There's something very comforting about the annual meeting of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS). After last semester where the message I kept receiving was "the study of Latin and Greek is useless, you've wasted your entire academic career," it was nice to learn that classics is not endangered everywhere.
I gave a paper on poetic language in Tacitus' Germania that was quite well received. I was invited as a special guest at the vice presidents' dinner to plan strategies against administrations that ruthlessly attack classics. And I made a lot of new contacts and reconnected with colleagues from every stage in my career: people from Iowa, the Vergilian Society, Missouri, and those lucky folks who managed to escape Louisiana years ago who went on to forge successful careers in classics.
As for Grand Rapids, the conference was held at the elegant Amway Grand Plaza. I had a corner room on the 19th floor overlooking the river. I had dinner at San Chez Bistro, a tapas bar where I ordered albondigas (meatballs of Moroccan lamb, beef and chorizo over roasted vegetables, served in a black skillet) and queso recubierto which functioned quite nicely as dessert: breaded baked goat cheese with crispy fried beets and orange blossom honey. I had lunch one day at Angel's Thai Cafe where I had chicken pad cashew reminiscent of Springfield cashew chicken with the addition of bamboo shoots and water chestnuts (my favorite!). Too bad the hotel food was so abysmal - I, for one, do not consider a chunk of tofu marinated in balsamic vinegar and served warm over an uninspired mixture of vegetables gourmet fare.
The best thing about these conferences is that they always renew my interest in classics. After years at an institution that neither valued nor fostered academic excellence, CAMWS in Grand Rapids (co-sponsored by Calvin College and Grand Valley State University) was truly inspirational!