>I know, I know. Rule Number 117: What happens in Portland, stays in Portland. But what the heck. How else would anyone who wasn’t there find out how much fun it was? Really. So I’m going to tell tales of experiences from the 2008 CGOA Regional /TKGA National Conference (Knit and Crochet Show) in Portland, Oregon last week. I am not a photographer so I must once again depend upon the kindness of friends for some images that will eventually find their way here.
Wouldn’t you know it, the week of the event brought record breaking heat to Portland. I’m talking temps in the 90’s. There were half-naked people sunning themselves poolside at the Doubletree Lloyd Center where many of us attendees were staying. Isn’t the Pacific Northwest supposed to be cooler and milder than Sauna Land (Philadelphia)? Yes, I checked the weather for Portland online many times before the trip. Yes, I knew the forecast called for higher than average temperatures. But come on. Nobody foresaw this.
Consequently none of us felt comfortable trotting out the magnificent sweaters, shawls and other outer layers we had stuffed into our checked bags (that BTW now cost $15 to check). Well, none except those who had arrived from climates even warmer and more humid. Come to think of it, one crocheter found a way to put her All Shawl to an alternate use. When it got too warm, Pam Shore wore hers hip wrapped, waist tied. It looked great, too. But, hell, if I had known I wouldn’t need those stupid cardis and wraps I’d have left them in the discard pile on the floor at home and saved the bag poundage for the yarn and books I coulda purchased but didn’t.
Portland is a majorly cool place otherwise. Pun totally intended. Portlanders are friendly and are used to weirdness so they took all our fiberazzi outlandishness in stride. I loved the Max trains, free throughout the downtown areas you might want to tourist. But even with the free, easy and convenient transport, I did not love that the Doubletree, designated conference hotel, was so far from the venue, Oregon Convention Center. The official distance is two-tenths of a mile. HA! The actual distance from my room to the exhibit hall was more like half a mile and seemed to grow longer hourly. Okay, so some of you may not think that’s very far, but factor in the heat, the bags of class supplies, project materials, new purchases, garment samples to show off, water bottles and all the other conference gear that had to be schlepped back and forth two or three times each day and you have a recipe for exhaustion.
There were several other events going on at the hotel and at the convention center while we were there. CGOA/TKGA socials like the Saturday night dinner and fashion show are, dare I say, sedate affairs compared to some of these. One night at the hotel there was a real wing-ding going on in a ballroom across from the bar and a few of us who shall remain nameless were tempted to crash it because there was loud music, freeform dancing and cake.
Milling around in the hallways, waiting for elevators and lined up at the curb, we met conventioneers of all sorts. Soccer teams. Realtors from Idaho. Amway/Quickstar distributors. You could usually scan the various event badges to tell which group was which. Two groups, however, didn’t need no stinking badges. One was us. There was just no mistaking people who flaunted such colorful and creative crochet and knit garments so shamelessly and wantonly and constantly despite the unseasonable warmth.
The second group was even more interesting than us if you can believe that. It was an organization that provides service dogs for the visually impaired. Guide dogs and their owners, handlers, trainers were EVERYWHERE! There were even tiny puppy-guides in training. It was impossible to move through the hotel lobby without getting whacked by the furiously wagging tails of a dozen working dogs. I agree with Drew Emborsky. The goldens were the most adorable. The German Shepherds were scary. Big. Scary. But Golden Retrievers have such soft expressions and happy body language.
I got to observe these remarkable people and their dogs in action, navigating the corridors, elevators and sidewalks. I had no idea of the many and varied requests these dogs are trained to respond to. One evening while I was waiting outside the hotel entrance I witnessed a blind girl ask her yellow lab “find the trash can”. Granted, the poor dog got faked out because there were so many similar containers out there, disguising not only trash but also recycling, smokers receptacles and potted plants. But WOWSERS he found it.
SO well trained were these canines. Any other gathering of so many dogs would resound with boisterous barking and doggy high spirits. I heard not one bark nor whimper, not even a snuffle the whole week. Every dog took the work very seriously and behaved magnificently. Well, all except for that one “pet accident” that I will not mention. After I got home I looked at my own dog in a whole new way. Useless EEEEdiot chihuahua who doesn’t even know his own name and probably couldn’t find his own food dish if I moved it.
There was one little downside to having accommodations at the same hotel as a guide dog convention. I noticed the lobby carpet was occasionally decorated. You’d totally expect the odd strands and fluff left from the fiberazzi who would lounge and crochet or knit in those comfy chairs and sofas. But mixed in with the mohair, wool, alpaca and cashmere was a good amount of silky Golden Retriever hair. And that was OK with me.