Manhattan, Kansas. From 20,000 feet, it appears as a clot of suburbia surrounded by a pea-soup green patchwork of farms and foothills. Our captain announces that we are now half-way to our Las Vegas destination. Here, half-way between Mayberry and Sodom and Gomorrah, lies this sleepy, middle-American town — an oasis amidst the Midwest flatiron landscape and a place I once called home.
K-State Agronomy is the place for field crop research and saving the world through progressive agriculture happened to be my early collegiate calling. Upon acceptance into the program, I packed up my things and moved out without giving it a second thought. (In retrospect, my impetuousness could have benefited from a bit more due diligence.)
Through no fault of the great state of Kansas or K-State, this city boy (who had never been west of Philadelphia) didn’t have much of a plan. No surprise then that, far from friend and family as the sun set on my teenage years, America’s heartland felt a bit like a prison, and living on Leavenworth Street (seriously) served as a metaphorical reminder of my voluntary collegiate incarceration.
In such a mental state, one comes to rely upon holidays as something of a temporary parole and, for me, a hasty escape required little more than a road-worthy vehicle, a paying passenger and plenty coffee for the 22-hour road race across 1300 miles of highway to home-cooked meals, Christmas presents and affection.
And during those 22-hours in transit, my anticipation mutated and convulsed from unbridled expectation to hapless dread and all scenic points in between.
And so it is with the annual pilgrimage to InfoComm: the anticipation of reconnecting with old comrades; the kinship with which new friendships are forged; the mystery of what new products will be unveiled; the sinking resignation that InfoComm, now in its 69th year has, like a toll house cookie out of Guinness, become too vast for any one mere mortal to consume. (And the fear that my back and feet will be toast by show’s end.)
We on the diner’s side of the AV buffet acquire much street cred and inspiration from InfoComm. Gaining practical knowledge and a peak into the future has enabled many of us to build successful empires within successful kingdoms grateful for our apparent wizardry.
And so (long way around the block) my half-way-there l’anxiété du jour is the creeping recognition that our great achievements — our vast infrastructure empires — are expanding to the point at which they become greater liabilities than assets. My quest, therefore, is to seek out the different thinkers at this year’s InfoComm — the few who think small is better. Because, as budgets implode, we are more likely to be able to afford a lot of small and not much more big.
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