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I frequently repeat this piece around Valentine's Day (when I proposed to my former and since married to someone else fiance) and people mistake it for a musing on romance.

That's not what it's about at all.

It's about leadership.

(originally in orange Sat Jun 17, 2006 at 07:01 PM PDT)

Can you handle the truth?  How about a good story?

If you are a regular reader you may know that I was State Co-ordinator of my meatspace club.  You may not know I was engaged.

Yes I know, hard to believe anyone can stand ek for 5 minutes in a row, let alone want to spend the rest of their life with me.  But it was true.  She loved me.  A lot.

When we met I told her I was a practicing politician on the make, and what I wanted more than anything was to be King.  And then I was.

The National club was having a little get together in Vegas and as Incoming King I had to get there a day early for my special super secret training.  There was training for spouses too, not that we would have traveled separately anyway.

Part of being ek is procrastinating to the very last second, and then packing everything- kitchen sink included.  By the time we reached the airport for our evening red eye I had already been up for 24 hours.  It was a great disappointment to me that all the restaurants, bars, and gift shops were closed.  And our flight was delayed so I was really looking forward to my bag of peanuts on the plane.

Three cramped hours later in Vegas it is still midnight, my love was dragging and so was I, but-

When you're on the make, you make things happen.  My political handlers were there to greet me in the lobby.  They had super, super secret training which I found out basically consisted of adjourning early and heading for the bar to trade lies.  They wanted me to circulate and make contacts.

Well, you have to make your marks.

I checked in, took my sweetie to our room and said goodnight.  Not the best goodnight I've ever given, but I was still a little cranky.  When I got all respectable again, I went back down to meet and greet.

Just as I was calling the whole thing a stupid waste of time, the delegation from my largest local rolls in.  I had to be nice to them, and they had to be nice to me.  Even so I was genuinely flattered that they invited me out to $1.99 breakfast with them.  It was Vegas, it was a good breakfast.

The sun comes up early on my birthday and I had all that super secret training to get through (mostly meeting the club's corporate sponsors) so I went back to my room and got respectable yet again, woke up my honey and we went off to get trained.

I've already told you the valuable information I got.  My fiance got 4 hours of "you will never see him again" and totally embarrassed me (or so people say) by not sucking it up stoically but wailing "I love him so much".  And she did, even when we broke up.

We had an awkward lunch together that consisted mostly of salad.  Two more hours of propaganda and we were free.

Well kind of.  In one of those coincidences that happens only in real life, her brother from California was also in Vegas, finishing up a business meeting.  We had about an hour of overlap before he had to jet out.

Wait, it gets better.  When we got back to the room there was a cake from room service.  Emily, my mom, didn't forget my birthday (even though I was born in the age of epidurals) and had sent me the most expensive cake she never got to eat.  It was good, chocolate with chocolate icing and raspberry filling and some fresh raspberries on top.

Did I say I was wicked?  No rest for.  The one thing my sweetheart wanted to see in Vegas was the Hard Rock Hotel.  Now.  My problem was the incoming chief of the whole shebang was holding a party at 6 pm.  Attendance mandatory.

Incoming chief?  It was a contested race, the other guy could have won.  Who says this isn't about politics?

Sure honey, we have an hour.  Let's go.

Got my Hard Rock pin to go in my collection, got my complimentary shot glass.  Put a whole buck of slots on my Hard Rock card which still sits in my wallet to remind me of my misspent youth.  Let's go.

She was not happy, being hustled around.  I was not happy to do it, but you make your marks.   The chosen one had rented the Grand Ballroom at the top of the Hotel and we arrived breathless and cranky at 5:59.  The line was not long and at 6:05 the other couple left.

At 6:06 the doors opened on this ballroom that occupied the entire floor.  The view was spectacular, all up and down the Strip.  There were 2 Champagne Fountains and 2 Chocolate Dippers.  There were buffet tables and carving stations.  THERE WAS AN OPEN BAR!  Four of them, it's a fun club.

So basically there were 20 people there.  And me.  And my sweetheart.  All sweaty and flushed and tired, our credentials flopping around our necks.

Remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy and company go down the hall?  It was kind of like that, only bigger and longer.  At the end of (no kidding) about a quarter of a mile was the DJ.  We wandered up and said hi and he said- "So is there anything you want to hear?"  I let her pick the song.  It was slow and sappy and we grabbed each other and spun around, alone on acres of dance floor, on top of the world.

After a while some other people showed up so we could ditch, can't leave a party before it's started- that would be rude.  We went back to our room and said goodnight again.  I was much better this time, and after an hour or 2 I got respectable, this time in my tux (I own one, cheaper than real clothes) so I could go back to the party and kiss the ring.

It's all about kissing the ring.

This was a totally different scene.  Though the opposition candidate would come as close as anyone in the previous 10 years to defeating the chosen one, he had totally moved his lame ass party to one corner of the ballroom at the invitation of the magnanimous eventual victor and everyone was doing group shots to ease the sting of their inevitable defeat.  The rest of the place was crowded with people looking for free booze and food (did I mention it's a fun club?).

I kissed both rings.  It was easy, they were both standing together, the one who would be King and the one who would get a paid staff position as his consolation prize.  No more phoney they than my wishing them both good luck even though I had my marching orders.  And when the time came to convince my delegation to vote for the chosen one, my eloquence changed 60/40 challenger to 80/20 chosen, invoking our block vote rule and sparing us any loss of face as a state.

I was grabbed by a fellow classmate, a state King on the make for the top and dragooned into a conga line of Incoming Kings that he led from bar to bar in the ballroom, bullying his way to the front of the line and buying us all free drinks.

But enough of that is certainly enough and besides I had work to do.  One of the things they teach you in super secret training is to cultivate your base.  In this case that meant post cards to every local officer who was not able to attend.  I stopped at the gift shop in the lobby and picked up the post cards (an assortment, can't have people comparing notes) and a bottle of Champagne (how do you avoid a hangover for 7 days?  Stay drunk for 6).  You can't wait to do this because they have to arrive before you return.

When I went in the room my sweetheart woke up, saw the Champagne and said, "Oh, is that for us?"  Sure darling.  I opened it, poured us both a glass.  She took one sip, we kissed, and then she mumbled, "G'night" and rolled away.

So my plan worked perfectly.  About 4 am I was out of cards and out of Champagne so I headed to the lobby again, mostly hoping I could hook up with my breakfast buddies from the day before.  And I did.

Nothing like a good breakfast to energize you.  All the basic food groups, grease and salt and sugar and caffeine, and a mutual game of ring kissing with new friends was a great way to pass the time.  Soon I had to let them pick up my tab and move on.  I went back to my room, showered, changed, wrote my honey a note (because I was in training all day and she was done and had no agenda), and gently shook her awake.  We had a nice chat and then it was time for me to go.

Gotta make your marks.

Now I know what you're saying- ek you've been up for 72 hours.  You should be dead.  Not true, I had a whole 2 hours of sleep on the plane.  And I had meetings, close your eyes, pretend to pay attention, and you can snooze 15 minutes out of every 20.  In great need of chemical stimulation, at the break I bummed my very last cigarette so far- a Merit Light King.

At 3 pm the torture was over and I didn't have a mark to make until 6.  I went back to my room, hooked up with my sweetie (she had rolled out around 10 and spent a few hours shopping and having lunch with friends), and loosened my tie and napped.  She got many, many 'candid' snapshots.

And at 6 we loaded up on the bus for 'Old Las Vegas' where there was a big street party.  Thank goodness for busses, I was able to get a half hour head start on my nap on the way home.

When I woke up at 4 am I was hungry.  My fiance was immovable.  I wrote her a note and snuck off to have breakfast.

So that was Las Vegas for a micro-politician on the make.

...

It went on for a week like that, we actually spent a fair amount of time together after the initial 3 days, shows, restaurants, endless meetings at the Convention Center.

I pause here to pass along a great lesson she gave me.  The most important I took away from Las Vegas.

The food at the Convention Center was terrible.  The first day we got 2 Plastic Pizzas for lunch.  They were about the size of hockey pucks and tasted about the same too.  The second day the Outgoing King gave me a wink and a nod and we joined the Kool Kidz across the street for a lunch that was at least edible.

Afterwards at the light she held my arm and while everyone else went ahead we missed it.  When she turned to me she was as angry as I've ever seen her and she said- "Don't you ever do that again!"

What?

"How do you think those people feel?", and she pointed at the Convention Center.

She was absolutely right.

You can be King or you can lead.

Lead- be the first and have people follow you.

If you want to be a leader, you have to lead.  You have to be the first.  The first person to pick up a sack and clean up the garbage.  The first person to volunteer to make the phone calls.  The first person to have a hot dog and quip- "What, no Rat?  Only Glue?"

We never crossed the street again, making polite excuses and throwing away styrofoam boxes filled with styrofoam at the same table as everyone else.  As time progressed there were more and more 'Puffs' and less Paris Gellers, but we stayed to the bitter end.

Thank you darling, I will never forget.

...

Some of you may be curious about our break up at this point, but it's really very simple.  I was a Captain, but she was not the Enterprise and that was what she desperately wanted.  She loved me with a single minded focus I did not share. She was unhappy when I spoke with another woman, or another man, or spent any time away from her.  For my part I couldn't live up to her expectations- I am after all shallow and one dimensional, I've never pushed a noun against a verb except to blow something up.

Since then I've never been with anyone else, not that I've worried about it- my ego is self sustaining.  I understand she is marrying her 2nd grade crush this summer.  Good for her.  I hope he makes her happy, she deserves it.

I will always remember dancing alone with her in a ballroom in the sky over Vegas.

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