My Ft. Lauderdale trip began last Thursday when I flew into the city and arrived early evening. The flight was filled with screaming children with parents that took no interest in correcting them. So I took my hearing aids out, popped my in my I-pod and true bliss! I look for all silver linings concerning my hearing loss, and I count the inability to hear screaming children on an airplane in the top ten!
I was met at the airport by Jason. This would begin the rock star treatment the community provided to me during my stay in Ft. Lauderdale. I can honestly say, I have never been treated as well as the folks in Ft. Lauderdale treated me.
Jason drove me to LeatherWerks to meet the staff and also to meet with Todd, who needed to fit me for my title vest. Then it was off to eat and then off to the hotel. Inn Leather provided excellent accommodations. I had my own bungalow; it was like being at home (except at the Inn, there was someone picking up after me, doing the laundry, etc!)
Then Jason took me out for dinner and then to the C&W bar and then another bar (Bill’s?) where Jason (his boy) met up with us for a beer and then we headed to the Ramrod. Got to see Bill (International Leatherboy 2006) for the first time (of many times) and the staff at the Ramrod. All of them were a pleasure to meet (and hot to boot!). They had plastered my poster all over the bar. It took me back a bit when I went to the restroom and I look up from the urinal and there is my photo. I’m used to seeing my name and phone number posted there, but not a full blown photo! (LOL; I’m joking. Now-a-days I post my name and email address. Hey! Don’t hate! You know your 411 is posted there, too.) The guy next to me at the urinal glanced over at me, then looked forward and then looked slowly back at me and then back to the poster and then back at me and said, “Is that you?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Hey, I got to piss with IML”. (Little does he know that this is not a rare happening. I have a small bladder and pee often.)
Friday I was free most of the day until that evening when we had a Meet and Greet at LeatherWerks for me to receive my title vest. It was a great turnout and it was incredible to see the entire community support the event. Ft. Lauderdale has a great community and you could tell by their interaction with each other that they were a close knit family. They welcomed me with open arms and the energy in the room was second to none. I was presented with my title vest. It is truly spectacular. Todd truly did magic with it and it is a work of art. I am honored to have this vest as my title vest. Then Michael Egdes handed over the Leather Crown (and it’s a crown, not a tiara . . .). It was quite humorous; however, I believe Jason (Sir Jason’s boy) went into Seek and Destroy mode and no photos will be printed with the tiara, I mean crown, on my head. After the presentation, we went out to the Ramrod where I was able to wear my title vest for the first time. It felt incredible. And yes, I slept in it.
Saturday, I had brunch with BearMan (but not before meeting his appraiser. LOL. I had to say it – Todd made me.) Then LeatherWerks had an autograph signing at the store. Met more people in the community and signed some autographs. I found that hanging around LeatherWerks and speaking with the staff and patrons was a great time to spend one’s day! It’s probably a good thing I don’t live there. I’d drag a cooler up there and make the store my daily hangout. That evening, we went out to eat with Master John and a few others in the community. Thank you Master John for a great time. Then we headed to the Ramrod again and had a blast.
Sunday I got up and had brunch with Eric and Ira. It was so good to spend some time with them and get to know them better. They are a wonderful couple. (Eric was one of my judges at IML.) Ira gave me a drawing that he created. An original and it is absolutely a beautiful piece of art. Thank you, Ira!!
Then there was the pool party at Inn Leather and that was a great time!! We had a wet jock contest that I emceed. (I use the term “emcee” loosely, as emceeing sounds way too formal for the event. It might better be said that I called the contestants pool side and the audience hosed them down with giant water guns from the pool and then hollered for the one they liked.) It was great and beats a wet t-shirt contest any day!!!
Then we had a formal dinner that evening. It sold out and it was great to spend so much time with the community. And everyone looked awesome in their dress leathers!! Ft. Lauderdale is not lacking in the hot men department, I have to tell you that!! Then we went out (Ramrod – I know; big surprise) and actually turned in early (1:30 a.m.) Although, I did enjoy a 12” . . . hotdog . . . from the guy with the hotdog stand located outside of the bar. It reminded me of being in New Orleans with the Lucky Dog stands.
Monday, I had brunch with Michael Egdes. It was wonderful to spend some one-on-one time with Michael. He possesses a tremendous amount of knowledge and is so willing to share that knowledge. It was/is invaluable to me. I cannot thank him enough for his insight.
I know I keep using the terms “incredible, great, wonderful, and awesome” to describe all of the events in Ft. Lauderdale, but I cannot find the words to express the time I had in the city. I’m not sure actual words exist.
I met some of the most incredible men and women while in Ft. Lauderdale. I cannot thank each and every one of them enough for their hospitality, their generosity, and their incredible heart. To LeatherWerks owners and staff, the Ramrod, Inn Leather , the other sponsors for the weekend, and the entire community, thank you for making Ft. Lauderdale the most memorable trip I have had. All of you have added the best memories to my journey.
But a few special thank you’s: First and foremost: Jason, thank you so much for making sure that I was taken care of, I was picked up for events, that I was dressed accordingly, introducing me to people, spontaneously setting up a “receiving line” at the Meet and Greet to ensure I was able to meet everyone (and also announcing their names to me to ensure I could hear it), for asking me periodically if I was okay (OP!) and for making sure that I was always able to hear throughout the weekend by making sure I was strategically placed in a room, or by repeating things to me, or doing whatever it took to ensure I was making the most of my trip. But most of all for being the true definition of a Brother. It is indeed an honor to be your Brother. See you in Tulsa!! And to his boy, Jason: Thank you for the cigars (and David LOVES that he received one, too!), for making sure that I wanted for nothing and for going into “Seek and Destroy” mode when appropriate. I have never seen someone morph into "Seek and Destroy" mode as quickly and eloquently and proficiently as you are able. Oink! To Master John: There are times in our journey that we meet someone that we connect with immediately. It’s the energy and spirit between the two persons that allows us to know that this is (as we say in the South) “good people”. You are absolutely “good people”. To Todd: For creating my title vest, as well as Bear’s leather vest (I’ll post a photo of Bear this evening to this blog) and my medallion holder. You are a true craftsman of the industry and I cannot wait to see what you come up with for my step-down; but you better stay the hell away from anything pertaining to, referencing or resembling flip-flops. To Robbie: Thank you for coordinating the events and keeping things running smoothly and without a hitch. Your attention to detail and dedication to the community is truly appreciated. When I return, let's have Bear meet your Bear for a photo-op!
Next up: Chicago, Illinois!
Your Leather Brother, Jeffrey