Sunday, April 16, 2006

Pre-Pre-Gathering

I lived in San Francisco for 20 years, the last 10 of which were in North Beach. Meaning I had plenty of occasion to take the Powell Street cable car to work and school. The main intersection of the three extant cable car lines is at Powell and California Street, just one block down from Number One Nob Hill, address of the Mark Hopkins Hotel (now likely conglomerated, it would seem by its new name, which adds the word Intercontinental to its title). In my 20's I'd occasionally go to the Top of the Mark (opened in 1939) for drinks and the spectacular view of the city it affords.

When I arrived around 11 am Friday morning for a 2 pm pre-gathering workshop, I entered the bustling lobby of the Mark to see a woman with long pale hair approaching from the area of the registration desk. She seemed to be looking at me, so I asked her if she was Nancy D. Nancy is the person my colleague Oak referred to me when the possibility of having a NeoPagan presence on the guest list. Thinking I should probably ask this greeter if she knew where I might find Nancy, instead I simply blurted out, "Are you Nancy D.?" She said, "Yes. Are you Macha?" What a relief!

In spite of appearances to the contrary, I'm a shy person. I'm comfortable conversing once I'm introduced to someone, and sometimes I try to strike up conversations with others sharing a common experience or common quarters (bus ride, plane seat, long line waiting to get in somewhere), but basically I find coming to mingle with people I'd assumed to be a distinguished crowd I find challenging. So when Nancy herself escorted me to the registration room and introduced me to her son, who was registering those whose last names began with N, O and P, I felt much more comfortable being there.

Nancy told me that the people who work on these international religious events are used to people having different names on their name tags or registration than on their passports and driver's licenses. That is the case with me.

The registration tag was printed with the logo of the event, a mingling of the Buddhist eternal knot and what I take to be some Arabic scripture. Very cool. We also received a red-and-gold tack-type button of the logo, which I intend to wear with pride.

Nancy suggested I go up to the hospitality room up on the mezzanine level for coffee while I waited. The room to which I was directed seemed abandoned. The tables contained the remains of some snacks and empty coffee carafes. A young couple from Southern California came into the room for the same reason I had. So we phoned housekeeping and asked for help. When the man from housekeeping arrived, he told us there was nothing scheduled in that room at that hour and that if there was a hospitality room for us, it was somewhere else and he didn't know where. Odd. The couple, Robert and Jojo, and I had been chatting while we'd been waiting. I'd told them a bit about Cherry Hill Seminary and NeoPaganism in general, and it happened that Jojo had never even heard of Wiccans. ???

The three of us returned to the lobby, where various people were having comestibles. We sat at a table and asked for someone to bring us coffee. Meanwhile, Don strolled into the lobby and I waved to him. After he registered, he came to sit and wait with us. Soon Patrick and Amadae arrived and joined us.

At about 1:30 we went up to the afternoon program in the Six Continents Room to be sure we had good seats.

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