The ANA Hikes Into The Desert

I went to Phoenix on business. I expected — prepared myself — to stroll off the plane, get lost without a canteen in an endless fake-adobe urban sprawl, die of boredom, then get skin cancer, and finally end up looking like something out of a Georgia O'Keeffe painting, in that order. Which I did. But then, on my hands and knees, vultures with oven mitts landing on my back, I found my way to the Marriott over in Scottsburg, or Scottsborough, or Scotsdale, or whatever the Scots called it when they landed here from Scotland. I staggered over to the front desk, but the concierge had died of thirst. I'd made it to the annual Association of National Advertisers' Masters of Marketing conference.

The place, to be clear, is a desert. The first thing you think is, "Why are people here? It's a desert." And that's the second thing you think, and the third. There are hip sections of town here, but the veggie burgers have thorns. The bottom line is Phoenix shouldn't really exist. I mean, hello, it's October, and people should be out picking apples. But the cacti here are protected, so they pick rocks and paint them red. "It's Fall in Phoenix! (No water for half a mile)" the signs say. That people even live here, hundreds of thousands in fact, and that they can all brush their teeth and have coffee in the morning is a feat both of civil engineering and delusion serving as the better part of valor. But nature will have its way, and one day they'll turn on the faucets and nothing will come out but sand, thorns, and fake turquoise from the visitors bureau.



Anyway, for those of you who couldn't make it to this year's ANA Masters of Marketing desert-survival conference, Thursday night was the opening dinner party capping off a day of workshops on social media. This year's crowd was the largest I think anyone's seen, and several people I spoke to felt that way, too. Bob Liodice gave a brief opening speech thanking A&E, which sponsored the dinner. Live Nation sponsored the performance by Jewel. I heard a lot of people at other tables saying they'd never heard her music, although they'd heard of her. Same here. At first I kind of thought, "Oh, so basically a folk Shakira, I guess I'll take a stroll into the desert and watch lizards."

Boy, was I wrong. She's incredibly smart, incredibly funny, a great raconteur, a pretty great singer/songwriter, a really good lyricist, and charismatic/beautiful, and beyond that even -- above all that -- her life story is like the two Jacks (London and Kerouac) sat down and wrote a novel. It's like when you were in college and read On the Road and suddenly thought, "Why the hell am I not in a box-car right now heading to Mexico?" What a life. It's one of those life stories that you just know is too good, too adventurous to be real. You hear it and you kind of hope she was raised in Brentwood and her publicist dreamed the whole thing up. But, no, it's real -- I checked on Wikipedia. Half the attendees were on their smartphones doing the same thing. Afterward, everyone walked out a little subdued and introspective. I fully expected that soon, half of the attendees would turn in their lanyards and decamp for Yellowknife up in the Northern Territories with instructions on how to build a yurt. At least they'd have snow. 

1 comment about "The ANA Hikes Into The Desert".
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  1. Kate Benson from Martens & Heads!, October 7, 2013 at 9:28 a.m.

    Jewel ain't no fake turquoise!

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