At the risk of pissing some people off by breaking my anonymity as a clean and sober man, let me just throw it out there that I’ve been counting dayz for almost four years. And in my almost four years of clean and soberness, I’ve had zero desire to hit the Palm Springs desert community for this sober circuit party weekend called HND (I don’t dare mention the full name, cuz that really pisses some people off, and pissing people off gets you loaded…according to some pissy people).
I always figured HND is a sober gay man’s answer to the White Party. People say it’s the opposite of the WP, but the event takes place in Palm Springs, it caters to gay men from all over the world, there’s a bikini bottom party mentality leading up to the event, and it is NOT cheap to attend (I’m just sayin’, if it fucks like a duck…). Some queens highlight HND right up there with sober birthdays. Recovery is supposed to be an inside job, but a lot of bitches crack and relapse under the pressures of being bikini ready for what organizers like to refer to as a gay man’s sober conference (just make sure you B.Y.O.B.-bring your own bikini). I hated the White Party when I was drunk and high…so why would I love it being clean and sober?
I decided to go this year and maybe broaden my sober horizons. It’s been a shitty year. I’m a year older. I’ve had some relationship drama and wah, wah, WAH! I figured worst-case scenario, I could fix some feelings while checking out the pretty sober Speedo people lounging by a pool, and maybe cut loose on a dance floor with some of my close friends, who have been hounding me to register for months—oh yeah and I want to attend some sober workshops and hit a meeting or two. I pinched $150.00 and I registered on the last week before the cutoff time, without even knowing if I could take the time off.
Watch out HND, cuz here I come.
Of course there was the important question of what to wear. I got this bright idea to rehash a bathing suit that I pulled straight out of the pages of an International Male catalogue back when I was 18 years old, um, not too long ago (clearing throat). I figured it was gay appropriate swimwear for a gay sober weekend. I believe the suit was called the X-Skinny. It’s kind of like a jockstrap number that’s tailor made for skinny people.
So here’s the skinny on the X-Skinny: I wore it to my first White Party weekend, even though I was too young to actually attend the WP event. I remember almost getting my friend Steven and me KILLED when we decided to go to the corner store to buy some gum. I walked out into the open streets wearing the X-Skinny and flip-flops, figuring that Palm Springs was a party town and that no one would give a shit—Then cut to hetero fucks screaming, “FAGGOTS!” They came at us from restaurant patios and from moving vehicles. We only made it half a block before our sandals clapped the heels of our feet while we made a mad dash back to the safety of the Marquis resort—but that was a long time ago. I submitted some pictures to a local tailor and I had a re-invented version made from scratch.
Then there was the question of the hair down there. X-Skinny aside, I was NOT about to shave my legs, or pluck my pubes like some stereotypical fag. I’m down for a little manscaping action to keep things somewhat tidy around the sackage area, but I was NOT taking a razor to the gonads to get that creepy-prepubescent-boy effect that my fellow homos seem to love so much, which gives me major buttcurl (raspberry-sized razor bumps are bound to follow). I compromised and trimmed the hedges around my bathing suit area, but the hair around my stomach and my legs remained.
By the time I got a haircut and I checked myself in for an emergency spray tan to splash some artificial health onto my pasty skin tone, I had already invested waayy too much time, money and energy towards a weekend that is supposed to focus on recovery, discovery, fellowship and spirituality.
We rolled into Palm Springs Wednesday evening, so we had plenty of time to acclimate to the resort. HND officially kicked off the following day. It started out mellow by the pool and it stayed that way the entire time. Thursday night offered a pajama party at a club called Dinks. Of course, it quickly turned into an underwear theme by the time the actual party rolled around (it’s the gay way). I tipped my hat to the White Party in white boxer-briefs, a tank top and a rosary (butch, I know). We left the safety of our little HND resort and walked to the club in our underwear without any trouble. The pajama/underwear party was in full swing. It has been years since I danced at a club in nothing but my underwear (never you mind). The bounce to my grind gave me a chub. I would have felt more liberated if I didn’t worry so much about getting skids in my shorts. I was a sweaty mess, so I kept taking periodic bathroom breaks to check for any human stains.
No slumber party is complete without a pillow fight. Thankfully I was outside when the feathers started flying. Add feathers to a bunch of sweaty queens and you’ve got yourself pretty funny scene. Queens screamed and ran out of the dance area looking like they had been tarred and feathered. I tried my damndest not to point and laugh. The party never gained momentum after that little disaster, but it was still a lot of fun.
THE SOBER SPEEDO PEOPLE
I have to admit that I almost chickened out of wearing the X-Skinny when the big Friday pool party rolled around. I stopped being 18-years-old…like a long, LONG time ago. The new version of my X-Skinny is skimpier than I remember. My balls were clinging to the fabric for dear life—trying not to spill out the tiny pouch, while my ass kept munching on the back portion of my barely-there suit. I cringed inwardly with embarrassment, but fuck it! I had to own it. I stepped out. My knees trembled. The splashing in the pool stopped. People turned to stare. It would have been a Fashion Police disaster if I didn’t put my shame aside and let them have it. Some of the sobers gave me props, my friends gave me shit, while others kept a polite distance. A twinky newcomer called the X-Skinny very “Gaga”, which in my opinion was NOT very nice.
OK, so I was wrong about HND being the sober version of the WP. I don’t think I have EVER been to a pool party where they played actual elevator music. I’m not even talking about top 40 contemporary shit, or 60s lounge lizard sounds. It was straight-up unrecognizable elevator crap that one hears while waiting for a root canal at a dentist’s office. Three days of sleepy sounds around the main pool and I was ready to bash someone’s teeth in to liven things up a bit. It was a real bummer. I don’t care how many people-pleasers say they loved being rocked to sleep at the pool party. The music sucked. Period.
There was some redemption when the live DJ stepped up to spin by the small pool Saturday afternoon. It was two days too late and it was over in a couple of hours, but I got my fix of what it used to be like, I remembered what happened and I’m so grateful for what it’s like now.
A lot of the guys were cute, but they weren’t sexually threatening, which is not to say that people didn’t have sex. It was obvious that people were fucking, but for the most part the atmosphere was…you know…um…”neat”…I felt so much affection for every single familiar face I encountered at HND—some of which have been a HUGE part of my recovery from the very beginning, and I did not hesitate to meet and greet the faces I didn’t recognize. It’s funny, but I like to think of myself as a reclusive writer, who isolates and is socially awkward, but the truth is I was pretty much in my element surrounded by strangers and half naked people. I hate to admit it, but I had a fucking BLAST. My face hurt from smiling so much.
We are not a glum lot…
The Luau was a shit load of fun. I love costume parties. But it would have been more fun if people knew about the theme in advance. Everyone made lies, but not many people dressed up. Of course my friends and I went all out in hula skirts, and sarongs, because that’s how my friends do it. No half measures where our costumes were concerned. But we only knew to dress up because we had an inside source who revealed the theme weeks in advance.
Then there were the workshops, which I did not attend (gulp), cuz I was busy lounging by the pool. Then there were the meetings, which I did not dare miss. The speakers for all three nights were incredible, but I’m treading dangerous waters where meetings are concerned, so I’m gonna move things along.
The shows also pretty um, “neat.” I’m not a huge fan of drag shows and I’m not into musical numbers where shirtless guys dance in the background with twinkle toes pointing out and jazz fingers wiggling all over the place, so I’m gonna move things along—although the slurring, drunken comedian at a sober event was an interesting touch.
The live DJ delivered some good house beats at the dances, but the attendance could’ve been better. Turns out most of the sobers hit up Hunters and all the other bars around Palm Springs. I was like damn, why didn’t I think of that. I didn’t care though. I just wanted to dance until my back hurt. Good times!
AA IS NOT ALLIED WITH ANY SECT…
I need to be honest. I had too much fun at HND. I don’t regret going. The people I met are great. I actually made some new friends (here’s a quick shout to MK), and I was more than happy to reconnect with some familiar faces…BUTTT you won’t get me back to the desert anytime soon (pissy people love this part). In my opinion, there was something so damn shady about the actual organization. There was too much red tape for a sober event. I witnessed way too many sponsors using AA lingo to bully their sponsees to “be of service” and take a “commitment” and basically work an event that cost them $150.00 to attend. This event is not allied with AA. It’s a sober circuit party, people—but hey, “Service keeps you sober.” However, if you don’t pay, you can’t attend the AA meetings and if you lose your meal ticket, you can’t eat and if you registered too early, or too late, chances are you didn’t get a gift bag (they kept telling me to come back at a later time and then it was too late; they ran out) and there were hidden hotel fees and a lot of it was just plain shady shit. We’re looking at 900 people at $150.00 a pop. That’s $135,000.00 not counting the many that didn’t make the event, but still paid their registration fee. Then there are the thousands of dollars made from lottery tickets that were sold for items that were donated. I’m sorry, but somebody was “of service” that weekend and then he collected a paycheck at the end of the week. Where exactly does the money go? Show me the money! Or humor me and show me a picture of some crack-headed fool that’s going to benefit from this event. Give me something! Sheesh.
And before people go there, of course I was of service in the spirit of the fellowship and for the sake of being a good sport (my sponsor made me do it). I put in some time to help with the tearing down of the event. I was told to dismantle the signage. My service work was cut short–however–when this self-important, anal retentive bitch with a grandiose tittle like chairperson or some shit along those lines screamed at me for tearing down the wrong sign by the pool. The bitch told me to tear down the signs, so I tore the fuckers down. Six months ago, I would’ve screamed right back at the cunt, but the clean and sober man I am today calmly walked away…and called his sponsor. It was great being of service (I needed a drink after being embarrassed like that). This resentment is a real keeper.
Trudging the road…
Anyway, like everything in life, HND is what you make of it. There is sex if you want it. There is fellowship. You can make it about getting attention. You can do the workshops. There is meditation and spirituality. And you can be of service. It’s pretty obvious that I mostly made it about having a good time and meeting people.
I did walk away from the weekend with some reflection. I recognize that if I put the same efforts into my writing/program/work/relationships that I put into that damn X-Skinny, the spray tan, the hair cut, the hula skirt, the manscape and all the superficial bullshit that I put into this “sober conference”…my book would be finished and I would be a much better person today. Yup, my priorities are royally fucked, but I’ll try not to be too pissy about it.