Inside Thoughts


No, that’s not the name of a new outcall agency — I’m just trying to put into a simple, keen phrase what it feels like for a (bloggging) girl here over the last few days, speaking only for myself, of course. I have windows and windows full of notes, and spend most of my time between formal sessions seeking out folks who have spoken to build more rapport with them to better represent those notes. This is more nuanced than the direct quoting of traditional journalism, for me, and an approach Dacia and I have convened and checked-in over each day: the need for consent, accountability, and also, to record not just the “correct” words of each participant, but to preserve the broader context into which she or he is speaking, to record how he or she locates her or himself in both our movement and society-at-large, and to recognize that taking this attention to our communications is something that most reporting is not designed to do.

Blogging seems so suited to my style of documentation — of our history, of our culture — because of that flexibility, because it requires me to position myself within my own documentation.

This is why, in my actually live coverage of our action last night, many of our conversations this week seemed to coalesce, encapsulated in our walk up and down the Strip…

… and this is why I’m attempting to operate here as both blog evangelist and demystifier; and why I’m taking 5 minutes before another day of it to put this down, philosophy of communications in the moment (and also, of course, so I can cite this is in my workshop in a few hours — hello, gorgeous transparency).

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Here just outside of Vegas with Megan Wheelehan, an activist working with the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center, and Deirdre Stewart, intern with SWOP and an Anthropology student at UC-Berkeley, who is researching sex worker activists for her thesis. It’s before noon, the World Cup is on, and the thermometer’s showing 100 already.

After marveling at getting GPRS connections steadily from Fresno to Barstow, lots of get-to-know-you in the car (and a stop off in Gilroy in search of fancy scarves — I ended up acknowledging that ‘the West has won’ me and bought my first not quite cowboy enough to be a cowboy black straw hat), pit stops at the most marvelously stocked roadside attractions (d.i.y. color-by-number velvet paintings!), and a harrowing moment on the edge of the Mojave where I was almost positive a bat flung itself on the windshield (rip, hst), Megan, Deirdre and I rolled on through more desert and more desert, arriving well after dark to an almost full moon.

Nothing like getting into town, covered in dust and slathered still in sunscreen, and being greeted with a cool shower, the softest bed, and welcoming smiles and hugs from our host, who until a few hours ago, we only knew from our conference calls and organizing email lists. We turned in early (by Vegas standards, at least — midnight), Megan and I still dressed all up in our going-out-to-conquer-the-night clothes. We had every intention, we did. The night conquered us instead.

France and Italy, by the way, still tied, and Stacey, director of the Desiree Alliance, just popped in to say goodbye before heading out to set up for the conference. We haven’t even hit the Strip yet, or that hot hot heat, either, and so I’m doing my best Girl Scout to be prepared. SPF 20 lipgloss, check. Enormous water bottle, check. Hair off the neck and the shortest skirt (oh, no comment), check.

It’s just a few hours (and let’s admit it, at least one dip in the pool) before the official opening and first panel with Erika Smith, Sharmus Outlaw, Dr. Robert Lawrence, Gennifer M. Hirano, Starchild, and Robyn Few.

Lookout, Vegas.

Lookout, America.

The $preadsters arrived from New York on Saturday in shifts – editor-in-chief Rachel, myself and my fellow executive editor Eliyanna got a 9 am flight out of LaGuardia, big bags of magazines in tow (that shit is heavy, let me tell you). We were joined later by our art director Erin and our staff writer, Astrid. Its been a little bit of heat shock (“Girls! Its so goddamn hot! I hate the sun!” was whined more than once) but more than that, culture shock (“Girls! Look at them! This is America!”).

We are from New York, where people are soothingly oblivious to the existence of other human beings, and so we keep being suspicious of people and their kindnesses (“Why is she talking to me? Is she trying to rob me?”). Eliyanna was wearing our pink $pread tee, and she got a few different comments on it – and no one in New York ever comments on this shirt. Two were of the “your magazine will do great in this town!” variety, but one question at the Palace Station Hotel was extra good, and came as a result of Eliyanna asking for a light (mmm, indoor smoking): “Aren’t you a bit short to be a stripper?” Ever the persuant of the teachable moment, Eliyanna suggested to him that there were other kinds of sex workers than strippers, and that many different kinds of people with many different body shapes could be sex workers. The expression on his face said that he’d just had his brain rearranged.

After a few naps and a few gigantic meals, Erin, Eliyanna and I headed out to explore – we met up with my girl Bella Vendetta at the Sahara to have drinks, gossip and catch up. While sitting at the bar, a middle aged lady bartender sauntered over to us and started enquiring about our tattoos – three of us have visible ones (and Bella’s got bunches) and I have a less visible one on my back which our bartender, Sherry, promopted me to bare. This launched her into a really terrific story about her tattoo. She told us that on one of many nights she spent out drinking, she was hanging out with a bunch of her friends, who are hookers and happened to be all kinds of tattooed.

Here she made a dramatic pause, gesticulated broadly at the four of us and said, “Not that I’m saying that YOU are hookers!”

We laughed a little too hard and too long and exchanged looks with each other. And then her story got really awesome.

She said that after many drinks she told her friends that she’d always wanted a tattoo, and that maybe it was the perfect night to get inked. Her friends took her to the tattoo parlor of a friend of theirs – and the artist was not especially excited to tattoo a heavily inebriated woman, but her friends convinced him. She spent a long time looking at flash on the walls, until she found the perfect butterfly. In her drunken state, she couldn’t see the details on the butterfly she loved, so the artist made sure that she knew that the body of the butterfly was actually a penis spurting come.

This, she thought, was an even better idea than before – she got it tattooed on her right shoulder blade.

She sported the tattoo for a bunch of years, and her friends all thought it was a fantastic conversation piece (“Come on Sherry! Show us your cock!”), until her inlaws came to visit from Russia. In a bit of a panic about what they would think about her cock, she went back to the same tattoo artist and told him she needed a cock removal – and had it reworked so it just looked like a regular old butterfly.

Last night she said that she did regret getting her cock hidden, and that she was thinking about possibly getting a new tattoo, to bring out her inner cock.

Sometimes friendly people have amazing stories.

Obviously, I’m not done packing yet to head out to Vegas, as I’m in front of my laptop — which is also unpacked, along with (and here’s the gear coming with:)

  • my old iPod now running Linux, to better record with in the conference hallways between sessions (best stuff, always; this is a theme worthy of a conference all by itself: we can call it CorridorCamp), and while driving with the top down, and while walking the Strip looking for interviews
  • the fancy “Elvis” mic and phantom power and all the cables I use to record my podcast, whorecast, for recording my share of the official conference sessions
  • random cords, adaptors, connectors; like a little black dress, you just never know…
  • a few boxes of red, green, and gold stars (the meaning will be clear once conference registration starts on Sunday)

… and the mandatory shoes, digital camera, water mister with essential oils added, business cards (not business like that). Just need to clear out room in my little silver card case for all the new ones I’m sure to pick up.

Essentially — this is really just like any other conference.

But the hotel thing is so getting me, hotels as marked as they are, so in my mind they are, as sex workers’ contested territory.

This time, going about in the lobby and elevators, when people stare like they know “why we’re there”? This time, they really do. And we can talk about it all we like.

* I’ve been reading a few Vegas blogs, where it would seem that “local” and “visitor” are now slang for hotel working girls? Can anyone corroborate?