Two years ago tonight, my wife and I were in Ashland, Oregon for Neale Donald Walsch's Recreating Yourself retreat. Here is what I experienced at the New Year Eve's Dinner:
That evening, there was a big dinner planned at the Ashland Springs Hotel for all attendees who agreed to pay the extra $45 for it. As far as I'm concerned, no meal is worth $45, so the wife and I didn't sign up for it. We planned to get a burger at Louie's while everyone else ate like there was no recession. Imagine our surprise when we were told that someone had offered to pay for the meals of 4 attendees who couldn't afford to go. On the next break, I went to the back room and said we were interested in attending on a "scholarship" basis.
We gussied up a tad before heading to the banquet hall. We arrived about 15 minutes after the scheduled start (this was intentional as I knew there was to be some socializing before any food was served). I asked a maitre'd if I could have a soft drink. He responded that the agreement was just that they have coffee and water available. What a rip-off! I told my wife I was going to get something liquidy out of the vending machine.
I found a dispenser on the 3rd floor (it was just outside). This was actually the 2nd time I'd been serviced by the machine; we'd been there the night before to find some chocolate to munch on before going to sleep. It was there that we petted a cat, a cat that we found out was the hotel's (shades of the shop cats we'd seen over the past few days). The cat was there yet again as I put money in for a 20 ounce container of Gatorade (I also got some juice for my beloved).
Upon my return, I found a seat and asked for a cup of ice in which to put my tasty beverage. Ah, that's much better now. I feel almost human. A few minutes later, we got in the buffet line. Neale hadn't shown yet, but had every right to be fashionably late. I'm a relatively small portion guy, so just took some chicken, a bit of mashed potatoes and something else that escapes my mind at the moment (I knew I shoulda took more detailed notes).
My wife piled it on as she was aiming to get her money's worth. We sat down and began eating. The chicken wasn't bad, but it was several degrees inferior to what was served at our wedding 10 years prior. The other stuff was mostly rubbish. I wondered if any of the others felt the same. No one was letting on at this point.
Neale and his life partner entered the room shortly thereafter. Neale was wearing a snazzy black leather jacket; very hip, I have to say. He was sitting in the table behind us, no more than 12 feet from me. He didn't make any grand statements, just ate quietly with the people who had been fortunate enough to sit at the "right" table.
I tried two desserts hoping for better luck, but again, both were shit. My wife actually liked one of the items I didn't have the heart to finish. She didn't even drink the juice I'd bought her (perhaps peer pressure led her to drink the water others were having). There was decent conversation as we got to know a few of the people at our table better. One lady was wondering what Neale thought about 2012. I just shook my head.