Having just lifted off from my connecting flight out of Denver that is returning me back to Houston from Seattle, I began to contemplate whether there were many things more needlessly gut-wrenching than a plane banking into a turn, while simultaneously encountering turbulence and dropping a bit. Then I recalled that part of the reason I was even on this plane is that I had spoken as a panelist at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Washington.
I’m sure that some of you are thinking me an idiot for comparing a little public speaking to being in a plane and imagining that something has gone horribly wrong which will result in charred pieces of me being scattered across some formerly bucolic pasture. The rest of you are nodding your heads up and down while amen-ing like a young Rick Warren when he discovered his “special purpose.”
Public speaking, as you may have gathered, is not high on my list of favorite activities. It causes me to break out in cold sweats weeks before the dreaded event. I will wake up with night terrors as the date draws nearer, and on the day of the event I begin my morning with a hopeful inventory from the top of my skull to the tip of my toes for some incapacitating ailment that will excuse me from going on stage and making an ass of myself. Not that making an ass of myself bothers me, but doing so at such a great elevation as provided by a stage turns it into a beast of another color.
In truth, it is actually the anticipation that I hate. The complete conviction with which I know that am going to freeze, babble too much, have something come out all wrong, develop some Hollywood version of Tourette’s, or just flat out piss myself in front of the crowd is what strikes me with terror. I was the same way when I used to play in bands. I dreaded and feared that moment when I first had to walk on stage. Then I would count 4 and we would be off and running, and when the gig ended I still wanted to keep going until I couldn’t flail my arms around anymore.
I had much the same experience the other day when our panel’s time ran out. I wanted to keep on answering the questions being asked by the crowd. It was difficult not jumping on every question. I was loving it, and did not want to stop. There was so much left unsaid, so many complicated issues given simple answers for want of a few more minutes. The feeling remains that I didn’t do my topic or my fellow bloggers justice, but not because I did not want to.
Bloggers are a strange lot, in a lot of ways. Most of us write out of obsession, love, fascination, or all three, for our subject of choice. A few write out of the most likely delusional idea that they will become rich and famous from it, but most would be happy to earn enough to pay their monthly hosting fees. Food and wine bloggers are a wonderfully perverse subspecies of blogger. We obsess about a transitory form of art that literally gets pissed away or turns to shit in the end. Sick lot that we are, there is no one whose company I enjoy more, or who I would like to help be as great as I know we can be.
My panel’s topic was Blogging 101, a title I found vaguely insulting to just about everyone in the room. It was a title that I later found out kept quite a few people away who wished they had attended. Who knows? Perhaps that was its purpose. Put it away, Rick…I didn’t say it was special. But those of us who were in the room had a very lively discussion that covered everything from choosing a platform to how to use Google Analytics to how popular one of my fellow panelists is on the porn circuit in Japan. Seems even halfway across the world they know how wild those Walla Walla women can be!
Then it was over and there were some quick side discussions where I made some promises to do whatever I could for some of the poor souls who had to sit through my portion of the talk. If you were one of those people, please hold me to those promises. Despite the memory scrubbing properties that wine possesses, I truly meant them quite sincerely. However, there was a LOT of scrubbing that occurred over the past week.
So many people decide that since they can’t cook like Thomas Keller it is better to surrender to the purgatory of mediocrity that eating at Chili’s provides, or even worse run a warm bath and open a metaphorical vein as they surrender to the void with a Sandra Lee cookbook (sic). Or they decide that since they can’t write like Jim Harrison or Dr. Thompson, that they will just give up and stare their TV’s as Guy Fiere tells them what off the hook goop burger he found this week. We bloggers may indeed be a strange lot sometimes, but at least we’re not that twisted. If for no other reason than that, I love these folks, and if this plane makes it back to Houston, I plan to devote a lot of time to helping them in any way that I am able.
Can I get an ‘Amen?’ Oh sit down Rick. Geez, give it a rest, will you?