Sunday, March 15, 2009

Processing What CCCC 2009 Meant to Me

I'm at the airport in San Francisco about four hours before my flight, the red-eye to Minneapolis where I'll transfer to a Hartford flight, arriving close to lunch tomorrow. Having grown up in the Central time zone, I'll often joke with Da Man--who grew up with Eastern--about which time zone is "correct." I don't think either of us will ever want to argue for Pacific. It's only three hours, but I'm too used to things over on the other side. As Da Man said, "If it's good enough for the Founding Fathers, it's good enough for me."

But this has been a pretty damn good trip. If it hasn't already, the complaining will begin soon. And, sure, sometimes we have to complain to make needed change happen, but it seems like I hear the same complaints about CCCC every year, that it's out of touch and too massive and too expensive, that too many people read their papers or that too many people didn't put enough effort into their presentations and spoke off-the-cuff too much. I've been going to this conference off-and-on since 1996, so I've heard a lot of complaints. And maybe they are justified. Maybe I'm not invested enough in the field to see what should happen. But that fact remains that I always leave this conference inspired.

Some of the inspiration is professional. My presentation went better than I exepcted. I had people stop me throughout the day to comment on it, which I wasn't expecting. All joking aside about a PowerPoint full of pensises, I do think porn is worth talking about, and I'll continue to do so. I now know others are open to hearing it.

Also, I'm inspired to continue thinking of myself as a teacher first and a scholar second. It's how I've thought of myself for a long time, but I didn't say it a lot because there is a certain amount of shame that comes with putting teaching first, at leasat in academia in general. But I got tenure with that attitude, and I know I can and shoudl maintain it. The panels that I attended where people talked specifically about what they did in the classroom were, as always, my favorites. I got a lot of ideas. After Jenny's panel, I'd love to incorporate some archival work into my classes. And from other panel, I came away with a list of readings or assignments or ideas. The only time I was disappointed was when one panel was less about teaching than it sounded. Ah, well. I'm sure it worked for others in the audience.

At various points, I ran into each of the colleagues from Univ. of Illinois at Chicago who did their job search the same year I did. Back in 2003, we each found good jobs. And in 2009, we each earned tenure at them. That was great to hear, whether we were close or not. I also got to spend several hours yesterday with one of my best friends from my years at Ohio State, a woman who also went on the market and started her job in 2003. She earned tenure this year, too, which makes me so happy. She was actually in literature but with a strong rhet/comp background, and we meet back in 1995. She spent many Thanksgivings and July Fourths are our place, calling Da Man and I her Ohio family. I hadn't seen her since 2003 when we all went to dinner with our mentor before moving to other parts of the country. Since then, she'd married, and I got to meet her husband yesterday, too. And he's way better for her than either of the guys she dated seriously back in Ohio. Da Man didn't feel like he was missing anything by not joining me on this trip until he heard that she had flown in. She hadn't told any of us and just called my room and left a message on Thursday. It's great to see so many people from my grad school days doing well.

That partly exemplifes how conferences for me are not just about the professional inspiration. I usually do see people from my past who played a role in the person and professional that I've become, and it's great to feel like I've grown. It reminds me of the work I did to get to this point in my life and the work I have to do to stay here (or continuing moving in the directions I want).

I guess you could say it's also inspiring to be in a great city like San Francisco. I've only been here twice, but I've had a blast both times. Yes, "gay-friendly" does not even begin to describe this city, and it's great to have a range of places to choose from for a night out. And it's great to have a good time, too. Okay, I will admit that I get hit on more in San Francisco than anywhere else. Even happily-married, middle-aged, overweight guys like to get attention now and then. Da Man was not sorry he missed seeing any of that happen.

But there's more, too. I spent a good chunk of today at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It was free since it was Family Day sponsered by Target. Thanks, Target! And, about six months ago, they started allowing people to take photos of the art (without flash). As soon as I heard that, I geeked out. I took about three hundred photos. I got up close and just took shots of bright colors and odd lines. I got on the floor to get some odd-angled shots of various sculptures. They don't allow photos of all exhibits, and I did get told twice to stop, but it's not like I saw any signs and knew what was allowed when. And they didn't make me delete anything I took. I can't wait to download them and seee what came out. Working without flash or tripod can be tricky, but out of three hundred, some have to be good. I realized once again that a contemporary art museum is always a happy place for me to be. I need to go to them more often, which I know I've said before.

All this said, though, I think I'll be opting out of CCCC 2010 in Lousiville. I had a blast when I went to the Watson conference there in 2006, but I often need a break from the intense energy of CCCC, which is why I like to have a city in which I can wander, places where I know I can "hide" a bit, whether those places be clubs or museums like I did on this trip. And Louisville isn't that kind of place for me. Plus, there are some other conferences I'm thinking of for next year.

At any rate, CCCC 2009 was a hit in my book. I'm ready to get home, really ready. But I'm glad I came.

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