David Salyer oral history interview, 2015-04-12

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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CAL GOUGH: So, the first part of it is just general background stuff, and then we'll get more and more into GSV stuff. And the first thing that we want you to do is tell us your name.

DAVID SALYER: My name is David Salyer.

GOUGH: Okay. And we're here today interviewing David to -- for the Gay Spirit Visions Oral History Project. I'm Cal Gough -- one of the interviewers -- and with me is Randal Cumbaa. He is also here. And today is April the twelfth, and the first thing that we'd like for you to do is to -- I'm going to read all of these interrelated questions, and then I'll read them again because there's seven of them together. Hard to remember. Briefly describe your family background, which we mean by this: origin, birthplace of your grandparents and 1:00parents, your date and place of birth, whether you have any siblings and who they are, your partnership history, and some experiences from your childhood that you believe had a profound effect on your values or your personality or your passions or whoever you are today. The first part of that is your family background. Where your folks came from, where you were raised?

SALYER: My mother's family is from Durham, North Carolina, and she had a very big family. So, there were lots of aunts and uncles and cousins when I was growing up. And my father's side of the family is from Virginia, and it's the Southwestern part of Virginia. And he was born in a coal mining town that doesn't even exist anymore. And, so, he left immediately upon turning eighteen and joined the army. So, my experience growing up was that I, I was in a 2:00military family. And I --

GOUGH: Were you born there?

SALYER: I was not born there. I was born in Atlanta at Fort McPherson Army Hospital. And then my dad retired from the military, and went back to work for the military. So, we moved to Huntsville, Alabama, and he worked at Redstone Arsenal. So, all I ever knew was there was always a military connection, and that's all I ever knew. And -- But I did get to live in the same city all the way through grade school, which was not true for my brother and sister. So, I have one sister who is eleven years older than me, and one brother that is five years older than me. And that's quite a gap actually for kids.

GOUGH: Are you closer to one than the other?

SALYER: I'm close to my sister. Which, you know, after she went away to college and became an adult, and as I got older we made an effort to get together and -- But my brother and I just never really had a connection. And I tried for years, 3:00but that just didn't work out.

GOUGH: Okay. And where do they live?

SALYER: My brother lives in Tennessee, and my sister lives in Richmond, Virginia.

GOUGH: Okay, all right. So, tell us how you got to Atlanta.

SALYER: Let's see. I, uh -- Like I said, I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, and my parents -- When I was in college, my dad retired and my mother and father moved back to Georgia. They were in the Stone Mountain area. And I was in college and I decided to transfer to the University of Georgia. So, I lived in Athens for two years until I finished my degree in journalism. And my -- When I got out of school, I took the first job I could get, which was in Louisiana -- which I don't recommend. And then I came back to Georgia for a job and I eventually ended up at CNN in 1983. And so I've been here ever since -- with the exception of the year and a half that I lived in California.

4:00

GOUGH: Your partnership history?

SAYLER: Um let's see.

GOUGH: First partner?

SAYLER: I had a -- My first boyfriend was -- We lasted about, I guess, it was nine months. I actually moved in with him.

GOUGH: Was this in college or before then?

SALYER: No, I did not have any -- I didn't have a boyfriend or girlfriend or a partner until I was out of school and working. So, yeah, I was already at CNN. This was nineteen -- Would have been 1986. It was the first time I've ever had a long term boyfriend. It lasted nine months. I moved into his house and that was a mistake. So, I moved out of his house. Let's see, after that, I had, you know, I dated off and on, and then eventually I had a long term relationship with Kim 5:00who -- That lasted six years and he remains my best friend. And I've -- Since then I have dated some and I was in a relationship with someone for three years, but it was long distance and I -- When it came time to decide about whether or not I was going to move to be with him, we had that serious adult conversation and the answer was no. And so now I don't really think about partnership so much anymore.

GOUGH: All righty. And this Kim, you said that he's your best friend?

SALYER: Uh huh.

GOUGH: Does he live in Atlanta?

SALYER: He does live in Atlanta.

GOUGH: Okay. I didn't ask you how old you are. If you want to tell us, you can say how old you are this very day.

SALYER: This very day I am fifty-seven-years old.

GOUGH: Okay, we need to put that into the thing. I forgot. Okay, your coming out 6:00experience. What -- When was that and was it one thing?

SALYER: It's kind of a -- This always an amusing conversation for me because from the first grade on, everybody knew I was different. Everybody knew I was different. I was always treated as if there was something different about me, and so you get to a point where you, you accept that. And then in college, I started to realize that my, my sexual attraction was for men exclusively. And so I think it was in my senior year I finally came out to my best friend, who actually was gay as well. So, that was easy. That was very easy. And then I got out of college and I took my first job and it was -- I was living away from home, and it was just really challenging and I --

GOUGH: This is Louisiana?

SALYER: Yes, this was Louisiana. Lake Charles, Louisiana. And I was struggling 7:00with it so much that I finally called my sister that I mentioned earlier is eleven years older than me and I said, "I'm gay." And she said, "Well, I don't love you any less and -- But I would like you to talk to somebody because it sounds like you're having some hard times with this." And I did actually go see a psychiatrist. And here's the remarkable thing about this. I saw that psychiatrist for months and never once talked about being gay.

GOUGH: Interesting.

SALYER: I talked about everything else that was wrong in my life or what was going on, but I did not. I did not. And I actually attempted suicide and I'm -- of course, I did not succeed there -- and then I left Louisiana. And as the years went on I just got more and more comfortable with who I was, and then it was in the early -- So, this was in Louisiana. That was like 1980, '80, '81. So, 8:00remember I moved back to Georgia in '83, and -- Georgia's a town, at least, there are other gay people. At least there's -- You get that sense there that there are other people like you. But, it wasn't until '90, '91 that I just sort of came out. I mean I came out gradually at worked, at work because I was in the graphics department at CNN and there were other gay people and people just expect artists to be different in some way. So, yeah. So, around '90, '91 that I sort of just came out to everybody in the whole world because I was writing for Southern Voice, which was the gay and lesbian newspaper in town. I was doing freelance work for them and I got interviewed. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contacted me because they were looking to do a series on "out" gay people in Atlanta and they found my name in the Southern Voice, so that they contacted me. 9:00So, I did this series and then my -- this is what's remarkable about this story is -- I just assumed by this point that my parents would have known and they -- My mother actually says she did know, but she didn't want to see it in the newspaper. And my father -- My father just had a meltdown about it. And I -- The funniest thing about it is that he never really talked to me about it. My mother and I talked about it extensively and she -- She actually accepted it. But my father, I mean, he died and I have no idea what exactly he thought or felt and it's weird. But she said that my father always just thought I was a sissy. He never understood that I was gay. And I don't understand -- In my head, I really don't know what that means exactly. But yeah, he didn't really get it. So, I don't know what I could have done. I don't know, I suppose I could have called them up and said, "Hey, there's going to be this article about me in the paper." 10:00But I honestly thought they knew. I really did. And then the very next year, I was on Action News. Channel 2 did this series on gay people in Atlanta and they contacted me to be in this and I did call my parents up at that -- No, actually I went out to their house and sat down and said, "I need to tell you something." And they did thank me for telling them in advance so that they could, you know --

GOUGH: And they were living where?

SALYER: They were living in Stone Mountain.

GOUGH: Okay, okay. So, they were reading the AJC?

SALYER: So, they were reading, yes. And watching.

GOUGH: Watching TV?

SALYER: Yes, watching. Yes. Yeah.

GOUGH: All right. So, I want to go back to the first question because I left out part of that. And that is, if you can think of an experience or a person -- like a mentor, somebody back in your childhood that left -- had a profound effect on you for years after that? Whether it's related to your being gay, or not being 11:00gay, just -- Were there such people or experiences that you think --

SALYER: My experience is that men never knew exactly what to do with me. So, my mentors were always women. I find that women were the ones who treated me the best and were willing to spend time with me and --

GOUGH: Was there one in particular? Teacher or somebody else?

SALYER: I knew I had -- I think I had encouragement all along the way. I had a teacher -- I think, it was my third or fourth grade teacher -- who said, "You're a pretty good writer." And she based this on the fact that every time they'd give us an assignment to use all the spelling words -- to write a story using all the spelling words -- she thought my stories were the best. So, there was -- 12:00And I would do things, like, I would win an award from the science fair, or the history fair, or whatever, and -- And I was always in all the PTA shows where you learn to sing and dance. I was always in those -- much to my father's dismay. And my mother actually would -- She would go and she would try to be supportive about that. But here's the thing, when you're a little boy and they want to do a show and they're trying to cast six boys to dance, what will typically happen is you will get one boy who will volunteer -- that was me -- and they have to make five other boys do it. So, I was that boy who was always volunteering to learn to square dance or whatever. But yeah, those were always women. And, always. The woman who taught music at our school -- She was always encouraging us, male and female, to learn to find our voices and always. So, I don't know. I just went all the way through grade school and my recollection is 13:00that it was the women that were the ones who were the most accepting.

GOUGH: And this was Alabama?

SALYER: Yes, this was Alabama. You know, like I said, I don't think of men as mentors. I don't think I ever have.

GOUGH: Okay. Anything else from your kidhood that you connect to the person you are today? Some kind of intuition you had or experience or trip or exposure to something? Finding books? How you ever became a writer? How early that meant? Any of that?

GOUGH: I used to escape into television because it was -- You know, I wasn't interested in sports, and so this was fun for me to watch television, to watch Bewitched, or Lost in Space, and all those shows from back then. But I actually read quite a bit as a child. I read all kinds of books and things and -- You 14:00know, I don't necessarily think any one of them stood out for me, but I was a kid who was content to sit alone and read a book or watch television in my room, which is what they did when I was like seven, six or seven-years-old. They actually gave me this black and white portable TV to put in my bedroom so that I wouldn't fight with my father about what to watch on the television in the den.

GOUGH: Gotcha. Okay. And before I forget later on to ask you this: one of the things I know about you is this whole comic talent that you have. And so I'd kind of like to hear a little bit about how that manifested first as an adult and what it was connected to in the past. Like, did those theatricals help you with that?

SALYER: I can tell you exactly. Let me tell you. If you're -- I -- When I went 15:00out on the playground for the first day in the first grade at recess, the boys went off to the jungle gym and the girls went off to jump rope. Where do you think I ended up? I jumped rope. So, when you establish from the very first day in grade school that you are not like the other boys, you've got to figure out how to protect yourself. And for whatever reason, I must have discovered that I could make people laugh, that I was funny, and that's like an armor. And the truth is if you can get people to laugh, they won't beat you up. That's really how that works. So, yeah, and then as I got older and older I think it, you know, I -- I just learned to live with that. And I enjoyed making people laugh.

GOUGH: So, am I remembering correctly that you've done some performances in 16:00Atlanta and all? How did that come about? I mean, did you --

SALYER: I did, yeah.

GOUGH: It wasn't a protective thing? It was an interest to you?

SALYER: No, I did some standup stuff. Actually, I was -- In the nineties when I was very actively involved in HIV and AIDS work, there was an organization, Positive Impact, that wanted to do a night of standup comedy. And so you would -- You know, your ticket was a donation to the agency. And so, they recruited a bunch of people that had no experience, and then we worked with two people who did it professionally so we could get our act together. And at -- I remember at the end of that process, the two people -- the two professionals -- came to me and said, "You really got it. So, we're going to let you go last because we want to end with something big." And I was really flattered, and of course I was so 17:00nervous. I mean, honestly, standing up in front of a room and delivering that -- something you've memorized that was like twelve minutes -- but you have to wait for the laughs and it's nerve wracking. I mean, I have such an appreciation for people who do that for a living. But yeah, I did it for -- It was an AIDS benefit. And from that, I kept getting invitations to do it. So, I did it for about -- oh, I don't know -- maybe a year and a half? I just kept doing it and I worked -- Got some new material and worked it out and after that I thought, "This is exhausting. I don't think I can do this." So, I had a nice ride. About a year-and-a-half.

GOUGH: Okay, okay. Well, thanks for telling us about that. In a few minutes, we're going to get into the GSV saga, but before we do that if you could kind of 18:00isolate the pre-GSV era in terms of your spiritual path, whatever that means to you? What was it? What kind of religious background or spiritual path were you -- Had you explored before ever hearing of GSV?

SALYER: Sure, yeah. As a child growing up in Huntsville, my parents were not religious. My mother identified as Baptist, but my father never discussed religion, but he was agnostic. And so there was no real pressure on me to go to church, but I remember when I was like seven-years-old, this truck came through our neighborhood advertising vacation bible school. And I said, "What's that?" And my mother goes, "Oh, well, this church is doing something. Do you want to go?" That's really the whole explanation. "The church is doing something. Do you want to go?" And I said, "Yeah, I think I'd like to do that." So, I went to vacation bible school, and that was my first experience in the church. Believe it or not, I don't remember having been to church on Easter or anything. 19:00Vacation bible school was so ridiculous. I mean, the only thing I can remember about it is that there was one day when we made a bible out of a bar of soap, and construction paper, and glitter. That's all I can remember about it.

GOUGH: You don't remember the little assemblies where they would bring in the flag? The Christian flag?

SALYER: I do not. I may have just blocked it out. Oh, the other thing I remember is that the preacher from the church, Brother Armstrong, at one point during vacation bible school he brought us all down and he wanted us to -- He was trying to get us all to accept Jesus Christ as our lord and savior. Well, I'm seven and I don't have any idea what he's talking about. I really don't. And there were kids that just got up and walked up -- you know, because there was like a dozen of us -- literally, there were kids that got up and walked up there. And this one woman -- one of the teachers -- came over and she goes, "It's okay honey. You don't have to go this time." So, that's --

20:00

GOUGH: Like walking the plank.

SALYER: Right. Honestly, but I just thought, "What the hell." Anyway, so, yeah. And I actually ended up going to that church for Sunday school. And again, my parents were not going there for services. I just went in for vacation bible school and then Sunday school and so -- I'm, you know, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven? I probably was with that church for four or five years maybe? And then as a teenager, my best friend in school was Roman Catholic. And I went to church a couple of times with him, and I'd listen to him talk about it, and I think I went to mass a couple of times. And then when I went away to school my first year at college, I decided I was going to convert to Catholicism. And I did. I actually found the priest at the local parish, I talked to him about it, and I went through catechism classes with him alone. I was the only one, it was just the priest in me doing catechism. And then I was -- I'd never been baptized, so 21:00I was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church when I was eighteen-years-old.

GOUGH: In Athens?

SALYER: No, this was -- Actually, I was in Alabama at a small college before I transferred to the University of Georgia. So, yeah, I did that and --

GOUGH: Now was this under the influence of this friend?

SALYER: No, no, because he and I --

GOUGH: Why? What was it about?

SALYER: No, he and I were not at school and I just felt like I needed this -- I felt like I needed something. There was something missing from my life and I had to do this and he had gone off -- believe it or not -- he had gone off to Saint Pius X's seminary, which is in Scranton, Pennsylvania. And the church was paying for him to go to the University of Scranton, I guess, is what's there. And then in his junior year, he came out. So, and then the next year, in my senior year of college, I came out to him. So, that's how that all played out. So, yeah, I became a Roman Catholic and my parents even came to the service where I was 22:00baptized and confirmed. And I remember my mother crying. I remember that. And she wasn't crying because she was disappointed. She wasn't. I mean, she thought it was it was fine that I had found something that was working for me. My father didn't have any real opinion about it at all that I can recall.

GOUGH: So, that was eighteen? What did your college education then in being that age do with that?

SALYER: Well, I went -- I was a pretty good Catholic for five or six years, I think. Practicing, going to church, and going to confession when I missed and things like that. But there was one incident where I was in church for mass and -- In the Catholic church you don't have a sermon, you have the homily and during the homily, it's -- Instead of the priest talking, they had replaced it 23:00with this like a film strip -- which sounds like an old fashioned word, but it's before you had PowerPoint. Think PowerPoint, but it was like a PowerPoint presentation about abortion and so the entire -- And I was at this church that was like one of those massive warehouse churches that was packed with people. And we were all trapped watching this presentation on abortion, and how it was bad, and I remember two things about it. I remember that a woman, one single woman, got up and walked out, and I don't think I ever went back after that day.

GOUGH: You thought it was intrusive? You thought it was what? What did you object about?

SALYER: I think I objected to using the homily. If the priest had stood up there 24:00and he wanted to say something about abortion, if he wanted to use the homily to talk about abortion, I -- even if I might have disagreed with him -- I would have been respectful. But you don't drag out the PowerPoint in the middle of church and force everybody to sit there and watch this presentation. I'm sorry. It was just -- Just didn't have any class. Plus, honestly, I was already having misgivings because I realized this is the Catholic Church, I'm an openly gay person, I'm not really invited to this party. So, that was the last straw for me. The abortion and then the gay stuff. It was just the last straw.

GOUGH: So, before you heard about GSV, were there other things, other spiritual type things that you were exploring or seeds that had been planted in you by others or anything or not?

SALYER: I was not exploring anything. I was aware that I did not really have a spiritual path, but I wasn't exploring. And it was '92, I guess. Yes, 1992. I 25:00had a -- No, I'm going to back up. In -- From '87 to '89, I dated somebody. I would hesitate to call it a relationship, but we did date for two years so there's that. But he was on sabbatical from the Lutheran church. He was a Lutheran minister who had taken time off because he was trying to decide about his calling. And so we were together during that two years. And I knew he was struggling with his own spirituality, and whether to go back to the church or not. He did not go back to the church, but that gave me an awareness of how people do struggle with this kind of stuff, which is not something I'd really seen at home. And then, in '92, when he and I were still friends, I was visiting 26:00him and it was the first time I'd heard about GSV because he handed me the brochure that had come in the mail and said, "This looks like something you'd be into."

GOUGH: Why do you think he said that to you?

SALYER: You know, I don't know. I have no idea. I have no idea. I never followed up with him on, "Why would you think I would be into this?" But I do remember specifically he just handed it to me and said, "This looks like something you'd be into."

GOUGH: Did he ever go himself?

SALYER: He never went, no.

GOUGH: Okay, okay. So, this was '92 you said?

SALYER: Um-hmn.

GOUGH: What was going on with you that made you receptive to that suggestion, do you think? Why did it matter that he said that to you?

SALYER: I think that over time, he and I had had over time he and I had had conversations about religion, and faith, and spirituality, and so it was kind of 27:00always bubbling under the surface for me. And maybe that this was something that he saw and he made the connection, "Okay, well, if you're searching for something, there's this group. Why not try that?"

GOUGH: And so do you remember the process of deciding whether you would go or not go? Or?

SALYER: I can tell you. You're going to -- This is so funny but I can tell you exactly the process and I know that --

GOUGH: Oh, good.

SALYER: This was what he -- So, he handed me the brochure, which came in a square envelope, not a rectangular envelope. It was a square envelope. And then the actual brochure itself opened up into a box that would set on the table. And the four sides of the box, it said, "Shadow, power, gifts, touch." And I thought 28:00that was just the coolest thing. I'm a very visual person so this made me think that these people were serious in some way, I guess. But, yeah, I kept this because it's the most -- It's the most interesting brochure I think the organization ever put out.

GOUGH: Yeah, that was my favorite one, too. So, is there any one thing about this notion of going to this conference that most appealed to you? Was it the power, the touch, the shadow, the -- Or was it all together? Or was it just, "Well, I'll just try this?" Just, "I'm an experimental person. I'll give it a shot?"

SALYER: It was more that. "I'm an experimental and I'll -- " I like to put myself into situations that are potentially challenging for me and could bring up stuff for me and that was certainly true of this conference. So, yeah, I went 29:00because this is an experiment and I might as well try it.

GOUGH: Okay. Were you still at CNN?

SALYER: I was still at CNN.

GOUGH: So, were you in a relationship with -- You were you still friends with this guy?

SALYER: I had just started dating. I had started dating Kim. It was June of '92 and the conference was in September of '92. So, I had been -- I was just getting to know him really.

GOUGH; All right. Was there any chance that he was going to come with you? Was that part of the deal?

SALYER: I didn't even discuss it with him.

GOUGH: Okay. So, now we're going to get into the memories that you have of that first conference.

SALYER: Okay.

GOUGH: Tell us what it felt like to drive up there. Or how did you get there? Did you go alone? Did you not go alone?

SALYER: I went alone. I drove up that crazy winding mountain road to get to the 30:00mountain retreat center and parked and went in to register. And it was -- This was the conference, it was on -- It started on Fridays back then. Not Thursdays, but it started on Fridays. And so I -- You got there before lunch and then you could have lunch. So, the guy who registered me said, "All right, well, you're all done. So, you can just go on to the cafeteria -- dining hall -- and eat because there are people already down there." And I said, "Okay." So, I walked down there and I could hear this just like all these voices and there was laughter and just crazy human sounds. And I thought, "Well, I'm not eating lunch 31:00today." So, I went and sat -- I went to my -- Found my cabin and my cabin was one of the little weird ones that had like two twin beds and a bathroom in it. And I went in and I sat on the bed and I had to talk myself out of leaving. So, I -- I didn't leave, but I did -- I came close. And then I remembered --

GOUGH: What -- Stop right there and talk about that anxiety. What were the anxieties? Feeling on the outside of something or something else? What was it about if you can remember?

SALYER: I just remember feeling like, "I'm not going to -- I've made a mistake. I'm not going to fit in here. This is going to be terrible and I don't know. And all these people are so much more enlightened and filed with laughter than I am and I am not going to be able to do this." And so then I sat on the bed and I talked to myself and -- What's funny is after lunch they did workshops because, 32:00again, the schedule was very odd back then. So, there was lunch, and then there was workshops, and then later you had your opening ritual. So, you were doing things with people before everybody had gathered together really in one room and had any introduction. So, there was a workshop right after lunch and it was called -- You know, I think I actually have the -- Yeah. It was called -- Pretty sure it was called Coming In. Coming In. Yes, it was offered at one p.m. and it was called Coming In and it was led by John Stow. And it says, "John Stow will lead a series of visualizations, breathing, and movement exercises designed to help participants get present and centered at the mountain." Well, that's all I really needed to see. Those words -- That was enough for me to go, "Okay, well I'll go and this guy will get me centered and present at the mountain." So, I went into the room and John Stow was one of the most wonderful people I think 33:00I've ever met in my entire life. So, he had us at one point we were wandering around the room and doing things, and we were supposed to be loosening up and relaxing. And he came up behind me and put his hands on my shoulders and he said, "You're so tight. Let your hair down." I'll never forget that. And I thought -- And that didn't exactly work in the moment because I felt like, "Oh my god, there are hands on me." So, but I finally did say, "I think this will be okay. This guy seems -- He seems all right." And with his encouragement. So, yeah, I kind of -- I got through it. But that first hour or two was really hard for me. And then --

GOUGH: Do you remember how you talked yourself into it? Did you -- You were going to feel just terrible if you didn't stay?

SALYER: Well, mostly I could tell you because this is probably how I still do it. If I -- If I'm really scared about doing something, then I will have a 34:00conversation about how ridiculous I'm being. That you paid money for this, and you drove all this way, and there's nothing scary about these people. It's not a Friday the 13th film. No one's going to kill you. It's -- C'mon, just relax about this. And, so, yeah. That's how I do it, usually.

GOUGH: So, what else do you remember about that first conference if you can, unlike me, isolate the first conference from all the other ones? They all sort of mush together for me. Do you remember vividly your first conference? What happened there and some of the highlights for you?

SALYER: I can remember that there were somewhere, I think, between ninety and a hundred of us there. And I can remember quite a few things, but I can narrow it down to a couple. So, yeah, there were around ninety and a hundred guys there. 35:00And I had this awareness of the first time we were all in the room together that I had dated and or slept with seven men in that room, which I thought was a fairly high percentage. So, I was a little freaked out and I shared that. I thought if I just take the power out of this by sharing it in the opening heart circle. In the opening heart circle, I've always found that they were very -- I don't know that's where you get the sense that we're all in this together and maybe some of us are scared but it's going to be okay, and just share, relax, and breathe. You know, if you need to hold somebody's hand then do that and all that. And what I remember very, very vividly about this is that when I shared that thing about the seven guys, some guy in the room booed. And I had no idea what that meant or where that came from. And I thought, "Was that not something 36:00I was supposed to share? Was I not supposed to talk about the fact that I've been intimate with seven people in this room? I don't -- What's okay? What's the rules here? What's off limits? What's not okay?" And then I got around to saying, "Oh, you know what? Fuck you, actually, buddy." That's kind of where I got back to. And it was a real test for me too because what I remembered about those seven guys was that I'd actually forgotten to break up with like five of them. So, I had to have some integrity around that and I had to address that in the context of the conference.

GOUGH: Did you get around to all seven before it was over with, you think?

SALYER: I did. I Did.

GOUGH: You did. Okay. And was that interesting?

SALYER: Um, it was --

GOUGH: Was it different for each one?

SALYER: There were two who were like, "I really don't know what happened." Because they were very much into me and so they didn't know what happened and got an explanation and they thanked me for that. And the rest of them were like, 37:00"Yeah, I know. Whatever. So, you know, we just -- I knew we weren't going to be a couple." So, they were fine with it. But there were two that required a little bit more of a conversation. And that was -- I remember that so vividly about that conference is that I needed to do that to really develop some integrity around how I treat men.

GOUGH: Interesting. So, just free associate some more about -- Don't narrow things down to a couple of things. Go ahead and talk about the first conference. What it was like for you. What other workshops were kind of neat that you remember or parts of the conference that were your favorite? Or?

SALYER: I remember the talent show was done in the -- For people who don't know the mountain and it's lay out, there's a building called the Lodge and then there was another building called the Treehouse, which was a much bigger space, which had a stage and a room for you to do dances or plays or talent shows. But that hadn't been built in '92 and so we were forced to do a talent show in the 38:00Lodge great room, which is not a huge room. And I remember all of us being crammed in there and yet still making room for people to perform, and there was one -- I don't remember anything else about the performances except there was one guy who came in and sat down on the piano and he was in -- He was in a leather harness and leather chaps and he was really hairy and he played something classical on the piano. And I was totally blown away by that. And, so, that was is the most vivid memory of the talent show.

GOUGH: Were you in the talent show yourself?

SALYER: I was not in the talent -- It would be years before I would go to the talent show to be in. Yeah.

GOUGH: Do you remember -- Well, if you'll just talk a little bit more about the 39:00opening circle heart circle thing? If there was anything about that that you -- Was it something you had done before at some other places? Was it totally new to you?

SALYER: I had never done a heart circle where people just share spontaneously from their heart. I'd never done that. I've been in meetings where you were supposed to check in, and we all knew that the check in was not supposed to last longer than twelve seconds. So, the heart circle experience was completely new to me.

GOUGH: Was it one of those long ones?

SALYER: It was really not a long one. I mean, we've sat through some long ones -- seriously long ones. But this one was not particularly long. And I do remember that some people were in chairs and some people were on the floor and it had a more -- They, I think, they became more structured. Everybody sat in chairs as the years progressed and they put -- They were put in circles and 40:00things like this. But that first one in '92 was kind of up and down and everybody was in different places and like I said, I didn't know how, what I was supposed to do be doing or sharing and then just sharing the piece about having been with seven guys in the room. I can't remember anything anybody else said. I have no recollection of anything that anybody else said. I will say this. After I did that, the next time we were -- like the next day we were in a room together -- in that room together and we were all together as a group, there was a guy who came over and sat down next to me and said, "I want to sit next to you." And I had no idea what that was about and it made me really nervous. Plus he was cute, and I thought, "Oh my god, he just wants to fuck." And that's a continuing theme for the conferences. Why are people being nice to you? Do they 41:00just want to have sex with you or what's going on? Because you know, if you put a hundred men on a mountaintop with no television --

GOUGH: That's a good way to put it.

SALYER: So, yeah. I wasn't sure. But, no, the conference was me getting over my heart and me developing some integrity around the way I treat men. And I guess trying to -- Getting a sense that your spiritual path does not have to involve organized religion.

GOUGH: Do you remember if there was a drumming circle or some kind of nighttime doo wah?

SALYER: There was a drumming circle and it was -- There was a lot of guys out there and here's s something that I find amusing. So, many guys will swear that 42:00people drummed naked around the fire circle and I never once seen that. I've seen guys as close to naked as possible like in their underwear or some makeshift loin cloth that they come up with or some festive pair of pants that they brought that were just barely covering anything. I've seen a lot of that. And I did love the fire because there's just something very primal about the fire and what it brings out in people. Because it can bring out the dancing but also the people who sat on those benches to just have those little conversations. I liked that a whole lot. I found over the years that that's what I mostly did was I sat and had those little conversations with people. Because I feel like you don't always get to know people. There's so much going on and if you can find a quiet moment to sit down, sometimes you forget people are drumming.

43:00

GOUGH: Well, just a personal note here. I think I remember you saying that thing about the seven people and thinking how wonderful that was. That it was a startling thing to hear, but it was like an honest thing, too. And I thought, "There's probably a bunch of people in this boat." And it made me glad that was going to be the level of risk for, you know? So, I don't think I'm hallucinating that I heard that there.

SALYER: I remember very vividly saying it. So, perhaps, if that had resonated with you --

GOUGH: I had forgotten about that, but that helped make that conference.

SALYER: We were in the same small group together that year.

GOUGH: We were. Okay. Well, can you talk a little bit about the small group 44:00thing? Just as a device? Do you think it's -- Was it powerful for you? Was it something you'd seen a lot of so it wasn't that big of a deal? Do you think it's crucial? Are you glad they still have them?

SALYER: I loved the small group experience and I do think they're crucial. There's one part of it I would change and I'll get to that. But I'm going to get to that first small group in 1992 and -- my recollection of it was that it was being led by Peter Kendrick and that you and I were in it. And I know Don Hedon (?) was in it. And there were a couple of guys in it that I don't think have ever been back. One of the guys was developmentally disabled and he had a -- Part of his disability was that he couldn't hear and so there was a guy who did sign language there, Miguel. And so they ask him if he would sign. So, he ended 45:00up signing the entire conference for this guy.

GOUGH: Wow.

SALYER: And he was in our small group because he got us -- He wasn't really in our small group but he got assigned to it because we had the man. And I wish I could remember his name, but I don't. But one of the things I remember so clearly about it is that this was such a lovely group and then there was this one guy who when we were getting into it and the signing was happening, this one guy just like said, "I -- I don't think I can do this." And it was really clear to me that it wasn't that he couldn't do the group, it was that he was having challenges around being in the group with someone who had disabilities. And I thought, I don't know how that looks when you sign it, but I was -- I felt like 46:00very protective of him. And he was such a lovely man, too. And participated. And so -- So. the guy who wasn't sure he could sit in a group with the rest of us, he calmed down. I have no other memory of him.

GOUGH: Okay, what did you -- What were you feeling at the end of the conference? What did this conference feel like? You told us how it felt like when you first got there, and then so how did it sort of develop and what was it like when you left?

SALYER: I remember thinking afterwards, "Well, that was okay. I got through that." And that was tricky because I had to talk to seven guys and had to do all these things and I made it through the workshops and small group and that was 47:00fine. I could do this again. If I had anything -- If there was anything negative going on in my head, it was probably something about how this could be organized a lot better. Because that's where my head always goes. But yeah, I mean, remember having a good enough experience that I would want to come back. And in fact I joined the what was called the planning committee for the next year.

GOUGH: The -- Some of the things done in the workshops and the circles -- you know, the Native American stuff or whatever it was then I don't remember what it may have been in '92 -- were those like from Mars to you or was that like that sort of part of your -- It wasn't alienating? It was these other traditions, these nonreligious things, these pagan-y things. Were they threatening in any way? Or were they just interesting? Or?

SALYER: They weren't threatening to me. They were things I had not really seen 48:00before. I'd not participated in a heart circle. I'd not done -- I'd not had a small group process like it was presented there. And just some of the terminology, the words, the songs that they sang, things like that. That was all new to me. And in my head I just -- I went with ones I liked and then I thought, "Well, this will be over." If I didn't like it, it'd be over in a minute.

GOUGH: Okay. All right. How was this conference different than the way you'd expected it to be as you were driving up there thinking about what it might be like? Was it very different? Was it similar to sort of what you thought? Was it a mixture? Was it -- You know, were you surprised by what you found?

49:00

SALYER: I was surprised, but I also -- with things like this -- I try not to develop a lot of expectations before I arrive.

GOUGH: Oh, my. And you succeed in not having any?

SALYER: Probably.

GOUGH: Wow, that's great.

SALYER: Yeah.

GOUGH: That's a talent. Okay. So, it just kind of unfolded in the way it did then it was not jarring to you because that's okay.

SALYER: I mean I knew what my work was there. My work was to go and address the seven men. I knew what my work was.

GOUGH: So, how often did you go to GSV conferences? What's your history with going to them?

SALYER: I've been too -- They had the twenty-fifth anniversary conference last fall in 2014, and I believe I've been to eighteen of the twenty-five.

GOUGH: Okay. What factors influence your decision to attend or not attend a conference, and things might have changed over the years because you're 50:00obligated. You obligated yourself to be a planner.

SALYER: Yes, when you were on the what was originally called the planning committee and then it evolved into the council. When you were part of those things, there was an expectation that you were going to go and I never had any problem with that at all. And then later on -- You know, after I fulfilled years of service in 2010, I decided to take a break. So, I took three years off, and came back for the twenty-fifth anniversary. I wanted to go back for a couple of reasons. It was the twenty-fifth year, yes, and I was grateful for all the other guys who had got us that far. But also I liked the keynote speaker they had chosen. It was John Stacio from Easton Mountain and I'd really wanted to hear him speak because I'd never met him. And then, there was also the person that was convening that year was Scott Dillard and I love Scott Dillard. So, I wanted to be there to support him. So, I had three reasons. Now, I don't know what will 51:00happen this year. I don't know because I haven't seen any kind of plans.

GOUGH: So, the content or people involved are factors on whether you go or not go any given year?

SALYER: They would be now since I'm not part of the planning process. Now it's going to be a question of like who did they invite to speak and who's in charge? Yeah.

GOUGH: Okay. Do you remember any -- Do you have any favorite keynotes over the years? Any high points?

SALYER: I do, I do. I was thinking about this when you asked me to do this project. My -- The first keynote that I remember vividly was from 1995 and it was Malcolm Boyd. Malcolm Boyd is such a fascinating guy. Actually, he just died like two months ago. I don't think it's been two months, yet. He was a -- He was an A-list producer in old Hollywood. And then I think in the '50s he became an 52:00Episcopal priest. And he -- During that time, he wrote Are You Running with Jesus, which was a collection of contemporary prayers and he did all this social activism and like was in Selma with Dr. King. So, he was such an amazing guy. And in the '70s, he just came out and then the church was not so happy about that. And I believe he left the church but then, I also remember that in the '80s, he was one of the first people who did a -- He did an AIDS mass and I think when that was just not happening. It's 1985, I'm pretty sure. So, he was a such a fascinating keynote speaker. He was -- And, I mean, he was seventy-two at the time so he had all this stuff in his history. And he brought his partner, Mark Thompson, who was thirty-years-younger. And you know, you would just watch them together and you would think, "Well how does that work exactly?" Except 53:00that it obviously did. So, that was a way of -- For me, it was a way of confronting ageism for instance and intergenerational relationships. So, yeah, Mark Thompson -- I just have to say this about Mark Thompson. So, he comes up there and -- Mark Thompson is an author and an editor and he is one of the voices -- He was one of the contemporary voices of the BDSM movement in this country. And this was really exciting that we had -- That was a combo. Malcolm Boyd and Mark Thompson was a combo. So, Mark Thompson -- They decided they were going to give him a workshop slot. And I thought, "Well I'm going to go to this primarily because he's really hot." And so I go to this and, first of all there's a description, and I just have to say because I brought this deliberately, I wanted to be able to read this description. So, Mark Thompson's 54:00workshop was called "Dark Eros: SM Play as Spiritual Work." And I thought, "Okay, sure, I'll do that." "Some readings and observations from Mark Thompson who will facilitate a discussion of exploring our feelings, fantasies, and attractions to radical sexuality." So, I go into this workshop. It's limited to thirty people. It's full and Mark Thompson talks for a couple of minutes and then he asks us all to pair off for a spanking exercise. We're going to spank each other. Now, that's not in the description.

GOUGH: You thought it was going to be a talking thing.

SALYER: Yeah. So -- And so what's funny is everybody seemed to be on board with this and a guy walked over to me immediately and said, "Let's be, you know, let's pair off. Let's do this." And I thought, "Sure, because I look like somebody who wants to be spanked today." And then, then it was like you guys 55:00need to determine who's going first. Who's going to get spanked first. And of course the guy goes, "I'll spank you." He was very assertive about it. I'll give him that much credit. So, I like -- And this felt like it was going on forever, but it wasn't. It was all happening in like, you know, thirty-seven seconds. And I finally just said, "You know, I think I'm not going to do this." And I turned around and I walked out and closed the door behind me. And then, I had all these feelings about it and guilt and just everything was all just churning around inside of me. And so I saw the guy at lunch -- the one that wanted to spank me -- I saw him and I walked up to him and said, "I just need for you to know that when I left, it was not personal. It didn't have anything to do with you." And he went, "Oh yeah, I knew that." So, that was another real lesson for me. All that agony I went through --

GOUGH: Wasted time.

SALYER: Wasted. Wasted.

56:00

GOUGH: Funny. Okay, other -- Excuse me. Other -- In that drawer. Other keynotes that you remember kind of fondly? Or?

SALYER: Well, this is going to be kind of -- I was presiding elder for three years. So, 2008, 2009, 2010. And I really loved the three keynotes that we invited. The first year, 2008, it was Clyde Hall, who's a Native American, and I thought it was about time that it -- Since we had borrowed or adopted so many Native American rituals, I thought it might be nice that we actually have a Native American speaker come in and talk to us.

GOUGH: Um-hmn. Yes, well.

SALYER: And so we did that. And I will say that I -- I'm not -- I don't remember a whole lot about Clyde's keynote. What I remember is the question and answer period was fantastic, which is often what happens with keynotes is, you know, 57:00they get through the thing and it's the questions that they get and the spontaneous nature of that whole interaction that works so much better, so. But I loved Clyde and he's a friend today. And then the next year, we invited Peterson Toscano, who was a performance activist. And Peter had spent seventeen years in ex-gay therapy before he finally got out of that and said, "You know what? I'm just gay." And so he had this thing where he took bible stories and he looked for the potentially transgendered characters and then he acted them out.

GOUGH: I remember that.

SALYER: And it was fascinating. And you'd think, "Oh my god, this is not going to be good." Except it was good and it was seamless and he was a complete professional. And he could do so much with just the smallest of costume changes. And so I loved that. And again, when he was done -- And we hadn't had like somebody get up and do a performance that I could ever remember, really. So, he 58:00got through that and then we had the question and answer and of course the questions -- there were some about what he had done -- but a lot of them were about spending seventeen years in ex-gay therapy. And again, I don't think we'd ever had anybody who could tell us about that experience. So, that was great. And then the next year, 2010, we -- I thought -- because we'd opened the door on the transgender stuff -- I thought, "Well what if we actually invited somebody who is transgender?" And I got the council on board with this, and they said, "Well, just like bring us some names and we'll talk about it all. Or send us some links and we'll look at them." So, I did. I sent them. And the first person that we wanted, he was not available. And the next person, which was Bear Bergman -- Bear was available, and I had to go back and forth with him on an 59:00email and then a phone call for him to get comfortable for with what we were asking him to do. Because he's used to -- He was female to male transgender. So, what he's used to doing is going in to a college or going to a place and speaking for an hour, an hour-and-a-half and leaving. What we were asking him to do was to come for an entire weekend. Not just a weekend, but like get there on Thursday -- Get there on Wednesday or Thursday and then not leave until Sunday afternoon and to go through this process with everybody. You're going to eat meals with them. You're going to go to small group with them. And so I had to kind of get him to be okay with that idea. So, there was no -- Nobody on the council was against this idea. Nobody. We all thought it was great. When he got there, it became pretty clear, pretty fast that there were people that had a problem with him. And I -- That was my last year on the council. I had already 60:00told everybody, "You know, this is it for me, I'm rolling off. I've done it. It's time to get off the stage." And if I hadn't already made that decision, I would've left just because of the way I felt that they treated him. I think it was just not in character for our organization and I was very disappointed.

GOUGH: Okay. Want you to talk a little bit about the transition from the -- The time when, you know, it had mostly been Atlanta people and the whole burn out story and the mixed feelings of turning it over and finding somebody who would take it and that -- I always see you as central to that change. And I -- Is that 61:00correct? That you were in the middle of that part of that transition?

SALYER: I think there's -- I think there's a -- I can understand why people would think that I was in the middle of that transition or I --

GOUGH: Weren't you around that period?

SALYER: Yeah, because what had happened was this. When you get a -- When you get elected -- or chosen, I guess, is a better word -- chosen to be a presiding elder, the term is two years. So, 2008 to 2009, those were my two years. And I said, "I will agree to come back for another year but everybody needs to understand I'm done after that. You're going to figure out how to -- You're going to have to figure out a way to make this organization keep going because I'm not going to be here to do that. And the thing was, I understand how people thought, "Okay, that's me, I'm trying to shut it down or whatever." Except that everybody on the council felt the same way. We've all been doing it.

62:00

GOUGH: No, talk a little bit about what led to the transition. You know, what was happening with the organization?

SALYER: We were all -- It wasn't -- I know that it's shorthand to say these guys are burned out, but that's not what was happening.

GOUGH: Okay, what was happening?

SALYER: Now, many of us have been doing this for a very long time. And I'm just going to say names, but there was Kim Pittman, and Jennings Fort, and Phil Robst, and Craig Cook, and Tony James, George Miller, me. When we had been this consistent core people for a really long time, and the truth was that George was ready to move on, Kim felt like he'd done this as many times as he'd wanted to do it, Jennings was ready to move on. I mean, nobody was angry and nobody had ever, ever used the words burned out in my presence. Nobody ever, ever said I'm burned out and so I need to just be done with this. But we all just agreed that it was time to let a new generation. Because those of us who'd been there for a 63:00really long time, we had seen other people hand it off. So, we knew that that's what you do. So, that's what we agreed to do, and we all said, "Well, we'll stay on another year with the understanding that you're going to have to figure out -- if you care about this organization -- you're going to have to figure out how to make it go forward." Okay.

GOUGH: So, y'all announced that to one of the conferences?

SALYER: Right. So, they had an entire year to do that. And there was a council retreat at the mountain in November of 2009 so that they would all know -- Everybody could get on the same page about it. And for me personally, I can only speak for -- I can't speak for the rest of these guys except to say that not a single one of them ever said that I'm burned out.

GOUGH: Well, why would it be bad if they had said that? I'm not understanding something.

SALYER: I just think it's -- I think there's a --

GOUGH: Weary is what I'm thinking burned out means. Like, you know, it's somebody else's turn.

SALYER: It's the way that -- I feel like it's the way people fill in the blanks 64:00sometime when they don't really care what the truth is.

GOUGH: Oh, okay.

SALYER: So, I wasn't burned out, but what I'd told people who'd really been curious and wanted to know is I said, "Look, I was presiding elder for three years." The year before that -- the one before -- when we had a presiding elder who was struggling with depression and really couldn't fulfill the responsibilities, I had to do stuff for him. And so that was almost four years of me doing this stuff. It was time for me to get off the stage. That's really all that's about. You don't want the same person -- I mean, there's a reason why we don't have presidents for longer than eight years.

GOUGH: Right. No human can do this.

SALYER: No.

GOUGH: Well, am I incorrect or correct that there was at the same time a critical mass of people in Asheville by that time who might be able to get 65:00together person to person?

SALYER: There were --

GOUGH: So, and take it on?

SALYER: There were. There were people in -- There were still some people in Atlanta and there were some people in various cities in North Carolina. And there were a couple people in other places that said they would be a part of it and I, for me personally, I couldn't be a part of an organization that does everything by conference call or email. That's not -- I love to sit in a room face-to-face with people, and so the version that they have now is not something that I would do. But it's what they're making work for them.

GOUGH: Were -- Did you pick up on this idea that conference planning had been just identified with Atlanta for so long and it was kind of time for somebody else? For it not to be so identified with Atlanta people? Or am I making that 66:00part up? Was it not an Atlanta-centric kind of reputation or something?

SALYER: It was Atlanta-centric and it had been from the very beginning. But I think we -- I think we were very good about inviting people outside Atlanta into the process. I mean, they might not have been able to do something until they got to the mountain, but they could still do something. So, but yeah, it was always Atlanta based and --

GOUGH: Okay. So, talk a little bit -- I want to come back to this transition part, but talk about what it's like to be a planning, process, a conference planner person. What does that mean? What was it like for you, specifically? Was it fun? Was it more a lot of things besides the fun part? Was it exhausting? Was 67:00it --

SALYER: I loved it. I loved it, personally. Now, I will say --

GOUGH: What did like about it?

SALYER: Well, I loved the --

GOUGH: What parts of your personality dovetailed with what needed to be done that you liked?

SALYER: I have, as I've told many people, I have some motherfucking organizational skills.

GOUGH: Okay.

SALYER: And so I can do that. If you want me to -- If you want me to pull this all together for you, yeah, I can do it. And so I -- I enjoy that part of it. I love the conversations that we had around keynotes. There'd be a list of eighteen or twenty people to invite to be a keynote speaker, and we had to narrow that down to three because if the first one couldn't do it then you had two backups. So, I loved that whole process. I loved that you had to find ways to negotiate and compromise and come together because remember we worked by 68:00consensus, which means everybody at the table has to agree before we're going to move forward on something. And that's tricky because that's not the way the world works. We were all raised in a country where it's majority rule, and it's easy to undermine things if you want to. So, I loved it. I mean I -- There were so many good idea that got brought to the table and -- And also just the energy that I would see. You know, when people are very passionate about this -- and I saw a lot of passion over the years -- because we knew that what we were doing. We could set all these things in place, but you never knew how it was going to work until you got to the mountain.

GOUGH: Right. And the magic takes over.

SALYER: So, yeah. And then there were just details and things. And again, I'm very detail-oriented and so I'm always looking at "How can we fix this?" And then, you know, there were things about it that used to make me laugh. Like when 69:00I was -- would do -- the orientation for the beginning of the conference, which was to give people the idea of like, "Here's what you can expect, and let me introduce these people to you and here are the rules and you can't walk around naked and all that stuff." And I mean it just grew. Every year, that list of things I had to share grew. I was like --

GOUGH: Wonder what that means?

SALYER: I don't know. And they would just keep giving it to me because they would go, "Well you'll make it funny. It'll be fine. You'll make it funny." And I guess that's true, I could make it funny. But there were people who didn't -- You know what? If you can get up in front of the room and you're the one who's like bringing order to everything and you're giving the rules, there are going to be people who just don't like you. And so there were people who did not like me and I was aware of that. I would read on the evaluations and one guy wrote one year, he goes, "I guess it was okay except for that control queen." So, you're not going to please everybody but I loved the process of sitting in a 70:00room for a council meeting because there would be typically four hours until we started the actual conference planning and then we would go to six hours. So, we would sit together and I mean --

GOUGH: Where would you sit?

SALYER: We would sit -- Originally we were at the Friends meetinghouse, which was in the Quaker church in Decatur -- and then we moved to this little office space on Sheridan Road in Atlanta. That one was -- It had a different, a bit of a different feeling from the Friends meetinghouse space, but it was fine and we were there quite a long time.

GOUGH: So, y'all didn't mean at each other's houses to do this?

SALYER: Every once in a while we would meet at somebody's house. Everyone once in a while. Like we would -- There'd just be some -- I don't know -- there would just be some crazy reason where we wouldn't do the thing at Sheridan Road and we 71:00would go to somebody's house. I can remember one meeting -- I don't know if I should tell this. Should I tell? I don't know. Do you have more questions?

GOUGH: We can edit it out. I mean, you can tell them to edit it out later if you want to.

SALYER: All right, um. Okay, I'll tell this story. There was this one year -- and I remember this very, very, very specifically -- it was January of 2004 and I was rejoining the council after having been off for a couple of years because I was living in California, then I moved back and I -- So, January, 2004. It's a pretty big council. Because it was January and this was like the people who were showing up were the ones who were saying, I want to commit to do this for the next year. Sort of like thirteen of us. And --

GOUGH: This was at a conference?

SALYER: No, this was the -- This was a meeting because you were asking about like the meetings and what's good about them. Okay so, there we were -- There's thirteen of us, it's January 2004, and we have a special guest who wants to come 72:00in and speak to us. And it is somebody who used to be on the council, who had been on the council for many years. And he had an issue he wanted us to address. And the issue was that at the last conference, he had seen people using -- guys -- he had seen guys using drugs on the dance floor. And he wanted us to address that. And so he said all he wanted to say, and then he left, and there's thirteen of us in this room who had to come to consensus on how to move forward on this. And I will tell you, it was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen because I thought we were never, ever going to come to consensus on a policy about drugs and alcohol at the mountain. But we did. All these guys, we all came together and we decided that Gay Spirit Visions events would be drug and alcohol free. We did that. Thirteen guys. And the funny thing was, everybody 73:00got there from a different way. You had two guys in recovery who were like, "I just think this is good idea." And then you have other guys who did stuff, and you had some people who said, "I don't care. I don't drink or do drugs when I'm up there, but just don't ask me to be the police because I'm not." So, you had all that and we came to that consensus, and so that's an example of how I thought that we were never going to get there. And we did. And it didn't take us four hours.

GOUGH: Wow. Interesting. So, back to the transition time, what is your recollection of how that went? What your opinion of how it took or didn't take? How difficult it was? Whatever that ball of wax is? What's your observation of how that went? Did you go to a conference after it got transferred over to the new folks?

SALYER: I did not.

GOUGH: So, you didn't have immediate knowledge of how it worked or didn't work, 74:00but you probably were hearing plenty?

SALYER: I heard a little, but not a lot. For the transition -- So, that last year when I was still presiding elder, 2010, three guys from the transition task force or whatever they were calling themselves then -- Three guys came on and it was Paul Plate, Dennis Van Avery, and Jim Jones. Moon Dragon. And so the three of them came to the meetings so they could see our process and what happens and what needs to be addressed and all that. And then as we got closer to the end of the year, we started to hand off all the stuff to them. Like, so they would know here's the password for this, and here's the key for that, and here's a list of all the things we do monthly that's just administrative stuff that has to be 75:00taken care of. And I thought that the transition honestly went very smoothly. I mean, those three guys -- I don't have anything negative to say about them. I think they're wonderful human beings. So, again, I don't know what it looked like the next year. I don't know. But I think as a council -- I think we acted responsibly and with integrity in handing it off. We gave them a year, we assisted them along that way, and then we handed it off in good shape.

GOUGH: Doesn't get any better than that.

SALYER: No, it doesn't.

GOUGH: And then you decided -- Your first conference after that was when you -- Was 2000 -- Was the twenty-fifth anniversary?

SALYER: Yeah, I went back. Yes.

GOUGH: And so what was that like for you? What were -- Were you -- I'm sure you 76:00were wondering if things had been preserved, the best had been preserved, or if things had fallen out of -- So, what? Do you have an opinion?

SALYER: I do have an opinion. I can say that absolutely the best had been preserved. I can say that. What else can I say about it? Just personally, you know, I had spent so many years working on things behind the scenes that I had never really got to enjoy the conference.

GOUGH: Ah, exactly.

SALYER: It was just always -- It was one thing after another. I mean I can't -- If I could just sit here and tell you, like, give you fifteen minutes worth of ridiculous questions that people brought to me thinking I would be the only person who could answer them.

GOUGH: Like where's the ice machine?

SALYER: Yes. Just -- "I lost my watch. Do you have to -- Does your sacred fire have to burn all the time?" "Yeah, for like twenty years." Yeah, all those things that we -- So, I had to answer all those questions. And then there was -- 77:00And then there was just the mountain staff who would come that needed you to sign off on stuff, too. So, there was all that. I didn't have to do any of it. So, I got to --

GOUGH: You got to be a participant in it.

SALYER: I got to play. And I'm going to say -- this is what's funny -- I can remember all the contentious arguments we had in council about creating an intimacy space where guys could go off and --

GOUGH: Have sex.

SALYER: Whatever version of intimacy they want to have. I remember all those conversations and how tricky it was for us to get that space. I never got to use it until the twenty-fifth anniversary. And then I was in there three times. Just for the record.

GOUGH: Yeah. Nice to be a participant sometimes.

SALYER: Yes, it was nice for me to let go of all that stuff. And the other thing that I saw happening was that I saw Scott Dillard was in charge. And I knew that 78:00behind the scenes there were things were going on. And it reminded me how easy I'd actually had it. The three years I was the person that -- I worked with the best guys. Nobody ever tried to undermine me, everybody was on the same page, everyone was helpful. People would say, "No, David, you don't have to set up the chairs." So, yeah, I mean, I was excited to go back and I thought, again, you've picked a great keynote speaker with John Stacio. I loved who's convening, Scott Dillard. It's the twenty fifth-anniversary. I could not be prouder of you. You've made it. Because, you know, who knew when we handed it off whether it would last?

GOUGH: Great, great. Okay. So, how could you describe what GSV has meant to you? 79:00I mean, that's a silly question in a way. But what are some of the ways it's changed you? Are there friendships that wouldn't have been there otherwise? Did you -- Who are some of those friendships that came from that that are still in your life?

SALYER: There are -- It certainly brought people into my life that I would not have met otherwise. And it's also had an impact on me -- a very significant impact on me personally in several ways. So, first, yes, I mean I -- There are just guys that I'm so thrilled to have gotten to know, you know, like Bob Strain or Dan Elswick. And they're just the people that -- I only maybe get to see them in a certain window of time, but when I'm there, I feel completely loved and 80:00supported. And I know that we can go off and have one of those private little quiet conversations by the fire and it's going to be meaningful. So, I love that. And so how -- How did it impacted me? Well, a couple of things. First and foremost, I, for the longest time, I identified as gay. And I think it's by involvement in Gay Spirit Visions that has allowed me to self-identify as queer.

GOUGH: How so? How did that happen?

SALYER: I feel that there had just been times when I've -- I've heard the word -- Because when we grew up, we grew up hearing it in a very negative way. And then, but now as an adult, through interactions at Gay Spirit Visions, I've heard queer being used in a very positive way. And I thought, you know, even as a kid, I knew people were trying to be disparaging of me, but I just don't 81:00object of that word. So, I wonder if it's ever going to be okay. And for me it's okay now. So, I'm queer and I pretty much have Gay Spirit Visions to thank for that. I just wish I could check that box. Because it's never on a form. Isn't that weird? It's just never on a form.

GOUGH: No, I haven't seen it, yet.

SALYER: So, there's that.

RANDALL CUMBAA: And is that -- Is that -- Those words, mean different things to you, or is it just the word is different?

SALYER: You know, for me, queer just means unusual, out of the ordinary, uncommon. And, yeah, that's me. Yeah. I couldn't be normal if my life depended on it. It's just not going to happen. So, I'm fine with queer and I like to use 82:00it. I use it when I'm blogging now. And I know that there are people who still get cringey about it, but I think that it's a word we needed to take back and it looks like we have. And good for us. So. So, the other thing is, like I mentioned I earlier, I think that gay spirit visions has taught me something about integrity in the way, the way I relate to men and how easy it is sometimes to blow off somebody and not really tell them what you're doing. I just -- I just wanted to fuck you, I didn't want to date you. I mean there's a way to actually communicate that with integrity. And I -- So, I've learned that. And I think, again, Gay Spirit Visions. Because have been so many times when you've crossed paths with somebody. The world is a lot smaller. I know everybody thinks those Armistead Maupin movies of the -- Armistead Maupin books -- are so 83:00contrived with the people who keep intersecting and everything, but no. My life has been like that forever. So, I'm always going to run into people that I've slept with or whatever. And I feel like you really need to develop some integrity around that. So, that's -- That's been god for me, too. And then the last thing is that Gay Spirit Visions taught me that I don't have to explain my spiritual path to you. I don't need you to validate it. I don't even need you to understand it. So, if I would -- If I choose to tell someone I'm agnostic and they don't understand what that means, I might direct them to a dictionary or I might choose to -- depending on who it is -- I might choose to explain it to them. But I don't -- I don't have any shame about saying a I'm an agnostic, anymore. At all. Not shame. No shame around being queer, no shame about being 84:00agnostic. I think those are gifts that I've gotten from Gay Spirit Visions.

GOUGH: Do you feel like the opportunities that you had and that you took to be a -- to express your organizational skills, your performance skills, your writing stuff, whatever you feel like your talents are -- that that was supported by Gay Spirit Visions or not particularly so? I mean, was that a proving ground for you? Was it a confidence building era? All of that work you did with GSV? Or not particularly? I mean it's --

SALYER: It took me a couple years to find my groove in Gay Spirit Visions. First few years on the council I was not -- I was setting up chairs. And then I 85:00finally kind of made that leap. I remember the first time I was, I said they were having -- The person that was going to do the talent show, which was '96, he wasn't going to come. And there was all this panic because he'd done the talent shows I think from the beginning. And I was sitting -- And it was one of those meetings where we were in somebody's house, by the way. It was Franklin Abbott's house. And we were sitting there and they were, you know, there was anguish around this decision. And I said, "Well, I could do the talent show. I think I could do it." And I remember thinking, "Well, there will be this really long conversation about this. But John Stow said, "Well, there you go. There's your answer." So, then I did it five years in a row. So, yeah, I always felt like if you -- Yeah, if you stepped up and you volunteered and you didn't 86:00completely fuck it up, then they would -- But I must have made some impression by that point. I think they would have said, "No."

GOUGH: They would have prevented you from doing that. So are -- Would you say a small, medium sized, or large proportion of your friendship network has come from GSV or is it just tacked on to some other ones that were there well before GSV? Is it all just mixed up too much for you to know? Or?

SALYER: Um, some of it -- I would say it's about half and half. There are -- I've certainly made a nice number of friends through Gay Spirit Visions over the years, but a lot of them don't live here. So, I wouldn't call them close friends exactly. But -- And then also the thing is that I have another group of friends but I've lost so many people to AIDS that I've had to replenish. You know, 87:00constantly reinventing yourself. So, now I have -- I have friends from GSV, I have friends that survived or are HIV-negative, and then I have friends that are people I went out and, like, I tried to make friends with somebody. I need -- I need something different that I'm not getting from these other circles [unintelligible]. And, which is a real change for me because when I was a kid, I used to wait for people to pick me.

GOUGH: Interesting. You may or may not want to talk about this, but I was wondering if you could tell from your point of view the story about you and the 88:00Minneapolis guy and the whole how that sort of -- How y'all found each other at that conference and how that went? Or not? Just what that -- What that was like? You were -- you were trying to -- You did not expect to meet that person there. You were helping organize things, so I assume you were preoccupied with that, and then this thing came out of left field. So, just -- I thought that was just a remarkable, sweet story, and I always wondered what it must have been like for you to have to fold that into what I assume you were being very preoccupied about? So, help. What was that? Am I making a lot of this up?

SALYER: No, I don't mind talking about it. So, what happened was that I met Greg from Minneapolis at a potluck here. It's a potluck in February of 2008.

GOUGH: Before the conference?

89:00

SALYER: Yes.

GOUGH: Oh, I didn't know that.

SALYER: His -- He had a friend who was being a transfer here and he came with her to help her look for a house. And he had looked us up online and he had come to a potluck. And so after the potluck that was in February -- After the potluck, I got an email from him. And I thought, "Well, of course anybody could find my email address because it's, you know? And so we emailed back and forth a bit. Not like every day or anything like that. And we didn't talk on the phone. And he said, "I think I'm going to go to the fall conference." And I said, "Oh, that's good. I'm sure you'll enjoy it. We have a good speaker this year." And so he showed up and I was already attracted to him, and so I had to explain, "Listen, I have a lot to do. So -- "

GOUGH: Don't take this personally.

90:00

SALYER: "So, don't get your hopes up about stuff." But we did get to spend some time together. A little bit. There was one time in one of the larger -- Oh, it was during the announcements one morning. He did something silly that involved me and I blushed, which is probably not something I do terribly often. But we did, yeah. We -- After that, we saw each other for three years. So, I flew back and forth to Minneapolis. And what's funny is on the evaluation, -- Here's what's funny. Because remember I told you earlier about somebody writing things on the evaluation. Because there's always somebody who's just, anyways. This person wrote, regarding -- because it couldn't have been about anybody else -- it was regarding Greg and myself. They wrote, "The romance was too much in our face."

GOUGH: I thought it was sweet.

SALYER: Yeah, that's what everybody else said to me. That it's -- Because they 91:00see me up there running around like a crazy person for years and not having, you know, like a moment and so, yeah. Most people were completely on board.

GOUGH: Oh, that was a neat part of that a neat part of that. Okay, a few more questions. Tell us about one of those people who's not alive anymore that you want to talk about because he's, for you, an important part of the GSV story and he can't talk to us. So, talk to the camera and us about this person. Or two, if you want. You don't have to pick one. But if you have somebody?

SALYER: I, um -- Wait, where's that list that is over here. I know I have somebody that I know that I definitely want to talk about.

GIUGH: Okay.

SALYER: But I -- It was a long -- When I first saw this list, I was, you know, 92:00for a moment, I had to realize that, yeah, we've really lost this many people and it's a lot of people. There are just a couple. I mean, I've mentioned John Stow, for instance, and how -- John Stow and I were never close but he was very pivotal for me. Because I think he can always just look and go, "You need to loosen up." Or just the way he very casually goes, "Yeah, you can do the talent show." All those kinds of things. You remember those. You know, if you're a person who's kind of not quite sure of yourself, you remember those things. So, I loved John Stow very much. John Mungo who was a keynote in I want to say maybe 2000? John Mungo was a sweet man, gentle, and I remember he also came back after the conference and he facilitated our council retreat and he was just amazing in 93:00so many ways. And everybody -- This is so funny because a lot of times -- Because, you know, I dealt with him in some ways because of being on the council, but I also personally, you know, I interacted with him on a personal level, too. I had him over for dinner and things like that. And I'm surprised at how many people think John Mongo and I must have had sex. And I -- That is not true. Just for the record, that is not true. Not that I wouldn't have wanted it, but I did not make that move. So, there was just something about it that didn't feel right.

GOUGH: Now, I don't remember knowing him. So, tell me a little bit about what he was like.

SALYER: Well, John Mungo was a just a -- He was a sturdy guy with big arms and tattoos and he had -- He was bald, but he had a red beard. And he was a 94:00psychotherapist and there was just something, you know, I think about him that made people just want to settle down. But yeah, he was, you know, I hate to trivialize it, but he was just so adorable and he was good looking in this off beat way.

GOUGH: Like a Paul Bunyan person or something?

SALYER: The lumberjack. Like a lumberjack. And you're like, "He's not -- He couldn't be a psychotherapist. That can't be right."

GOUGH: Do you remember any incidents with him? Or stories or encounters in particular with him about him that he was part of?

SALYER: I don't remember a lot. I mean, one thing I remember was one night we were leaving -- we left the treehouse together -- and then in my head, I 95:00remember thinking, "I'm not sure how this is going to play out. Do I want to have -- What if he invites me to his room? Do I want to have sex with him?" And that was what was going on in my head. And then I thought, "You know, really you should just shut up in your head. Just shut up." And we were walking along and it dawned on me that I had not said, "Look up." Because when you're on the mountain, you can actually see the stars. They're fantastic. You can see constellations and everything. And I was like, "You need to look up." I liked that I redirected my head, and so then we walked back to his room -- we were in the same building, we were in the lodge -- but I walked him his door. And he just leaned over and kissed me. And then said goodnight. And I thought, "That's 96:00all that needed to happen tonight. The stars and a very kiss was all that needed to happen."

GOUGH: Sweet.

SALYER: Anyway, it's not probably what you wanted to hear.

GOUGH: No, I wanted to hear a story about him because I didn't know him.

SALYER: Oh gosh, John Whitten. John Whitten was -- Was just a big --

GOUGH: He's another person I don't know, so tell me.

SALYER: John Whitten was like if you -- Like the brawny paper towel man. Like from the'90s. The '80s and '90s. He had that kind of a look about him. And so, gosh, that smile could just melt me again. He was an artist and -- I remember, there was a year -- I remember he came and he had a -- He'd grown his hair out so his hair was long. At least like right here. And in the dance that year, I had put Personal Jesus. But the Depeche Mode song, Personal Jesus. And he -- He 97:00walked up on the stage and he wasn't -- He was wearing -- You know, I said earlier people wear little pants or loincloths? He had on this thing that looked like a little makeshift loincloth. And he walked up on the stage during that song and just threw his arms open.

GOUGH: A little magical moment.

SALYER: It was -- I will never forget that image of him, yes. So, uh, the story that I really want to tell is about Crazy Owl. So, and there's two things about Crazy Owl. The first one is that there was one year -- and I want to say it was '95 or '96 -- there was one year where we just had this unprecedented number of people there. It was like a hundred-and-forty-seven people. It was just overwhelming and too much. Too much. And at the closing heart circle, I was 98:00seated next to Crazy Owl and somehow we had managed to be at the end. There were only two or three more people after us. So, we had to sit through a hundred and forty people doing this thing like this. Back when we didn't put parameters on what people said. So, this just went on forever. And on and on. And I -- They always tell you, don't rehearse what you're going to say, don't think about it too hard, just let it be spontaneous and heartfelt and all. And, yeah, that's not me at all. So, it goes around and around and finally it gets to Crazy Owl, who's sitting right next to me, and Crazy Owl says, "I haven't had a bowel movement in three days until this morning, and that was the best bowel movement that I can remember having." And the place just erupted in laughter. For like 99:00two and a half minutes, I mean it was just -- Laughter, laughter, laughter. And I thought, "You know what there's no reason to rehearse." And the only thing I could think to say was, "I don't know how to follow a good bowel movement."

GOUGH: Well, that's perfect.

SALYER: So, there was that. But the other part of the story is that Crazy Owl -- I think it was -- I want to say it was the year before. Maybe '95? Crazy Owl had -- He had been in -- It was either in a small group with me or something else. I had told people that I was living with HIV. I'm HIV-positive. And so I noticed that the rest of the time that Crazy Owl just kept watching me. And then so, you know, I just -- He'd be there watching me. And he would -- It was sort of just creeping me out a bit because I didn't know what that was about. And then 100:00finally there was one afternoon we ended up in the stairwell of the treehouse together. You know, I was coming up and he was coming down or something. And he stopped me, and I went, "Okay, here it comes. Whatever it is, here it comes." And he stopped me and he said, "You know, I can cure your HIV. I can cure AIDS." That's what he said. And I went, "Oh. Really, well. Okay. Who have you talked to about this?" And he says, "Oh, I tried to talk to those people in Atlanta -- the AID Atlanta, those people -- and they wouldn't listen." And I said, "Oh. Okay. All right." He says, "But I can cure your HIV, and I can cure AIDS." I said, "All right." Because I didn't know where to go with this after that. I already asked one question, the only thing I could think of, and he -- So, he reached into his pocket -- And he was one of those guys it could be eighty-nine degrees, and he would wear one of those army jackets and long pants and all. And he had -- he had long grey hair that was pulled back into a pony tail. And so he 101:00reaching into this army jacket and he pulls out a piece of paper and hands it to me and says, "You call me." And it has -- It's written, "Crazy Owl", and then there's a telephone number. And so I did not call him because I do not believe that he could cure HIV or AIDS. I do believe that's how you get a name like Crazy Owl. But --

GOUGH: Did you ever go out to his compound?

SALYER: I did not. Because I didn't know what was -- And there was a part of me that wonders what would have happened if I'd just let him do his thing. But I wasn't in that headspace at the time. So. But yeah, sometimes I feel like I'm keeping the memory of Crazy Owl alive. Although and, you know, and also, you don't have this so much anymore but there was when there were a lot more spirit names than there are now. And so Crazy Owl was one of them. And he was -- He was --

102:00

GOUGH: He lived up to his name.

SALYER: He did. He absolutely did.

GOUGH: Did you ever have a spirit name?

SALYER: I did not. I think that everybody was always afraid to give to give me one. Because it would have to go through a process to be approved.

GOUGH: Okay so, what -- What advice would you give to someone who's about to attend his first GSV conference? What would you say if you were sending him off to it? What would you --

SALYER: I'd say, you'd might want to lower your expectations and --

GOUGH: You mean like not have any or like not have them be too much?

SALYER: I don't know if I would say don't have any. But however you've built this up in your head, I'd just say lower it. Because let it -- It's never -- You 103:00don't know. I mean, the only reason I sort of know what's going to happen is because I've planned it for a gazillion years. I think if it's your first time and you're worried about like, "They're going to make me eat a chicken, I don't know what's going to happen," then I would say, you might want to just lower your expectations and go with it. And also, just find somebody to -- There will be somebody. You'll find -- Energetically, you'll find somebody there that you'll be able to relate to. I guarantee that.

GOUGH: So, who else do you think we should talk to if we're trying to get the most comprehensive picture we can of what this was -- what this is, and was?

SALYER: Oh, I do think talking to Al Cotton would be a good idea. Only because, you know, he was important in the beginning of it, you know? That first -- Whereas he was more important in the first eight to ten years. I mean, I think 104:00my importance happened after that. So, he may have some things to share about the beginning. I don't know if you could get -- I would love to know what Bruce Parrish thinks about all this, but I'm not sure you could get him to do it.

GOUGH: I'm sorry to hear that because I was planning to ask him. But, okay.

SALYER: Well, I'd say go ahead. He might. I mean, he's -- I know what, he's one of those people who'd go, "I'd prefer not to answer." I get -- I could predict that about him. Clearly, I didn't care.

GOUGH: So, I think that's all we're going to -- All I'm going to ask, but I want to be sure -- really sure -- that you have a chance you whatever we didn't cover, or that we didn't go near, that you wanted us to or thought we should because you're the one who this is about. This is about your experience with 105:00GSV. So, I don't want to artificially hack off a whole part of it that you might want to talk about.

SALYER: I feel like I covered a bunch of things and --

GOUGH: Did we leave out a whole that you wish we'd gone down?

SALYER: No, I was really surprised that you asked about the -- that transitional period. I didn't -- I was surprised about it, but I -- I never had any problem talk about it so that didn't bother me at all. Oh --

GOUGH: And it was -- It's just been a long interest of mine because I was holding my breath to see -- probably like a lot people were -- is it going to work or is it going to die now? And it didn't, so. And since you were there, I wanted to ask about this.

SALYER: I would only say this. I -- this is not something we covered exactly 106:00but in those -- From the very beginning when I first started and it was called a planning committee, you arrived at decision by consensus. And then that always stayed throughout my tenure up through 2010, we always worked by consensus. And it's not for everybody. Consensus is very tricky for some people. And there are people who would join the council, and they have a fantastic experience, and think, "I want to be able to relive this over and over again, and so I'm going to joint the council." And that's not where you -- You don't get the mountain experience from being on the council. You just don't. And they would struggle with consensus. And we had people over the years that would try -- They would try to circumvent it somehow. Not a lot of times, but every once in a while, 107:00you'd get somebody who would try and circumvent it. You also got people who would join the council and they had one issue, and they were determined that we were going to discuss that issue, and that we were going to see the light. And it, again, I can think of one thing in particular, and I kind of hesitate to share it. But it was one thing that came up over and over again, and they could -- We could never get to consensus on it.

GOUGH: Wow. If you had an opinion about this, I'd like to hear what you have to say about the -- What to some people sort of looks like a pendulum that goes back and forth between a lot of organization and letting it happen and rigid versus loose and trusting the magic versus organizing it to death. Do you -- Do you see the organization in one of those extremes now? Or do you agree with 108:00that? That that's always a tension in the planning?

SALYER: Well, I can certainly tell you that it became more structured as the organization grew.

GOUGH: Okay.

SALYER: A lot more structured and because of the makeup of the council -- people who came on with certain skills, and then invited us to look at things in a different way. And so in the beginning, when I was first around -- '92, '93, '94 [unintelligible] -- that felt very loose. And when I look at the brochure or the rundown of activities and stuff, and I see how things were structured and how it's all laid out and all, I see, "Okay, we actually got more professional and 109:00we started to do things that made more sense to us." But the other thing that happened was we, you know, we got serious about certain things because in '95 we incorporated. And after incorporation, we registered with the state of Georgia as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. And that meant you had to name officers. So, and then then we got someone came onto the council, who was Jim Fazen. He was a lawyer who came on and said, "We should really try this: so bylaws and then let's write down how people get to these positions. And then, oh, you might want to have a mission statement." And so, all that stuff happened like bam, bam, bam after '95. And so for some people who just don't want to do that, then that's probably looked like a lot of structure and it made them nervous. Because remember, we 110:00came from a Radical Faerie tradition, which is kind of freewheeling. So, this was a lot of structure. And then -- But then that's just how the council evolved. It evolved into people who just wanted everything in order and I was comfortable with that. I don't think everybody's comfortable with it. But that's the way that GSV ran for a long time. I don't what it looks like now, and I wouldn't want to compare the two. I would only say, I couldn't do what they're doing where they're just talking on the phone and conference calls and -- I like sitting down at a table physically and looking you in the eye. Because what I tend to believe about that is people are less likely to lie to you or fuck with 111:00you if you're looking them in the eye. So, that's just me. But yeah, I would just have to say that from beginning to when I handed it off in 2010, it absolutely got more structured and that's not -- that's not appealing to everybody. And especially having a lawyer come on and say, "I just took the liberty of drawing up these bylaws that are eleven pages long, all to read." Not everybody wanted to see -- I can tell you an interesting story about the mission statement. All right. So, the mission statement -- When it first came under the organization, there was one of these little pamphlets and it has a -- It didn't have a mission statement. It had something called a statement of Gay Spirit Visions, which goes on quite a bit. And in the middle of it, it says "furthermore." Now, if your mission statement includes the word furthermore, you might want to rethink it. So, I do specifically recall at the '99 council 112:00retreat at the mountain, there were fifteen of us. And we decided that we were going to write a mission statement. Yep. We were going to write a mission statement to be introduced in 2000. Because it was the millennium and all that stuff. But it was so exciting. Remember that? Remember how excited we all were about the millennium? So, yeah, we wrote this, and here's what happened with this thing. Fifteen of us in the room and I -- We got up, we had one of those boards, one of those dry erase boards, and people had phrases or words that they wanted in. So, we wrote down phrases and words and things and three of us went downstairs to the library in the lodge. And we tried to put something together. And so the three of us -- it was me and Ramon Noya, who's just one of the most delightful men that's ever lived -- and Matt Huff, who was at the time pretty 113:00much the youngest guy who'd ever been a part of GSV. And so we went downstairs and put all this stuff together and we wrote it out and whatnot and then we came upstairs and we wrote out what we had written on the dry erase board. And then there -- The room got to say, "Take that out." Or, "Oh my God, that doesn't need to be there." Or, "What were you thinking." Or something so we did this. And actually we wrote so that. An it was a mission statement pretty much by committee. And I always remember that.

GOUGH: Like the Declaration of Independence. Y'all going off and writing that. The three of you.

SALYER: Yeah. It was a lot of fun but it was a little bit scary because people can get all worked up about those things and --

GOUGH: Oh, yeah. Very attached to certain words.

SALYER: "This needs to have this word in it. It's just got to."

GOUGH: Do you have anything in your pile of things that you want to explain to the camera what they are? And can we make copies of them if we don't have them for the archives?

SALYER: If you don't have them in the archives, I'm pretty sure I've got copies 114:00of these. I'll give you. So, this was the original pamphlet.

GOUGH: Really. I don't think I've ever even seen that.

SALYER: This is the one that we redid it and it came out this way. And as you can see, this one our mission statement is on the back. And here's one of the biggest improvements we made. We made the type big so you can read it. Yeah.

GOUGH: Brilliant.

SALYER: So, and also what's really cool about these is that they have a little bit of the history and it talks about names and it talks about how we started from the radical faerie tradition and then there was the group of guys who bought the property, Running Water Farm. And then they incorporated, and then they incorporated and the incorporated name was calling the Stepping Stone. And the very first conference was funded by Stepping Stone. They gave us the money to do that in 1990. So, I -- That part of the history never needs to be lost. We 115:00always need to know where we came from. And some -- I know some people don't know that, but yes. It's spelled out. So, I can't really think of any real -- I don't really -- I pretty much said -- I wouldn't trade any of these any of the years. Even the worst years. Even the year that the council was so dysfunctional we had to go to therapy together. I wouldn't trade that year. That is -- I'm not making that up, either. Let me just say there was a year we went to therapy.

GOUGH: Well, what were some of the impasses? What were they about? Were they about process?

SALYER: They were personality conflicts.

GOUGH: I see. Okay. And you got through it.

SALYER: We did.

GOUGH: Good, good. So, you had to bring in a facilitator?

SALYER: We did. We brought in John Ballew.

GOUGH: Okay. I think he may have been brought in again.

SALYER: I -- He was last year. He was.

GOUGH: That's what I thought.

SALYER: Yes, indeed.

GOUGH. Okay. All right. Thank you, David.

SALYER: You're welcome.