Today I did something very bold, though for many of you the tale I am about to tell will seem rather tame. (I just love alliteration)
I’m taking a course, Contemporary Literature and Film of the Southwest. It’s a great class. The teacher is so enthusiastic about the works we read and the films we see that even though they are not the genre I would generally be attracted to, I find myself wanting to explore them. (Westerns being one example). And while viewing what I generally consider “entertainment” (films) through a socio-political lens, and trying to ascribe deeper layers of meaning is intellectually challenging for me, I’m finding it rather stimulating. (Example, Gary Cooper’s High Noon was really about /was a statement against McCarthyism). This kind of thinking is really putting my brain through some serious aerobic exercise. And I like it. I may not be good at it yet, but I like.
The class has both graduate and undergraduate students, and as a graduate, our requirements for the class are different. In fact, being a graduate student is different (more on that later). In this class a large portion of our grade will be determined by a conference paper that we will write. The topic, entirely our own choosing. We are required to submit an abstract to a conference, and of course write the actual paper… and if the abstract is accepted, potentially present the paper at an academic conference. (eeek!)
I had no idea what a conference paper was, making the assignment very intimidating. Once I wrapped my head around the concept, I had an idea to write about Blogs as the New Regionalism. To make a long story short, the more I looked a blogs, the less foundation I felt I had to make such a case.
With some guidance from the professor, I’m going in a new direction, and he suggested I check out this conference session at the American Studies Association:
Histories of the Dust Heap: Waste, Material Cultures, Social Justice, which included a presentation by Stephanie Foote, “Enviroblogging: Green Spaces in the Virtual World.”
While the topic is not exactly relevant to my paper, I decided to check it out.
Fact: I am not a member of the American Studies Association
Fact: I am not really sure what “American Studies” is
Fact: I’ve never been to an academic conference
Fact: I was not registered for the conference
Fact: I have never crashed a party in my life.
The conference was taking place a mere 2 miles from my house, I decided to go for it. First I had a fashion crisis– I wanted to look like I belonged. The first two pairs of pants I tried on were too tight (damn, I thought with all the walking I’ve been doing I’d lost some weight). The third pair fit just right. Basic black dress pants. I added a black and white striped button-down blouse for a business casual but not too chic look. These are academics, afterall. (no slam against academics, but they are not known fashionistas– too busy thinking about bigger issues I think).
And off I went. The conference center is where the David Byrne concert was held (he’s a musical genius, you know) so I knew where I was going. I even parked at the Double Tree Hotel right next door. I arrived at the conference center with seconds to spare…. actually by the time I found the room, they had already started. A quick check of the map and determined stride and I must have looked like I belonged. No one questioned me except to ask where the West side rooms were.
And so now I know what a conference paper is, I took some notes of some big words I can use in my paper, and I have a pretty good idea of what is expected as far as “presenting” the paper should mine be accepted.
And I have crashed my first party. (does it count that it was an academic conference?)
Bonus: the parking attendant at the Double Tree must have been on break, I got to park for free ($5 savings, good for one burrito at The Fronteir)
Note: The David Byrne Concert was awesome. His new music rocks. His dancers were phenomenal. The lighting sublime. The old music with a slightly updated remix was fun. If he tours in your direction I encourage you to go. Well worth the time and money.