He arrives outside of the hotel, dressed in a newly purchased outfit – part Banana Republic Outlet, part Target-chic – accessorized with one of five pairs of shoes he strategically fit into his crowded suitcase the previous evening. He is acutely aware that beyond those revolving doors lies uncertainty and the potential for feeling ostracized and feeling he doesn’t belong. But the excitement of the moment, characterized by butterflies mingling with the incredibly strong airport margarita he had at his layover in Minneapolis, overtakes any trepidation he feels and, taking a deep breath of false bravado, he swings through the doors and into the lobby to meet people with funny names.
Names that are personal and synonymous with humor, love, and passionate brilliance. Names that although would be absurd to the uninitiated, roll off the tongue and sound as normal as any real name you would hear being shouted across a crowded park on a warm Sunday afternoon. These names begin to run through his mind from years of stalking following these incredibly talented writers. Who would he meet? Where was Bossy and how bossy would she be? Would BusyMom show herself, offering me a tray of champagne? How red is Redneck Mommy‘s neck? Would he recognize Chicky Baby if he saw her in real life? Would Cheaper than Therapy really fit snugly into his coat pocket? Is WeirdGirl really that weird? Is Issa really that crazy? Were Karen’s pants REALLY made of sugar? Would Back To Me sound like she’s from Chicaaaago? And is Backpacking Dad, really that hot?
And suddenly, as if to answer every question, he is welcomed to the first of many parties. And as he circulates around the room trying not to feel the long-ago anxiety of a middle school dance, he is approached by person after person offering warm hugs, warm wishes and cold booze. And just like that, the acrid anxiety of not knowing washes away – leaving only the sweet smelling aroma of friendship. Old friends and new friends and hundreds of little paper business cards stuffed unceremoniously into pockets.
Before he knows it he is 38 years old, celebrating with incredibly-generous-when-drunk bloggers, eating chocolate pouring from fountains, dining on cake shaped like a unicorn and gyrating wildly on the dance floor as 80′s songs flood the room with nostalgia and lousy singing, lasting so deep into the night that it is way past his birthday by the time he makes it to his bed.
Sleep. This is the one thing that eludes him. His brother shows up to surprise him and while the benefits are many, the one drawback is the jack hammer-like quality that does the term “snoring” a deep injustice. But even this obstacle does not set him back. Before he knows it he is headed to do a panel presentation at this mostly-women conference. He, along with his brothers-in-arms, Avitable and BusyDad must have been total whack-jobs to accept this role (and this suspicion would soon prove to be true) as I Am Man – Hear Me Roar is sure to cause a stir. And while the discussion goes remarkably well he is both overjoiced and simultaneously disappointed that he is NOT, in fact, linked to any of the tawdry rumors flying through the conference like those monkeys doing the bidding of the Wicked Witch of the West flying maniacally from room to room on waves of tears and squeeeeeees.
Time continues to fly and before he knows it, the conference is coming to an end to be culminated by dinner amongst new friends, parties with cheeseburgers and hats made of paper bags proudly perched upon his head. And then, someone has the great idea to go to a night club and before he could protest he is being whisked off to Chicago’s party-zone and sitting in the dark but loud club trying to have conversations as fellow bloggers dance wildly to the gyrating beat.
After the urge to dance is sated, he finds himself in a hotel lobby, the same lobby he had nervously entered just two days prior, having deep conversations with newly cherished friends and feeling contented that there are such good people in the world – even if they do have the unenviable flaw of being a Red Sox fan.
But even great conversation must give in to slumber. And as he heads back to his hotel room the sky to the east seems a bit lighter than it should for no other reason than morning beckons. He has crammed as much fun into this time as he can handle and he snoozes into the full daylight of mid-morning. After rising, he crams as much swag as he can into his suitcase – not an easy task with five pairs of shoes. He looks forward to seeing his family once again but leaves knowing how many friendships he made, strengthened or cemented these past few days.
And as he sits in his tightly cramped coach chair 35,000 feet above the ground, having paid the $12.95 for airplane wi-fi, he ponders the past few days and can’t help but smile. And yawn.
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