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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

chicken dinnerI actually wrote last week’s diary entry a few hours before going over to Mistress Matisse‘s house to prepare dinner, because I was pretty sure I would not get back early enough to write it after.  And was I ever right; Matisse, Jae, Savannah and I had a lovely evening I’ll always remember.  To an outside observer it probably wouldn’t have looked all that exciting (except for the nudity, cuddling and horseplay), but when sex worker friends get together there’s a kind of camaraderie that I’ve not generally felt among groups of other adult women; it’s a sense of shared experience, of being denizens of a secret world unknown to the general population.  Perhaps we cleave to each other more tightly because the “good” women of the world reject us; perhaps it’s an outgrowth of the necessity for us to watch each other’s backs.  And perhaps it’s also due to our comfort with displays of affection and intimacy that others would find shameful.  In any case, it was one of those magical nights when everything works out wonderfully, and I hope my next visit is just as grand!

On Tuesday I had lunch with FurryGirl, then in the evening Savannah and I were on a panel discussion with another advocate and three prohibitionists.  If I must say so myself, we wiped the floor with them; our statistics and logical points were answered with collectivism, social engineering, attacks on “patriarchy” and “capitalism” and one panelist repeatedly quoting her grandmother as an authority on Amerind culture.  They seemed to lose most of the audience by about halfway through the event.

I was not at all happy to leave the next morning, but at least my return journey to Chicago was not marred by motion sickness; I accomplished this by taking pseudoephedrine all day and diphenhydramine all night, thought the combination did leave me a bit fuzzy-headed the next day.  At dinner on the second night I was seated next to comics legend Mike Grell, and he and I talked about both his work and mine; I also gave him the very last copy of my book from the stock I took on the tour.  In Chicago*, I had breakfast with Cathryn Berarovitch before boarding my train to Kansas City, on which I discussed sex worker rights for several hours with the young man sitting next to me.  Unfortunately, the last part of the trip left me dizzy, shaky and just short of sick, and I had trouble sleeping in the hotel afterward; I think I may have taken just a bit too much antihistamine medication on the journey.

Though it wasn’t nearly as bad as either flying or the bus ride from Hell, I have come to the conclusion that it’s just not a good idea for me to ride any common carrier.  Driving, on the other hand, works well for me; in addition to avoiding motion sickness it also gives me much greater flexibility.  So I’m planning to buy a dependable late-model used car that gets excellent gas mileage, to use strictly for touring; my preliminary research indicates I should be able to get what I want for approximately $3000.  I’ve already got about a third of that from funds left over from my tour and accumulated from book sales, subscriptions and the like, but if you’d like to help out with this project just PayPal me whatever amount you like and make sure you put a note that it’s to go toward the car fund.

*And speaking of Chicago, here’s the article student organizer Clairemarie LoCicero wrote about the talk I gave at Loyola on the way out to Seattle.

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Diary – Week 229

Princess of Quite-A-LotAs I wrote in my diary entry for Chicago, it’s a good thing I’m polyamorously inclined, because now another city has won my affections!  But if St. Louis seduced me and Chicago swept me off my feet, Seattle grabbed my wrists and had me trussed up in shibari before I could catch my breath.  I’ve been here longer than any other city I visited this year, yet I had absolutely no time to be bored.  On Sunday the 9th, the day after I arrived, I spoke to a packed room at the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture and sold the majority of the books I had left from my tour; the rest went over the next few days, many of them at a party SWOP Seattle held for me the next night.  Two nights last week were spent going to dinner with tour patrons, including the generous gentleman who actually paid for the train tickets to bring me to the city; two others were spent socializing with the incredible sex worker activists who live here, and last weekend was spent more or less quietly (hah!) at the lovely studio flat where my hostess, Jae, had invited me to stay with her.  When she first made me the offer several months ago, she promised to pamper me while I was here, and she was better than her word; I honestly can’t say when I was last spoiled to this degree, if it was even in this lifetime.  A girl could definitely get used to this sort of treatment; if my Seattle friends put her up to it in order to entice me back as soon as possible, they definitely succeeded!

Last night, I demonstrated my gratitude by preparing my famous Southern fried chicken for my closest friends here, and tonight Savannah Sly and I will be participating in a panel discussion organized by (and stacked with) prohibitionists; I have no idea how well that will go, but Mistress Matisse asked me to do it and she’s very persuasive even when she hasn’t got a whip in her hand.  Then on Wednesday afternoon I’m getting back on the train to return home by way of Chicago; I’ve stocked up on diphenhydramine, so I plan to sedate myself soon after dinner both nights of the return trip, thus sleeping through the problematic hours of darkness when I can’t get a sense of motion by looking out the window.  That’s the theory, anyhow; I’ll let you know how it works next week!

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Diary – Week 228

surreal train stationI wish I could declare that train travel was absolutely wonderful, but I’m afraid I can’t do that.  Oh, it was dramatically better for me than plane travel, and substantially better than bus travel, but I still found myself wishing I had driven instead.  The problems started even before I woke up last Wednesday; when I arose I found an email from Amtrak telling me the train was two hours late.  Since I was due to arrive in Chicago at 3:15 PM and speak at 7, this eliminated my time for going to the hotel to check in first.  And by the time I arrived at the station it was worse; we departed three and a half hours late.  My resourceful student contact at Loyola was not worried, though; she changed the time of the event on the Facebook page to 7:30 and came out to the station herself to meet me.  By the time the train finally arrived it was four hours late, and we arrived at the lecture room at 7:45; I began to speak even before removing my cloak and sweater, and fortunately nobody seemed to mind having to wait the extra fifteen minutes.  Of course, by the time I got to the hotel at 11 PM I was famished, having had nothing since 6 AM except a handful of Fritos offered to me by a very nice older gentleman on the train who also insisted on helping me with my bags.

My train troubles were just beginning, however.  The next morning I took more trains to meet Aspasia Bonasera for brunch, and if the Amtrak had been as punctual and smooth-riding as those Chicago commuter trains I wouldn’t be writing about this.  Alas, that was not the case; though I did fine the first day and even wrote tomorrow’s fictional interlude, we kept getting delayed by freight trains and by the time I woke up on Friday we were five and a half hours behind schedule.  I’m a very light sleeper, so I was pretty tired, but I had breakfast with some very nice folks and got a lot of writing done while crossing the vast stretches of North Dakota.  By dinnertime, though, I was starting to feel a bit lightheaded, and the meal didn’t help; I went to bed straight after dinner and woke up about 11 PM with the sure and certain knowledge that I was going to be sick.  The only good thing I can say about it is that, since I’m not afraid of trains as I am of airplanes, I didn’t have the usual panic attacks which invariably accompany airsickness; I was just sick, and reacted with annoyance and frustration rather than the usual little-girl crying and lugubrious moaning which characterize the same condition when experienced at great altitude.  I do, however, think that altitude had something to do with my illness; when I got sick we were crossing Montana and climbing toward the Continental Divide (I think), so I’m willing to bet the lower air pressure and oxygen content pushed me over even though I’d made it through Wisconsin and Minnesota without trouble.  Another issue was that some fool turned the heat up, and though the roomettes can be made warmer they can’t be made cooler; warm air aggravates motion sickness, so as soon as I woke up sweating and kicking off the blanket I was sunk.

By morning there was nothing left in my stomach, but that didn’t stop my body from trying to expel it several times; I could do nothing but lie still all day, watching the scenery pass.  Fortunately, it was exceptionally beautiful; Washington state is lovely, and being able to see where I’m going in daylight goes a long way toward controlling vertigo.  When I arrived I was cheered by the lovely sight of my friend Mistress Matisse, there to pick me up; she soon deposited me at the place I’m staying while here, which is mercifully close to the train station.  My wonderful hostess, Jae, immediately packed me into bed and set about preparing some homemade soup, and when I awoke later in the evening I had a bowl and rebuilt my strength.  The very next night I had a presentation at the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture, but we’ll save that for next week’s diary entry along with the rest of my adventures in Seattle! Empire Builder

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tow truckLast week I described my trip home with the few words “on Monday I drove home”;  however, as I said in the previous sentence, I wrote that on Sunday night.  As it turned out, the trip back was not so easy; when I tried to start my truck in Shreveport after returning the rental I had taken to New Orleans, it behaved as though it was out of gas despite having nearly a full tank.  None of Grace’s suggestions resulted in any change, so I found a garage which was willing to take me immediately;  unfortunately AAA took so long to arrive there was no way they could fix it that day, so I was stuck overnight.  Needless to say, I was not happy; I get very upset when my plans are disrupted, especially by machines.  I resolved to lessen the impact as much as possible by finding a new garage 100 miles closer to home and using my maximum towing allowance, so as to shorten my trip the next day; luckily, the tow truck driver and manager were both very sweet and helpful, and by the time we arrived I was in a much better mood than when we left.  I also think my professionalism had a lot to do with it; long years in sex work trained me to bury bad moods instantly when in the presence of strangers, so that I can be a charming and interesting companion and conversationalist.  Anyhow, the problem turned out to be a bad fuel pump (we had only changed it in September) and as soon as that was replaced, I was on my way and got home Tuesday afternoon.  At some point that same day, this article by Nathan Goodman was published on the blog of the Center for a Stateless Society; it’ll give you an idea of what I spoke about in New Orleans and how it was received by the audience.

Anyhow, I spent the rest of the week trying to get ahead on my work, but unfortunately other concerns got in my way (losing a whole day didn’t help, either).  One nice break from all that was the arrival of a birthday present from Kevin Wilson, namely a copy of Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark” with new illustrations by Mahendra Singh.  Thank you, Kevin!  Today I’m on my way to Kansas City, from which I’ll depart on a train tomorrow morning to speak at Loyola University in Chicago tomorrow night.  Then Thursday afternoon I’ll be boarding another train which will take me to Seattle, where I’ll be appearing Sunday night at the Foundation for Sex-Positive Culture.  I’ll tell you all about that next week!

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Lady Castlemaine…[went] away…upon some slighting words of the king, so that…the king, the next morning, under pretence of going a hunting, went to see her and make friends…After which she came back to court, and commands the king as much as ever, and hath and doth what she will.  –  The Diary of Samuel Pepys, July 22nd, 1663

Though the majority of whores have always been born in the working class, when disposition, circumstance and necessity converge to make harlotry the most attractive choice, women of noble birth are just as quick to make it as their humbler sisters.  And when looks and personality converge to give her a higher-than-ordinary degree of sexual power over men, a noble-born courtesan is no more likely to be sparing in the use of that power than any other.

Barbara Villiers was born in Westminster on November 17th, 1640*, the only child of William Villiers, the 2nd Viscount Grandison, and his wife Mary (heiress of the 1st Viscount Bayning).  She would have been a very wealthy little girl after her father’s death in battle** had it not been for the fact that he had given his entire fortune to the Cavalier war effort; Mary and her daughter were left in poverty, and she was forced by necessity to marry her husband’s cousin Charles (the 2nd Earl of Anglesey) in order to have any income at all.  The Commonwealth was not a good time for the Villiers family; though like many others they had officially espoused loyalty to Cromwell, they secretly supported the claim of the exiled Charles II and lived under a cloud of suspicion due to their active participation on his father’s side during the Civil War.  Barbara was raised in the country by relatives, but by 15 she had blossomed into an exceptionally beautiful young woman (tall and voluptuous, with chestnut hair and eyes of so dark a blue they looked black); her mother brought her to London with the idea of marrying her to a wealthy family despite her lack of a dowry.  Within a year the intelligent, independent Barbara had become the mistress of Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Chesterfield, and on April 14th, 1659 she married a young lawyer named Roger Palmer, heir to a large fortune, over his family’s vociferous objections (including, but not limited to, the fact that he was Catholic and she Anglican).  Though on paper they never divorced, in reality they separated in 1662.

The reason for that separation was, as you may have already guessed, her infidelity.  In the autumn after their marriage, the royalists dispatched Barbara to The Hague with letters and money for the King; since she was only 18 at the time, it was felt she would arouse less suspicion (and her person was much less likely to be searched in any case).  Before she returned to England, she had already become Charles’ lover; at first they were relatively discreet about it, but by the Restoration of the monarchy in April of 1661 it was secret to virtually nobody.  When her daughter Anne was born in February of 1661 the King, her husband and Chesterfield all claimed the child as theirs, and when Palmer was created Baron Limerick and Earl of Castlemaine later that year it was whispered that the titles were payment for his wife’s services; unlike the husbands of Lillie Langtry and Alice Keppel, however, Palmer was not at all sanguine about the arrangement.  When Barbara’s second child, Charles, was born in June of 1662, Palmer had him baptized Catholic; Barbara later had him re-baptized Anglican in a ceremony attended by His Majesty, who publicly proclaimed the child his.  It was the last straw for Palmer, who never saw his wife again; though he had a long (but stormy) political career until his death in 1705, he was deeply humiliated by his reputation as “Europe’s best-known cuckold”.

When the new Queen, Catherine of Braganza, arrived at court from her honeymoon soon after baby Charles’ birth, she discovered her new husband’s mistress already in control; the fact was hammered home when the King demanded she accept Barbara’s appointment as a Lady of the Bedchamber, an official position which would give both an income and rooms at the Palace.  The Queen had already been told about Barbara by friends, so naturally she refused; Charles became furious and sent the ladies she had brought with her home to Portugal.  The King’s chief advisor, Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, hated Barbara with a passion, but gritted his teeth and advised the Queen to relent for her own good; Barbara repaid this reluctantly-given help by plotting with his political enemies to bring about his downfall in August of 1667.

These are only a few examples of Barbara’s extraordinary selfishness and viciousness.  Though she was witty and charismatic and could be generous and even kind when it suited her, she had a terrible temper and was merciless to those she perceived as enemies; she was described by George Reresby as “the finest Woman of her age“, but by John Evelyn as the “curse of our nation“.  She had a powerful hold on King Charles, partly due to her looks and partly to her legendary sexual prowess; her influence was so great that after one of their many arguments she could always get him to come crawling to her, and on more than one occasion she actually got him to apologize in front of witnesses.  He showered her with gifts, and not long after his coronation gave her a payment of £30,000 (about £2.5 million today); he also granted her an annual pension of £4700 (£400,000) from the Post Office, and allowed her to take additional money out of his own purse whenever she liked.  After her sudden conversion to Catholicism in December of 1663, she also made extra money by charging French and Spanish diplomats for using her persuasive powers to sway the Anglican King in their favor.

Barbara bore King Charles three more children:  Henry (1663), Charlotte (1664) and George (1665); all of her children were eventually granted titles, even the youngest (also called Barbara), who was born in 1672 and was probably the daughter of John Churchill.  Neither Barbara nor King Charles had ever been faithful to each other, but while the King did not care she was quite jealous because it meant her income.  The concern was not an invalid one; since April of 1668 the King’s favorite had been the younger and far more even-tempered Nell Gwyn.  In June of 1670 he gave Barbara one final set of generous gifts as a kind of severance package:  she was given Nonsuch Palace, built by Henry VIII, and the titles Baroness Nonsuch, Countess of Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland (the latter was a true peerage, made with a condition allowing her to pass the title to her son Charles).  She was still nominally the official mistress until 1673, when the Test Act banned Catholics from holding office; she thus lost her position as Lady of the Bedchamber to Louise de Kéroualle, Nell Gwyn’s chief rival.  In 1676 she moved to Paris with her four younger children, but returned to England in 1680 and enjoyed a friendly relationship with the King until his death in February of 1685.  By this time she had developed a terrible gambling habit, and in 1682 had Nonsuch Palace entirely dismantled so she could sell off its expensive materials to pay her debts.  In her later years she became involved with a series of unscrupulous fortune-hunters; after Roger Palmer’s death in 1705 she actually married one of these, though it was later annulled when she discovered he already had a wife.  In 1709 she developed what was then called dropsy, a condition which caused her to become so edematous that she died of congestive heart failure on October 9th.  It is clear that Barbara, like so many other courtesans, had been totally unable to recognize that her sex appeal had deserted her, and adjust her expectations, lifestyle and expenditures so as to live out her declining years in comfort and some small measure of dignity.  But then, dignity was never something that Barbara was very good at, even when she still had her youth and looks.

*Because Catholic realms (including France and Ireland) had already converted to the Gregorian calendar at this time but the United Kingdom had not, it is not unusual to see her birthday expressed in the new style as November 27th, and some sources record the year as 1641.
**There is considerable disagreement about which Civil War battle claimed Villiers’ life; Wikipedia says Newbury (September 20th, 1643); other sources say Bristol (July 26th, 1643); and Bishop Burnet’s contemporary history says Edgehill (October 23rd, 1642).

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Diary – Week 226

TulaneI’m not sure how the hell I did it, but I managed to forget my laptop at home when I left for New Orleans last Thursday.  Remember, I’m the Princess of Paranoia; I compulsively inspect my luggage, counting each item in the car to be sure I”m not leaving anything behind.  Yet that day, my head was in some kind of fog; I didn’t notice the omission until after I had pickup up my rental car in Shreveport and was well on the way down the road.  This, of course, will make me much more paranoid in the future; the rare occasion of my actually doing whatever it is I’m worried about doing acts to reinforce the paranoia.  You can bet I will not be forgetting it when I leave for my Northwest tour a week from today!

Other than having to make do with online maintenance, though, it was a really good weekend.  On Friday morning I met my little sister for breakfast, and we had a good long talk about family stuff.  Then in the afternoon I went to the library to check my emails and Twitter, and I took my cousin Alan to dinner in the evening.  Saturday was a long day, but a fruitful one; the Students for Liberty conference was excellent and the lineup of speakers very interesting.  Some libertarian gatherings are dominated by people who seem more concerned with economic issues than anything else, but this was not one of them and the speaker lineup reflected that; the afternoon block was especially subversive, with my talk followed by Thaddeus Russell‘s and then Angela Keaton‘s a bit later.  And I can assure you that whatever trees remained unshook when Thad Russell and I were done, were entirely cleared of loose branches and leaves by the time Angela put down the mike!  After dinner there was a social, and then a house party at the organizers’ home; I borrowed Angela’s computer to finish Sunday’s “Links” column, then sat on the porch swing and fielded questions until after 1 AM.

It’s a good thing I don’t need a lot of sleep any more, because I had to get up early Sunday morning for breakfast with Thad Russell; we talked about future projects and then I took him on a short tour of the city before bringing him to the airport.  After that, Denise was kind enough to allow me the use of her computer for several hours, during which time I was able to mostly catch up on my bookkeeping (though I was behind on my Twitter blog-promotion until this morning) and write the very column you’re reading.  Then on Monday I drove home, and for the next week I’ll be busy trying to get as far ahead as I can in preparation for the next trip!  Last but not least, my sincere thanks to the readers who sent me monetary gifts over the weekend; y’all covered my entire trip to New Orleans and left some for Chicago and Seattle!  If anyone else would like to donate, just see the subscription box at right.  Your donations not only help me in the practical sense, but also let me know that y’all appreciate my efforts and think my work is important enough to support; that moral support is every bit as vital as the financial.

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My short break from running around the country is almost over; this Thursday I’ll be departing for New Orleans, where I’ll be speaking on Saturday at the Students for Liberty regional conference along with Thaddeus Russell, Angela Keaton and several other big names.  Then on Monday I’ll be home for just one week before leaving again two weeks from today; on Wednesday, November 5th at 7 PM I’ll be speaking to another chapter of Students for Liberty at Loyola University in Chicago, then on Thursday I’ll get on a train for Seattle.  The day after I arrive, that is Sunday November 9th, I’ll be speaking at the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture at 7 PM, and the next day there’s a private event for SWOP members which I think I’ll enjoy very much.  The rest of my time will probably be spent visiting various individuals I’m friendly with there, and doing things that I may even be able to tell you about.  Or maybe not, depending on whether the other participants give their permission.  I’m still trying to arrange for a visit to Portland, but I’m not sure if that will work out; it seems as though it’s a bad time of year for Portland.  C’est la vie.  Anyway, as things stand now I’m supposed to be back here on the afternoon of the 22nd, but that may be subject to change.

I thank y’all very much for the good thoughts and kind words last week; y’all really did succeed in raising my spirits, and very quickly, too.  I’ll have some more news pretty soon; there are several irons in the fire, and I’ll announce each as it comes ready (or forget about it if it doesn’t pan out).  All I can say for now is that the next year should be very interesting.

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