Saturday, October 6, 2012

Day Three. Jeff Baxter and a Godfather Reference

By 9:35 of Day three, my purpose for being in Chicago ended. I attended my fourth and final required firm element presentation. In a rational world, I would have then grabbed a snack in the lobby just before hailing a cab for the airport. I would have gotten home around 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon in time to take in a movie with my wife. But no, I don’t live in a rational world. You see, in my world, my Broker-Dealer, as a reward for my production, has graciously agreed to pay for three of the four nights I am in Chicago. In addition they have generously promised a daily stipend to help me with the cost of living in this fabulous city for four days and nights. Unfortunately, there’s a catch, and for you young people in my reading audience…there’s ALWAYS a catch. In order for me to actually collect these generous offerings from my fine Broker-Dealer, I must stay for the entire conference, all four nights. So if I leave a day early, I would save the $200 bill from the hotel, but give up roughly $750 in subsidies.

Now when I first learned of this arrangement, I figured there must have been a vitally important function on Saturday night that the big brass wanted to make sure everybody attended, thus the odd early departure penalty. Perhaps they would be announcing some grand new initiative that will transform the business. Maybe something darker was planned. Maybe they were planning to announce the sale of the Broker-Dealer to Solyndra or MySpace, achieving the ultimate synergy of combining irrelevant business models. But, it turned out that I had nothing to worry about. The crucial event planned for Saturday was a night at……The House Of Blues. Apparently, Cambridge has exclusive use of the facility. There will be dinner and I assume a headliner act to entertain us through the night. But, knowing these people like I do, a part of me is still worried. The headquarters of Cambridge is after all, in Fairfield, Iowa. Although possessed of bedrock values and impossibly friendly people, Fairfield isn’t exactly known for it’s cutting edge hipness. I still worry that what the brass have in mind is a lively evening of Karaoke.

So, after my 9:30 meeting yesterday I spent the day working out, walking the streets of Chicago and attending a spare presentation or two. Jeff, the skunk, Baxter redeemed the day. With his Stratocaster in tow, he gave a mind blowing talk about the similarities between the musical creative process, and the problem solving skills required of missile defense scientists…or something like that. He deftly mixed in smart jazz rifts of “My Old School” with vignettes of his work at the Pentagon working with four star generals and military intelligence officials struggling to write syllabuses for nuclear weapon protocols. Mind blown.

Last night we had dinner at an Italian restaurant that reminded me a little of the one in The Godfather where Michael murders Bazinni and McClousky. Great food, and nobody ended up sleeping with the fishes.