Wednesday, July 6, 2011

On the Road - Live From Chicago

Why do I keep thinking it’s Tuesday? It’s the last hour of Wednesday here in Chicago. I’m winding down from the first day of the NAMI national convention. I attended my first five as a journalist. I’m also attending this one as a journalist, but this time I have extra ribbons to stick to my name tag by virtue of my involvement with NAMI San Diego.

I’m here at NAMI to meet people. I was having a $400 cup of coffee and a $600 yogurt (hotel prices) in the lobby when in walked Sue Bergeson, whom I have known for just about forever. Sue is former President of DBSA and is now doing all kinds of great work on our behalf at Optum Health. It’s been more than three years since we’ve seen each other. It was worth flying out to Chicago just to catch up. Very auspicious start.

The convention program is mainly NAMI nuts and bolts stuff - how to run an effective In Our Own Voice program, stuff like that. Not much interest from a journalistic perspective. My last convention, four years ago, I think I attended only one session. I get a lot more out of just hanging out and listening to people’s stories.

Incredibly, before I have even attended my first session, I somehow manage to run into everyone here from NAMI San Diego, spread out over three floors. NAMI San Diego is receiving this year’s Outstanding Local Affiliate Award, and the credit goes to the people I am bumping into here, plus the staff and volunteers and our partners back in San Diego, past and present.

I dutifully attend an affiliate leaders workshop, and, naturally, the thing I get most out of it is meeting my counterparts from all over the country, people like me who serve on local boards. It’s thankless work, so here is my opportunity to thank these people.

Toward the end of the session, NAMI CEO Michael Fitzpatrick walks in and does a Q and A with us. When the session ends, I walk up to Mr Fitzpatrick and tell him I brought my didgeridoo. He doesn’t call security, which I interpret as a good sign.

Didgeridoo diplomacy. Yes, I have “Little Boy” in a bag slung over my shoulder. Several times during the day, I take it out of the bag.

Late in the afternoon, I am drooping. I cut out of a session and head back to my hotel and crash for three hours, most of it rebound sleep. I blow off the evening session - ironically the only one of journalistic interest - featuring Thomas Insel of the NIMH. This is going to be a long convention and I need to pace myself.

I intend to stay till they turn the lights off tomorrow, so I’ll give most of the morning a miss. To bed ...

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