This was quite possibly the poorest organized RSA conference I have ever attended. I was stuck out in the boonies near the Miami airport in one of two "overflow" hotels that somehow cost more than the rooms in the conference hotel, despite being farther away and very close to a major highway not to mention low flying planes. I may have depleted my cash supply in my current checking account simply to pay for the cab rides back and forth to the conference, and this even includes cab rides split between two and three people.
Then there was the difficulty of getting to the beach, the ash-strewn South Beach (or so I heard-- I never actually managed to see it) populated by loud, hormonally challenged undergraduates.
Yes, there was good food to be had in South Beach. There were also beautiful Art Deco hotels. And $12 mojitos, which were good, but not $12 good. It was also ridiculously noisy. Maybe I'm just getting too old for that sort of thing, but half the time I could barely hear what my friends were saying.
Most of my gripes have already been stated with more panache by my colleagues (collblogs?) over at Blogging the Renaissance, so I won't prolong the vent.
But I will say this: We Renaissance scholars are not generally a bunch of complainers. We usually neither cant nor rant. Ok, we do a lot of both, but when we go to conferences, we like to forget about all we have to cant and rant about. We like to stimulate our minds, share our work, and enjoy good food, good company, and good wine.
Most of us, when provided with some basic comforts, find this relatively easy to do. This year it was much more difficult. Because of this, I would like to propose that some changes be made for the safety of future RSA conferences:
1. Don't name panels silly things like "Perspectives on English Literature IV" and "New Technologies and Renaissance Studies I, II, III, IV and V: Exploring the online Archive"
2. Don't stick Stephen Greenblatt's panel in a tiny side room that seats 10.
3. Don't make us pay $3 for crappy Starbucks coffee and $1 for a teaspoon-sized muffin.
4. Don't make it impossible for us to print out our papers without paying $5 to use your crappy computers in the business center. Don't cut off my internet connection every three minutes, crappy airport hotel! I'm trying to write!
Needless to say, I doubt I'll be at RSA next year in Chicago and I'm sure SAA in San Diego can only be loads more fun. Or at least loads more comfortable. At least I think it may be so in Denmark . . .
Despite the monumentally crappy organization of this conference it was still nice to see my dearest scholarly friends and to make new ones. And I met those I'd wanted to meet, who turned out to be generous and kind and silly and fun. And I may have solved a little mystery I wondered about.
So it really wasn't so terrible. But 50% of the time, I really rather would have been at home with my cat.