I’m on an Amtrak train heading down to Washington DC to go to Mid Atlantic Leather weekend, otherwise known as “MAL.” I’m connecting to the train’s wi-fi and it shows the various active networks. In addition to the Amtrak network there are a few being generated by other riders on the train, including a network named “Assman.” Who is this guy, and why would he give his network this name? I figure this is a reference to the Seinfeld episode where there is an “ASSMAN” license plate. I can’t remember all the details of the episode, only the license plate bit.
But then again, maybe this is a guy headed to MAL? MAL (Mid Atlantic Leather Weekend) is a leather-themed event but very broadly speaking; more generally it is a place to express and explore any range of interests and fetishes, including asses and dicks and everything in between.
I lose myself in work, and by the time I check the wireless networks again Assman has disappeared. I think he got off at either Wilmington or Baltimore, but maybe he just logged off. The small mysteries in life.
* * *
Exiting Union Station, it’s easy to find the way to the MAL event. There is a steady stream of men in leather, uniforms, and other gear heading back and forth from the station. Just follow the leather men, they can be spotted in a crowd. I follow the leather men to the hotel.
MAL is held in a large corporate convention hotel. Inside the scene is surreal. The lobby is full of men, men, and more men, dressed in leather and uniforms and various states of undress. I usually associate the leather scene with gritty bars in industrial neighborhoods, not upscale business settings. But given the scale of these events, it’s what’s called for.
The first leather event I went to was International Mister Leather (IML) in Chicago, which is also held in a convention hotel, only much much larger. At that event there are signs at each entrance announcing the hotel is closed for a private event, so that the casual or uninformed patron does not accidentally enter and wonder just what kind of parallel universe they have crossed into. Inside there are mobs of men, more than I’d ever imagined. And there are so many hot, sexy men. I’d expected something similar to what I see in San Francisco, the leather daddies going to Folsom Street and such. Sure there are leather daddies here, but also guys in cop uniforms, sports gear, animal outfits, underwear, and a few with next to nothing on. All clustered around socializing in the lobby spaces, bars, restaurants, and ballrooms of the hotel while the hotel staff graciously perform their duties without so much as batting an eye. To the uninitiated this could seem freaky and maybe a bit sinister, but then you realize these are just gay guys (and a few gals) out having fun. There is a sociable party atmosphere, and the hotel staff are the ultimate in good sports. There are some serious scenes going on too, but for the most part it’s a costume party. Or as one guy says, “just another form of drag.”
That first IML I went to, I packed my suitcase with leather pants, a leather jacket, a cop uniform a client had given me, a UPS uniform, a couple of pairs of boots, and various jeans, wifebeaters, and jockstraps. I’m glad I brought my leather pants because at one of the bars the doorman turns away anyone not wearing leather. I’m allowed in but he makes me take off my shirt, which I like being forced to do. But with all that I packed, I didn’t end up wearing half of the stuff.
This time I have not brought much of any gear. I’m traveling with a smaller suitcase, and the only leather I have with me is my leather wristbands. Since that first IML I’ve acquired leather vests, a harness, and a couple more uniforms. Although I’m here at MAL weekend, I’m not sure how much leather stuff I’ll be doing.
For me the main purpose of this trip is to attend a series of events associated with an escort review site where I participate in a message board forum. Each year one of the guys who posts there organizes a luncheon and a series of companion events to coincide with the MAL weekend. The lunch and its pre- and post events provide a chance for people who had only known each other through screennames and aliases to meet each other in person and get to know each other. Escorts and clients attend, so it is an opportunity to socialize but also network, both with potential clients and other escorts. That may sound a bit creepy, but it’s not… just like the leather events, it is a social thing more than anything. There is not a lot of overt marketing or picking up going on, though I expect the amount of text messaging indicates things brewing in the background.
* * *
Arriving from the train station, first thing is to drop my bags and meet some of my buddies for lunch at the MAL hotel. I’m staying at the hotel across the street, which appears to have a number of MAL guys staying there but also members of the general public. The MAL hotel, on the other hand, is entirely reserved for MAL attendees. I’m told that its hundreds of rooms have sold out, so attendees have spread to the three other hotels adjacent.
We arrange to have lunch in the lobby restaurant of the hotel. There are a large number of guys in our party so they walk us to one of several semi-private alcoves, each with its own large dining table. Walking past the potted plants and ferns, we pass a large table of guys all wearing matching light blue service uniforms, and I think to myself that maybe it’s a group of hotel security or maintenance staff eating before or after a shift. But no, wait, this is MAL – it’s a uniform group, and the uniforms are made of leather.
I’m regretting not having my leather with me. I’m just wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, though at least I’ve got a decent pair of boots on. But I have not dressed for the occasion.
* * *
I’m worn out from waking up early for the train and need to take a nap. I head back to my hotel, go for a quick workout in the hotel gym. A couple of hot guys stop by the gym to check it out, and a handsome hotel employee comes in to restock the gym towels. Damn, hot men everywhere. I go back to my room, lay down for an hour or so, and wake up horny.
My room faces the MAL hotel across the street. Years past I was told of being able to see scenes of debauchery through the hotel windows, but right now the sun is still up so there is nothing to see. I switch on Grindr and Scruff.
Living in the Castro in San Francisco, I’m accustomed to Grindr and Scruff finding lots of profiles of guys within a few blocks or miles. But I have never seen anything like this. There is an endless stream of profiles, all within a few hundred feet. Lots and lots of hot guys, with as wide a variety as there are in the outfits I’ve seen down in the lobby.
After a while a guy sends me a message, and it’s to the point. “Horny?” he asks. “Yep” I reply. “Top or bottom?” “Vers.” “I want to plow your hole.” “Hmmmm that could be hot. Safe?” “Yeah.” “No drugs.” “Cool.” “Your place or mine?” “I can come to you” “You got it. Now?” “Fuck yeah.” “Get over here.” “Be there in 5.”
And so I was late for dinner. But sometimes you just gotta get a good fuck.
* * *
A bunch of us share a taxi to a stripper bar. Actually, it’s a two-story bar with strippers upstairs and drag shows downstairs. And to be honest, this is the event I’m most looking forward to. I have a fascination with strippers, and in DC they dance fully nude. I guess technically they have to wear something, but it’s never nothing more than boots, socks, and the occasional hat. Otherwise these guys are fully nude, dancing on the bars and stages. A bunch of the guys wear knee socks, all the better for tipping.
We’re really early. The place has just opened for the evening and there are not a lot of customers yet. Actually it seems like there are more strippers than customers right now. The strippers want to be engaged, so when we come forth with our dollar bills they are talkative and friendly. I figure it would be less so later on when it gets busy.
There is a really hot dark-haired guy dancing with a harness on. A lot of the dances have some sort of leather on, to tie in with MAL weekend. “Where’s your leather?” he asks me with a big smile. “All I’ve got are my wristbands” I say, and roll up my sleeves. Immediately I’ve developed a crush. I’m a sucker for these guys, and will fall in love a dozen times before the night is through.
Each time my dark-haired harnessed hottie returns to the stage I saunter over with my dollars, just for another chance to engage. I ask him if he runs an ad. He knows what I’m referring to. He says no, he is a good boy. I tell him I’m not.
But wait, the cowboy is here! This was the crush I had from when we came here last year, a hunky older guy with boots and a cowboy hat. When you’d give him a dollar he’d swing on the overhead bar so his crotch would come within inches of your face. Before we came here a bunch of us had wondered aloud if “the cowboy” would be there, and there he is. Like that dog in the movie where he’s instantly distracted by “SQUIRREL” my lust instantly shifts from the harnessed hottie to the cowboy. “COWBOY!”
It’s still early so the cowboy is talkative too. Surprisingly, he has a strong accent. I ask him what his accent is, and he says he is from the Czech Republic. Like a gushing groupie, I mutter something about always wanting to visit there. “It’s great,” he says, “particularly Prague. You gotta go. Lots of hot guys.” Damn.
Secretly, I’d like to be one of the strippers. I don’t know if I really have the body for it though. Most of them are stunning specimens, but there are a few who are sexy but not perfect. I look carefully at their midsections and compare them to myself, and wonder if I could make the cut. Would I have the guts to stand up there with my dick swinging in the air, dancing for tips? Or would I be nervous and suffer shrinkage? Would I have to shave my body? Never mind… the go-go boy fantasy goes around in my head, but I’m here to do another type of work.
* * *
The leather events are notoriously lousy for escorts trying to get appointments. There is the sense of “why pay when you can get it for free” and with the plethora of guys on Grindr and Scruff (not to mention the hotel lobby) there does seem to be a lot of free and easy hooking up available.
I’ve never stayed in the host hotels myself, but by all reports the halls are like a rollicking college dorm. Many of the rooms have multiple guys sharing to save costs, and doors being left open as invitation to play within. So far I’ve only been up in the halls of the host hotel once, at my first IML, and that was definitely the scene I saw there. I was on my way to a Grindr date, but could have easily gotten sidetracked on the way to my destination. The corporate business hotel-cum-bathhouse.
So with all this going on, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to eek out a couple of appointments over the weekend. Not a windfall by any means, but enough to cover a chunk of the costs. And great sex each time. I take my pent-up energy from the stripper bar and apply it to my client. All things being equal, when I top I prefer to go with long, slow strokes rather than hard and fast pounding, but this time I’m possessed with lust and intensity. “You OK?” I ask him as I wipe the sweat and realize I am revved up. I want to make sure it’s not too much for him. He says “hell yeah” and asks to open the drapes on the window. We are facing the MAL hotel, and its rooms are facing us. Boys will be boys.
* * *
So with all this, my attendance at official MAL activities was my all-time lowest this time. I did not even make it to the market, where any manner of leather and kink implements can be had. Last year a client took me to the market and bought me a harness, my first. That same trip I bought a big spanking paddle, as well as a little round leather key chain paddle that can be used for tapping against nipples or balls. Until this trip I had never had the opportunity to use either of those paddles, but this time I finally got to use both. So there, I guess did some leather stuff after all!
* * *
There is always a sad hangover feeling when these social events finish up. Of course much of it is actual hangovers from the quantities of drinking going on. But it’s also exhaustion from excess and satiation.
Starting Sunday, there is a stream of guys leaving the hotel heading to taxis and trains. First a few guys here and there, then a trickle, and then by Monday a full-scale exodus. The leather and uniforms have been packed away for the most part, though the guys still have the look (the hair cuts are the big giveaway). It always seems melancholy – the party is over and it’s time to go back to normal life. I talk to some friends and we agree that it is tempting to log on to Grindr one last time, but really we just want to go home and decompress.
At the same time, there are scores of African American women from a big weekend sorority gathering checking out of my hotel and the surrounding hotels. They’re all dressed in red, and many of them carry identical red merch bags that look like they were given out at the gathering. Getting on the Metro to head to the airport, I can pick out the members of each group, both the sorority sisters and the MAL guys. We’ve each been to larger-than-life gatherings, a chance for people of similar backgrounds and interests to get together for a weekend of fun. We’re all grown adults and yet there is a childish (or perhaps adolescent) giddiness to the events and the attendees, even in the afterglow. It’s a chance to step out for a couple of days to bring some fun and play into life. Into the airport, through the security checks, and into the planes, the MAL guys and the ladies in red proceed in parallel back to their regular lives, until this time again next year.