Tag Archives: homesick

BDSM: Baltimore Doesn’t Scare Me

6 Jan

“Don’t forget to play Macho Man! And YMCA!” My manager is texting me.

I’m standing in a dark elevated DJ booth futilely trying to hook up mixer wires into my computer, looking out over Baltimore’s premiere leather BDSM gay bar.

It’s my 11th day in Maryland.

Back up.

I spent my first week training to start doing trivia with a new company here. Although it’s a different format than Geeks Who Drink’s trivia, I was so happy to be back in my element – with a microphone in my hand, reading questions to drunk nerds. My manager gave me two bars to host weekly, one, an Irish bar in Timonium, with decor that wouldn’t look out of place on Game of Thrones. It’s a warm place with an older crowd. Easy peasy.

Manager, whom I’ll call Dan, messages me on Monday asking me if I’d be OK heading up a new locale, a hip gay bar downtown. The guy they have isn’t working out and they want someone with a lot of energy and experience. I readily agree. It’d be a nice contrast to the relaxed pace of the Irish bar. I start looking on their website to find the address.

The first thing I see pop up on the site are two rugged men wearing gimp masks. Another photo of 6 burly men caressing a football wearing what appear to be thongs.

The screen reads: “Leather. Bear. Fetish. BDSM. Life’s better with a little punishment.”

What?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with kinks – far from it. But what kind of bondage bar has a trivia night??? I text my manager jokingly pointing out that he didn’t clarify what KIND of gay bar I’d be working at – he hastily tries to assure me that they are just trying to fill the slow hours evening between opening and when it gets wild with something that’ll attract “after-work gays.”

I ask Ari if he wants to accompany me. He politely declines.

I don’t know if it’s because it’s winter (so dark early), every area is unfamiliar to me or because many articles I’ve read recently referred to this city as “Bodymore, Murderland” (first of all, Bodymore? Not Bulletmore? Come on people – use your brain) but I was apprehensive about the bar while looking for parking. Inside though, it was clean and Depreche Mod played softly from the speakers, everything was chrome and brick. Tasteful black and white photos of men cuddling hung from the walls. A sign pointing upstairs told me there was a bondage shop selling everything from whips to bow ties (“for that special occasion.”) I’m pretty sure everyone inside thought I was lost.

A lone bespectacled man sipped from a pink drink at the bar. I introduced myself to the bartender Nicole who informed me that trivia actually start at 8, not 7:30 as I was told. I had 2 hours to kill.

I started setting up my equipment. Buddha Beer Bar had a slightly raised platform for me to stand on, the Irish pub had a castle like area with turrets surrounding it, but this bar had a DJ booth. I was at least 3 feet above the audience and I felt very on display (not as on-display as the jock-straps in the corner but pretty close).

After some technical difficulties, the game started and once I had my script going, it went smoothly. There were 3 teams thankfully so nothing was too overwhelming. Two hours went by with no disasters – not bad for my first solo show.

The only awkward part of the night was when I announced the category “Baseball” and guys booed. I fired back with “If you guys hate sports so much why are you watching basketball HMMM??” And then immediately remembered where I was.

The next category was “the devil” and everyone cheered.

The category after that was “land borders” which received no response.

I mentioned that I was new to the city and got a cheer. Afterwards, guys came up to me to welcome me and to ask if I would be doing trivia every week.

I spent a while talking to three young men who informed me that it was “twink night” at the bar, which was why there was only one guy walking around with a leather kilt and harness. They were also delighted to learn I was in comedy and one gave me his number and email to put me in contact with a friend of his who hosts ladies’ open mics. Of all the things I was expecting that night, getting a guy’s number was not one of them.

And I didn’t play The Village People like my boss enthusiastically suggested.

It felt wonderful to be back on stage. Tues, Wednesday and Thursday were great. I met the director of the Baltimore Museum of Industry, where I’ll be giving tours, Thursday night Ari and I explored a very cool brewery in town.

Friday was hard.

I was driving around, buying food for Shabbat, going to the library, a doctor’s appointment. And starting feeling terribly homesick for New York. There’s so much I miss. Walking everywhere. The energy I feel from the huge amount of people everywhere. Or even the safety I feel from the huge amount of people everywhere. The lights, the buildings, the noise. The general buzz of electricity around every corner. In Baltimore, even in the cityest part feels spacious and empty. The complex we’re in started to feel like I was stranded on a desert island. My car closed in on me.

“What have I done?” I thought, crying and driving. “Why did I leave my friends and my home? This place isn’t for me. I want to go home.” Knowing that home was here now.

Just thinking about it makes me throat close up even now.

I have to keep reminding myself why I wanted to move in the first place. To challenge myself creatively – to live somewhere where I could find a different audience and different experiences. A place that would put me closer to where I needed to be despite the fact that it feels like I’m isolated. A place that would be a compromise between the suburbs, quiet and space Ari wants and the city where I could do everything I dreamed of.

The fact that I could just jump in the first week, get on stage, and take control is a testament to how much I accomplished and learned in NY.

Sure, I could’ve stayed there, continuing to do a good job at trivia, stay an intern at QED, spend 45 min on the train to go to open mics and compete with the biggest talents and attractions in the world for an audience (in a theoretical sense – I don’t consider myself anything on the same level as “competition” to any amazing shows in the city obviously).

But it’s hard. And sometimes I feel sad and scared and utterly panicked that I made a huge mistake. And other times I feel elated and proud and completely enthralled by the promise of a new city and fascinating new experiences at every turn.

And sometimes I think of a mantra: “a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

Stay warm, friends ๐Ÿ™‚

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