Sunday, October 25, 2009

GEMCS 2009

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.


medieval woman said...

I'm really glad you guys had a good conference travel together - you know I'm a fan of you both individually and as a team! And it sounds like you made the best of Dallas that you possibly could - hell, lady - you deserve kudos even for that!

But I'm glad it went well!

Anonymous said...

I was at GEMCS, too, and was most irritated that I didn't even get an evaluation so that I could request that the conference never be held in Dallas again. (I typed "Dallass" twice, which indicates my feelings on the city -- I also went to SAA 2008 and did not find the city improved over the past 18 months. But then I refused for budgetary reasons to do anything outside of walking distance.)

The panels were great -- even the TERRIBLE organization couldn't hurt that. But my God, when my travel companion and I went to register on Thursday at 4:30 -- half an hour before registration was supposed to close -- and the only thing waiting for us was a flyer with those convoluted directions to the opening reception? I was annoyed. We did not go to the reception, incidentally, *because* of those directions.

The program was posted unconscionably late -- so late that plane fares had gone up by the time we could buy them; the program itself was impossible to read because it was not formatted at all; the registration booth wasn't staffed when it was supposed to be; Dallas is a terrible city for a conference; and yet GEMCS was great, in spite of all that. Oh, GEMCS. I'll still make passé references to Brokeback Mountain about you.

Flavia said...

Anon: indeed, the registration booth had been abandoned well before four p.m. on the first day, according to Cosimo. (And on subsequent days the staffers kept failing to give friends of mine registration packets, or drink tickets, and the like.)

It was catastrophically organized. How it always winds up being so much fun is a mystery.

src said...

Perhaps "fun" is not a direct result of "organized in an extremely orderly fashion." :)

captcha: 'coutchi'

G-Fav said...

Watch it, Flavia! Constructive criticism usually leads to one being nominated for a seat on the organizing committee!


ps You're lucky it wasn't in San Antonio, the city of humidity and mold. We've returned to hotel rooms with puddles of water on horizontal surfaces.

i said...

It's true -- Dallas is not a great place for a conference, mainly because the hotels are downtown, where almost no Dallas life takes place. Still, judging the city by what goes on downtown is like staying in the Madrid-Barajas airport hotel (something I've done) and thinking that Madrid is an industrial wasteland with nothing to do based on what's in the immediate vicinity of the hotel. I can't imagine even attending a conference at, say, Columbia University and not at some point taking a cab or subway to see something interesting.

That said, although most of Dallas is only accessible by car and the cabs are truly expensive, the arts district is reachable by foot, and the Uptown-West Village area is reachable by DART light rail and by a free trolley that starts downtown. Knox Henderson, which has great restaurants and good shopping (if you like antiques and the like), is reachable by bus.

Doctor Cleveland said...

Actually, G-Fav, this conference has already been to San Antonio, and thrived there. (What can I say? GEMCS is a novelty-coonskin-cap kind of conference, and I mean that in the good way.)

Flavia, it was delightful seeing your panel, which was startlingly good. And I believe I witnessed your public display as well, at which I enjoyed a not-entirely-well-considered chuckle.