The International Convention is held every five years in a North American city. It draws over 60,000 people from all over the world. Since I joined the 12-step program nearly 25 years ago, I have attended every convention; San Diego was the first, followed by Minneapolis, Toronto, San Antonio, and now Atlanta. This is an anonymous program at the level of press, radio, film, and social media, so I won't be giving many specifics, since my blog is a social medium. I am not personally anonymous, though, so if you have a face-to-face conversation with me I'll be much more specific.
Our flight had a 200-person capacity; I'm estimating that half the passengers were attending the Convention. The mood aboard was light and friendly, as strangers became friends in a couple of seconds. Some of the people I talked to have been to all the conventions I have, plus earlier ones. The flight was smooth EXCEPT at the Atlanta end, when we went through a cloud and had a shrieky kind of bump - you know, when several passengers shriek and suddenly everyone starts talking with the energy of relief that the plane is still in the air.
Finally found our luggage and the MARTA train and our station and our ride. Got to the Airbnb place and realized my CPAP case and machine, with my meds, was not included in what came out of the car. Got to spend a couple of hours getting numbers for the lost and founds for the airport and train. Also considered how best to get my meds refilled - I had a week's worth in my daypack so was not in a total rush. I was not even thinking yet about the cost of replacing the CPAP when we got home.
We stayed in our first Airbnb - $68 a night for the two of us. Large room in a six-bedroom place, with a shared bath and kitchen, less than half a mile from the Oxford City station of Atlanta's MARTA transportation system. Spotlessly clean with interesting guests and three friendly rescue pit bulls.
The next morning we walked to the Oxford City station and boarded the train for Five Points, where all four train lines meet. Transferred to a westbound train and got off at the first stop. Made our way to the Georgia World Congress Center - an enormous convention venue - rode four escalators down to the registration hall. Lots of noise and unbelievable positive energy. Spent half an hour or so sitting quietly watching people in the lobby, then walked to the Marriott Marquis - about a three-quarter-mile walk - where I'd be attending some of the events of another 12-step program I belong to, for families of alcoholics. The heat and humidity in Atlanta is intimidating. We drank lots of water and walked slowly. Stopped for an Indian lunch and eventually found our way to the Marriott. Boarded the MARTA train at the Peachtree station and went home for a two-hour nap. Then back to the city for a light dinner and country music at the Omni. And home again. We used the trains, but even so, my fitbit says we walked seven miles.
The convention started on Friday at about the same time as my gastrointestinal virus made itself known. Art spent the day at workshops, checking in from time to time. He had a busy, interesting time. I slept and kept company in the bathroom.
Art also enjoyed the Saturday convention events. My body had completely cleaned itself out and left me tired and weak and without much appetite. Again, Art called from time to time to ask if I needed anything. I said crackers and 7-Up. I slept most of the day and woke to drink liquids and eat rice and bread and bananas. We listened to the 4th of July fireworks in our neighborhood rather than in downtown Atlanta.
This morning - Sunday - Art attended the final big meeting of the convention. I slept until nearly noon and awakened for a snack of banana and Greek yogurt. As I thought about the rest of our itinerary for this trip - a 300-mile drive to Charleston for two days, a 250-mile drive to Jacksonville, NC for three days, and a 460-mile drive back to Atlanta -- all in the unaccustomed heat and humidity of an east coast summer -- I knew I didn't have the recuperated energy or spirit to do it. Art agreed we could shorten our trip and go home on Tuesday. So I changed our Alaska Airlines flight, then canceled the car rental, the Airbnb in Charleston, the hotel in Jacksonville, and the Evergreen Club reservation in central Georgia. Not at all what I'd planned, but definitely the right thing.
We went out for dinner and I ate some real food for the first time in three days. I noticed my sense of humor returning, always a good sign.
Tomorrow morning we'll take MARTA to the Five Points station and see if my CPAP is in the lost and found. Then we'll take MARTA one more stop to the Peachtree station and pick up my replacement meds. Then we'll take MARTA south to the airport and see if my CPAP is in the lost and found there. Then we'll go back to the Airbnb and I'll rest. I should be ready for our Tuesday flight.
Travel is like that. We make plans. Sometimes things go exactly as we have lined them out. Sometimes they don't. Oddly, it's the things we don't expect that we remember longest. About this Atlanta trip, I'll remember I have much, much less tolerance for heat and humidity than I did when I was growing up on various military bases in the east. And that the best remedy for being sick is still rest and liquids and a bland diet. And that, in 2015, Art had a wonderful time at the International Convention in Atlanta.