Living in the city where a major conference is being held is a dream. I get all the frills and thrills of a place like New York with few of the added costs and troubles. For instance, even in wintry weather such as this, I get to experience the incredible pleasure of riding my bike to the first early-morning talks. Decked out in my tie and gloves, with a pack of books and papers strapped to my back, I peddle like mad down the wide-open trails that crisscross Central Park. Fueled by the coffee I made in my slippers just a few minutes ago, I make pit stops here and there at my favorite bagel shop or fruit stands and wave hello to the ladies opening the doors to their pastry shop. The city is wide awake and ready to start a new day!
Knowing all the back-alley shortcuts and dead-end scurries, I arrive exactly at the time I expect. No unfamiliar train routes or expensive taxis, and no second-guessing if I’ll make it there on time – just the comfort of knowing this is my town and I know all its little secrets . . . Oh, so you’d like to try some street meat from one of the nearby carts during break? Well, don’t go to those guys on the corner wearing yellow jackets: they charge a dollar more and sacrifice half the love of the guy wearing the greasy apron just down the block. Oh, you’d like to get your shoes shined before your talk? Well, don’t go to the guys in Grand Central near the Lexington Passage. They charge a lot and won’t make conversation. Instead, go to Brooks Brothers on Madison and 43rd St., where you won’t pay a dime and you can swaddle yourself in a cashmere robe while some mustachioed gentleman regales you with great stories. Yes, this city has a thousand shortcuts and twice as many comforts, just as long as you know how to find them. So stay agile and keep your head up!
But don’t be fooled, there are some drawbacks of living in the city where a major conference is being held. Not every day can be a holiday and it’s not all fun and games. After all, you’re never quite untethered from your workaday responsibilities. For example, I still had to teach a class today in the early afternoon and, as a result, had to forego a whole bevy of treasured talks. To be sure, it’s a shame to have to make such sacrifices. (Not to mention the sacrifice of trying to live off a graduate student’s stipend while living in such an expensive city . . .) But I gladly accept my duties and damages, because if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t have a reason to be here. These are the very things that give me an agenda, and these are the things which afford me an opportunity to attend such meetings as these. Plus, I like my students this year. And who knows? Maybe one of them will present an amazing paper at the CAA conference next year . . . That would be the real thrill, wouldn’t it?