Saturday, December 10, 2011

MLB Trade Show

My trip to Dallas, for the Professional Baseball Winter Meetings Trade Show, began at the airport here in Minneapolis, where I inadvertently carried a bag of marijuana and a box cutter through the TSA checkpoint. Yes, that's right, a bag of marijuana and a box cutter. I say inadvertently, because I was very hung-over after drinking late with the Co-Owner of HD Masks who was not attending the trade show, and I was flying on about four hours of sleep. The items were each in a separate pocket of my winter jacket liner, which I sometimes use as a separate coat, and I hadn't thought to put my hands in them. Checking my bags, I was nervous without knowing why - I am not generally afraid of flying. I suppose I was aware on some unconscious level, what I was carrying. At the checkpoint, I put my coat in a plastic bin and slid it through the sensor.

On the other side, I heard the people monitoring the sensor, talking about a guy who earlier tried to bring a bag full of knives on-board. No alarm sounded as I stood there oblivious, I took my things and walked through the terminal, sat down at the gate, reached in the pockets of the liner I was wearing sans coat, and realized what I'd done. I immediately threw the box cutter in the trash. I thought about putting the pot there as well, but then decided the only thing I had to fear was police dogs, and the pot was dry as dust and not very aromatic, so I kept it, traveling to Dallas via Denver. I will let the reader decide how it is the box cutter got through. Had they found it, with a little research into this blog, I'm quite certain I would never have made it to the trade show. Prosecuting me as a terrorist would prove a bit more difficult, but then, they could say anything they want, if they can pull down this blog. Which would be a very real possibility, if Congress gets what they want.

Texas has been suffering through the worst drought in historical times. Flying in, it was raining. Minneapolis has been cold, and I assumed a week in Dallas would be a nice warm respite; the first night there, it was something like 25 degrees, with scattered snow. We flew in Sunday, and began setting up the booth Monday morning, with the trade show to open at five, until 8pm. We returned to our hotel, rested, and then returned to the Hotel Anatole, where the meeting and the trade show were held, walking through the packed lobby, the Co-Owner of HD Masks who did attend wearing an Obama mask, while I wore a mask of Babe Ruth. The young woman we hired through an ad on Craigslist arrived, her blond hair dyed partially black, her face pierced; when we asked what she did before she moved to Dallas, she said something about a dominatrix, and a go-go dancer she knew in San Diego. On the back of her neck was a tattoo, "Jesus Saves." When I asked her about that, she said something about being created in God's image. I replied that Jesus loved everybody. We gave her the Sarah Palin mask, and took turns walking around the 100,000 sq ft venue, handing out fliers. Occasionally, Obama and Palin went out arm in arm.

The masks were very well received, and after three hours we had a thick stack of business cards to prove it. The Co-Owner and I went out that night, on a quest for Gators. The cabbie, Henry, of West African origin, who said he would have multiple wives if it were allowed, diverted us to the neighborhood Deep Ellum. We went on a walking tour then, bar to bar, starting at the Trees, then City Tavern, and a few more, before we found ourselves under an overpass between Deep Ellum and downtown. I was very glad to have the weed. The Co-Owner took this picture, with a simple digital camera, at midnight:

Miraculously, neither of us ever having been to Dallas, we found the bar Gators at 1:23am. There were five people there, including the bartender. We took pictures from the upstairs patio, I danced downstairs for the duration of one song, and then we called Henry and returned to the hotel.

Tuesday the interest grew, until people began to say that we were the talk of the trade show. Periodically, we took turns, on loops through the hotel lobby, where ESPN, MLB.TV and a half dozen other networks were set up, and baseball executives and staff were always gathered, including a few notables. That night, as we were standing outside the Media Bar and Grill, talking to two guys who had traveled from Chicago just to hang out, they pointed out Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox, who is attempting to buy another MLB team. I was wearing the Babe Ruth mask on the back of my head, so I turned it around, walked over and stood silently next to him, in his circle. He turned to me, flipped the mask up so he could see my face, and said, "Who the hell are you?" I told him my name, flipped the mask back down, and said that we were HD Masks. Ok, he said, and "Who the hell are you supposed to be?" and then he answered his own question. I handed him my card, thanking him, and he accepted both. I would very much like to see a stadium in Chicago full of people wearing bull masks. They of course would do so in support of their team. I remember, the bull was long a symbol of the Goddess.

Wednesday, interest grew until we had given away a hundred-plus masks in exchange for contact information. One man from Mexico requested a hundred-thousand masks for a political rally. An ESPN anchor stopped by, looking for an Obama mask, which he wanted to wear on camera, and to give to his mother who is a big fan. Sadly, I had just given away our only Obama, to a man whose brother is in the hospital, and who fed us a great deal of beer. I gave the anchor a lion mask instead, which he said he was going to wear on camera. I don't know if he did. MLB.TV stopped by, to interview me (as Creative Director of HD masks, not the blogger.) The guy said, astoundingly, that the interview was made for TV. I'm not so sure, and I don't know if anything aired.

At one point Wednesday, a man who did not speak much English, a representative of a Korean professional team, stopped by asking for a mask. I gave him a Babe Ruth, and then 11,000 Korean Won (USA equivalent = $9.73), which a homeless man named Jackson Williams gave me in exchange for $20 (He told me it was worth $60, though I knew he was a hustler and didn't believe him), Monday night on our walking tour through Dallas. I don't know if the Korean man was more surprised than our young Ms Palin (I told her, magical things happen when you hang out with the folks of HD Masks.) He gave me his team baseball cap in return, to which I replied with an eagle mask, which is also their team mascot.

What can I say about the meeting itself? It was a guy fest, to be sure, about 85% male. It would not have been easy to be a woman in that environment; the young lady working the booth across from us received seven direct propositions, and if she did, though she was pretty, young and innocent, there were no doubt women there who must have received dozens. Most of the men we talked to, be they job seekers paying for attendance, or baseball staff, thought the meeting was the most incredible thing, which from my perspective and the Co-Owner's, despite both of us having played baseball for the same University, it was a bunch of guys hanging around. I can say the Major League guys were a good deal more aloof than the Minor League guys, to the point that some of the Major League guys who walked through the trade show wouldn't look at me, as I stood there, looking at them, through the Babe Ruth mask. There is a very high prestige factor, I suppose, for those who have reached the pinnacle of the Major Leagues, no matter in what capacity. Which I am happy to say, I am immune to (attracted as I am to what is genuine and authentic, which is not the ego derived from one's social status.) That said, the vast majority of people I met were very friendly, and some of them were very good to us.

We could have sold a hundred Obama masks. There was also a great deal of animosity toward it. While the Owner was wearing it, as example, one man walked up and cocked his fingers within inches, as if to shoot him in the face; another man said he might as well be wearing a monkey mask; another man threw a bean bag at him, making contact. Ms Palin received a fair number of propositions herself, being the liberal, alternative Palin that she was, and quite a bit more sexy. I told her it would be nice if there were more Christians like her. We had a Gingrich mask as well, an early prototype not really suitable as a mask, on display. Plenty of requests for that one. Plenty of speculation. And look at that - I just censored myself, briefly. I was going to say that he would be the perfect President to usher in a new age of ecological devastation in America, but I almost didn't because I want to sell a few hundred thousand masks to the Gingrich campaign. In fact, I want to sell masks to every one of those ego maniacs campaigning for President, including the President.

It is indeed a strange thing, to be in that environment, knowing what I do about the future of America, of the species really. The fate of the Earth. I censored myself quite a bit actually, at the meeting: I didn't ask the guys at the Yankees Baseball Daily studio booth, wearing the mask like I imagined I would, if they wanted to interview The Babe; I didn't dance to my Bose sound dock behind the ESPN studio in the Babe Ruth mask, like I imagined. Precisely because of what I write here. My truth is not widely shared, and I resist the urge to share it more than I do. The Owner at one point this weekend said to me, "I don't know what you are." I just looked at him sideways and smiled slyly. Because I do not know what I am, either. I consumed 250 seeds of the heavenly blue morning glory in an attempt to find out, shortly before I went to Dallas. I kept repeating then, aloud, "What am I? Who am I?" All that happened was, I was drawn down into the mundane, into the primal, reptilian-like spiral at the very core of my physical being, and I danced, and bared my teeth as if to defend myself from an onslaught of the irrational.

Late Thursday, Friday morning actually, with my plane set to leave Dallas that morning, out of the bag I brought, I found a different stash in a contact lens case, and I puffed and danced to a Monster Bash on HBO, by Lady Gaga. It was a nice capstone to a wonderful week, and I was surprised, her questioning the value of money, and her continuous calling out to Jesus, as to reclaim Him. Whatever one might think about Ms Gaga, she certainly can sing. To what degree she is conscious of what she is, and what she is doing, I am less certain, though I can say I am a little bit in love now, like a few other millions of people.

Anyway, I think I will comment on money, in the next post, with a review of Charles Eisenstein's Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition, a book that has given me hope that we are in both an end, and a beginning, as a species.

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