sábado, diciembre 08, 2007
miércoles, agosto 29, 2007
In praise of Gris-Gris
While we might have observed Gris-Gris’ birthday a month ago with all appropriate fanfare and enthusiasm, the second anniversary of Katrina is also the second anniversary of Gris-Gris’ membership in our family and is cause for celebration and reflection. These have been two years of change and adventure and the youngster has participated as a trouper through displacement and recovery.
Gris-Gris’ first days with us were spent in a cat-carrier. Originally, when I brought him back from the LA/SPCA Shelter, I wanted to introduce him into our household slowly. Since my house is one continuous space, there wasn’t a separate room I could keep him in and, anyhow, I wanted the older boys, Felix and Rocco, to become familiar with his sweet scent. And then Gris-Gris and I evacuated leaving his newly adopted brothers to manage for what we thought would be three days. It was only after our three months exile in Austin (reunited with the older cats) that the youngster had the run of my house in New Orleans. Did I say run? Well, Gris-Gris, at 4-months was an agile leaper and discovered nooks, perches and crannies that larger and less agile Rocco and Felix could never consider.
Fully grown Gris-Gris is considerably smaller than his brothers. They weigh approximately 17 pounds whereas Gris-Gris seems relatively small at only 12 pounds. My house is on three levels and there are many parapets (best translated as “for pets”) throughout. As I move through the house, Gris-Gris hops onto these low walls and meets me at the head of stairs poised for a petting.
Apparently, all of my cats are quite unusual in that they love to meet and greet any visitor. Growing up in our Forest Hills apartment, we never had any pets other than Gary’s tropical fish. My first cat, Black Tom, came about as a consequence of discovering a mouse in my apartment when I first came to New Orleans leading to a bad experience with a successful mouse-trap. I have had cats now for some 36 years. I have become more and more appreciative of each cat's unique personality.
Rocco lavishes affection and demands the same. Felix loves the attention of being fed by hand, comes when he’s called and loves an occasional snuggle. Gris-Gris is a gentleman, very courtly and with dignified. His solid warm-grey coat makes him virtually invisible at night but, in the day, emphasizes his sculptural form – very much the Egyptian. His long ears, pointed chin and luminous light brown eyes suggest that he is from another branch of the cat family than the chunkier two-toned Felix and Rocco. When you pass your hand in the vicinity of his head, he stretches up to be petted. Gris-Gris, you are an essential part of this family and we, the older members, hold you in highest esteem.
martes, agosto 28, 2007
Katrina – Two years later
This morning, I went down to the Orleans Parrish Criminal District Court to see one of my friends, a law school student, perform as an assistant DA. On the way down, I drove under the magnificent live oaks of Carrollton Avenue, at my end an area unaffected by post-Katrina floods. I turned onto Fontainebleau Drive, the first 10 blocks or so fully recovered from serious flood damage. Healthy trees, mown lawns and summer flowers suggested that the struggle to recover was, at least physically, over. Further down Fontainebleau, closer to where I used to live, restoration projects were still underway and Katrina’s damage had not yet been erased.
The trial I was hoping to attend was postponed. One of the police officers was engaged to escort President and Mrs. Bush as they toured New Orleans, two years after. I returned to my cozy house in my cozy neighborhood and prepared to begin the new semester at Tulane. While the University’s recovery was costly in faculty departures and building repairs, a casual tour of the campus suggests that Katrina’s floods had never occurred. (Please notice my emphasis on the flooding which was the principle cause of damage to New Orleans.)
On Sunday, I had dinner with my friend Janie. We reminisced about our experience as Katrina evacuees. We left New Orleans early Sunday morning, a day ahead of Katrina’s landfall. We drove west on the I-10, taking the usual outbound lanes. The inbound lanes were directed toward Baton Rouge whereas we headed north on I-50 intending to eventually head west ourselves but further from the coast. Happily, there was not too much traffic and as we approached the Mississippi border we were able to move at a fast clip (this seemed very important at the time.)
Just outside of Vicksburg, I got a call from my dear brother Gary and a half-hour later, he had made arrangements for us to stay at the Gold Strike Hotel in Tunica, Mississippi. (Did I mention that we were traveling in Janie’s Mazda with her dog Dolomite and cats Ishi and Muffaleta? I had left behind my big cats Felix and Rocco and was traveling with 4-week-old Gris-Gris who I had adopted the Friday before our evacuation.) All of us, and I mean every evacuee, was only expecting to be away from home for a few days and I felt confident that my big boys could take care of themselves. It’s interesting that those hours and days are so vividly engraved in our minds.
On Monday morning, images on the two large-screen hotel televisions showed the immediate damage to New Orleans caused by rain and wind – nothing that the city had not experienced many times before and not particularly serious. There were images of thousands of New Orleanians who had not been able to evacuate huddled in a Superdome who’s roof had two major holes. And then we learned that levees had been and breached and that water from Lake Ponchartrain was filling low-lying areas – indeed, most of the city. We stayed at the Casino for almost a week (along with many other evacuees.) We then moved to a motel in a nearby town. Janie and I were talking about how kind people were – organizations offering meals, Internet access, etc. We were able to see aerial images of the city and check the extent of the flooding. We ourselves were reassured but many of our fellow hotel guests were not at all so fortunate.
Gradually, we started to think of what we would do next. How could we get back to New Orleans, rescue our cats (poor Janie had been cat-sitting for friends prior to Katrina) and see to our properties. We contacted pet rescue services. I don’t know how I heard, but I received a message from Eliot Barron, the son of a Tulane colleague and my house sitter from earlier that summer. My cats were fine but the back door lock had been bashed open. He left the cats ample food and water and they greeted me when I got back into the city a week later.
Meanwhile, we were attempting to get closer to home – there were no vacancies at closer motels (we were 200 miles away.) We were attempting to rent an apartment or house in Baton Rouge. Eventually, Janie’s friends, Jerrye and Tommy Martin invited us to stay in their home in La Place – just 26 miles from home, . They had not lost power or sanitary services. We were able to sneak into New Orleans, retrieve animals (oh what joy!!!), scrub down our refrigerators and freezers (what a mess!!!) and remove clothes, papers and other essentials. By then, it was apparent that we would be gone for some time. I recovered my car and Janie and I went our separate ways: Janie to Albuquerque and me to Austin where I was able to take classes at the UT. (There were many other gracious invitations.)
Unlike so very many others, our properties and live were more or less unaffected by the storm. Without family or employment, my situation was so much simpler. Indeed, my time in Austin was filled with intellectual and physical challenges (the consequence of a ruptured Achilles Tendon and surgery.)
But more than anything, the pleasure of new friendships (especialmente Pepe Pierce – a kind and brilliant fellow grad student) and the renewal of others (the extraordinarily generous Clint Bledsoe and his charming family) and my gracious former student Gary Greenblum made my time in Austin so enjoyable, almost obscuring an uncertain future in New Orleans. So, this time around, the world of Stephen Paul Jacobs avoided a major setback while others continue to struggle and suffer. But the melodrama is not over.
miércoles, agosto 15, 2007
As I rounded the corner from the kitchen bringing my salad, I was astonished to spot Rocco on the dining table tasting my gazpacho. Rocco has never been know as a gastronome. Indeed, he always seemed to prefer quantity to quality. Felix, on the other hand, has a distinct preference for smoked meat and is very fussy about the cat treats I proffer.
miércoles, julio 25, 2007
Back home again
After a cancelled flight, and two nights in American Airlines vouchered hotels, I got back to New Orleans. Will Buckingham was waiting for me at the Louis Armstrong airport and I opened my front door to be greeted by Felix, Rocco and Gris-Gris. In the seven weeks I was gone, with daily tropical rains, vines and trees had grown remarkably. After a dry Bolivian winter, everything here seemed so lush and green.
I had interrupted submitting blog entries when Linda and Kelly Wagner arrived. Our two weeks together was so eventful and enjoyable. I will only be able to touch on a few highlights.
On Thursday, June 28, I waited for a glimpse of Linda and Kelly passing through customs at the Viru Viru airport in Santa Cruz. They, like I, a month before, had spent the night on the flight from Miami. We stayed at an elegant hotel (the Conciller) only two blocks from the Plaza. Arq. Carlos Barrero, a student from my Peace Corps days, arranged an architecture tour with Lucho Fernandez, one of Bolivia's best architects. His own house, built under the protective umbrella of a roof recovered from a demolished factory, incorporated his wife's studio.
We arrived in Sucre the next day and I had the pleasure of introducing Linda and Kelly to my favorite Bolivian city and my friends. For the most part, Sucre is quite compact and most of the museums, churches and other points of interest and within walking distance of the Plaza. We stayed at the Hostal de Su Merced. When took my last sabbatical in Sucre, four years ago, I stayed there for the first month. We immediately headed up to the roof terrace for a panoramic view of the city and its surroundings.
On Sunday, Dario and Carmen Julia (and Valeria) took us to Yotala, a small neighboring town and we had a wonderful lunch at La Campana. After a sopa de maní - peanut soup - we enjoyed the buffet of grilled meats and vegetables in the setting of a country house. My Peace Corps friend, Bill Lofstrom, had recommended the restaurant and, sure enough, he was there with his daughter and her family visiting from the States.
On Monday, we took a taxi to Potosí, two hours away. Sucre is at 9,000 ft. altitude. Potosí, the colonial mining center, is the highest city in the world at 14,000 ft. We retraced the entry route of Viceroy Morcillo, the setting for my art history paper which I was to deliver at the Archivo Nacionál the following Friday. We climbed to the top of the roof of the church of San Francisco - which might have been far too much exercise at that altitude. Linda and Kelly had a very bad night and in the morning we decided to cut our Potosí trip short and return directly to Sucre. However, that Tuesday, there was a blockade. For the past few weeks, students and faculty, all over the country, were protesting anticipated moves by the government to expand their control of university government. In Sucre, a major university town, there had been demonstrations almost every day, often met by tear gas. Protests had now escalated to the next step. For considerably more money, we were able to find a driver who was willing to take us on a detour around the blockade - using picturesque (and very rough) back country roads - providing a much more intimate connection to the landscape than we could have anticipated.
Back in Sucre, Linda gave her talk to the Colegio de Arquitectos (similar to the AIA) on Thursday night (July 5) and I spoke at the Archivo Nacionál
After my lecture, there was a despedida at the house of Arq. Roberto Castellón, the director of the architecture program at the university. I had spent a memorable 6 weeks in Sucre surrounded by so many good friends. I hadn't realized how much my own life was compartmentalized into so many separate places and experiences. This was the first time I had ever brought together dear friends from different times and places. Surprisingly, it really worked and was so affirmative. In so doing, my own life takes on a greater sense of objective reality.
And then we went to La Paz. Dario drove us to the airport and our flight was delayed. Indeed, once we left Sucre, none of our other flights, buses or boats left on time (and in one instance, even on its proposed day.) Our hotel, the Naira, was comfortable, inexpensive and handy. We wandered down the Prado and got a good feeling for the intense La Paz's intense activity which really made Sucre seem like a sleepy town. Sidewalks are jammed with crowds moving with purpose and concentration.
Early Sunday morning our bus to Copacabana picked us up at the hotel. The three-hour trip was broken up by our arrival at Tiquiňa. In order to get to cross the Strait of Tiquiňa we had to get on a small boat while our bus crossed on a raft. We found our hotel in Copacabana and, after a stroll along the shore of Lake Titicaca, we visited the Basilica. There were many stands in front of the atrium selling decorations for the cars which were being blessed by a priest. The ch'alla
The following morning, the lake was very rough and we didn't depart for the Isla del Sol until mid afternoon. It was a difficult crossing and the waves seemed as large as our little boat. Our guide Juan took us to Pilco Kayma, an Inca site on at the Eastern edge of the island. From there a guide from our hotel led us on a gradual (but, at 13,500 ft., challenging) climb to our hotel, La Estancia, about 4 km. distance. The hotel, a series of thatch-roofed adobe cabins, and a main lodge with dining facilities, was high up on a ridge overlooking the lake. Each room had solar-heated hot water and a trombe wall for heating - a small sky-lit chamber with an operable door to control the heat. Unfortunately, our day was overcast and there was much less heat than one might have wished. (Again, thick blankets were sufficient.) Dinner was excellent - Lake Titicaca trout. We ate at a long table with the only other guests, a family from Prague. After breakfast the next day, we had the much easier down-hill walk to the port of Yumani. We were concerned about making an early bus to La Paz and finally took off for Copacabana, were the bus was delayed anyhow.
The highlight of our last day in La Paz was, without question, the National Art Museum. It is located in a wonderful colonial mansion at the corner of the Plaza Murillo. A selection of some of the most beautiful colonial and more recent paintings and sculpture are exhibited in comfortable and well lit spaces. We spent the rest of the day shopping. I bought a number of books at Los Amigos de los Libros, Bolivia's best bookstore. I remember its Cochabamba branch from my Peace Corps days as the place that I bought the first two volumes of Le Corbusier's Oeuvre Complete
In the late afternoon, we headed up to the airport at El Alto. After many check-ins and immigration stamps, we were moved into successively deeper lounges where we waited for our departure. At 10:30 pm, it was announced that our flight was canceled and that we would be spending another night in La Paz. We finally flew to Santa Cruz at about 3pm and, after delays there, arrived in Miami at almost 11 that night. I said farewell to Linda and Kelly. We stayed at different hotels and what began as a delightful adventure ended up unceremoniously as we got on separate buses in the Miami airport. A little over a week later, I find the memories are fading faster than I would have expected. Writing this blog is an act of reconstruction whereas just a few days ago my trip was such a vivid and unquestioned reality.
the next night. Actually, I was gradually recovering from laryngitis which I contracted in Santa Cruz and croaked my way through my own lecture. Luis Pozo, a student from my sabbatical semester has spent a high school year in Connecticut and was able to translate Linda's lecture. Luis was one of our wonderful hosts in Sucre. He happily escorted Kelly's exploration of Sucre night life. On Thursday, Kelly went on one of the Joyride Café's bike tours. (Luis is one of the guides.) ceremony, which I had seen in Sucre, is probably the most common example of syncretism - combining Catholic rites with elements of Inca religion (the spilling of alcohol as an offering to the Pachamama - Earth Goddess.) That night, there was a tremendous hailstorm followed by an electrical outage. All of the guests in the hotel huddled in the restaurant where we were served by candlelight. There was no electric heat that night and, happily, our thick woolen blankets were more than sufficient. and the place where we would by US magazines.
martes, julio 17, 2007
My first weekend in Bolivia coincided with Valeria's second birthday. Two years ago, she was a toasty little loaf of bread in the arms of Dad Dario and Mom Carmen Julia. Two years later, she is a powerful being with her own definite ideas of what should and should not be and how she should comport herself. She is courageous and runs in the direction of action and excitement. It's not at all surprising that she insists on playing basketball, just like her older cousins who train with their grandfather every afternoon.
jueves, junio 14, 2007
(a reminder of last summer's activities)
San Felipe Neri - former entrance to Monastery and towers
Wednesday, June 13
A productive but confusing day. After breakfast at what may be the only wireless equipped café-bar in Bolivia, I entered the Archivo Nacional. Not surprisingly, my registration from 2 years ago could not be found. I had a meeting with the Director, Doctora Marcela Inche, the President of the Associacion de Estudios Bolivianos – I helped organize their first international conference in New Orleans. With the friendly help of a librarian in the reading room, I finally completed my registration, was photographed and became scholar #824. During the days prior to the arrival of Linda and Kelly, I will use the comfortable facilities of the Archivo to prepare for my lecture there on July 5 (translating my Art History Paper on Arzáns and Holguín into Spanish) and an article for Yachaspa, the newsletter of the Bolivia and Peru Peace Corps alumni group. In this case, I am translating a paper I wrote for the Andean Literature course into English.
Dtra. Inche showed me a group of painted texts from the 18th century, which she referred to as “pasquines.” These were broadsheets created during much of the colonial period complaining of the actions of the Spanish government. This pasquine was written and painted by an itinerant Argentine shoemaker, barber, blood-letter who had traveled and worked in Córdoba to Potosí and Lima. Apparently, there are other pasquines in the collection, many of them in verse. I was thinking more in terms of earlier chronacles of discovery and settlement, but this is certainly a potentidsally interesting way of understanding the colonial period.
The documents in Bolivia’s archive are arranged according to size to use the limited climatically controlled storage space as efficiently as possible. Like other archives, you need to request a document using card-catalogues that are hardly descriptive of a document’s content. Consequently, browsing is impossible. There is a cronological listing and I may find myself requesting every plausible manuscript until I find something that is suggestive. Where are the original Arzáns sheets (over a thousand)? Is there a facsimile edition – the 3-volume set prepared by Hanke and Mendoza presents the text and only a few illustrations.
Tuesday night, I returned to the Hostal unusually late. I had taken Darío and Camen Julia out for dinner on my birthday. I entered the dark courtyard and looked up at the stars. At 11 o’clock, Sucre becomes quiet and, with few streetlights and very thin air, the stars and planets glow with an intense light – an extreme contrast from New Orleans’ moisture laden air and general urban glow. The courtyard of this one-story hotel, originally a house built in the 17th century, the patio is filled with direct sunlight during the day and is sufficiently protected from the street to feel like an urban oasis. The residents sun themselves during the day while they write postcards home. The Quebecquois left a few days ago to be replaced by a group from Israel. Otherwise, we are from Australia, Germany and Brazil, but that changes daily.
martes, junio 12, 2007
Sunday at the Cemetery
La Vendadora de Flores
Sunday, June 10
Roberto Castellón, the Director of the Carrera de Arquitectura, invited me to lunch. On the way, Roberto wanted to visit his father’s grave. The cemetery is very reminiscent of the one in Montparnaisse, but so much smaller. Like New Orleans cemeteries, walls of tombs form spaces, here containing cypress trees and benches. Rather than faced with marble slabs, in Sucre there’s a narrow shelf for flowers and other mementos and a glass door surrounded by a brass frame.
Roberto unlocked the door and his sons helped him wash two small vases and arrange the fresh flowers. Roberto’s father was a veterin of the Guerra del Chaco and was burried close to many of his friends. Nearby, there was a group of childrens’ tombs. Instead of flowers, their shelves contained their toys and, in one instance, a small bottle of Coca Cola. I was reminded of Inca funerary bundle – in particular, the toys accompanying mummified children. Could this be another example of...
I’m sitting in the lobby of the Facultad de Tecnología. I’ve been invited to lunch at the home of my friends Darío and Carmen Júlia and they are at a meeting and I can’t figure out where.
Four years ago, during my last sabbatical from Tulane, I volunteered my services to the Carrera de Arquitectura and taught here. My students were in their first and third semesters. The older ones are beginning to graduate. While waiting, I’ve chanced upon several of my former students. We make plans for coffee over the weekend. This is exam period and final project reviews begin next week. I’ve already been invited to participate.
Tuesday, June 12
This morning, I was invited to a meeting at the Carrera de Arquitectura. They are about to break away from Tecnología and form an independent Facultad. The meeting set forth the process through which they will generate a new curriculum. One of my former students is now the Architecture representative to the university student assembly. He spoke so eloquently, politely and assertively making excellent points in defence of the students needs for participation and their own time limitations. Very well done.
I was told that I would be interviewed on videotape for a later session. I’m to explain the US “system” of architectural education – a talk I forgettably gave 4 years ago. I feel so removed from the theme. Three years of involving courses in Latin American literature, history and anthropology have redirected my concerns. Yet, architecture was the dream of my childhood and the framework of my work for most of my adult life.
A House for Sucre
Uses the sun to generate it’s own
Warm winter air
(It´s amazing how little work is done on the use of solar energy
here - amazing.)
A study of light and the gradations in the transition from indoors to the
brilliant outdoor light.
Snug in winter and permeable in summer
Maximize outdoor living
miércoles, junio 06, 2007
The Cathedral at dusk
The Light in Sucre
A brilliant blue sky
Red ceramic roof tiles
White washed walls
A quiet patio – just a few feet from a busy street
The sun’s warmth can still be felt although in an hour it will be quite chill.
I just came back from the mini-Supermarket. Sucre has two and their combined stock would fill maybe one aisle in my Save-a-Center in New Orleans but there is more of a selection than you can find anywhere here other than the busy and municipal market or the mercado campesino. I also stopped by the neighboring pharmacy and got a rehydrating powder.
My “problemas estomacales” have diminished but I have not dared eat anything substantial. I bought some fiberous cold cereal and a banana and we’ll see if that helps. That is the risk one faces accepting an invitation to dinner and a significant change of diet.
Tomorrow, with luck, I will be able to visit the university and my friend el arquitecto Roberto Castellon, the director of the architecture program. The students are turning in final projects and maybe I can participate in final project reviews. I also plan to go to a travel agency to see if there were tours to the Salar de Uyuni – giant salt flats north of Potosi which are a huge tourist attraction here – and to the Chiquitania – a group of Jesuit Missions in the lowlands between Santa Cruz and the Brazilian border. Both tours will take several days. AeroSur has a promotion of inexpensive all-inclusive tours to Buenos Aires and Sao Paolo, which I might consider. But, my time is still limited.
I will also make final reservations for Linda and Kelly’s trip. They arrive in Santa Cruz on the 27th of June. I think a brief stay in the relative warmth of Santa Cruz will ease the adjustment and, while it doesn’t possess the colonial richness of Sucre and Potosi, it is still interesting to visit a city which grew from a population of 40,000 in 1964 to it’s present million.
lunes, junio 04, 2007
The Landscape between Santa Cruz and Sucre
I‘m tired and have a headache. It’s the middle of the afternoon, almost a day after my arrival in Sucre. I climbed a spiral stair in the tower of la Glorieta, the late 19th Century country palace that my friend Darío is restoring outside of the city. I took it slow but now I’m feeling the altitude consequences.
Last night I finally got to sleep soundly. The overnight flight from Miami was a test of patience and endurance. American Airlines provides minimal coach passenger comforts and my knees were killing me.
But these are minor complaints. I spent several hours in Santa Cruz, revisiting what is left of the center of the town of 40,000 that I knew 40 years ago. Now, the city has over a million. It was cool and breezy. A policeman, was carrying a tree sloth facing outwards - was protecting himself from the long claws. He placed the sloth on the trunk of a nearby tree and slowly and carefully the curious bearlike animal began to climb. Apparently, the poor fellow had wandered into the street.
I got to Sucre at 3:30 in the afternoon. An hour before I told my friends I would be arriving. AeroSur had changed their schedule. Fortunately, I took an early taxi back to the airport from Santa Cruz. I checked in to my hotel and Dario came by and we had a nice walk around Sucre’s wonderful plaza, full of the kind of urban life most planners dream of. Then, a shower and a good night’s sleep.
Sunday, June 3
Sunset comes early approaching the equinox. It’s 5pm and I am sitting in the courtyard of my hotel. There is no direct sunlight and it is getting cool but this is so much more pleasant to write here than in my dark room.
This morning, I woke up too late for the hotel’s breakfast and walked to the market where I bought an adapter. Now I can recharge the battery of my computer. I went for breakfast at the Joy Ride Café, a bar and restaurant owned by two Dutchmen who have been here for years. I discovered that they have WiFi and now I will be able to conduct Internet business much more easily.
Yesterday was Valeria’s birthday. She is the two-year old daughter of my friends Dario and Carmen Julia. It was a gathering of more than 35 relatives and friends. Dario’s family is so large – he’s one of 6 siblings with their children – that there are almost always birthday parties or other festivities. I’ve known his family now for many years and they pretend to look forward to our next Karaoke encounter.
I’ve been taking advantage of the video-clip capacity of my digital camera. I managed a short clip of 2-year old Valeria playing basketball. Dario’s father-in-law was, in his youth a teammate of a Peace Corps Volunteer and always coached basketball teams. He has quite a few granddaughters and was putting them through their paces and little Valeria couldn’t’ be left out. I wonder if it is possible to post video clips within my blog.
Tomorrow, I will go to the architecture school. The Archivo Nacional is two blocks form my hotel and I registered there as a scholar and will have faciities for reading and writing. I plan to spend time with the substantial collection of colonial documents looking for illustrated manuscripts – grazing for material for my dissertation.
It’s gotten too cold to stay out in the courtyard so I will sign off.
sábado, mayo 26, 2007
One of the great benefits of my academic life has been the great travel opportunities I have enjoyed. This summer, I will return to Sucre, Bolivia a place that has become almost a second home in Latin America. In 2003, during my last sabbatical from the School of Architecture, I taught for a semester at the Universidad Mayor Real y Pontificia de San Francisco Xavier de Chuquisaca, the second oldest university in South America, founded in 1624. In my 4 months in Sucre, I fell in love with the city and formed many important friendships. Sucre is the Constitutional Capital of Bolivia and though most government functions take place in La Paz, it is the location of the National Archives and a possible location for my dissertation research.
So, before taking off on my journey, I wanted to officially say farewell to my New Orleans. Hence the photographs of my happy house and my very companionable cats - in clockwise order starting at the lower right - Grisgris, Rocco and Felix. Two weeks ago, when I took the picture of my house, the Star Jasmine was in intoxicating bloom and the Bougainivillea was exhuberant. If I were to take the same photograph today, the Jasmine is well past its prime but the Crepe Myrtle has begun to blossum.
Actually, right now, sitting at my dining table and listening to Jussi Bjoerling on my stereo, it's difficult to think about leaving my house, my cats and my New Orleans friends and set out on another journey. This has been an excellent year. I found my work at Tulane so very gratifying. My future scholarly work has found its focus with many delights promised along the way. I formed a number of wonderful new friendships. And finally, my ankle, which was still painfully recuperating through the fall semester, is now fully recovered. (Last summer, the pleasures of being a "flanneur" in Paris were seriously compromised by pain.)
I'm about to go to the Reily Center for my first independent workout since I concluded a year's training with Ed Smith. I'll try to go back to the gym one more time before I leave for Bolivia on Wednesday. It will take me at least a week before I get my high-altitude lungs back (Sucre is at 9,200 feet) but plan to join a gym there. Linda and Kelly Wagner will be joining me from Denver. They are quite accustomed to high altitudes - the Wagner home is at 8,000 feet. They will arrive at the end of June and when they arrive we will be on tour and moving around at a comfortably fast clip. Prior to their arrival, I have not made any specific plans. Really, spending the month seeing friends, visiting the architecture school, familiarizing myself with colonial documents in the National Archives and reading will be more than enough to keep me happy and productive. On the other hand, if I can find an organized tour to the Jesuit Missions in the Chiquitania (in the Amazon lowlands between Santa Cruz and the Brazilian border) I might be tempted to budge from beautiful Sucre.
Michael Ball, the former student who will be in charge of entertaining my trio of personable pets is a responsible and, I'm afraid, meticulous fellow. This means that I will have to do a more than reasonable job of pre-departure housecleaning. He was one of the speakers at graduation and did several devastating impressions of members of the architecture faculty. I've heard that he also impersonates me - so perhaps my ferocious felines will not miss me all that much.
OK - it's time to get on my bike and head over to the gym.
miércoles, febrero 21, 2007
Felix, Rocco and GrisGris greeted me as I opened the door and deposited my luggage. Each stepped up for a petting, Rocco ran upstairs requesting that I turn on the shower. GrisGris hovered around the wall he loves to jump up on but I could not find his jumping toy (it was downstairs) and Felix started crying out for some treats. Within a few minutes of my return, normalcy (if you can call it that) was returned to 8317 Freret Street.
I drove over a thousand miles, ate numerous tex-mex dinners (mixed with other cuisines) and spent happy times with my Austin friends. Yesterday, I went to the Benson Latin American Library at the UT - surely one of the most important collections - and met with a librarian who gave me valuable tips for my dissertation research. They themselves do not specialize in colonial cartography but they do have the most extensive collection of archive catalogues - the place you need to start to chart a course of investigation. (I would have been so much more productive in France had I known that a catalog of the Eiffel collection had been published. Whether or not it is available in the States via Inter-Library loan is another question.) So, I will undoubtedly be back in Austin for research reasons. In addition, Clint's sister's apartment is pretty much at my disposition. I lived there during my Katrina stay. A traveling physician also uses it but is is normally vacant.
Meanwhile, 2 nine-hour drives in less than a week surely has taken its toll. When I close my eyes I see huge trucks pressing on from all sides.
Home sweet home.
domingo, febrero 18, 2007
Saturday, February 17
Last night, my friend Pepe took me to a book-signing. His friend Paul Solares, a Peruvian journalist-novelist-UT Grad Student read sections of his spicey novel at a local art gallery. Then Pepe and his friend Drew and I went for dinner at a great Tex-Mex restaurant where they serve Avacado Margueritas - surprisingly good.
A good night's sleep. I hope to see Clint and his family tomorrow (Clint originally invited me to Austin and arranged for my apartment) and Gary Greenblum (my former student) on Monday. There's a lecture on the tango on Monday at the UT. But this is a great city to hang out in and enjoy many internet cafe's - a life not too different from my New Orleans life.
It's cold (cold???) here but, without the humidity, it feels brisk and invigorating.
The long drive was also a good thinking time.