General Assembly has a bit of a different feel to it this year here in Fort Lauderdale. For starters there are just under 3,000 people attending, about half the number who came to Portland a year ago. The decrease can be attributed to South Florida’s humidity, some anxiety about the need to pass through a security checkpoint to get into GA (the convention center is inside a port area), and a less than robust economy.
The humidity is no small factor. Walking a couple of blocks can make one moist. Those who complain the loudest are from the western U.S. but those of us from the Midwest have little sympathy for them.
The convention hallways seem noticeably less crowded this year. So is the exhibit hall. It’s easier to get around. The UUA Bookstore and Skinner House bookstore were elbow to elbow with people last year but this year there’s plenty of room. The same with Uni-Uniques and the other vendors. It seems likely that sales will be down.
People seem to have adjusted well to having to pass through the security checkpoint. Truth to tell, the guards don’t seem too concerned that any of us might be dangerous. We dutifully pull out our identification each time we enter and they give it a cursory glance and when there’s a big crush of us they barely look at it at all. Those folks who ride buses from the hotels right up to the convention center doors don’t have to show any ID. So the checkpoint seems mostly for show. I don’t know whether others might be experiencing the checkpoints differently, but we’ve heard of no incidents. All that worry before GA seems unfounded.
Friday's events included an “interfaith community witness.” About 300 UUs gathered in a park late in the afternoon for what was billed as "a celebration of and advocacy with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender and immigrant families." Florida has a ban on gay adoption and will vote in November on an initiative to outlaw same-sex marriage.
There’s a line of sea-worthy yachts moored in the marina behind my hotel. From my window I can see out across the Intracoastal Waterway all the way to where it enters the ocean. A cruise ship is tied up to a dock a couple of blocks away. It was a little bit of a disconnect this morning when I had to walk by the yachts on the way to GA workshops on classism and global warming.
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Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.