goodbye and thanks for all the kink
I had meant to write this post for a while. I was planning to share with my readers a place that is incredibly close to my heart. It was a place where I felt accepted, welcome, and embraced as a freak. A place where I knew I’d never be judged for what I was into or how I practiced it. A place where I found family, and even employment for a short time.
But I had not meant to write this post as a goodbye.
This place is (soon to be “was”) Wicked Grounds. Opening in September of 2009 (On the same weekend as the notorious Folsom Street Fair, Wicked Grounds was an incredibly rare and unique gem in the landscape of San Francisco cafes. Why?
The reason is in the name. Wicked Grounds bills itself as a Kinky cafe. This was a hub for all those who were involved in San Francisco’s vibrant and beautiful BDSM community. From those who were seasoned players and had been out of the kinky closet for years to those who were merely curious and new, Wicked was a safe, class space to come just simply be yourself.
Connections were made, and a community was fortified even more so. And remarkably, it grew. Working there, I was always humbled and encouraged at the spectrum of people who came through our doors for different reasons and purposes. The guys from the motorcycle shop next door would come in for their morning cuppa’ and stand next to out of towner visitors who had seen Wicked on a list of gay friendly tourist attractions. The door guys and security from any number of the nightclubs in the immediate proximity would stop in before their shifts, stepping around barely clad girls tied to chairs to get their caffeine fix for the rest of the night.
But opening a business in San Francisco is difficult, and requires navigating an extensive sea of what can only be described as a daunting bureaucratic and financial sea of bulls**t. My friend (and Wicked Ground regular) Aaron Muszalski alluded to this struggle in a 2009 blog post on the cafe. And it was those compounded financial issues that triggered the closure of Wicked Grounds, as announced in an email to their mailing list and a post on their website.
And in the end, I don’t know what to say or do. I’m heartbroken. Do I join those who are rallying for an emergency fundraising effort to save the cafe? Do I vent, and choose to exercise my 20/20 hindsight and point out the things that could have been done differently to avoid this fate?
No. I’m going to instead share my favorite memories of Wicked Grounds. And lord, do I have a lot of them.
1. The delicious, artery clogging treats that I got paid to bake.
2. Meeting and subsequently dating my then coworker and still dear friend, the lovely and always wonderful Mickey Mod.
3. All the dubious things that happened after after hours. To all my beloved ex-coworkers who joined the
mile high club Wicked Grounds club, I salute you with a toast of “sanitze as appropriate!”
4. On a similar note, a toast to the red couch.
5. The snarky and highly provocative tip jar.
6. All those hours I spent, both before and after I worked there, that I spent slaving away over research papers and school assignments.
7. After I stopped working there, still being able to show up and be greeted with a hug and a kiss from at least one employee.
8. How in jokes always seemed to make their way on the menu. I loved ringing people up for “Love Cave Lemonade” or “Chocolate Knifefight” milkshakes.
9. Zev, Conor, Rose, Ryan, Kelly, Sonia, Raven, Xin, Lee, and every other staff member that I would have never otherwise gotten to know had I not worked there.
10. All the regulars who I came to know, love, and occasionally remind to re-apply clothing as appropriate.
11. Moving to a place 3 blocks away, and how living near Wicked Grounds was a selling point for me.
12. Being able to show up there with black bruises on my shoulders and chest, and instead of being confronted with “who beat you?” being embraced by people who deeply understand the cathartic release that masochism at the hands of others brings.
13. New Years Day 2011, after I’d stayed up literally all night in various states of mind and just needed a familiar place to rest my brain. Being able to sit with coffee for hours (so many hours!) and talk with a friend was exactly what I needed to buffer my chaotic tumble into the new year.
14. The art. From Nancy Peach to local photographers who wouldn’t have otherwise had the means to hang their work on walls, Wicked Grounds was an incredible resource for people to have their work seen.
There are so many more memories that I hope to eventually share. But these are the big ones. And while writing them down is therapeutic, I can’t help but feel a profound sense of loss that San Francisco, and it’s many subcultures, have lost what was probably one of their most important venues to come along in years.