The infamous Mid Atlantic Leather(MAL) weekend has come and gone. MAL is that special time of year when thousands of gay men and 11 women converge on Washington DC to visit museums, enjoy fine dining and stand in the coat check line at the Eagle.
All I can say is I am still very tired. Along with the pressure of all my birthday celebrations (mostly trying to remember how old I told people I was LAST year) there were parties to attend, slings to be slung, cigars to be smoked, visitors to be scowled at, a beer belly to be sucked in and a vendor mart to be shopped.
Of course most of this I didn't do since that would require me to leave my house during a particularly agoraphobic time of the year. However I was able to self medicate myself and make a few forays to the Washington Plaza after checking several times that my oven wasn't left on and wouldn't burn down the house. My major insight into MAL is that this event is the OCD Daddy of Leather events. This is a great party put on by the hard working Centaurs, fun with sexy men and porn stars, but safely predictable and similar to prior years in that my house did not burn down while I was there.
Those who attend MAL seem to fall into the the following groups:
The First Timers
The First Timers tend to be from small towns without leather bars or have that combo leather/cowboy/drag/lesbian bar that is ubiquitous in rural America. The First Timers buy the entire MAL "package" and spend their weekend enthusiastically being bused to leather brunches, attending lectures such as "Leather Symbolism in the L'Enfant Design of Washington DC" and "Incorporating S&M Into Your Project Runway Parties." The highlight of the trip to MAL includes going to the Tysons Galleria Mall in Virginia to the "Sew Your Own Leather Chaps" store.
First timers arrive at the DC Eagle at 9:00 pm, are drunk by 10:00 pm and passed out at the hotel by 11:00 pm. Due to their strict adherence to "the schedule" First Timers are rarely seen by anyone besides other First Timers, the bus driver and the waiters at Annies. The one exception to this is the person on the dance floor at the Reaction Dance who spilled his drink on you. That was a First Timer but fortunately he left hours before last call thus missing the arrival of your more sketchy local friends who might be confused and frightened at the specter of partyers using alcohol at a club.
First Timers are up early on Monday to make the long trip back home. Despite spending hundreds of dollars on leather they rarely wear it again except when riding in the back of a pickup truck covered with balloons in the local Gay Pride parade.
A few first timers return to become Fetish Veterans...
The Fetish Veterans
The Fetish Veterans spend their year planning for MAL or surgically recovering from it. They book their rooms for the next year at the the Washington Plaza as they check out. Fetish Veteran chat rooms vibrate with activity all year as they swap blueprints for newer and bigger sexual mousetraps.
Fetish Veterans arrive each year in trucks towing large U Haul trailers filled with sexual toys purchased at Home Depot, the Sports Authority, PetSmart, or medical equipment supply firms. Duct tape and World War II Surplus items also seem to be highly desired tools of the play. Fetish Veterans, like First Timers, are rarely seen during the weekend except by other Fetish Veterans, the waiters at Annies, and a few local emergency room doctors.
Fetish Veterans all request a late check-out, on Thursday. Or sometime in February.
The Sash Queens
The Sash Queens proudly wear the symbols of their triumphs from hotly contested manly beauty pageants around the world. They are seen by everyone and are seemingly everywhere. At least half of the men in Homo DC (9th St to 17th St) seem to be sashily dressed as the Gay Mayor Of the Lollipop Guild and all seem to be searching for the same ribbon cutting opening ceremony at Whole Foods or the Crew Club. All of these Leather celebrities in one spot: Mr. Eagle 2006, Mr. Leather Ramrod 2005, Mr World Top 2000, Ohio Leather Boi 1999, Mr. Rinse and Spit 2002, Ms. Continental Divide 1998, etc. Its like the Golden Globes in that you never really heard of the the winners until the envelope is opened but you pretend to be impressed with of his or her body of work and feel obligated to politely genuflect when in their sashed presence.
I am concerned that there does not seem to be a governing body like the FDA or a moral authority like Donald Trump to validate the actual provenance of these titles. Is it really possible that all of these folks are legitimate leather pageant winners?
Is this like the Special Olympics and everyone is a winner? I am very tempted to have a sash made with some generic title like "Mr Tri-State Leather 2003" since apparently Sash Queens only sleep with other Sash Queens. Or at least they don't sleep with me. Get me my Beadazzler! "Mr Leather OCD 2007" here I come!
Many locals spend the weekend in smug self-congratulation on their choice of such a fun place to live. This pink cloud lasts for three days and then they return to complaining about DC, the rudeness of the men, housing prices, traffic and how much fun and attitude free DC men are when you run into them in cities such as NYC or Ft Lauderdale.
Most locals get the "package"a couple of times before realizing that they can save money by just sluttily hanging out in the lobby of the Washington Plaza and purchasing tickets to the one or two things they wish to attend such as the Reaction Dance or Blowoff.
At some point during the night, Plaza security prevents anyone from going upstairs without having a room key or being with someone with a room key. Locals know to find a suddenly highly desirable drunk First Timer and flirt with him enough to get upstairs. As soon as he passes out in his room clutching the remote control, you can roam around freely looking for Fetish Veteran parties, Sash swap meets, or Ice machine room orgies.
The greatest tragedy is when a local meets another local at the hotel. This may work out if one of the locals lives within a few blocks of the hotel. However, in that this is someone you will eventually meet in Ft Lauderdale, I would hold out for finding a drunk First Timer.