a Cheap Holiday

Cheap Holiday

Welcome to a cheap holiday in my life. At least you get to go home at the end of the day!

Monday, November 18, 2002

Saturday night was my first time attending the Diabolique Ball in Philadelphia. I'd considered going last year, but whimped out on it. After having experienced the Rubber Ball in London, I was afraid that a ball in Philly would be too small-time and potentially disappointing to me. Well, I don't know about last year's Ball, but this year's Ball was lovely, lavish, and fun, fun, FUN!

To begin with, the entire weekend in Philly has literally been a wash-out: nothing but rain and wind from morning til night since late evening on Friday. As much as I was envisioning dressing up fabulously, I was also envisioning dressing up fabulously and ending up looking like a drowned cat once I made my way through the weather to catch a cab and get to the front door of the Ball. But then, everyone else would look like a drowned cat too (unless they were in head-to-toe latex), so I sucked it up and starting organizing my outfit around 7pm.

Dressing for any Ball should be a luxurious affair, not hurried through. After a lovely hot shower and a shave, I dry my hair out and then set up the hot rollers. Hot curling my hair takes a bit of time, because I usually let my hair set in the rollers until the rollers are almost cold. So I chat online, watch TV, and set my hair. After that is done, I pin my hair up and start in with the makeup. If you're going to a Ball, nothing less than drag queen-level makeup is suitable. Clubs are dark, there is so much spectacle going on, and the only way for your facial features to stand out is to highlight the hell outta them. Under reasonably normal light, such makeup tends to look like a mask, but for a Ball it is perfection. I apply liquid foundation and then a good layer of powder. PMS is conspiring against me to produce a couple of pimples and unfortunately I don't have any Visine handy to try a new beauty trick I read about. Freeze several drops of Visine in a teaspoon to produce a little pimple ice patch - Visine contains vasoconstrictors which help diminish redness in a pimple and the ice helps reduce swelling. For now, I must make do with a little Clinique blemish gel and adequate coverage. From this point, a great deal of effort goes into the eye makeup. Fully four shades of eyeshadow go on. Not too much blush - just enough to cheekbone definition - a touch of lip liner and a healthy dose of sticky Stila lip glaze.

Amazingly, the process of actually getting dressed at this point is a snap. I'd thought I'd be indecisive about my outfit, but I make my decisions rather quickly: over-the-knee boots, pinstripe skirt, black satin corset, lace gloves, rhinestone necklace, and my Victorian riding hat. It actually doesn't take me that long to lace my own corset even more and I am able to tighten down fairly hard. I mentally remind myself to be careful of my alcohol intake, since tight-waisting actually physically affects the level of oxygen moving from your core to your brain. After all the dressing is done, I contemplate my options for getting a taxi. Taxis usually don't drive right down my block, so this means either calling a cab service directly or my usual (fair weather) choice of walking 3 blocks over to a hotel. I call the cab service and they quote me a pickup time of between 15 minutes to an hour. Not happy with this large variance, I opt to brave the weather and walk to the hotel. And "brave" would not be hyperbole - as I open the front door to my building, the wind almost whips the umbrella out of my hand. Happily, my custom-measured Victorian riding hat sits as snug as a bug on top of my head and actually protects my hairdo. I fight with the wind and my umbrella all the way to the hotel, where a rather youngish doorman gives me the eye and stands rather close to me as he waits for the whistled-up taxi to come up the driveway. As the cab takes off into the night, I start wondering what the hell have I gotten myself into this time? Going stag to an unproven fetish ball? I must have lost it (again).

For Diabolique, two tiers of admission were sold: a VIP pass (which got you in the door for open bar and food at 7pm) and general admission (when they let the rest of the rabble in at 9pm). I opted for rabblehood this year, not knowing if the extra $35 would be worth it. I make it to the entrance of the club a shade after 9pm, hoping to avoid a crush of attendees. At the door to Club Transit, I have to fish in my little Victorian purse for my ID. Thank the Goddess they had the foresight to set up a tented area over the entranceway. At the front desk, they search for my name on the list of pre-paid attendees. Not unexpectedly, having only paid for my ticket online two days before, they can't find my name on the list. Being a good girl, I had printed out a copy of my email confirmation and presented it to a well-groomed gentleman who introduced himself as "Magic Michael." Having confirmed my fitness to attend, a young girl stamps my hand and then I'm off to stand on the next longest queue besides the wait for the women's bathroom: coat check. Coat checks in Philly in the wintertime are not a luxury, but an operational necessity, and especially on a foul-weather night, the coat check slaves would be hopping. Having gotten to the club early enough, I get through coat check in about 8-10 minutes.

At my first bar stop, I learn the shortcomings of my lace gloves. Adorable though they are, the lace provides no traction on the plastic cups typically used by such large dance clubs to serve drinks. My gin and tonic almost slips out of my grasp twice. Within five minutes I have both put on my gloves and then abandoned them, tucking them safely up the lower hem of my corset. To the left of Bar #1, is a gentleman dressed in some sort of black bodysuit, hood covering his head, lying prone under the bars of some sort of PVC pipe frame. A placard nearby announces him as "Mr. Rugman - the Human Door Mat," and then goes on to explain his desire and function to be stepped on and "Yes, ladies! You can step on him in your high heels and stilettos!" I consider giving Mr. Rugman a try, but defer for the moment.

I take a brisk tour of the multi-level space. One flight of stairs down, in the basement level, is home to the Kinky Carnival, where one can purchase tickets and exchange them for services such as foot worship, back massages, or candle wax treatment. The main floor is home to the dance floor, the central stage, and a makeshift "police department," which is selling its services in the "Charity Lockdown." For a mere $5, a dedicated man or woman in uniform would "arrest" the person of your choice and hold them in detention for approximately 10 minutes, before releasing them with loud warnings to straighten up or face their further wrath. Either this was a popular service, or the Ball attendees were terribly recalcitrant, as the uniformed men and women were on brisk duty all evening.

Contrary to standard operating procedures, the play dungeon was not located on the basement level, but on the top level. Club Transit, though multi-level with high ceilings on the main floor (it was a bank in a previous existence), is still a closed-in space, with small rooms on the additional two levels and very narrow stairwells. The top level yields a fairly cozy bar and seating area on one side, a couple of stations for spanking and airbrush skin artwork in the central passage, and a brightly lit dungeon area on the far side that looked out over the main floor.

On my way back to the main floor, I am waylayed near the police station by an older, suited gentleman who asks if I would like a shoeshine. Since I'm wearing my over-the-knee boots, I don't feel I should deny the man the pleasure, so I assent and cock a foot up onto his little box. He proceeds to give a vigorous shoeshine, including the use of a blackening sponge. The entire process is actually superfluous, since my boots are made of synthetic material, not leather, but I get a little bit of a calf massage in the process and the approving nods of several onlookers.

Back in the main room is the one of many performances that will continue throughout the evening. Party Mistress, Kali Morgan, has done a fine job lining up continual entertainment and as she also does body modification and piercing professionally, there is more display of temporary piercing at this event than I have seen before. Onstage is a young man preparing a supine woman's back for, what? Cutting? Piercing? He's wearing latex gloves, so obviously he expects some blood to be drawn. I find it rather humorous that in the presence of a scene where one person intends to ritually pierce the skin of another, my eye and attention are drawn to.......CAKE! Ohmigod, there is a CAKE buffet along one wall! THIS is truly decadent! No plates or forks, so the intent is to eat with one's fingers, but there is cake for days! Chocolate cake, coconut cake, cheesecake, marble cake! I am distracted by the cake and the hordes of fabulously dressed people long enough so that when I return my attention to the stage, the young man has almost completed his work - the attaching of several large feathers to two rows of temporary piercings on the young woman's back, creating the effect of wings. She stands, faces the crowd, stretches up her arms, and turns away, revealing the creation to all. If any blood has been drawn in the process, the young man has already cleaned it away, since from a distance, one can hardly see the medical-grade lancets anchoring the feathers to her back.

To the left of the stage, Master Steelow of Manhattan, practitioner of Japanese rope bondage, is busy trussing up a young lady with short blonde hair. And by "trussing," I mean trussing like a Thanksgiving turkey and then some. In addition to the fairly traditional binds he's made around her ankles, knees, and about her torso, he completes the job with a elaborate piece of macrame around the whole of her head, anchoring her hair and leather face mask tight against her. When it comes time to display her, Master Steelow picks the girl up and throws her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and sets her down onstage long enough to give her a drink of water from a bottle (such a good Master!) and to assist in setting up a portable, metal triangle frame. Once the frame is complete, he sets the macramed girl in the center and proceeds to loop a rope from four anchor points created by her bindings to a carabiner attached to the apex of triangle. Once the slack is taken out of the rope, the girl becomes fully suspended, her back arching gracefully, and Master Steelow swings her lightly from side to side for all to see and for the event cameramen to take photos. All this is greeted by enthusiastic applause from the audience.

I find the Philly fetish crowd to be personable and approachable. I meet several people during the course of the night and apparently my Victorian riding hat is a sartorial hit. Later that evening, Mistress Kali Morgan herself makes an entrance wearing an outfit similar to mine, but done in latex: a latex black and white striped skirt and suit jacket, latex black bra, French heel sheer pantyhose, Bettie Page pumps, a slightly smaller riding hat than mine, and a simply lovely walking cane with a silver knob handle. Her strawberry blonde tresses are lacquered into perfect ringlets and a diamond stud shines like an expensive beauty mark at the right corner of her upper lip. She is implacable and reserved, obviously busy supervising the event and receiving well-wishers. Later that evening, she performs a temporary chest piercing on a lithe young man in the dungeon area.

Returning my attention to the main stage, I see a bevy of attractive young women, clothed mostly in neon green tape and glow-in-the-dark face paint dancing about. Based on the published dress code for the evening, I come to learn that the State of Pennsylvania prohibits the display of genitals in a location where alcohol is being served, so all women must have pasties of some sort over their nipples and at least thongs on their lower halves. The demented bumblebee women dancing onstage have their breasts taped down with the neon green tape and are in the process of seducing an innocent young lass into becoming one of them. As they strip her and begin winding her in the neon green tape, an older woman with silvery hair begins conversing with me. I come to realize that she thinks she knows me from somewhere else and she asks me if I know her. When I respond negatively, she announces herself as "Madame Kane" from Manhattan and how it's so uncanny that I look just like "Madame Catherine." Oh good Lord. Yet again I have been mistaken for being a Domme - and by a professional Domme, no less! I gently correct Madame Kane (you wouldn't want to do anything less!) as we watch the final bumblebee sublimation of the young lady onstage.

From what I saw and experienced, the whole event was a rousing success. All of the fetish communities were in attendance and having fun together - gay, straight, black, white, Asian, transgendered, and even the occasional gawker dressed in formal evening attire in order to make dress code. The burly club security guards appeared only occasionally shocked at the goings-on, maintaining their professional reserve and looks of overall boredom quite well. True to form, the queue to get coats out of coat check at the end of the night was hideously long. Once I get home, it takes fully three cotton pads soaked in makeup remover to make my face look reasonably normal again.

I can't wait til next year's Ball!


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