Wednesday, January 30, 2019

MAL 49 Reflections

By Jonathan K. 
Mr. GNI Leather 2018

Jonathan K, Mr. GNI Leather 2018
Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL) 49 has come and gone but things feel very different for me. Although I had attended MAL five times, I was anxious about going this time, since I would be there as an International Mr. Leather (IML) contestant, your Mr. GNI Leather 2018 titleholder. Should I edit myself, tone myself down to a degree more ‘fitting’ of an IML contestant? I bugged a friend about it the evening before my departure and he was very understanding suggesting that I “just be myself”. I thought how wonderfully supportive of him. This is why these leathermen mean so much to me.

Upon arrival at the MAL host hotel, I met my roommate outside, my friend Joe Gebbs who is Mr. Fire Island Leather 2017 and Northeast Handler 2019, and we went to check in. Right beyond the front door, I saw friends and went to say hello. Walking down the steps, other friends greeted me. It was a good 15 minutes of hugs, kisses and promises to catch up during the weekend before I arrived at the check-in desk. And in those 15 minutes, everything changed. I was no longer anxious; I was great! I was with my leather brothers and sisters and with them I could ‘just be myself’.

Waiting for our room, we met up with my sash granddaddy, Ralph Bruneau, Mr. GNI Leather 2016 and Mr. IML 2017, and LeatherWerks’ Bear Man. After registration, I went down to LeatherWerks in the vendor market to purchase specific Wesco boots for IML and caught up with my sash daddy, Brian Ballone, Mr. GNI Leather 2017. My thought is, if you’re going to compete, give it your all and look your best.

Within 20 minutes of opening, the vendor market was packed and remained so for the rest of the weekend, as was the hotel Lobby. It was filled with sexy leathermen from around the world and is truly a remarkable experience. I met many of my IML brothers for the first time and we all started a bonding process that grew quickly over the weekend. After a Drummer party, a Rubber Cocktail Party, later followed by more of the continual lobby socializing, I decided at 1am to call it an early evening.
Current & Alum Mr. GNI Leather: Alan, Dave, Dan, Brian, Jonathan, Ralph,  & John

The rest of the weekend flew by faster than I have ever experienced. Saturday was incredibly busy with IML related events and GNI’s first Pocono Eagle Boots & Bourbon Partyfor the year. My IML brothers and I were introduced to the IML production team, our den daddy, our judges and the contestant application process. Group photos were followed by the always entertaining Onyx Fashion Fundraiser and a private IML brother party hosted by Christopher Booth, Mr. DC Eagle 2019. After a brief break from formal leather to very satisfying near nakedness, I had to don formal once again for the evening Leather Cocktails and Parade of Colors, celebrating all the various leather clubs that have members attending MAL. Though naked is beautiful and provides an amazing sense of freedom and grounding, men in full formal leather are equally beautiful, exuding a generous sense of kinship and leadership.

Saturday evening, I was lucky to finally have my naked moment, our Pocono Eagle Boots & Bourbon Party. GNI President, Dan Marrs, Marketing Director, Gene Evangelist, and I had been promoting the fundraiser party for over a month and the result was a sold out success. Dan’s selection of bourbons were stellar and all the guys did indeed come in boots, one guy in Uggs!

Sunday was equally busy with a leather brunch social followed by the Mr. MAL Contest and the Parade of Current Titleholders, including myself. Six brave leathermen competed for the title, each showcasing their inner strengths, charisma, and contributions to their local leather communities. Emërson Anicëto, Mr. Pittsburgh Leather Fetish 2019, won the title.

 By the time the contest was over, photos were taken with our IML brother, Emërson, and I was once again happily stripped down to a bare minimum; I decided to just hang in the lobby with my brothers and sisters, old and new friends. I heard later that the closing dance party at a separate venue was amazingly fun and I briefly regretted having missed it. I love dancing with near-naked, sweaty and fragrant men. Men are beautiful and we should celebrate that in positive and loving ways. MAL weekend is packed with concurrent activities and you can’t do everything. I was happy to relax, chat, be frisky, observe floggings and other mild BDSM activities, as well as watch the Patriots/Chiefs game listening to the lack of enthusiasm when the Patriots won, and submerse myself in what is arguably the most unique and enjoyable aspect of the weekend - just being in the lobby.

Many guys have complained about ‘event drop - that horribly depressing feeling of having to return to everyday ‘reality’ once an amazing experience has ended. I used to suffer from that after every event but somehow I’ve learned to overcome it. There’s always the next event to look forward to. There’s always another occasion to hang with my leather brothers and support one another through whatever it is, good or bad, that life brings us. And maybe this high I’m riding from my GNI Leather title is sustaining me every day, making me happy and grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime experience and encouraging me to be the best I can be every day.