Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mid-Atlantic Leather 2010

This past weekend was my 11th consecutive trip to Washington DC for Mid-Atlantic Leather weekend, aka MAL.

My first trip was in January 2000.  The previous year, Mr. Marcus had asked me if I was going to attend again, thinking that I had (or must have) attended in the past.  I had not, although I had attended International Mr. Leather (IML) in Chicago a couple times, LeatherFest in San Diego, and I guess I was becoming enough of a known quantity in the San Francisco area that he thought attending MAL was a logical thing for me to do.

In November 1999, I competed at Mr. International Rubber (MIR) in Chicago.  Years down the line now, I can’t say whether I planned to attend MAL ahead of that event (in case I won; I ended up as 2nd runner-up), or if I decided to attend MAL after having been to MIR.  I think Mr. Marcus’ comment came before I attended MIR, but I can’t be sure.

Anyway, think I have been every year since then.  I’ve attended the WaterBuddies watersports parties three times and the FFA/CAC handball parties twice.  I’ve been a vendor twice.  I’ve represented Seattle Men in Leather in the Parade of Colors two or three times.  I’ve been on stage as a titleholder twice, as Seattle Leather Daddy 2004 and International Mr. Saliva 2006.  I’ve been there as the spouse of a titleholder twice when Rusty was Washington State Mr. Leather 2005 and American Leatherman 2006.  I’ve sometimes had (paid for) a weekend package and sometimes not.

I guess that what brings me back each year is that the event is pretty much just the right size.  Local and most regional leather weekends tend to be centered just around the contest, maybe with a play party and a meal involved.  That’s plenty of reason to attend if you are also local or in the region, but it’s not going to pull people in from around the country.  In particular, such events typically can’t sustain a vendors market, or a wide span of play parties, or dedicated dances or other events.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have IML, which is just fucking huge.  Massive contest, a myriad of play parties and dance parties and such, and a vendors market like no other.  But there’s arguably just too much: too many options, too many people, even too many vendors (in terms of truly shopping for what you want/need; you can barely manage to find your way back to a given individual vendor).

Mid-Atlantic Leather hits in the middle of these extremes: big enough to be a draw, but not so big that it overwhelms.  Big enough to support a vendors market, but not so big that you can’t find the vendor or item you want.  Big enough to have accessory events to choose from, but only a few.  Big enough that lots of people deem MAL to be an event worth attending, but not so big that you feel like you can’t manage to run into all your friends.

A few other things worth noting:
  • While MAL isn’t “too big”, it has been too big for its location at the Washington Plaza for several years.  There is a very limited amount of space for the vendors, such that each year we see almost exactly the same ones, in almost exactly the same layout; for people who attend each year, this ends up limiting the amount of time we spend in the vendor market (and thus how much money we spend), and by extension, how much time we spend in the host hotel at all.  (This year, I didn’t even enter the room where Mr. S was.  Too crowded and I knew I wasn’t likely to buy anything there.)
  • They have also been too big for the lobby for a while, although less so than with the vendors space.  There used to be some couches and such in the front lobby — they were used as a puppy play area a couple times — but the couches have been absent in recent years to accommodate more men.
  • MAL will be moving to a new hotel next year (the Hyatt Regency on New Jersey; I’ve stayed there for other events twice).  Apparently this one is large enough that they won’t (initially) have to require purchasing a weekend pass to have a room at the host hotel.
Will I attend again next year?  I expect so.  I did find this year that I spent less time at the hotel, and thus felt much more on the “fringe” than in years past.  Part of this is that I went to the FFA parties all three nights (like last year), which meant that I had to head there earlier in the evening.  While I enjoy going to the FFA parties, I don’t want those to be the reason I go — it becomes expensive to travel across the country for a fisting party.  (It’s always a trade-off: do I cruise the packed lobby for hours, perhaps fruitlessly, or do I bug out to an off-site event where I know I’ll get laid but won't see and be seen?  And how does the party price with free beverages balance against the overpriced lobby bar beers?)

I also stayed further from the host hotel this time than last year (although I’ve stayed slightly further away than this a couple times before) and was just generally disconnected from the hotel scene as a result.  I need to remedy that next year, or I may stop enjoying the weekend as much and will stop attending.

With luck, I’ll get my boyfriend to go next year.  I won’t even need the FFA parties, then, because he’s great about seducing guys into three-ways and play parties and such.   (evil grin)

Some notes about other DC stuff:
  • The Lambda Rising gay bookstore chain is closing down this year, and they were having a 60% (and more) off sale on all their stock.  I bought a handful of leather flag pins for 25 cents each, and a raft of what they termed “demo” CDs from the 1990s magazine New Country (which included a CD with each issue; I had a subscription for a year) for like a dime apiece.
  • Twice during the weekend, I saw people reading from a Kindle.  Up until now, I have largely dismissed the Kindle as a gadget fad, as a device that doesn’t do enough well enough to warrant purchasing one.  (And having worked on the first generation of eBook readers a decade ago, I know whereof I speak.)  I may have to reconsider that stance now that I’ve seen them in the wild; if people are actually using them, maybe they will last.  (I still think that the current designs are bland, though.)
  • DCA (Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport) remains one of my favorite airport designs.  Ticketing occurs on an upstairs level, then you descend to a lower level where there are shops and restaurants and the security gates.  The layout allows those checking in to overlook the lower level and to look out through large windows to the gates and runways.  The entire airport seems more intimate, and passengers checking in feel that they have more information by being able to see where they are going (how long lines are, what planes are at the gate, etc.)

Updated on May 25, 2010
Now that the iPad has been released, I frankly can’t see the Kindle surviving any longer unless it can retool into a generalist device.  There was a time when people had a device geared for this feature and one for that feature and one for the other features (remember the old Dilbert strips with the belt full of gadgets?), but the cell phone with text message capability killed the pager, and the smartphone killed the generic cell phone.  The Kindle could beat (live in parallel with) the netbook because it could do things the netbook could not and be used at times the netbook could not, but the iPad lives in the Kindle’s space and does more; the Kindle’s only advantages become the non-lit display and massive battery life, which aren’t enough in the long run.

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