Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Georgia on my mind

This is mostly a post coming out of obligation. I went to Georgia two weeks ago for a Journalism Conference and, it being my first time in the South and a substantial trip, I figured I better blog about it.

I left at the break of Dawn on Sunday for what would be my 2nd-ever trip on a plane (roundtrip counting as one) and my first plane ride without the nametag. I remember the night before thinking, "man, I wish I could take my Ipod and a book" when it struck me, "you're not a schmuck with a tie and a nametag, you CAN take your Ipod and a book...gall darn it, you can even watch the movie."

The movie turned out to be Date Night. It's funny, but I had seen it so I stuck with my book, a not-appropriate-for-the-situation expose on 9/11. Good think I'm not superstitious, still, I tried to cover it up so the people next to me wouldn't see.

When I got to Atlanta I had about an hour and a half to kill before my reserved shuttle picked me up. I walk around a little bit, tried to stay indoors away from the crippling humidity and after what seemed like a brief time it came. There were about 8 of us MSCNE people on it and we played a multiply-repeated name game as every new comer arrived and then chatted for most of the drive about how awesome Inception was. (I am SO sorry for not posting my review, now it almost seems too late).

At the Holiday Inn in Athens, GA I met my roommate, Ian from Florida, who had conveniently dead-bolted me out of the room. It's always a little spooky walking into a room where your going to meet the person who will be sleeping 8 feet from you for a week. Ultimately, Ian turned out to be a total stud but we spent an awkward 2 hours watching TV waiting for dinner.

I won't bore you with the day to day. Basically we started every day at 8:00 a.m. and finished around 8:00 p.m. where we would crash for an hour and then head out to the bar, no joke, every night. Usually before venturing out we would stop by the room beneath us where our collegues would have a pre-bar drinking extravaganza. Again, every night.

In the forefront of this picture is Vinny "The Knife" also known as "The Hot Italian." Vinny, like many of the cats I ran with that week was legally underage (not me, as it turns out I was THE OLDEST PERSON ATTENDING THE CONFERENCE, a fact that vexed me...I was extremely vexed) and as such took full advantage of the hotel parties. This picture was taken on Sunday night where we left Vinny to explore the streets and the next morning he couldn't remember going back to his room or why there was the residue of vomit on his toilet seat.

The first two nights in Athens we hit up The Rye Bar, mostly because they didn't ID people and secondly because they had live music every night. The music was actually pretty darn good and since there were only a dozen people in the bar, we had a really good view. I've learned in these situation that people don't bug you to consume as long as your drinking something, I actually don't drink pop but since I hate asking for Juice at a bar (man, they really hassle you) I double broke my rule and got a fairly sized glass of Red Bull from the tap (for free, I love being the designated) and subsequently did not sleep for one minute that night. No exageration.

We did do some work. We toured UGA paper "The Red and Black" whose newsroom is a two-story building fully independent and off campus that is about the size of the building that USU's department of Journalism SHARES with Nursing. Architecturally speaking, the Red and Black is considerable more impressive.

For our last night in Athens we hung out at The Taco Stand, a bar, obviously, that serves Mexican food. Despite the fact that we'd be waking up at 7 we stayed out till about 3 in the morning. This was Wednesday night, and my being one of those Mormons finally came up (pretty good since I had been abstaining for 4 nights straight). After a quick round of Q&A (You guys don't eat chocolate? Do you all wear short ties?), which included my favorite How far do you guys go? (referring to carnal relations). I love this question because it always descends into a round of base-defining (everybody seems to have their own reckoning of the base system) and then after I answer (I round up to second, which technically is wrong, but you have to ease people into the idea of living in a Cult), and then a round of innuendo-filled baseball jokes are made. Classic.

To end the night we all took tequila shots (Coke for me. Kate, a lovely girl, asked the bartender for something for "her mormon friend," it would have been impolite and awkward to say, "oh, I don't drink soda either" plus they would have assumed it was a mormon thing). It actually took 2 tries because Fitz (who spent one crazy night in SLC once, aske me about it sometime) dropped a tray of 8 shots. He was a little buzzed at the time.

Thursday we headed back to Atlanta in what was without a doubt the most miserable bus ride of my life. So, so tired. Once there we checked into the swanky Hilton Gardon Inn and went out for a bite at Johny Rockets where I introduced the crowd to the art of Utah's Famous Fry Sauce.

I made everyone try it, and they all loved it of course. Except for Dallas, who remained skeptical.

That really is a shot of her looking at me in disdain as I create my concoction.

Half of the gang at Johnny's (the other half is behind the picture taker). In case you can't tell, that's me double strawing a milk shake with Anna from Washington. She's got a boyfriend (all the best one's do).

After a lunch the guys ran back to the hotel and changed into our "business casual" for a meet and great with CNN reporters and a tour of the building. Which, in and of itself, is an enormous gaudy monument to the glory of all things journalism.

Riding up the world's longest suspended escalator with M. and M. (8 floors, only connected at the top and bottom) at CNN.

After CNN we had our closing dinner (good chicken), lounged in the outdoor pool at the Hilton, 8 floors up, waterfalls, and overlooking the skyline (good view, in more ways than one bada-bing) and then 30 or so of us headed to Taco Mex where we could find ourselves some darned alcohol. We drove up a pretty sizeable tab and Merideth was kind enough to sneak "The Knife" a few Guinnesses and Ian got his Dos Equis. For me, a big Mr. Pib (no Dr. Pepper in Georgia) and some chili cheese fries.

We laughed, we drank, we then we gave our heartfelt goodbyes. We didn't know each other from Adam but in 5 days we were family.

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