Good Evening Everyone,
I left on Thursday to attend my first Canadian leather event, Mr. Leather Ottawa. This was Brendan McGovern’s (IML 1st runner-up and my IML brother) step-down. Last August he asked if I was available for the weekend and if I would judge the contest. Fortunately, it was an open weekend and I could not book my flight and hotel reservations fast enough! It was an event I truly wanted to attend and be a part.
Herein lies a funny story: Rick Russell (Mr. Bolt Leather and, also, my IML brother) had been asked to judge; however, when I agreed to come, he kind of got bumped to Den Daddy. He was a great sport about though and he has given me hell about it (all in fun!)!! But he made one extraordinary Den Daddy!!
So I arrived in Canada on Thursday and went through customs. The last time I went through customs in Canada was in Vancouver a few years ago when David and I were legally married (good times!!). That was a breeze. I thought, mistakenly, that this would also be a breeze. Not so much . . . The customs guy asked me why I was in Canada, I said for personal reasons. He asked what kind of personal reasons. I said to tour and to judge a leather contest. Jeffrey just made mistake #1: Do not mention leather contests when coming through customs. He asked where I would be touring. I said Ottawa. He asked specifically where I would be touring, and I said I did not know and I figured my friends would show me the city and take me to any highlights. He said, “So you’re coming to Ottawa to tour and have no idea what you’re here to see?” I said, “Basically. I trust my friends to make those decisions.” He asked the names of my friends in Ottawa. I said, “Richard.” He said, “How did you meet?” I said, “As in the very first moment we met?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “I don’t know the exact moment we met. I can’t even remember what I ate for breakfast.” Mistake #2 – don’t use humor when traveling through customs. So we went back and forth about why I was here, if I was being paid for being here, what kind of leather contest it was, why was I being asked to judge the contest, where I worked, what I did for a living, was I married, where was my husband at this time, was he an American or Canadian citizen, blah blah blah. Mistake #3: Make sure you pee before trying to go through customs. There is nothing worse than trying to answer dumbass questions AND having to pee. He finally said, “How much luggage do you have?” I said, “Three pieces plus my computer bag.” He said, “Then that makes four. Have a good day.” Woo-Hoo! I made it through customs. I cannot wait to go through the Toronto custom line in two weeks . . .
Richard picked me up at the airport and dropped me off at the hotel. I was able to unpack and then I did a lot of schoolwork. It was a down evening for me. Rick, who was staying at the hotel with me, did not arrive until midnight that evening, so it was a great chance for me to kick back and get a ton of schoolwork completed. It had been a long day of travel for Rick, so we hit the bed soon after his arrival and had a good night’s sleep.
Friday was a day for us to tour a little. The highlight was the Canadian Mint. It wasn’t so much the fact that they made the money here, it was awesome because we were able to see the 2010 Winter Olympic medals being made. Not everyone can say they have seen them, and it was very cool to see them. They are actually very unique and beautiful! Then we saw the huge 99.999 pure gold $1,000,000 coin. It’s actually value was (I believe) a little over 4 million dollars now; however, it was the largest coin I have seen in my life and I tried to get Rick to fake a heart attack while I slipped it into my bag, but to no avail. We then were able to handle a block of gold that was chained down. I believe it weighed about 28 pounds. I thought it would make a great gift for David; however, again, Rick was worried he could not be convincing in faking a heart attack in order to cause the distraction. I need a better partner in crime! LOL (I’m joking! My God, Canadian customs will never let me through now. . .)
That evening, we had the judges meeting and then a dinner and then the Meet & Greet. I met all of the contestants, and each of them was a stellar candidate in their own right. They each brought something to the table and I knew immediately that it would not be an easy task to judge this contest. After the Meet & Greet, we headed to the Cell Block for drinks and socializing.
The next morning, Rick and I were up early to ensure we got to the venue on time for interviews. The interviews were very interesting, and proved my first thought about the contest was accurate – this would not be easy. Of course, I asked my standard first question (take note contestants!): Do you have a partner? If they answer in the affirmative, then I ask, “Tell me specifically how you and your partner prepared your relationship for you to run for this title and potentially hold this title.” If they answer that they do not have a partner, then I ask, “Tell me about your support system to assist you in making it through your title year.” I received some great answers from the contestants; however, that is not always the case. It surprises me the number of people that have not had that discussion with their partner and researched how a title affects a relationship. A relationship is difficult enough to manage at times and when you throw in a title, it becomes a bit more difficult. So contestants, communicate with your partners and your support system. You will need them onboard with you! You cannot get through a title year successfully without communicating before you run and then especially after you are awarded the title. Okay, I’m off my soapbox now! LOL
That afternoon, I took a nap! I was not feeling too well, and I knew that Saturday evening would be a long evening and I needed all of my wits about me. That evening, they held a formal leather dinner and then a social for a couple of hours before the contest. Then the contest started. You may see photos of the contest at www.flickr.com/iml2009. This was a perfect production and you could tell the Ottawa Knights had taken special care to ensure that this production went off without a hitch. Very professional!
I offer one suggestion to make the entire production complete: Offer a sign interpreter. I was told by someone that the deaf community was not that large; however, y’all know my argument to that reasoning. Even if only one person needs the interpreter, then you have an interpreter. Those with hearing impairments have every right to enjoy the contest just like everyone else. But I will say this about the production team: When they discovered I needed an interpreter, they bent over backwards to get one for me; however, they were not able to do so. I am fortunate in that I can read lips from a mile away, so I was still able to enjoy the contest. However, I have no doubt that the production team will offer this service in the future, and I learned that I need to be more proactive in making my needs known and not assuming that interpreters will be provided. And, please, do not take this as me being upset with anyone. I am not. I am thankful that I had this chance to shed light on the sign interpreter situation. This is how we improve our community and that is what this journey is all about, right!!?? The entire Ottawa community was one of the most welcoming, nicest and thoughtful group of individuals I could ever have had the privilege of visiting with. I can honestly say that Ottawa is on my short list for returning next year!
Again, the contest was awesome and I had an incredible time! Congratulations to Mike Tattersall for being named Mr. Leather Ottawa!
I do want to tell you about the fundraiser that Rick and I spearheaded with Brendan. As you guys know, Brendan has a red Mohawk. He stated that he was wanting to cut if off, as he is about to search for another job opportunity in a couple of months. So Rick and I (never a good combination) asked him if he would not mind auctioning off the cutting of his hair with the audience that evening. He agreed! So, after his step-down speech (amazing speech!), I walked out and let him know how proud of him I was, but that with everything in life, change was inevitable. And in order to raise money for the next Mr. Leather Ottawa’s travel fund, we would be selling, for $10 an inch, a clip of his hair. And the person that paid the ten dollars would be able to cut the hair off of his head. Was that was complete, we would then auction to the highest bidder the chance to chance to clip the remainder off with a pair of clippers. Over $500 was raised! The crowd lined up for the chance and, although it was all in good fun and for charity, I have to give Brendan the loudest of accolades. He was a true sport through the entire event and still looks like a million bucks with his newly shaved head!
After the contest, I went back to the room for bed. Again, I had not been feeling well, so I wanted to get to bed and get some rest. In all of this crazy travel, I have to take time to take care of myself and make sure I get the rest that I need.
Sunday morning, Rick and I got up so we could attend the Victory Brunch. Again, it was an amazing time and I enjoyed spending time with everyone in a more relaxing, non-contest, atmosphere. After brunch, I headed to the room to complete about four hours worth of schoolwork. I will be so thankful when this semester is over and I can take the spring semester off. My world will be a lot less stressful! Come on December 19th! Graduation date!
That evening, before we headed to the final dinner, Peter came to see me. Peter was one of my IML judges. He and I had a very good conversation about my travel schedule, my education, my hearing, etc. He said he was concerned I was doing too much and that I needed to ensure that I took care of myself. He said that he was amazed as to how much of my hearing I had lost since IML and that he was sure that my stress levels were not helping the situation. I promised him I would take care of myself better; and he said that I had better or he was going to contact David (my husband) and then send Mindy (one of my other IML judges) down to Dallas to whip my ass! (LOL; and that’s a nervous laugh, because Mindy could and would . . .) I will say this, I have never in my life felt like I had more people watching my back for me and caring about me. I truly am a lucky man. But I do need to ensure I take care of myself.
Then Rick and I headed to the dinner. There was a jazz band playing, and needless to say, it was noisy! But it is always so great to spend time after the contest with the community. Everyone is more relaxed and conversation is always great!
We then headed back to the hotel so we could pack. Brendan came by one last time to say goodbye. I am so proud of him. He had an amazing year as Mr. Leather Ottawa and he is truly an amazing young man! He will go far, not just within our community, but also in life.
And now, it is Monday and I’m sitting at the airport waiting to board the plane for D.C. and then off to Dallas. I look forward to seeing my husband, our boy and our puppies. As much as I am thrilled to be IML and being given the opportunity to travel the world representing our community, I miss being home. But we are about to the half-way point of the title year! The second half of this journey will make the first part look like a cakewalk though! LOL!
Next up: Detroit for Mr. Detroit Eagle.
Your Leather Brother,