Thursday, May 03, 2012

May Adventures in Booklands

May in Chicago. Was there a better time of year to be in Chicago? What brought me to Chicagoaside from the desperate need to see my love—was,  in short order, a book fair, a visit, a dinner, and a wedding party. In short, I had roughly 15 days left in the country, and most of them were going to be taken up with being too busy to think, which was about par for the course with the way I did things these days.

The book fair I was visiting was roughly six weeks before the larger UN summit that would take place in Chicago. The fair was huge with something like 12,000 attendees and they took over the conference center for a few days. It was also freaking expensive. The entrance fee was pretty steep and both my business partner and I were worried about the expenses. He called when he landed and we went out to have lunch and discuss the fair. He asked if I wanted to go out to the conference center that day, but it was two days before the fair and I knew everything would be closed down, Chicago style. There was no way anyone was going to get onto the exhibit floor until the show started.

"I'm going to try anyway, and I'll get us preregistered."

"I'm telling you, it's Chicago. There is nothing by the conference center to eat or drink, you probably want to bring a lunch, and really, there is no way you are getting in early."

"I'll give it a try."

I shrugged and went home. Chicago, how I love you. How beautiful you are in the spring, how lush and green and temperate. Perfect, beautiful blissed-out Chicago. I rode trains and cars in and out of the city, going back and forth between home and friends and generally being content with the situation as it stood. Remembering what it was like to commute in the city for a few days gave me both amusing nostalgia and random silliness.

The next day I got up bright and early to catch the 6:48 train to the city and commute along with the other commuters heading in for the day. I found a nice seat on the train and enjoyed a book and computing on the way. I missed my Korean smartphone for it's amazing ability to keep me online, but even my poorly functioning American phone at the time was better than nothing, and I was still able to occasionally hot-spot the phone, though the ability was quickly fading.

I met my business partner at his hotel which overlooked Grant Park. I brought coffee and we run into an older gentleman who spotted our bags and asked us if we were also going to the book fair. It turned out he was a writer and there to promote his book on visual thinking. His theories were absolutely fascinating to me so I made sure to get a copy of his book so I could explore it more. He had worked mostly with deaf and blind students. He felt this was the segment of the needs-based population that was at greatest risk of being left behind. His manner of speaking was engaging and he was so passionate about what he discussed that I couldn't help but to want to agree with almost everything he said.

His primary argument was about multiple-intelligence theory. He was down on Gardner in a big way.

"Sure, this whole multiple-intelligence thing is a big thing, but how many people do you know who are really verbal learners? Everyone says that cause it seems like the politically correct thing to do, but really, everyone is visual. We are all visual learners and that is the most powerful form of learning. And it's not an intelligence, it's how your brain is wired."

As an example he asked us to think about a word. "Think about anything, think about an animal. An elephant. What is the first thing that happens in your mind? Did you see the word "elephant" or did you have a bit of a mental image of an elephant? You see, the brain works on images more than on lexis and that is something we can use."

He went on. It fascinated me. I bought his book.

On the bus I was given my conference badge.

"So, remember how I went out early to register us?" asked my business partner.

"Yes?"

"Well I registered me."

"Right."

"And I was getting ready to register you, and when I went up and everything, well they handed me this extra badge. So, you know, I thought maybe you could take this one, and we could save ourselves the conference fees or something."

It was all spilling out very quickly but what it boiled down to was I was about to make an attempt to crash the biggest book fair in North America that year. The good girl in me thought that perhaps I should reconsider. The rest of me thought fair game.

"If I get arrested I'm taking you down with me," was all I could think to respond.

It would be a gamble and we agreed that I would at least pick up the forms and we would feel it out to see if it was possible for me to get in, but the backup plan would be to register ASAP if there was some kind of problem.

And with that, we adjusted our bags, put on our badges and took the escalator up to the conference floor.

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