Mr. International Rubber 2000 (November 11-15, 1999)

Before the Contest: Travel, Shopping, and Dancing (Thursday, 11/11 and Friday, 11/12)

     In order to ensure that I would adapt to the time change from the West Coast to Chicago, I arranged to arrive on Thursday afternoon, despite the contest not starting until Friday evening.  In addition, though, there’s the fact that you lose time traveling west-to-east, so to arrive early enough on Friday to get to the hotel and get settled, I would have had to leave way too early on Friday morning.

     Getting a room at the hotel at all, though, was a bit of a problem.  Although the Best Western Hawthorne Terrace was the ostensible host hotel, I’m not sure there was actually a room block reserved and all that.  When I first called for reservations, about a month out, the hotel was all booked.  Oops.  A week later, I tried calling other hotels on the recommended list, plus a B&B I know in the area, and nobody had that Saturday night open; I finally got one about two miles away.  Then just on a whim, I called the main hotel again, figuring maybe I could do two nights at one hotel, two nights at another, but the Hawthorne Terrace had a room (although it was a more expensive “junior suite”) available for the whole weekend.  I must have lucked into a recent cancellation.

     We arrived in Chicago about 30 minutes early, but then had to wait on the tarmac for our gate to clear.  Picking up the rental car, I fought traffic into Chicago — at 5 pm, what could I expect? — and stopped at Chicago Comics on Clark Street before checking into the hotel.  (Hey, one has to have priorities, right?  And besides, it was on the way!)  Chicago Comics is one of the best shops in the country.

     (Check out the license plate on that rental car!  How could I go wrong with a plate like that?  Okay, I wasn’t actually quite that lucky.  The plate was really “RBL”, but I adjusted it with Photoshop.)

     After dinner at the main Ann Sather location on Belmont — Ann Sather is a Swedish-American restaurant; I had the Stuffed Orange Roughy — I went dancing at Charlie’s (although there was almost no one there), and then over to the Cell Block, which later resulted in a pleasant three-way.  (Hi, Loren.  Hi, Angelo.)  But I was apparently rather exhausted — I’ve never passed out (asleep) in the middle of having sex before, much less had my partner also pass out at the same time!

     On Friday, after sleeping until nearly noon, I had brunch at Nookies Tree, and then did the whole Halsted shopping thing, up one side of the street and down the other.  One of the most noticeable things about the area these days are the “neighborhood indicators”; I understand that such have been put in place all over Chicago.  At either end of what has been dubbed “NortHalsted” are big metal tripods with rings on the top.  On all the side streets branching off Halsted are black metal and concrete planters that double as street signs; these are quite attractive, although not especially easy to read.  And then there are the, um, “rocket ships” marking the gay neighborhood.  (What were they thinking?)  The people at one of the stores referred to them as “giant rainbow penis things,” and said that these were actually the third or fourth design; one had involved neon rainbows arching over the street.

     Shopping... let’s see.  I stopped at GayMart and bought a leather bear t-shirt and a couple greeting cards.  On up the street to LeatherSport for a magazine, a bandana, and some lube, and the shocking discovery of a box of Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist chocolate bars.  Cool!  I stopped in at We’re Everywhere, but bought nothing.  (I never have.  Most of their stock seems to be their own logo merchandise.)  I passed by the Manhole and noted that their marquee was advertising that there was no longer a dress code required on Saturdays.  (Oh, like that’s going to get me in there?  I don’t think so — I relish the fact that the Loading Dock in San Francisco has the guts to post and enforce a dress code!  The Monhole has a fabulous leather pride flag awning outside, making you think it’s a leather bar.  Ha!  The one time I went in there, a few years ago, you had to be wearing leather or no shirt to get into the back half of the club; wearing a pair of leather pants and a harness, I had on more leather than everyone else in the place combined.  Definitely a circuit/“fashion” leather place.  Yuck.)

     While wandering around, I ran into a group who were in town for the Hellfire Applicants’s Weekend, a couple of whom I knew from past events.  (Hi, Rich.)  Actually, I continually ran into them: three times that day, and one of them at brunch on Saturday, too!

     I then jaunted over to Male Hide Leathers on Lincoln, scanned the latex they had on hand and decided that I did need anything they had (there wasn’t much of a selection), but I bought a leather wrist wallet.  I then drove up to Eagle Leathers on Clark, but they were closed, so they didn’t get any of my business.  (Closed, late on a Friday afternoon?  The only leather shop I’ve encountered with stranger hours is the one in Columbus — R.U.1.2.?, I think it is called — which is only open something like 11 pm to 1 am on Friday and Saturday.)

     Heading back to Halsted, I picked up my registration packet at the Cell Block, including a t-shirt, various admission tickets, and assorted knickknacks — Jack Daniels playing cards, one of the Reality “female” condoms, a couple plastic shot glasses, and so forth.  Then back to the hotel to organize myself for the evening, and dinner at El Mariachi, a small Mexican place a couple doors down from the hotel.

Rental Car


Chicago Comics


The Hotel




Cell Block


Nookies Tree


NortHalsted entry tripod


Roscoe Street entry


Giant Rainbow Penis Thing


(photo by GayMart employee)


Flags at Chateau d’Image


Male Hide Leathers


Hothead Paisan: Homicidal
Lesbian Terrorist candy!

El Mariachi

The Hotel Elevator:
Schindler’s Lift?


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Last update: 09/22/02