Mama, I'm Coming Home
I gave my speech to the big Washington Policy Center health care convention yesterday, and I think it went pretty well. They were interested in hearing about the now-defunct Healthy Wisconsin universal government health plan, since a similar bill is being considered in the Washington Legislature. About a half hour before I gave my speech, I tried to practice it in my room, and I couldn’t do it. I was having panic attacks, because I just couldn’t spit anything out. Surprisingly, hitting myself in the head repeatedly and swearing wasn’t having any effect.
When speech time came, I was introduced by author Grace-Marie Turner (an extraordinarily nice woman), who told the crowd of 320 that I was some kind of TV star, because my WPRI bio mentions the little monthly “Here and Now” segments that I do. Basically, she set the bar really high for the crowd, which freaked me out even more. I think the key to being a good public speaker isn’t necessarily what you say, but actually believing you’re worthy of people paying $90 to see you speak. I’m certainly not there yet. Now, if they wanted me to talk about the Brewers for a half hour, I could have put on a show – although at points, it may have been profane.
But when I actually started talking, for some reason, it actually went smoother than when I practiced it beforehand. I threw in some so-so jokes, although I have to humbly admit that they’re probably better jokes than one normally hears at a convention of free market health advocates. Make the bar low enough, and I can usually leap it. I even got applause for one line, which I completely didn’t expect. After the speech, it was bizarre – I couldn’t walk ten feet without someone coming up to talk to me about health care. This was flattering, but I’m terrible at meeting new people, and it kind of weirded me out when I realized that people were actually kind of angling to come up and talk to me. After a half hour, I went up to my room and put on a baseball hat and glasses, hoping nobody would recognize me. Seemed to work well enough. There’s a good movie to be made about some delusional guy who thinks he’s famous because he gives speeches at think tank conventions.
After the speech, I stuck around for a couple more speeches, then snuck back to my room. For some reason, the internet connection and TV in my room wouldn’t work. So my big evening in Seattle consisted of going to the Tukwila Cinema to see Iron Man (awesome), and reading a book in the hotel bar. I just sat and read and drank beer until the words got blurry and I couldn’t really understand what it meant anymore. But strangely, throughout the night, the book got a lot thinner.
Sitting next to me at the bar was a couple who it seemed were just getting to know each other. Both divorced, both with kids. It didn’t occur to me how difficult it would be to start dating again when you’re divorced with children. Just so many trap doors to fall into. As if dating itself isn’t hard enough – dating with kids involved is like playing dodgeball with land mines. You could just hear the weariness in their voices as they tried to circumvent any topics that might evoke some horrible memory of their past marriage. Then I ate a club sandwich.
This morning, I got up and went to a little known local restaurant known as Denny’s for breakfast. It shocked me to see that the French Toast Slam is now almost eight bucks. As if there aren’t enough reasons to hate ethanol, the fact that the Moons Over My Hammy now costs as much as my mortgage payment should be the final straw.
I had some time before my flight to do some more sightseeing, so I wandered around the UW (the other one) campus for a couple hours. Their campus is beautiful – the walkways are bathed in dark evergreens. It’s another dreary, rainy day, but it would almost seem like I’d be getting cheated if it were any other way. Today is election day for their student government, so the kids were out handing out fliers like crazy. I actually walked right past Lorenzo Romar, the men’s basketball coach. I stopped by the bookstore and bought T-shirts for myself and a friend of mine. They actually sell anti-George W. Bush paraphernalia in their university bookstore.
I got back to the airport with plenty of time to spare, which was a good thing, since security took a while. I went through the whole bizarre ritual of taking off your shoes and belt and pants, then having to put them all back on after the metal detector. (Oh, wait – you don’t have to take your pants off?) This whole kabuki dance is a sight to behold – dozens of people simultaneously putting their belts and shoes back on. It’s like the end of some horrible group one-night stand gone bad.
I browsed around the magazines in one of the gift shops, and wondered, as I always do, exactly who buys Penthouse to take on a plane with them? Who on Earth can’t do without porn for a whole two-hour flight? (Four hours, MAYBE.) But just as I was pondering how someone could logistically view a money shot on a crowded flight, I looked over at the register, and sure enough – there was a guy walking out of the store with a magazine promising “100 Naked Beauties.” He was clutching it to his chest, trying to obscure its contents, but you could tell. I guess these days, you should almost give the guy credit. At least he was embarrassed about buying porn in an airport gift shop – that almost counts as chivalry in 2008.
So that leaves me here, sitting in the airport, plane delayed. A couple Brewer hats sprinkle the crowd, so you can tell where this plane is headed without even looking at the board. They just called for pre-boarding for people with “special needs.” There’s a guy wearing a Cubs hat in front of me and I refrain from joking to him that he should board now.