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Back from Spokane.

The conference was a conference. I listened to a few talks. Yada yada yada.

There was a great band one night, the best rockabilly band in the Pacific Northwest, the Dusty 45s. These guys could play anywhere. Nashville would be lucky to have them, and I say that as a former Nashvillian and frequent consumer of local music. I got to dance. A lot. It was almost like junior high, all the guys sat in the shadows and watched. Some got in the groove and were decent. But most looked on like they were at a bris. Sheesh. I learned to dance in college at Texas A&M, where the guys who didn’t dance were the outliers.

Anyway, the highlight of the trip was the grizzly bear lab at Washington State. I can honestly say that I’ve been licked by a grizzly, and not in the process of becoming his dinner. I’ve pet the paws of a great brown bear and walked away with all my fingers. Of course, they were behind very strong steel mesh walls. But the bears were very sociable.

I also went to a movie (and missed arguably the best session). I’m a Benicio del Toro fan, and “Things we lost in the fire” didn’t disappoint.

As for any take-home educational message, all I can say is: eat organic.

I met several great people who do what I do. Some of them are doing it much better, some of them are living the freelance life. It’s the kind of meeting that got my juices flowing and reminded me what I used to like about my work. Then I went back to the office on Tuesday and commenced beating my head against the wall.

Every time I called home, Ella said, “come home now!” and “are you coming home now?” and “I want you to come home now.”

I did the dutiful dad bit and showed everyone photos of my little girl, via my BlackBerry (more on that another time). I tried not to be nauseating about it.

I rode in the backseat next to Ella on the way home from the airport. She wouldn’t let go of my hand, or my arm, and kept pulling me in for a hug. It was great.

Ella enjoyed her grandparents, especially at the beach, but I think she was glad to see them go. On the day I came home they locked themselves, and Ella, out of our house while Trish was at work. Ella told her Papa where the spare key is, but he couldn’t find it. It was just a few inches out of his sight. Tonight Trish told me that her dad starting backing my truck up while her mom was putting Ella in her car seat. They’re old. Trish probably asked too much of them, and they weren’t going to turn down the time with their granddaughter. But, maybe this gets me a shorter Christmas visit!

Speaking of old (kind of rambling here), my old man turns 90 on Saturday. Ninety. 9 – 0. Yes, I’m the last child. Dad turned 51 soon after I was born. My step mom threw a big party with all their friends, mostly my dad’s golf buddies (yes, he still plays; still breaks 85). Family wasn’t invited. It was a convenient way to avoid messy situations. I don’t blame her.

A friend, who’s close to my dad’s age and went to his party, told me he didn’t recognize a lot of the crowd. He moved away from the neighborhood several years ago but he and I have kept in touch. He’s an old geezer with good advice. He wrote in an email today, “Funny how 9 years can change so many relationships and that’s why we value our friendship with your family so much.”

It took me a while to realize he meant MY family. Not my dad’s family, mine.