Sunday, May 06, 2007

Are The Best Things In Life Really Free?

As a writer, is there such a thing as setting limits to your networking? Are we writers so enamored in our search for platform that we risk life and limb? How do we draw the line between writing and publicity?

These questions ran through my mind coming home from Asheville, NC this past weekend. We were invited to spend an "all expenses paid" weekend at the Crown Plaza in Asheville. Grey Rock Land Developers, we were told, were offering a fabulous weekend of free room, food, entertainment, fun, networking with high rollers, and a tour of the HGTV Dream Home, as well as their resort properties. Michael and I, because we're looking for land, and because we're always looking for ways of meeting people, decided this would be a lot of fun.

Friday evening was truly a blast. A shuttle ran from our hotel to The Biltmore Estate. There, we had a free tour of the estate (our third trip through the house.) About halfway through, climbing several flights of stairs, the rooms became hotter and muggier. (No air conditioning at the turn of the century.) Although I'm a huge fan of The Biltmore and its exquisite rooms filled with "my favorite things," antiques, after the tenth guest room I told Michael, "let's get the hell out of here." So we found our way out of the house and wound our way through the lush gardens to the tent area where they were serving drinks and dinner.

"Ahh, now it's time for real networking and fun," we said. Magicians entertained us as they performed card and coin tricks from table to table. I got to know Andrea and Scott and their little girl, Lindsey. A doctor from Greensboro, Scott and I had a lot in common and just plain fun talking about the medical community.

Another great couple, Kaye and Gino ... Gino was Italian and believe me, he looked like he'd just walked off the set of the The Sopranos. If he would've told me, "I know a guy," I would've believed him. Gaylord Perry, the famous baseball player, sat at the table next to us, and John Anderson (Country & Western singer) was on stage. Lots of "mucky-mucks," if you know what I mean.

So Friday night, we had great food, drinks, dancing, entertainment, fun, and okay ... a little networking. Afterward, we trudged back to our room and conked out. Saturday we woke up ready to view some gorgeous mountain property and opened the curtains to nasty rain and fog. How much property do you think you can see in that kind of weather?

You guessed it. Zero.

But, the show must go on and so it did. Unfortunately, miserable weather makes for a miserable time. Though there were huge heated tents on top of the mountain near the property, (all first-class---carpet, restrooms, and full buffet breakfasts and lunches) I heard some horror stories from folks who took the shuttle up the mountain. The 30-45 minute ride turned into three hours for some folks. Thank GOD Michael and I decided to drive up ourselves.

We should've been given an option not to tour the property. Due to the nasty weather, it was plain dangerous, in my humble opinion. But, instead, we put on ponchos and hopped onto a "mule." Not the donkey kind, the four-wheeler kind. We were jostled and tossed about as we wound our way up and around newly cleared out paths through Grey Rock property. Through pouring rain and flinging mud ... spinning our tires through mud ruts ... some over two feet deep. I held on for dear life, except one hand held onto a large golf umbrella that covered us and kept a little of the rain off. I felt, no lie, like my vagina was going to fall out. After 45 minutes, and our sweet guide saying, "I swear there's an awesome view over there!" Mike said, "I think we've had enough."

Our faces and clothes speckled with mud, we had a laugh when we got back to the tents. My makeup had run down my face, my hair that wasn't covered in the front was soaked, and my feet and hands were froze. Like I really want to network looking like that! My poor husband, being the motion-sickness person he tends to often be, was ready to throw up. By the time we got back to the hotel room, we just wanted to shower, crawl under the covers and stay there until checkout the next morning. Both of us sick to our stomachs, chilled to the bone, we felt as if our whole bodies had been shook. As if we'd been in an accident or something worse. Had we known, we would've declined the tour.

Now my son would've loved it! Younger people who hunt and climb would've had a ball. I love the mountains, I love the outdoors ... hiking, fishing, etc. And we are truly in the market for a nice piece of property. But this was too much for me. And did I do any networking on Saturday? Well, I gave a book to a sweet little gal who drove us back down the mountain to our car. That was it.

My point is ... all that glitters isn't a golden networking opportunity. We did have fun, don't get me wrong. Friday night at the Biltmore was worth the trip. But nothing in this world is for free. All in all ... it was NOT a networking weekend as I thought it would be. It was two free nights in a nice hotel. But we paid for it in reality. My back is telling me this afternoon, we paid for it.

Live and learn, eh?

Blessings to you and yours.

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