Sunday, January 13, 2008
The Leather Merit Badges of 2008!
That infamous celebration of leather the Mid Atlantic Leather (MAL) 2008 weekend is almost upon us again. MAL DC is that special time of year when thousands of men and 11 women converge on Washington DC to visit museums, enjoy fine cuisine, stand in coat check lines and ponder the lack of leather related items at the confusingly named store "The Leather Rack."
Leather as clothing or a lifestyle is just not really something I am into. It's not a PETA thing it's just that I look sallow in black and instead of appearing sexy and menacing I look like an accountant who has made poor lifestyle choices.
Coming so close after my birthday, I try to attend a few of the Leatherati functions but each year I attend less and less. Regardless, it is always an adventure to suck in the beer belly for a few hours and wander through the crowd to observe this once a year party put on by Centaurs Club.
As I wrote before, from my experience those who attend MAL seem to fall into the following groups: First Timers, Fetish Veterans, Sash Queens and Locals.
The First Timers
Those fresh faced rainbow tattooed First Timers tend to be from small towns without leather bars or have that combo disco/leather/cowboy/drag/lube store bar that is ubiquitous in fly-over America. The First Timers buy the entire MAL "package" and spend their weekend enthusiastically being bused to Leather Brunches, Leather Cocktails, and earnestly attending workshops such as "Leather Symbolism or Free Mason Conspiracy in the L'Enfant Design of Washington DC?" and "Incorporating S&M Into Your 'Project Runway' Parties."
First timers stay to the very end of the marathon Mr. MAL pageant and never wonder why Miss America can be selected in two hours yet this crowning takes four. First Timers may also be found en mass at Leather Cocktails gathered around the shrimp bowl finishing it off in the first 15 minutes.
First timers, when not exchanging the leather merit badges of the cow hide circuit (also known as "run pins") are the ones who arrive at the DC Eagle by 8:00 pm, are drunk by 10:00 pm and passed out at the hotel by Midnight. Due to their strict adherence to "THE SCHEDULE", First Timers are rarely seen by anyone besides other First Timers, the shuttle bus driver and the waiters at Annies. The one exception to this is the First Timer drunk dancing on the dance floor at the authentic locker room-like smelling "Reaction Dance" who will spill his drink on you on the dance floor. He is one of the few First Timers to stay out past Midnight but he will leave hours before last call thus missing the arrival of your more sketchy local friends who might be confused and frightened at the specter of a man drinking alcohol at a dance party.
First Timers are up early on Monday to make the long drive 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 or attending "run pin" swap meets.
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 leather subtraps.
Fetish Veterans arrive in large Winnebagos stuffed with soon to be repurposed apparatus purchased at Home Depot, the Sports Authority, PetSmart, or medical equipment supply firms. Much like a well stocked hurricane shelter, their hotel rooms are filled with duct tape, oxygen, First Aid kits, MREs, puppy kibble, lubricants and World War II Surplus items. 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 will make an appearance at Leather Cocktails and may be found as a group devouring the oddly familiar stuffed suckling pig in a scene reminiscent of one of the gorier episodes of "Meerkat Manor."
Fetish Veterans all request a late check-out, on Thursday. Or sometime in February.
The Sash Queens
The Sash Queens proudly wear all weekend the leather sash that is the symbol of their triumphs in leather contests around the world. They are seen by everyone and are everywhere. At least half of the men between 9th St to 17th St will be sashily dressed as a dark Mayor of Candy Land searching for a ribbon cutting opening ceremony at Whole Foods or a Harley-Davidson dealership. Most of these titles you have never heard of and it's somewhat like the Golden Globes in that you never heard of the name of the winner until the envelope is opened but you still applaud the body of his or her work.
I'm starting to suspect that there is sash inflation and like in the Special Olympics, everyone is a winner. Some day I will have a sash made with some generic title like "Mr Tri-State Leather 2005" since apparently Sash Queens only sleep with other Sash Queens. Or at least they don't sleep with me. In THIS decade. At least I'm not bitter. Much. Whatever, get me my Beadazzler!
Sash Queens attend the Mr. MAL pageant but only to the point when all title holders are invited to the stage, a moment of shared glory that leaves only the First Timers remaining seated.
Sash Queens do not need an early or late check out Monday at the Washington Plaza since they never check-in thus creating 24 X 7 opportunities to make the rest of us feel inferior by our sash-less existence.
Many locals spend the weekend in smug self-congratulation on their choice of such a fun place to live, crowded with hot men from around the world. This pink cloud lasts for the weekend and then they return to complaining about DC, the attitude of the men, housing prices, whether or not the Eagle will close this year and how much fun and how attitude free DC men are when you run into them in other 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 very busy Washington Plaza and purchasing tickets to the one or two things they wish to attend such as the Reaction Dance or Leather Scrapbooking 101.
At some point during the night, Washington 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 after you have helped him pierce his nipple with a "run pin", you are free to roam the floors looking for Fetish Veteran Jumper Cable parties, Sash Queen walkoff challenges, or the Locals Ice Machine Room orgies.
The greatest tragedy is when a local meets another local in the lobby of 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 a hot tub in Ft Lauderdale, I would hold out for finding a drunk First Timer. A free trip to the floors above is the very best leather merit badge of achievement a local can aspire to!
Update: Jimbo reminds us that your broiled turkey leg will still be there next year if you skip it this year.