I need GPS just walking out the door of the hotel room to navigate my way to the first conference session, given the complexities of the convention resort with its regions: The Magnolia, the Delta, the Garden Conservatory and the Cascades with color coded carpet, keys, and maps.
One million square feet, 3,000 guest rooms, 16 restaurants with chardonnay and merlot, a river with riverboat, an island, waterfalls, palm trees and orchids under one glass dome (so like The Truman Show). A world for conventions and conferences, and even some people's ideal vacation. Climate controlled “outdoor” cafés. “Nature” in rivers, streams, an island, tropical gardens, waterfalls streaming over Tennessee rock formations harvested and transplanted into this giant terrarium. It doesn’t matter that palm trees don’t grow on these stones in the wild, or that orchids do not hang from their beautiful striated layers. No alumroot, bluestem or loblolly pine anywhere here.
A gardener tidies dirt with a broom around perfectly spaced and blooming echeveria. I see a wheeled cart full of replacement plants for those that have stopped blooming. Standing, mouth open, inside this attempt to sweep and contain an environment to resemble the [disorderly] miracle of nature, I ask, Is it alive? Is it anything but a Hallmark illustration, a facsimile of light and life, like a painting by Thomas Kincade?
Too bad I can't navigate to a hillbilly porch, where the Grand Ole Opry is streaming on a transistor radio, the Smoky Mountains awaking through light slowly burning off the mist. A jug of moonshine. An old woman whistling through her tooth-gap, both of us rocking on our blooming rheumatiz. Now that would be a conference.