Saturday, October 20, 2007

Livin' La Vida Loca

I'm not sure what Ricky Martin's definition of la vida loca is, but mine is probably pretty tame by comparison. Still, for me, it was definitely a Walk on the Wild Side -- to wit, a tax collectors' convention in North Conway, NH.

There were lots of workshops that were about half useful and half boring. The worst was the legal presentation on bankruptcy, by a lawyer who droned on and on and on -- at the end of an hour and a half, he was at the end of Page 2 of a 15-page presentation -- I left at that point, and was followed by so many women that I thought a break had been granted (when my own boss came up about 15 minutes later, I learned that there had been no break, they all just decided to follow my "sterling" example!). The second-worst was the one on employee relations, since it focused a great deal on how to discipline unsatisfactory employees, and most of us don't have employees, since we work for small towns and not big cities. Reality check here, folks.

So what was so wild about all this? The food.

I'm serious. The convention was held at a resort in North Conway, and while the accommodations were frankly crummy, the food was unreal. The sandwiches we had for lunch were made from slabs of meat. The dinners were lavish, even if you were "consigned" to eating salmon because it was Wednesday and that was the most "fast food" on the menu. (The filet mignon at the Thursday gala dinner was to die for. Probably literally.)

But the desserts were sinful. Put it this way: The desserts were served buffet style, and you could not only choose your own, but build your own. So if you wanted, for example, strawberry shortcake, you could start with half a biscuit, or two biscuits. You could have half a cup of strawberries, or half a bowl. We won't even go into the subject of whipped cream. There were cheesecake, chocolate "molten" cake (melted in the mouth), tiramisu, bread pudding, cobblers, and the aforementioned strawberry shortcake. All at once. And those are just the desserts I can remember.

Whatever wasn't finished, was simply thrown away. We probably had enough food, over the course of three days, to feed half of Africa for at least a week. I was, frankly, shocked at the volume of food available to maybe 100-150 people who were far from malnourished -- though I should note that we probably worked it off just by getting around this vast resort, which has one elevator that serves three floors of sixty rooms each. And to get to the elevator, you had to walk a quarter of a mile (I clocked it) if your room was at the far end of the corridor. We all did a lot of walking and stair-climbing.

Then there was the drinking. The less said about that, the better.

All of this was paid for by the municipalities that employ us. I don't know what the fees were (registration, room and board, whatever else). I don't want to know. I do know that unless I see a topic that I genuinely need to know something about -- I won't be going again.