"Why is there netting on the magnolias?" UD asked the driver of the immense shuttle bus that takes her and her alone from the Airport Marriott to the Opryland Convention Center whenever she feels like it. Two humongous buses endlessly idle in front of her hotel, and in front of the Opryland, to take people to and from overflow hotels. There aren't that many of us, but the NCAA has hired all these buses and drivers...
When you get in the bus, there's a PowerPoint thing on two suspended screens with all sorts of information about the NCAA. One of the screens says THE NCAA GOES GREEN. Everything's all environmental this year... Though when you're sitting alone in a vast bus lumbering across town with you whenever you feel like it, the greenery doesn't really convey...
This is rather churlish. Fact is, from the moment her feet touched Nashville concrete (she didn't kiss it, the way the Polish pope would've), she's been treated with staggering generosity and sweetness and friendliness -- We're not in DC anymore said UD to herself as she surveyed the Oz-like -- Emerald City-like?-- efficiency, kindness, and, yes, prettiness, of Nashville.
Those grandifloras, for instance -- they looked strange and beautiful pulled into tight circles by their netting.... Reminded UD of the hyper-precisely clipped trees in the Jardin du Luxembourg... "It's for Christmas lights," said the driver. "They can't put them just on the tree because they'd fall off, so they put the nets on, and put the lights on the nets. They start doin' the work in July, and they keep the lights up for a long time after Christmas." A huge job... a huge place, the convention center... "Biggest all-interior convention center in the world," said the driver, who didn't sound all that impressed, actually. "Plus they're addin' on to the place..."
Everything's big. The NCAA itself is staggeringly big, and this is their biggest convention ever. The convention center, the buses, the long lanes of magnolias... even UD's proudly worn press necklace is immense... takes up most of the front of her...
UD hates name tags and badges and basically refuses to wear them. She makes an exception for her big orange media credential from the NCAA. This she dangles athwart her chest with great pride.
UD almost dropped out of graduate school in English at the University of Chicago because the more she saw of the sort of prose English professors write the more she wanted to upchuck. Wayne Booth summoned her to his office and told her to stay in the profession. He promised she wouldn't have to write that way; he promised it'd be okay. UD has always been grateful that Booth went to the trouble of hauling her back in, and he was right -- she's written the way she wanted to.
Still, UD has always regarded herself as much a journalist as a scholar (actually, neither of those words seems to fit her all that well) -- she was a student at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism before she transferred to NU's English department -- and this business of being a member of the media at the NCAA, with access to a press room, etc., is thrilling to her.
Oh -- UD did in fact attend an NCAA event the other day... On hazing. Her next post will describe that. She's going to have breakfast first.