show and tell, part i

When the alarm went off at 5AM Wednesday I was this close to rolling over and skipping my flight to Orlando for the PGA Show. A lot of golf people have good reason to go down to the show and almost all of them, including me, would agree I'm not one of them. 

Every January everyone in the golf industry with something to sell goes to Orlando. A lot of golf media types tag along, ostensibly to see and report on the latest in equipment -- but also just to be seen. It doesn't hurt that there's still room on the editorial calendars in January -- the only reason to wait on line for the odious pressroom lunch is a chance to side up to an editor who might pay you $125 for a quick sidebar on that course in Finland you visited back in '02.
My own noxious personality notwithstanding, the problem I have with this particular trade show is -- well, the very same problem with my, um, profession: sellers vastly outnumber buyers. Plus, experience has taught me most editors would rather deal with me at arm's length if they must deal with me at all. There was that 45 minutes I spent chatting with a magazine honcho last year, watching him nod cheerfully through half a dozen pitches as I dropped the names of destinations like Paramus and Scranton before walking away confident I'd scored four feature gigs from him. Since then he's never so much as acknowledged receiving a single e-mail. Well, pal, it's 2007, and I am going to ignore you to within an inch of your life!
On top of all that I seldom write about equipment, even gewgaws as ludicrous as 90% of the stuff on display here. I end up walking the show floor for a couple of days until my feet can't stand it anymore, then in the evening go to a reception I've been invited to, or find one to crash if I haven't, and then wind up in a bar with some other writers where we drink and compare our vast hauls of swag and snubs.
If it didn't take place in Florida at the end of January, I wouldn't even consider going. The woman at the Hertz counter asked me if I wanted to upgrade -- waning to give voice to my cruddy mood I muttered, "No, I'm here under duress." She persisted in her friendliness and it turned out her husband works at the Orlando Sentinel, and we chatted, which is maybe that's why she upgraded me to a mid-size gratis. When I finally made the turn out of the rental lot in my Toyota in the 68-degree gray weather I felt better already, and an hour later I was actually feeling close to pretty good, having changed into my golf shoes to swat balls at "Demo Day" at the monstrous driving range at Orange County National out in Winter Garden. I pretended like I could place a story about getting fitted for a driver with the Nicklaus Golf people, who were happy to put me on the swing speed monitor (96 something) -- they seemed to think I'd benefit at least as much from getting new irons fitted, since the set I've been using are MacGregor from 20 years ago, bearing Jack's signature as it happens. I hit some Mizuno irons, too, which tempt me quite a bit, and hit a few Taylor Made drivers, but as far as drivers go, there are so many shafts available now you need a physicist to help you pick one out. Mostly I was out there to try to get some swings under my belt, and it started to drizzle, so I drove back to the Reunion resort where I was staying with some other writers. I had a beer, then went out to join a dinner the Wales Tourist Board was putting on: the Welsh are pulling out all the stops for the 2010 Ryder Cup, and they've got an deft and amiable speaker in John Jermine, chairman of Rydder Cup Wales, who knows how to make a point and nothing but -- not easy for me to say after hearing a guy bragging about playing Augusta National from the podium.
Thursday morning I woke up with a nasty hangover. Okay, I thought as I headed for the shower, it was partly because of the beer-on-an-empty-stomach at Reunion, but then I remembered I hadn't looked at the wine label at dinner, and then I recalled that onetime PGA Tour golfer, South African David Frost had donated the wine -- I had drunk the red wine he'd donated at another reception at the show last year, in fact 3 or four glasses out of sheer, thirsty boredom, while noting that everyone else's teeth were stained a shade of black raspberry. Next day my skull felt hollowed out like a canoe. 
Nevertheless after a long, hot shower I exchanged some quick pleasantries with my roommate and got onto I-4 with roommate David Cornwell, who lives way the hell up in Vermont and looks like it, even though he's originally from the Maryland D.C. suburbs -- sort of a chunky mountain man with no butt. I am pretty sure he is a writer though I've never seen his byline on a story, on the other hand I am a golf writer living in Flatbush so who am I to poke fun at Corny, who's played Muirfield, Carnoustie, and about fifty other of the greatest courses in Scotland, and I don't want to think about the Ekwanoks, Myopias, and Nationals he's played on this side. Unless he can get me on.
I-4 starts to jam up near Orlando and there must be about 20,000 people clogging up International Drive, and it's already past 10AM. It's kind of like World Series Game 7 game traffic except nobody here can play this game, and I am starting to think, "I could be wasting time in Brooklyn reading Reverend Jen's blog instead of wasting my life stuck in traffic on International Drive." After parking and riding on the shuttle bus we finally get to the Media Center at the OC Convention Center to check in. This year, the badge around my neck lists my affiliation as "Forbes Traveler," although said affiliation consists of me having sent an editor there half a dozen pitches he never even troubled to reject, which I construed as practically inviting me to be a contributing writer. Last year my official media affiliation was "The Flatbush Golfer," earning me 1) a laugh from the head of Callaway PR, but then 2) the boot from Tehama's golf apparel booth from an alarmed publicist -- after seeing how she looked at my chest, I think I now know what small-breasted women have to go through. Next year I am thinking of "The Drudge Report" or maybe even "The Gutenberg Bible," except does that sound too Jewish?