|Some nights end with an empty bed and Netflix, other's end with experiences you won't soon forget|
From all my travels, the one thing I’ve learned is that exploration is a mindset. While seeking out new and exciting possibilities may be easier À l'étranger, the truth is, there are places within your own city that still hold mystery (even you small towners!). While it has been an adjustment returning to the US, my recent trip to Baltimore reminded me that those who ever find themselves bored must actually be boring.
After re-living my anxiety youth at a punk rock show, the buddy I had come to visit needed to turn in for the night. With deadlines piling up, I found myself with the choice to return to his place and sulk at 10 pm on a Wednesday, or explore the city alone. With a promised ride from his roommate returning around 1 AM, I decided to see where the solo night would take me. While this is normal practice abroad, I hadn’t actually done much solo bar hopping in my own stomping grounds. This seemed like the perfect night to break the ice.
After scouring the city for awhile with no luck (apparently I was stuck between Inner Harbor and Fells Point), I found a bar that seemed to be somewhat happening. With a hope of a good time, my icy fingers pressed open the large wooden door of myth and moonshine... to an underwhelming sight of an empty floor. The kicker, though, was the blaring music wafting down from a spiraling stair case. Maybe this night wouldn't be a bust after all?
Upon summiting the stairs, I was rewarded with glorious view of a packed bar. People were mingling, dancing, laughing, and even playing Wii on a big screen. In fact, the bar was so packed that the jacked, well-groomed bartender took 10 minutes to even notice me, then another 10 to make my drink. Alas, having found a seat at the bar, and receiving my Moonshine Mule, it looked like the night was taking a turn for the better.
As I scouted the bar, I began to notice that this was a very touchy group. Everyone seemed to be either coupled off, or at least very keen to give affection. On top of that, everyone was adorned in either red or black. Before I could finish my thought, a taller, larger, blond women sat down next to me and began to chat. She opened with a small dose of flattery, and while I was somewhat reluctant to accept, she began to pry for information. She wanted to know how I ended up here, who I knew, and a slew of other questions that reminded me of an interrogation on day-time TV cop show. It was curious, so I started to play along until finally my new friend couldn’t take it. She asked me if I knew what “this,” was. With a shake of the head, my night accelerated from 0-60 in a flash.
What I had unconsciously stumbled upon was a weekly meet up for a local bondage group in Baltimore. The group recruits online, then does a weekly meet up to make sure all parties are comfortable with one another before heading to the weekend destination for what could only be described as hedonistic, unbridled, fuck fest (not my words…). The girl began to point out big players in the scene, as well as opened my eyes to many of the occupants wearing ropes or clandestine chains, woven into typical attire. One girl in particular had her favorite S&M toy tied into her bow, and would repeatedly be tugged to the ground by passerbys. As I took in my surroundings, a friend of my new friend came and outwardly explained how the entire process, as well as the “scene,” actually works. This climaxed with explanation of how there is an entire house system (think Harry Potter meets the promiscuous greek house meets Rocky Horror) which people have to bid to join. Each house has its own culture, and of course, some are in higher regard than others. No one wants to end up at the bummer S&M house on a saturday night…
I was in utter awe, and completely taken out of my comfort zone. The night was still young, but I had also reached my limit as the last sip of Moonshine Mule slowly slithered down the hatch. I thanked my new friends for the introduction, and sheepishly walked back down the stairs and into the chilly, Baltimore night.
While I’ll always advocate for trying one’s hand at a trip abroad, the truth is that life is a long, twisting, epic voyage. Each of us has the option to fall into rhythm, visiting the same restaurants, bars, and friends, or we can continue to explore. Who knows, maybe the next time you go grab a night cap, you’ll find yourself getting whisped away by an intoxicated birthday crew in possession of free passes to a “night club,” that oddly resembles a strip joint (this may or may not have happened in the same night). Don’t let your location stop you from exploring your horizons.
Photo courtesy of the Examiner