Friday, February 6, 2009

The Lone Star State

One thing I learned at deFuniak Springs is that Florida's panhandle is in the Central Time Zone! My first day there, dinner was scheduled for 5 p.m., kinda early, but I showed up at 4 because I didn't know I should have changed my clock. After waiting an hour I was hungry.

I also was surprised to learn that Florida is a big cattle producer, and I did see lots of them along the way.

It's a two-day trip from there to San Antonio, through a little bit of Alabama and Mississippi, then Louisiana and a long way through Texas. But it was all (except for skirting New Orleans and San Antonio) on U.S. highway 10! I remember remarking to friend Jack Lord long ago that I was pleased that Boerne, Texas, the place I was moving to from Los Angeles, was on Highway 10 that starts in Santa Monica and L.A. He said he in Santa Monica and his brother in Jacksonville, Florida hold down either end of that road.

Here in Boerne I've spoken at the local library and the senior citizens' center, and on Sunday will do so at the clubhouse in the development where my sister Helen lives. Chautuauquan Rainy Evans invited about 15 friends to her lovely house in San Antonio, and I spoke there. Several of them had already read my book (and liked it) and two women brought their children.

Boerne, where I once lived for five years, is of course bigger and has heavier traffic than in the past, and I guess that's true everywhere. But, as in Ghana, what strikes me most is the familiar: the house I once owned, the place I worked and mostly, of course, old friends. One of them, Lily Thomas, is now 91 and still a volunteer at the Senior Center's thrift shop. As I get on in years, older people are an important inspiration.

Monday, February 2, 2009

deFuniak Springs Chautauqua

Yes, there are other Chautauquas, and one of them is at deFuniak Springs, Florida. It has only one building, also housing the Chamber of Commerce, in a lovely spot near one of the two round lakes in Florida. The events of the conference were held there, at the nearby Methodist and Presbyterian churches, the Community Center and the Fairgrounds.

There were a number of exhibits, but the best was one in which each of the 53 African countries (I think there are 54, but maybe Fernanco Po was left out) was chosen by a local elementary, middle or high school class and illustrated in a 6' by 10' space. The exhibits were imaginative and informative--a great project.

I DID get to be a speaker after all, as there was a last-minute cancellation and I magnanimously stepped into the breach. (I had been disappointed when I learned of the conference too late to be on the speakers' list.) I showed my PowerPoint presentation and the cloth and artifacts that I hadn't used to decorate the Tea Room at the Community Center, and there was much interest and many good questions.

I did sell some books and had a good time, learned a lot and met many interesting people. I had a homestay with a lovely lady, and all in all it was a worthwhile visit.