I'm invited to travel to a conference to develop myself professionally.
Most of this involves the development of my patience as there tends
to be lots of sitting and wondering what they'll have to eat next.
Sometimes these buttock-callousing events take place in exotic locations,
like Baltimore or Atlanta, but this time I journeyed to a remote hamlet
in Texas-somewhere between Texarkana
Bastrop. The main claim
to fame for this locale, other than the vast Lost Pines Resort where
the conference was held, is that there is a Buc-ee's convenience store
nearby. (At least there wasn't shortage of jerky or pork rinds.)
The actual conference took place at a palatial complex nestled in
a thicket and accessible only by an incredibly long and winding road
through woods so dense that I expected a hillbilly assault at any
moment. I feel certain that this isolated location was chosen to deter
conference attendees from being distracted by more cosmopolitan temptations,
like Chick-fil-A. The only apparent diversions available at this resort
involved exercise or eating. One out of two ain't bad, I guess.
Eating at most professional development events is an adventure-at
best. The featured dinner entree is usually conference chicken with
seminar sauce, accompanied by green beans that taste and feel like
they came out of a Hasbro kitchen play set. Imagine my surprise when
the first plenary supper included a medley of blackened redfish and
fillet mignon. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that the fish seemed
to be seminar chicken wearing a fish costume, and although the steak
was delicious, it was about the size of an eyeball. Thankfully, I
could console myself with the gelatinous chocolate cake made out of
raw brownie mix that had sat uncovered in the fridge too long.
At one of the conference lunches, I actually got really excited when
out of the corner of my eye, I saw a display on the buffet table that
read, "Burgers." Once again, though, my hopes were dashed when I got
in line and realized that it was a vintage metal sign used only for
decoration. The actual menu consisted of deep fried conference chicken
and the second string fish that sat on the bench the night before.
I guess the theme of the display was "Things you wish you were eating."
The only other notable menu item was at breakfast on the final day
of the conference. They were serving roasted potatoes mixed with chunks
of savory smoked brisket. At any other time of day, this combination
might be tolerable, but if I ate that at 7:30 AM, I'd have to go back
to bed immediately or make life miserable for the person sitting next
to me at the conference for the rest of the day.
In addition to the culinary excitement of the conference, I did attempt
to participate in the only other available resort activity to avoid
my mealy hotel sheets for the night-exercise. I decided to go jogging.
In other words, I decided to avoid running while still being able
to claim that I had worked out. When I went out into the muggy Texas
night wearing my Nike shorts to make me feel more athletic, I noticed
a thick fog in the air that reminded me of something from a horror
movie. Pushing such childish thoughts aside, I bravely began my jog
and was abruptly halted by something truly terrifying-a small herd
of deer. On every patch of grass surrounding the jogging trail, there
were at least two of these wild-eyed creatures glaring at me through
the mist. I had always thought deer were skittish animals that would
bound away at even the slightest scent of a pair of Nike shorts (especially
mine). Apparently, though, these were the deer that bullied all of
the other deer into giving up their milk money, and I appeared to
be their next victim. Needless to say, my workout ended prematurely.
After all, I had already jogged about 100 feet, and I didn't want
to harm the local wildlife.
When the conference ended, and I was trying to avoid falling asleep
in the car with my head back and my mouth hanging open, I reflected
on what a real privilege it was to be asked to attend a conference
at such a beautiful facility, and I really did learn a lot. I'm actually
looking forward to my next trip, and this time, I'll be packing my
DVD copy of Bambi.
© Jase Graves
"Quips and Salsa" November
15 , 2017 column