Read GR3ND3L's MBE journey

MBE 2014

My journey to MBE started two years ago, after I watched the livestream for the 2012 event. I talked to –EM- about what it would take to be selected to participate. At the time, he told me I was ready and I laughed. Even though my skill level might have been passable, I wasn’t mentally ready. He told me something, though, which provoked me to think about my approach to rope. He said that they were interested in those riggers who can create scenes and not just tie rope. So I practiced.

When the call went out for the 2014 MBE, I applied with equal parts excitement and nervousness. It’s one thing for me to work in the local San Diego scene and be recognized as one of the better rope tops. But MBE draws in talent from the national scene, top riggers from across the country. Not to mention that the Toronto rope scene is legendary for its quality riggers. Would I be able to measure up? At this point I should say thank you to the people I used as references on my application: -EM-, Issa, and little-leo. I’m not sure what they said, but it was enough to get me accepted to MBE Toronto.

My penchant for planning ahead failed me at this point, since if I’d thought about it I would have booked the redeye on Thursday night to get 3 and I into Toronto early Friday. That way I could have caught all the pre-show meetings. As it was, we ended up flying in late on Friday night, missing everything due to a delay leaving LA. We didn’t make it to our hotel until almost midnight. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at the bar and then headed to bed.

Saturday we got up late and had some breakfast, then spent a couple of hours getting things ready. I had to do some ironing and 3 needed to get all of her make-up stuff organized. In hindsight, we should have tried to do that earlier and then taken a nap. As it was, we got a proper meal in around four and showed up to the Great Hall at 17:00. 3’s first make-up appointment was at 17:30 and she wanted to be all setup and ready to go. Unfortunately, it took all of that time to get ready since the trip had not been kind to some of her make-up. Luckily her first appointment was running a bit late so it all worked out. Getting there that early was worse for me, though, since it left me with plenty of time before my 20:00 scene to get nervous.

It didn’t help that when I got there I found out that I was working with Sweet Phedre instead of Sparkles at eight. Another reason why I regret missing the meet and greet on Friday night, although as it turned out no one had told Phedre of the change either. I did my best to be productive during the wait, I met some of the amazing volunteers for the event, got a bit of info from Marcus while I was helping him with the lights, and studied. I’d made 3 x 5 cards for all the bottoms that I was working with which included their medical concerns, aftercare needs, and the general flow of the tie that I wanted to do with them. These came in handy during the night, as I was still pretty scatterbrained for my first two scenes.

I found Kabe first, or rather she found me. It was nice to put a face to a name and we talked a bit just to confirm our online discussions and that nothing new had come up in the interim. Luluincamo and I found each other, and I quickly ran down my plan for the night. She was down for anything as long as I didn’t try and hang her from one toe. I told her nope, inversion to a single futo to a partial, which suited her just fine. I saw 3 doing DaikiniPhoenix’s make-up, but before I could go introduce myself, one of the volunteers pointed out Phedre to me and I went to meet her. She was understandably upset since it was already 19:40 and we were due on at 20:00. She was a pro, though, ripping through her costume change and was ready with several minutes to spare.

We tied at one of the main truss points, a suspension series based on a tie I watched -EM- do at the Wristrained weekend in Phoenix we attended. I felt unsteady and I could tell my flow was off. Something Marcus told me came back to me, though, in that I was supposed to tie in line with the truss so that both the camera and the audience would have a good view of the action. Orienting myself to that seemed to steady my nerves and hands and the rest of the scene proceeded well. Phedre is an awesome bottom to tie, intuitive and flexible, and we moved through what I had choreographed smoothly. Too smoothly, oddly, as I’d reached the end with fifteen minutes to spare. Crap! I improvised a series of partials that ate up eight or nine of those minutes, then stripped all but the waist rope off in a short bit of floor work. I jammed everything into my bag and checked my watch. Forty-five minutes exactly and we were headed back to the green room to complete the clean up.

In the wake of that first scene, all of my anxiety disappeared. I had overcome all the challenges of MBE in one fell swoop: tying in front of a live audience, with an unfamiliar rig, for a set time, with a bottom I’d never worked with before. If I could handle that, there wasn’t anything else the night could throw at me that I wouldn’t be ready for. I finished re-hanking my rope and got ready for my next scene. In reality, I had enough time here that I could have done another thirty minute scene, but I didn’t want to overextend myself as this was my first MBE and I wasn’t sure how well I would handle the extended timeframe. The next time I go, I think I’ll fill up my schedule. The energy of the night carried me through all right, I’ll just end up paying for it on Sunday. Which is fine in my book.

Lulu found me a couple of minutes after 2200, while I was putting on my mask, and I followed her out to the foyer. The pair in front of us was running a bit long so one of the volunteers politely asked them to mind the time by saying something along the lines of ‘get the fuck out’ in a cheerful tone. The missing five minutes didn’t end up hurting us at all, even though Lulu and I were only scheduled for thirty minutes. I pulled her up into a face down suspension, then dropped her into an inversion, then unloaded the hip harness onto a single futo. This series went really smoothly, thanks in part to a practice I’d done with little-leo before leaving for MBE. Having the pattern down in my head allowed me to get through with enough time to do a short partial with a mean crotch rope that had some of the other girls in the foyer giggling. Lulu was a lot of fun to tie with, her rope space was a responsive, playful one. I definitely want to work with her again. Once more we cleaned up and were gone from the rig right on time. I hurried through the clean up because I knew I only had thirty minutes before I was going to be tying Lustre.

Time seemed to be getting away from people at this point, I ran into Lustre about ten minutes before we were due on stage and she was still tied up from her previous scene. Turns out they started late because the scene before them ran late. Luckily she was able to skin out of the ropes and do her costume change with a minute to spare, although I told her not to rush as I’d seen our station was still occupied. Again, we lost about five minutes that didn’t seem to matter overall. This was an easy lift for me, a side suspension that I’ve done numerous times. Lustre is a plus sized bottom, and I’ve had plenty of practice working with larger bottoms so it was quite familiar to me. I brought her down and cleaned up all the rope save for her hip harness and we cleared out of the station with no time to spare. As I was undoing the rest of the ropes in the green room, she commented that the suspension had been amazingly comfortable and she wanted to tie again if I had time in my schedule. Unfortunately, we would not be able to connect again before I had to leave for the night, but I’d tie with her again if given the chance.

Having cleaned up from this scene, I went in search of Amu. I have to take a moment here and give a huge thanks to all of the volunteers that made MBE work. Every interaction I had with the volunteer corps was a positive one, they were always willing to help out whatever it is that was needed. Also, the kitchen crew was amazing. There was food constantly available throughout the night, from chips and dip, to fruit, to cookies and sweets, to PBJ finger sandwiches as well as meatballs and tortellini. It was excellent. I am going to bring a supply for myself next time, though, there were times when I wanted sweets and they weren’t available. Also, while the Monsters were free, I prefer straight up soda so I’m going to bring a couple of Code Reds next time.

One of the volunteers finally tracked down Amu, and we went over the plan, which was another inversion, although this time I was going to start from the ground and lift up in stages. I was taking a risk with this because I’d only ever done this successfully once before, but in my head I’d dissected the reasons where the previous lifts went wrong and I was confident that I’d solved the problems.

For once, the pair in front of me were done on time, clearing out a couple of minutes early so I could get my ring up. The problem was, though, I couldn’t find Amu! Turns out she had gone outside for some fresh air and the doormen wouldn’t let her back in quickly enough. Once she did show up, we settled down into our scene. I started on the ground, with a partial off a TK plus two futos. I used a hip harness as well underneath the futos. Lifting in stages worked out surprisingly well. I kind of rocked her up higher and higher via the futos, bringing tension onto the hip harness at the end, then dropping the load off the TK so she was in a seated inversion, then unloading the futos. I tied her right leg high and undid the left leg’s futo so I could tie her ankle back to the TK. At that point she told me her left hand was starting to go to sleep, so I pulled off her leg ropes before dropping her down on to her back out of the inversion. I took my time untying her, mostly because we had the time and also because I could tell she was spacing pretty hard coming down from the suspension. We shared a good connection in the end, and Amu is definitely one of the bottoms I would like to tie with again. She has great energy and is very responsive to the rope. Even with a slow untying, we were still done about five minutes early, something I wasn’t disappointed with as I could already see the next rigger was standing by. I cleaned up the rope and headed back to the green room.

At this point I had quite a bit of time in between this scene and the one I was supposed to do with Kabe. Based on my experience from last night, I think that forty-five minutes in between scenes is pretty much ideal. It gives you enough time to clean up your rope, catch your breath, get something to eat and drink, as well as go the bathroom and maybe do a quick change into another costume. Half an hour isn’t enough time, I ended up feeling a bit rushed, while longer than forty-five minutes started to let fatigue sneak in. I could still ride the endorphin high from my previous scene for about thirty minutes, and the last fifteen would be full of adrenaline in preparation for my next scene.

While this would be ideal, I know that it’s not always possible and I think I should pause here to say thanks to Elle for all the work that she did for MBE. It has to be something of a small nightmare to coordinate so many riggers and bottoms, let alone handle the multitude of other tasks regarding event organization and execution. Yet she handled them with apparent ease and aplomb, and even managed to remain cheerful throughout the event. I know I would have been a snarling mess halfway through the night, she even had time to compliment me on one of my masks. A great organizer and a great individual overall.

The extended break did allow me to catch up with 3, who’d been busy up until this point doing make-up for the performers. She was the only make-up artist there, and I could tell that there was a bit of disappointment from some of the bottoms who were desperately working with small compacts in the cramped conditions of the green room. That being said, I’m not sure where any of the other make-up artists could have worked, the green room was a tightly packed mass of pandemonium for much of the night. It was a constant flow of performers out onto the stage or back from the stage. Many of those coming back from performances were still wearing rope, and more than once I saw bottoms being carried back in. Tops and bottoms with armfuls of rope were a common sight as well, although that just made sense from a logistical point of view. Nevertheless, all those activities served to crowd a room already tight with tops and bottoms trying to change outfits and get ready for their next scene. If MBE grows any bigger, the green room setup will be the strongest limiting factor that they’ll have to address.

Kabe checked in with me about twenty minutes before our scene. She’d already tied a couple of times that night but was still going strong. I briefed her on the plan and she gave it the go ahead. This was going to be another one of those ties that I had mixed success with previously, an inversion to a side suspension. Again, I’d walked through the steps in my head rather extensively, so I was confident of the results. As it turned out, it was a great lift. Kabe is an excellent bottom to work with, responsive and flexible. She flew through the lift with no issues, and we finished with a great bit of floorwork. Unfortunately I had my back to the camera so I was blocking all the action.

I cleaned up and headed back to the green room to rehank and setup for my last scene. I thought I might be able to work the open rope portion of the night after my last scene with DaikiniPhoenix, but 3 gave me that ‘are you serious?’ look so I declined to pursue any later engagements.

I grabbed a bite to eat and threw on my last, most comfortable mask of the night. I’d brought five different masks, one for just about every scene. I could have brought six but I didn’t want to risk all of my good Venetian masks on this trip, and I bought another one that wouldn’t have worked out. DaikiniPhoenix checked in with me prior to our scene, she’d just come down from a lift and her left leg was a little sore and abraded so I would have to avoid it. I told her that I wanted to do a face up lift, which she was fine with. I thought about turning it into an inversion, but that didn’t happen for time reasons.

At this point the cumulative efforts of the night resulted in a fifteen-minute delay at our station, so we started around 03:45 or so. It was an easy flow, DaikiniPhoenix just relaxed into the rope and followed where I lead. The face up lift isn’t a strenuous one, I shifted her legs a bit: from left high plus a futo to almost a face up hogtie. At that point I saw the rigger and bottom who were slated to use the station after us show up so in an effort to reduce the time error, I dropped her down out of the suspension and cleaned off the ropes.

And that, really, was the end of it. I threw everything in my duffel, checked to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything behind, grabbed 3, and made a quiet exit. We said good-bye to the people we’d met who weren’t performing, but everyone was still busy in the thick of things. I think we were back at the hotel sometime after 04:00 or so, and in bed shortly thereafter.

This has been an amazing trip, and deeply satisfying on a number of levels. Being able to perform in a crowded environment, working on a set time schedule, and with bottoms I’ve never physically interacted with before were challenges I wasn’t sure I could completely overcome. Making sure everything went safely last night was my primary goal, having the scenes flow well and be enjoyable and dramatic to watch, that was success beyond what I’d planned for. To have a chance to watch other riggers work was a great experience as well. I shared the stage with Maillerphong, who was doing a superb floortie on Phedre while I was suspending DaikiniPhoenix. It took all of my concentration not to pay attention to them and to focus on what I was doing. It was an awesome feeling to be a part of such a large and intensive rope event. I thought we came a long way from San Diego, but there was a bottom in attendance from London, as well as others from the US southwest and south. To see everyone enjoying themselves and each other, connecting through the rope and putting the extra effort into their performances to make it a unique experience for the public was inspiring. I wanted to stay and tie, but I knew we were slated for a long travel day on Sunday so we had to depart. I am equally proud and humbled to have been chosen to be part of this event, and I hope that I am selected again in the future to participate. I can’t say thank you enough to Morpheous and Elle and all the volunteers who made this event possible and as successful as it was. This has been one of the best rope experiences I’ve ever had, and I’ll probably only be able to top it by going to next year’s event.

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