A letter from Oz

Instead of OR, it should probably be called Oz. It's a fantasy, a whirl of gear and product and sniggly little pockets with handwarmer linings.

But beneath the green footprints and paper-thin carpet (our version of the yellow brick OzDOT repaving project), it's just cement. And above it, the cataclysmic eruption of gear is primarily just a concoction of some fiery imagination.

A favorite showtime conversation starter of mine is posing the question: how much of the gear on display at OR will actually ever make it into the hands of Joe Sixpack? There's definitely a healthy percentage that never makes it into stores, and a healthy percentage of that never gets bought, so what's the whimsical percentage? Fifty percent? Sixty? Whatever it is, it's a good check on whatever reality it is that you're currently smoking.

The same can be said for conversations during the show. What is the discount on vaportalk? How many of those intense business meetings were just time fillers and courtesy? How much is real, after all?

Every show, it takes a few days before the candy-coated shell of a trade show crackles and peels off. Before the temporary high of business fantasy is supplanted by the tangible reality of walking to the office, of picking some fresh corn, of listening to "High School Musical" with the daughter. It's like taking your shoes off for the first time in weeks, and remembering what it's like to feel the grass and dirt beneath your feet. It feels good to be dirty. To be real. To be a part of the world again.

Of course, being barefoot again has it's own challenges ...like learning that a friend's husband just died while rock climbing in South America. Or finding out that another friend will hit the operating table for pancreatic cancer next month.

It's a short fall from Oz back the farm. Yet as much as I love the outdoor world and the drunken optimism it provides, there's no doubt that the dirt is where we're all needed and where we all can make our greatest impact.

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