Thursday, December 27, 2012

Warm, Sandy Beaches...

"Warm, sandy beaches, tropical fruit drinks with little umbrellas in them,"" is Don's mantra ever since we arrived in Oklahoma for Christmas last Sunday. The first weather reports we got while in Miami were just that it would probably get very cold, going as low as 18 degrees. Then came predictions of 'light' snow flurries. The Saturday before we left, my sister Janet called with the more ominous update. A big snow storm was heading to Oklahoma so while she'd still be coming up to OKC for early afternoon Christmas Eve, we'd be skipping the 5:30pm church service Mother wanted to attend and instead all of us would head back to Janet's farm outside of Apache and then we'd have to see if we could venture out on Christmas Day to see my Uncle Johnny & Aunt Paula.

Janet arrived, we had our roast beef dinner, opened presents, and then set out for Caddo County. Janet's back was hurting so Don offered to drive her car after his 100th muttering of "Warm sandy beaches..." and I rode with Mother in the new Cadillac DTS (2011) she'd just picked up on Saturday (talk about a Christmas present to yourself!). We left OKC in good form since nothing was happening with the weather. On the way down Mother and I caught up on family matters; we didn't see Janet's car on the HE Bailey Turnpike right away but we passed it around Chickasha so we called them. Janet needed to gas up in the city but also wanted a fountain Dr. Pepper. The convenience store where she got her gas didn't have her preferred beverage so they took a bit long getting to the turnpike and stopped at an additional store to get her soda.

We arrived at Janet's farm and glimpsed her 2 horses, Magic and Kissy, who were waiting for supper. Inside we met Lady, the lab Janet took in last year as a 2nd dog. Janet lost Elke to old age at the start of 2012 so Lady was an immediate companion. She is sweet and affectionate though Don's height and deep voice sometimes made her cower. She likes to jump up against you. She's not as vocal as Flash nor Elke (my 2 canine nieces of the past) but implores you with her eyes. Mercifully, she hasn't picked up on the tradition of going to Aunt Gayle at 5am to be let out as was the case in days of old with Flash and Elke. She was insistent on sharing Janet's bed which Janet shared with Mother while we took the guestroom. However, Lady apparently doesn't always understand about making room in bed for everyone!

Christmas Day started rather calmly but there was snow on the ground; Oklahoma City was getting hit far worse that morning so it was better that we got to Janet's the evening before. (Yes, Don once again muttered about "warm, sandy beaches..." and why we just didn't stay put in Miami.) Paula called and we decided based on her observation of the snow that we could still venture out for the 40 miles over to their place. We got in the Caddy and though the snow was coming down, we made it in good shape to see Johnny and Paula and enjoy Paula's beef stew and cowboy soup. They'd had Christmas the evening before with my cousins and their children but Darrell and his sons Connor and Braden stopped in after feeding the cattle. The boys have grown even more since I last saw them; Braden is the youngest and is now headed to 6'4", taller than his dad and brother! Darrell brought Oklahoma lottery tickets as part of our presents but scratching them off brought no winings. In the meantime the snow was coming down harder so it was time to take our leave. We got back to Janet's to stay in for the rest of the afternoon except for Janet who had to bundle up to feed the horses.

While we didn't get snowed in for several days as happened with me at Christmas 2009, the next day did pose transportation issues. Daddy's van got stuck when he drove over from Mountain View to have lunch with us and he called from Janet's mailbox at the main road. She was going to use the Caddy to just drive down and get him back to the house but miscalculated the snow drifts that'd built up in the driveway by her house. Mother's car also got stuck. Janet's neighbor was ill so he couldn't get on his tractor to clear the driveway. Her friend Pete came by and cleared the driveway and got both vehicles in good shape. Daddy is now 82 so his hearing is going so shouting becomes part of communication. We'd eaten but sat around the table with Daddy while he then had his lunch. We gave him his presents and he took off before it got dark. Leftovers last night (Don's offer of using the ground hamburger to fix supper for everyone was rejected) and then we watched the Kennedy Center honors. Lady went outside and for the first time, I could hear her barking. There was probably a coyote or other animal in the vicinity.

This morning we packed up, bid Janet farewell, and have returned to OKC. Mother's at her nail salon (a casualty to dealing with the snow under her Caddy) and though he's watching TV, I think Don is once again muttering, "Warm sandy beaches, tropical fruit drinks with little umbrellas in them." but I'll counter back as I keep doing, "Next week in Miami!"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Zorro Is in the Building

Tuesday morning was the first day of the bookfair´s Jornadas profesionales for librarian, publishers, and bookdealers. Angela, Adán and I shared a cab over to La Rural and got our credentials and bookfair bag in due time. As we finished, Jorge Gutiérrez came up so we were able to express our thanks for the bookfair´s continued willingness to host US librarians. Adán made introductions and I remember Jorge from past fairs. He smiled and remarked how he remembered my name and I assumed he meant because it`s not a Romance language based set of appellations ending in vowels, or at least because Williams is not too foreign in a country that saw its share of British and Welsh immigrants. However, it turns out he associates my name with Guy Williams of Disney Zorro fame (or head of the Robinson family on Lost in Space for those who´re a little younger)! I watched my share of Zorro episodes on TV as a child and remembered being amazed to learn that when Guy Williams passed away in 1989 he was living in Argentina (Recoleta per IMDB). Evidently he was born Armand Catalano in 1924 in New York to Italian parents who came there from Argentina. He travelled to Argentina in 1973 and liked the country and found he had a fan base there so he moved there in the early 1980s. He´s buried in the US.
Many things at the bookfair looked the same, the Centro Naval´s stand is always in the same corner but I couldn´t help noticing the Hermana Bernarda monopoloy on cookbooks and video seems to have been taken over by Doña Patrona whose photo on the books suggests a 1960´s era Betty Crocker. Is the Doña real or not? Further investigation awaits. Another change in the four years since my last bookfair is the notable absence of pens and other swag. Probably evidence of everyone´s economic struggles.
This first day it appeared my university credit card was going to be declined for a purchase and I´ve realized some of the publishers aren´t stocking the titles I saw online that fit in my purchasing plan. Plan B goes into effect where I´ll go through the list of publishers who indicate they specialize in journalism titles and visit those stands. I´d started some preliminary grouping of them according to location by pabellón but only did a small portion of the list before leaving Miami. If you haven´t been here, then you might not realize the bookfair is spread out over a good deal of real estate. The building is divided into zones (called pabellonespavillions) with banners indicating streets (one direction runs odd numbers, the other even) and the stands have individual numbers for identification. Some publishers stands are huge and you can´t help but see them. Some small stands stand out with a distinct display (I believe there´s an award given for best stand) and others stand alone, tiny and indiscript but you don´t want to pass them by in case they hold real treasures. Sometimes I wish I had inline skates or wheelie shoes to get around. I haven´t seen any Segways but the congestion would probably make them too dangerous!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Back in Buenos Aires

My last visit to the Buenos Aires Feria de Libros was in 2008. My Title VI budget this year is designated for FIU´s Spanish Language Journalism major which has not gotten much library support. As I was looking into program needs, I realized coming to the bookfair would be a good approach!

Courtesy of the FIU Latin American & Caribbean Center, I was able to use one of their complimentary tickets from TAM Airlines. I left Miami on an 11am flight, arrived in São Paulo around 8pm for a 10:45pm connecting flight to Buenos Aires. I expected to arrive in SP at 1:30 in the morning. Alas, for various reasons, our flight took off an hour late. Once I got through immigration (and didn`t know until I had to pay it right there about Argentina`s new $140.00 visa), getting my bag, and going through the customs x-ray, and then got a cab to the hotel, I was able to go to bed at 4:50am. Not surprisingly, I slept until 1:30 that afternoon.

We`re back at the NH Florida but my ro0m looked onto an interior courtyard and was about as bright as a tomb (I´ve started rereading Edgar Allan Poe), felt very small, and the TV didn`t work. I asked at the desk to change, they advised I´d have to wait until the 3pm checkout to see what would be available. I had lunch in the hotel dining room and then found I could move to the 7th floor overlooking Tres Sargentos street and the Inversiones Federales building as I had in 2004. To the left I can also look to see the long-shuttered Harrod`s. I remain intrigued that you can see some open windows on its top floors.

Once moved into the new digs, I went out to buy water for the room and coffee for Don. Adán Griego and Angela Carreño are also staying here so I sent out an e-mail seeing who might want to get together for dinner. Angela called me so we went across the street and shared pizza and salad. A final check of e-mail for the evening brought a message from Hortensia Calvo that she´s also here for the bookfair but at a different NH location. Phil MacLeod is also staying at a different NH. My first day in Buenos Aires didn`t quite go as planned but it`s still good to be here.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Philadelphia Story

Sadly, my little netbook took ill no sooner than I arrived in Bogotá for the bookfair at the start of May. The fantastic Hotel Excelsior has a business center for its guests but trying to blog knowing any minute someone else will turn up to use the computer makes it harder for me to write. At any case, the bookfair was useful, several salalmistas were present and many of us were at the Excelsior.

Onto my stay in Philadelphia from May 27 through June 2 to attend SALALM LVI hosted by University of Pennsylvania and Temple University. (Another guest in the hotel elevator asked me what the LVI letters stood for and I explained it mean the 56th annual meeting of our group. He replied, "Clearly, I'm not a Roman or I would have known that.") We had some very good panels on archiving issues regarding human rights. As always, what I really look forward to is seeing the many friends I've known from the conference over the years. What's equally fun is meeting new faces joining us for the first time and I met several people in this category.

It was my first time in Philadelphia and the Center City area was the perfect setting. The hotel had good restaurants but right outside the front door were even more in every direction. I had French food, Mexican food, seafood, Middle Eastern food, and even the mandatory Philly Cheesesteak! It was also great to see the old character of this realm mixed in with new stores and buildings. There were small old alley ways that I looked down even if I only got delivery trucks unloading their goods. From my hotel room window there was a mix of old buildings mixed in with new. Some of the older buildings were even taller than the new builds right by them. I was especially intrigued by one building I could see to my far left from my room window. Very tall, possibly early 20th century (or at least through the 1930s) but not a skinny skyscraper. It was rather broad and toward the top, I could see a row of balconies with arches. Time didn't permit a walk to try to get to the building and learn more about it.

I did manage a walk on a hot Sunday afternoon to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. I didn't have a ticket for Independence Hall but it didn't take long to walk through the Liberty Bell Center, read its documentation and see the bell itself. Luckily, I found the bus stop on Walnut Street and caught the 42 bus back to the hotel. It was really hot that day and the last thing I wanted to do was show up at Executive Board a big, sweaty mess.

My next trip to Philly will have to be during a cooler time of year in order to enjoy more sights and drink in the history.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Trini Travel

This is my last night in Port of Spain. I arrived Sunday to spend the week buying books. This year's Title VI budget was allocated for the Caribbean. There aren't many bookfairs in this region so I started planning this trip last fall by determining where library holdings need strengthening and it turned out to be Trinidad and Tobago. I don't mind at all! I was here in 2001 on my TICFIA project working with the UWI Library and it's been gratifying to think about returning. The big difference as well is that in 2001 I stayed in St. Augustine and only got a glimpse of Port of Spain on a car tour that included visiting the zoo.

The drive from Piarco airport to Port of Spain can take about 30 min. on the Churchill Roosevelt Highway. It crosses the Eastern Main Road which is the vicinity of St. Augustine. I saw the Mount St. Benedict monastery high in the hills and remembered the delicious passion fruit yogurt they make. We passed the Valsayn Shopping Center which was very nostalgic. Most evenings in 2001, I would leave campus and go back to my guesthouse, rest, change clothes, and then walk through the neighborhood where I could approach the shopping center from the non-highway side. There were a variety of restaurants where I could dine without it getting boring, a grocery store where I could buy cold drinks and snacks for my room's fridge, and just get out a little in the evening. There's now also a 24 hour pharmacy at the opposite corner of the highway. We also passed a drive-in theatre, now closed. I love going to drive-ins so it's fascinating to see they've also been in the Caribbean (there's still one in operation in Barbados).

As we hit a red light going into POS, I suddenly heard a loud broadcast of East Indian music. I assumed someone driving with their windows open was blasting their radio. The cab driver pointed out it was coming from a procession of cars for a Hindu wedding waiting at the light. Sure enough, there was a car outfitted with outside speakers and a sign announcing its availability for hire. Heading up the line was a white car festooned with red streamers. The light turned green and they headed to their festivities.

I got to Alicia's House in St. Ann's, a POS neighborhood. The room here is not fancy but fits my budget (including breakfast), is clean and comfortable, has free wi-fi access and a fridge. The cable TV selections include 2 Miami channels so I don't have to miss news from home. The desk clerk pointed me to Hi-Lo supermarket before they closed at 4pm so I could get water and snacks. To my delight, I also found Mount St. Benedict yogurt in the dairy section! I bought the big container, found plastic spoons and checked out just at 4pm as the store closed. I also found some prepared sandwiches so my dinner that night was a sandwich and passion fruit yogurt. Yeah!

Alan Moss was good enough to give me ideas for where to go and stay. I haven't gone totally with all of them. I didn't make it to Tunapuna and the bookstore there nor a couple of others he mentioned. I should have made it back downtown one more time to visit the Central Statistical Office but much of their stuff is online. The FIU Libraries receive several Central Bank publications and most of those have now gone online. On the other hand, there's still a lot to find here that isn't strictly UWI publications. The UWI titles we lack can be ordered online and I'll be finishing that up in the next couple of weeks.

I spent Monday visiting a couple of downtown bookstores, writing down titles so I could check them against the online catalog to avoid duplication. The bookstores are well stocked with US publications but generally have a West Indian section. A couple were more inclined to provide school books, test materials and educational supplies so I didn't use them. One might think that there's a law in T&T that all bookstores must bear the surname Khan. Take your pick: RIK (Khan) Trinidad Book World, Keith Khan Books and Gifts, and Nigel Khan Books (who also included an Erotica section). RIK and Nigel Khan have multiple locations; I'm not sure about Keith Khan. Actually, there's also Metropolitan Book Suppliers in the Capital Plaza Mall on Frederick Street, and other stores around Trinidad do have different names. The Metropolitan was very helpful. They agreed to ship my purchases and those I made at one of the other stores. They called this afternoon before I left my room to let me know the 2 boxes will be heading towards Miami as of tomorrow and should arrive the week after next. Perfect!

Yesterday I walked over to the National Museum and Art Gallery. It sits on one side of the Queen's Savannah, the POS equivalent of Central Park. Next door to the museum is the newly opened (2009) National Academy for Performing Arts. It's large and has staggered shells reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House. Unfortunately, no activities are scheduled until this weekend. The museum had some interesting exhibits on T&T history but I was viewing them with 2 school groups which meant I got stared at as much as the exhibits. The main art gallery had recently closed an exhibition and had nothing up in its place. There was a lovely exhibition of the works of Cazabon, a 19th century Trinidadian artist.

It should not come as much of a surprise that World Cup fever has also set in around town. Walking around downtown and going into the various shopping arcades, you can always hear playback of whatever match is in progress. At the museum, 3 staff members had a TV on to watch. Today at the Long Circular Mall in St. James, the flat screen TV hanging from the second floor railings drew many people as the France/Mexico match continued.

I finished up purchases today that will ride in my suitcase and carryon. There's a bookstore/gift shop at the nearby Normandie Hotel called Paper Based. They tend to carry more art books and catalogs but also had some recent publications I didn't see in the other bookstores. I had lunch at the hotel yesterday, then wrote down titles to check against the catalog last night. We had several of the exhibit catalogs already but there were still 5 titles we didn't own so I went back over this morning to buy them. I got them back to the room just before a heavy rainstorm thundered for 20 mins. I hung around checking e-mail until the weather improved and then caught a cab to Long Circular Mall.

Our library doesn't have much in the way of Trini music cds but the downtown stores where I could use my university credit card tended to have more of hip hop and reggae offerings. I was resigned to thinking I'd have to find an online source to buy some once I returned to Miami. I went to LCM today just for a change of scenery but it paid off. Nigel Khan and Kam's Records both had the type of selections I wanted to buy. I'm no expert on calypso but the young lady ringing up my purchases at Nigel Khan thought I made some good choices! In all I bought 15 cds.

I've primarily been having dinner every evening at the guesthouse. Nothing exciting but tonight they offered a special of stewed chicken, vegetables and macaroni pie! The latter is a very Trini concoction, basically macaroni and cheese baked into a firm casserole but will vary from place to place in terms of seasoning, added pigeon peas, etc. I've had my share of dahl and roti all week but hadn't found the right place for macaroni pie. I'm glad I got to have it on my last evening. And desert was my wonderful passion fruit yogurt. You can find all kinds of tropical fruit yogurt in Miami but not passion fruit so far.

Most of my packing's done and in all it's been a productive week.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

And the Wind Kept Snowing down the Plains!

A belated Happy New Year from Miami which jumped from a warm December when I left town to a now rather cold, windy January in place. I've been accused of bringing the weather back from Oklahoma with me.

This has been a singular holiday for me. I'm not accustomed to being trapped on a farm as a result of a record-breaking blizzard but in a nutshell that's what happened. I arrived in Lawton, Oklahoma on Dec. 21. I spent the night at my sister Janet's home and then we went up to Oklahoma City for a couple of days with our mother. The idea was to stay there until Christmas Eve day and then all of us would head back to Janet's to spend the evening with some relatives and visit other family on Christmas day. My mother then had plans to go to Dallas TX and Mobile AL with a friend. Janet and I were planning another Christmas reunion with my father, half-siblings and their families on Saturday at her house.

By the time I arrived, Janet was getting information about changes in the weather. She cautioned me that we might want to return to Caddo County (where she lives) late Wednesday afternoon to avoid the big snow storm being predicted. We had a pleasant evening at her house where I learned that touching the towel bars in the main bathroom other than to take off towels would bring them ripping off the wall and a tiny angle wrench was required to reinstall them. After 2 instances of this and Janet's glare as she reinstalled them, I conditioned myself NOT to hold onto them for any reason and I was successful for the remainder of my trip. It would be so much easier if she just considered installing STURDY towel bars that stay in place. Life is never so easy.

Tuesday morning started at 3:45 am when Janet's dog Elke woke me up. Her lack of panting seemed to indicate that she didn't need to go out in the yard for relief but simply thought that I would enjoy some playtime with her after such a long time apart. I managed to get back to sleep until we got up and drove up to Oklahoma City. We decided it might be a good idea to exchange presents that afternoon at my mother's. Shortly after that my cousin Karen and her daughter Hunter dropped by. Hunter is 8, still full of enthusiasm for Christmas, and was happy to open her presents from us. When they left, she also demonstrated the sun roof of her mother's new car by poking her head out of it! Obviously the weather was still decent at that point.

Wednesday morning we took Mother to a morning feature of "Up in the Air." Mother was disappointed that its course of events didn't lead to a happy ending but I enjoyed the film. After a few more errands, Janet and I loaded up her car, even Elke, and headed back down to Caddo County. Mother decided to wait in OKC because of her other travel plans. The weather was still decent though getting colder. However, the storm followed us by a few hours. Howling winds woke me up around 5am to announce the arrive of snow and ice.

Christmas Eve day was completely overcast outside and the sun never appeared. Throughout the day we received phone calls from my father, aunt and uncle and assorted cousins who'd all lost power. Janet doesn't have a great deal of trees on her property which may have accounted for not losing power since there were no trees falling down that toppled nearby power poles. Luckily we had more than enough food, in addition to electricity, satellite TV kept running, the Internet was active or we might have lost it! I also had plenty to read. Meanwhile, Elke came in and out since she loves cold and snow, and Janet made several visits to check on her horse Chief. By afternoon, she reported that his ears were coated in ice and his horse blanket was soaked through from the blowing snow. While she didn't cover his ears, she cleared them of snow, and put his horse blanket in the drier so he'd be more comfortable.

Janet brought out one of the frozen meatloafs she'd prepared for one of the family get togethers that the weather cancelled. We spent the evening dining and watching TV. Despite the lack of real activity, I fell into a torpor. I had little appetite, and was happy to head to bed much earlier than usual.

Christmas Day was much of the same with a few differences. The wind had died down, the sun came out and we could see the surrounding snow in all its glory. Janet's driveway down to the main road was packed high with snow drifts and she wondered how soon we'd be able to get out of it. In the late afternoon cabin fever began to take hold and I was eager to take some photos of the snow plus take my first look at Chief.

The cold weather gear I'd packed was mainly sufficient to go outside but Janet deemed I should wear some of her outdoor shoes to survive. I'm glad I did. I was wrapped head to toe but my hands remained cold since my gloves were thin which was great for taking photos but lousy for keeping warm. I helped feed Chief a variety of chopped up fruits and vegetables plus hay though kept my distance. Chief is about 25 years old which means he can get cranky, especially with strangers.

Christmas Day also brought its share of phone calls with holiday greetings and updates. Most of the family had its power back except for one of my cousins. My father called to update us on possible plans with my half-brother James and his daughter Jaden. They'd had to go to visit his other siblings in McAllister and Tulsa to collect a van he was getting. Janet and I were hoping to host the Williams' clan on Saturday. James and Jaden were determined to get back down south since they had to return to Austin on Sunday. My half-sister Bobbie and her family would have normally driven down but given that they would be driving from Broken Arrow (Tulsa) and the weather in Oklahoma City was still bad, it was common sense for them to stay home so unfortunately we didn't get to see Bobbie, her husband Mike and my nephews Bryce and Jake.

Saturday was another bright, cold, sunny day with snow piled high. A couple of neighbors came by with tractors and could clear off some of her back pasture but the drifts down the main drive proved too much to clear. Janet got the name of her county commissioner and gave him a call. He put her in touch with his road crew who let her know they probably wouldn't be able to arrive on Saturday to clear the drive since they were clearing snow everywhere. He was committed to getting to us on Sunday to dig us out!

My father is nearly 80 but didn't see the snow as an impediment. He was confident he'd be able to take the main road and then go through the back pasture into the yard and Janet's garage and parking area. We were a little wary but the idea of seeing other faces was also entertaining. Janet and I are close but the whole point of returning to my home state for the holidays is to see relatives beyond my mother and sister. Late in the afternoon, Daddy called to say they were on the way so she'd be ready to open the gate. Sure enough, there they were (as I looked from the kitchen door), still slipping and sliding but coming to a safe stop. When Jaden hopped out of the van, she spotted the huge drifts at the curb of the drive and immediately jumped onto them. She sank in slightly and since she's all of 5'1', I warned her we wouldn't pull her out if she sank into the snow! She came in and on hugging me, noticed that my hair had been cut since our last meeting in December. She was thrilled to see all the snow. When I saw her in Austin in December, she'd asked if there'd be a white Christmas in Oklahoma. I'd laughed and noted in my many years, Christmas in Oklahoma had been cold, had been warm, but rarely ever accompanied by snow. That night at Janet's, I told her I was glad she got her wish!

We had a great evening with Daddy, James, Jaden, Janet and me. Of course, Elke and Chief were in the vicinity as well! We had dinner (more meatloaf plus my green chile corn casserole). Pre-blizzard, there'd been plans to attend the weekly horse auction in nearby Mountain View but the weather cancelled that event. We opened presents and Jaden was appreciative of what Janet and I put together for her. My niece is truly adorable, a tiny beauty with glowing skin and perfect hair. She wasn't too bored as the adults discussed family and other events since she sometimes texted on her phone and enjoyed getting on the floor to play with Elke. Elke was very content with the attention.

At long last, it was time for them to brave the cold, dark night and see if they could return to Daddy's house in Mountain View. Janet was outside assisting and I stood again at the backdoor watching the van manuveur with more difficulty on the more frozen road. I was doing a mental inventory of sleeping arrangements for 3 more people that night when the van maintained an even keel and disappeared over the rise and back around the pasture down to the main road. They reported their progress along the way via cellphone and noted that the county grader was down at the entrance to Janet's drive. We felt encouraged at that news, did the dishes, and went to bed.

Sure enough, Sunday morning the county grader did its work and piled the snow off into the ditches. Mother and friend Roger managed to arrive on their way to Dallas for lunch. It wasn't easy. The driveway wasn't perfect and Janet still had to help direct Roger's car and dig them out a couple of times. To add insult to injury, later Roger inadvertently opened the gate to the front yard and there was Elke streaking out into the property and ignoring Janet's frantic attempts to get her back! At one point Elke came around to the back and I thought she might be persuaded to return into the house with me there. No such luck! The little fugitive again whipped around in a different direction with Janet in pursuit. Bear in mind though that Elke is about 10 years old. Despite her love of snow and cold, when she tired, she was all too happy to come back in for a long snooze!

Canine crisis averted, Janet and I adventurously set out in her car to make a few visits. There was still a bit of slip and slide down the drive but we were somewhat astonished at the roads as we drove along. It appeared that Janet had gotten loads more snow than we saw as we drove along. We figured the wind driving the snow up along the contours of her property just built it up more there than on average elsewhere. We stopped briefly to see my Aunt Sue and her family (my dad's side of the family) as they were wrapping up a delayed Christmas reunion. That's part of the family tree I haven't seen much of in the last few years so it made up for the other relatives I didn't see at all.

From there we headed to the Block farm where my Uncle Johnny and Aunt Paula live. This is the house where my mother and her 2 little brothers grew up. Janet and I are the only grandchildren to have stayed there when Grandma and Grandpa Block still lived there. By the time my maternal cousins made their way into the world, my grandparents bought a house in Hobart, the county seat of Kiowa County. Johnny and Paula moved there not long after and have made changes over the years. The world's tiniest bathroom (swear!) is long gone for a much larger and more comfortable version. One side of the house has been expanded for a nice master suite for the adults. However, I can close my eyes and still remember the house from when I was 6 or 7.

Johnny and Paula have 3 grandsons who have all undergone amazing growth spurts since I saw them last Christmas. My cousin Darrell is very tall but his youngest, Braden, appears to be overtaking his old man. Big brother Conner is also getting tall but not quite as tall. My cousin Pam's son Chance is even taller than I would have expected! Who knows what Christmas 2010 will bring!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I Got to Go Home to the Armadillo...

I'm back in Miami after a brief jaunt to Austin TX to deliver a paper on the Digital Library of the Caribbean at the Society of American Archivists annual meeting. If you didn't know, I got my MLS at UT, lived in Austin for 4 years, and left 30 years ago. I've always wanted to return to live and work but Fate has decreed other paths in my life. I can't complain in that respect and I manage to get back to Austin whenever possible.

It was HOT in town with average temperatures of 100 degrees Farenheit. Wed. night as the plane was landing, it was easy to see there'd been a much needed thunderstorm. Sadly the rain predicted over the next couple of days never showed up. Even the conference wear I packed seemed too hot and I made a few adjustments since the 4 block walk between hotels downtown was akin to walking in a blast furnace.

Friday evening I dined with my panel mates (though I'd already met Bert Lyons in Jamaica in June) and my SALALM colleague Marisol Ramos. I hadn't met Helen Wong Smith, our other speaker, until then. It was useful to get to know one another and we loaded their PowerPoint presentations on my netbook for the presentation. The panel went well with a plentiful audience for 8am. I came away with 2 intriguing new leads for dLOC participation that I'll follow up on this fall.

I also had a lovely evening with my half-brother James Williams and his daughter Jaden. James was out of contact with most of the family for several years so this was my first chance to meet my 13 year old niece Jaden. I couldn't quite see the resemblance with my sister Janet that others have claimed but Jaden does remind me of her Aunt Bobbie (my half-sister) and my cousin Bonnie's daughter Judy Kaye. James promised they'll be coming to Oklahoma for Christmas.

I slipped away from the conference to use the Benson Latin American Collection for a research project I want to finish. Being back in the Benson is always nostalgic for me. I wander the stacks remembering using the collection for my Latin American bibliography coursework in my graduate work. There have been shifts in where some of the collection now sits so it was good that I looked at the floor map of call numbers or I'd have ended up on the wrong floor! A big change is the recent addition of a replica head from the Olmec San Lorenzo site that greets you in the courtyard on the east side of the building. I couldn't help but dubbing it "Big Boy"!

Saturday evening was dinner with Ann Hartness at the Fonda San Miguel (James has lived in Austin off and on since 1993 but he'd never heard of this Austin institution till I told him about it). The Fonda has superb Mexican food in beautiful settings and it's probably been about 10 years since the last time I dined there. Ann and I missed one another by a day when I was in Rio de Janeiro in June. It was fun to hear about her upcoming birding trip in Italy she'll be taking with Laura Gutiérrez Witt, the other retired director of the Benson Latin American Collection. We also agreed that we despise Heathrow Airport in London!

This morning arrived TOO early, 4am to get up and leave for a 6:45am flight. I had a 2 hour layover in Atlanta where I finished my novel in an attempt to not just fall asleep at the gate. I dozed on the flight to Miami and still needed a nap once at home so I would stay awake for True Blood. My eyelids are again getting heavy so buenas noches.