Shuffling zombie-like through the damp cloud-covered streets of the French Quarter, I had one last critical goal to accomplish before heading to the Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans last Sunday morning. After an inspirational and aspirational weekend at the 3rd Dad 2.0 Summit it was going to be a race against the clock to complete my mission.
As one of only a few dozen attendees of all three Dad 2.0s, I had different objectives this year than during the two previous. The first year I was just a newbie blogger who really had no clue why I was there. The second year I went seeking something intangible and as a byproduct stumbled onto something quite tangible. For this go around, though, I had two key objectives and I knew neither would be easy.
New Orleans has special meaning to my family, even though I’d only been there once before this trip, as that’s where Mrs. Dude went to grad school. Just a few months after she graduated and moved back to L.A., we met and 11 years later, here we are now. So when I learned the location of this year’s conference it was with great hesitation that I dared even mention going to her favorite place without her. And being the saint she is, she knew there was a greater purpose and encouraged me to go.
The most unique aspect of this 300-person congregation, unlike any other I’ve ever been to, is the warm inviting feeling conveyed by every single person there. I got to reconnect with old friends and finally meet face-to-face friends whom I’d only known online before. That’s what this conference is all about. Camaraderie. Brotherhood. Empathy. Everyone at Dad 2.0 is in the same boat, even though some are dinghies and some are yachts: every person there wants to be a better parent. Honestly.
For me, the last year has been both wonderful and exasperating. As a result some facets of my life have suffered, like my blog. Trying to compose 700 pithy words when I’m falling asleep in my reheated dinner at 9:00pm has been much more difficult than I expected. Since the Littler Dude arrived, I’ve had a very hard time juggling all the chainsaws I have in the air. It’s a wonderful problem to have, but also uber-challenging. So my chief mission at Dad 2.0 this year was finding that inspiration again, that spark that helped me spit out witty blog posts like peanut shells at a Dodgers game when I started Dude of the House nearly 3 years ago. Little did I know that I’d get my mojo back within 2 hours of the event’s kickoff.
The first morning opened with an inspiring video showing the progress Dads have made in the media over the last 1000 days since Dad 2.0 was first conceptualized:
|Jim Higley and Jason Katims|
That video was followed in short succession by a welcome from Rob Candelino of Dove Men+Care, one of the few mainstream brands that truly gets us; then an opening keynote conversation with Jason Katims, Executive Producer of NBC’s Parenthood and Bobblehead Dad himself, Jim Higley. The insight into Jason’s creative process and how his own challenging experiences as a father greatly shaped the direction his show has taken was inspiring to a wannabe TV writer like me.
At last year’s conference in Houston, Brene Brown spoke about vulnerability. This year in New Orleans, Lorne Jaffe exemplified it. It’s hard to put into words how inspiring he truly was.
It was later that first afternoon when I was able to cross Critical Mission #1 off my list: an intimate roundtable discussion with Carter Gaddis of DadScribe, where I learned more about writing in 25 minutes than in the last 2.5+ years I’ve been blogging. I won’t divulge Carter’s storytelling secrets here, rather I hope they’ll add life and color to this blog in the very near future.
Among other important lessons I learned in ‘Nawlins:
- Getting my butt sketched was much more cool than I thought it would be.
- Lee Jeans not only still exists, they actually are pretty awesome.
- Holding an alligator is not something I hope to do again anytime soon, even though my having done so totally delighted the Little Dude.
- It’s possible to be away from 2 sons for 3 nights and sleep even less than I would at home.
Feeling guilty about leaving my wife with 2 kids meant I could not return home empty-handed, which is why I was roaming the Quarter’s broken beer-scented cobblestone early last Sunday morning. I was on a mission to bring Mrs. Dude a King Cake as a token of appreciation and a fond reminder of her, and now my, time in NoLA.
After consulting Yelp for the best/closest King Cake joint open that early, I headed out for breakfast at Café Beignet, only to discover they had just sold out which meant I was likely going home empty-handed. Thankfully a kind eavesdropper who’d overheard of my quest guided me to a local market about a half-mile down the street.
Speedwalking down the blocks as my glasses fogged up from the mist, I searched frantically for the correct address and prayed they’d have one little King Cake with my name on it. Entering Rouse’s nervously, I was back on the street in 30 seconds with a giant frosted cinnamon sweet under my arm and 8 hours until home. Mission Complete.