Write the Docs Conference: Day One of Two

I’m traveling. I’m at a professional conference in Portland. This turns my well-planned days and nights upside down. No gym. Less control of food availability and type. But it’s part of the life of an older person trying to stay healthy or become more healthy, so I guess I’ll chronicle it in my virtual “old man’s gym”. Here we go.

Conference day one. I know. An odd thing to write about, right? Well, since last Sunday night (May 17th), I’ve been in Portland. My employer encouraged me to attend such a conference for my professional development. Interrupting my regularly scheduled life in order to visit Portland for three days has shown me just how routinized my life has become. Even though such a trip from my home near Boise should be relatively routine, in fact, it’s been almost traumatic.

I stayed a The Ace Hotel the first night in the front of the hotel. More on that in a minute. I ate dinner at Kenny and Zukes deli and had an enormous pastrami and roast beef sandwich. Actually, I had only half the sandwich. I saved the other half for breakfast, and it was still delicious.

Having a room facing SW Stark Ave allowed me to experience every street noise available, which included an inordinate number of garbage trucks making their rounds during the wee hours of when I should have been asleep. I know I did sleep because I remember dreaming, but I also remember being awake a lot. I must have been, because when 5:30 a.m. rolled around and I decided to get up, I was exhausted.

The closest coffee place didn’t open until six and somehow I managed to survive. I’m at the conference now (as I write this portion of the blog post) and while everyone else is eating breakfast and catching up with acquaintances, I’m sucking on a second cup of coffee and writing this.

Oh, I could have “second breakfast,” but I’ll try to extend my goals into this three-day atypical experience but not overeating (if I can at all help it).

Even though this is supposed to be my rest week, I miss access to a gym. The “boutique hotel” I was in last night wasn’t physically or conceptually designed to have exercise facilities. I feel like I’ve entered “counter-culture land”. What’s an old writer and gym rat from Boise, Idaho doing here?

I took a page from this blogger’s notebook and packed only what would fit in a backpack. I say this because the gentleman sitting next to me didn’t get his luggage until late last night or very early this morning. Guess he’s been here for an extra day or so.

You can’t lose your luggage if it’s always with you.

About three or four people at my table know each other and are engaged in active conversation. The rest of us are hovering over our Macs keyboarding away. Nothing else to do until the keynote starts talking. That’s still about seventeen minutes from now.

Bob Dylan (among others) once sang “Time passes slowly when you’re looking for love.” It also passes slowly when you’re isolated in a room full of people you don’t know and waiting for a professional conference to get started.

Yuk. This is going to be one of those days when all the (bad) coffee in the world isn’t going to be enough to get my brain to come online.

Oh, here’s a list of the speakers presenting today and tomorrow. Pretty impressive actually. No, I’ve never heard of a single one, but the companies they work for a well-known.

The one thing this situation does feed is my interest in people watching. Fascinating variety.

Great keynote by Marcia Johnston, “We are Abbott and Costello”. You might not understand that reference unless you know of their famous bit “Who’s on First”. For a group of communicators or sometimes miscommunicators, it was an illuminating lesson.

I thought I’d be surrounded by a bunch of young kids but Marcia is older than I am and wrote her first piece of documentation as a technical writer in 1983, just when I was entering grad school. If I get the chance, I’m going to have to thank her for saving me from feeling old.

In addition to coffee and water, I had a couple of slices of honeydew melon and a small cup of uninspiring yogurt. I had to get out of the conference for lunch and found a place called Masu Sushi about a block away. Nice and quiet. Had miso soup and chicken gyoza.

I’ll spare you the details of the rest of the day except to say that sitting still listening to various speakers alternating with listening to the drone of crowds and trying to avoid bumping into the mass of humanity while walking to and from the bathroom can be very tiring.

Three hours after lunch I gave up on eating sensibly and just tried to keep my hunger satisfied.

When the day ended, I found my hotel where I’ll be staying for the rest of the conference and checked in. I’m on the fourth (top) floor and after taking the elevator once, I decided to take the stairs up and down for the remainder of my stay.

The most interesting if annoying part of this place is that there are no bathrooms in the hotel rooms. They’re shared accommodations. Fortunately, I haven’t found the bathroom nearest me occupied so far.

It’s early morning now and I’m already showered and coffee’d up.

Travel makes a mess of eating sensibly and forget about exercise. If I do this again, I’ll have to try to find a nearby hotel with some sort of gym.

I have been doing some walking, but while “life on the streets” is interesting, it doesn’t always feel safe, especially the further away I walk from familiar surroundings (and almost nothing is familiar).

Day two of the conference is coming up.

We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.

Maya Angelou


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