The Conference registration desk wasn’t terribly busy when I arrived on Tuesday afternoon. Along with the envelope containing my personal badge, ribbons, and tickets, I was handed a tote bag full of books. Last year’s bag was a rather sedate black, but this year’s is red and white and the size of a small duffle bag.
I took an hour or so in my room to eat a couple of granola bars (somehow I’d missed lunch, and my stomach was still on Central Daylight Time), look through the Conference program, and text a message home (I love my new phone, and I’m overcoming the urge to write in complete words and sentences when texting).
The Firebirds had been planning for weeks to meet for dinner on Tuesday evening, since most of us planned to arrive by then. When I went out to look for company, the first Firebird I ran into was Kathleen Bittner Roth, who had just arrived all the way from Budapest (her home for the last few years). We accumulated a few more Firebirds as we set off for P.F. Chang’s, located in the Anaheim Gardenwalk, about a mile from the hotel.
Walking a mile at five o’clock in the afternoon in July in Houston would be an act of madness, but in southern California it was perfectly comfortable, the temperature perhaps in the lower 70s. When we arrived at the restaurant we found the earlier arrivals colonizing a long stretch of outdoor tables. People came and went during the evening–although the Conference didn’t officially begin until Thursday morning, there were already dinners and parties going on–but I would guess at least forty Firebirds made it to the gathering. It was so much fun meeting so many of the women I had been chatting with on line since the Golden Heart finalists were announced last March.
When six or eight of us headed back to the hotel about eight o’clock, the temperature had dropped a few degrees to gloriously cool, almost sweater weather. We stopped along the way at an ABC Market for odds and ends (it says something about my world view that I’ll cheerfully reserve a $200 a night hotel room without even looking for a roommate, but I won’t put $2.25 into a vending machine for a can of coke when I can buy a six-pack for $4.25).
Back at the hotel I retreated to my pleasantly solitary room by the pool, drank one of those ABC Market cokes, wrote in my journal (you didn’t think I’d remember all the details without my journal, did you?), and realized that it had been a long day (two hours longer than the clock said, and 1200 miles farther west).