|Inside the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile|
With nary a cloud in the vast blue mid-western sky, the drive up was absolutely beautiful. Of course my lovely slave/wife Serafina was a delight to converse with as I drove. I really do cherish our rides together, as we often spend our time talking without any outside distractions, and that kind of time is truly priceless.
I don't think I missed any toolbooths on the way up (that might not have been the case on the way home in rush hour traffic) and outside of the usual heavy traffic one encounters in downtown Chicago, the trip was essentially uneventful.
We found secure all day parking for just $10 (just as mushroom hunters don't give up their prize patches – I don't disclose my parking secrets) only a few blocks from the Marriott on Michigan Avenue. Serafina was dressed in a short and slutty cheerleader's style skirt with a black lace top that left little (or nothing to the imagination.) Because I knew we were going to walk a few blocks to get cheap parking, not to mention the 5 hours of walking and shopping her feet would have to endure, I didn't have my slave wear any sort of heels or fetish shoes. And, as a nod to the cold wind off of Lake Michigan, I did let her carry a sweater to wear for the walk. What a kind Master, right?
I wore my dress uniform style leather shirt (replete with epaulets) - accessorized with a classic Sam Browne style shoulder belt. I may not be gay, but I'm not so straight that I'm going to go hang with a bunch of hot hunky men dressed in fetish clothes and not actually look the part myself – hell no! The only thing missing from my outfit was a pair of Wesco boots, but once again the compromise was a nod to sensibility. Instead I wore a black Keen hiking boot that are particular comfortable for tired old feet like mine.
While our outfits might (and actually did) turn a few heads in places like Rock Falls where we stopped on the way for food, or the DeKalb Oasis where we stopped for gas, I really didn't feel “noticed” at all walking down Chicago city streets in that attire. OK, I need to retract that statement, I did notice one woman getting perturbed with her husband for perhaps noticing Serafina's breasts a little more ardently than she would have preferred. I figure that's not too bad a result at all for our little exhibitionistic walk, and if nothing else, the outfits seemed to keep the panhandlers at a bay, well at least for the walk to the hotel.
The Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile does, for the most part, live up to it's swanky and pretentious name. I'm not saying that I'd pay the $500+ dollars a night the rooms can cost on some nights of the week, but I will admit that I'd understand why a person of means might decide to spend a night (or three) there. The Marriott is a beautiful building with very striking décor inside, but let's be very honest, when attending an event like IML, it's really not the venue that you notice.
Last year at the Hyatt-Regency, it felt a little bit as though some of the staff were off-put by the unabashed attire and behavior that can accompany this event. I never once got that feeling at the Marriott at IML2013. The staff was all smiles, and they honestly seemed to be enjoying the presence of all the young, virile (not to mention very sexually charged) presence of leathermen from around the globe.
Once inside we quickly found our way to vending registration area, showed our ID's, signed our names, gave our $5 donation, and were given wristbands to flash in order to access the vending area. Again, unlike the Hyatt-Regency, the vending area was not found down in the bowels of the building, instead it had been consigned to both the 5th and 7th floors of the Marriott.
Outside of the registration area I stopped for a moment, drawing serafina towards a quiet area without much traffic, I asked her to produce the pretty new leash I'd recently purchased as a present for her. It was a horridly overpriced little treat from Scott Paul Designs, but as with many things where fetish or kink is involved, seeing my wonderful slave/wife attached to the pretty purple leash, ready to be led around the event all day on my lead . . . Well, it was priceless!
Walking into the 5th floor was a bit like entering a maze where the walls were composed of BDSM gear and fetish attire. Going in prepared and ready for the spectacle, having shopped at IML before, the whole atmosphere was still a little bit awe inspiring and overwhelming. I don't mean that it a bad way, I'm simply saying that the endless walls of goods and gear have a real effect for folks who's hearts belong to BDSM, fetish, and kink. It makes one's heart race just a little
It's easy to completely miss a single vendor in a corner, or even an entire row of vendors if a person isn't careful. To assure I didn't miss anything I was very methodical in my approach to navigating the world's greatest leather shopping area. When approaching the maze of vendors I simply turned to my right upon entering, and then took every possible aisle, going up one side and down the other, methodically taking in every vendor and their wares.
There are a few things about this show that seem different than many others, as vendors have no problems letting customers try on and try out some very personal items. When asking how a lovely metal ball stretcher actually worked, I was immediately invited to try it on for size.
When I politely declined (my question truly indicated curiosity rather than personal interest in the item) - the vendor, following proper sales protocol, refused to take my first no as a hard no, and offered again, saying that if I was shy I could try it on in a corner of their display area. Once again, my refusal was met with yet more polite insistence, which I declined for the third time.
So if attending IML's vending area, it is important to be ready to see guys whipping out their junk to try on cock rings, ball stretchers, as well as other various assorted CBT goodies and toys for bad men and boys. It's also important that you are ready to see ass-crack galore, while some events prohibit nudity of that sort, it really does seem that most anything goes. Last year we witnessed a slightly built man of Japaneses descent, completely naked, crawling across the floor of the floor of the hotel and the vending area on his knees, with a sign hung around his neck. Without a doubt, it had to be the longest walk (crawl) of shame I've ever witnessed . . .
Another thing that's different about this event is the relaxed atmosphere concerning cameras. A lot of fetish/kink/leather/BDSM events prohibit picture taking, or severely limit it in some way, but there's not an eye blinked when folks start shooting pictures (or even video) with their phones and cameras. Some vendors put on elaborate demos to entertain the crowd and attract interest for their products, and it's not uncommon to find a tightly packed group of unabashed voyeuristic men, packed around the display, shooting video with their cell phones.
When it was all said and done, we spent 5 solid hours without a break circling the vending area, we pretty well kept moving and didn't stop for long to gawk at any of the demos. Even at that pace, it still felt as though we were rushing towards the end. Booths that didn't appear to have any items of interests were quickly bypassed, and vendors I'm very familiar with online (like TheStockroom and Mr-S-Leather) got less attention than they deserved.
We did make one social call during the day as well, stopping at the dungeonbeds.com booth to chat with the one of owners about last year's purchase. Even there we were quick and efficient with our time, shaking hands making small talk and praising their product before we returned to our quest for toys.
When it was all said and done, we'd purchased items from 7 different vendors, with a complete tally exceeding $800. We'd picked up everything on the shopping list we'd arrived with, along with a few extras we didn't know we needed. The biggest single purchase was a very nice spanking bench, which will be custom built to our specifications and shipped to our home next month. The second largest purchases were a very striking masquerade mask for serafina, and a nice dragon's tongue flogger that is for serafina too, but in a different way . . .
All told, we drove 8 hours round trip, walked about 15 blocks thru Chicago, spent 6 hours total on our feet without a break, making it close to a 14 hour day. Cost wise we spent close to $1000 on food, gas, tolls, parking and (best/most of all) lots of fun fetish and BDSM gear. We saved back $100 a month for the last year to shop at this event, so we actually came in “under budget” for the day.
IML2013 Vendor's List
29 Palms - The Collectors Oasis Rockford, IL
Acme Toy Company.com Evanston, IL www.theacmetoycompany.com
Adonis Leathercrafters Indian Rocks Beach, FL www.adonisleathercrafters.com
Alt. Kilt Madison, WI www.altkilt.com
Andre Whips/ Ms-V Repentigny, Quebec www.andrewhips.com
Atomic Jock Chatsworth, CA www.atomicjock.com
Balls and Chains Hollywood, CA www.ballsandchains.com
Barcode Berlin Houston , TX www.slsspecialty.com
BDG Sales, LLC Tamaqua, PA www.bdgslaes.com
Bear Ink Augusta, GA
BearGearusa.com Indianapolis, IN www.beargearusa.com
BearTshirts.com Indianapolis, IN www.beartshirts.com
Boot Werks Hinton, WVA www.leatherwerks.com
Bootleg Life Berwyn, IL
Bound & Gagged New York, NY www.boundandgagged.com
Boy Butter New York, NY www.boybutter.com
BURLYSHIRTS / Shane Ruff Studios Eliot, ME www.burleyshirts.com
C3 Casual Clothing Indianapolis, IN www.c3casualclothing.com
Cheaplubes.com Portage, IN www.cheaplubes.com
Chicago Dragons Rugby Football Club Chicago, IL www.chicagodragons.org
Chicago Hellfire Club Chicago, IL www.helfire13.org
City of Chicago Department of Health Chicago, IL www.facebook.com/ChicagoPublicHealth
CJ's Leather Denver, CO www.cjsleather.com
Dancing Painter Chicago, IL www.dancingpainter.com
Dr. Clockwork's Electrical and Medical Oddities Lebanon, NJ www.drclockwork.com
Dungeon Beds San Francisco, CA www.dungeonbeds.com
E7 Gear Yonkers, NY www.E7Gear.com
Eagle Leathers Chicago, IL
Exotic-Erotics Shelbyville, KY www.exotic-erotics.com
Fetiche Armada Montreal, Quebec www.fetisharmada.com
Folsom Street East New York, NY www.folsomstreeteast.org
Folsom Street Events San Francisco, CA www.folsomstreetevents.org
Fort Troff Atlanta, GA www.forttroff.com
Gear Essentials Minneapolis, MN www.gearessentials.com
Got Kilt White Lake, MI www.got-kilt.com
GuySpy Vancouver, B.C. www.guyspy.com
Hands for Hire Chair Massage Niles, IL
HardpointsGreyCat Workshop Madison, WI hardpoints.greycatworkshop.com
Howard Brown Health Center Chicago, IL www.howardbrown.org
ID Lube Santa Ana, CA www.idlube.com
Industrial Disease Toys LLC Madison, WI www.idustrialdiseasetoys.com
InsideOutShirts.net Radford, VA www.insideoutshirts.net
Jewelry by Ponce Happy Valley, OR www.jewelrybyponceportland.com
Killerbob Graphics San Francisco, CA www.killerbob.com
KJ Canes Baltimore, MD www.kjcanes.com
Le Chateau Exotique & LCE Ltd Yardley, PA www.fetishwear.com
Leather Archives & Museum Chicago, IL www.leatherarchives.org
Leather Bonding Co. N. Miami, FL www.leatherbonding.com
Leather Masters Dallas, TX www.leathermasters.com
Leather Werks Fort Lauderdale, FL www.leatherwerks.com
Lockergear Pittsburgh, PA www.lockergear.com
Lucom USA Miami Beach, FL www.pjurman.com
M4M411.com Chicago, IL www.m4m411.com
Man2Man Leather Castaic, CA www.man2manleather.com
Manhunt Cambridge, MA www.manhunt.net
Marvelous Mayhem Snellville, CA www.marvelousmayhem.com
Master Series Huntington Beach, CA www.themaster-series.com
Mid America Fists In Action Cicero, IL www.mafiaff.org
MIR Mr. International Rubber Chicago, IL www.mirubber.com
MISTER New York, NY www.misterapp.com
Mr-S-Leather San Francisco, CA www.mr-s-leather.com
Mr. Friendly Kalamazoo, MI www.mrfriendly.info
Mr. Hyde's Custom Leather New Orleans www.etsy.com/shop/mrhydesleather
Nasty Pig New York, NY www.nastypig.com
Northbound Leather Toronto, Ontario www.northbound.com
NYJox North Bergen, NJ www.nyjox.com
Obscure Belts Kenosha, WI www.obscurebelts.com
Off Ramp Leathers Palm Springs, CA www.offrampleathers.com
OraSure Technologie Bethlehem, PA www.oraquick.com
Oxballs Chatsworth, CA www.oxballs.com
Paddle Werks Hinton, WVA www.leatherwerks.com
PASD and CARAS Oak Park, IL www.carasresearch.org
Passional Boutique Philadelphia, PA www.passionalboutique.com
Pjur Group USA Miami Beach, FL www.pjurman.com
Priape Montreal, Quebec www.priape.com
Puppy Grillz West Hollywood, CA www.puppygrillz.com
Rainbow Rope/Kinky Medical Oceanside, NY www.rainbowrope.com
Raw Candles Madison, WI www.rawcandles.com
Recon.com Chicago, IL www.recon.com
Rough Trade Los Angeles, CA www.roughtradegear.com
Rubio Leather New York, NY www.rubioleather.com
Semmerling & Schaefer Mask Studio Chicago, IL www.maskartists.com
Sheets of San Francisc San Rafael, CA www.sheetsofsanfrancisco.com
SLS Specialty Houston , TX www.slsspecialty.com
Sold Out Clothing West Hollywood, CA www.soldoutclothing.com
Square Peg Toys Idyllwild, CA www.squarepegtoys.com
Steamworks San Francisco, CA www.steamworksonline.com
Steve Leather New York, NY
Stockroom Los Angeles, CA www.stockroom.com
Stompers Boots San Francisco, CA www.stompersboots.com
The Kink Shop Shreveport, LA www.thekinkshop.com
The Leather Journal Los Angeles, CA www.theleatherjournal.com
The Leather Man, Inc New York, NY www.theleatherman.com
The Writers Booth & Bears Chicago, IL www.marcthecomic.com
Timoteo L.L.C. Los Angeles, CA www.timoteo.net
TLS RubberGear / Midnight Blue Houston , TX www.tlsrubbergear.com
Toolworks Chicago Willowbrook, IL www.floggers.com
Tribal Son Fort Lauderdale, FL www.tribalson.com
Tropicana Las Vegas La Verne, CA www.troplv.com
Twin Cities Leather Minneapolis, MN www.twincitiesleather.com
Unzicker Design Ojai, CA www.unzickerdesign.com
Utilikilts Seattle, WA www.utilikilts.com