On the Road Again

On the road again, with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. The excitement is always easy to explain – it’s traveling, for god’s sake! New places, new people (and some old, too, as I visit with some buddies from high school days), educational and informative planned events, and the inevitable unexpected adventures that make travel one of my greatest loves. Now, granted, this trip – a work conference in DC – does not allow for too much free time and Washington wandering. Today is spent mostly in transit and then getting settled in at the hotel. Tomorrow is a full day of pre-conference events, capped with a reception at what is certainly the swanky Georgetown abode of a Very Famous Popular Biographer (more on that after the fact).  Finally, Saturday is the conference itself, then back home early on Sunday.

As to the trepidation:

(Brief interruption for stream of consciousness travel observations: We are in Penn Station taking on new crop of passengers. I have moved to sit behind a nice, small old lady who does not shove her seat back into the knees of the tall gent behind her – at least so far. Thank you! And as I type, I wait to see who will be my seat partner for the next leg of the trip. Come on, hot-looking young Indian woman! No, no old person with too much stuff…and the final sitter is…sort of generic young guy with a  banana and a copy of The Plague. Could be worse, though I’ve never been too enamored with the smell of fresh bananas…)

So, trepidation: several levels at  work here. I am moderating a panel on writing biographies for young adults. I had signed up to attend that one, then received an email from a conference organizer, who had gotten my name from the head of BIO, the group putting on the conference (I described my pleasant first encounters with him last fall in Santa Fe here). I have been, if I can say so myself, fairly organized, even “proactive,” in coordinating the planning with the three panelists. Of course, that is the easy part. Now I have to get in front of the attendees and, you know, speak. Be somewhat coherent. Perhaps even a bit witty. All while facilitating the flow of the panel, including the Q&A.

Holy shit, what the hell was I thinking?

Well, in a very self-serving way, I thought this would be a positive thing. Taking on a new responsibility, challenging myself, and perhaps creating an opportunity to network (a partial rationale for the whole weekend). Yeah, all that crap that I don’t usually do with much ardor, but is “good for me.” But then there’s the flip side: I have to speak in front of strangers! Praise the lord and pass the Ativan.

We, thankfully, have the smallest registered audience of the whole conference (I didn’t tell the panelists this, lest it wound their pride and diminish their commitment to the cause. But from what I’ve seen in our email missives, they are all troupers and will dazzle regardless). And I know I have gotten a little better with speaking in front of crowds, thanks to talk backs at my plays and several eulogies (unfortunately). But there is always a little angst. At least my role as moderator will be kept to a minimum.

Another source of trepidation this weekend: the deadly duo of work and house stuff. I have avoided talking about the latter lately, as we seemingly get close to selling our house. I did not want to jinx it, but as some problems have arisen, I realize what I say or do will not affect if and when things go through. OEC has taught me that, in spades. The amount of control we have over anything that involves other people – which encompasses so much, aside from some pretty basic life functions – is pretty darn small. So, all I know right now is that I stlll don’t know when I’ll be departing the former matrimonial abode.

And the other source? Work, or rather my continuing inability to stay on top of it, for myriad reasons and only some related to OEC. Suffice to say, taking this long-planned, work-related trip seems like a burden at times, when I think of all the looming pressures. It feels like 17 years of doing good work and meeting deadlines could be somewhat sabotaged by my recent bad habits and failure to schedule assignments well. Or I could just be overreacting. As usual.

Random first day thoughts: Amtrak is great. On time, spacious seats, the chance to read/tune out/snooze. A sold out train, so not so good if you got on NYC or later. Better than driving and even taking the plane, when you factor in hassles/expense of that. Who are the congressional douche bags who keep wanting to cut subsidies? In this part of the country, it definitely makes sense.

Work stresses, see above, rearing their ugly head. But I can’t hear you now, lalalala. Maybe tomorrow.

Hotel – great location;  I luck out again, with a Whole Foods right around the corner (though no vegan treats to satisfy a lingering craving. One offering from a local bakery I read about online, but way past the expiration date…). Magritte-esque painting outside is a little weird, but free champagne in the lobby (!)  between 5-6 each evening is a nice touch. Though  having to pay to use the printer in the business center is a joke. It’s a boutique hotel, which means almost constant “cool” music and lame attempts at “hip” art, along with very angular furniture and odd-shaped sinks. Also pricier than what I am used to, but close to the conference center and all in all ok, given the neighborhood. Not touristy; feels like real people live here. Adams Morgan and DuPont Circle are both close by, home to many good restaurants and bars.

Tomorrow – more on the Friday’s event at the Library of Congress, the big cocktail reception, and my experiences as a moderator.

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~ by mburgan on May 21, 2011.

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