My conference trip began the way so many of my conferences begin - with a migraine. Usually the migraine is triggered by air travel, but in a surprise move, this time I had the migraine the night before I left. A pleasant change of place. It is much nicer, really, to vomit at home. After a night of vomiting and dizzyness and no sleep at all, I caught an early flight to Midwestern City. Dramamine took away the nausea, and I fell asleep on the plane. For the very first time in my life, I felt better getting off a plane than I did getting on.
The nice people at the conference hotel took pity on me and let me check in early so by midmorning, I was fast asleep in a hotel bed. By late afternoon, I felt recovered enough to attend the opening sessions. And to be honest, I fit right in with my academic friends, most of whom tend to look tired and kind of sick this time of the semester.
Conference days are crowded with ideas and people. I spent my mornings going to sessions, hearing papers on all kinds of topics. Because this was an interdisciplinary conference, I was able to meet literature professors, scientists, and artists - many of them doing fascinating research. I especially loved the amazing art I was exposed to. Growing up, my idea of art was limited to paintings hanging in museums; I could feel my brain expanding as I looked at power point presentations of all kinds of experimental art.
The other cool part of the conference was getting to spend time with friends and explore the city. We walked miles every day, admiring the architecture, strolling through parks, and finding cozy restaurants and bars where we could eat and talk. At sunset on Friday, we stood at the observation deck atop VeryTallBuilding, watching the pinkish glow light up all the buildings, the street lights outlining all the roadways of the city. Saturday afternoon, ArtistFriend and I went with WomanFromLondon to see the Minatures at the art institute. She had never seen them before. It's always exciting to be with someone who is seeing these lovely little period pieces for the very first time.
Saturday morning, just before my session, a beautiful young woman walked up and introduced herself to me. A blogger meet-up! We didn't have too much time to talk because we had to present at conflicting sessions, but I was delighted to see the real person behind a blog I've read and see that she was as friendly and nice in person as she is on her blog.
Listening to plenary speakers and attending sessions is always a worthwhile part of any conference, but all the hours I spend sitting in restaurants and bars is pretty valuable too. You, know, I'd like to think that I choose my friends for noble qualities - honesty, integrity, intelligence - but when it comes right down to it, the main thing my conference friends have in common is that they are all damned funny. Perhaps it's that literature professors love language and are quick with comebacks. We had serious discussions too - when you are with friends you only see once each year, you learn to bare your soul quickly - and I stayed up far too late every night. On the last night of the conference, we sat at a bar that had comfy furniture - I claimed one end of a couch - and we stayed for hours, talking and laughing, feeling completely relaxed.
One of the nicest moments came at the very end of my trip when ArtistFriend and I were taking a train to the airport. We were standing in the tunnel, our suitcases next to us, with tired-looking people standing about, all of them looking at the floor and not each other in the way that people do in the city. I was feeling sad about saying goodbye to ArtistFriend, whom I won't see for another year. I hate saying goodbye. I was trying to find words to explain what I was feeling when a street musician, who was remarkably talented, began playing Pachelbel's Canon in D, a song that I've always found hauntingly sad. A lovely way to end the trip.