Monday, November 24, 2008

Like New York Only Cleaner

I spent the weekend plus a few days in Chicago for the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) annual conference -- I was there to present a poster, which is sort of like a speech pathology science fair, but these trips usually turn into several days of attending as much as a brain (and bottom) can tolerate then spending the rest of the time eating, drinking, and sightseeing. This trip was no exception.

I left on Wednesday morning to go to work then to stay with my friend and travel companion M., who lives much closer to BWI airport than I do for an early flight. In my recent state of the blues, I've had some cognitive decline and left my driver's license in the pocket of the pants I had on the night before in the laundry basket in my Alexandria apartment -- fortunately M.'s husband is the safety police and had insisted that we be at the airport 2 hours earlier and I caught it at 5:30 a.m. to be on a flight at 8:00. I live an hour from M.'s and an hour from the airport. It was close, but thanks to M. dragging my luggage around I made the flight (and set new landspeed records).

The rest of the trip seemed pretty tame after the initial hubbub. Chicago was really beautiful -- the architecture is amazing. We stayed in a modernized older hotel, and hung out in the Michigan Ave. area, all up and down it. We ate really good pizza (twice), had one very long night of cocktails and tapas (all of us were pushed over the edge when the hospital VP randomly rolled into the same bar we were in and bought us a round -- it was hugs and kisses all around as he called D. "Danielle", which is decidedly not her name, though he is somewhat known for this and has called everyone something else at some point with highlights of "Impala" for "Inbal" and "Jerusalem" for "Nazareth", frequently calling our husbands more than one name in the same conversation), got a late start in sightseeing as windy and hungover don't mesh well, stood in Millennium Park where Obama gave his address, and had the serendipity of being at the right place at the right time for a very fun, crowded Christmas-y parade on the Magnificent Mile.

The conference itself was hit or miss, as it tends to be. Our poster went smoothly, no hard questions and a visit from a bigwig in the industry, but some of the things I attended were frustratingly basic or didn't match the description in the program. I did get to hear an excellent talk from the guy I picked up at the wrong hotel in the spring for our conference, and learned a little something about how adults with traumatic brain injury do better remembering to do given tasks when they are prompted by a PDA or other electronic device vs. paper calendars (which is the most commonly used approach). I ran into several local colleagues and a few from far away places and got caught up on the latest SLP dirt (it's a very small world). I even had beers with a woman I wouldn't mind working for some day.

It's been hard for me to get up for doing almost anything lately, so I wasn't thrilled about taking this trip, but as soon as I got there the energy of a new place took over and I was loving it. I really want to go back to Chicago soon -- so much to see and do, without all of the interruptions from learnin'.

I was also very glad to be home, though, even if my first night back in my own bed was filled with crazy mashed up dreams that in two different circumstances mixed work people and scenarios with people and scenarios from The Shield. I woke up giggling and ready to get back to work.

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