The American Atheists Convention and 50th Anniversary was quite an experience. I won a grant from Surly Amy to cover the cost of my registration and drove down Thursday evening. A friend’s friends gave me crash space in their spare room, and we went out for pizza that night and then shared new music while they smoked hookah back at the apartment.
I got up nice and early to go to the first speech of Friday morning and locked my key in the trunk before I got to leave. I’ve never done that before in the decade since I learned to drive (locked ‘em in the cab once before and a few times in high school when the car was at the house with my mom and the spare just inside), so I felt pretty silly, but not terribly put out. The weather was lovely and cool, and the locksmith arrived in 20 minutes and quickly opened it up.
Once I got on the road, I had to try the Magnolia Café, which happened to be between the apartment and the hotel. It was very crowded but very quick. And I really enjoyed the Love Migas made with garlic butter. The convention was at the Hyatt only a mile from the café (three from the apt), but I circled 15 minutes in the wrong direction searching for the entrance hidden by the construction of a parking garage. Which meant there was little to no on-site parking, with valet at $15/day. I happened to find an unmarked lot a mere two blocks away and walked over.
As soon as I signed in and got my name tag, I heard someone call my name and looked up to see an old buddy from marching band, Bonaboo, whom I probably haven’t seen in at least 6 years. We were both surprised to see the other, and he was thrilled to run into me. He said he brings a Bible to every convention he attends. I cocked my head and raised an eyebrow. “Would you like to sign it?” Oh, yes! He’s gotten some cool signatures and defacings from people he meets including some of the well-known speakers. What a neat idea for an autograph book, huh?
The prospect of spending the weekend alone surrounded by a thousand strangers had been pretty daunting, so hanging out with him and new friends we made was a welcome relief. We caught one speech and then headed out to find lunch, bumping into a Canadian couple also in search of the legendary food trucks a few blocks up. It was a warm day with a nice breeze, and we learned along the way that the couple was touring the US in their motorhome and this was their first convention, as well as mine and Bonaboo’s other friend there too.
Heading back, I saw a guy with a cat sitting on his backpack and asked if I could take a picture. We were confused as he hastily shook the cat off and then said he asks for a dollar or two, any loose change. “Oh, alright,” and we kept walking while he whined angrily about needing/expecting money from us. I shrugged it off but my companions were shocked that he was so rude about it. I asked nicely, but I don’t care that much about a cat picture; now I’ll just tell people about the asshole bum I met in Austin. If I’d had change in my pockets or hadn’t been in a rush or he hadn’t been such an entitled jerk, maybe I’d have gotten that picture.
The afternoon continued with more speakers, somewhat interesting but pretty dry. I got to meet Amy and thank her for the grant and peruse her jewelry but couldn’t decide on just one piece then. Bonaboo, Jessica, and I didn’t attend the $55 dinner and costume party, instead opting for pizza downtown before heading our separate ways early that evening. The lot I parked in was blocked off with an attendant charging for evening parking, but my car was there and safe, and I left with no problem. I killed a little bit of time at an adult novelty store down the block from the apartment and then got a delicious smoothie at a juice bar and began reading Good Omens before meeting up with my hosts and chatting a little bit before turning in.
Pictures and speech details coming soon.