I got in Wednesday a little after 3. I was staying at the Courtyard Marriott, which...was disappointing. I felt really spoiled, but I'd gotten used to the fancier hotels. I needed a concierge! But we'd booked pretty late, and all the good hotels were full. For lunch, I scurried across to Bill's Bar-B-Q for a barbecue chicken sandwich. I was deep in the heart of Texas, after all.
I took a shuttle to the convention center and picked up my registration materials just in time to make it to the educational session on emerging targets. One of the sponsors for one of our trials was speaking, so it was neat to see and hear him in person after only knowing his name all this time. It was a standing-room-only crowd!
My dinner plans had fallen through, so Francie and I explored the River Walk and settled on Dick's, where the waiters were all smart-asses. It was...an interesting experience. Our waitress, Ashley, was really cute, and she wasn't as jerk-y as she could have been, thankfully, since we weren't really in the mood to be fucked around with (yet we had walked in of our own will anyway). She responded to our questions with slight belligerence and ran through the menu extremely rapidly, not really caring if we understood her. Napkins? She threw them all over the table. My (fried) catfish? Came on top of a bucket. (The top of the bucket was covered with paper, and the fish was on top, and I wasn't sure whether there was anything inside; she saw me fiddling with it and told me there was nothing in it before I got too far.) I also got some fried shrimp, and Francie got fried crab balls. I think even our pink lemonade was fried. The catfish was not as tasty, and I tried to no avail to peel away the fried part and just eat the fish. It was really messy. I gave up after a while. Finally, Ashley came by to adorn Francie with a condom-shaped paper hat that read, "I had more balls in my face than a seal." She would have none of that bullshit, so I wore it for a while.
Back at the hotel, I spent five hours doing this.
Thursday, the convention really started, which meant it was time to attempt to stay awake during presentations. It was difficult. After a while, I gave up and checked into work on my loaner laptop. For lunch, I walked to Azuca, where I had very oily garlic-fried plantains, some good coconut shrimp, and too salty pumpkinseed-crusted chicken. I read a book, since I was by myself.
There was one cool talk in the afternoon, though, where I learned that primary tumor growth and metastatic tumor growth are distinct. They don't work the same way, they don't use the same genes, and you can actually suppress metastatic growth without affecting the primary tumor. So that should definitely be considered a therapeutic target. Come on, SCIENCE.
Afterward, I met up with my boss, and we met some other co-workers for drinks at a hotel bar, a common end-of-day pastime. From there, we went to a meeting, where there were more drinks. And then it was time for a reception for people involved in our breast cancer trials, at which there were more drinks. But also: food! Whew. Garlic shrimp and chicken fajitas.
It was here that I got to have another work Internet meet-up. I met three of the women who help run the studies. One I had not communicated with yet because she was new. One I had not communicated with personally but I knew her name because I had CCed her on e-mails. And one I had e-mailed quite a bit and even talked to on the phone a couple times! To my surprise, she was A) totally cute and B) 24. So young for a project manager! It was really cool to meet her in person. She even asked me how my Arizona/Texas/Kentucky trip had gone; I'd forgotten I'd told her about it.
As the reception wound down, my boss invited everyone to come out for drinks. This is what business is all about, I have gathered. There's a lot of drinking involved. I don't think it's unique to the pharmaceutical industry.
We went to a place on the River Walk, Boudro's, where I had a Coke. I got to talk to my e-mail buddies some more, which was fun. And then there was more! Yes, the night went on!
The place was Club Rive (pronounced like Belle Reve), and there was a line outside! Club Rive was like one of those crazy places you see in the movies. Down by the entrance was a little bar where a band (the Atomic Playboys) was playing. Currently, they were singing "I Love Rock 'N Roll," except they were doing it "I love smoking dope, so come on and get high with me." Down the hallway was a room with go-go dancers on poles (they weren't stripping, just dancing with very little clothing). We went up the stairs, and there was another room with electronica, one dancing girl with glowsticks, and a foreign film playing on the wall. This was also a hookah bar. Around the corner was a very packed club with your typical hip-hop/rap junk playing. This place was nuts. As we had walked in, there were people making out on a couch, and in the hip-hop club, there was all that grinding going on. I FIT RIGHT IN, YOU KNOW?
We set up shop in the hookah bar, since it had comfy cushions to sit on. Some dancing commenced. I burned off calories gained from all the fried food I'd been eating. I was strangely interested in the random foreign film that was playing, though. It appeared to be about some guy whose business was...olive oil. And there was a cute blonde chick with lots of angst and existential drama or something. I kept trying to read the subtitles while dancing.
Eventually, my e-mail buddies had to leave, but I discovered them later on checking out the Atomic Playboys, who were actually a pretty fun cover band. That was more my scene, so I hung out with them some more until they had to leave for real. The one I knew the best made little typing gestures and said, "We'll e-mail." It was cute.
I got back to my room around 2:30 or so. Did you see me in da club? I was in da club. I'm not usually in da club.
I slept in Friday morning, but I had to create an Excel file for my mom because she's completely computer illiterate. She had actually called the night before, but I was a little preoccupied, as you saw. For lunch, I went to Zuni Grill, where I had some amazing Ahi tuna. They prepared it like this: a tortilla strip, guacamole, a slab of tuna, and a jalapeño. SO AWESOME. That was the appetizer; for the meal, I had orange roughy stuffed with crab. I'd never had roughy before, and I didn't really know what it was, but it was some sort of whitefish. It tasted...all right, I guess.
After lunch, I had to check out a talk by one of my old mentors. When I had looked at the program, I noticed that one of the speakers was someone whose lab I'd worked in at Michigan! How cool was that? So I said hi, and he appeared to remember me, and that...was pretty much that. We hadn't had a lot of interaction when I'd worked in his lab, so I guess I shouldn't have expected more. I stayed for his talk and then left during the next one, knowing that I shouldn't waste time with things that were just going to go in one ear and out the other. After all, I could be back in my hotel room watching Pushing Daisies, The Office, and 30 Rock. And then taking an unexpected nap.
I was supposed to have dinner with someone that night, but I woke up after 8 and no one had called, so I was on my own again. This was becoming a theme. I walked to Market Square and found a Mexican restaurant, where I munched on chips and salsa and drank strawberry soda. I ordered some chile con queso and a very hearty chicken tortilla soup with large chunks of chicken. I also got three chicken enchiladas: unfortunately, I was not a huge fan of the mole sauce. It was too...dark? I don't know. I thought I liked mole.
Friday night, I stayed up past 2 for the third night in a row, but I can't remember what I was doing the whole time. So instead, I will use this space to note that before I left the convention center, I ran into the woman I CCed on e-mails at the EthicalMedical.net booth and was able to personally ask her for help with a site issue. Right in front of me, she made a phone call to the appropriate person and took care of it. That's doing business! In return, I recommended she go to Zuni Grill for lunch and order the Ahi tuna.
Saturday, I slept in again, as the only talk I wanted to see in the morning was at 11:30. I had a business lunch with a co-worker to discuss my medical writing future. We ate at Landry's Seafood, which was really good. For an appetizer, we had shrimp remoulade. I'm not entirely sure what remoulade is, but it tastes good on shrimp. And in the spirit of trying fish I wouldn't be able to find in the Bay Area, I ordered redfish, a "Gulf favorite." It was a standard whitefish, and I'm not sure what I think of it as a fish, but the lemon-pepper crust was excellent. Plus, I got it topped with shrimp and crab and scallops and a little cream sauce. And then for dessert, we had their version of bananas Foster, which involved a crepe and ice cream and bananas and chocolate syrup. Mmm.
The weather was great and I had nothing to go to in the afternoon, so I walked to the Alamo since I was in San Antonio and ought to see the Alamo, right? It was kind of small. But it does have quite a history, and reading about it reminded me of said history and all it means and represents. Of course, I also got spoiled for Dracula. Yes, the Bram Stoker novel that I have not yet read yet. Did YOU know that Dracula gets killed with a BOWIE KNIFE?!?!
I walked back to the convention center and waited for my brother. Yes, my brother! He goes to Trinity.
"Stop reading your book and cross the street," he said, so I did, and hugged him. We went to Silo, which boasted "elevated cuisine"...because you had to take an elevator to get there. I thought it was going to be one of those revolving restaurants.
Ironically, even though it was he who inspired me to start eating seafood, I am far more along in my pesceducation than he is (then again, I have more opportunity). The specialty of the place was chicken fried oysters, so we got those. And my brother had his eye on the duck spring rolls, so we got those too. I asked what the chef recommended for someone who was just starting to eat seafood, and the answer came back: the (Chilean, maybe?) sea bass or the scallops, since they had a mild flavor. Except I didn't think sea bass was that hot and I was pretty sure it was bad for the environment or something (shit, orange roughy was on the AVOID list...oops, well, er, I will have no problem avoiding it in the future...and, hm, there's a white sea bass and a Chilean sea bass, and one of them is good and one of them is bad?) and scallops weren't all that special. So I told my brother to get the salmon, since he'd only had cafeteria salmon and he should have some good salmon. It was my First Fish! We bet the chef hated us for not taking his recommendation. I, on the other hand, opted for the seared Szechuan peppercorn yellowfin tuna (wait, shit, yellowfin tuna is also bad if it's...longline? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHAT KIND OF LINE THEY USED?). The menu item had a little "(M.R.)" in the description, which the waitress explained meant "medium rare." Uh, isn't it supposed to be actually rare? That's how tuna steaks are supposed to be! That's what I signed up for! She was just as confused as I was; it had only shown up recently. I asked for it rare. Did I want her to make extra rare? Hee, no, just regular old seared and rare.
Conveniently enough, Kiran qualified for the prix fixe menu since we were there before 6:30. For the same price as just getting the salmon, he would get a salad and dessert as well. What a bargain! And good for me, since I was buying him dinner for his upcoming birthday.
We had some really good bread to munch on as well. My brother liked it a lot, so I asked our waitress what it was, and she was glad we liked it because they were really excited about it since they had just gotten it in and...she never actually told us what it was, just that it was a French baguette of some sort.
Our plates came well prepared and well dressed. My tuna was nice and pink in the middle, which freaked my brother out. When he had a bite, he couldn't taste much besides the peppercorn; it was a bit strong. He liked his salmon.
For dessert, Kiran chose crème brûlée, since he had always wanted to try it. Aww, I was totally introducing my brother to fine dining. And here I'd already had regular crème brûlée and chocolate crème brûlée and pumpkin crème brûlée. The company dime is the best dime there is. I got chocolate mousse. He did enjoy his dessert, especially the hard sugary top.
After our expensive meal (he had even dressed up!), we went back to his apartment, where we discovered that Happy Gilmore was showing on Bravo. So we lay together on the bed and watched it. It's still hilarious, but oh my God, you can't say ANYTHING on Bravo, what the hell. "Cut that stuff out." "Where were you on that one, dummy?" "Now I have another reason: beating your head." "The price is wrong, Bobby!" "I eat pieces of scum like you for breakfast." "Jackass!" Wait, you can say "jackass," but you can't say "ass"? You can say "ass" on the RADIO, for fuck's sake. THIS IS CABLE TELEVISION. (Also, they cut the scene I was waiting for of that one kid going into the batting cage after Happy and unsuccessfully trying to take the ball.)
Then it was time for the Xbox. First up: a demo of Super Street Fighter, where we could only fight as Ryu and Ken. He was Ryu and I was Ken. He was destroying me until I finally discovered the strong punch and strong kick buttons, at which point we were about even, although we still button-mashed our ways to victory. We quit once we were 3-3. Then we played some Left 4 Dead and killed a shitload of zombies, holy shit that game is psychotic. The zombie horde is nuts! And the level changes every time so they don't always attack at the same place at the same time! We played online, too, which is when you sometimes get to be a zombie. We always ended up on opposite teams, so we made it a point to attack each other (with cries of "Screenhopper!"). Finally, I played a couple levels of Mirror's Edge, which took some getting used to. I still hadn't really gotten the hang of it when I had to call it a night a little before 2. But that's what Christmas vacation is for.
Best of all, my brother let me have a dozen of his CDs because he doesn't care about having physical CDs like I do. Half of them were albums I already had on mp3 and in my playlist, so now I don't have to buy them.
Sunday morning, I totally overslept; thankfully, I'd had no plans to see anything at the conference anyway. But my brother called and got me out of bed since he was picking me up for lunch. I quickly got ready and packed up and headed out. To Paesano's! (I wondered whether we'd see Mario: "Greetings, paesanos!")
Paesano's was kind of hilariously not that great. The calamari, rather than being rings, was more like steak fingers, really thick, and the sauce was just regular cocktail sauce with a kick. The "mixed greens" was iceberg lettuce with a few bits of other greens. They were out of red snapper, and the recommendation was the dreaded sea bass again. My chicken marsala was okay, but the chicken could have stood to be more tender, and the sauce could have been...better. The accompanying spaghetti tasted like it had come out of a can. The saving grace was that Kiran's lobster fettucine with shrimp and chipotle cream sauce was actually pretty good. Plus, we boxed up a lot of leftovers so he'll have some sustenance during finals.
Afterward, we hit...Amy's!! Yes, there was an Amy's in San Antonio! And waiting for us was Jaideep, whom I had learned all about Halos from. We hadn't seen each other since the M.D. Anderson summer program in 1999. And, as so often happens these days, I found him on Facebook a few months before I found myself in San Antonio.
They didn't have Cop Stop, which is perhaps my favorite if only for the amusing concept (donuts in coffee ice cream!). My brother got Belgian dark chocolate with Oreos, which was very tasty. And I got sweet potato pie with ginger snaps. I didn't think sweet potato pie ice cream would work, but it did, in its own way. Jaideep paid for all of us, which I decided was his penance for bailing on me Friday night (although it hadn't really been his fault, since he'd gotten called in for some emergency cases and his phone had died so he couldn't call me). My brother was applying to med schools, and Jaideep was a resident, so he gave my brother a shitload of advice on what lay ahead of him. I totally lost track of time, and we rushed to the airport.
At the airport, we said our exaggeratedly tearful goodbyes. "I MISS YOU SO MUCH. WHEN WILL I EVER SEE YOU AGAIN?!?! FRIDAY? OKAY."