At the top of the stairs sat a quartet of classical musicians, laboring at their cellos and violins. Two of the men wore ponytails.
At the bottom of the stairs, sat a young woman behind a trestle table loaded with pamphlets, lists, announcements and two plastic boxes stuffed with colored ribbons
The ribbons were embossed with gold letters announcing SECRETARY-TREASURER, SPEAKER, VENDOR, and dozens of miscellaneous acronyms, one being CAPPO, standing for the California Association of Public Purchasing Officers, Inc.
The young woman behind the table handed out programs and ribbons to members of this esteemed group who were assembling for breakfast in the Music Room. With a fancy camera around my neck, I walked in without incident.
Inside hundreds of purchasing officers sat at round tables with a glass of orange juice and a folded red napkin in front of them.
The officers, for the most part, were dressed formally, but not like the Ocean to Ocean men with their bowlers and top hats and discrete lapel buttons. Instead, the purchasing people wore lanyards weighted down with name tags, business logos and gold-lettered ribbons.
I walked down the central aisle, nodding to a few people. They must have thought I was the event photographer.
I strode to the front of the hall, where a huge screen displayed an image of an exploding firework. I took a few pictures in each direction and then exited.
With 20 minutes to kill before I left for the airport, I walked to the back of the inn and was surprised by its expanse. While shooting an architectural detail, I heard someone yelling behind me.
A couple hundred feet away sat a man on a bench, who yelled again: “Why don’t you take a picture of me.”
The yeller turned out to be a middle-aged guy, dressed in black, with an unfashionable brown leather jacket and a Scion cap covering his gray hair.
He clutched in his right a crumbled paper bag containing a can of Keystone Light. On his left sat a newspaper; on the opposite side, a black backpack. He told me his name was George.
Making small talk, George said he was waiting for his settlement to arrive. Settlement for what, I asked. “For getting butt-fucked by a priest,” he replied.
George was an Okay guy. He spent his productive years moving palettes for a grocery distributor, “the toughest work a human can do,” he said. But he had bad memories of Catholic boys’ school. I told him about the plane and the airport, and said I had to go.