Part 1: The Morning Spiel

You’re amazed. You thought you’d be one of maybe five people who actually showed up before the 10am start time (“kink standard time” and all) but the main room is crowded. Gray is up by a wall with some kind of taped-off-grid on the way and a table with markers and paper in front of it. There are also five other sheets, with a few words like “Whoever” and “Whatever” written on them.

Other than that people are milling about, drinking coffee, eating donuts, getting registered by the Organizers (Gray keeps calling them “Sexy Boots”, for some reason). At 10am he calls for attention, and begins to explain how the day will work. “I want you to think about that thing that makes you hot…makes you wet…makes you hard…” It’s obvious he’s done this before, but what’s strange is the number of people attending who seem to have heard this before – they are finishing his jokes, for chrissakes!

As he finishes explaining what the words mean he selects a demo person to show how the sessions are created – simple enough, just go up, write down your class and your name, and pick a place to hold it. No problem – until he actually says “OK, fill up the board!”

Suddenly you understand why he said “We’re going to go from ‘What the fuck are we gonna do?’ to ‘How the fuck are we gonna do all that?’” People are running up to the table and filling out sessions and within about five minutes the grid has gone from empty to just about full. The session you wanted got up there, thank goodness, and there’s just enough space for that other discussion you had in mind to go up. Not that anyone will want to talk about it, it’s a pretty esoteric idea, but Gray said to put up what you’re interested in, and so you did. When no one shows up, it’ll show him how silly it is to –

Then someone stops you on the way back to your seat and thanks you for putting up your discussion idea, because they thought they were the only one who felt that was important. You realize, looking back at the board, that there are a lot of things up there that you haven’t ever seen at a kinky convention…but that are interesting. Important. Or just plain fun – how the hell are they going to use balloons for that, after all?

At first it seems like chaos when Gray says “Go GRUE it!” and people stand around for a moment, seeming uncertain where to go. Then the six or eight people who proposed the first sessions realize where they need to go, and in about five minutes the room has quieted to a slight hum as everyone “engages in their passion”, as Gray put it. Really, it just looks like everyone found something interesting to do, and started doing it.

Part 2: GRUEday

Midmorning you look up from the group of people you’re talking to and glance at the clock. Graydancer just announced that “Lunch has magically appeared but it can’t be later than 11:30, can it? A clock says it’s actually 1pm, and your stomach concurs. But the discussion was just getting to the good part…you see a friend walking across the room, and wave frantically to ask her to bring you a plate? She smiles – she’s been to other GRUEs, and knows how the momentum of a great session can just carry you along.

Not just one session – dozens of sessions. Talking about gender, about sex, about rope, learning new ways to do awful things to the people who love to have you do them, sharing the pain and joys of relationships in all shapes and sizes, trying new and innovative techniques for rope. The sense of time changes from hours and minutes to subjects and people, as you spend as much time as you need in each session and no more. That meant that you only spent five minutes in one before being drawn into that talk about the thing you like for three hours!

There had been a kind of lull after you ate lunch, and the atmosphere had seemed a little different. People were still involved in the classes and discussions, but there were also more people just taking the time to do their own thing, in small groups of three or so. Sometimes those groups turned into large groups, sometimes they got absorbed into other discussions.

You lose count of how many things are going on, and it’s almost maddening because you find that you want to be in about three or four places at once. There’s a kind of solution, sort of standing half-way between two sessions (well, three, if you count watching the really hot people over by the window doing some rope) but your notebook is quickly getting really, really full. After that you found that the Introvert’s Corner didn’t seem like such a weird idea after all, and the twenty-minute sort-of-nap was exactly the power up that let you tackle that new harness with the gusto it deserved.

Throughout the day, Gray has been popping in, talking about new subjects starting, checking in to make sure the session leaders have what they need, and in general just hanging around to make things go as easily and smoothly as possible. But right in the middle of one of the best sessions he comes in and says “Fifteen minutes to closing circle.

What? We just got here! But again the clock backs him up – it’s almost dinner time.

Part 3: Closing Circle

In the Morning Spiel, when Gray talked about the Closing Circle, you’d been skeptical. Not only was it kind of “hippy woo woo” as he called it, but the idea of giving the proverbial “talking stick” to anyone seemed…well, you’d seen too much of Fetlife to think a real-life version would be a good idea.

Now, though…now you can see the need for it. There were a couple of discussions that happened that you could see people struggling with, and it was pretty impressive how brave they got, opening up about the difficult stuff. Plus, that new tie! The rigger who taught it deserved to be thanked, in public.

As each person talks, you realize a couple of things: in spite of the fact that you went to a lot of different discussions, there were about thirty or so sessions that you didn’t go to. Some of them must have gotten pretty intense – there’s a lot of emotion in some of the thank you’s – but there was obviously more going on than you even knew.

And yet it seems that even though every person had tailored their own experience, they’d still all been at the same event. The GRUE hadn’t been Gray’s thing; it had been something you’d all created together.

By the end of the Closing Circle, you had the feels too. Thankfully there is a dinner break before the AfterGRUE…

next: Part 4: The AfterGRUE