Back from Savannah and the ST Gathering--what a lovely time. I was sort of simultaneously attending the Southern States Communication Assoc. (SSCA) conference, so I didn't do much in the way of tourism in between ST events. It worked out rather well.
I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express for location and price--it was the SSCA overflow hotel so I got a conference rate. Can't say I'd recommend it. The rooms were fresher and nicer than most Holiday Inns, mainly because the hotel opened just recently. But the hot water was out for most of the time I was there, which was no fun at all. The management didn't seem to have much of a clue about dealing with problems like that. I would have moved, but Savannah was pretty well booked up. At least I got a reduction on the bill, but I would have preferred hot water.
After the pre-gathering cocktail party, which was lovely but strange--seeing all these folks, most of whom had heretofore been disembodied, if vibrant, voices, I went to Paula Deen's restaurant, The Lady & Sons, the first night, with colleagues and students from SSCA. I seem to have missed this cultural moment, since I had no idea who she was and what all the fuss was about. We were in a party of 20 and sat upstairs. Our waitress was delightful--she sang Billy Holliday like she was channeling her when she took our request for a song. But the food was pretty mediocre: I had much better fried green tomatoes at a little roadside joint on the way to Arkansas a couple of weeks ago. There was no tartness to them, and the batter was gloppy. The crab cakes were doughy. The meal was so heavy I still felt full the next morning. But it was fun to be with such fine folks for dinner. Something bit me (oddly enough, mostly on the scalp) during the cocktail party so I went around scratching all weekend.
Friday I did conference all day, then onto the dinner at the Gingerbread House. I was pretty overwhelmed by all the folks, felt a little shy, cursing myself for how bad I am with names and trying to match people up when I haven't been on ST enough lately to recognize so many of the names even, so it was good to have a camera to hide behind and take photos for awhile.
At the Gingerbread House dinner: it's all a blur, but that's Kim on the right in the light suit, who is the ST Blogging Queen among other things, and responsible for me having this blog (thanks, Kim!)
But as the evening went on and I saw some folks I knew, like Kathy and Shannon, and met some I feel like I know, like Kim and Palma and Bob the Navigator, I found myself having a great time--and I finally met Pauline and Steve, whom I admire so much for getting the whole thing going, designing and maintaining it so well. I made some new friends too--Barb especially. Slow Trav is just an amazingly generous community of folks. I couldn't help but notice how predominant us middle-aged women are in the community--the very active ones, especially. Not to say there aren't all sorts of interesting people on ST--there certainly are--but at the Gathering especially I felt like my demographic was running the show. And you know, I like that. It might have been all the presecco I was drinking, but I felt pretty fine basking in the presence of so many funny, salty, wise, generous, interesting women. And several similarly wonderful men, a few lovely younger people, too.
Next day I melted down a bit at the hotel over the hot water thing since they decided it was my room and to move me after midnight when I was already in bed. and then there was no hot water where they moved me....
oh well, that's all (cold) water under the bridge. I slept in then drifted over to the conference, then went for a walk to get some decent coffee, and, lured by drums that turned out to be for a South African dance troupe from Soweto, I wandered into an international street festival the Savannah College of Art and Design was throwing. It cheered me considerably. I bought a print of a ghost hovering over trees to give to Brenda who organized the Ghost Tour for later that day, by way of apologizing for my delinquency in paying her for my reservation. I sampled lots of different nibbles of things prepared by international students, bought some earrings made by a sweet young woman from India. I wish Baton Rouge and LSU were more like SCAD--but it's really apples and, not even bananas, maybe apples and motorcars. But I 'd like us to have more of a walking around life, more prominence of the arts, more textures and things to walk around and admire. We are too much a car place, and I get tired of that.
Saturday evening the low-country boil at Fort Jackson got moved due to threatening weather, and I don't know how the planners got it all rearranged but it worked out perfectly.
The planners at the museum dinner: funny, salty, wise, generous, and incredible organizers
The trolleys picked us up at hotels and we were taken to the Savannah History Museum. We had the run of the place pretty much, with fiddle and banjo music and a buffet of food that included some really wonderful boiled spicy peel-and-eat shrimp that I overindulged in. There was an animated lecture by the museum director, mostly covering what went on during "the war of northern aggression" but also the Battle of Savannah in the revolutionary war (we were right on top of where it happened). And of course there were door prizes. I was the lucky winner of a bag of Canadian goodies: maple syrup, candies, maple mustard, etc., and the centerpiece, a bottle of ice wine. Sweet in every way, I was delighted. We continued on the trolleys to the Ghost Tour, which was pretty tongue-in-cheek but lots of fun, with our guide Omer, who was about as Savannah quirky as they come.
I love Savannah for its quirks. I got pan-handled for 42 cents. It was so specific I had to give it to him. I heard the most amazingly bizarre conversation standing in line to buy mosquito repellant at the CVS, about global warming and the war and god and asparatame. It's all, you know, connected.
Sunday morning I got up insanely early so I took a long walk, then nipped into a store that was open that sold pretty layered silk skirts made from recycled saris. They are made by Kariza Designs but they were a heck of a lot cheaper at the store than on the web site--also they had more variety in the store. Wasn't planning on shopping but couldn't resist. On to the brunch, which was at Vic's on the River. Palma and Brad made a very sweet ST history and tribute video montage that was shown, and gave us each a copy. I recognized more people on it than I thought I would. I had to leave just after the screening to catch my plane, but found myself wishing I'd had some more just hanging out time with the ST folks.
Home again and the first thing I noticed is how very high the river looks. I haven't gotten up the nerve to cross the road and climb up on the levee and look. We're over flood stage but that doesn't mean the levees will overtop. Still it is a little nervous-making, in view of the, um, events a few years ago with those bitches Katrina and Rita. Here's the National Weather Service warning that pops up on my Yahoo home page:
AM CDT FRI APR 11 2008
THE FLOOD WARNING CONTINUES FOR THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER AT BATON ROUGE. * UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE...OR UNTIL THE WARNING IS CANCELLED. * AT 7:00 AM FRIDAY THE STAGE WAS 40.9 FEET. * MAJOR FLOODING IS OCCURRING AND MAJOR FLOODING IS FORECAST. * FLOOD STAGE IS 35.0 FEET. * FORECAST...THE RIVER WILL CONTINUE RISING AND WILL CREST NEAR 42.0 FEET ON THE MORNING OF APRIL 21ST. * IMPACT...AT 40.0 FEET... THE GROUNDS OF THE OLDER PART OF LOUSIANA STATE UNIVERSITYS CAMPUS BECOME SOGGY. THIS INCLUDES THE AREA AROUND THE VETERINARY MEDICINE BUILDING...THE VETERINARY MEDICINE ANNEX...THE STADIUM AND BALL FIELDS. THE CITY OF BATON ROUGE AND THE MAIN LSU CAMPUS ARE PROTECTED BY LEVEES AT THIS LEVEL.
Ominous. I don't like this either.
They opened one of the spillways, the Bonnet Carre, the one that goes through Lake Ponchatrain and diverts water to the gulf--that's pretty rare.
I'll take some pictures if I work up the nerve to walk up there this afternoon.