We are in Chicago, Illinois, a town not very well-known outside of northern Illinois, much less the rest of the world. However, Chicago is a major tourist destination. Chicago’s culture has contributed much to the visual arts, literature, film, theater, comedy (especially improvisational comedy), food, dance, and music (particularly jazz, blues, soul, hip-hop, gospel, and electronic dance music, including house music). Chicago is home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The Chicago area also hosts the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and the University of Illinois Chicago, among other institutions of learning. Chicago has professional sports teams in each of the major professional leagues, including two Major League Baseball teams.
However, we are here to see none of that. Rather, we are here to attend International Mr. Leather (IML), a multi-day conference and competition celebrating the leather, kink, fetish, and BDSM communities!
And we will get to that, soon enough. But first, let’s take a look around, shall we?
We are staying at the Congress Plaza Hotel, famous for important folks visiting or staying at it, including Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and, of course, William Howard Taft.
We are staying here because this is where many of the IML events are located. A few events are not in this hotel, but are within easy walking distance.
Getting up really early gives the opportunity to take advertisement-style photographs.
There is a small pub adjacent to the main lobby. Notice the old-fashioned video game in the back and the new-fashioned video camera in the upper left.
You can’t slight them for the decor. When they renovated, they made a good-faith effort to preserve a bit of the finer things.
They probably had a meeting.
“We have these two elevators. That should be enough.”
“No! We need a wide marble staircase with a railing on only one side!”
“I’m not signing off on this unless we have an escalator.”
The ceiling of the room displays a very complex story of…something. When I can’t figure out what’s happening in these art pieces, I always assume it represents Man’s Inhumanity to Man. That works most of the time.
In fact, the hotel is old, and in olden days, elevators were a rarity. Thus, there is a plethora of stairwells. As in, dozens of them.
Although I occasionally take the stairs, I seem to be the only one.
Why, in my day, we didn’t have any sissy handrails, and we liked it that way!
Notice how some stairwells a have asymmetrical lengths, leading to rectangular centers? Not this one! Let’s climb to the top, shall we?
Well, perhaps the hotel sees this as a community bulletin board, and this is the hotel’s way of giving back to the city. Perhaps.
The hallways are a bit narrow and gloomy. Yeah, there is only so much you can do when you renovate an old building. In fact, in our room, we had no control of the heat or cooling. The hotel set it for all the rooms (without taking into account that some rooms face the sun and some are completely internal). If it’s too warm, you can open a window (or door if you don’t have a window) and if it’s too cool, you can request a portable heater for your room. However, two heaters will trip the circuit breaker.
They have room service to order food. However, in the evening, if it is busy, they don’t stay open late to accommodate the needs of their guests. Rather, they stop answering the phone so that they can shut down on time and send the staff home. Good to know, right?
So, it’s not quite a three-star hotel, But that’s why events such as International Mr. Leather are able to take over the entire hotel.
So, that’s an overview of the Congress Plaza Hotel.
The Windy City
Chicago is known to some as The Windy City. That’s not windy as in “The road is very windy,” but rather, windy as in “Wear your jacket because it is so windy outside.”
This is the view from our room at too-early in the morning, or too-late at night, depending on your lifestyle.
This is more-or-less the same view well after sunset. Enjoy the yellow-orange haze. The Great City of Chicago’s government is slowly replacing these high-pressure sodium lights with LED lights, which will be white and save the taxpayers about $100,000,000 annually in electric fees when finished.
If you look closely, the building with the blue vertical lines has letters reading, “Thank You Nurses.”
Now things turn red, and we are admonished to “Honor Our Fallen.” Fallen what? They don’t tell us. But, since this is the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois building, I’m guessing it refers to old people who die when they fall on Chicago’s slippery sidewalks in winter.
According to the internet, “Dessa Kirk’s Magdalene is located on the small triangular landscape at the intersection of Congress Parkway and Michigan Avenue. Kirk created the sculpture specifically for this site. In the springtime, tulips line the female figure’s feet, and in the summertime the sculpture becomes part of the surrounding garden, as vines and flowers fill up the skirt of her dress.
Dessa Kirk produced this artwork after the success of her earlier Daphne sculptures. These three similar sculptures were part of the Chicago Park District’s 2004 Art in the Garden exhibit in Grant Park and later moved to Northerly Island. The Daphne sculptures remain in Northerly Island Park today.
Kirk spent her youth in Anchorage, Alaska. During the summers, she lived with her grandfather in an old Alaskan mining village. He encouraged her to experiment with welding and other metal constructions. After receiving a scholarship to the School of Art Institute of Chicago in 1992, she decided to make Chicago her home. In addition to several public works in Chicago—often composed of welded automobile parts—Kirk has installations in Columbus, Indiana; Three Oaks, Michigan; and Anchorage, Alaska.”
Behind her is an Indian on a horse. The Indian is riding without reins and is doing some kind of stretch.
Chicago is pretty good about spreading out the monolithic buildings and adding color. Let’s turn around, shall we?
Chicago’s east side is water. Lake Michigan is the largest lake contained in one country. Meaning, there are A LOT of larger lakes in the world, but this one is small enough to fit in one country, so, in that way, it’s the largest.
Buckingham Fountain is a Chicago Landmark in the center of Grant Park, between Queen’s Landing and Ida B. Wells Drive. Dedicated in 1927 and donated to the city by philanthropist Kate S. Buckingham (hence the name), it is one of the largest fountains in the world. Built in a rococo wedding cake style and inspired by the Latona Fountain at the Palace of Versailles, its design allegorically represents nearby Lake Michigan. The fountain operates from May to mid-October, with regular water shows and evening colored-light shows. During the winter, the fountain is decorated with festival lights.
Of course, this fountain is most famous for being shown in the opening scenes of Married… with Children, probably the most realistic example of family life in America ever depicted.
Yeah, I take a lot of photographs of this fountain because, why not?
Those small fountains in front are supposed to be sea serpents. Pretty scary, eh?
Yeah, it’s a landmark. I take a lot of photographs of it….
This view is more like the opening credit fountain of Married… with Children.
The fountain has many moods. Here it is definitely excited to be a fountain.
This is where art majors go to try and be creative. And, of course, it represents Man’s Inhumanity to Man.
Then there is this little girl, quietly fountaining (is that a word?) into a small pond, happy just to be part of the fun.
Grant Park Purple Tights Photoshoot
You can’t visit Chicago’s Grant Park without a photoshoot or two, amirite?
We call this photoshoot “Purple Tights”, mostly because I am wearing purple tights. Also, because…well, use your imagination.
Chicago thoughtfully put rail lines and bus lines below the surface. Not everywhere, but at least here.
Notice the buildings: there really is only one style of architecture when building skyscrapers: windows.
Some people in cars honked at me when I was doing this. Maybe it’s not allowed…?
Grant Park is pretty, but much of it is fenced off to keep out the riff-raff (I assume).
Cheesecake poses are better, if you ask me.
A lady in orange leads a tour group through Grant Park. There are many such groups, hurrying past, barely able to take in the sights as they speed along.
As you’ve come to expect (if you read all the awaTravels.com articles), no one notices the abundance found in Grant Park.
Okay, let’s put away the girls and move on…
Yeah, sometimes this happens to me when, well, you know… Good times.
“Sueños is an annual American music festival held in Chicago. First inaugurated in 2022, the festival mainly focuses on reggaeton and latin trap.” Yes, I know those sound like made-up words, but they are not.
We are here to see a bunch of homosexual men compete to be, like, King or something. We know nothing of Sueños. We can hear the music in the evening (so why pay for a ticket, right?). It’s pleasant and Caribbean-sounding.
There are throngs of teenage girls in line to be admitted long before the event begins. How many, you ask?
From our hotel, we can see this intersection. This is a normal evening: few pedestrians, and an occasional automobile or bus.
And this is what it looks like when the event ends. This is not a momentary happening. The people are this thick for perhaps thirty minutes. We wonder where they are going, since there are no parking lots (or cars) around.
They are going to the underground trains. Ha ha, we didn’t consider that. We are from California; what do we know about public transportation…?
Dressed to the Nines
We are walking a few blocks to see the International Mr. Leather competition, and we see a girl taking photographs with a real camera. So, we ask her to take photos of us with our camera.
I’m wearing Bessie, my leather skirt made from one piece of leather from one cow. I’m at International Mr. Leather. Of course I have a lot of leather. And notice the leather Tux with Tails.
The photographer takes many photographs of us. For a moment I think, “She could just start running with our camera, and we’d never catch her.” But, due to Sueños, there are Chicago’s Finest everywhere, so I don’t worry.
As we are posing, two young men walk past and I hear one of them say, “Man, those titties are just out there.” Yup, it seems universal: Girls say boobs, boys say titties.
And that brings us to the close of our overview of the Congress Hotel, Grant Park, the Buckingham fountain, and purple tights. (Notice that I didn’t include boobies in that list…)
Stay tuned for our next article as we explore the fun and festivities found in the leather, kink, fetish, and BDSM communities!