I decided in February to probably go to International Ms. Leather this year in January, and firmed things up in late February. Ms. Alaska Leather Sarha would be competing, and since Alaska is in my region and I’m going to be a presenter at Northern Exposure 3.0 in Anchorage in June, there was definite reason for me to attend. (Alas, neither Washington State Ms. Leather Momma Kat nor Ms. Oregon State Leather Ms. Tracey decided to compete.) And of course, it gets my name and title out there a bit more.
Ruin also decided to attend, with a view what an international-level bootblack competition looks like and with the thought of competing for International Ms. Bootblack in the future (if she doesn’t win International Community Bootblack, of course!) A significant number of other Seattle attendees were there as well, including three resident former IMsL titleholders (Spencer, Hobbit, and Lamalani); Candace from Seattle girls of Leather; Daddy Wendell, with his leather gear and books in the vendor mart; and a number of others I’m forgetting now.
This was hardly my first time at the leatherwomen’s rodeo, though. I’ve attended International Ms. Leather before in San Diego and Omaha (yes, in Omaha!), Ms. World Leather in Dallas (twice), Ms. & Mr. World Leather in Philadelphia, and whichever of IMsL and MWL was in Las Vegas about six years ago. As a male titleholder, a women’s leather event can be a very interesting thing to go to; with most of it focused counter to the guys, we get more of a chance to connect with each other (however few of us are there) than we do at other leather weekend events.
Worked All Day, Got It All Done
Heading to light rail to go to the airport on Thursday was miserable, with steady light rain. I aimed to catch a nearby bus, but missed it by a minute or so. Waited for the bus going the other direction, which would also get me where I was going, but it was listed as late, and after a few minutes, I trekked to the next major intersection… and missed that bus by a minute. So I ended up walking all the way to light rail, nearly a mile with 1/3 of it uphill. Not that I haven’t done this before, but my right wrist had been bothering me for a couple weeks (and still is, almost a month later; I think I strained/sprained it cutting laurel branches), which made dragging the heavy bag quite a challenge, since the most convenient hand and hand position was the one hand and position I could not use.
The company I work for has a San Francisco office, so I was able to go down on Thursday, work from there on Friday and Monday, and get work to pick up some of the hotel stay, meals, and transit as a result. In addition, I room shared with Mr. San Diego Leather Kurt Wendelborg, so once I get reimbursed from work, the hotel itself won’t have cost me anything.
This did mean that I didn’t get to attend the workshops and such on Friday, unfortunately. There were some nice ones on the schedule. IMsL is an oddity among leather events that way, having a raft of workshops in addition to the contest. On the other hand, that perhaps makes it more attractive to the leatherwomen, making the weekend more justifiable for them to travel to. (You generally couldn’t do that at a gay men’s weekend. You’d get 6 or 8 guys at the workshops, everyone else in the lobby at 11 am, drinking and cruising.)
The hotel used by IMsL was the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway at Van Ness and California. It is the same one used by Sundance Stompede in October, so I’ve stayed there many times. It was interesting to see the space laid out not with dance floor in mind. (This is also the hotel where International LeatherSIR/Leatherboy and Community Bootblack will be in July, so Ruin and I got the chance to see it with contest needs in mind.)
Thursday night was a burlesque show, a combination of strippers and stage fantasies. I unfortunately came in right at the end of one where the gal did a striptease by removing shaving cream foam. I did get to see the gal in the white dress doing a watermelon fantasy. (Not as good as Lori Ellison’s IMsL fantasy, but it did spark a couple idea for me for stage fantasies for my International contest.) (No, not a striptease with watermelons. Sparked ideas that were way different from what she was doing.)
Friday night, they had the opening ceremonies and the stage part of the International Ms. Bootblack competition (which only had two contestants, alas). Also included was the parade of colors for the the clubs represented at the event. (I didn’t have anything for SML at hand to go on stage for it, though.)
They also did titleholder protocol by announcing our names from the stage and having us each stand and wave. There were only maybe a half-dozen non-contestant titleholders present on Friday night, but this was a pretty ineffective way of recognizing the titleholders who were present, as people on the other side of the room at best knew where you were, but couldn’t see you. Worse, though, this was the only recognition of visiting titleholders during the weekend. There were probably three times as many present on Saturday night, including some regional and national titleholders, but no acknowledgement at all. That was very strange, and kind of sad, frankly. No idea if it was something that just slipped out of the schedule, or a lapse intended to keep an otherwise long contest a bit shorter — I doubt it was an intentional snub.
I checked out the play space they had set up for the guys, which was a small room with a cross in one corner and a sling in the other. I give them high marks for setting aside a space just for the guys, although I don’t know how much it was used. One thing I would recommend is a tarp under the sling. Fisting aside, lube and body fluids do have a tendency to splatter and drip when using a sling, and there was nothing under it but the meeting room carpet.
I went out to Kok Bar that night. It was a decent enough crowd, but it sure got better when I got invited to join a couple guys (Sergio and José) off Manhunt for a fisting three-way at their place in the Castro. That always perks up an evening.
I slept late and then ate and cruised and hung out in the vendor market and silent auction area, bidding on a few items. Late afternoon was the Titleholders Meet & Greet in the hospitality suite. Among others, I got to meet Northern California LeatherSIR Ray aka Volt; for whatever reason, Northern California Leatherboy Seth wasn’t able to get to IMsL, although I chatted with him online a couple times during the weekend.
After a nap and dinner came the contest, with seven contestants – in addition to Sarha from Alaska, they were from as far away as North Carolina and Australia. I had misread the schedule, expecting the contest to run 7-9 pm, but it didn’t start until 8, I think, and then ran well past the 2 hour listed time, finishing nearly at 11:30. So I had to keep pushing out my play date for the evening from an initial 10:30 until after midnight.
After the contest, we were supposed to pick up our Silent Auction items. That ended up as somewhere between very inconvenient and a clusterfuck. The items had all been numbered, but some of the items had been moved between tabled for better display or whatever. When it came time to close up the auction, each item was put in a bag and put in order by number. So you went to the table where your item had been and opened each bag until you found your item, and then saw if you had actually won it. Two of my items I found (a pair of Doc Martens and a package with Guy Baldwin’s Ties That Bind, some bondage clasps, and J Lube [odd combo, yes]), but the other two I did not (and I didn’t know the numbers), and I didn’t know if I had won them or someone else had and had already claimed them.
Once you found what of your items you could, you then left the items there and took the bid sheets up a floor and halfway across the hotel to registration so you could wait in line to pay for them there. Then you went back down, cut past the lineup of people waiting to find their items, re-found your items, and turned in the paid bid sheet. I’m sure it made sense to someone to have people make multiple trips up and down the stairs rather than having a pay station in the auction room, but it didn’t make sense to me.
I eventually got out of the hotel and back up to the Castro to play with Mak at his place. We had a great time, and I’m looking forward to the next time he comes up here. (He’s an old play buddy of a friend of mine who lives about a mile away, so there’s double incentive to get him up here.) Wonder if I can get him to bring that fuck machine he’s got?
Sunday & Monday
Sunday was wind-down day for IMsL, including a brunch (with keynote speaker) which was an extra rather than included in the weekend price. This initially seemed odd, but I know enough about how hotel event brunches work: they are darn expensive. A sit down brunch is going to run $35-50 per person — that’s not just food costs (although they do make a lot of extra food “just in case”) but also room rental, setup, and staff, costs which are spread out over a lot more people and time in a restaurant. So buy making this a paid extra, they are able to keep weekend package prices lower (and thus get more people to pay for them) and also keep the brunch more intimate and aimed at the people who really want to hear the speaker. People who need to leave early or otherwise not partake of the brunch aren’t out the huge chunk of change it adds to the rest of the weekend.
I checked in with the Silent Auction, and sure enough, the other two items I had bid on had been won by me, but hadn’t been findable the night before. With far fewer things remaining, I was able to pick up the other pair of low boots (from a company called “Drew”!) ($55) and a box of 750 condoms ($50). Yes, that’s a lot of condoms, but I need to have them on hand for my play parties anyway, and this was about the same price as about 150 from Costco, so a net win. I had to ship the box of them home, though, which added another $15 to the cost.
(Alas for the new boots, three weeks later I had an accident on the scooter, went down avoiding a car that started to lurch out a parking garage and into the lane right in front of me. Minor bruises on me, trashed the toe part of the right boot. Ruin has done a minor blacking job on them which helped, and I’ll get them to her soon for a more intense repair.)
On Saturday, I had had another offer for a play session — for a four-way, actually — which I had to turn down since I was already scheduled to play with Mak. But we picked it up late afternoon Sunday instead. Not exactly a four-way — the two of us and his other half and another guy playing in the same room — but I had a great, intense time. Definitely someone to look up the next time I’m in San Francisco.
I left his place in the Castro just about dusk, caught a quesadilla for food and a beer at 440 Castro, then headed back to the hotel. Couldn’t decide if I was still horny for more play, or just wanted to go to sl… zzzz.
Monday, I worked from the hotel for a couple hours in the morning, then checked out and headed to our San Francisco office, and from there to SFO at the end of the work day and home again. Spencer and Candace turned out to be on my flight back, and Spencer’s boy was meeting them at the airport, so they gave me a ride home instead of having to deal with light rail and dragging my luggage nearly a mile from there to the house.