Saturday, June 8, 2013


Duff's in the Central West End is closing after 41 years of business at the end of June.

I associate Duff's with Lawyers and Poets. The high ceilings and solid wood pew-like tables and chairs create an atmosphere that summons the erudite folk for pints and educated conversations.

Most of my recent memories from Duff's, since moving back three years ago, are from Chance Operations,   I attended the premiere Chance Operations and I hope to attend the last one that will be held at Duff's, on June 24th.  (It is rumoured they will be moving to another location.)

Also a Secretary's Day luncheon with an attorney employer, a few random drinks, on a few different nights, with a few different people, going between Brennan's and Balaban's or Dressel's.

One of the strongest memories I have is a night at Duff's back in 1983 or so.  When I was 15 I became a radical political activist.  A bit of a recap for anyone that doesn't know my history: shortly before I turned 12 I had started drinking, having sex, and smoking cigarettes.  Drugs followed quickly.  I was a runaway, often on the streets, and living an extremely sexualised life involving too many older and often very dangerous men.

During the summer of my 15th year I was desperate to get away from the life I was living.  I initially embraced punk rock and revolutionary communism because it scared off all the men I didn't like. I cut my hair short and started hanging out in the Delmar Loop and Central West End with punk rockers, people of colour, and homosexuals. It was like magic.  Poof!  Suddenly I was free of all my old ties, with very little drama, threats, or bodily harm.

However,  I continued to be an activist for the next nine or ten years because of experiences like that night in Duff's, 30 years ago.

One thing that I did almost every day as a political activist was to sell revolutionary newspapers. Daniel Sheehan of the Christic Institute was speaking at Washington University Law School, and I went (alone, I think) to sell papers to the crowd waiting to go in, and also to attend.

(The question and answer period of talks like these were considered as important as selling the newspapers.  Because often a question could be framed in such a way as promote propaganda and invite debate on the revolution.)

I knew who Sheehan was because of the Silkwood case and Kerr-McGee.  The Christic Institute had become a major source of information about the deeds of the US government and corporations.  In addition to Karen Silkwood, the Institute had been involved with the La Penca bombing (the movie Above the Law with Steven Seagal was based on the information uncovered by the Christic Institute) and defended many other activists, including both of the Berrigans.

Afterward I ended up in conversation with several other attendees and Sheehan himself.  He invited me to come with his party to Duff's, along with Wash. U. professors and students and attorneys.  It was not just the thrill of being included, but to be taken seriously by someone like Sheehan.

In the last three years, without all of my many journals and diaries and scrapbooks  to assist me, my memories have become somewhat eroded.  This night is still very strong, but the details are gone-- what questions I asked during the Q&A, what Sheehan and I discussed, etc.  Those things were recorded in archives I do not have access too, currently.

I recall that he asked me a lot of questions.  I was somewhat infamous for turning my High School upside down, attempting to bring two controversial Salvadoran refugees to speak at assembly.  (They didn't make it to the High School, but they did end up speaking at the College next to the High School.)

At that time in my life I'd had very few experiences with men that weren't sexual.  I had a distant, stern uncle that visited my grandmother once a year, and a crazy grandfather (a former attorney) that I almost never saw and was embarrassed of when I did.

Even the "nice" boys from my grandmother's neighbourhood (where I went to High School) were always groping me in private, or cornering me, or seducing me.  (I ended up with the not nice boys because at least they still acknowledged me after they got what wanted.  Even if it was angry or abusive, at least it was male attention.)

To not only have a man like Sheehan paying attention to me because of my MIND was unbelievable.  I had been having other experiences like this, with other revolutionaries and activists, but Sheehan was a kind of radical celebrity.  And while I don't remember the exact details of the questions, I do remember that he was genuinely interested in my life and who I was.  If his libido had anything to do with it he hid it very well.

This memory is so strong, and warms me still on the coldest nights, because Sheehan's attention elevated me.  While I might have understood that on some unconscious level, it came to me like an epiphany when I saw the notice about Duff's closing in my facebook feed.

Just recently I was having a conversation with someone about the different types of Dominants and Submissives.  Or perhaps methods of Domination and types of Submissives.  It isn't all about flogging and ball torture.

In fact, there are many Dominants that do not engage in anything physical.  The relationship can be entirely mental or emotional.

But in particular I was relating a story from my own experience, when I was very interested in and learning about the BDSM community and lifestyle.  Too Dominant to train as another's Submissive, "learning the ropes" so to speak, I called a Submissive I knew and ordered him to be my Slave and teach me to be a Dominant.

One of the first things he taught me, and a common misunderstanding outside of the community, is that there is a big difference between humiliation of the Sub, as the lesser in an unequal relationship, and the type of Dominant he wanted and thought me to inherently be.

That is, the Dominatrix, without even uttering a word, is so powerful to the Submissive, that not only is his submissiveness summoned and then commanded by the Mistress, her power is such that it actually ELEVATES the Sub.

"When you fight Xena and she kicks your ass," he told me, "you become one of an elite group of warriors that has even FOUGHT Xena, or encountered her."

I suppose this reminisce is not so much about Duff's, itself, but for me this warm memory of my encounter with a truly amazing and inspiring man, that alone would be enough to keep the place alive in my heart until the day I, too, retire.

RIP Duff's.


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