Friday, July 31, 2009

Europe 2009: Copenhagen (Thursday, July 30)

This was my day for really focusing on the competitions.  First I put things together for the Mr. Leather competition — checked the outfits, finalized the performance, and practiced the performance at the contest space.

I snagged a Champagne Brus popsicle from the Elite mini-mart — lime and mint (I think) with a chocolate shell cap on the top third.  Looked interesting, but the flavor was too weak to be really memorable.

After that, I went to DGI-byen to practice my dances.  I brought the netbook and used the webcam to record, so I could watch the videos large enough to use them.  (Clever, huh?)  While I was there, Sherwin from Copenhagen came in to practice for Beginner, and I was able to give him some coaching and webcam filming, and then others in Beginner also came in and I gave a little coaching to them, too.  I had planned to be there for 30 minutes, but it was over 60 before I left.

I had to scramble out of there, over to Yam Yam at Central Station for some Thai yellow curry to eat on the way to the hotel, and visited the ATM.  Then back to the hotel, jump in the shower, jump out of the shower, jump into pants, and hurry back to DGI-byen for the Competitor’s Meeting.  This was when I found there would only be four in my division for overall, rather than the 10 or so I anticipated; Beginner was the one with 9 competitors.  This did relieve me some, since it meant I would surely bring home a medal or two of some kind, no matter how good the other dancers were (and I didn’t know how good at this time).

For the competition, with the Beginners division, they did a preliminary heat of all 9 dancers, then brought back the top 5 from each dance at the end of the competition for a final heat.  Not much of a surprise in the results: 4 of the finalists were the same from each dance, and the third dance had 6 in the finals, the other 2 being the 5th one from each of the other dances.

The floor was very slick.  I was not able to do the full turn and the Monterrey turn in “I’m Movin’ On” very well, but I didn’t mess anything up.  After that, we used shoe brushes to rough up the soles, and I also added a little water to my suede soles to further improve the traction.

End result for me: Gold in “I’m Movin’ On”, Gold in “Working It”, and Silver in “Soakin’ Wet”.  (That last was a bit of a surprise, since I came out easily on top in it in Tampa and DC, but here I tried adding some hat action which may not have worked, and the floor slickness may have worked against me.  (And I may have just been too confident about that dance and slacked it a little.)  I also won the Overall trophy for Intermediate Line Dance, an engraved silver (aluminum) cup on a pedestal.  (There was some question whether there should have been medals for each of the three dances on the division, or just for overall; they only did overall in Montreal, I think.  They did it here like at the competition in Washington DC a few weeks before, though; on some level, that produces medal inflation, but it also enables a dancer to compete in only the dances he or she wants to and still medal for them.)

The big surprise, I think, was Marcella from Seattle, one of only two women in the competition.  She won Bronze in “Downpour”, but then took Gold in both “Bar Room Romeo” and “D.H.S.S.”, and thus the Overall trophy for her division.  (Bradley from New York took three Silvers.  We joked that they matched the hat and boots he wore for “D.H.S.S.”)

I had asked them to try to not delay the awards.  The schedule was to finish awards at 9:45 pm, and then have a performance from the Teams winner from the day before.  I guess they were having difficulty figuring the final scores for the Beginners, but they had the Team performance first (and it was Madison Street from France, I guess the women from Trip the Light Fantastic could not all be there; but more appropriate for this night, perhaps, since Madison Street is a line dance team).  They finally did the awards and finished them just after 10:00, so I had to grab my clothes and really hurry to K3 for the Mr. Leather competition.

(Frankly, this should not have been delayed as long as it was.  I think Lee, the competition director, did all the score tabulation himself.  He should have had a scoring assistant who would do the scoring tabulation for each dance while the next one was running; that’s standard procedure for tally mastering at a leather contest.  With a two song break between each trio of dances and between the Beginner finals, there would be plenty of time to do the tallying.  Even better would be to set up a spreadsheet to do it for you; enter the values and it produces the answer.  Ultimately, though, they do it how they do it and I’m not privy to what adventures Lee might have had to deal with.)

After this win, it is not clear if Marcella and I have to move up to compete at Intermediate and Advanced in the future.  A recent discussion thread said we don’t, but these were the biggest competitions we have had in a few years for line dance and probably should force the move.  (Especially for Marcella, since the competition was much larger and stronger in her division.)  I will discuss with Marcella and probably recommend a rule change) in Atlanta this fall.  (Tony, the sole competitor in Advanced, really wants me to move up, to ensure he has some competition.  We potentially could have Tony, me, Sammy, Daniel, and Chris in Advanced next summer in Austin; wouldn’t that blow them away, with more Advanced competitors than lower levels!)

Updated on February 25, 2010
At the IAGLCWDC convention in Atlanta in October, we updated the rules to have “international scope” competitions (like the OutGames and the Gay Games) qualify for level advancement for wins with an appropriate number of competitors, and made it retroactive to cover this year (since Marcella and I were the ones affected and we both agreed that we should move up after our wins).

Updated on May 14, 2010
Moved part of this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Europe 2009: Copenhagen (Wednesday, July 29)

I got up too late for breakfast at the hotel, so I popped to the nearby mini-mart, Elite, and bought orange juice, pastries, yogurt, instant coffee (shudder!), cream, and cheese wedges.

No sightseeing today.  Ironed my shirts for the competition.  Went to DGI-byen, the Danish gymnastic center (and bowling, apparently) and took two hours of line dance workshops by Niels B. Poulsen (a yummy instructor, woof!): Cha Cha With Me, My Next Love, and I’m Yours.  The third of these was fairly advanced; the second was a Viennese waltz.  I’m always of a mixed mind with line dance workshops: it’s rare that I’ll ever do the dance again after that workshop, and I’ve pretty much got the dance vocabulary down, so what am I actually getting out of the workshop?  Just mental and physical exercise?  Is that enough?  (Sometimes, yes, but not for more than a couple hours at a shot.)

Afterward, I talked for a while to Kurt from the Munich L.A.D.s dance team — he will be competing against me tomorrow — and to his mother, Karen.  We talked about line dance, IAGLCWDC competitions, and stuff like that.

Back at the hotel, I practiced my dances out in the courtyard and videotaped them, but I can’t get the video camera to connect to the laptop to upload them to YouTube where I can watch them on a screen bigger than one inch.  Grrr.

After dinner, went back to DGI-byen for the Couples/Teams competition.  Four couples competed — one Novice, two Beginner, one Intermediate — so very little real competition there.  Likewise with teams — Trip the Light Fantastic, a women’s team from the Bay Area competed in couples, and Madison Street from France competed in line, with the women’s team winning the Overall award.

I’m guessing that there will be as many as a dozen or more of us for the Intermediate Line Dance competition tomorrow, which means at least two heats.  That means it will be a significant competition.  It’s a problem not just with country dancing, but with other disciplines that I’ve seen records of at the OutGames: there are many sports with only a handful of competitors.  Of course, having several actually competing also means (a) I may not win and (b) the overall winner could be a challenge to identify, if different people win each of the three dances.  Could be interesting!

As with Amsterdam, the humidity seems to be getting thick here in Copenhagen.  I have sweated through all my t-shirts, at nearly two per day.  I’m going to put a few of them in the bathroom and turn on the shower very hot to hopefully steam a little life back into them.

Tuesday night was another at the SLM clubhouse.

Updated on February 24, 2010

Updated on May 12, 2010:
Moved part of this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Europe 2009: Amsterdam and Copenhagen (Tuesday, July 28)

I had to be up by 8:00 am to catch the train to Schilpol airport, but it turned out the Anco’s breakfast isn’t served until 9:00 am, and indeed the hotel bar are was locked and I didn’t know how to do checkout.  (Much less recover my key deposit.)  Turns out details for that were on a guide in my room that I didn’t read; I have no idea where the guide was, didn’t see it at all.  So I wrote a note with the key and pushed it under the bar door.

Grabbed an orange juice and a pastry of some sort at the HEMA at Centraal Station.  Made it to the airport without incident.  Oh, look!  Starbucks!  Yay, familiar coffee!  But I bypassed it in favor of getting checked in, just in case.  Only checked the one suitcase, so when the big carry-on with my leather in it went through the scanner, they pulled out my chainmail harness and asked what it was.  On the other side of security, there was another Starbucks.  Yay!

Customs in Denmark, was it smooth like in the Netherlands?  Not at all.  By which I mean: not at all.  None.  Didn’t even have to show my passport, other than getting on the plane in Amsterdam.

Fewer signs in Denmark are bilingual than in Amsterdam, even at the airport.  After a few minutes fiddling with the iPhone to figure out what train I might need to take, I had to stand in line at the train ticket counter to get help.  Turned out I wanted Copenhagen Central Station.  Figures.

Long walk on tile and cobblestone paths to the hotel.  I’m getting blisters on my hands from this luggage.  I think it gets heavier each leg.

The hotel room at Cabinn City is… small isn’t the word for it.  It’s about 10–12 foot deep and 8 foot wide; about half-size is how it feels, rather cramped — a walk-in closet.  Two single beds (which I pushed together to make a double.  Modular desk, storage, and closet space.  Bathroom has the shower head in the middle of the ceiling; you pull the curtain around and flip a lever on the sink, and then deal with a wet bathroom floor until it drains/dries.  The whole thing feels very IKEA (although that’s actually in the next country over).

You have to put your room key in a slot by the door to work the lights and outlets; they go out after about 15 seconds if you remove the card.  Took me a while to figure that out, and my laptop ran out of power once despite being plugged in.  Also seems like a great way to leave your card in the room, although it also does prevent big electric bills from lights left on.  (But it also prevents you from leaving a small light on to greet you when you return).

I took a quick shower and booted up the laptop to check out the Scandinavian Leather Men site.  Oh look, that leather club sightseeing tour starts at 14:00, and its now… 1:50 pm (13:50).  Quick, scramble into shorts and shirt and jog over there.  (I chose this hotel because it’s only 10 minutes from both the SLM clubhouse and DGI-byen where the dance competition is being held.)

We then spent about 90 minutes walking through Copenhagen: past the oldest gay bar in the city, by the original Carlsberg brewery location, through the King’s Garden, past the royal palace, down to the water across from the Opera House, and to the new Royal Theatre where we had beer and cider.  There, the rest of the group left for a ferry ride, while I headed back to the Hans Christian Andersen castle at Tivoli to check-in for the OutGames.  Along the way, I bought a basket of blackberries from a street vendor, the only food I had eaten since a pastry about 8 hours earlier.  And then back to the hotel for a nap.

I wanted to get a t-shirt from the OutGames, but they made the (poor, to me) decision to limit different colors to different styles.  The general OutGames design is very loud and busy — dancing silhouettes in front of the multi-colored “bubbles” logo — and I didn’t want it.  I preferred just the single color “bubbles” version (“preferred” meaning “would settle for”; still didn’t like it much), but it was only available in blue or yellow on a black shirt for men; women had two other colors, and another two were only on tanks.  I could have lived with the yellow design, but then the price: 150 DKK ($30) for a t-shirt which I didn’t really like a lot to start with?  No way.

All registered attendees get a participation medal, which they decided to make do double duty as a luggage tag.  This strikes me as very odd: it makes for a pretty heavy luggage tag, and not one that I would want to risk getting yanked off my bag in transit (having had other tags broken, ripped, or lost over the years).  I hope they got a price break by doing this, rather than it costing extra for a nifty but dumb idea.

After the nap, dinner was an egg and tomato sandwich and a creme cheese danish from Upper Crust at the train station.  Cheap and quick.

Tuesday evening was a party at the SLM clubhouse.

Updated on February 23, 2010

Updated on May 12, 2010:
Moved part of this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Europe 2009: Amsterdam (Monday, July 27)

Today, it was finally time to do some of the traditional touristy things.  I intentionally saved them for Monday, figuring crowds would be smaller.  I trekked down to the Museumplein, where several of the museums are clustered.  The Rijksmuseum is undergoing major construction, so only had a small portion open, and a long line out the door.  (Looks like I’m never supposed to go to that museum, since my last trip here in 1981, it was also closed [due to Liberation Day, I think].)

Heading toward the Van Gogh Museum, I went through the free part of the Coster Diamonds Museum, but opted out of the paid part (€7.50); the ticket booth was all the way through the downstairs, by which point I had got that museum out of my system — I would likely have bought a ticket if they had been sold at the front.

Next was the House of Bols museum, the oldest distillery in Amsterdam and creators of Gen.  Genever (which was dubbed “Dutch Courage”) was copied by the British as Gin.  Bols is best known today for their myriad of fruity liqueurs in bottles shaped like juggling clubs used in “flairtending” (think Tom Cruise in Cocktail).  The bottles were repeatedly said to be designed “by bartenders for bartenders” but they never mentioned the blatantly obvious juggling club antecedents, which was an odd omission.  This tour (€11) ended with a Genever cocktail (I had a Holland House — strong lemon flavor) plus tastings of a couple of the liqueurs (I tried the Dark Cacao and Peppermint).  I bought a spherical Bols shot glass as a souvenir.

The Van Gogh Museum (€13.50) had only a couple people in line, so I paid for this one.  It was good enough, I suppose, with one floor all Van Goghs, arranged by date so as to give a through line of his work.  In the end, I decided I didn’t much care for his work.  The early stuff was incredibly dark (all blacks and browns), much of his middle stuff had such whacked out perspectives that it detracted from the work for me, and his later stuff became more abstract.  Only his flower pieces really hold any enjoyment for me, and I bought a set of espresso cups with his “Butterflies and Poppies” image on them (a painting I don’t think I had ever seen before).  The other two floors were dedicated to some of his contemporaries, none of whose names (other than Gauguin) were familiar to me and none of which I can recall now.  One set of lithographs struck me: a series called “In Dreams” by Odilon Redon, with one image being a floating head with white skin and a huge shock of black hair; almost certainly an inspiration for Morpheus (from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman), although I’ve not heard of the connection before.

Passed up at the gift shop: a nifty flower vase made of folded waxed cardboard, which will fold flat or pop out into a double vase with Van Gogh imagery on it.  Too expensive, but I considered it for a Christmas present.

Near the Dam Square, I stopped to get my obligatory Amsterdam t-shirt — black with red print “Amsterdam” and the “XXX” city logo.  (Hmm, I wonder if “triple X” = porn stems from the Red Light District?  Must research.)

(The web has conflicting stories.  One theorizes that since “XX” stands for kiss, and since it was once illegal to kiss a woman in a film more than three times, films that went beyond this limit were labelled “XXX”.  Sounds contrived to me.  Another equates it to the “XXX” on kegs of beer, indicating a level of quality or strength.  I couldn’t find any connection to Amsterdam, to newspaper editorial signoffs, or to shirt sizes.)

I planned to go to the Hash, Marijuana, & Hemp Museum, just a few blocks down canal from the Anco, but passed out for a nap instead.  Dinner was a Chinese place, something bland but with a good bit of veggies which I probably needed.

Unlike many other regional cities — be they European like Dublin or American like Atlanta and Houston and Boston — I had a very hard time detecting a Dutch accent.  I usually hear accents fairly quickly and start adopting them unconsciously within a day or two, but not in Amsterdam.  I guess it’s such a melting pot, especially in the Centrum, that it evens out.  By when I left, the best accent I retained was something that seemed a little Italian tinged, if anything.

Amsterdam’s sidewalks are edged by dark colored curbs, carved (I guess, or maybe molded — hard to tell) and in segments with puzzle-piece interlocks.  Very cool, but they vary in height from an inch or less to about 8 inches.  And probably because of the dark color, my peripheral vision identifies them as “street” rather than “curb”, so I have had a very hard time with them.  I keep suddenly stepping off the curb and onto the actual street.  It’s amazing that I didn’t twist my ankle with the number of times I did this.

Amsterdam also seems to be loaded with steep stairs with shallow steps.  I tried to stumble into the basement at the Argos, and the stairs at the Anco were a trip to get the large suitcase up, since they were shallow, steep, and curved!  Most fascinating were the ones at Mauricio’s apartment, which were about three stories up but only 1.5 deep.  It’s a good thing I already tend to take steps with my foot sideways to increase surface area.  (To make matters worse, I racked my shin on the bed frame at the hotel, and then hit the exact same place going up the stairs at the Argos.)

The weather in Amsterdam has been fantastic, but the humidity has been through the roof.  This made the late night walk on Sunday night terrific, but Sunday was increasingly thick and miserable, turning to rain a little bit.

Amsterdam is incredibly flat.  Reminds me of the drive from Houston to Galveston.  No visible landmarks other than town water towers, unlike the West Coast where we always have mountains to navigate by.  Patrick and Chris told me that I had to go about 100 km outside the city to start getting to some hills.

Amsterdam is loaded with bicycles, especially in the Centrum, where there are 50-100 bikes for every car.  (And none of the mountain bikes or 10-speeds everyone has in the States.  These are either single or 3-speed bikes, and all with bag racks on the back.)  The flatness of the Dutch countryside and the narrow streets in the Centrum are undoubtedly the cause of this, making it reasonably easy to bike anywhere you need to go; I imagine it is also quite expensive to own a car here.  It is quite cool to see the racks of bikes, 50 to 100 or more per rack, every slot full.  There were a number of tandem bikes (that’s a bicycle built for two, Daisy), and I even saw one with four seats, for the entire family.

Beyond the bikes, though, are the scooters and motorcycles, especially the scooters.  Probably 8-10 scooters for every car in the Centrum.  Lots of Vespas, naturally, but I saw Sym and Kymco and Yamaha models, too, and some lines I didn’t recognize.  Apparently no helmet law, either.

Updated on February 9, 2010

Updated on May 12, 2010:
Moved part of this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Europe 2009: Amsterdam (Sunday, July 26)

I’m slowly recovering from jetlag, but today was a day where I didn’t really want to do anything.  Again, wrote the blog posts for an hour after breakfast.

Wandered around a while, then trekked 30 minutes southwest of the Centrum to a party I had been invited to, at a bar called Sameplace.  The further out from the Centrum, the wider and more familiar-to-Americans style the streets became, and the newer the construction.  And though more familiar, there was still a definite “European” feel to things, in an almost stereotypical way.  (All stereotypes are rooted in fact, after all.)

I was wearing one of my kilts, the tan canvas and black leather one from MacLeo.  It got a number of looks, but I trained myself long ago not to make eye contact back on those.  Just let them pass by.

Took the tram (light rail) back to the city; I think the cars are the same design as used in Dublin.  Later that evening, I caught a cab back out to near where the party had been, and later walked back to the Centrum late at night (1:30 am); beautiful weather in the high 60s, me in shorts and tank top.  I got a little lost — went one canal too far — but the iPhone map tool got me back to the hotel.

Updated on February 8, 2010

Updated on May 3, 2010:
Moved part of this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog:

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Europe 2009: Amsterdam (Saturday, July 25)

Struggled myself out of bed at 10:15 for breakfast.  Collapsed back in for two more hours.  Got up and worked on the blog posts and cruised online for an hour while they made up the room.

Trekked a mile or two west, to the Homomonument and Anne Frank House.  Stopped at Dam Square for lunch, at a Bali Chicken stir-fry (with Javanese spices; had a nice heat to it) and found a coffee shop with coffee to go (er, “take away” is the local term).  This wasn’t a pot-serving “coffee shop”.  I still haven’t broached one of those.

The Homomonument surprised me.  The only pics I had seen were of a stone triangle “dock” extending into the canal, but it is one of three triangles in the square at Westermarkt — one raised, one flush with the ground, and the one in the canal (below ground level) — representing past, present, and future.  Not sure that it “works”, but it’s sure more or something honoring gay rights struggles than we’ve got in the States.

Anne Frank House?  Well, I walked past it.  Line down the block.  Didn’t plan to go in anyway, and definitely not for that sort of a wait (probably a couple hours to get in).  I despise waiting lines like that; given the choice between waiting interminably for something and going to the next place, I’ll opt to walk on.  I may never go back to a theme park again (although now with the iPhone, they aren’t so bad, maybe, since I can play games and surf the web while I wait.).

Trekked back to the hotel, then back to the Cuckoo’s Nest and the Web.  Came back to the hotel for a nap, and then some dinner — take-away shoarma (“shawarma” in the US; Lebanese chopped meat) sandwich and frites (fries) with curry, mayo, and onions.  The curry sauce for fries here is red and liquid, like ketchup, as opposed to the yellow gravy in Ireland, which I liked better.  Really wish I could get them with poutine (gravy and cheese) though; had that in Vancouver in April and it was yummy!  Watched a chunk of Men in Black II, then prepped to go out.

Updated on February 5, 2010

Updated on May 3, 2010:
Moved part of this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Europe 2009: Amsterdam (Friday, July 24)

Customs in Amsterdam was surprising.  Surprising in that it was almost non-existent.  Seriously: I stood in line behind one person, showed my passport to get into the baggage claim (and was asked no questions about my stay), got my bag, walked through the “Nothing To Declare” door, and that was it.  I was done.  I get hassled more than this driving into Canada!

I rode the train from the airport to Amsterdam Centraal Station.  This would have gone smoothly, but I misread the schedule and thought I was on a train that didn’t stop at the two stations in between.  So I got off at the first stop, got out of the station, checked my iPhone map, and said “Where the hell am I?”  (I couldn’t see signage telling me which stop I was at.  Or maybe I just couldn’t read it.)  I had to get back on and ride two more stops.  I chatted for a couple minutes with a nice Dutch girl for a few minutes before the first stop, where she exited.

Lugging my bags to the hotel wasn’t easy, between the bump-bump-bump of the brick streets and the rain.  Good solid rainstorm.  Thank you, leather jacket and leather cowboy hat.  Felt like home (but like spring, not high summer).

I’m staying at the Hotel Anco.  Several years ago, one of the Seattle Men in Leather members (Leo) wrote an article for our newsletter about leather travel in the Netherlands and Belgium, and he recommended the Anco.  For €65 per night, I’ve got a room with a double bed and a sink (shared toilet and shower, one floor up), plus free WiFi and breakfast every morning, and I’m a block from Warmeosstraat.  (I think it was supposed to be a single bed when I made the reservation, but shhh, I’m not telling!)  The classic leather stay in Amsterdam is the Black Tulip (but I haven’t chanced on it yet, not sure just where it is; ah, a web search shows it is closer to Centraal Station than the Anco is), but it was another €20 or more a night.

My room wouldn’t be ready for a couple hours (since it was still morning, about 9:00 am), so I had some breakfast and then wandered around Warmoestraat, where RoB and Mr. B and several of the leather bars are.  Nothing was open at 10:00 am on Friday morning, though.  I wandered over to another neighborhood where a couple more leather bars and gay shops are (also not open yet), and then back to RoB (now open) where I bought a new pair of leather braces (suspenders), for the Mr. Leather OutGames contest.

We’re used to streets in the States which are wide — two lanes plus two lanes of parking — and paved with asphalt.  Here in the Amsterdam Centrum, most of the streets are closer to what we would call alleys, but paved with bricks.  They are often as small as one narrow lane and about 3 feet on each side for walking, and some are narrower than that.  Some of it reminds me of Greenwich Village (maybe no surprise, since New York was originally New Amsterdam), and of Philadelphia.  Of course, the canals cross-cutting everything remind me of last spring’s trip to Dublin, where the river bisects the city, with Temple Bar on one side, kind of like Warmoesstraat and the Red Light District are here.

The Red Light district is between the Anco and Warmoesstraat, or at least a portion of it is, centered around Ould Kerk, the oldest church in Amsterdam.  It is rather bizarre, having full glass doors with whores behind them, gyrating and winking at possible customers in the direct view of the church.  The last time I was in Amsterdam (other than at the airport last year), I was 13 and on a tour.  I think we went through some chunk of the Red Light district on that trip — I saw some tour groups in the area this time, even just after dark — but I don’t really remember anything about that piece of the trip, nearly 30 years later.

Back at the hotel, I got my room and a couple hours nap, then went wandering again.  Found that the Web was open, but the Warmoesstraat bars don’t open until 2200 or 2300 (10 or 11 pm)!  They stay open unto 4 or 5 am, but that late of an opening seems very strange.

Somewhere tonight, I lost my nose ring.  (Probably in the dark room at the Eagle.) Beautiful little crescent (no balls) from Palm Springs Piercing.  It’s held in by two rubber rings, but I only had one on (“Danger, Will Robinson!”), because I only have three and the others were on my other, larger crescent ring.  Which I had forgotten I was wearing on Monday when I got to work, so I took it out and put it in my shorts pocket, then put them through the wash, and… guess what didn’t come back out on Tuesday.  Fuck, that leaves me with just the nose staple and the spike for the rest of the trip.

Updated on February 4, 2010

Updated on May 3, 2010:
Moved part of this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Europe 2009: Seattle to Amsterdam (Thursday, July 23)

I spent much of the morning scrambling around the house to get those last few things packed.  Where are my leather braces (suspenders)?  (Never did find them.)  Where is the master’s cap?  (Oh, yeah, left it on the corner of the sling frame.)  What the hell am I forgetting?  Was also changing the sheets, doing the laundry, and doing the dishes, to leave the house in a good state.

(Things I know I forgot thus far: bathroom scissors to touch up the beard, and a pack of Kleenex.  Finding some place to buy those in Amsterdam turned out to be a challenge.  No Walgreens on the corner!)

Rusty is going to be house sitting for me while I’m gone, feeding the cats and such.  He showed up at about 9 am, expecting me to already be gone.  So instead, he was able to give me a ride to the Light Rail station, saving me the time of schlepping luggage to the bus and waiting for it.

The new Seattle Light Rail was smooth (as expected). Coolest part was the stage between Rainier Beach and Tukwila stations, seeing parts of the area I haven’t seen before.  Ride was a little bumpy on that stage, the elevated part, but only a little.

There were only two of us on the train at that hour.  Which means I’m expecting mid-August to be when the Light Rail detractors declare it a failure due to low ridership, and start to talk about shutting it down and ripping out the tracks.  (Just wait.)

They don’t have all the bugs out of the system yet, though.  No announcements when coming to a station.  Oh, wait, there’s one: “Now arriving… Rainier Beach Station.  Please hold on to a handrail (etc.)”  Only problem is, the announcement went off as we left the station.

I’m flying Northwest from Seattle to Amsterdam.  Only problem: there’s no Northwest ticket counter listed on the airport map!  Oh, that’s right: Delta is merging with Northwest, so go to their counter.  Was pleased to see that there was no charge for the international flight for either bag; I was fearing an additional $50 or more.  So I ended up checking two rather than carrying two on.  Had to move some from the suitcase to the smaller bag to get under 50 lbs., but that was easy.

Coming out of the subway and into the South Satellite terminal, they were doing some major work on the escalators.  They had one bank completely off and were directing everyone onto the other set, but spacing us about six feet apart, to balance the weigh (I guess; maybe it was just to annoy us).  Never seen such a thing.  Making it even more bizarre, they wouldn’t let anyone take the stairs next to the closed escalator, either, for “safety” reasons.  What the fuck?

Boarding the plane, there were no less than five uniformed security people in the jetway itself.  And then at the plane door, one of the flight attendants was being grumpy on the phone, something like “That’s not the policy we’re supposed to follow.  I’m not doing that on any other flights!”  Mmmmaybe that merger with Delta/Northwest isn’t going smoothly?  Were the security folks there to deal with problem employees?

The overhead bins on international flights are about a foot higher than on domestic ones.  Can’t imagine how those bleached blonde 5'1" real estate chicks can get their shouldn’t-be-a-carrry-ons up there without help.  (Didn’t I make that same comment on the trip report for Ireland last year?  Checking the blog, it doesn’t appear so.  I’m sure I thought it.)

I think I only slept about 2-3 hours on the flight (10 hours + 9 hours of time change).  That’s the problem with a daytime flight.  Unlike the flight to Ireland, this one was packed full, almost every seat taken, so there was no chance to stretch out and try to recline and sleep.  (Poor, poor airlines.  Losing money because nobody will fly.  Bull-fucking-shit.)

Watched two movies — the bromance I Love You, Man and Jim Carrey’s Yes Man.  Both were okay, and like most rom-coms (and these are on the edge of the genre), they work perfectly fine on a 7" screen in the back of an airplane seat.

My seatmate was going to have a 3-hour layover in Amsterdam, and then another 5 hours to the Ukraine.  Ugh.

Updated on February 3, 2010
Knock on wood, but the predicted “Get rid of it!” call about Light Rail that I feared would surface hasn’t yet, at least not to any degree I’ve noticed.  I’ve taken it to the airport and back several times now — next Wednesday will be the next time, heading to New Zealand — and ridership has increased every time I've been on it.  And I’ve been noticing more people riding it when the trains go by, although I have no idea how the actual numbers are comparing to projections yet.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Europe 2009: Seattle (Wednesday, July 22)

Spent the day wrapping things up at work — we have a small team these days, so it will be tougher for Cindy and Doug to pick up the slack while I’m gone.  Then had Rhythm Riders dance practice and the SML Leather Social.  Snuck a few bits of packing in around the edges, but was by no means done.

Had a small tiff with my boyfriend after the Leather Social, which put him in a bad mood and so we certainly didn’t have a good “send off”.  My not being done packing was probably part of it, and just the trip itself.  Hope things will reset by the time I get home.

At 11:45, checked my schedule and realized that I had my departure time wrong.  I was thinking of the depart-from-Amsterdam-on-Tuesday time, so I had 2.5 hours longer than I thought.  So I didn’t stress about getting all the packing done tonight.

Updated on January 2, 2010

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Europe 2009: Preparation (background, planning, tickets, etc.)

I started planning this trip 18 months or so ago.  I had competed in the 2006 OutGames in Montréal (in country line dance), and I wanted to take another trip to Europe following the trip to Ireland in February/March 2008 (see earlier blog entries), so the 2009 OutGames in Copenhagen seemed like the deal.  Of course, what good leatherman wants to go to just Copenhagen, when Paris and Amsterdam and Brussels and Hamburg and Berlin beckon?

For my birthday last summer, my mother gave me a chunk of money to use for this.  I slowly put the schedule together over several months: the Copenhagen competition days were to be midweek, so I could do the weekend before in one city and the weekend after in a second.  Amsterdam and Berlin were the obvious targets for both a leather experience and for reasonable proximity to Copenhagen.  The weekend after the competition was Pride in both Amsterdam and Copenhagen, so I opted for Amsterdam the weekend before and Berlin the weekend after.  (Yes, that’s right, I avoided Pride celebrations — better hotel rates and more availability, fewer swarms of people, and even a better chance at getting laid.)  That eventually firmed up into fly Thursday, Amsterdam for Friday–Monday, Copenhagen for Tuesday–Thursday, and Berlin for Friday–Sunday, flying back on Monday.

I initially looked at rail travel within Europe, since it was such a good option last year from Killarney to Dublin.  Early on, I saw a good deal for and overnight from Amsterdam to Copenhagen (via Berlin and Malmö, Sweden), but by the time I was ready to purchase, that was gone and rail tickets were in the €200 range— way too expensive (doube the airfare for that leg!).  So I got a SAS leg to Copenhagen, and an airberlin flight to Berlin.  (In retrospect, I realize that RyanAir and easyJet weren’t on the travel sites I visited, so I wonder if I could have got cheaper options?  Well, no point in wondering now.)  One of my other options to Copenhagen would have taken me through Riga, in Latvia, which would have been an interesting additional country to check off my list, but the SAS leg was about $50 cheaper.

SLM Copenhagen (Scandinavian Leather Men) was scheduled to host an Out In Leather program at the OutGames, including a Mr. Leather OutGames contest on Thursday.  Appear in leather and do a 3 minute presentation (“fantasy” to those in the States); max of 8 contestants, with everyone getting at least €40 of porn, and the top two getting €500 and €2000 leather packages.  What do I have to lose, eh?  So I scripted and recorded and edited a leather retelling of Pinocchio (“When he told a lie, his ahem nose would grow”).  (Maybe I’ll post the MP3 later, especially if it gets a good reception.)

Of course, after I had all this planned and some of the travel details purchased, they released the specific schedules.  Leather contest is Thursday at 10 pm.  Line dance competition is Thursday… 8-10 pm.  Aieee.  Assuming it doesn’t run the full two hours, the contest location is a 5 minute cab ride, so it will be tight, but I should be able to make it.  The SLM contact says it will actually start at about 10:15, and the line dance awards are supposed to be done at 9:45.  Rrrr…

Updated on February 1, 2010