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Wholesale Observations: Rafe travels across America, part 4
Rafe Semmes
Rafe Semmes

My wife and I have been fortunate to visit many cities and towns across this country, from Savannah to Atlanta, Asheville, N.C., to Albuquerque N.M., New York to Miami, Portland Oregon to Portland Maine, etc., and enjoyed it all.

The office I work for in downtown Savannah is a quasi-governmental agency tasked with handling other people’s money, under court order and oversight.

We are one of some 200+ trusteeships across the country who are regulated by a national office in Washington, DC, and subject to oversight in every area of operations, from staffing to budgets, etc.

Once a year, a national association of trustees puts on a four-day conference in the summer, offering a variety of training and education in areas relevant to our mission. It usually draws attendance of 1,000 participants from across the country: lawyers, judges, accountants, senior management staff, various creditors and folks from the software providers who provide our specialized computer programming.

It is enlightening to attend these, and I have been fortunate to go to many of them.

In addition to the educational training, I have been able to visit many areas of the country I would never have been able to see otherwise. Many of those who attend extend their stay by a few days to explore the area a little bit, always at our own expense, of course. Some bring spouses and families, and let the family have a short vacation while we are in classes. One such conference was held in Albuquerque a number of years ago. I had only been west of the Mississippi River once, before then, when I spent a summer in Athens, Texas, working to save money to pay for college. That summer was an eye-opener in itself, as I found out East Texas was much like our area, without the ocean nearby: lots of trees and greenery, not the desert-like topography I thought Texas was like from the many Westerns I had seen on TV. (That was West Texas.)

Albuquerque, however, was definitely in the “desert topography” category. Houses had rock lawns, not grass, and trees were few and far between. That area of the country gets very little rainfall, so it can’t support the kind of green spaces we are used to here.

At the end of these conferences, there is a closing banquet that everyone attends, often in an unusual local venue. That year, the closing dinner was held on top of a nearby mesa, a huge rock outcropping, under tents, kind of like a Lowcountry boil. Some 40 buses took us there and back.

I happened to be in one of the first group of buses to get there, and as we rolled west, we saw dark clouds getting closer. We had only had time to get off the buses when the rain started coming, and most of us got right back on, as the storm rolled over the mesa!

It rained hard, and we were worried some of the tents put up over our outdoor seating would blow over, but they held.

The downpour eventually stopped, we all got off again, and proceeded to enjoy the evening meal.

The local trustee hosting that year’s conference told the assembled folks the next morning that “it only rains like that twice a year, out here,” so we had gotten to experience one of Albuquerque’s only two annual rainfalls! He also had a bunch of t-shirts made up that said, “I survived the Mesa!” available to take home as a souvenir of our visit. Another memorable part of that trip was my afternoon visit to the local cathedral, down the street from the hotel. I always liked to spend my one free afternoon at these conferences walking around the area where we were, or taking a local tour, to get a feel for the local architecture and culture.

This particular church was over 100 years old, and featured something I had never seen before: statues of various saints, placed in the aisles. These were made of wood, and most of them had bare spots on the toes of their shoes, where the paint had been rubbed off. I read somewhere that locals believed that rubbing the foot of these saints would bring good luck, so they did.

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