Ah, Milwaukee . . .

The Hilton looked pretty for the holidays.

The Hilton looked pretty for the holidays.

I was doomed to disappointment, I suppose, because my expectations were too high. And given how smoothly the first two national tournaments this season went (aside from being just plain too big), we were due for a weird one.

Milwaukee is the place where USA Fencing saved the big bucks feeding officials the season we weren’t paid until the following summer. The catered lunches for officials were astonishingly bad (see BC Diary: Officials Cuisine and BC Diary: Cuisine, Part 2), but the concession food was remarkably good that time—hand-formed burgers, made-to-order panini, lots of sausages and brats—so I was looking forward to the experiment of using concession vouchers for officials’ lunches.

Unfortunately, the available food concessions did not include the same food items as during our previous Milwaukee visit, so the food was disappointing. I can’t say I missed the catered lunches much—the never-ending cycle of BBQ, Italian, Mexican, and cold cuts gets a bit grim after a couple of tournaments, and the food’s never good enough to justify the $30-35 per person we’re usually charged. The $15 food vouchers we got this time were a reasonable experiment for our budget-constrained season, even if I didn’t get the fabulous panini I’d been expecting. The next test may be actual cash, so we won’t have to spend it all at once.

Mildly disappointing lunches are not so bad, though, when the days end by 6:30 or 7:30 pm, and there’s not only time to go out for decent dinners every night, but even an officials-only holiday event hosted by Val Belmonte, the new USA Fencing CEO. As Wes Glon noted at the event, it’s the first time in most of our memories that the association has done something explicitly to thank the volunteer officials who make our tournaments happen.

Up on the BC stage, we experimented with our reduced staffing and worked on the best ways to keep events running smoothly with fewer people working. The December NAC, with all those Veteran age-level events,  was a much better test than last month’s tournament was. We had a few bumpy stretches but managed to make everything work (and took lots of notes for the next one). But this NAC was just one of those odd ones, with lots of little weird incidents—no big disasters, but enough peculiarities to add up to less fun than it should have been.

On the other hand, Milwaukee was full of astonishing additions to my carpet pattern collection:

On the way home, I got one of the goofier Southwest flight crews I’ve run into for a long while—one of the flight attendants (with a pretty decent voice, even) sang a song for those stuck in B and E seats:

Looking for first class . . .

All I got was this lousy C boarding pass . . .

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right of me,

Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

And the captain, an elegant older woman, came out and gave a little welcome speech complimenting us on our “exquisite” taste in airlines; she was kind enough (without chattering on and on like some do) to identify a few geographic locations for us on the way, too:

Like the captain said in her little talk, a gorgeous day for flying.

BC Diary: Cuisine, Part 2

Typically, by the end of Monday’s competition and teardown, I was too tired to post. I did take photos of the Monday lunch offerings, though, and since my first food post from Milwaukee was so popular (my 2nd highest hit count ever, aside from one of the July SN posts), I shouldn’t keep you waiting any longer.

The vegetarian option was grilled vegetables on a tomato focaccia roll, with a side of potato salad:

Here’s the chicken version:

Before this fall, I’d never seen so many officials eager to work past 7:00 pm to get meal tickets for the venue concessions; many saved their tickets for hot food for the next day’s lunch. At least we had some decent afternoon munchies, thanks to both the large stash Meredith brought with her and the haul Karen and JR brought in from their local shopping trip. (I’m always amazed at what a morale booster a 3:00 pm cookie break can be—it’s not so much the quality of the snacks as the fact of their appearance that seems to make the difference.)

I’m informed that the officials’ meals will return to their former standard of no more than one cold lunch per 4-day tournament for the rest of the season. I wish I could believe that the promise of proper meals will make it easier to hire officials for future tournaments, but it’s going to take a lot of time and more than a couple of hot meals to rebuild the trust lost by so many unkept promises over the last couple of years.