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On March 26, 1999 I had my first experience with having hooks put through my flesh. I was one of three participants in a three-way hook pull. While a hook pull isn't quite as extreme as a hook suspension, it was a very unique, intense, and personal experience (even though it took place in front of 1300 people).
The event took place at the Big Bad Fetish Ball IV, in Cleveland, OH. The BBFB is an annual event open to the general public. One of the highlights of the event is a fetish/alternative clothing fashion show. The hook pull took place between scene 2 and 3 of the fashion show. The other participants in the pull were 2 friends and fellow co-workers from Body Work Productions, Inc.: David Vidra and Ed Nehrig.
The days leading up to the event were very busy, which didn't leave much time to focus on the upcoming event. The day of the show was especially hectic at work. Once we arrived at the venue there was more work to be done that was unrelated to the pull, so that didn't leave much time to concentrate on what was going to happen later in the evening. After the final rehearsals were over, I began to become a bit nervous and anxious. An hour or so before the doors were to open, David presented Ed and I with necklaces which had been passed onto him in various rituals he had been involved in. This was a very touching and powerful exchange. It left all of us with tears in our eyes and a very deep sense of connectedness in our hearts.
While we all had our own personal reasons for wanting to be involved in the pull, we were all using this experience as a way to celebrate the new incarnation of the piercing staff at Body Work Productions. David and Ed have worked together for a number of years; I only recently joined the staff. The manner in which we have all come together as a cohesive staff has been wonderful, enlightening and challenging. This was to serve as a way to further acknowledge this cohesiveness and hopefully help it grow even further.
As the time for the show to begin grew closer, we began our preparations for the insertion of the hooks. Since David was also the choreographer for the fashion show, and had to be able to coordinate the models (lovingly called the Fashion Whores), his hooks were to be put in first. We decided to put David's hooks in about one half hour before the show was to begin.
The environment in which this was all to take place was quite a departure from our typical piercing surroundings. Anyone who has been to Body Work Productions knows that it is hard to find a much cleaner shop. The piercings and hook insertions were to be performed in the dressing room where all the models were gathered and would change between scenes. We had determined that even though it wasn't the almost-clinical setting any of us were used to, it would be more than safe, and would actually add a unique feel the whole process.
When it was time, David laid down on the portable massage table we had set up in the dressing room. Cur Warren, owner of Koi Body Piercing in Salt Lake City, UT was present to help with the piercings as well as narrate the pull itself. Curt and I began cleaning David's back and discussing placement of the hooks. Once we had decided the placement, estimates of entrance and exit points were marked.
We had another piercer, Kevin (from Splash of Color II in E. Lansing, MI) hold the tissue during the piercings. The piercings were performed with 12ga needles. The hooks to be installed were approximately a 9ga, which meant there would be a bit of a piercing and then immediate stretch to get the hooks in. The needles were placed in the back of the needles and actually served to provide some leverage. With David's skin being held, Curt performed the first piercing; I was to perform the second. Watching Curt push the needle through, I new I was in for a physically difficult piercing experience. As I found out first-hand, David has extremely tight, tough skin on his back. Once Curt's piercing was done and the hook was in place, it was my turn.
I ready the needle and hook as Kevin gathered up David's skin and steadied it. While I have done thousands of piercings in the past 4 years, I had never done anything like this. I would be lying if I said there wasn't some nervousness welling up in me, alongside the excitement. After making sure David was relaxed and focused on his breathing, I began the piercing. Damn that man had tough skin! The piercing took a good 2 seconds and forcing the needle into the hole was also challenging. Although accuracy wasn't crucial, I was very excited to see I had hit my marks dead-on.
David took some time to relax and then sat up on the table. The expression on his face was very intense and powerful. With tears in his eyes and a glow surrounding him, he gave everyone hugs and then took a few more minutes for himself. After that, on went his vest and he was off to make sure everything was ready to go. The show must go on, as they say.
Not too long afterwards, a decision was made to postpone the start of the fashion show for another 20 minutes due to the long line of people still waiting to get into the building. Originally, my hooks were to go in during the first scene. With the new delay, we decided to do mine before the show began. So, the preparations were once again underway. I had fully expected to be very nervous when the process again. Surprising, I was fairly calm at this point. I crawled onto the table and flattened myself out. The coolness of the vinyl material felt very soothing against my bare chest. I immediately decided that I would be most comfortable with my arms hanging down off the table. This made me feel as though I was almost floating. This helped to further calm and relax me.
The surgical scrub used to clean my skin felt quite cold and slimy. The gauze being used to apply and dry the scrub felt much coarser than gauze normally feels. This was the beginning of the heightening of all my series. As I was lying there, all of the specifics of the talking and other movement around me began to blur into nearly indistinguishable buzz.
It was at this point that I really began to focus on my personal reasons for what I was doing. My move to Cleveland and my new job at Body Work, has, for the most part, been a very wonderful and positive experience. However, any time you pick up your life and move it to a new location, leave behind friends and someone who you've fallen madly in love with, it's bound to be a trying, stressful experience. For me, the hook pull was to serve as both a cleansing of negative energy as well as a refocus of both my personal and professional life.
I began to think of all the changes that my life had undergone in the past 4 months. I had a very specific list of the things I wanted to get rid of and the things I wanted to embrace. I could tell that the piercing sites had been located and marked and the piercings were coming soon. I felt Kevin gather my skin in his hands so I began some very deep, deliberate breathing. It was at this point that someone began to lightly rub my ankles and lower legs. For whatever reason, that sensation was so incredibly comforting and relaxing, all of my fears and concerns drifted away; it made me feel as though no matter what happened in the next few moments, I would be just fine.
We were to have a drum circle accompany us on stage during the actual pull. The drummers were gathered directly outside of the dressing room. It was at this point that David called for the drummers to begin playing. The sound of the drums added a very instinctual and natural feel to the surroundings.
After a number of inhales and exhales, I felt the first needle penetrate my skin. As this happened, I felt a huge rush of energy course through my body from my feet upward and flow right out of my arms. My fingers began to tingle and twitch slightly. There was very little pain associated with the piercing itself. There was definitely a bit of stinging associated with my freshly pierced flesh being stretched out by the insertion of the needle. While I really had no idea what to expect as far pain, it was no where near the discomfort I imagined would be involved. The second piercing was performed, accompanied by a similar rush of energy being expelled through my fingertips.
Once both piercings were done, my body felt electrified. Several sets of hands began gently caressing and massaging me. I had felt very disconnected to my surroundings, yet very connected and grounded to the earth when the energy was rushing out of my fingertips. Having human contact immediately following the piercings was a very soothing, gentle way to help me bring myself back into my surroundings.
After a brief time I began to slowly rise from the lying position. When I opened my eyes, I saw many smiling and wonderful faces. Of course, some of the models that had watched the process had shocked looks on their faces, but these were few. My body felt much lighter than it had when I had first gotten into position for the piercings. I exchanged hugs and kisses with those that had been directly involved. A short time later, the fashion show began. I watched the first scene outside with the rest of the crowd, taking care to keep my back to as few people as possible. I did not relish the idea of someone walking by and bumping into my back or snagging themselves on one of the hooks. Fortunately, Curt was there to watch my back and keep me snag-free. Ed's hooks were to go in immediately after he came off stage from the second scene. The experience of performing one of Ed's piercing was similar, for me, to doing David's, with the exception that Ed's skin was much looser and easier to pierce than David's had been. With both of Ed's hooks installed, we began to prepare ourselves for the actually pull.
We began to gather at the entrance to the stage, waiting for the stage banter to end and introductions to begin. Curt was introduced and he walked out onto the stage. He began talking about what the audience was about to see and similar rituals performed in other cultures. He explained that what we were doing was not intended to be a rip-off or a bastardization of any other culture, but simply an attempt by the three of us to find some sort of spiritual/personal experience through physical hardship.
As Curt talked, we walked onto stage. David had gone out first and had lit some sage. As we walked onto stage, we met David and he smudged each of us. I've always loved the smell of stage. I inhaled deeply as I was smudged and let the sage refocus my purpose and melt away the 1,300 people who were watching.
I was smudged first. When I was done, Kevin began tying the ropes into my hooks. Even though Kevin had been brought into the whole process only a short time before, his quickness and confidence in securing the ropes helped add a sense of assurance to the whole process. Once my ropes were tied and everyone else had been smudged, I moved over and smudged David. While I was doing this, Kevin attached Ed's ropes. When I was done with David, Kevin attached David's ropes and we all moved into position. The hook pull was to consist of the three of us pulling against each other with each of our ropes attached to a small steel ring in the center. Ed was pointed toward the crowd while David and I were angled backwards towards opposite sides of the stage. It was basically an Y configuration.
Once everyone was in place, we began to move forward slowly. The drum circle had been playing sort of softly and at a slower tempo during this time period. As we moved forward and the tension in the rope increased, they begin to play louder and slightly faster.
I could feel the skin on my back begin to pull. While I certainly wasn't totally "out there" I certainly wasn't totally grounded in reality. I do remember thinking, as the tension increased, that it felt as though the hooks could come ripping out at any moment. It took some time to adjust to the sensation and become comfortable with applying more pressure. The pressure stayed steady for quite a while. There was definitely discomfort involved, but I'm not sure it really qualified as pain. As the drums grew louder and faster, the tension increased once again. It was at this point I began to realize that things around me were beginning to blur a bit. I was overcome with a sense of euphoria and my body began to fill with a wonderful, positive feeling and energy. I remember realizing at some point that I had a really big (probably dopey) smile on my face.
The tension relaxed at this point. With the release in the tension, the sense of euphoria began to slip a bit. Wanting it back, I remember putting one foot forward so I could increase my leverage and pull harder. As I pulled harder, a different sensation came over me: one of calmness and serenity. It was at this point I become totally comfortable wit the pressure and discomfort in my back.
I began to slowly rock back and forth, creating moments of incredible tension followed by slightly less tension. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that David had also begun to rock back and forth. I think this was the most interesting and intense sensation of the whole experience. I felt very focused in what was going on, but there was also a sense of playfulness that accompanied everything.
As I stated before, when we first begin, the thought of "Oh my god,
these are going to rip out." went through my mind. Towards the end of the pull, that thought had transformed itself into "Hey, maybe these will rip out!" After a bit of the rocking back and forth, things naturally settled into a steady pulling again, but still more intense than anything previous.
After a bit of time, things just sort of came to a natural end. The
tension relaxed more and more until David, Ed and I found ourselves standing back-to-back. The drumming slowed and the sound of the audience clapping and hollering began to drift into my ears. It was at this point that, still attached via ropes and the center ring, we all slowly exited the stage.
As we entered the backstage area, I vaguely remember seeing people
watching us as we entered the dressing room. A few people asked how I was doing; I don't remember if I said much. Once the ropes were removed, the three of us shared a very wonderful, warm hug.
I sat down and tried to spend some time reflecting on what happened,
but couldn't really put it all into focus. I decided that things would manifest themselves in time and they in fact did. After a while, the hooks were removed. My left side bled a decent amount when the hooks were removed, but the bleeding came to a halt on its own after some time and direct pressure by Curt and Dr. Lisa (a friend of the shop and member of the drumming circle).
I spent the rest of the evening very aware of my surroundings; it was
as if all of my senses had been heightened to some extent. It was a very enjoyable way to watch the rest of the fashion show and the rest of the goings-on in the club.
The timing and effect of this experience could not have been better. I
have spent the last 4 years living and breathing piercing. This has afforded me the opportunity to both facilitate and witness the spiritual and personal awakening of many different people. For a long time, this had been enough to satiate my need for spiritual exploration; even if it wasn't enough.
At the time the hook pull got its conception, I was feeling a strong
need for a personal experience of my own; a new experience which would provide me some cleansing and growth opportunity. This experience did exactly that for me.
I would like to thank all of those involved in the experience: While
words really aren't necessary, l thanks you to David and Ed for being wonderful piercers, colleagues and friends. There are few others I would have trusted enough, and wanted, to share this experience with. A special thanks to David for sharing his insight into different rituals and opening the doors for me to be part of many different rituals experiences. Thanks to Curt Warren whose experience, guidance and words helped make the whole experience even more special. Finally, thanks to Kevin and Tony of Splash of Color II for helping facilitate everything and being wonderful support.
Derek Lowe (member, APP) Body Work Productions, Inc. Cleveland, OH www.bodyworkprod.com email@example.com
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 15 April 1999