in and around the Castro district. In one little shop they found these fifteen magnets. Each 2X3 inch refrigerator style magnet sports a Tom of Finland sketch. The Library is pleased to add these little works of art to the growing collection of “stuff.”
Coming Full Circle:
First and Lasting Impressions of the Library – by Jaki Grier
The first time I was introduced to Ms. Johnson and the Leather Library was at BlackBeat ’08. I stepped into a hotel room covered with books. I have no idea how much material was in the room but to me, it seemed overwhelming.
Every wall was lined with tables and in the center of the room was someone’s grandmother. I remember standing there with my jaw wide open. I didn’t touch anything for about five minutes as I surveyed from the doorway. This woman, a black woman at that, was engaged in conversation. She was holding a book that looked older than both of us combined.
I didn’t speak to Ms. Johnson, because I felt so out of place. So here I am, still unsure of my place in this community that I’d dabbled in for a few years but that literally exploded open to me months previously. Me, still feeling confused about my sexuality, my passions and I happened to stumble down a rabbit hole where a woman who looked just like me had collected proof that it was okay that I existed. There was a war in my head. How can this be wrong if there is so much of it? Or is this just the collected history of mankind’s sin?
At some point, I made my way to the rare book section and with trembling hands, I slid on a pair of white gloves. Through the safety of their cotton, I thumbed the pages of a book. I felt TERRIFIED. I felt like every person in my life who had told me to deny myself was watching over my shoulders disapprovingly. My mom, my preacher, my friends and my own insecurities made my whole body shiver violently. I don’t think I even read the book, just glanced at a title and flipped the pages to confirm that it wasn’t a fantasy.
Around this point, another person announced that the Library was closing for the day so I had my excuse. After standing in the room for no more than ten minutes, I ran away. Secretly, I was relieved. I had been so close to something that dangerous but I wasn’t allowed time to digest the contents.
Throughout my life, I’d listened to the people who told me that sin can grab you merely by proxy. Even the act of stepping forward was groundbreaking. But with that small step taken, I couldn’t do more. I had to leave, breathe and pretend that all the beautiful people I met at the convention that day were as deeply ashamed and repressed as I was. I had played, laughed and enjoyed myself all the while shoving it in a tiny box labeled, “Fun Stuff That Is Evil (But I’ll Do It Anyway)”.
My sense of self was split in two. I can live a life of secret sin but I can not enjoy it. I can not declare it righteous. This dark entertainment can not have a context outside of the wickedness of my human weakness. I was not able to live without it but unable to reconcile the parts of my soul.
Fast forward three years. Is it fate that I’m writing these words? Now I regularly tour with these same books. These items of power are familiar to me and I am privileged enough to help care for them. I study them, hoard them and steal every line I read. When new people appear in the Library, I have the confidence to stroll over to them. I hand them a piece of life-changing literature then say, “And there are thousands more where that came from.” But I hadn’t realized this was profound because I shrug, “It’s just something I do, it’s my life.” How many of us actually take the time to review the progress we’ve made?
Yet at Floating World 2011, I was able to see how full circle life has brought me. In that sacred space, I was gifted with a storyteller’s staff from my Leather Grandmother, along with a charge to tell the stories that once made me afraid. To tell the stories of Leatherfolk and to tell my own story. At some point in the weekend, there was a genderqueer who came to the Library. They sat amidst the books and I saw visible tears in their eyes. And it brought me back to that BlackBeat where I tentatively held a delicate page between my fingers.
It reminded me to never take anyone’s journey lightly. To remember that everyone has a background story. Simply knowing that there is such a sheer volume of information about these taboo secretive practices made me (and hopefully others) realize that they are not alone. There is a long historical line of beautifully perverted individuals who lived passionately in spite of the social conventions of their age. That there is nothing unnatural about seeking love, God and clarity for our lives by creating a unique space to explore ourselves.
So, to the person I met at Floating World, thank you. Thank you for sharing your story even though we never spoke. And I want you to know, from my heart to yours, that you are allowed to feel proud of even your fears because you have survived them and make them your fantasy.