Sunday, June 22, 2008

HLAA Convention Recap #1

The hotel shuttle bus whisked me away from the landing field of hell to the magnificent Grand Sierra Hotel in Reno, Nevada. On the way to the hotel, I was trying to text to Jennifer, Laurie, Mike and Phyliss all the while trying to hold a verbal conversation. It is a miracle in itself in how I remained intelligible through my texting. At first glance of the hotel, I have to say I was impressed with my new digs for the next four days because the picture on the website does not do the soaring glass architecture any justice. When the shuttle pulled up to the hotel, I started looking around for Laurie who I knew was near the front entrance. Then I saw a woman with a bright yellow shirt and a colorful necklace make her out of the hotel. My eyes were fixated on the woman with exquisite taste in jewelry and with every step she took, her big brown beautiful doe eyes came into focus. The second she smiled, I knew that it was the same woman in the picture of her blog. We hugged and hugged and hugged. We hugged so much that we squeezed the thought that I still had luggage to grab right out of my head. :)

I was just so happy to see her because this reaffirmed why i wanted to come to Reno to meet people just like her. Especially since for the past 17 hours I thought someone was going to have to peel me off a side of a mountain. :) I grabbed my luggage and began our way to check in to the hotel with Laurie by my side. Once I got my room key, we just started to gab on our way to the elevator. We hop on an elevator and she pressed the button for the 17th floor but it would not light up. She became perplexed and pushed it again but still nothing. She pushed a button to another floor and it lit up. She went back to the 17th floor button and nothing. I could do nothing but laugh because I contributed it to the irony that the button to our floor would not light up to my fantastic stroke of luck that I was having that day. I laughed so hard that I fell back into the chair that was conveniently placed in the corner of the elevator. She looked to me clearly seeing the irony of the entire situation and started laughing too. She decided to push the button on the other side of the elevator door and wouldn't you know joe? The 17th floor button lit up and we were up and up and away ─ laughing our tail ends off.

The next scene had Laurie and I standing in front of our hotel room. I got so excited that I started shaking. She swipes the card and opens the door and I gasped. I gasped at the sheer sophistication that the room was adorned in; the decor, the color, the ambiance lighting. It was all very Wang ─ Vera Wang that is. Music played in the background. Okay, I lied. It was my tinnitus. :) I peeked into the bathroom and it was all marble, mirrors and mood lighting. My eyes got wider as I took one look at the all glass shower stall and immediately thought how novel to have one of them in our suite. Why you ask? That is simple because seeing me naked first thing in the morning is the next best thing to coffee. One look at me in my birthday suit can scare a buzzard off a shit wagon.

Laurie decided to let me rest and relax for a few by joining some other HLAA members for dinner. I had this insatiable desire to wash off the LA smog and stir-fry stench of me but I wanted to stop and take a moment to appreciate the view that my wall-to-wall window had to offer. I watched the sun start to make its glowing descent silhouetting the rolling hills. A snappy little jingle from Fresh Prince of Bel Air popped into my head and this time, it was not my tinnitus.

I pulled up to the house at bout seven or eight,

I yelled to the cabbie 'Yo home, smell ya later!'

I looked at my kingdom,

I was finally there!

To sit on my throne as the prince(ss) of Bel-Air!

I chuckle to myself, I had been up for just about forty hours and I had no plans on slowing down any time soon. How could I? I was so overjoyed that I made it to Reno and I have my two feet firmly planted on good ol' solid planet earth. :) I would have said over the moon but I want to steer away from anything that has to do with ascension. I started to feel a little sluggish with my 40+ logged but I knew as soon as I got ready that there would a medium iced latte from Starbucks with my name on it downstairs. I hopped in the shower and the reflection in the mirror did a wonderful job of waking me up.

And just in the nick of time, Laurie came back to the room just as I finished getting ready. We headed down to Starbucks to get me a caffeine IV iced latte and wait for the entire Advanced Bionics group to come through. Unbeknownst to us, they were all waiting out in front of Starbucks while Laurie and I sat in this quaint little seating area. After ten minutes of them standing out there, Jennifer inquired about our whereabouts via text and we finally found each other. The first person I saw was Jennifer who was six feet of pure southern joy! Her unbelievable and endearing personality coupled with genuinely beautiful smile was so welcoming in this city of strangers. This was the first time we met in person but it didn't feel that way, it was like welcoming an old friend home. We hit it off fantastically and this was only the first night. :)

Then came, Mike Royer who is another CI user who is downright hysterical and a pretty sensitive and emotional guy. The flood of people just kept coming; Gloria Garner, Tina Childress, Wayne Roorda, Sheila Adams, Debra McClendon and her boyfriend Brian, Judy Wagner, Kim Brownen and her husband Michael and Nanci Linke-Ellis,. I was in contact with just about every single one of these people all through out my cochlear implant research and evaluation. The time that they spent answering any of my questions or concerns is wholeheartedly appreciated and meeting them meant the world to me. I think I mentioned everyone that I met that night but if I have forgotten anyone, please shoot me an email!

We were getting rowdy in Starbucks and Tina had a bright idea to move to a table by the bar! Yeah, my kind of woman! :) I must have told my first flight story a dozen times. By the sixth time, I had the worlds smallest Appletini in my hand and I was starting to find the humor in my story. For the biggest little city in the whole world, Reno's martini glasses are pretty damn small albeit, it did the trick of calming me down. I must say they made me appreciate New Jersey's carafe size martini glasses :) I got to sign my first autograph and I had no idea what to say. It must have taken me five minutes to come up with something witty for Kim's magazine. I am clearly not used to this autograph signing business. More and more people kept joining in during the night a'chittin' and a'chattin'.

As the night wore on, the group started to thin out and gravitate to their hotel rooms. Mike's bright blue CI cap must have been knocked off somehow because I noticed it was nestled close to the stem of my martini glass. That is when I decided to be mischievous. I snapped a picture of the cap and sent it to Mike’s blackberry via picture message along with a ransom note. My roguish attempt was foiled because the blackberry he has does not accept picture messages. Rats.

Jen and I decided to self-tour the hotel ourselves. With our two legs propelling us every step of the way, we discovered how sleek and elegant this hotel really was until we hit the bowling alley's women bathroom.The pale blue flower power wallpaper, the red pleather loveseat and the bright orange tile with matching grout blasted our sensitive little corneas with a blast from the past. I waited for the disco ball to be lowered from the ceiling and bellbottom jeans to be thrown at our face. We left our elegant feeling in the bathroom of the bowling alley.

It was getting late, it was one o'clock in the morning but we was still running on Eastern Standard Time. That means it was three in the morning for Jen and four for me. We decided to go up to the room. Jennifer let us in the door and she began to tiptoe across the carpet because she did not want to wake Laurie up. I started laughing and that caused her to freeze as if she were a deer caught in headlights. I’m known for stating the obvious and this was no exception since Laurie cannot hear, just like us. I couldn’t help but laugh but Jen was so cute about it! I admit that it took some getting used to because I am always trying to being considerate of others when they are sleeping because I don’t want to wake them up. However, I am like a cow in a china shop and it is inevitable that I will stub my toe on the edge of the bed or my shin will hit an open drawer or my foot will find one of my dog’s squeaky rubber toys. My point is that it takes hard work for me to be that quiet and it is a welcome reprieve when I don’t have to because I am less likely to harm myself in the process.

After we got ready for bed, Jennifer and I gabbed until three o’clock in the morning. We obviously had a lot to talk about :) All of this happened and the convention hasn’t even started yet!

To be continued!!!

Related blogs:

Surround Sound

Jennifer's Picasa Photo Album

Laurie's Dance with Sound

Sheila's CI Journey

HLAA's 2008 Convention Coverage Blog

My Facebook Photo Album


David said...

What an amazing time! Must have been so cool to meet all those folk that you know from blogs etc.
Can't wait for the rest of the story. I saw Jenifer's pictures. Wow, you got to sign autographs? How cool is that>

Laurie said...

You are an amazing woman! And I'm honored to be mentioned so thoughtfully in your recap! Gosh, I was so worried about you as soon as Jennifer told me you were having a hard time getting to Reno on your first airplane flight ever. . . I don't know who was happier about your arrival at the hotel. . . you or us!

I'll be writing today! Hugs!

Karen Putz said...

What a blast, eh? I know Tina and she sure is a lot of fun to hang with. I hope to make it to the next one!

Anonymous said...

Sounds great - hotel sounds good too. Laughed out loud about your coffee vs birthday suit comments.

I'm meeting Wayne Roorda for dinner one of hte nights while at the convention. I know him from another email list I'm on. Small world huh?


Kim said...

Sounds like you had a GREAT time and I'm so jealous!! I guess Tina must be popular, cuz I know her too! I saw that Karen also knows here. She was at the SWC convention in Vegas last year. She's not an SWC member, but she came and spoke about implants. Anyway, I adore her. She was so much fun! We all went out to lunch at the Hardrock cafe, and she signed alot while talking so I could understand her in all the noise. I think she's going to IFHOH, so I hope to get together with her there. AND I can't wait to meet YOU in PHILLY!!!


Jennifer said...

I love your recap! That's why we all need to tell our stories...yours are definitely funnier than mine :)
It was such a joy meeting you...getting to hug you my own homegrown self was well worth the wait!! I have been missing ya awfully!
WHAT ABOUT that shower stall?? And right in front of the mirror, too...ACK! My system can't handle that kind of shock in the mornings...notice I did all my showering at night? ;)

*Tasha* said...

Aww!! Fun! :)

I read the below post. I CAN NOT BELIEVE THAT. What are the odds? Lol, poor Abbie... that IS crazy. At least you got back on the plane, after being scared and after the "mechanical failure."

How was the flight home? Better? ;)

It sounded really fun!! Looking forward to Recap 2. :)

As for the shaved head, I posted a picture... I'm not sure if it's easy to see or compare! But after some more revision, it really isn't THAT much. It does seem like kind of a lot when I lift my hair up, but otherwise not really. :)

I'm glad you had fun! :D

C. said...

OK, so when are you coming to MY neck of the woods so I can meet a real celebrity too!!!! * *hugs ** you are magical Abster.

Shari said...

I love how unpredictable you are. You change common sayings into something original, such as "giving the soaring glass architecture any justice." It keeps me reading. :)

Good recap. Can't wait to see the next chapter.

Unknown said...

AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! SPECTACULAR!! I'm so excited for you, your situation was VERY different from mine, way I LOVED reading this, Abbie, you made my night. I can't believe you met all of those people, you must have had the best time...looking forward to when I can meet you...then, LOOK THE HELL OUT WORLD! Hugs, Jodi