Monday, March 26, 2007

The good, the bad, and the... well, let's just say "the corporate"

My first hour in Dallas almost made up for a disappointing beginning. The bed and breakfast is delightful and proof positive that it pays to do your homework. Love it. LOVE it! The handmade quilt, the four poster bed, the wicker chaise lounge I'm currently reclining on - I can't imagine why anyone would choose a big box hotel over this place!
Bed and Breakfast in Dallas

And, just like I'd hoped, I found the perfect out-of-the-way restaurant that wouldn't have been on any "recommended restaurants" list in the conference handouts. Nikkolini's Organicity. Perfectly lovely. I almost cried when I sat down at the little round table under the tree and watched the trolley go by. It felt a little like God whispered in my ear "this is a gift to you - be refreshed." It was perfect - a folksy organic Greek restaurant that serves the most amazing food I can imagine tasting at a restaurant. (Liz - all I had to do was walk to the end of the street to find a place that serves amazing vegetarian food! No steak to be found!)
Nikkolini Organicity

By the end of lunch, I'd practically been adopted by Gino and Olina, the owners of the restaurant. When I came back later, after attending the first session at the conference, I walked in and Jeff, the very friendly waiter who embraces the world with open arms, shouted into the kitchen "Olina! Gino! Heather from Canada came back!" Gino came out and I said "Hey Gino - I'm tired and I just want to go back to my room to crash. Can you make me something quick and vegetarian to take out?" "Certainly!" Gino said, and disappeared into the kitchen. Five minutes later, he emerged with some amazing hummus and veggie wrap and what I think was polenta on the side. Oh my... all I can say is YUM!
Gino and Olina - owners of Nikkolini Organicity
(Gino and Olina in front of one of Gino's paintings)

I took the trolley downtown, and, just like I expected, the trolley driver was as about as perfect as could be. Charming, funny, and a fountain of information about all things trolley. And to think I would have missed it if I'd stayed in one of the conference-recommended hotels!

Trolley driver in Dallas

And the conference... well, let's see, what can I say... It's very big, very corporate, very American (no offence to my American friends, of course - but can you remind your country-mates that you are NOT the centre of the world?), and, um... well, let's just say it should have been sub-titled "How to manipulate rich people out of their money in ten easy lessons". So far, it has reminded me that I am not a "real" fundraiser - I suck at corporate networking, I hate doing "the ask", I don't want to spend time at fancy galas trying to impress rich people, and I don't golf. I don't even know the language these people speak!

AFP Conference

Future posts may be called "10 sure-fire ways to deliver a truly awful powerpoint presentation" and "why it's better to walk a mile in the rain than get stuck in a corporate networking event, even though the denim conference tote bag stains your clothes" (yes, Michele, denim) and "has every fundraiser in this @*&^%!! place forgotten the biblical principle of the widow's mite?" and "how you can feel more culture shock in a room full of people from your own continent than in Ethiopia".

Ah, but it's not ALL bad. Hearing Chip Heath speak was almost worth the price of admission. I would have bought his book, but it was sold out about half an hour after he presented. Craig Kielburger was a close second. Even Brooke Shields surprised me - she's pretty down-to-earth and she had some touching personal stories to share. Oh, and I had a wonderful moment when a woman looked at me with a familiar "deer in the headlights" look and said "oh my gosh - I had no idea how out of place I'd feel here! That exhibition hall terrifies me! They're vultures in there!" Yes, even here, there are kindred spirits.

I'd love to be out wandering right now (the b&b is in a lovely neighbourhood with lots of character), but it's raining and I got soaked when I ran screaming from the networking event. Okay, so I wasn't screaming, but I did have a mini panic attack after only half an hour of putting on a fake smile and introducing myself to a bunch of people who really didn't care who I was because I am of no corporate use to them. (It was a Canadian reception, and I thought it would at least be nice to be in a room full of people who didn't look at me with a blank stare when I said I'm from Winnipeg. Who knew I'd only last half an hour?)

I had no idea this post would be so long. Sorry. Guess I just had to unload a little.

Just one last thing... I think I'll give this place a pass - it might not look good on my expense acount.
Idle Rich Pub


Gina said...

I'm sorry the conference itself sucked, but everything else looks lovely!

Pamela said...

I've gotten so I am paranoid in crowds... especially people who are pretentious ...
glad you found the B&B and Trolly and lovely food. awww.. the food sounds great.

Melissa said...

The first thing I thought of when I saw that picture was a documentary I watched about those mega-churches they have in some cities in the US. Holy cow, what a crowd! And the giant screens...is that woman wearing a Texas flag? I don't do well in those situations at all. Congratulations on making it out alive! ;)

What a lovely story about the b&b, the trolley, and the eatery! So glad you could find a nice place amongst all that corporate-ness.

Michele said...

Denim, yes, but are there diamond appliques? hmmm?

some of it sounds so absolutely lovely. sorry about the networking. wish i was there with you. we could have at least been snarky together or something.

Dale said...

What? No steak in the Lone Star State? I'm appalled. LOL!!!

Liz said...

Haha! I'm glad you found a good restaurant!

Lucia said...

Take all the good things--the good speakers, the restaurant, the trolley driver, the b&b--and take 'em home in a basket with a bow. Leave the bad stuff--the mega screens, bad powerpoints, the Texas-ness, the corporate craziness.

You sound like me. I'm much more comfortable in a small African hotel than a corporate big box.

ccap said...

But, didn't you expect that? A little? Being in Dallas and all?

At least the B&B and the restaurant sound lovely.

And hey, soon you'll be in MOA with hundreds of materialistic kids on spring break. ;-) What fun!

(Yes, I know, I'm a jerk.)

Linda said...

Wow Heather. I am so glad that you have found places that feed your spirit. You should take a picture of yourself at the conference. I'm sure you'd have a "I can't believe I'm here, I must be crazy" kind of look on your face. I'd actually like to see that!

tlawwife said...

I HATE networking. Makes me feel insignificant as I realize how no one cares who I am they are just looking for someone important to talk to. Glad you enjoyed the B&B. I love greek food but would have been looking for the meat. What exactly are vegetables?

Vicki said...

networking stinks.

The trolley looks just charming, and the bed! Oh I'm jealous. I'm thrilled you've found some sort of oasis in the middle of greed.

Tell us the story of the goats and the duck tape. =)

Accidental Poet said...

Looks like a lovely place to stay.

Hope said...

(no offence to my American friends, of course - but can you remind your country-mates that you are NOT the centre of the world?),

lol heather, you've nailed it.
leave it to you to find real people in the midst of phonies.

Judy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather said...

Melissa - oh yes. It's the flag of Texas on her shirt. She was the opening speaker after we'd been subjected to a truly horrible Texas cover band. It didn't take long to know I was in for a treat!

Michele - no diamonds on the bags and I didn't go to the "Denims and Diamonds" evening, so I don't have any photos. The Texas flag on the shirt was quite enough for me.

CCAP - at least at MOA I'll have my family along to make fun of people with. Here I'm all alone as I giggle (or weep) into my shirt sleeve.

Vicki - ah yes - the goats and the duck tape - I'll save that story for when I'm nostalgic for Africa.

marnie said...

At first I thought... how can this possibly be a business trip...

...until I saw the conference jam packed with conference go-ers.

It sounded like you made the best of a business trip.. too bad you didn't meet up with Vicki.

Oh, PS, you won my horrible prize. Pop on over when you get a chance. :-)

Kristin said...

Oh, what a hard place to be! I would have run away too. I had to chuckle at the Chip Heath bit, though, as he is currently one of N's advisors. I have a xeroxed copy of his book on my lamptable that's probably only a little different from the version that went to press. What a small world!

Janet said...


Now this is DEFINITELY going to sound like somebody who lived most of her life in Houston (Houston has quite a rivalry with Dallas), but I have to say that I'm surprised you managed to find that much charm in Dallas! Good for you! I can tell that you draw the good things in life toward you.

I HATE conferences myself. You've found a wonderful way to counterbalance them. Good for you!

(writing from a Novotel in the London area...sigh...)