Sunday, February 21, 2010

I Thought Women's Curling Involved Blow Driers

These are tough days for anyone not very interested in the Olympics. I like sports, and even in unfamiliar ones a close match or a come-from-behind victory can be exciting, even inspirational. But the sheer obsessiveness of it all descends into fluff of the worst kind: endless/pointless human interest stories and the same athletes and their families being asked the same questions over and over during the broadcast, and then again on the morning shows. It's the sports equivalent of the American vice-presidency: we get all worked up about that every four years too as if nothing else mattered and, when we're done, we throw a coat or some spare linens over them and forget they're there for another four years. A few passing observations:
  • I don't know whose brilliant idea it was to require the ice dancers to do something based on some country's traditional dances, but I've got to believe anything that involves a white couple from Russia dressing up like Australian Aborigines is probably not going to end well.
  • Curling would be more interesting if small furry animals were used instead of flat stones.
  • It looks like we can now file Johnny Weir right along side Posh Spice and Adam Lambert in the "You Didn't Invent a Cure for Cancer - Get Over Yourself" folder. (It's amazing how people see themselves as having star power when it's really just the general public's fascination with twisted metal at the side of the road.)
Anyway, I'm just back tonight from Williamsburg, VA, where I attended a children's entertainer's conference. Readers with me this time last year may remember the "Back to the Future" theme and the photos of a full-scale DeLorean made from balloons. This year's theme was "South of the Border.") As always with hotels, there were the challenges of yet another set of shower controls - whatever happened to the standard hot water on the left, cold water on the right, and you just turn each until you get the amount of water you want at the temperature you want? - and another in-room coffee maker (coffee maker first, by the way), and of being reminded that able-bodied people, even well-intentioned ones, have no idea how to design an accessible hotel room. (Hotels please note: it requires a little more than attaching a set of randomly-placed grab bars on one of the walls in the bathroom.) We've learned to carry our own shower bench and toilet handle bars when traveling. It's a lesson taught to me years ago in bartending school, and that I may have mentioned here before: Who's better at protecting your butt than you are? Nobody.

This year, there was also a large children's soccer tournament in the area that had several teams staying at the hotel. A couple of hundred entertainers (mostly clowns) and a couple of hundred kids in the same hotel. You connect the dots.

People sometimes ask about what goes on at children's entertainer's conferences? There are competitions, of course - balloon sculpting, skits, face-painting - but mostly it's about lectures and vendors. Topics this year included making low-cost props; magic; storytelling; make-up development; business promotion and sales; working restaurants; and protecting yourself and your audiences from diseases, allergies and people who like to hurt clowns. (Did you know that the glue on stickers often contains peanut oil? There, I just saved you a potential lawsuit. Remember where you heard it.)

It was a weekend of seeing old friends, too. Close friends my wife went to college with, others we get to talk to less often but that it's still great to see. One more year of being struck by the irony of how many people at a "happy" conference are in, or have left, really bad marriages. In one small group, people were swapping divorce stories the way middle-aged guys trade anecdotes about colonoscopies. I felt so left out, though one old friend I'd not seen in years had heard from someone that I'd gotten divorced a couple of years ago. This is not true, of course, at least as far as I know, though I'll confirm this with my wife and probably should check the tax records too.

Perhaps most significantly, on the long drive home I had my first Red Bull. I'll write more about that in a couple of days after I finally get to sleep.