It's been about 2 months since I got back from attending my first Barbershop Harmony Society International Convention, so recalling the details may be tricky. I'm hoping as I write this, the memories will start flowing so I can look back at this and reminisce. I CAN say this: it was the single best vacation I have ever taken - bar none.
Ever since I joined the Barbershop Harmony Society, I've wanted to make the trek to the city de l'année for an international convention. I have spent the past 8 years hearing tales of late-night tagging with gold-medalists, mind-blowing chorus performances, attributes of various hosting cities. Sadly, with 2-5 jobs at a time, wife, kids, and the idea impressed on me by aforementioned responsibilities (well, one in particular) that such a hiatus from same would be unforgivably selfish and highly irresponsible.
Well, things have changed a LOT. Now that I have a job with vacation time, scheduled time with my kids every other weekend, and no wife to nag me about such a decision, the only obstacle was the cost. My dad had always said that she'd pay for my registration to my first International convention. Still, hotel, travel, food, and incidentals can pile up pretty damned quickly - especially the travel - and I wasn't about to ask my dad to foot the bill for those. Thankfully, the stars seemed to align this year. My good friend and former bass of my quartet works for Delta Airlines and got me a an UNBELIEVABLE deal on a plane ticket, a fellow barbershopper was offering an extra registration and AIC (Association of International Champions) Show ticket for a great deal, and best of all, my dad happens to live in Topeka, a mere hour's drive from KC. My out-of-pocket would be very minimal AND I could combine it with a visit to see my dad and her partner, Mary!
The amazing deal my friend, Dave, got me on my plane ticket had one caveat: I had to fly 'standby', which gave no garantee I'd get a seat for the early flights I wanted. Still, as I had taken a 5-day weekend for the purpose, I wasn't terribly concerned. I packed my carry-on with my laptop, MP3 player, a book, snacks, a couple magazines, everything I''d need for a day camped out in an airline terminal. Awesome Girlfriend drove me to the airport nice and early, and I easily got on my preferred flight. I took advantage of the in-flight wi-fi for $5, just for the novelty of updating my Facebook from 30k feet. I landed in KC, and my dad picked me up. We stopped at Arby's for lunch, got almost all the way home, when she realized she left her purse there. Minor annoyance (since it was still there when we returned for it), but it gave us more time to chat on the drive.
Once we got to her place, I realized my ticket for the AIC show said it was for THAT NIGHT, so she let me borrow her car and drive back to KC again. The show was great. Seeing the best of the best and a reunion of Rural Route 4 and the Suntones just blew my mind.
After the show, I headed back to the Headquarters Hotel to check out the scene there. I quickly bumped into my good friend, Chelsea, who, at the tender age of 22, is already a seasoned vet at these things and knows everybody. She introduced me too a couple big-big wigs in the Society, then took me up the the Rainbow Room (the hospitality room for the gay and gay friendly set in the Society). I met a bunch of great guys and ended up hanging out with Chelsea and a guy from California, named Craig, for much of the night. He offered to let me crash on his floor, so I wouldn't have to cut my evening short (and sober) to drive back to Topeka (and subsequently drive back to KC the next day). We all sang tags, mingled, drank, and finally finished with nachos at 2am at a downtown diner before hitting the hay.
Up next (hopefully soon) Part Deux: Friday Chorus Contest!