Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NWP at NYC: Day Two

My second day in the City did start with something of a sense of urgency. The hotel somehow didn’t get me my wakeup call, so I overslept by about a half an hour or so. I had to walk about five blocks up to the Javits Center. Before nine. I had missed the Sun Belt first-morning-at-the-conference breakfast; the hotel it was at was in an inconvenient direction. They knew I wasn’t going to be there, so I felt a distinct lack of guilt about it.

About a block or so from the Javits Center I got my first cell phone call asking where I was. I told them and continued. In side the Javits Center it was another long walk to get to the opposite end. The first person I saw wasn’t a Sun Belter, but someone we all know and respect, Sherry Swain of the Mississippi Writing/Thinking Institute. She was talking with several Sun Belters. John, Cathy and Alyson were there, and also Whitney and Susan. Whit looked so happy to be in NYC and superexcited about being at the conference, her first. We made lunch plans then went to our morning sessions. I grabbed me a bagel on the way, so I wouldn’t starve.

I went to one on planning an online presence. As it was a three-hour long workshop, I was hoping for something good. And I was not disappointed. The facilitators started us off writing and discussing with people at our tables. The interaction with other Tech Liaisons (for most of the people there were) was, as always, refreshing. We are in tune and know the challenges the position entails. I am taking back to the group three very important questions. I want to discuss these with the leadership teams and with the site fellows in general. Here are the questions:

How would I describe the identity of Sun Belt?

What stands out most vividly for me about Sun Belt?

What people, places, activities most define Sun Belt?

If any Sun Belters read this, please comment on these. I am eager to know what y’all think.

I have my answers to them, but want to get other perspectives. Maybe I could start a wiki where we could discuss this...

I got to talking with the TL from Winthrop Writing Project out of South Carolina. Brandon was very energetic. He told me a bit about their new teacher initiative and it sounds like that site has it going on. I am hoping to keep in touch with him now that real life has returned.

I met the Sun Belters for lunch. The only place open in the whole of the Javits Center was one pizza fast food place. We were in a food court surrounded by closed fast food places. It was weird. And as the weather was stormy, leaving the Center wasn’t really an option. There were twenty or so people ahead of us on the line. We got on while the getting was good. By the time we finished our lunch and took off, the line stretched for hundreds of people. Poor planning for that part of the conference.

The afternoon session was another three-hour one. This one was ostensibly about planning inservice workshops (on writing and reading) for teachers in all subject areas. Disappointingly, the first presenter talked for over an hour. No interactivity. She had some good ideas, but the sheer length of the presentation wore. The second speaker had multicolored handouts for us to focus on and that was more palatable, but still, almost no interactivity. All in all, I was disappointed.

If you were only interested in the professional portion of the day, you can stop reading here. For the rest of the day, read on.

Then we left. As they searched for a cab, I decided to walk back to my hotel to put up the laptop. I couldn’t see carrying that with me. I hung out in my room a bit and then left to find my friends for drinks before dinner.

I got a call from John that they were at a place called The Social. It was very loud, but they made a halfway decent whiskey sour. We tried to talk for a bit, but it was hard to hear ourselves think, never mind talk. So after John attacked me with a lit candle, spilling white wax on my dark blue shirt, we took off to wander around until it was time for dinner.

We found a little shop that was a mom and pop art place. I looked a lot, but restrained myself. I did buy vicariously. I pointed out a couple of different cards to Whitney, who loved and bought them. I can’t remember the name of the place, but it was pretty cool.
Then dinner. Cathy got us reservations at 44 South West Italian Continental Restaurant. We were joined by Jordan and his boss from JSU. Also Will and Jessica Henry (Jess is a TC from our site) found us and a couple of teachers from Opelika High School who I never really got to meet or talk to, unfortunately. The food was great. The company was better. It was a great time. And the whiskey sour was a little stronger than that at The Social.

Then we broke up, sadly enough, and started to wander back toward the hotels the others were staying at. I wanted to walk around more, and Susie also wanted to walk around. So we broke off from the group and wandered down to Fifth Avenue again. I found out that Susie was also a sci-fi geek. That was cool. Then I got hit over the head by the tired stick and Susie was still busy taking pictures of publishing houses, so we went our separate ways.

I got back to my hotel and slept really well.

Friday, November 16, 2007

NYC for the NWP National Conference

When I got to NYC for the National Writing Project’s national conference, I got sort of a contact high from being in “the City.” I got to my hotel room, after a few minor hiccups caused my lack of attention to detail (Luckily I was not in any hurry and so I never felt like I was rushed. When there is no particular reason to hurry, why do so?). I got to my room and made the calls I needed to make to let people know I was here and safe. Then I had to get out and go walking. My hotel, The Americana Inn, is on 38th Street, just off of The Avenue of the Americas (6th Ave). That put me a few blocks from several NYC landmarks.

I walked toward Rockefeller Center, passing Bryant Park on the way. I had no idea where I was eventually going to wind up, and I didn’t care. I was walking around in NYC at night, and it felt totally safe. I don’t know why that surprises me. I felt safe in all the other big cities the NWP has visited in the past, but I was a little anxious before I got here.

I walked from 38th Street down to 47th and then farther. I passed by the Radio City Music Hall. I looked at the tree (not decorated, still scaffolded) at Rockefeller Center. Looking in, I saw that the ice skating rink there had been set up. Then I got to 5th Avenue and took a left. Soon I was passing by St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It is beautiful. I can’t imagine the amount of skill it took for the stone masons in the early 1800’s to build that.

I kept walking a while and pretty soon ended up at Central Park. Not feeling that I wanted to tempt fate, I didn’t actually enter the park. In fact within a couple of blocks I was turned around and headed back the way I came. By this time I was hungry and tried to spot some sort of a little diner to grab a nosh in. Two burger places I passed were already closed. But I did get to see the mass schedule at St. Patrick’s and decided to get there Sunday morning, if possible. I am not exactly sure when my plane is leaving. But with the first mass at 7:00, I ought to make it.

I passed by the NBC News building. Passed by Fox Noise, as well. Actually, the building doesn’t look evil from the outside. As I was headed back to my room, I saw a TGI Friday’s, and earlier I had passed a Mickey D’s, but I was damned if I was going to travel 1200 miles and somewhere I could at home. So I bought a hot dog, a pretzel, and a bottle of water from a street cart. I felt so New York.

Then it was back to the room, try to calm down and let the adrenaline rush level off. But when CSI: New York came on I was rejazzed. The main crime took place in Times Square, which is about a half mile or so from where I am staying.

I am not getting a wireless connection in the hotel, and I didn’t really expect one. I was annoyed that the phone won’t make outgoing calls without a $50 deposit. And then I’d be charged 85 cents a minute. No way! It took a couple of days, but I am now at a branch of the NY Public Library next to Bryant Park. And it was just a few blocks from my room.

I’ll write updates on my subsequent days soon. It has been packed.