As many of you know that have followed my blogging career, when I visit Syracuse, I love to write about it. This trip my friends was truly worth writing about as I have to admit this is a highlight of my life.
This was my vacation but it wasn’t just sitting around and relaxing. In fact, I stayed busy the whole week I was there and though it may not be sitting on a beach with a cold drink in my hand, I loved it.
I had planned this trip mainly for a conference about social media that I was excited to experience titled #140Cuse. I found out later that other things were also going but this conference (and visiting with family of course) was the reason for the trip. As you can see below, I got a preview of my badge for the event and I was excited before I even left:
So my mother and I headed north on a 12 hour drive from China Grove, NC to Bridgeport, NY (whenever I am in town, I always stay with my Granny, Aunt Joyce and Uncle Harold, who does not have Twitter but if he did, would probably be more along the lines of a hashtag like #ThingsUncleHaroldSaid.
For those unaware, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about a year ago so whenever I go back to NY, I take her with me so she can visit with family and friends as often as possible. We left on a Sunday morning and planned to return the following Sunday. Sometimes that drive feels so long but rest assured, once I see the Carrier Dome off to the side of Interstate 81 North, I get a great boost and know it was worth it.
Obviously, getting in late on Sunday, we just enjoyed some sloppy joes (one of mom’s favorites and mine as well) and relaxation with the family. Monday was more of a day of grabbing up somethings that I forgot to get before the trip and some errand running.
Tuesday was my first fun day. The day started off with my usual visit to Manny’s. I am sorry but no visit to Syracuse is considered successful unless I stop there to check out Orange heaven. I then had a bit of time before meeting my Twitter friend at Newhouse so I headed out to try a Syracuse University staple that I myself had never experienced:
I tried it and loved it (got the cheese steak and onion rings). I ate outside to enjoy the view (well minus the guy preaching on the street corner). I finished just in time to meet Ben in Newhouse for a chat on education he was hosting. This was truly in honor and I can’t thank Ben enough because it was a dream come true. I got to sit in a Syracuse University classroom (not to mention in the Newhouse School of Communications)for the first time ever and experience a great discussion on using social media in classrooms. Working at a technical school and interacting with students often, I thought maybe I could add some insight.
An hour later, I thanked Ben and the professors (Prof. Gitner and Prof. Glass) and had to head to downtown Syracuse and meet the Syracuse.com staff at Twin Trees to be apart of the pizza taste testing they were doing. The staff/judges were all great and I even got a bit of a cameo on camera when asked my opinions on the pizza, which you can see here. I highly recommend their pizza and even though they did not win, they cheese pizza was great.
Pizza and a class discussion on the Syracuse campus in one day was all a guy could ask for in life but wait, there was more to come. We have not even arrived at the part that was the main reason for the timing of this trip.
Wednesday was mostly a family day. Of course part of family day this trip included a lunch trip to my favorite spot and my usual photo opportunity with my favorite turtle:
This was also a chance to rest a bit because Thursday was going to be a long day and my alarm was set for 4:30am.
OK so just because the alarm was set that early doesn’t mean I actually got out of bed that early (I like to spend a bit of time to wake up and watch TV before I get up). So I got out of bed a little after 5 and left my grandmother’s house in Bridgeport about 5:45 or so thinking traffic on 490 would be horrible. Traffic was in fact clear and I actually arrived on campus at like 6:30 for a conference that didn’t even start registration until 8am. That is OK though as I got the chance to enjoy the beautiful view that is Syracuse University.
I found my way into the Schine basement where the event was being held and shortly there after, I finally was able to meet some Twitter friends in person including David, Karen, Alyssa and Professors Rotolo and Michael Wunderlich (though I had met him once before at our Tully’s tweetup last year). The others were busy setting up so Michael and I went in when it was ready and I found my perfect seat, front row by the aisle where apparently the orange suspenders stuck out. This is when I also ran into more friends including Michael Borkowski (probably the greatest cartoonist ever), DJ Kelly spinning the tunes, Katie, Adam and Alexa. These meetings alone were worth the visit.
At 9am, the #140Cuse conference started with quite possible my favorite YouTube video ever so I knew this would be a great experience (great job Hailey):
The conference had different speakers every 10-15 minutes so it kept things interesting. All of the speakers did a great job and this post is long enough without breaking them down but do yourself a favor and search #140Cuse on YouTube someday and check them out.
One bad thing about my experience was tweeting so much during my time waiting that I killed my battery so I lasted a couple hours before I finally had to go spend some time in the overfill room where there was a feed and plenty of electrical outlets to recharge. On my way, I ran into Brent Axe who I have admired for years and listen his show on my phone every weekday that I possibly can and the always personable HoyaSuxa so I had a bit of a chat with them but then my phone needed a charge.
While charging, I finally got to meet a Syracuse legacy and friend Kaleigh and made a new friend named Rob. I also noticed walking around were some other great friends like Renee, Sunny and Jenn. The funny thing was, they all had one person in common that I knew about and someone who I said I finally wanted to meet though she was unable to attend so we all gathered together and left the conference for a few minutes to visit our friend Tracy in Career Services. I didn’t feel guilty leaving because this conference was about how to utilize Twitter and that was the bases of the mutual friendships…plus I have known Tracy for a long time and finally wanted to meet her in person (she is a major reason I have the job I have now).
By the time we returned, it was almost lunch break which meant grabbing a free lunch in the Schine Dining Hall and watching student presentations, which were all very well done. I bring these up because after these and before we met back in the Undergound, we were greeting to a visit from Otto. This was a chance to get a photo opportunity and when asked to join in on one, I was glad to join David and Karen to have my picture taken with Otto:
After lunch, my focus was on the afternoon session and trying not to use my phone because I never did get a full charge despite moving around from outlet to outlet when I could. I also enjoyed throughout the day, taking notes of quotes and one liners when I could in my SU IT School notebook. I took many notes and honestly felt disappointed when the day was over.
After the event, I headed over with Renee and attended the wrap up party (free food and drinks). This was a chance to talk more with everyone who stuck around. I figured if nothing else, free drinks and HoyaSuxa would make it interesting. It was great spending some time getting to talk to everyone including Jameson, whom I actually interviewed on an old blog about his experience at Syracuse and his work with Bleacher Reports a few years back (and now works for CBS Sports)and catch up with the Orangest Packer fan I know and all around great guy, Dan.
I have to say, meeting everyone was a bit overwhelming at times but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was truly an awesome experience and was worth the travel and vacation time. If they do a #140Cuse again next year, I highly recommend you attend and network as much as possible. Then you can do what I did the event and head over to Chucks’s on a Thursday night to be reminded how old you are (though the burger was good, the beer was cheap, and unlike a couple guys, I didn’t have to worry about the bouncer checking my ID and not falling for a fake one).
On Saturday, the day before we headed back to NC, I went out to the Dome to catch the Spring Game and men’s lacrosse game (all free of charge). I grabbed up a seat in the front row on the 30 yard line knowing I will never see that view from the Dome again and had a great time. Borkowski and his family joined me as did our friends Paulie and Shari who is currently undergoing breast cancer treatment and rooting for her to kick it’s ass (which you can learn more about on her blog here). I bet the Dome did well just off our section on Dome Dogs, pizzas and soft drinks. Also got to meet a few new friends (including Will who I have known on Twitter for a long time and is as big of a SU fan as anyone I know) and had a great time supporting my #1 love in sports, SU football #InMarroneIBelieve. Plus we sat near the undressed players and that helped me realize how much of an exhibition game this was with so many not eligible for the game that will be by September.I am optimistic about the future of the program and this team but then again, Syracuse football is why I bleed Orange so I may be biased. And last but certainly not least, I got to see my BFF Otto again and this time, spend some time he found me out to give me a paper for Otto tryouts, which I wish I could attend as that is one dream job I would truly enjoy.
I left the lacrosse game a bit early because sitting around Georgetown fans made me nauseous (apparently the section we were in became enemy territory when lacrosse started) and because it was my last night in Syracuse and I wanted to spend time having dinner with the family.
I will spare you the details on the trip home and how I use Foursquare to update my friends and family of where we are along the drive (it posts to those who follow me there and on Facebook and Twitter so they can follow our progress there) and how tired I was getting home about 10pm and having to be up early for work the next morning.
I will simply say that all the exhaustion and not having much time to relax was well worth it as this experience overall was easily one of the best I have ever had in my life. Thank you to everyone for being so awesome and to those who went above and beyond to make this memorable. Thank you also to everyone who whether it was at #140Cuse, the Spring Game or whatever to say hello as you have no idea how cool it feels to know people appreciate you for simply being me. I spent a lot of years depressed and I am in fact an introvert but meeting everyone was a great experience and one I truly will not forget.
I know this was a bit long but I did my best to mention everyone I could because as great as the #140Cuse presentations were (and there were many I have re-watched on YouTube just to relive them again), the high point for me was putting faces to Twitter names and seeing how blessed I am to have friends like everyone I listed and more. If I left you off this list, I apologize but I assure you that I truly enjoyed meeting everyone and talking with you. I truly consider myself blessed and it is all thanks to my Twitter family as well as my blood family who also helped make this experience so great. Years ago, I lost someone truly special to me and since then I learned to take every chance to appreciate those who surround you. So every one I met, interacted with or even those who just took the time to read this is why I try to be the best man I know how to be and I thank you all. As I stated recently on my Twitter and Facebook feeds, if my next breath is somehow my last, I just hope you all know how truly special you all are to me and how special this week was in my life.