My flight to Louisville was at six o'clock in the damn morning, so I had to drive down to SFO in the dark. I parked at the Park 'N Fly. On the shuttle to the airport, I chatted with a big bald black dude we'll call Bill, because that's his name, although that won't be true of everyone in this post. We were both on the same flight to Atlanta (I would transfer to Louisville, and he would drive to somewhere else in Georgia). We talked as strangers do and finally introduced ourselves after getting off the shuttle. He asked what my name meant (sky blue), and he remarked that I had some culture; his name didn't mean anything!
Breakfast was an almond croissant; I ditched Bill to go through security since he had to check in baggage and I was finally cluing into the ease of only having carry-on. We met once again in line to board, though. He was a few rows behind me.
Delta now has trivia on their flights! It's pretty awesome, even though the touch screen is a bitch and some of the questions are fucking ricockulous. I won three rounds, two as SUNIL and one as COW. Take that, 32F!
In Atlanta, I had to rush across the concourse to make it to my connecting flight, which was boarding. I was in Zone 8, however, so it wasn't my time. I stood around.
"Sunil," someone said. I turned. Ha, it was one of my punctuation marks! Let's call her NoDe (if you watch the video, she's the colon: "A colon would better fare!"). I had been on the lookout for any fellow medical writers, but I hadn't seen any on my Atlanta flight. It figured that the chances were better on the flight actually going into Louisville. It was very cool to run into her.
I took a cab from the Louisville airport to the Galt House. The cabbie asked how many people were at this conference, as he'd been taking people to the Galt House all day. I said a few thousand; it wasn't very big. That many? Then I thought maybe just a thousand or so. I later learned the number was closer to about 960.
After settling into my room, I scurried to Thelma's Deli (the hotel had, like, six damn restaurants) for a late lunch because I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast besides peanuts and biscotti. I had a turkey panini.
This time, I was actually able to go to the Welcome Reception! They had Kentucky foods like corn bread and...such. I saw SR-71, whom I'd met at Saturday lunch last year. I wasn't sure if she would remember me, so I was hesitant to approach her. She was talking with Hal, who had interviewed me for the AMWA Journal. Hal had also interviewed the woman who'd led one of my breakfast roundtables, and I said hi to her as well. She actually walked away from a conversation to come around and shake my hand; it was nice. I also ran into more of my punctuation marks, including Comma-Poo, who said he was looking forward to my dessert klatch ("From ABC to the WB: TV Shows Worth Talking About").
Hal asked me if I'd gotten any weird e-mail after my interview. I said that no one had contacted me, curious. She said that sometimes people had gotten weird stalkery e-mails after the interviews. Er. Chill out, medical writers! It was just an interview! You can't be my friend!
SR-71 could, though. She did remember me! We'd only spent an hour or two together, but sometimes that's all it takes to bond. She had brought one of her co-workers, Mal—it took me way too long to put together the fact that they knew each other once I looked at their badges and saw that they worked at the same place. Mal was cool. We encouraged SR-71 to try a mint julep, but she was afraid, never having had bourbon before.
Because we were in Louisville, there was a table set up to make silly derby hats. They gave you a paper hat, a crapload of decorative supplies, and a glue gun. Some people were very creative. I was not. BEHOLD!
I'm really not sure what the theme of my hat was. I just stuck a bunch of shit on there. But, oh my God, I kept getting compliments on it! What the fuck? People kept telling me how creative it was. Other people's hats were way more impressive, creative, and ornate! Seriously, I know I tend to be critical of myself, but...that is not a very creative hat! I'll admit that the Joker flanked by a lucky seven is pretty sweet, but it's not a very original idea.
Walking around the reception, I was struck by the number of pretty blonde medical writers. Was it a type? Then again, I noticed a lot of pretty brunette medical writers over the course of the conference as well. So I think the lesson is: medical writers are hot.
After the reception, it was time for the creative readings, already in progress, since I was an idiot who couldn't follow the map properly and took way too long to find the room. I walked in with a group of three people around my age, two girls and a guy. I sat in the row in front of them. As I said in an earlier post, I tend to gravitate toward people closer to my age since the conferences do make me feel very young.
To my surprise, I was very high in the lineup; I think I was supposed to go after the woman reading when we'd walked in. Whew, made it! As I walked up to the podium, Mr. Science Fantasy asked if I was reading another song parody, and I said that I was not. I gave an introductory spiel and launched into "Killed the Cat." They laughed at the end, which wasn't the entirely intended response, but a story that dark needs some comic relief. It's fun and interesting to read it out loud and give it the tone you think should be in the words.
The next person was introduced as reading a personal essay. "Mine was not a personal essay, by the way," I said, which got a big laugh.
This year, they were trying to be more strict on the time limit in order to accommodate everyone plus any walk-ons in the allotted time. Most people were pretty good, although one woman's story did go pretty long. It was a pretty funny story about "stealing" a parrot in Costa Rica (or another Central American country, I forget), though, and we all wanted to hear it through to the end.
Behind me, one of the girls was contemplating whether or not to read what she'd brought. We will call her JStew. I encouraged her to read, since people like her were the reason we were being kept to our time limits. Her personal essay was eight pages; she decided she'd read just a couple. It was about running. She was the last to read. It was a decent essay, full of the usual running stuff, although the more interesting aspect was the way it linked her, her coach, and Prefontaine.
As the four of us walked out, the guy, Scott, said he'd liked my story. One! One person liked my story! Well, it was something.
I was finally hungry (it was 9:30), so I put my stuff back in my room and headed to Cafe Magnolia (like I said, the hotel had a bunch of restaurants, and it was the only one open past 10, not counting the deli). I ate alone in the corner. The chicken and wild rice soup was very good. The salmon was...strange. The spicy-sweet sauce was really funky, and it detracted from the eating experience, even though the fish itself seemed fine. For dessert, I had a Derby Pie, a purported Louisville original. It was an actual pie, unlike the Boston cream pie and the whoopie pie. I guess its defining characteristic is...walnuts? I liked the chocolate sauce.
I had an early start Thursday. The breakfast at the roundtable was...strawberry French toast blintzes? It looked like French toast, but there was cream cheese involved!
At they keynote address, I waited for SR-71 and sat with her. The speaker talked about heart disease in women and how it differed from the disease in men. She was a leader in the field; she remarked that her introduction—with its litany of distinctions and awards—sounded like an obituary. SR-71 poked me to keep me awake; I was still tired. The first speaker of the day is always hard to get through. Too early!
Next up was an open session on the scope of medical communication. On the way, I ran into JStew and the other girl from the last night, let's call her Reese. They were both thin, cute brunettes, and I got them confused a couple times. They looked like they could have been sisters. Reese said she had liked my story (two!) and that it had reminded her of Crime and Punishment. Which led to my excitedly declaring my love of Crime and Punishment and my whole story about reading it in high school, yada yada yada. JStew hadn't read it, and we both recommended it to her. Reese was a huge Dostoevsky fan, but I hadn't gotten around to reading anything else by him yet, even though I owned several other books.
I learned that JStew was actually a newbie like Reese, but she didn't have a red dot to identify herself! See, if it's your first time at the conference (like it was for me last year), you get a red dot to put on your badge. Mal had a red dot, for instance. It's a good identifier because others will welcome you to AMWA and the field of medical writing. Reese was a grad student who was looking into medical writing as a post-grad career as opposed to becoming a lab rat; I completely understood what she was going through! JStew was a journalist who wanted to get into medical writing. Currently, she was working for the Obama campaign. These are the things you learn when you know who the newbies are and talk to them. I told JStew she should see if they had any spare red dots.
During the open session, Scott asked one of the speakers about how to write a CSR, and after the session, I recommended that he take the AMWA workshop on writing a final study report, as it would answer all his questions. He said he couldn't afford the workshops. It's easy to forget that everyone doesn't have the luxury of getting your company to pay for everything.
Before lunch, I went to the registration booth to see if they had any spare red dots, assuming JStew may be too shy a newbie to ask around. She needed one as soon as possible, though, in order to reap the benefit. Unfortunately, they didn't have any red dots, so I had to resort to Plan B. Thankfully, I did have a red Sharpie with me. After lunch, I found JStew and asked her for her badge. On it, I carefully drew a red dot. It wasn't perfect, but it was surprisingly indistinguishable from the actual sticker from a distance.
The speaker at lunch had a really interesting talk. She spoke about telemedicine...by using ROBOTS IN HOSPITALS. The robots were essentially mobile monitors with webcams, but they allowed experienced doctors to examine and interact with patients all across the state. It was a really cool program. Some of the hospitals hilariously dressed up the robot in a lab coat and stethoscope.
In the afternoon, I learned about writing abstracts. SR-71 was also in my workshop. I sat on her row. Behind me was a very pretty woman named Amy who reminded me of schnappycat.
Then came the Chapter Greet and Go. I saw JStew for a bit, but she was not in my chapter. That did not stop her from appearing at Bistro 301 some minutes later after we took our seats. Hal was there too. Earlier, I had made sure to exchange business cards with JStew in case we didn't meet up again; her homemade card (which identified her as a "writer") had her cell phone number, so I called her, hoping to do a "Look to your right" thing. But it went straight to voicemail. I listened to her distinctive, low, "I have a cold" voice. I went and tapped her on the shoulder personally.
I don't know when during the day it occurred, but I discovered that JStew did like my story! (Three!) In fact, she wanted to read it herself! I had actually brought an extra copy of the story for just this situation, but at the time she asked me, I didn't have it with me. She liked my story, you guys! She wanted to read it again! I am easy to please. (Waaait a second, I think I know when it was: it was during the break in the abstract workshop. We ran into each other, and we were talking, and I was totally late getting back. And I wouldn't have had my stuff with me.)
At Bistro 301, we ordered some calamari, which was very good, and some queso, which was middling. I ordered a blackened grouper sandwich since I had never had grouper before. It was...okay. Like my Cajun catfish sandwich, it basically tasted like blackened fish. All you fish taste the same, geez.
We were a little early for the klatches, so we waited outside the Fountain Room. I chatted with the woman I'd walked back with, a nice British woman we'll call...Nice. She was going to be discussing greyhounds. I told her I would be talking about television, so she asked me what my favorite show on the air was. I can never pick just one, but I decided to go with Dexter. I explained the show to her and told her the first two seasons were out on DVD.
The Fountain Room opened up. Near the entrance, they were selling any remaining tickets. I was afraid to see how many people hadn't signed up for mine. There were only two tickets left! Sweet! An Indian woman was deciding between my klatch and one about tennis, and I told her that mine was way better. Since you could watch tennis on television.
Inside the room, I grabbed a slice of pecan pie and a carton of milk and found my table. Comma-Poo joined me, as did three others, including the Indian woman (sadly, married). I thanked everyone for coming to my klatch, and then we started talking about television! It was pretty fun. People were impressed with the amount of TV I watched. I continued to champion Dexter, and a few at the table were 30 Rock fans. We lambasted reality television but did admit that some shows like The Amazing Race and Project Runway were not without merit. I gave an impassioned speech about The Wire.
Comma-Poo had brought a script with him. He'd shot an episode of 'Til Death recently, and the episode's writer was named Vijay Patel. He wanted to know if he was a relation. Heh. He related the experience of shooting his short scene as "Servant," which had begun as a three-line role and been cut down to a role of one line: "Beverage, sir?" He said he was meeting with the casting director of Pushing Daisies soon! He asked me what the tone of the show was like, so I attempted to explain. It'd be cool if he got on the show! If it's not canceled.
An older man joined the table. After being brought up to speed, he addressed me: "I have a very important question." I expected a question of very little importance. "Do you think CNN is biased?"
And that was how my television klatch randomly turned into a fucking politics klatch. A few of us on my side of the table continued to talk about TV. I did announce to everyone that I was going to have to cut out before nine so I could catch Supernatural. Before I left, however, Comma-Poo made sure to tell everyone about The Wr*kado; he was "astonished" at how good it was. Aw. He really liked it, you guys!
Back in my room, I watched Supernatural and then Pushing Daisies on ABC.com, which is a total whore, oh my God.
Then I checked out JStew's blog, which was listed on her business card. She was keeping a blog about her experiences going door to door in support of Obama. Her card also listed a personal website that had her résumé and a bunch of her articles and a link to another blog, which documented her recent time in Mexico. It was late, so I skimmed some posts, intending to read more closely later.
Sometime during the day, I called Chris (teapot37) to make plans for Friday night. He said there were a lot of bars and things near my hotel, but he didn't drink, and neither did I. He also suggested bowling, and I was game for that. In addition, he'd discovered that Tracy Morgan was randomly in town, so we could do that Saturday if we got tickets. On second thought, this conversation may have taken place Friday afternoon. Whatever, chronology.
Friday morning was a continental breakfast with the exhibitors, and I passed on the caloriffic pastries and just had colorful fruit. I saw JStew walk in...and then I glimpsed her nametag and realized it was actually Reese. I told you I confused them. I browsed the poster presentations. Amy from the abstract class was one of the poster people.
Aaaand she was also in my poster workshop that morning! "I'm seeing you all around," she said. I asked if she was taking the slides workshop the next day, but, unfortunately, she was leaving before then.
At lunch, I sat with Naomi, who had run the regional conference. We joked with each other for several minutes before the woman sitting in between us remarked, "So you two know each other?" "How'd you guess?" said Naomi.
Mal was also at my table, as was her new buddy Chas. I liked her too. The lunch was some sort of fish, but we weren't sure what it was. It seemed too thick to be tilapia. Cod? Who knew? Mal asked the waiter! Hee. He came back and said that it was "whitened fish" or something. Was that a special kind of fish? What? We were still confused. Near the end of the meal, he came back to tell us that it was, in fact, tilapia. Heh.
The lunch speaker was extremely entertaining. He talked about the reasons for declining public health over the last century—the figures he showed of the rise in obesity in the last fifteen years were ridiculous.
I had seen JStew coming into the ballroom, but my table had been full so I simply noted where she was sitting. When the speaker had finished, I went over and handed her a copy of my story, on which I'd written my name and personal e-mail address.
We were both going to open sessions afterword. I was going to learn about formatting tables and figures in Word. We discussed which afternoon sessions we were going to and which she should go to. I had advised her on which sessions to go to yesterday as well since I knew what they were like and had a better idea what she'd get out of them and what she needed to get out of her time at the conference as a new medical writer with her specific interests. I was like her mentor, and she my manatee. I did consider and put forth the possibility that I would just go to whichever afternoon session she did, but in the end, I went to the one I had planned to go to (continuing education) rather than sit through the one she needed to go to that would not be very useful to me (health promotion).
I left my session a little early so I could go up to my room and watch The Office on Hulu. Man, having a company laptop makes you more dependent on it. Normally, I wouldn't have a laptop, and I'd just have to wait till I got home to watch all my shows. Now, since I had the capability of watching my shows online in a timely fashion, I felt obligated to take advantage of it. I will say, I really fucking appreciate legal methods of watching television online more now!
On my way to the business meeting, I ran into JStew and a guy named Kent. We talked for almost half an hour about things before I finally revealed that I had been on my way to the business meeting. I invited JStew to come along, as it was a good way to see the structure of the organization and get a feel for how it was run; I had found it valuable last year. This year, it was extremely valuable because I was able to talk to Aioli in person about leading a workshop. If all goes well, I will be developing a cancer pharmacology workshop. I was also able to give her feedback on a horrible workshop I had taken last year and that Mal had taken this year. I had run into her earlier in the day and discovered that it had not improved, unfortunately. And for both of us, it had been the first AMWA workshop we'd taken, which really frightened us. Luckily, the other workshops were better.
(HA HA HA HA HA HA. I just checked my post about last year and I skipped the annual business meeting. Oh my God, I am such a liar. I was thinking of the new member orientation. So I dragged JStew to the meeting under false pretenses. Awesome.)
I went back upstairs to get dressed for the awards dinner. It seemed like I had a lot less free time this year, maybe because I actually knew people so I had more people to talk to and pass the time.
Downstairs, I waited for someone I knew to come in to sit with. In came SR-71, finally, but she went back out to get a drink. Then came Mal and Chas, and we found a table off in the corner and saved a seat for SR-71. Also at our table sat an Indian dude named Ciby, whom I failed to bond with. Oh, I forgot to mention the cute Indian girl who was at the creative readings and at one of my lunch tables. And whom I also failed to bond with. Also, the various Indian dudes who gave me the desi nod when passing in the hallways. God, I suck at being more Indian.
The vegetarian meal was not that bad, thankfully. It was a stuffed mushroom of some sort over pasta. It was moderately filling.
I told Mal and SR-71 about Tracy Morgan on Saturday night, and they were both 30 Rock fans. Mal was definitely interested, but SR-71 needed to think about it, as she wanted to explore the city a little tomorrow. I was going to see both of them at lunch the next day: I had taken the initiative and organized a lunch outing to Proof on Main, which a co-worker's sister, a foodie, had recommended. JStew had also been invited, of course.
The final speaker was going way past his allotted time, and I had to meet Chris (teapot37), so I cut out early. I didn't see Chris in the lobby anywhere, and I was afraid he'd left or something since I was a little late. Then I heard my name being called from the floor above. There he was! And we met, and I hugged him, and he was all, "...Oh yeah, you're a hugger." He was not a hugger, but he was also not not a hugger. He was whatever you wanted him to be.
The bowling alley was right down Fourth Street, in the heart of Fourth Street Live! Exclamation point theirs, not mine. There was a huge concentration of bars and pubs and saloons and restaurants in one stretch of the street, and you had to have your ID checked before proceeding into the general area. Also, for some reason, Lonestar was playing a concert in the street. They are a somewhat famous band?
We navigated through the crowd. I totally saw Ciby and his white Caucasian she-devil companion from dinner, but he didn't respond when I called his name. I fail at being Indian.
Lucky Strike was unlike any bowling alley I'd ever been to. It was quite fancy and well kept, and they served really good food. The menu looked awesome, but I could not resist the tuna lollipops. That's what they were called! Seared Ahi tuna on little skewers, glazed with sweet chili sauce. And they were so yummy and tender! Totally the best food I've ever had in a bowling alley.
Also, our waitress wore a black miniskirt and fishnets. Yeah, I liked this place.
And so, we bowled. Chris bowled like a regular person:
I, on the other hand, bowled like a spaz:
It was all part of my technique, though! I was not as bad as I thought, really; I managed to get off a strike or two. It was a very close game because we both had good frames and bad frames.
I totally won, though. That was our warm-up game!
And then I won again. Boo-yah. We both did better the second game, however, as you can see.
After bowling, we looked for the comedy club, which Chris knew was nearby. We went ahead and got tickets; I bought one for Mal since she was definitely coming. The ticket girl warned us that the show contained mature content.
We passed scantily clad women outside a bar on our way out of Fourth Street Live! I was not used to this scene! I felt mildly uncomfortable, like, "You want me to look at you, right? That's kind of your job and purpose for this establishment? Even though your boobs will not get me inside?"
Back at the hotel lobby, I showed Chris the sign I had noticed:
I...I just...I mean...what can I even say? My favorite part is the picture and caption. I didn't even notice the clusterfuck of "socieity" until Chris pointed it out.
Since we were seeing Tracy Morgan tomorrow, I decided that it felt appropriate and right to go ahead and watch the 30 Rock premiere early on Hulu. Thus, I could get Chris in my room! Not for sexy shenanigans, but to take pictures of me in my very cunning hat.
Chris hadn't stayed at the Galt House in years, maybe not since MathCounts (remember MathCounts??). They'd upgraded since then! We looked out my window, and Chris, a Louisville native, pointed out where everything was. I noted that I could see Indiana. I felt like Sarah Palin.
(It was sort of strange hanging out with Chris because although I had not even talked to him on the phone before coming to Louisville, I still pretty much knew what he would be like in person. Because he was just like he was on TV! [He's appeared on both Jeopardy! and World Series of Pop Culture.] So there were no surprises there.)
We watched 30 Rock on my laptop, and, lo, it was good! Afterward, we of course watched hilarious videos on the Internet. Like "George Washington." And then I kicked him out so I could go to sleep.
The best is yet to come, my friends. Tune in tomorrow to see what happens when medical writers go out to lunch, 30 Rock fans go see Tracy Morgan, and nerds go to a science museum.