I spent my Monday and Tuesday at an industry symposium. Interesting stuff, some of it.
Monday morning, I was out of the house by 6:30, ready to do the whole city thing, wearing a suit and taking the train instead of the oh-so-suburban business casual and driving (driving a suburban, interestingly enough, which is what I usually do).
Today I had my usual accoutrements plus more cash and gum, which I stopped for at the White Hen on the way to the train. It’s convenient having an El stop two blocks from my house.
This symposium/seminar/meeting was at the Drake Hotel downtown, a place I had never been. It is as nice as you would imagine (if you imagine it really nice)—rich dark woodwork and fancy upholstery, and chandeliers everywhere, even in the bathroom stalls, which is a little bit awkward.
The first couple of keynotes were interestingish. Jon Kaplan from Google spoke first, and then a panel of a few different dudes. Third was an extremely boring old man with a toupee and wickedly bad teeth. I swear, this guy had one idea: automate your marketing campaigns—and that was it! And he talked for forty-five minutes without explaining anything further than that. So on our evaluation forms (on a scale of 1 to 5), I just ranked him “?” and wrote in the comments, “I don’t even know what this guy was talking about.”
But enough of the business talk. After the last session, all the industry people shuffled back into “the Gold Coast room” for a cocktail reception. Holy goodness, was that something (especially because I had skipped out of the sessions after lunch, and had been drinking all afternoon).
Open bar at the Drake: I encourage any of you who can to give this experience a try sometime. The bartenders are generous, and especially generous if you give them a tip, and Especially generous if you sound like you know what you’re talking about. So even though I didn’t especially want one, it was necessary to order a “Manhattan, down, rocks, and a vodka cranberry with a twist.” The old bartender loved it, even though he didn’t crack a smile, and I could tell as he whipped bottles hither and thither, and sloshed liquor over an already-full measuring shotglass that he preferred serving me to serving the other ignorants.
The second time back, he seemed a little distracted, and I asked him to hit it again with the bourbon, which he did. And I didn’t have any change, so I left him 20 bucks on the bar. And I felt equal parts cool “I hope people noticed that,” pretentious, “oh crap, whoever noticed that is going to think I am a huge douchebag,” and stupid, “wait, what are you doing, dumbass? You really can’t afford that at all. Not even a little bit.” The two guys immediately to my left immediately started yelling. “Hey, whoah! Look at that! … Hey, high-roller, huh, Fort Knocks? Who-ho-hoah!!!”
I don’t think I had met these guys, but I was wearing a name tag. I didn’t acknowledge them, of course, just turned away trying to hide my embarrassment with smugness, which made me even more embarrassed. But I was pretty loopy, so it wasn’t that bad.
At dinner, I found myself at a table with the organizers of the whole damn conference, so we had a couple glasses of wine and talked things over. It seemed like a really good idea to tell the one boss guy Tom how boring the third speaker had been, and I don’t think he was offended. He asked me if I wanted to go outside for a cigarette with one of the boss-women after we finished eating, so I did.
There we continued to chat, and after I made a few blunt remarks, the woman told Tom, “you should give this guy a job. He tells it how it is.”
“Oh, I don’t think you fogies could keep up with me,” I said and sort of laughed, and then went back to talking about how Mark Zuckerberg should have sold Facebook for $4 billion when he had the chance, because the demographic on social networking sites doesn’t have any purchasing power and ad revenue is getting artificially inflated. They went inside soon, and a younger organizer woman came out and started smoking a really thin dark brown cigarette at me.
We spoke; she mentioned that a few of them were heading up to the Signature room on the top of the John Hancock building, and I was welcome to come. I said what the hey?
The following are notes on what ensued. (This is getting too long, so I’ll just summarize. Besides, things get a little blurry at this point.)
1. I rode up and down to the top of the John Hancock building three times. Those elevators are ridiculously fast.
2. An $80 bottle of champagne is not that different than a $40 champagne to the uneducated, drunk palate.
3. Knob Creek doubles are always a good idea. Always.
4. Random hilarious guys who swear a lot but not in front of ladies, who tell you “we’ve got to hang out at this bar up the street right now,” and give you their phone number and then you say, “wait, who the hell are you? What’s your name?” and they leave are confusing.
5. Text messaging “Are they both named Cathy?” to someone across the table about two other people at the table is entirely acceptable. And useful.
6. The $255 tab had better be refunded by my company, or I am well and truly screwed.
7. That bar really is awesome. The best view in the city, and plus it makes you feel really important.
8. The next day we heard from Devon Harris, the guy from “Cool Runnings,” you know, that movie about the Jamaican bobsled team. He has a Jamaican accent (not surprising) and told the following joke: A priest and a cab driver die and go to heaven. At the pearly gates, they meet St. Peter, who gives the cab driver a white silk robe and bids him welcome. The priest is excited at first, but disappointed when St. Peter hands him an ugly plaid bathrobe. “What the hell, St. Peter? Can’t you see I’m a priest?” he says. St. Peter replies, “Well, when the cab driver did his work, people prayed; when you did your work, people slept.” I didn’t say the joke was that funny. But for a Jamaican, it’s not bad. (but not his best, which must be read with a Jamaican accent. Go ahead, try it: “When we heard ‘bobsled,’ our first reaction was… ‘Bob Who? The only Bob we know is Bob Marley. And he’s dead.’” Ok, I guess you had to be there.)
9. I had never been in Holy Name Cathedral and I didn’t know where it was, but I randomly passed it walking the next day so I went in. It’s ok.
10. No way. Our CEO just walked up with the president of the association that runs the meeting for an abbreviated meet'n'greet and some post-mortem grilling (this happened while I was writing #4). How was the breakout session? Um, I missed it because I was still asleep, and the Cool Runnings guy was the only thing that looked interesting for Tuesday? No, that won’t go over well; just bullshit.
Anyway, that’s where I’ve been for the last two days.