Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Four Pounds of Bacon and a Fine Exhaustion

Last weekend I chaired the Minnesota annual all-day singing from the Cooper Book (which is a variant of the more widely-known shaped note Denson book, although "widely-known" is, of course, a relative thing here). I haven't been writing a great deal about it over the last few months because, unlike other events of this size I've organized, I didn't actually have to do the bulk of the real work. When I sent a note out a few months ago to some folks who have been involved in organizing the past few conventions, asking for advice and background in setting up schedules and committees, what I got in response was basically that Matt and Jim and Cathy do nearly all of the advance publicity (and Matt usually arranges for the location) and Paul keeps the various convention paraphernalia and Jim has pretty thorough records of previous committees and schedules. As the convention approached, Eleanor and her crew took over the food coordination and Carol and Bill provided sumptuous refreshments and Gordon oversaw morning setup and (a different) Paul organized cleanup. Plus Jim and Denise and Cathy and Matt were pretty much there all along just to guide me through things and fill random roles. (Denise wound up coordinating childcare and doing the "arranging" -- which means selecting the song leaders over the course of the day and keeping things moving).

I did have to coordinate this, at a certain level, and the publicity mailing party was held at my home, and I provided vast quantities of food (at this point I alone spend nearly $200 on food when we host a convention, although that's definitely overdoing things) and I was carrying chairs and mopping floors with the rest of them. But I do most of that anyway. No, as Jim put it, the major role of the Convention Chair is to be "the face of the Convention". I take that very seriously. I sent out the advance email messages to the shapenote lists: romanticized descriptions of beautiful snowfall and happy sledding in a Minnesota winter. I sent periodic general status updates to the local singers. I answered all the random email that came, and put people in touch with each other, and tried to know everything that was going on at all times (although I didn't manage to do this to the level of detail that defines my comfort zone, mostly because I was out of town for half of January).

At the convention itself, I carried a clipboard, led the opening and closing songs, and made the announcements throughout the day. I also greeted everybody I could and thanked people whenever I remembered to and did the vast bulk of the worrying, at which I excel. I made sure I was a little early for the Saturday evening social and Sunday morning brunch and gospel singing, which I got started when it seemed time to sing. And you know, the whole weekend was a great big success, for what were mostly reasons of chance but I get to feel good about it anyway.

The funny thing is, when you present yourself as the face of an event, people simply accept that you are and treat you accordingly. They ask you questions, they let you know of problems, they defer to your conclusions. It's kind of scary.

This convention, unlike our fall convention, is technically a one-day event, but we gather again on Sunday morning at Cathy's house for a potluck brunch to sing any sort of gospel song we want to, from any of the traditional books. We sing a lot from what is known as the seven-shape tradition. For many of us, this is our favorite part of the weekend, since it is casual and informal and we just sing.

The first year we did the potluck brunch, many people brought baked goods. But it turned out that the dishes that contained protein went the quickest. Fortunately, the Minnesotans involved in this group are the most self-correcting potluck providers on the planet, so at this point we have a large table bursting with various egg-based casseroles as well as fine bread puddings and potato dishes. This year I decided it would be a simple thing to make bacon, using Jim's oven-cooked method (which I've tried before and found it works). So I made four pounds of bacon. As it turns out, it took many batches and five baking dishes in rotation to cook all that bacon (I was frying up bacon at dawn!), but it was well worth it. My gosh, do people love their bacon. And they tell you in gratitude how they never make bacon at all anymore, so it's a special treat. That four pounds disappeared.

I would say that my kitchen smelled like bacon for a while, but I think it's more that my quadrant of South Minneapolis smelled like bacon for a while.

The flip side of being a skilled worrier is that you are a poor sleeper, especially when (as it turned out) you are just starting to come down with a cold. Adrenalin keeps me going like an energizer bunny, but by the time I went home on Sunday afternoon (and finished scrubbing the five glass baking dishes that had been soaking) I was deliciously and pervasively tired, even after a good deep nap. Well, as I say, that turned out to be the beginning of a cold (or maybe I'm confusing cause and effect), but before that took full hold I sat in my easy chair and felt blissfully, thoroughly, impossibly, and happily exhausted.
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