Thursday, August 30, 2012

Working Vacation

I’m back to work after a “working vacation.” I volunteered to be a minion at SF BATS this year and it was fabulous. If you are a tarot-enthusiast, it may help to know that BATS stands for the Bay Area Tarot Symposium, celebrating 21 years of bringing tarot goodness to tarot lovers. The star of the show is Thalassa, the talented, funny and formidable organizer of the bee-zillion things that need to be done behind the scenes and on stage to make it all come together.

My BATS weekend actually had started almost a week earlier. Not only had I received a box of goodies from Ellen Lorenzi-Prince for the Millard Fillmore Memorial Spiritualist Temple Garage Sale, but also few precious decks of the Cirque de Whimsy Tarot from Carol Hartman DeVall, plus an enormous box of “mystery costumes” from Nancy Antenucci. I treated it all as “do not open until…” well; at least we didn’t have to wait until Christmas. SF BATS is scheduled for the last weekend in August.
Not only was I the shipping destination for a few BATS buddies, but I had my own stuff to prepare. I had just received the second printing of the Dust Bunny Lenormand and was busy making the colorful cases for them. People had been asking for more so I figured it would be good timing, especially since Thalassa had scheduled two BATS classes on Lenormand, one with Melissa Hill and one with Mary Greer. Both sounded interesting to me and I hoped I could fit them in with my volunteer duties.

Not only did I have my own decks to get ready, but I had also been inspired to make a little treat for my BATS buddies who were also members of a Facebook Group called Squeelandia. The group was created by none other than Thalassa, a critter-fancier with a soft spot for bats (of course!), baby sloths and other wiggly-nosed young un’s.

In Squeelandia, there are commonly posts sharing photos of baby animals, the kind that make us all say, “SQUEE!” and fall over from “teh kewt.” And with all of them, we “Squeelanders” are tempted to reach out and touch their little nosies and say, “Boop!”

Yeah, revolting, I know. Like a cup of tea with half a cup of sugar. But, look! A baby hippo! It’s that kind of thing that the Squeelanders go for. For Squeelanders, nothing is too sweet. So I made Boop! buttons with cute animals. I made too many, of course. Sometimes you just can’t get enough Boop!

All this took almost all week, except of course we did go to the Bay Model in Sausalito (by the way, that’s free admission and free parking, great for kids and groups), then to Book Passage in Corte Madera where I snagged a couple of delights like Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness and Lev Grossman’s sequel to The Magicians, The Magician King. Hey, a girl’s gotta read, right?

People have asked me, “What’s the difference between Reader’s Studio and BATS?” Certainly BATS is less expensive for me because I can sleep at home. Travel expenses are a huge consideration. Seriously, when you are face-to-face with all the goodies from Tarot Garden, which would you rather buy, airfare or #43 of 300 of a limited edition woodcut Marseilles-style Italian tarot? Just in case you wondered, yes, the tarot deck is cheaper than the airfare. Really.

I do love Readers Studio but there are differences between it and BATS. At RS, the main event is three half-day classes. If, for instance, one of the half-day sessions is not something you are interested in or is aimed at a different level from your own, you’re unhappy with approximately one-third of the experience. There are unofficial activities that are organized around RS; the best ones cost extra. Airfare, plus hotel, plus the conference, plus the early bird class, plus the field trip to the museum and it adds up. And you haven’t even bought that limited edition deck yet. That said, I’ve learned how to manage a little here, a little there on the RS easy payment plan to pay for things along the way and I LOVE seeing everyone. RS is well-attended and generally has a larger vendor room.

BATS, on the other hand, offers three separate classes for each class session. If you aren’t interested in something in the main room, there’s every chance you’re going to be excited about what’s going on in one of the other classrooms. There are classes suited for beginners and for more advanced students.

Readers Studio’s conference charge includes some meals, water and coffee. BATS provides coffee, tea and water throughout the day, a cocktail party at night. This year’s cocktail goodies were easy to make a meal of or just pick at as a snack before adventure dining in San Francisco.

Readers Studio has a unifying theme with an emphasis on education and audience participation, an exercise at the beginning, the three large classes and an exercise at the end, with some entertainment and some special short programs included. For instance, this year I hosted one of the breakfast round table wake-up sessions and had people playing Tarot Bingo.

BATS presents information but the participants are free just to soak it up. Those who have classroom performance anxiety exchanging readings with their new friends are relieved of obligation to prove to themselves they have learned something. At BATS, you soak it up. And of course there are lots of informal activities!

Because I was working behind the counter at the Garage Sale, I attended most of the presentations in the main room where the vendor tables were. But, I tag-teamed with other Core Daughters of Divination and caught both of Mary Greer’s classes, one each afternoon. I’m drawn to the historical talks and Mary’s got the goods. One day she talked about her historical tarot tour of Northern Italy. OK, skip what I said about airfare and lodging; I want to go on a tarot tour of Northern Italy. The second afternoon she talked about the history of the Lenormand. And how cool! Apparently “tarot bingo” is actually an historical tradition. I blushed when Mary gave my Dust Bunny Lenormand a plug and sent people from her class back to buy a deck. Wow! Thanks, Mary!!
The days were long and fun and yet, when it was time to pack up and steal into the night, I was sad it was over. Nancy Antenucci and I helped Dan Pelletier push the cart of boxes of Tarot Garden decks, significantly fewer than at the start of the weekend, up the hotel parking garage ramp and laughed again over the skits they performed with Rhonda Lund and Thalassa at the breaks. I still am not sure how Dan got out of that straightjacket; practice, I expect.

I am so grateful to Thalassa, her husband, her daughter, and all the DOD’s who worked so hard to make the 21st SF BATS so full of tarot goodness. And for Thalassa herself who weathered this year's personal tragedies, job search woes and behind-the-scenes snafus resolved without a hair out of place, BOOP! The Show Must Go On!

Best wishes.

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