Dallas is indeed a hellacious place in August, but it's survivable. Humidity is an amazing thing. Give me dry and dusty any day! (Any day in August, anyway...)
The conference I went to has generally been some of the best training that I attend in an average biennium. This year was slightly different. A few years ago, in the midst of one of those governmental shakeups that happen every so often just to see who's staying awake, the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse was officially kaput-ed. Bits and pieces of their operation were taken over by a brand new, made-up, state agency with a ridiculous acronym. (The agency's big-wigs threatened the employees with disciplinary action if they referred to the agency by the term "dishes" which is basically what the acronym spells.)
Over the past couple of years, the people who administered the training were either forced out or decided they didn't want to play anymore. This time there was a whole new team running the program.
Shake-ups aren't necessarily a bad thing. I'm generally a fan of change. I know all about those "last seven words" *.
The first speaker pridefully informed us that this training now complied with all - ALL - applicable state rules and regulations. Talk about a kiss of death! As a result the training was thoroughly and predictably horrible.
Thankfully, there were plenty of things to do after the classes ended each day. Jackson seldom made it back to the hotel before 10:00 or 11:00 at night, so I spent my evenings on blogger blind dates. The first was with Dijea.
We had a fabulous dinner at a Salvadoran restaurant. Just the thought of it makes me hungry. (Or maybe that's because it's supper time and we forgot to turn on the crock pot this morning!) Dijea has some wonderful stories - she kept me laughing the whole time. I felt like I'd known her forever - it was a great blind date!
Then she took me to a wonderful cemetery in downtown Dallas. Dijea has a great eye for photography and we had fun traipsing among the tombstones. Some of them were beautiful and some were just odd. I've got some great new material for cemetery blogging. One of her shots from that evening is posted on her blog. Check it out.
The next night I hooked up with a whole posse of revgals. We spent hours in an Indian restaurant, eating, drinking and laughing. I'd never had Indian food before, and I might be a convert. Which is bad, because there is basically NO Indian food to be had in this part of the state. We think Indian food is basically dried buffalo jerky and flatbread.
Dogblogger and Alpha, Mid-Life Rookie and Gifted/Talented, Mary Beth, Elastigirl and the Vicar of Hogsmeade were every bit as fun as you would think. When I got back to work, everyone wanted to know how the meetup went. I told them it was just like having lunch at work - nonstop laughter and instant camaraderie.
I was a little late for dinner because I drove by the place three times before I found it. That was ok, because on the third pass, I had a lovely conversation with a terribly exuberant Asian man in a big white SUV stopped next to me at the traffic light. Evidently I have a very friendly twin by the name of Misty living somewhere in the metroplex. I didn't have the heart to tell him it wasn't me.
My conference ended on Wednesday; Jackson's classes continued through Thursday. We returned my rental car Wednesday night and I rode along with him the next morning to his venue. I was going to explore downtown while he did his thing.
He had to be at the Hyatt Regency by 7:00 a.m., so we paid for parking and he headed off to class whiled I wandered around downtown. I wandered the streets for a while, watching the sun come up between the high rise buildings.
I cursed the humidity yet again when I first took my camera out of the bag. It was wet! I cleaned the lens and then tried to take a photo of the old red courthouse. The lens fogged up again before I could snap the picture. It turned out to be kind of a cool effect. I was getting sort of hungry, so I found a man taking out the trash and asked him where I could get a good breakfast. Garbage guys are always a wealth of information as well as surprisingly jolly people and this guy was no exception. He directed me a couple of blocks over to a good breakfast spot.
The restaurant was just opening up for the day. They hadn't even turned on the air conditioner. It was ungodly hot. Sweat was trickling down my spine while I ordered a couple of breakfast burritos and a diet coke. I decided to take 'em to go, since it was cooler outside. After collecting my repast, I hit the streets again. I wandered through the bus stops in the West End. The juxtaposition of wealth and poverty there is sort of mesmerizing. People came in hordes from every direction, trying to catch their ride to work. They carried sacks or bags and stared either at the ground or at me. Just one block away, people - mostly men - were arriving from the suburbs to their jobs down town. They carried briefcases and newspapers. They stared either at the ground or at me. I found a bench right in the middle between professional world and manual labor world. I shared the bench with a passed out guy. You can see him in this photo - below the walk sign, wearing white, sorta slumped on the bench. The burritos were bigger than I expected, and I was considering waking him up to offer him the second one, but I figured that wasn't really a very good idea. While I was snarfing my breakfast and managing not to spill hot sauce on my shirt - which was easily the most incredible event of the day - people continued to stream past us on the way to catch the bus. Without warning, one of them plopped down on the bench between Sleeping Beauty and I. (He didn't seem to mind. Or even notice.) The lady who squeezed in amongst us didn't have anything to say. She was carrying a tote bag and an almost empty bottle of orange soda. She sat there for a moment, surveyed her surroundings, then reached into her bag. She pulled out a whiskey bottle wrapped in a paper bag. I recognized the label, because I'd seen one just like it in the cemetery a couple of days before. She proceeded to fill the soda bottle with whiskey. There was just enough of the orange drink left in it to mask the color of the whiskey. Once that was done, she hopped up and hoofed it down the street to the bus stop. I finished my breakfast, then explored a while longer. You can see and appreciate tons more stuff when you're on foot. For instance, I had never seen the gargoyles on top of the old courthouse before. Have you? The courthouse wasn't officially open yet, but I snuck in through an unattended door and hung out with the security guard for a while. He was a fun guy who hooked me up with some trivia about the building. I figured he was way more interesting than the museum itself, so I left before actually taking a tour. It wasn't just past 8:00 a.m. and I was already tired of the sweating. So, I took a seat on the benches by the fountain in Dealey Plaza and watched the cars go by. It was cool just to watch people and pick out interesting details in the buildings around me. Eventually I decided to move, so I walked a little further on, close to the Dallas Morning News building. There was a fountain there that had a real Mary Poppins vibe. You'll be relieved to know that this did not make me sing. I snapped a few more pictures before heading back down to the Hyatt for the frozen comfort of their lobby. I passed this bit of electrical engineering which reminded me of the War of the Worlds. But, maybe that's just me. All in all, I had a great time. Maybe we can go back again before long. Hopefully in the WINTER.
* "We never did it this way before."