I’ve never figured out why one hard-thumping song by Tom Waits brings to my mind the annual Pacific Northwest BI and Analytics Summit. Yet it does, even now as I prepare for the six-hour drive up to Grants Pass, Oregon. It’s my sixth consecutive time, and the Summit’s sixteenth.
I start out the drive with “Goin’ Out West” on my mind. “I’m goin’ out west where the wind blows tall / ‘Cause Tony Franciosa used to date my ma.” By the time I arrive on the Weasku Inn’s big lawn, dig out a beer from the ice chest, and say hello to the nearest person, the song’s gone. It’s show time.
The pessimism of “Goin’ Out West” seems like a raspberry at the event’s breezy conversation and such traditions as grilled salmon dinner on the deck, tequila shots later, and friendly conversation until you can’t stay up any longer. Very late, you can glance up at one window and imagine Clark Gable mourning Carole Lombard. He spent two weeks doing that up there.
But forget the raspberry. It’s just fun. Though the leading men and women there do obsess about technology and bluff about everything else, this is a summit, you know. Wind happens at high altitude, and everyone’s got altitude here.
Astute readers will observe that “Goin’ Out West” makes fun of those who, it would seem, should stay home. “I’m no extra, baby, I’m a leading man,” says Waits’ character. He drives his “Olds 88” with “a hole in the roof the shape of a heart.” He’s “goin’ out west where they’ll appreciate me.” He’s headed for Hollywood.
No one wears a name badge here. Anyone can hang out on the deck and be a leading man or leading woman. Everyone knows each other or is about to. You can change your name to Hannibal or maybe just Rex.
Twitter hashtag is #BISUM.