Wednesday, July 18, 2007

So Much to Blog, So Little Time – Part II: Recreational Frustration

Okay, lately I honestly don't have much to bitch about here. Sonya and the kids went to Pennsylvania just a couple weeks ago to visit her aunt and cousins, leaving me all by my lonesome to tear up the state in a fit of reckless abandon (well, relatively for me anyway). I was able to visit with an old friend, have a nice long rehearsal with my quartet without much time restriction, and even hit the karaoke bar with my best friend.

Usually when I complain about not getting to do the things I want to do, it's because I'm either too busy with work or other obligations or I need to spend every available moment at home with my family, as said "free time" is so sparse in my life these days. This time, however, my "poor me" tirade is primarily based on funding and minor events largely beyond control.

Two weekends ago was the Barbershop Harmony Society's International Convention, this year held in Denver, CO. I have never been to an international convention and I hear stories from friends and veteran barbershoppers alike about how great the performances are, how much fun the afterglows can be, and tales of singing in the hotel lobbies till the wee hours of the morning with barbershoppers from all over the country. Basically everything I enjoy about our Pioneer District conventions, but on an international scale at about 20 times the size.

The biggest barrier to my enjoying such a festival of geektidute, is the prohibitive expense and distance. My dad has been to several of these and has been encouraging me to get to one since I started in the Society several years ago, even going so far as to offer to pay my expenses (not sure he thought that one through very well). All of the usual expenses of my semi-annual trip to whatever in-state location is hosting the district convention are compounded exponentially. Food, hotel, travel costs, tickets, and various miscellany, not to mention the money lost from time off of work, can incinerate my wallet at the mere thought when you double the duration, distance, number of events and ticket costs of the trip.

Thus far, the closest international convention to he has been Indianapolis (which I honestly should have gone to), but aside from the cost and distance, there is the absolutely HORRIBLE timing of the event. They are always held the week of July 4th...every year.

While I suppose it makes sense to plan a convention of this magnitude during a week when most folks plan for a vacation anyway, those of us who work for a living (as opposed to the tidal wave of retirees that flood such a convention) and have sparse vacation time – if any at all – would like to try and spend some of that precious free time with our families.

If you've ever experienced an addiction like Barbershop or Drum Corps, you know that at these kind of events you want to fly from activity to activity and do every spontaneous thing that comes up. It's stimulation overload, like a kid at a crnival, and being tied to the family and attending to their wants and needs inevitably "cramps your style" in such situations. It usually becomes a choice of doing what you want and force-feeding them your mania, ditching them to do the stuff you love and leaving them feeling abandoned and neglected, or missing what you perceive to be all the cool stuff and feeling like you may as well have stayed home. Neither option is particularly appealing and even compromise can leave both sides disappointed.

Another side-effect of having the convention during Independence Day week is that local festivals get the shaft. Inevitably, I get a several calls a year for our quartet for that week from local events planners hoping to add a touch of old-style Americana to a 4th of July event. As our Lead is always at the international convention, competing with the Macomb Chapter's chorus, I'm forced to decline. When they ask for suggestions, I them to hit the quartet locator on the Society's web page, but tell them it's unlikely they'll find any quartet with a full compliment for the job.

Next year is in Nashville. I'm already planning my funding for it (read: I'm casing liquor stores and pricing ski masks). My dad is already planning to go. My aunt and uncle live a few hours from there, so I can coordinate a trip to see them (for the 2nd time in about 18 years). I may also have a good friend out that way by then, if he gets the job he's hoping for.

Other recreational frustration involves my journey to see His Royal Weirdness, "Weird Al" Yankovic this past Wednesday in Lansing at the Common Ground Music Festival. A great show, as always, and I enjoyed most of it. There were a million little things, however, that didn't go as I had set up in my mind and led to some disappointment.

I had this great scheme in my mind of leaving work at 4, heading home to help pack up the kids, hit the road at 4:30 (thus just missing rush hour), and getting to the festival at 6. Being 2 ½ hours early for the festival, we could lay claim to a good spot for the general admission, outdoor concert, and enjoy some other aspects of the festival. In that time, I figured I'd hook up with my friend Charlie and we could hang with his family, as he has kids about my kids' age. Plans I apparently should have relayed to Sonya in more detail and with more emphasis than I did.

As it was, I left work at 4 and got home to find the kids mostly ready and Sonya on the computer researching the festival a bit further. My best friend Lou decided to join our carload and arrived about 4:40, which added a bit of brief contention as a deviation from the blueprint Sonya had in her mind. We hit the road about 5:15, and despite having just eaten, the kids were "STARVING" as Liam put it, so we hit the Taco Bell drive-thru. I suggested quesadillas, but they whined about burrito kids meals. Sonya suggested giving them what they asked for so they would actually EAT IT (refference intended). About 5 miles down the freeway, Courtney proceeded to empty the contents of her burrito all over her shirt, pants, and carseat, necessitating a stop. We hit the road again, getting snagged in mild rush hour traffic. We got to Lansing about 7pm and park about 2 blocks from the festival. Lou, Liam and I hop out of the car, and I'm already frustrated and antsy. Sonya, gathering her stuff and spraying un bug spray, clues in on this and offers to get Courtney cleaned up while Liam and I go ahead to scout a spot.

What we didn't realize was that our parking spot, while close to the performance stage, was 5 blocks from the entrance, which was at the OPPOSITE end of the huge park from the stage. We walk about ¼ mile to the entrance, get my ticket and leave Sonya's at the box office in an envelope with her name on it. After a huge line and security check, we get into the park and call Charlie, hoping to find him and thus, the stage.

After a bit of phone tag, we get there and discover that while Charlie was in the 6th row or so, having arrived at 6-ish (as I had planned to), the only available spots were about 5 light years back, requiring the Hubbell Telescope to see the stage. It was also right next to the playground, which proved convenient at first, but a major challenge after the concert started and Liam kept wanting to run off and play.

Other than that, the only real annoyance was having to have Liam on my shoulders for the entire concert so he could see. He got a better view than I did, as I kept having to bob and weave between heads to see the stage at all.

One thing I hate about summer is that there are always events and concerts I want to go to that I just don't have the time or money for.

Que sera, sera. I better start planning the minute-by-minute detailed itinerary and saving up now for next summer's events...

Wow. For not having much to bitch about, this is a helluva long blog entry. Guess that'll happen when you take a week to write it.

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