Part Two: Friday afternoon, Saturday, and the flight home.
As I previously mentioned, I sat with John (Walkingsouth), Ken Singer, Ron, Andy (Nevragan), and Jim for lunch Friday during the MS annual meeting. The lunch buffet was decent group food, with prepared sandwiches, wraps, and several different salads. The annual meeting went well as several key MS personnel gave accounts of their volunteer work for the organization. All of us MS members then got to comment on then vote on several specific proposals, one of which went down in flames, I really didn't think that it would be a good change myself as it would have caused the infliction of public humiliation and shame on the affected party. After lunch the mother/son enmeshment presentation by Kenneth Adams, PH.D, was really good, and I found myself comparing a lot of his aspects to my wife's relationship with her father, which made me wonder whether she had been abused by him. Earlier in my life, my mother and I had been enmeshed, but I grew away from that enmeshment in my late teens and 20s. It was a surprisingly good presentation that left a number of people wiping their eyes.
My late afternoon group did not live up to my expectations. John, Ken, Ron, Larry, and Lewis were all a part of this group, a group entitled "Providing Online Support to Male Survivors". I had hoped to be able to learn the finer points of something that I now have almost 2 years of experience in, instead, we were given what amounted to a sales meeting with a struggling enterprise, where their "learning curve" and past mistakes were glossed over with what they still had hopes to accomplish given their financial constraints. A spokesperson from the women's issues support group RAINN, which 1-in-6 is working with, right off let all of us know how little that she understood about the finer points of "providing online support to male survivors". They were a hopeful group, hoping for another chance to build their organization given their "learning curve", but their presentation made me realize just how lucky that we all are to have MS standing tall and leading the way for us. For those of you that might use their support services, 1-in-6 does offer online male survivor crisis counseling 3 nights per week for 5 hours per night, using "trained" volunteers that have completed 40 hours of crisis management training, 38 hours of which is designed to assist women in crisis. It was my feeling leaving the group at 5:00 PM that my time could have been better spent.
The next event was book signing by a number of authors that had books for sale at the conference. It was here where I reconnected with Mic Hunter, who had been my 4th therapist in 1997-1998. He thanked me for my continuing promotional efforts concerning his first book "ABUSED BOYS", which I have always thought to be a very good introductory recovery text. Right next to Mic was Mikele Rauch, who I had previously talked with on the phone, so I bought her book and both she and Mic signed it. She gave me a big hug and invited me to attend a Weekend of Recovery, where she has in the past acted as a counselor. I ended-up buying 5 different books in fact, and I have already started reading through my copy of THE FRANKLIN SCANDAL, which is about the abuse of children drawn from the population at Boys Town in Omaha and a public governmental effort to cover it up. So far it has been a very good book.
After the book signing the next group would have been the International Panel, but several of us were already getting hungry, so we skipped-out and headed a block down the street to Jake's Irish Pub, where we enjoyed a decent dinner in a boisterous environment. Again Gavin was a part of the dinner, along with Andy (Nevragan) and Jay (Gentle Soul). It was good to get off of our feet, relax, debrief and wind down. I don't know how some of these conference presenters and attendees do it, going nonstop from 7:30 AM right through 10:30 PM, though I have worked many days that long driving a semi, so it is possible. After our dinner I headed back to my hotel, pretty much exhausted, I guess several of the other guys headed over to Times Square, Jim (Geeders) has photos of his trip there on Facebook, plus Ron has a number of conference photos on his Facebook page too.
Saturday morning I woke-up late, then there was a line to check-out of my hotel so I went out for a smoke, and there was an empty cab standing in front of the hotel, so my luck was changing. I got to the conference quite late and missed the DID presentation, and right away there were my friends from Thursday and Friday out on the sidewalk, where we engaged in a round of handshakes and stories from the night before. At the registration desk they were out of nametags but Ken Followell said that by then everyone there knew who I was, (which was pretty much true). I was supposed to attend the movie Favorite Son, but I was also trying to meet with Ann Boyer and Karen Terry concerning my nomination to serve on a committee with them. I found Karen Terry over at the Awards Luncheon well before the event started, and we talked with MS BoD member Marc Spindelman, who I had previously met Friday morning. Then my friends from New Zealand showed up, and I ended-up sitting at their table with Andy and Gavin for the Awards presentation.
The awards luncheon buffet was decent food, with several hot dishes and several cold salads. It was a good event that enabled me to put more names with faces. Most of our mod team was seated at a table adjacent to ours, and they got a big round of applause when their names were announced. John then gave a group speech, then he handed me Andy's (Former Texan) trophy, which I delivered to him last night when we had dinner out in Boulder with Alan (Hauser). Alastair Hilton, my by now British friend, was given an award for his work. Currently he is trying to set-up survivor support services in Cambodia. After the luncheon and another smoke with Gavin, I was finally able to meet with Ann Boyer about our upcoming committee assignment. The afternoon featured speaker presentation entitled "Assigning Blame: An Understanding of Responsibility" with Larry Lessig, was a great multimedia presentation in John Jay's largest theater.
After the Larry Lessig presentation it was 3:15 PM and my flight home out of LaGuardia was at 5:45 PM. I said my goodbyes and was surprised by how many people were really sorry to see me have to leave early. I got to fly for free on Southwest Airlines, but Sunday and Monday were blackout dates, looking back I wish that I had been able to stay until Tuesday. I saw Gavin one last time, and got hugs from both of my friends from New Zealand, Ken Clearwater and David Passell, and they gave me their business cards. (Reminder: Have business cards printed up before the next conference)!!! It turned-out that both of them represent an organization called Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust, David out of Auckland and Ken out of Christchurch. I guess that now New Zealand is on my list of places that I want to visit someday, both David and Ken were really friendly guys. Even Alastair Hilton and I hugged. I shook hands one last time with Jim, Andy, Robert, and Ron, then Jim and I walked across the street where I flagged a taxi and we said goodbye.
My MS Conference experience was a powerful experience, where I made many new friends and met many people active in supporting victims of childhood sexual abuse. Not only that, but I have been invited back to NYC to stay for free this time. Thanks a lot Gavin, and you are certainly welcome too. I have business cards from both of the New Zealanders and Alastair Hilton too. Should I put Cambodia on my list of places to visit too??? Now I have to write a little letter and get Ryan's book in the mail, a great reward for having the courage to participate in his first recovery event, thanks Theo. I'm going to have to get back to Ontario one of these days too, back to both Toronto and London, so that I can yet buy Jim that drink that I promised him, and hang-out some more with Robert Berube, who also helped greatly in making this conference a survivor-friendly place.
Thanks to all of us, this conference was a great success. Are we doing anything special for all of the John Jay student volunteers? They did a superb job and deserve some recognition certainly. Even my NYC cabbies were friendly, several people out at LaGuardia too. I slept all the way to Midway, then on the flight from there to Denver I sat with a Canadian guy and some Republican gal who was highly opposed to health care reform, so we went round and round about the failings of our system of providing health care here. Our Canadian seatmate seemed to be generally supportive of his health care options at home, so he helped me tagteam our poor Republican friend, who ended-up spilling her drink down in her crotch, "oooh" she said, as she squirmed helplessly around as the ice melted and soaked in, trapped in the middle seat with no way out!!! All that I could think of was "serves you right", man was it funny!!!
Next time I hope to see all of you guys there, it was really a lot of fun for me being a part of my first MS conference, and I know that a lot of us had a good deal of fun and perhaps learned a little something about recovery and each other attending too.
"We stay here, we die here. We've got to keep moving". Trucker Mark