The best part of the Kalamzoo conference is the nightlife. Do you find it hard to believe that a bunch of historians know how to have a good time? Well, so do the rest of us…until we visit Kalamazoo. Believe it or not, locals will start to hang around the university that weekend to hang out with the historians. (I’m not making that up.)
On my first evening there, I walked into a large room filled with people just in time to see my advisor stand up on a chair and announce that the mysterious Chaucer blogger was amongst us! (I hadn’t heard of him, but his blog made waves because it’s a hysterical look at what Chaucer would say if he kept a blog. Very funny, you can read it here.)
She asked the infamous blogger to step forward. We waited. Then someone did step forward, but it was a joke – it wasn’t him. After some tense moments, a man standing next to me strode forward and admitted that he was the one responsible for bring Chaucer to the web. He was a nice guy, and I’m glad I found his blog because it makes me laugh.
In the late evenings we would gather outside around tables and talk all night. Guitars abounded and at some point I noticed that I had a guitar in my hand. I couldn’t figure out where it had come from nor to whom it belonged. I asked, but people were getting impatient and wanted some music, so I entertained them with Beatles tunes and a great rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity.
Later, someone found a yo-yo and we tried to see if any of us could remember how one worked. We couldn’t. At all. Until one brave lady showed us how. It turned out that she wasn’t a medievalist, but an FBI employee who just wanted to join in on the fun. That’s right, we had to have someone from the FBI to teach us to use a yo-yo. Truly humbling.
When I ran out of Beatles songs the crowd turned on me, so I hit the road. I missed out on the infamous dance that takes place each year on the last day of the conference because I had to leave that afternoon, but I had a blast. (I hear the dance is a marvelous spectacle in which you get to see dignified historians getting completely undignified. Who could miss that?)
My return flights made me pine for the ease of the train. The flight was overbooked and we waited hours for it to even arrive. I talked to some guys who thought it was interesting that I was a medievalist – then they asked me if I was working on anything from The DaVinci Code. After I explained the problems with Dan Brown for 20 minutes they promised not to bring it up again. Then I shoved my 6’6″ frame into the smallest seat on the entire plane and wished I was on a slow train instead. But I’m not bitter.
Anyway, it was a wonderful conference. I’ve got a lot to learn about my field, but I was encouraged by some great people who have already made their mark and think that I’m on the right track with my studies. That’s been good medicine, because earning my degree is taking a very long time.
Here’s hoping I can make it to Kalamazoo every year.