Folsom – if there is no difference then what is the point?

Mon 3 – Sun 9 Sept 2018

Appreciate the difference or it’s pointless

a big love heart

A week split into 2 very distinct parts. First bit was all about life in London and focused on work. That was the dull part in that nothing was different to normal so I’m not writing about it. πŸ™‚ Whereas the second bit was about the brilliant Folsom festival and the wonderful city of Berlin.

Work dominates things even though I work part-time. And I had started to look at my trip to Berlin simply as a break between work rather than an event in itself! πŸ™ Then I realised – if you don’t do things differently and enjoy then what is the point of life? So I went to Berlin and really had fun.

Making things different

A William Blake angelI’m thinking long-term about how my life will change. There is no point in carrying on as you have always done if you are not 100% happy. Dave has retired now and I work part-time. But I still feel worn out and not using myself to my full potential. Berlin Folsom was a chance to have a different life for a few days. Though not for me just dressing up and pretending to be something I’m not.

But rather deciding how not to just keep on following my normal life in London and realising that I do want to be able to express myself more individually. This is more than just a mid-life crisis, this is about me living a life I am happy with for the next 20 years before I die or am incapacitated.

I’ve actually had a bit of a social media battle going on around age. As we get older, we still think we have the answers and are stuck fighting the battles we fought in the past. There comes a point where we need to give young people the opportunity to do better and stand aside. The people who created the problems are not the ones who can change it. With age we should focus on changing ourselves if we want to change the world.

Folsom Berlin

LGBT rainbow flag

What is it all about?

Folsom is fascinating because simply that word brings people to my blog. Presumably 3 camps – the curious wanting guidance on it, those seeking salaciousness, and those wanting the stimulation of their own happy memories.

tom of finlandFolsom is an event that started in San Francisco (a city that really didn’t work for me when I visited). Fundamentally it’s a festival celebrating the fetish scene. Primarily leather and rubber but also extending now a days into sportswear, punk, skinheads, S&M, pups (people pretending to be dogs) plus others. The festival in SF is huge and is participated in by gays and straights, men and women plus it raises a fortune for local charities.

poster of folsomThe Berlin version is smaller scale but growing each year. It is primarily gay and male. Based around a long weekend it includes a street festival on Sat, special club nights, late opening cafes and bars. But a big part of it is simply the opportunity for people to dress up and live out their fantasies. Apparently its similar at superhero, sci-fi, and comic conventions where people go as their heroes and fictional characters. One of the best things about Folsom is simply having a drink and people-watching. You definitely see some sights.

Thurs: the themed room

Up at 5.30am and tube to Heathrow. Check-in was all fine and we were off to Germany on a packed flight including a very large percentage of men off to Folsom. An uber from Tegel airport to the hotel – it really is the cheapest and fastest way. A messy hotel check-in as my online check-in said a midday arrival was fine but our room wasn’t ready. I forgot that we had booked a ‘themed’ room which apparently needed extra attention.

berlin bear

So coffee and cake plus people watching in a sunny Berlin for 2 hours before back to the hotel – well over the hour the lady on reception said we needed to give. Room still not ready and surly male receptionist told us to come back after 3. Eventually we got to our themed room and what a joke. A completely normal room barring some writing and postcards on the wall plus a couple of ornaments!

Brandenburg Gateway

I was so happy to get to our room so I could have an afternoon snooze. Evening, me and Dave’s friend David went to our favourite Italian restaurant. Melodramatic Italy in the midst of Teutonic Berlin. Dave and David popped off to their clubs and I went to mine getting moderately drunk and back in the hotel not long after midnight.

berlin bear taken at folsom

Berlin is a great city and you need to throw yourself into the experience to enjoy it. Lovely little things like waiting to cross the road until the green person shows even if the roads are empty. And all the big shops (like the sublime Ka De We below) being closed on Sunday, actually quite civilised and a demonstration that we don’t just get identity through shopping. Though lots of gay men at Folsom fall exactly into that trap raiding the gay ‘lifestyle’ shops.

Big German dept store

Fri: Technology museum

Romeo und RomeoI like rising early and was up on Fri around 7.30. Out to a nice little Turkish coffee shop we know to do some reading then onto the Romeo und Romeo cafe for coffee and pooter time. Mornings really are my favourite time of the day wherever I am. I feel alive and excited – glad to be alive. πŸ™‚ This was helped by the weather in Berlin which was mild and a nice mix of sunshine and cloud with the occasional light rain. Me and Dave had agreed for this holiday to do somethings different beyond just hanging in the gay area.

So off we walked to the Jewish Museum. A fair distance and Dave struggled a bit with his bad leg though I suspect the exercise was also doing him good. Just past the Technology Museum, I realised I was wearing my ‘Piggly Wiggly’ t-shirt with a joke pig pic on it. Perhaps culturally insensitive for the Jewish Museum? Doh!

Change of plan and to the Technology Museum instead. What a stroke of luck. It’s big and justifies a day there. A fun mixture of various technological breakthroughs including in ships, aviation, sugar production, railways, etc. A good mixture of indoor stuff plus a lovely outdoor area of woodland and railway workings. And a great cafe / restaurant that we retired to every so often. However, big sobering experience was to actually stand in a railway truck that was used to take people to concentration camps. πŸ™

skull and crossbonesBack for my afternoon snooze – a luxury I should do more often. Dinner with the 2 Davids at Elephant – a German restaurant which was surprisingly faster than other times we have visited. Then my Dave went off and I went with David to Romeo open until midnight.

We sat drinking wine and chatted before I wobbled off to a club to get more pissed and back at the hotel room around 2am. πŸ™‚

Sat: street fair

Sat is Folsom’s big day. Up and out for coffee, planning my day at the Jewish Museum. But then I thought, ‘sod it’ and decided to just enjoy the atmosphere in the gay area. A big lunch at Zsa Zsa burgers because the 2 Davids were leaving early that night to go to one of the big parties in another part of Berlin.

The negative force that is nationalismOnto the street fair which is always fun just in terms of seeing the people sights. It was so busy this year, getting busier every year. Some unpleasant things like a bit too public S&M. Also bloody pups (men dressed as dogs) which youngsters seem to really love for some reason.


And lots of Americans who seem to be happy to push the limits to whatever they can get away with when abroad but never do the same at home in the States. I’ve always found the States to be an over-sanitised place which I suspect is why so many Americans come to Europe. Weird that somewhere can be so liberal and creative yet also so conservative and authoritarian.

Folsom Street FairSnooze then evening with the 2 Davids gone, I went back down to the street fair which seemed to be going on later than previous years. Then coffee and wine at the late night Brezel and Romeo cafes. Onto the every crazy 24 hour party pub The Bull for a few sherries – LOL. Back to the hotel around 1am nicely tanked up.

Sun: the party goes on

One of the big things about this year’s Folsom that was different was the way the party went on into Sun. Normally Sun is all about winding down with the main sound being that of wheelie cases taking people to the train stations and airports. But this year even some of the stalls stayed open in the festival area and the main gay bar, Prinzknecht, was packed all day and evening with people spilling out onto the street.

House fronts in BerlinOur last full day so I decided to chill and absorb the atmosphere in the gay area. Romeo cafe until it got too busy then along to another little Turkish cafe we know next to the Boxer store (latter is very trendy at the moment).

Then a day of wandering and snoozing. Lunch at one of the street Chinese eateries; bit scuzzy but fun and good VFM. πŸ™‚ Also popped into Prinzknecht for an obligatory drink.

Evening and the general busyness meant all the gay friendly restaurants were packed. Me and the 2 Davids ended up outdoors (in shirt sleeves because it was so mild) eating at Wittenbergplatz. They both went off for drinks but back to the hotel for me as I was knacked and crashed out.

Books and Reading

This blog is very different to my usual one in that I normally report back on various specific areas of my life i.e. Health, Exercise, Sustainability. Different this week as it’s all about Folsom and being different. But a good constant in my life is my love of reading. And I read a belter last week.

‘The Bees’

Written by Laline Paull and published in 2014, I think this is one of the best books I have read this year. It really is very good – incredibly imaginative and so well written. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. Picked it up at the library attracted by the recommendations of it on the cover but also I had confused it with another similar book I wanted – doh!

But this turned out to be one of those brilliant coincidences that make life worth living. It’s the story of a bee hive and genetically abnormal bee in particular. But it’s written like an episode of Game of Thrones though every so often you are reminded these are insects. A very sad story of the damage we as humans are doing with pesticides, modern agricultural methods, and climate change. Definitely worth reading.

The Week Ahead:

  • Mon back to London. I think we’ve been invited in the evening to an art show opening. Have to see if we are not too tired.
  • I’m going to submit my form for a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust fellowship to do some investigative travelling when I’m on sabbatical next year. Closing date 18 Sept and open to anybody.
  • INR on Tues morning – double check I haven’t bled to death or been finished off by a clot πŸ™‚
  • Working Tues, Wed, Thurs. My hack with people from across the org to identify good media stories has been moved to the following week. Lots of internal meetings and emails – hmmm, not very different. πŸ™
  • Meeting up with my mate Jamie on Fri. He’s got a new play (or series of mini-plays) that he’s written being performed. Must be a good friend and go see. πŸ™‚
  • Got to get back to language learning and coding practice, on hold whilst in Berlin
  • Also gonna return to doing some other exercise whilst the gym is still closed
  • At least one more book to be read – so many good ones πŸ™‚

And Finally…

Rise up and oppose Brexit

One thought on “Folsom – if there is no difference then what is the point?

  1. Great weekend Billy & David – let’s hope we have such enthusiasm for many more years to come. Until next time, thank you for your friendship.

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