Without Character

A nondescript elevator with two white guys from the 60s madmen era with fedoras with the doors closing.

There isn’t anything authentic about a convention center. It is the Muzak® of buildings. Taking strains of something that had a soul and stripping it of anything that makes it itself.

After lobotomizing originality, next to be removed is anything human. Voice, words, breath, a pause? All excised. Any instrument that conjures an image of fingers racing along keys, pressing a valve, strumming strings, holding a bow or grasping sticks? Also eliminated.

All you have left is a lowest common denominator tempo barely holding up the weakest strains of a strained melody. And when you hear it, the bleached skeleton picked clean of flesh and blood, you get mad. Because it used to be something.

The worst, most generic chain motel gains charm in comparison to the empty cavern of a convention center with its too high ceilings–in case someone booked a boat show and need to showcase a hundred foot yacht, or maybe a grouping of humvees, a tank and a Blackhawk on blocks for a military show of might. People love getting their pics standing near the turret of the tank. But that doesn’t make the convention center any less bland.

The colors in the convention center do not stimulate the rods and cones at the back of your eyes. Even the use of orange, when contrasted with the old wool blue gray in the carpet, doesn’t jiggle your brain. At best, you mark it as something that evokes the color orange and dully move along.

The chairs in the rooms are not camouflaged. Not really, but they could be. They almost always have a gold or silver frame. This is so you can differentiate among the individual units. I was going to say differentiate among them in the dark, but they would all fade together under light, too. The metal does not shine, though. It does not catch your eye. It is matte. Almost a silent signal.

Even the food in the convention center is without taste. Whether it’s a box lunch, purportedly with an Italian sub or a roast beef and horseradish on pretend ciabatta (it’s just the shape of ciabatta), or a sit down meal at an awards dinner, the food tastes like the food in a dream.

You know that dream. The one where you have an ice cream cone in your hand and it’s dripping a bit on the side. It’s piled with two big scoops. And your dream self puts it in your dream mouth and your real brain registers no flavor. I usually wake up then. It’s the equivalent of a nightmare, I guess. Well the food at the convention center is like that. Even the potato chips.

There are windows around the sides of the building. They are huge plates of glass, and yet there are no streams or streaks of light. It just surrounds the building and substitutes glass for walls with no real contrast. Maybe those aren’t windows. Maybe those spans are just a slightly different shade of wall.

Leaving the convention center, there is an exit with a set of stairs. These stairs are dangerous because you can’t tell the steps apart. It’s just that same Muzak® carpeting that leads you out of the Muzak®-filled elevator and out into the noise and the dark or the light of a real street. Look, there’s a pigeon strutting along the sidewalk! Something is alive.


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