I'm just home from GEMCS, which was unusually small and even-more-than-usually disorganized this year. The first I can blame on Dallas, which seems to have been universally loathed as a conference destination when it hosted the 2008 SAA (almost no one I know who attended that SAA made it to this GEMCS), and the second I can blame on. . . well, I won't blame anyone publicly for the second.
And indeed, Dallas and I did not get off to a good start. The cabdrivers were a combination of hostile, overly-chatty, and incompetent, while the hotel rooms were huge and self-consciously luxe--but evidently designed by someone who had never actually stayed in a hotel room: mine was twice as big as any room I've ever stayed in for a conference (and three times as big as some), with vast acres of unused space. It lacked drawers in the obvious and necessary places, was poorly lit, and the bathroom was missing towel racks and had a shaving/makeup mirror I couldn't see into even when wearing two-and-a-half-inch heels.
Then there was the opening reception, in a beautiful space tremendously hard to get to (the organizers helpfully gave instructions involving first one train and then one bus, which, I'm sorry: ain't happening when half the attendees have barely gotten off a plane and had time to shower by that hour).
But things got better. For one thing, I knew or met people with cars. For another, my paper session was relatively early. For a third--well, it's hard not to have fun at GEMCS. It's a winsome mess of a conference every year, like that college-era boy- or girlfriend you can't stay mad at because they're so much fun (though whether said conference is the one you want to marry is another question).
For the first time I was on a panel entirely with friends, people I'd known in graduate school, though not people I'd known equally well or all of whom work in my period--and that was fantastic, as was spending so much time with them; we'd exchanged work before the conference, so I spent my plane flight reading their chapter and article drafts and we had a work huddle later in the weekend, which was exhilarating in all the ways that one's own work so rarely is.
We also had another grad school friend who'd just gotten a job in the area, and she was determined to get us the hell out of downtown and show us a good time. Said good time involved spending hundreds of dollars at a designer consignment shop, swilling much too much booze, and eating all manner of Things Barbecued and Things Fried--but it was a blast, and proved that there is indeed fun to be had in Dallas.
This is also the second conference I've gone to with Cosimo, who's in an adjacent subfield, and that was lovely too--he's got hilarious, brilliant friends of his own, and it's fun to share them and the conference experience; it also feels satisfyingly efficient to be able to combine work-travel with relationship-travel.
So thanks, GEMCS, for coming through. Maybe even my first-day public display of bitchiness--totally warranted, but not entirely well-considered--will have passed into oblivion before we meet again.