November 06, 2007
Conference by the sea
Although I love going to panels and hearing speakers, my favorite part of an academic conference is seeing old friends and meeting new people. I'm an extrovert who just thrives on the endless opportunities to socialize. Some of my colleagues are close friends whom I only get to see once or twice each year, so I try to make the most of my conference time, even if that means subjecting myself to sleep deprivation.
It's great to hug friends after months limited to emails or phone calls. Artist Friend had grown a beard since I'd seen him in June, a fact that he had not mentioned in any of his emails. A beard! I kept rubbing it to see if it was real. Of course, my big worry was that the sea captain look would cause him to sing sea chanties, a worry that has more grounding in reality than you might think, but luckily, no opportunity for macho singing arose. Philadelphia Guy, who had long hair when I first met him but who has since cut it short, keeps assuring me that he will grow his hair long again as soon as he moves to his next job. It's the main reason I am rooting for him to be successful in his job search.
Songbird and her Amazing Blogging Dog weren't the only bloggers I met while I was in City With Sailboats and Seafood Restaurants; several bloggers attended the conference. Because I've gotten so loose about pseudonymity (and by "loose" I mean that I announced the name of my top-secret pseudonymous blog at my session), I am not going to give even the pseudonyms of the bloggers I met. At least one of them is on the job market, which is when bloggers are most paranoid about being outed. But I will say that it was fun to lapse into blogspeak with colleagues in the know. And I had a most wonderful time getting to know a blogger whom I've known since the my earliest days of blogger, who was as smart and fun as I thought she'd be. She reminded me of my daughter, which is the highest compliment I can give.
The double identity of the blogging world brought me the usual confusion. One of the bloggers was named Joe in real life, and every time someone said his name, I would turn and answer, thinking that we were using pseudonyms. At one session I attended, the panel included Smart Friendly Blogger, a blogger I've known for years, and Artist Friend, who is, of course, a character on my blog. At my own session, I mentioned that the most of the pieces I was reading had begun as blog posts, and that led to a lively discussion of blogging. It felt very much like the late hours of a Halloween party when people start throwing down their masks and taking off parts of their costumes.
The reputation of my posting nude photos on my blog seems to follow me from conference to conference. I was eating with a bunch of my male colleagues one night when Philadelphia Guy nudged me, "Hey, you could probably get one of them to pose nude for your blog."
I made the offer. The man to my left, Polish Accent and Ponytail, laughed and shrugged, "Sure. Just buy me a few drinks first." He stripped off his shirt right then and there to show me his tattoos, which prompted colleagues all around me to pull off items of clothing to show THEIR tattoos. Who would have expected so many tattoos amongst a bunch of academics? Sadly, or perhaps fortunately, I didn't have my camera with me, because the owner of the place was already giving us suspicious looks.
Of course, the jokes about nude photos led to all kinds of bizarre discussions. Sharp Guy, who works in West Coast City Famous for a Proliferation of Movie Stars talked about how the biggest industry in his area is porn; in every class he teaches, at least one student will have a some kind of connection to the porn industry. Somehow, we jumped from porn to sports, everyone chiming in about the influence sports teams have at their school. I had no sports anecdotes to offer, since Little Green doesn't have any sports teams, but I did brag to them that I work at the forestry college that has the best Woodsmen's team in the country. (And we do -- our students know how to use chainsaws and axes.)
Sharp Guy gave me a startled look. "You know what a Woodsman is, right? It's a porn term."
Apparently, everyone knew that except me. He explained that a Woodsman is sort of a stunt double, hired usually for his ability to keep a certain body part rigid.
These are the things that I learn at conferences.
Posted by jo(e)