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Brainy Day Fun RG

Jenny Foster

Oregon Mensa's "Brainy Day Fun" RG (Regional Gathering) on April 24-26 was indeed fun-AND we had a nice rainy weekend! The idea was to celebrate what Mensa brains in the Pacific Northwest do for fun during all those rainy days, and most programs were participatory. In keeping with the theme, the hotel rooms were renamed: "Monsoon," "Sunbreak," "Rainbow," and "Stormwatching" rooms for meetings and meals, "Clashing Fronts" room for games, and "Surf's Up" room for Internet terminals. Alas, the "Mud Puddle" (hot tub) was out of order all day Saturday despite the best efforts of the hotel, but it was popular on Friday night. As at any RG, the heart of the event is the hospitality suite, which was dubbed the "Silver Lining" (complete with a charming tinsel-like floor-length curtain across the door); here former chef Rich Henson held forth with good humor and an ever-changing array of tasty comestibles, including a jello mold that was a very realistic likeness of a brain! Rich had help from several volunteers, especially Sharon Miles, Liesl Andrico, and Bill Olson.

On Friday evening there was open space in the meeting rooms for "Mensans at Play:" Lea Montaire brought her woodworking to demonstrate, Erica Barrows brought her keyboard, and others assembled a jigsaw puzzle, played games, created refrigerator poetry with several sets of magnetized words, or decorated their nametags with materials provided. Most of the Friday night crowd hung out by the food in the hospitality suite, though, making occasional forays to the "Mud Puddle" (hot tub), which was stocked with a dozen rubber duckies. Michael Meagher hosted a lively discussion on homebrewing, complete with samples. There was a special time and place for Ilians (members of Intertel, the 99th percentile club) to meet. Bob Kegel ran a door prize drawing for the first few prizes he had solicited and gathered. A small but convivial Carnelli game was run by Carnellimeister Brewster Gillett and won by Erica Barrows, who was delighted by her prize (a bookstore gift certificate to learn more useless trivia!). The party continued late into the night in the hospitality and games rooms.

There was one special series of events throughout the weekend: "Meeting of the Minds," facilitated by Ken Bierly, a career educator with many published articles. This was group discussions on a wide range of intriguing topics, which were brainstormed at the first session on Friday night. Another special series was the play readings: sitting around reading a play can be great fun, as those who read Oliver Goldsmith's "She Stoops to Conquer" will attest. (A couple of books of plays walked away; if you took one home by mistake, please return it to Jenny Foster.)

Saturday morning dawned properly rainy. Ken Barron, a volunteer with the Portland Audobon Society and avid amateur naturalist, provided a close-up view of the owl, the Mensa mascot: he showed some great slides and brought a real owl to meet us. RVC (Regional Vice Chair) Jim Werdell of California hosted the traditional RVC rap session. Walt Patrick represented the Windward SIG, an intentional community focused on the needs and interests of the gifted which is located in south central Washington state; he brought a baby goat from the SIG's herd and welcomed all to come visit. A Mensa test was held for prospective members, arranged by Testing Coordinator Brewster Gillett and proctored by Mia Tanner. Meanwhile, another jigsaw puzzle began to take form in the adjoining room: a huge 3-D "Citadel on the Lake" which was brought by Liesl Andrico. The "Brainy Day Parade" featuring handbells playing chords to go with singing "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" only disturbed the test a little bit on the way around the hotel and into the lobby, to the amusement of the staff (one of which wants to join Mensa). The Raingutter Regatta (of regulation Cub Scout boat kits hastily decorated by Mensans and blown along filled raingutters) had few entrants; the enthusiastic winner was Jennifer Witsoe of Western Washington Mensa, who received a bag of chocolate. There not being quite enough rain, the Regatta was immediately followed by the drenching debut of 4 dozen filled squirt guns which reappeared throughout the rest of the RG, to the delight of many and the embarrassment of the more mature among us. Then everyone hit Hospitality for Rich's hot soup and sandwich lunch.

Yes, there was great Mensa conversation everywhere during all of this-some folks didn't even participate in the programs at all.

After lunch on Saturday Michael Meagher hosted a foot massage ritual workshop (which this writer hated to miss!). Jenny Foster did an introductory workshop on change ringing with handbells (the beautiful mathematical patterns rung on tower bells in England) which was quite popular. The fledgling bell ringers couldn't tear themselves away to "4 Corners Games" (4 games in the 4 corners of the room), but 2 of the games-Paranoia and Deprivation-were played and enjoyed at the next monthly games night. Meanwhile, Thor's Truth Machine allowed the audience's yes/no questions (often titillating) to be answered anonymously by the panel of participants; Thor Barrows' contraption is unique and has added to the fun at the Asilomar gathering in the past. Jenny Foster, experienced massage therapist and almost-a-chiropractor, shared tips for computer users to keep their bodies happy while their minds are out in cyberspace.

Almost everyone went to the optional buffet dinner in the "Stormwatching Room." The after-dinner speaker was our own Al Siebert, author of "The Survivor Personality," who explained his theory of "successful schizophrenia" in an informative and humorous speech which was just right for the occasion.

After dinner on Saturday Bob Kegel ran a VERY lively game of Charades; I don't know who won, but it looked like everyone was having a whale of a time. Then Rich Henson took a break from Hospitality and emceed the Joke-Off, which stepped boldly into the realm of ribaldry. Rumor has it that he won; you'll have to ask him to tell you the winning joke.

(The prize was a bookstore gift certificate to buy a joke book to suit the winner's tastes.) A little later Rich ran "The Wizard of Oz" with the sound turned down while playing Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon" so we could all experience for ourselves the amazing synchronicities that we'd read about on the Internet. Like, wow, man. The party continued into the wee hours, with the latest known celebrants playing bridge until 5:30 AM.

Sunday opened with one last "Meeting of the Minds" session, followed by a buffet brunch, brief thank-you's, more squirt gun shenanigans, and more door prizes. Prizes of chocolate were also awarded by the secret judges for the best huggers throughout the weekend: Connie Cambreleng ("most improved"), Julia Marks, Al Siebert, and Michael Meagher.

As you may know, hugging is a popular sport at RG's; a red dot on one's nametag means "no, thanks," yellow means "ask first," and green means "yes, hugs welcome." Plans for next year include a similar code for squirt gunning.

And speaking of plans for next year, the hotel DID say that they'd have us back. If you missed the Brainy Day Fun this year, don't make the same mistake next year. Meanwhile, everyone can see some of the fun captured by Scott Rainey's digital camera and loaded onto his website: (Yes, the brain is there in living color!) Thanks to Scott for doing this, and for providing the Internet terminals for use at the RG.

Lastly, thanks to all the volunteers and the RG Committee: General Chair Michael Meagher, Program Person Jenny Foster, Hospitality Chef Rich Henson, Registrar Becky Gylling, Hotel Liaison Connie Cambreleng, Publicity Guy Bob Kegel, Treasurer Linda Kelso, and Volunteer Coordinator Liesl Andrico.

Jenny Foster