Copyright 2002 to <pablo@thetreehouse.net> Please respect this copyright. Don't distribute or archive this story in any way except for personal use without explicit permission. No, it's not in the public domain. Ask first, okay? Thanks.

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[Posted to soc.sexuality.spanking, 10 April 2002]

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[Image of Mr Impossible]Pigtails and Cowboy Hats: A Shadow Lane Ramble (part 1/2)
by Pablo

Looking for a cute, ersatz hook to hang this account from, I'd probably come up with something like this . . .

So long a journey, and so short a journey. A twenty-minute hop over the Hollywood hills to Studio City is the last step from a seemingly-long-ago childhood of solitary and furtive scouring of library stacks, to the very epicentre of spankodom; from a kid's sure and certain knowledge that - even amongst his many secrets from the adults around him - this was easily the most untellable, the most secret secret of all, to a place where spanking shares space, importance, openness, normality, with Bar Mitzvahs and wedding receptions. Each magically unique to its participants. Each tediously humdrum to the others. Well, perhaps not humdrum. Not yet, at least. But treated as if it ought to be humdrum to the others. And that oddly seeming the most important thing.

But enough of that blah. Though the shortness of Mija's and my journey to the Sportsman's Lodge, the (by-now) familiarity of Los Angeles's grubbily faded decadence, might well account for the feeling I'd had for some time that this wasn't anything out of the ordinary. I'd come far enough in the kink that a Shadow Lane party was something I could deal with without it - putting it this way - leaving a mark. So why, sitting across from Mija in Barsac's restaurant on Valentine's Day, was I so nervously expectant? Not the simple thrill of seeing one human being smack another's bottom. Not any more. Not some expectation that a cutely-uniformed schoolgirl might throw herself over my lap, or make a lap for me to throw myself over. I didn't expect to play at all. Not why I was there. Observing. As usual.

So why? Maybe simply that a gathering of two-hundred-odd (and two-hundred odd?) people of any description would usually make me run screaming in the other direction, yet here I was (with Mija as my support, and I hers - one of those arrangements where you incline back-to-back with someone, each trusting the other not to fail), about to head right into such a gathering, united by nothing less than the most important secret I've ever had. Maybe that some (many? most?) of them might already know me? Or rather 'Pablo', the persona that's a lens to be seen through - hopefully not a distorting lens, but a lens all the same. An odd, gleefully arrogant enjoyment in being preceded by whatever reputation I might have?

It's a short drive from Barsac's to the Sportsmen's Lodge, and it's late. Nevertheless, the hotel seems eerily quiet, as if dealing with the kinkiness of its new guests by making itself as isolated as the Overlook. It has a wilfully dated charm - pining for the sixties perhaps. A notice by the reception apologises for the fact that the pool is out of action for some time. I wonder stupidly for a moment if this is to prevent damage caused by bratty antics, imagining the WWIII of squirt guns, but the pool turns out to be a huge hole in the ground. Never mind.

Mija and I find our room, passing no-one else on the way. It feels very much like the calm before the storm. It feels good to be there early, too. Peaceful. We both sleep soundly.

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Friday. We doze for a while, then progress to snuggling. As usual, I find great cocooning hotel-room restfulness in the knowledge that no-one knows where I am, that I'm cut off from all channels of communication. Heading to the bathroom, I hear voices from the connecting door to the next room, and listen. It's J.&J., friends of ours who we'd arranged to get adjoining rooms with, so that we could hold a little room-party later. The noises aren't entirely vanilla, so we don't disturb them, but Mija scribbles notes on the hotel notepaper and posts them under the door. 'We can hear you!' the first one says. But they're ignored. Too busy spanking, it seems. And so the weekend begins. (Later, Mija phones J.&J., and we discover that they'd dropped their luggage in front of the door, thwarting our teasing.)

We have the afternoon free, and it's a lovely California day (even the horrible California days seem bright and sunny to this correspondent), so Mija and I head off to the Getty for some culture. And find it. The Getty turns out to be spectacular in pretty much every way I can think of. The setting is glorious; the architecture is from a dream; the collection is small but perfectly formed; the food is fine, but priced reasonably; the whole experience is organised with a smooth precision that Disney would covet, and yet at the same time a sense of unhurried freedom that would make him deeply suspicious. Lawrence Alma-Tadema's 'Spring' brings tears to my eyes. Edvard Munch's 'Starry Night' brings tears to Mija's eyes. We have a good time, and head slowly back to Studio City in the late afternoon.

The hotel feels very different when we get back. There's a busyness to it, a sense of nervous preparation. I pick up some of that nervousness too. We're heading into the hotel when someone calls out a hello to Mija across the car-park. It's Tony Elka. Of course. I find myself both reminded and relieved that Mija knows far more people in the scene than I do. It makes things easier for me, as 'I' an 'INT' as Jung ever contemplated. We do the hellos and mutual appreciation. Tony looks both focused and a little distracted, like a actor preparing for the first night. On the way up to our room, each moment of eye contact with the other guests is layered, questioning, guarded. More than is usually the case I wonder what they see. One of those weird perverts? Or perhaps one of those fellow weird perverts. Maybe they're just wondering what I see, and whether I can tell. I'm wondering the same thing. And so on and so forth.

Resting in our room for a while, I wander out to the balcony. A family - mother, father, young son and daughter - is strolling under the gazebos and across the twee little bridges in the gardens below. Since rhythmic smacking has been audible pretty much continuously from one room or another since the day began, I imagine innocent questions and the parents' flustered explanations. It makes me smile, and not particularly generously. I find that I'd quite like it to be hard for them to explain.

While Mija is taking a bath, I wander downstairs to scope things out. Outside of one of the function rooms, Tony is already welcoming a steady stream of perverts. At least, they look like perverts. Which is to say, they look perfectly normal. I grab some soda from a vending machine and head back upstairs. The impending need to be sociable is starting to make me pretty nervous. While Mija changes, I cut out the invitations she's printed for the room-party. The nominal hosts are J.&J., the two of us, and S.&D., friends of J.(&J.) from a BDSM group in Denver. It'll turn out that we won't get to spend much time with S.&D., which is a shame. I want them to have a good time, and to take strong links between the two groups back home with them. Stupidly, I feel insecure on behalf of the whole of my kink, and want it to impress them.

Dressed, and fashionably late (if not exactly fashionable in any other sense), we make our way downstairs. There's a small cluster of people waiting to collect name-tags from Tony, and we join it. Mija has commented already to me that the social dynamic feels like high-school. In both good and bad ways, I think. Not that we're children, but there's the same sense of not quite knowing how to behave, and what the protocols are, but a certainty that everyone else knows. Perhaps I'm projecting my own nervousness.

'Hello, my name is _____, and I'm a: spanker _, spankee _, switch _, other _', says the name-tag. Decades of past and future debate about nuances and nomenclature of orientation distilled into four neat little boxes. I write 'Pablo' nice and big - it crosses my mind to use my real name, which I'd honestly prefer - but in the end I decide to find out if the assumed name means anything. Reluctantly - I'd rather leave it blank - I put a cross by 'switch'. Within ten minutes, I'll have pinned the name-tag somewhere decidedly unobtrusive (a pointless compromise), lost it on the floor in the party room, and then have had to get another - high-school again - from Tony. I start imagining the first being picked up by an imposter Pablo, who spends the rest of the weekend as me. ('You know, he wasn't at all what I imagined.')

The party room is smaller than I'd expected, and quite stiff. No momentum yet. It turns out that the vendors are all upstairs in a matching room of the same size, this one serving as a kind of perversion airlock between the hotel and kink-central. We grab a table and some food. Gradually, familiar faces appear. J.&J., she cute and confident in school uniform, he resplendent in headmasterly robes like a very British Batman. It strikes me how few other people are dressed in anything resembling fetish-wear. And then that for this flavour of the kink, normality is often the fetish: a kind of ultra-vanilla. T. and her husband D., friends of ours I'd met for the first time only a couple of months before. She's a relative veteran of spanko parties. He's a converted vanilla, and it's his first. The strong silent type; he looks to be doing fine. I fancy that he'll catch a few eyes in the next couple of days. M., a young, cutely-geeky man who Mija met at the previous Shadow Lane in Palm Springs.

The numbers reach some sort of critical mass, and tension is broken. A woman is being spanked bare-bottomed over the lap of someone at a crowded table in the centre of the room, and is the subject of much cooing. It turns out to be G., another acquaintance of Mija and J.&J., school-kink fanatic and all-around ball of trouble. After a lengthy hand-spanking, she climbs to her feet with a shout of 'This isn't the Hoffman Bar Mitzvah?!', and brings the house down.

A couple, J.&G., cautiously introduce themselves to us. I can't decide whether it's because we look as if we know our way around, or because we look as if, like them, we don't. It's their first party of any kind. She's all nervous energy, shy but clearly wanting to make connections and be involved. He looks frankly a little terrified. They're both very nice, though, and it's great to feel some of the glow of their excitement. We give them invitations to our room-party the next day, then head upstairs to check out the vendors.

The vendor room is much brighter, busier, kinkier. Tables line the walls and run along the centre. There's a good collection of implements on display, though it betrays the party's location: nicely-crafted wooden paddles are in abundance, though good-quality canes, tawses and such are much harder to find. A vendor of canes and paddles catches my accent. He loudly, rather pushily, asks where I'm from, then proceeds to provide a clumsy, charmless imitation. He's a British ex-pat, though not from my part of the country. I smile and move on. There are one or two things I'm aimlessly looking for - a nice heavy tawse, and a replacement for the light swishy cane of ours that's recently broken - but I won't find them here.

There's a nice selection of videos on sale, too, though I don't see anything tempting. Once upon a time I'd have gobbled them up gleefully, but that interest doesn't seem to be there anymore - it feels like I can trace its disappearance back to the moment I started to write my own fantasies rather than absorb others', and to when play became real for me. Besides, all this stuff and more is available on the 'net. Being here is about the people and the event - if only for me as a relative observer.

Mija has wandered ahead of me, and I spot her talking to someone. She calls me over and introduces me to Eve Howard, who she's been talking to for a short while. Eve is small, and quirkily glamorous. We small-talk for a bit, then Eve excuses herself.

Mija tells me that she'd like a break from people for a while, so we head back to our room for a rest. It is good to get back to the cocoon. Mija and I are both introverts, but we function very differently in social situations. She's typically insecure almost to the point of nausea when she meets new people, whereas I'm arrogant enough not to give much of a shit what they think about me, so it's less stressful. When she does find herself in social situations, Mija gives all of herself until she's completely drained, whereas I tend to keep myself at a distance to conserve what little social energies I have.

It's easier for Mija this time I think, having me with her, but she's still drained. We snuggle for a while, and then progress to some fun play which ends up going further than either of us had anticipated. Amongst so many other people, it's nice to have time and space to ourselves.

When we finally emerge and wander downstairs again, hoping to catch the last hour or so of the gathering, it's later than we'd thought, and everyone is packing up.

But that's okay. We both feel like food, so we venture out to Studio City, and walk the hundred yards or so to Jerry's Deli. It's packed, as usual, but the atmosphere is good, and we see lots of familiar faces from the Sportsmen's. Over burgers and fries we - re-energised - talk about nothing and everything. It's quite late by the time we get back to our room, so we climb into bed. Today has been a gentle introduction, and we both know tomorrow will be much heavier in many ways.

Sleep.

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Saturday. And it's my birthday. I'm 34. And don't look a day over 35. It's not the years; it's the mileage.

We get up and out relatively early, because we need to buy stuff for the room-party this afternoon. So we sojourn to Ralph's, which is just across the street.

Sodas, wine, snacks, plastic plates and cutlery, the usual stuff. And a birthday cake. Mija had been planning a much more elaborate - and therefore much more embarrassing - surprise celebration of my birthday, but the (only half-joking) threat of a public caning seems to have tempered those plans. I hate being fussed over. Not the pretend, curmudgeonly hate that's really a reluctance to admit how much one actually likes the fuss, but a genuine discomfort. The cake is the most (which is to say the least) that I can hope for. Mija enjoys fussing over me, and embarrassing me, enough that she'd take the caning rather than abandon even the idea of a cake. So I choose a raspberry gateau. At least I'll get to enjoy the cake.

Back in our room, we set out snacks and stuff. I fill the galvanised steel tamale pot we brought along with us with ice to serve as a cooler, then fill it with Cokes.

We wash and dress - me in the clean T-shirt and khakis that's as formal as I ever really get, Mija in one of her slightly less-formal school uniforms. I lay out a selection of our toys, for anyone to use should they want to.

And that's it. Our door left open, more or less when we said the party was meant to start, to my faint amazement (though with no help from my anaemic socialising skills) people start to wander in. We've left the connecting door to J.&J.'s room open but their room door closed, so that their room can serve as a space for quieter and more private play.

J.&J. are dressed as headmaster and schoolgirl again, and are much more actual hosts than Mija and I, who tend naturally to fall back socially if we can. S.&D., J.&J.'s friends from Denver, come by and make introductions. There are enough people around already, though, that my introversion kicks in a little. It's great to see people I've already met. T.&D., both a bit withdrawn. G., also doing the schoolgirl thing, in spades. She's a fizzing ball of spanko energy, and is almost immediately over various laps, howling and expressing what looks to be genuine penitence, then bratty as they come once more as soon as she's back on her feet. M., quiet and watchful. We talk some, geek to geek. J.&G., who we'd met the night before, still excited, though a little more confident now.

Suddenly it seems like both rooms are full of people and buzzing - the product of J.&J.'s networking skills, no doubt - and it seems a good mix of people.

Someone J.(&J.) is talking to catches my eye, and my ear. She's dressed as a very bad schoolgirl - uniform askew, lollipop clamped into her mouth, pigtails swinging challengingly as he starts to gently scold her. Her accent is familiar - I'm finding that I'm already sensitive to British accents this far from home. She turns out to be K., a young woman from the south of England, who associates rather more with BDSM than with spanking. There's a wide-eyed and gleeful energy about her that's totally infectious.

At one point, when the room is full and everyone seems occupied, I see Mija sidle into the bathroom, and steel myself. I know what's coming. She emerges with the birthday cake, thirty-four candles burning brightly, and the whole room sings happy birthday to Pablo. Most of them don't know me from Adam, which makes me a little uncomfortable (this little ritual is the most non-consensual thing I'll see all weekend), but it's over soon, and I cut the cake - which turns out to be yummy.

There's another compensation too. Mija might have escaped the threatened public caning, but I'm feeling playful and evil enough to punish her anyhow for having embarrassed me - even though I knew it was coming. Funny how someone so introverted could enjoy this sort of performance so much, but I do.

I stand her in front of me, scolding softly. I'm barely aware of it, but I think the room gradually quietens. It reminds me a little of a time early on in our relationship when we'd bring IRC channels to prolonged silence with our cyber-play. Wholly rude and arrogant. Fun, though.

I ask Mija which way round she'd prefer to be, and if she wants the assembled company to watch her face or her bottom as I spank her. She doesn't want to answer. I know the answer anyhow, so I take down her panties and turn her across my knees, her bare bottom facing the room. I start hand-spanking, hard, and I know I've got everyone's attention. Though I don't really feel it. It's like there's only the two of us there. It's only after I've spanked her long and hard, then asked her if she's sorry, that I'm reminded we're in a hotel room full of people. She says that she's sorry, but her tone of voice betrays some remaining insincerity (of course, she's playing to the crowd every bit as much as I am), so I ask someone to pass me our ebony hairbrush, then pin her legs between mine.

'I was sincere, you bastard!' she growls, and there are gasps and nervous laughs and 'uh-oh's around the room. So, I blister Mija hard and fast with the brush. Pretty soon she's kicking and crying and unquestionably sincere. I give her some time to gather herself, have her kneel on the floor in front of me, then wrap her up in some comforting hugs. She rubs and pouts, but there are private smiles too. We both know it was a pretty good show.

There's playing in both rooms by now, mixed in with talking and snacking. It seems a good atmosphere. People wander by and watch for a while. And that's cool. Having our door open feels right. Normal.

J.(&J.) and Mija continue their hand-tawsing exploits. Most every time they get together, J.(&J.) finds cause to tawse Mija's hands. Sometimes it's as part of a scene. Sometimes it's just because. Always it's for the sense of confrontation, and because he knows he can whack Mija's hands as hard as he wants to and because, up to a point, she'll be able to be stoic. They both know that the audience will make it easier for Mija to be strong, and that's good for both of them. She wants to be brave, and to be seen to be brave. He wants her to be brave, but to see her break eventually. It's worth more for being hard-fought.

I love to watch the two of them go at it. Participating in a scene is a wonderful thing, but one's viewpoint is always limited and partial. Perhaps it comes from my switchiness - wanting to and able to associate with both sides - but watching the emotional dynamic between two experienced and talented players is wonderful in a different but equally significant way.

This time, there's no pretext for the tawsing. They're just putting on a show - for each other as much as for the rest of the room.

As J.(&J.) uses his long tawse hard on Mija's held-high hands, both their eyes sparkle. Eye-contact is important for both of them: he wants to see her pain; she wants him to see her defiance, and holds on to his eyes like she might hold on to a chair-rung were she over his lap. This might be partially a performance for an audience, but they're focused entirely on each other.

As usual, many people find it hard to watch. Some, impossible. I know how much Mija can take, so I don't flinch. She does give in eventually, though, as she always has to. But by this time she's assured half of the victory, and her hands are bright red and achingly stiff. And they've silenced the room. They smile and hug, two worthy adversaries.

A short while later, there's a commotion from the connecting room. It seems that J.(&J.)'s huge leather strap has gone missing. He suspects G. - mostly for the entirely sound reason that she's hidden his toys before - though she claims innocence this time, the story of the boy who cried 'wolf' in reverse. Fond of it (it's not my cup of tea, as it were, but it's a lovely thing), J.(&J.) is clearly annoyed and flustered, and traces back where he could have left it. Despite this, he seems genuinely to suspect G., bends her over one of the beds and begins to try to tawse the truth out of her.

It's still playful, but there's also an edge of real frustration in both of them. Finally coming to believe that she's telling the truth - meaning that he suspects someone else - he ratchets up the meanness by saying that he's going to keep on tawsing her until someone finds the strap. There's a general frantic search, while J.(&J.) keeps whacking G.

And then the thing is finally found. Inside J.(&J.)'s headmasterly robes. He must have left it inside them when he took off the robes earlier. Understandably, there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Mija and G. lead the call for him to be strapped by G. with this monster thing for having been so cruel and unusual. There is a precedent for this: G. strapped him with it at a previous Shadow Lane, as an exercise to let him find out what it felt like (and I've seen the photos). I add my weight to the argument by asserting that I would consider it fair were I in his position. I would, too. Though am glad I'm not.

Unsportingly, he demurs. At this point, his dalliance with non-consensuality rebounds, however, and he's overpowered by Mija, G. and a couple of other brave souls, then debagged. Seizing the moment (and my camera), I decide to capture the scene, and snap away happily, standing on the other bed to get the best angles. G. thrashes gleefully, accuracy losing somewhat to enthusiasm. She looks like she couldn't be happier.

Meannesses balanced at this point, the normal order of things is soon resumed. G. finds herself across J.(&J.)'s lap, Mija finds herself bending over the bed, her hands safely wrapped in mine, for a caning, and the revenge of the revenge of the revenge leaves everyone happy, or whacked, or both.

It's been a fun afternoon. However it happened (little of my doing), there's been a good, healthy, positive energy about this little gathering. Some play, some talk, (I hope) a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. As people drift away to get ready for the evening dinner, they seem to have had a good time, and I'm glad.

We clear away the party things, and rest for a while before we have to change for dinner. The day has a way to go yet.

There's a brief interlude before dinner, though. T.(&D.), whose room is opposite ours, comes and tells us that Gordon is in their room and will have some time to see Mija soon. This is big news. Gordon is a masseur, and seems to be something of a superstar in the spanking and BDSM world. One of his sought-after skills is treating bruises and other marks on video models and other scene professionals. He's travelled a long way: he's originally from Scotland, but now lives in Hong Kong. The last time Mija was at Shadow Lane (and I was still in Britain), when I phoned her he asked to speak to me so that he could get the latest football results. So we've met, kinda.

Mija slips into a towel and heads across to T.&D.'s room. A discreet time afterwards, I follow, and sit watching Gordon do his stuff. I know nothing about his craft, but I can tell he's good. Mija looks like all her bones have been surgically removed, and is purring. I ask Gordon some questions about what he's doing that must be terribly old, but he's patient and gracious. And busy. As soon as he's worked on some of Mija's bruises (old and new), he dashes off to another part of the city. I'll see him again later in the evening back at Shadow Lane.

He only works on women, they say. Some life.

[continued in part 2/2 . . .]

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