I just got back from a partial week at the MEGA conference in Mobile. The state department of education puts it on in jointly with the Mobile County Public Schools. Evidently this has been going on for decades, but in seven years of teaching in Alabama, this is the first I've heard of it.
And I'm hooked.
I think I will have to set aside a week in July for the rest of eternity to attend this thing.
Anyway, so in 12.5 year of having ties to Mobile, this is the first time I was in Mobile all by myself. No husband, no kids. Just me in this city that my husband has been raving about for years.
Heretofore, I didn't really understand the draw. There's nothing wrong with it, but there hasn't really been anything about it that really made it appealing, either (you know, except family), before this week.
I've been there often enough that I know general navigation skills, so I was able to go directly to the Civic Center from I-165 and park to take the shuttle. And when we (the people standing and waiting) realized on Monday that the shuttle service didn't start until Tuesday a.m., I was able to lead a group of educators on foot (hey, free parking is free parking) to the Convention Center.
Tuesday I was able to take the shuttle and then for lunch I was wandering around downtown. The place that I had staked out close to the Convention Center to eat was packed to the gills with educators, so I knew I had to take it to the streets. And as it turns out, I had an expert on that very subject. Summer of 2006, Eli actually worked in downtown Mobile at the wind-sail-looking government building, which was two blocks south of where I was, so I called him and asked him about where to go.
I ended up in a cute little old-fashioned soda shoppe that also serves sandwiches -- Three Georges on Dauphin Street. I sat at the counter watching the jerk make sundaes and floats and ate my lunch combo, and then I chose my dessert, and then I paid for my meal. Yeah, that's right. I didn't have to pay for my meal until I could ring it up all together. I then walked back through Bienville Square to get back to the Battlehouse Hotel, where my session was. Yeah, I pretty much felt like a pro. I ate way too many sweets, so I hiked it back to the Civic Center when the conference was over.
Being on foot in the city for three days made me appreciate the beauty of the architecture, of the oak trees hanging over the streets, the uniqueness of the heritage of the city. I loved the old-world feel. The wrought iron detailing and balconettes on buildings, the Spanish moss, the community squares where people sat and ate their lunches and fed seagulls. It might be a place to move if I could get a job at a building somewhere downtown! Alas, that may have to wait until retirement since the state board of education is based in Montgomery.
I think what really struck me (pun intended, and you'll understand in a minute) was the storm that rolled in on Tuesday night. As I looked across the bay, getting ready to drive to my hotel, lightning danced from one end of the sky to the other, reflecting off the choppy bay. The wide open waterscape made the sky look SO HUGE! No trees or buildings to block the beautiful light show.
I'm amazed. A beach retirement is looking more and more likely...
Love you, Eli.