Thursday, February 11, 2010
Antwerp Leather Pride
Good Evening Everyone,
Antwerp was my second European visit as IML and my fourth trip outside of the States (six more to go after this one!) I had noticed on Recon that the Antwerp community was having their first ever Leather Pride Weekend and their first ever Mr. Belgium Leather contest. I reached out to Jeroen, the producer and organizer, and before I knew it, I had booked my flight and rail passes to Antwerp!
I flew out of Dallas to London on Tuesday evening. My friend, Bonn, surprised me by switching flights with a friend of his and he ended up on my flight to London (Bonn is a flight attendant). What a surprise!! The entire flight crew was amazing and FIRST CLASS! ;-)
Once we landed in London, I immediately took a cab to the rail station to catch the Eurorail to Brussels (and then on another train to Antwerp). I had never been on a train before and I thought the experience of traveling by this mode would be an experience and something I could check off 'the list’ as having done. Actually, traveling by train is quite nice and I have to wonder why we don’t do more of it in the States. It was very comfortable, very clean, and I was able to see the country-side (something I could not do from a plane with much of any success).
So I finally ended up in Antwerp. Alex (American Leatherman 2009) met me in Antwerp and we checked into the hotel. We then grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to the room to get some rest.
The next day, Alex and I awoke later in the morning and did a little sightseeing. Alex decided to head back to the room to see if he could get some work accomplished. I decided to do some sightseeing around the area. After a little bit of sightseeing, I decided to head to McDonalds for a Coke. As I was walking in, this young man bumped into me and I apologized. Then this young lady started asking me to sign this petition and donate money. I said no and for some reason reached for my phone. Guess what had been pick-pocketed out of my jacket pocket? My cell phone! I was livid! I grabbed the girl by the arm and she started to go on and on about not being able to speak English. I said, “Funny. You were speaking it ten seconds ago when you wanted money from me. Now were is your friend and where is my phone?” She insisited she had no idea what I was saying. I asked the McDonalds manager if he could help and his response was this, “I don’t care.” I asked (in a most shocking expression) “You don’t care?” He said, “No, I don’t care. She is a criminal. Does it all the time.” So I said, “Then why the fuck do you allow her in your store if you know she is going to rob your customers?” He replied, “Again, I don’t care.” I said to the girl, “Come on, we’re going to the police.” I no more exited McDonalds and there were two policemen. I asked if they spoke English and they said, “Yes.” I let them know that this young lady and her friend had lifted my phone and asked what I could do about it. Their reply, “Nothing, let her go. We can’t do anything.” “I can’t file a report”, I asked. “No” was their response. Seriously? I was just robbed and no one can or will do anything. No one will even help me or make me at least think they will do something. I was pissed! I grabbed the young ladies purse and emptied it on the street. I was making sure she wasn’t handed the phone at some point. No such luck; however, there were five other phones in her possession. Hello! Mr. Policeman! Why would she have five cell phones on her????? I then acted like an immature adult. I told them all to fuck off and walked away. In hindsight, not the best thing to say; however, I was beyond pissed. I have never wanted to hit someone in my entire life until that moment. I wanted to hit that smirk that little bitch had right off her face! I don’t mean slap; I mean HIT! I guess saying “Fuck off” was better than an assault charge.
I went back to the room (shaking I was so mad). I contacted the boy and he disconnected the phone and the good thing is the fact that there was no activity on the phone.
Alex and I then headed to The Boots bar and joined in on the pre-Meet and Greet for the early birds to the Weekend. It was a good time and I was interviewed by a local journalist about my visit. It was a good time. I also got to meet up with David, Mr. Boots Leather and my IML brother. It was wonderful to run into him and catch up! Alex and I eventually went to bed for the evening. I did not sleep too well, as the time zone difference was not settling well. The clock said it was midnight; however, my internal clock said it was about 5 in the afternoon. Nothing better than just laying there in bed counting boys, I mean counting sheep.
However, we did finally manage to get some sleep and woke up around noon. We headed out for some sightseeing. That evening we headed to the opening ceremonies at The Boots. It was here that I ran into Mark, Ross and Ralf. I had not seen them since Folsom Europe in Berlin and it was fantastic to see and spend some time with the three of them! They are looking fab as ever! We also were able to meet a couple of the contestants and then all of the contestants were introduced to the crowd. I could tell even at that point judging was not going to be easy, as each of the contestants looked great and handled themselves well on the microphone. I, also, was able to spend a little time with Daniel. Daniel was also serving on the judging panel and we have been in contact through Facebook. One of the nicest men you will ever meet!
The next day, we headed to a brunch where some of the contestants and judges were able to attend. It was nice to be able to sit around and discuss current events of the community and the weekend itself. We then boarded a tour bus for the Leather Pride Weekend Tour of Antwerp. It was narrated by Miss P.P. and her pup Chanel. I do not remember laughing this hard in a long time. It was truly the most wonderful tour of a city that I have ever received. It was a champagne tour, as well, and due to being stuck in traffic and delayed, a few folks (including Miss P.P.) were a bit tipsy by the end of the tour. Which just made the tour even more uproariously funny than before. This tour also provided Alex and I the basis for our walking tour that we took the next day. After the tour, we headed back to the hotel and went down to The Boots for the contestant interviews. They had four very good contestants. The interviews were not easy, as the panel of judges came from all walks of the community and truly tested the knowledge of each contestant as well as got to know them.
After the interviews, we headed to the formal leather dinner. It was such a nice dinner although I think I ate things that I had not eaten before and it was probably best I didn’t know exactly what it was. However, it was very tasty. Sometimes, not knowing can be a good thing.
After dinner, we headed to the Recon party. We made a couple of loops around the party (which is very well attended) and then headed back to the room.
The next day, we slept until 11 a.m. and then got up and toured Antwerp based on the bus tour we had received the day before. Alex and I got a ton of photos and they can be found at www.flikr.com/iml2009. It is a beautiful city and I really enjoyed the architecture. The city itself is really not that large and very easy to walk around and see the sites they have to offer.
That evening we headed to The Red and Blue club to attend and judge the contest. They had fantasy scenes onstage which we scored. They also included audience participation (by ballot voting) as part of the scoring system. After all the voting was completed and the votes were tabulated, I offer a heartfelt congratulations to Luc Cuypers. I know you will promote the community well during your title year and I look forward to seeing you again in Chicago for International Mr. Leather 32!
After the contest, Alex and I immediately went to the hotel. We were tired and I had to arise early in order to make my train to London. Unfortunately, I did not sleep a wink! Not one wink! I just laid there until it was time to get up, shower, and head to the train station. The ride to London was very nice though. I rode the Eurostar from Brussels to London and because it was daylight, was able to see so much of the countryside! Which, ironically, looked like the countryside of America. Farmhouses, fields and animals. I’m not sure what I was expecting to see; however, there you have it! LOL
Next up: London!
Your Leather Brother, Jeffrey