10 August 2008

Forever 21

For two days this week I lived like I was 21 again. I'm paying the price now, but it sure was fun!

I was in Chicago for a conference. The University of Texas gave me $400 to attend this conference. Being the cheap ass that I am, I bought a cheap plane ticket and decided to stay with a friend of mine who had just moved to Chicago. My goal: to make money on this conference. I avoided cabs (with the exception of Saturday morning, which I will get to), ate free food at the conference, binged on free alcohol at the conference, and generally enjoyed myself.

On Thursday night I hooked up with friends from UT and the University of Iowa. I hadn't seen some of these friends for years. They've gotten married, gotten jobs, had babies, and done all the things well-adjusted thirtysomethings are doing. The conference socials were a great place to meet up and take advantage of the free bars. In fact, one social had a cash bar, so I found myself leaving every hour or so to pick up a free drink at another social, only to return and scoff at people who were actually PAYING for drinks. Yes, I'm 31 and a mother. That identity suspended itself for about four hours on Thursday night. A wise friend once said that "I'll never be mature enough for an open bar." I think that sums up my night nicely.

So, to elaborate on my housing situation. My friend, Lou, had just moved into his apartment on the Sunday prior to the conference. On Tuesday he came home to a flooded basement. The flooded basement turned into a mold-infested dungeon by the time I arrived. It wouldn't have been so bad if the first floor of the apartment hadn't been wood. Lou also opened up his apartment to Bob and Tony, two other friends from Austin in town for the conference.

When we arrived on Thursday night at around 2 a.m., we whipped out our sleeping bags and hunkered down for a night filled with stale air and sore hip bones. All in all, it wasn't a bad three or four hours of sleep.

On Friday I met up with some colleagues and my advisor (who assured me that I was traveling down the right path with my dissertation). I presented my paper. Then the 21-year-old Sara reappeared when we hit the brewery for dinner. I can't even repeat what we talked about. It was filled with vulgarities even my 21-year-old sober self would be embarrassed about. But, it was great fun to be there.

We arrived at Lou's at 2 a.m. again and a fitful night of sleep awaited me. It was mostly my fault. I wasn't sure how I was going to get to the airport. I was trying really hard not to spend too much money, so I mapped out the bus and train schedule and left Lou's an hour earlier than expected (after about three or four hours of sleep, eek). Turns out that the bus route was under construction and had many delays (thanks coffee barista), so I broke down. Called a cab. And waited. And waited. And waited at the local coffee shop. No cab ever showed up, I started to get nervous about missing my flight. Luckily, just about the moment when the cab company was going to get some of my sass, an empty cab drove by and I hailed it with my rolled up sleeping bag. Finally, I was on my way to the airport. It felt fantastic to get on the plane and sleep and sleep and sleep and promise myself that I wouldn't party like that again - at least not until next year's conference (in Boston!).

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