Bread Loaf 2005 Kickoff

Here’s a bourgeois confession: I’ve never waited a table in my life. So I was more than a little nervous about Wednesday night’s dinner, which was the first meal that the waiter scholars had to serve. We had our forty-five minute training session in the kitchen and dining hall, set up the tables, ate our own dinner in 10 minutes, and then opened the doors and welcomed the faculty, fellows, and contributors (paying attendees). I was in charge of two tables, and managed to get everyone’s order right and to clear everything in time. Because the headwaiters had scheduled everyone very carefully, it really wasn’t that difficult to stay on top of things.

After dinner, Michael Collier gave a welcoming speech, in which he repeated, yet again, his advice that attendees ‘pace themselves.’ There are tons of lectures and readings to attend, plus the workshop, plus social gatherings, and it’s impossible to do it all without burning out. The auditorium was packed when Collier spoke, and someone fainted and had to be led out. Charles Baxter read a wonderful story about a couple who are about to get divorced and see each other one last time when they clear out their house, and Michael Collier read some of his poems as well.

The temperature dropped after sun down and it’s absolutely freezing. Everyone’s running back in to get sweaters and I realize now I haven’t brought nearly enough warm clothes. I’m off to the coffee reception. More later.