Daily diary of the 54th General Service Conference
(The Wandering of a Loose Mind)
Notes and thoughts of the Conference
(This is not a final Report)
8:45 am April 16, 2004
Here I am one year later. I am waiting for the plane, heading out to my 2nd General Service Conference. It is 8:45 on Friday morning. Lots of things are going through my mind. I wonder how this General Service Conference is going to be different. Will I be able to do a good job? They say to trust the process (committee process). I feel much more relaxed and better prepared this year. I guess that comes with the experience. Darn it, I packed my note pad; I am writing this on my airline information packet. Am I better prepared? Oh well. All I need to remember is that God is in charge.
Time to board the plane. I hope that I did not forget anything. I packed lighter this year, that comes with experience. On the plane and I have extra room. I can even stretch out a bit. That's a good sign. I can spend the time reading over the Area's responses to the agenda items. I'm sure glad I have them.
Before I know it, we are over New York. Great looking city from the air. I have arranged to meet another delegate at the airport to share a ride to the hotel. No trip by bus and subway for me this year, once is enough. The weather is beautiful. I take a short walk to the next airline terminal, meet up with the delegate, and we find a cab. Oh boy, do we get a winner! I ask the cab driver his name and he says "why". So I ask him if his name is "why" (I was just kidding but he does not get it) and he flips out. Bad sign. He does not load our bags and seems very upset with us. He seems like he wants to attack all three of us. We decided we had better take another cab. Finally a van picks us up and we are off to the hotel. I sit in front and start talking to the new cab driver. What a difference, he is very nice. Finally at the hotel.
The long flight made me hungry-only peanuts to eat on the plane. We check into the hotel and then head out for a snack. Back to the hotel, and we sit at the head of the stairs (escalator). It is the #1meeting spot in the hotel. We are meeting the Delegate from SENY (Southeast New York Area), to go to an AA meeting in Brooklyn. From what I understand it is the meeting that Bill W. had started in his kitchen. When it outgrew the kitchen, it moved to a small hotel. From the hotel, it moved to the Friends Meeting House (Quakers), and has been there since. It is called the Brooklyn Group.
A couple of other delegates show up. It is nice seeing old friends. The SENY delegate arrives and we hit the subway. I am an old veteran of the subways. I love these underground people movers. The subway comes out into daylight, and we cross the Manhattan Bridge. What a great view of the river below. We get off in Brooklyn. We all grab a bite to eat in a Polish restaurant. Great food. After dinner, we stroll along the waterfront in Brooklyn Heights. What a great evening. Dinner with friends and a walk afterwards. What a beautiful! view of Manhattan across the river.
Off for a walk through Brooklyn Heights, to 182 Clinton St. This is where Bill Wilson lived when he sobered up. I recall in the Big Book where Bill talked about a fear of jumping out the upstairs window so he drags his mattress down to the bottom floor. This is the home Ebbie comes to talk with Bill, shares his spiritual experience with him, and suggest that Bill might choose his own conception of god. What an awesome idea!
We take a few pictures kidding around on the steps. The current owner has gotten use
to crazy people like us coming by. We head to the Brooklyn Group for an AA meeting. It
is Birthday night and only one celebrant. At this group, the celebrant chooses a couple
of members to share their stories. In the middle of the meeting, they break for cake and
sing Happy Birthday. Then, it is back to the speaker meeting. (Good Idea)
After the meeting, we held one of those quick group consciences (not an informed group conscience) and decide to walk back over the Brooklyn Bridge. Oh boy, what a walk. It was 20 minutes to the bridge and a 30-minute walk over the bridge (beautiful view). Someone decides "lets walk to the World Trade Center". I reluctantly submit to the group conscience, and with my legs dragging, we walk another 20 minutes to the World Trade Center. Finally, we hop a subway and head uptown to the hotel. Now for some much needed rest. Good night.
Saturday April 17, 2004
Up at 6:00 AM and off to the world famous Stage Door Deli across from the hotel. I remember some of the faces from last year, and the prices are still right. I take a little walk to loosen up my legs from last night. Boy, do they need it. Back to the hotel and take a chair at the #1 meeting spot. Old friends appear, along with soon-to-be new friends. I greet the delegate from central California. We catch up with each other. Boy does time fly. It seems like just yesterday we met, not a year. She is the Secretary/ Treasurer for the Serenity Group meeting, and is on the CPC Committee. We go over our agenda for these committees.
Time to meet the Pacific Region Delegates for a special tour bus trip with them. We are going to some places in New York City where historical events happened for AA. The GSO Archivists is with us. As we travel, she shares lots of information on the history of A.A. as it started in New York. One of the past GSO managers is also there. He shares the color and feel of the places, things that you will not find in history books. He's a comic! First visit is to Clinton St., where Bill and Lois lived. We take lots of pictures. We then go to Calvary Church, where Bill and others attended Oxford Group meetings.
Next, we head across town past
the Roosevelt Hotel where the GSC was held for many years. We end up at Towns Hospital where Bill and so many others were treated for their illness. The hospital is
located across the street from Central Park, and is now an apartment. What a beautiful
view! Next to all the large buildings, the former hospital looks so small. Back to the hotel and lunch with several Delegates. Our talk centers on
Conference Theme: singleness of purpose and primary purpose. Most of the delegates are in favor of using the long form of traditions Three and Five. The long
forms are more clear in what we are about.
After lunch I spend more time hanging out at the top of the stairs, meeting new panel 54 delegates as they arrive. Some of us decide to head upstairs. The New York Intergroup hosts a hospitality room, where one can meet and greet other delegates and guests. You can also get local information. I meet up with my Conference buddy. I get a few moments to meet with some of the CPC Committee members. I had encouraged us all to meet prior to the conference so we could get personally acquainted. I feel like the conference is getting closer. I am excited.
In the evening we have our Delegates-Only meeting. The Delegate Chairs got together prior to the Conference to discuss the agenda for tonight. The meeting went smoothly. Many of the Panel 53's are able to share with the new Panel 54's on important items that are not covered in the service manual. It is pretty neat, what we do in AA, sharing our experience, strength and hope with each other, in all our affairs.
Out for ice cream after the meeting at the world famous (in our minds only) Stardust Restaurant. Many of the employees at the Stardust are out of work actors waiting for a break on Broadway. The delegates spend the time sharing on a more personal level. I was on medication last year and I was not able to do much fellowship. What a nice change this year. I feel so much more connected.
Sunday April 18, 2004
Up early. It's a beautiful day outside. Well, the conference officially starts today. I am as ready as I can be. I feel well prepared and centered. My Area has sent me well informed. Now it's up to what God's will is for us, as expressed through this group conscience. Across to the Stage Door Deli for breakfast with the Delegate from Northwest New York. He is on the CPC Committee with me. He is nervous (like I was last year), and I share with him. We have a chance to discuss the agenda and then it's off to the Remote Communities meeting. I will not complain about the little bit of mileage that I have to travel. Some delegates travel several days to reach outlying districts in their areas. I heard stories of travel to communities that can only be reached during the winter, over ice bridges; or others can only be reached in the summer by plane or ferry. It was a very emotional meeting with attendees sharing from their hearts.
11:00 am, we finally register for the conference and are given our first armload of material, at least 10lbs. Delegates start handing out pins and buttons. I proudly distribute the pins made by members of the "Pin Committee". Then it's up to my room to drop the paper off, and off to a meeting with our region. We spend time in our regional lunch sharing with the Panel 54's and going over conference procedures. Treat the conference like a big home group (oh no, if they only knew what our group conscience were like). Do not talk about your committees' work outside of your committee until after your report is given. It is a working lunch, we eat and share.
Lunch is over and then down to the opening session. It is so awesome when roll call begins. One at a time, each conference voting member's name is called, all 93 delegates and 40 trustees, staff, and directors. (This year we only have 133 voting members as 2 are in the hospital) The whole conference has a different feel this year. I do not feel the stress that I felt last year. I used so much energy concentrating last year. I feel much more relaxed, even though I have much more to do this year.
After the opening remarks, we go over the mechanics of the conference and then have questions from the floor. I am glad that some of the Panel 54s ask questions. Good for them, I was too nervous last year.
We get a few minutes to run to our rooms, then we are off to our joint committee meetings with our corresponding Trustees committee. The Trustee Chairperson for the CPC Committee is in the hospital and the vice chair sits in. I am a little nervous as I have to sit at the front of the table with the Vice Chair (thank God its our regional trustee). It goes well. We have a great discussion with the delegates and trustees. Many questions are asked. It is very interesting to hear the non-alcoholic trustee's viewpoints. My fears are unfounded as usual.
We get a little break to freshen up and then it is down to the opening dinner. A whole lot of people. I am getting nervous with all the people there. It is not just Conference members, but friends and guests of conference members, the GSO staff, and friends of AA. We go into the main room and things settle down. There are lots of guests and I get to spend some time talking to a Trustee of Narcotics Anonymous. Boy oh boy what a meal. Too formal for me but the speakers are great. We have five 15-minute AA speakers. Great sharing. After the meeting, some of the delegates head out to the Stardust but I head to my room. It is going to be a long week and I have to get up early every day to chair the morning AA meeting. Thank you God for this opportunity.
Monday April 19, 2004
Up at 5:30 AM to get ready for the day. I remember to ask God into the deal this morning. Would not be here if it weren't for my higher power. It is important for me to remember that. When it is all said and done, I am an alcoholic. "If I forget what I am it will not matter who I am". I am chairing the morning AA meeting and will be chairing the Committee meeting later. I have lots of energy compared to last year. Please God direct me today. You are in charge. Let me be a channel of your peace and love. Let me be an example of what to do instead of what not to do. I go across the street to the Stage Door Deli. Feels good to have some stability. Familiar place and faces. Its time for the Serenity Group meeting. Lots of people, lots of sharing and some crying. I try to balance calling on Panel 54s and 53's and some outside people too. Very uplifting meeting. Great way to start the day, and the week.
Then it is off to our first committee meeting. It goes well. Thank you god for our staff secretary and recorder. As our discussion progresses, I notice how some strong personalities start to come to the top. I would not expect less. These are the delegates from areas in the United States and Canada just like SETA. I need to keep the meeting moving and on track. Keep my own opinions to myself (oh what a task). I have to stress that we stay on the subject. Thank you so much God for this opportunity to serve AA. We work our way through some of the agenda. Boy, it's 12:00 PM already. More to do tomorrow.
Time for lunch, the food is great. Last year I think I gained 10 lbs. I need to watch out this year. We get no exercise. We eat and then meet. Then we meet and then eat. All day long for seven days. Oh no, I remember that it is a tradition to get a gift for your conference committee secretary. I need to talk to the committee. We do a quick group conscience after lunch and I dash out to look. Only have 15 minutes here and there to get some items pick up for our staff secretary and staff recording secretary.
After lunch we have presentations by the General Service Board and the Grapevine Board. This is followed by a report on the state of the finances for AAWS Inc. Good visual presentation. I will bring it back to our area with me. Lots of questions and answers. They will all be in the final report. We listened to area presentations by both the Northeast Region and Eastern Canada Regional Delegates. This was followed by a presentation on the 2005 International Convention in Toronto.
Then we had a "What is on Your Mind Session". It is a time for conference members to share on any topic (except specific conference agenda items). I have some things on my mind but they might be addressed in the committee process so I listen and take notes. I will make a list of Q & A's to share with my area.
Guess what, its time to eat again. Like last year I sit with different conference members each time we eat. It is a great time to make new friends and to share about things going on in each area and region. I wish I could get some of these ideas implemented in our area. Sometimes I think alcoholics are afraid of change. What an idea.
I run out again to pick up the gifts. Our staff secretary likes Broadway plays so I found a photo of the Marquee to "42 St" in a frame. We can all sign it around the matting and give it to him in the morning. Found a pretty scented candle for our recorder. Back in time for the presentation, out of breath but happy.
After dinner we have great presentation by Archives. They have restored a massive amount of tapes, vinyl recording and audiographs. We listen to some recordings of Bill W, Lois W, Dr. Bob S and even Ann S (Bob's wife). They are not AA talks but just day to day conversations. It is interesting to listen to Bill. He was a big promoter. He talks about his plan to sell a BB to every Doctor in the United States. Bill sees $$$$$$$$$$$. They turn out giving most of the first Big Books away to the people.
We end the evening with another "What is on your Mind Session". It has been a long day. The brain gets so full of information. I take a short walk outside with another delegate. We talk about AA finances, our concerns about self-support, and what does it really mean? Back to my room. It takes a while before I can get to sleep. Third night in a row at 12:00 midnight.
Tuesday April 20, 2004
Up at 5:30. I put the gift together for our secretary, do some writing and get ready. We are headed to the General Service Office today so we can dress business casual. No tie today. Out for breakfast. Oh no, the Stage Door Deli is closed. It has a health violation sign on the front door. Has Marvin Zindler been here? Are all of the delegates going to die from some strange disease?????. The sign says, "posted by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene". Mental Hygiene, hmmm, I wonder if they know "we" were there. Oh well, off to another restaurant. I find one a couple of blocks over in an area that is referred to as "Hell's Kitchen". Oh No !!!!!
The morning Serenity Group meeting went well. I called on a visitor. She only had 90 days. We all needed to hear what she had too say. This is why we are here at the Conference.
The morning Committee meeting went well. We finish our agenda and spend a good amount of time getting the wording correct. Even though we are presenting committee additional considerations, we need to be very clear for the whole conference. Finally we elect a new chairperson and alternate. I get the feeling that it is time to start letting go. I do not want to but I know it is best. What will I do now?????? I know god has a plan.
We give our gifts to our secretary and recorder. Lots of pictures. We all know that we will not be meeting again as a committee. Sad time but we all feel good that we did a good job for AA.
Break for lunch and then we head in for presentations on Singleness of Purpose. They will all be in the final report. Good thing as I am called out to go over our CPC Committee final report to the Conference. I have to read it over and initial it, if all is correct. I find something that needs to be corrected and ask for the change. The committee is not there, but there is the right of decision in AA. The changes are made and I sign it. I get back in time to listen to the end of the report. Then it's off to the General Service Office. I know the subways now and can help the new Panel 54's. Should I quit my day job and become a tour guide?? It is nice seeing the office again. I get to sit down with one of the Grapevine staff and look over the anniversary edition coming out in June. Pretty nice. I clown around with the general manager and get a picture sitting at his desk. Walk across the street to the Riverside Church. Beautiful church and a beautiful day.
Back to the hotel and get a short break. You have to grab a break when you can, as it is non-stop here. I am starting to get tired. My voice is starting to go. Not from talking (though I can do lots of that) but I am having a sinus attack. I kid my alternate chair for the CPC Committee that he will have to give the report to the Conference. Please god keep me going through the week.
Down to the Delegates-Only dinner. We elect a Delegate Chair for next year, pulled from the hat. He is from our region, the delegate from Kansas. He breaks down with gratitude. We have grown close over the last year. After dinner our region goes out for ice cream. I had better watch out waistline. Good fellowship and sharing. I can not go to sleep again. Too much going on in the old brain and tooooooo much sugar.
Wednesday April 21, 2004
Up at 5:30 and out for breakfast. This will be a long day as Conference Committee reports start today. Everyone is wondering when they will have to give their reports. The order that the reports are given are pulled out of the hat. Everything here seems to come out of the hat. Hmmmmmmm Lets leave it up to god.
I grab something to eat then I'm off to the local drug store to get packing supplies as I need to box all my conference items to send home. It will be easier than lugging a third suitcase on the plane. Go to the morning meeting. Good meeting. I have not been to a bad one yet. This is an open meeting, I call on a non-alcoholic trustee. He is very gracious and thankful for AA. Oh yeah, it was a Gratitude meeting.
Off to the Conference. We start the day with us all breaking into small workshop rooms to discuss the Conference Theme. I did not get much feedback from the members of my area on Singleness of Purpose. I hope my area is concerned. Our workshop goes well with some great discussion.
The rest of the day is spent with area highlights, two regional elections and a "What's on your mind session". We do not start Conference committee reports until 8:00 PM. That is too late for my brain. We are all starting to feel tired. Well, they hand out the reports and the CPC Committee is last. (fear tries to creep in). Will everyone be too tired to ask me questions???? Last year we were first and this year last. It turns out to be a long night. Lots of questions when reports are given. Up to bed. I talk to my wife. (I can not tell her what is going on in my committee). I miss her a lot. I sleep better tonight.
Thursday April 22, 2004
Up again at 5:30 AM. I bet you all are getting tired just reading this. Off to the all-night drug store to get some drops for my throat. It's getting worse. Ah, I find a real full size grocery store under ground only two blocks from the hotel. Regular prices (for New York). I pick up some fresh lemons and water. I will make a homemade tea in my room. Grab a quick bite and then to the Serenity Group. Another great meeting. Near the end, I call on a new person. Oh No. Oh NO. She says she is not an Alcoholic. (My brain races, what to do, what to do. Well Paul how about leaving it up to god). She says she is the mother of an addict (OH No what next) my heart races. The conference Theme is "Singleness of Purpose" She speaks for one minute or so and thanks AA for her son. He came to AA looking for help and today he has over two years clean. Whoa, what a deal. She was in the hotel for a business meeting and heard there was an open AA meeting and she just wanted to sit in a meeting. Such a neat deal. I talked to her after the meeting and find out that she is the sister of one of our class A Trustees. Everybody agrees it is a god deal.
Off to committee reports. All day there is lots of information and lots of emotion from both the conference chairs and trustees. Will they grill me? I do not know about giving my report last. Too much time for me to think. Several committees have to leave the conference floor to meet again and vote on amendments to their reports. I ask several questions of a conference committee chairperson, as I want clarification. I hope they do not fell like we are attacking them. It turns out to be a very long day in the conference room.
Friday April 23, 2004
Up at 5:30 AM. Today is the last day of reports. It feels like I just got here and yet it feels like I have been here a month. What a week. I will be giving the CPC report today. I have to get a hold of -----. Wait a minute Paul, you just got up and your mind is off to the races already. Slow down. God, this is your day. Let me do your will. Direct my thinking and actions all day long.
I am off for a bite to eat and then to the Serenity Group meeting. It has been great meetings all week. We have had a mixture of delegates, trustees, visitors & guests, and local AA members. I think it has kept us all grounded. Very emotional meeting. One of the conference member's daughter has come up missing. He asks for our prayers. He says she might be one of us.
The conference meeting starts in a few minutes and I need to find the CPC Committee members. I have asked them to all to sit by microphones so if any of the conference members want additional information on our report I will know where they area sitting.
The conference seems more subdued after yesterday's emotional session. We listen to several reports and then the CPC Committee is up. I'm nervous but I say a little prayer. Everything goes fine. I am amazed, with the length of the report, that there is only one question. I answer it and ask one of our CPC Committee members to add some more information. I wonder if they are too tired or what. I asked a couple of delegates and they said the report answered their questions.
Now for floor actions-Oh boy! There are five of them. All but two fail. The most emotional one had to do with Dr. Bob's Nightmare. After much discussion the Conference came together in Unity. It felt good. The unity of the fellowship is more important that commas.
We spend the next hour saying our good-byes. Very emotional as the Panel 53's turn the Conference over to the Panel 54's. We are passing this thing along. It will be in good hands. I feel sad, yet happy. The delegate whose daughter had come up missing shares. They found her and one of the staff is taking her to an AA meeting. That is what this is all about. Thank you God. We end the day with the Serenity Prayer in English, French and Spanish. Wow, what a feeling!
After a break it is out to dinner with our Region. It is nice to finally relax and let our hair down. We still have a closing breakfast to attend in the morning and then we head out to Stepping Stones. I finally get a good night sleep. It only took seven days.
Saturday April 24, 2004
Up at a reasonable time. It is the last time we will all be together. It hurts some to know that I may not see many of these delegates again. Who knows, though, as we trudge the road? At breakfast two Class B Trustees and one Class A are rotating out. Great talks. We all snap lots of pictures, share many hugs, and say our good-byes. It is great. Tears, hugs and lots of love.
Then some of us head for the buses to go to Stepping Stones. It is a wonderful trip with lots of sharing on the way. What a wonderful house Bill and Lois had. It is in the country about an hour outside of the City. It is as if someone still lives here, it is in a time warp. Lois saved everything that was given to Bill.
She listed all
of the details. Some of us kid around and take pictures at the kitchen table where Ebby
sat and talked with Bill. Lots of emotions here. Up on the hill behind the house is "Witts
End" where Bill wrote the 12 x12, and possibly the AA Service Manual. It is like he could
come walking in any minute.
We are at Stepping Stone for a couple of hours. Not long enough. Then it is back to the city. Our driver takes a short cut (Oh no) through the Bronx and Harlem. He gives us some history as we cruise the back streets. It turns out to be a great trip through the city. Back at the hotel some people go out to a play, some to an AA meeting. I decide to have a quiet dinner and spend some time reflecting on the whole experience. Need to pack and be out early Sunday to the airport.
Sunday April 25, 2004
Heading home this morning. I go out for breakfast and take a last walk around the hotel and Times Square. I will never forget this experience. What a long strange trip this has been for me. I remember sitting at a table on a patio many years ago with one of my first sponsors. We both had been street winos yet we were sitting at a beautiful house eating strawberries, drinking fine gourmet coffee and waiting for breakfast to be served. We were wondering how old skid row winos could get from there to here. Now I find myself many years later standing in front of the Crowne Plaza Hotel thinking the same thing. How do you get from there to here? Only in AA. It has changed me. I will always see AA as a much greater society than I ever knew. I hope that I can share this with everyone in my Area. I hope that all of the members want to become the delegate someday. What an opportunity to be of service. What a life experience!