Wednesday, February 27, 2008

louisville conference

this past weekend was the first time i'd been to what used to be known as the louisville 20th-century literature conference since, as i now tally it up, 1999 (which was at the time my fourth year in a row). it was great to be back, see some old friends and make new ones, hear some interesting scholarship and some great poetry, and be amidst the general company of people who like the same stuff you do.

the journey to louisville thursday last week was rather potentially perilous. i left nashville with what should've been plenty of time, and forecasts for both cities suggested that i would miss most of the precipitation. less than an hour into the 3-hour drive, just over the tennessee border into southern kentucky, i even stopped for a sit-down fast food breakfast. big mistake. shortly after that, I-65 in the bowling green area became a parking lot: no one moving, no apparent precipitation on the road or in the sky, no emergency vehicles, nothing. we more or less remained stationary for over an hour and a half, finally passing a state trooper and a slight crumpled car in either shoulder. we got back up to speed for only about 10 minutes when traffic ground to a halt once again.

since by this point it was clear i was going to be late if not miss altogether my 1:30 panel, i tried dialing 411 from my cell but was disconnected the first time and then given an inaudible/incorrect number the second. so i phoned my family in ohio and asked if they could get online and get me a number off the conference webpage. cleveland was experiencing frigid temps and bluster conditions already, but my aunt managaged to get online and read on the conference homepage: all conference activities for thursday postponed due to approaching ice storm. well thank god, my anxiety was relieved that i was not going to miss anything and i could take as much time as needed to get there -- but there was still no precipitation on the ground or in the air. salt trucks and plows passing to be sure, but otherwise the traffic backup made no sense whatsoever.

finally i got off the highway to stretch my legs, grab a snack and mebbe have a look at a map and see if there wasn't a better way to go. and when i pulled into the gas station parking lot i began to understand what all the traffic was about: the lot was coated in a sheet of ice. a map inside indicated that US 31W paralleled the interstate clear up to louisville so i considered taking on the backroad. but, i thought, at least the interstate was being salted and plowed. so i started back up the onramp to I-65 and, seeing its traffic again at a complete standstill, i did a complete reverse gear back down the ramp and set my course for 31W, which was slow going through cave city, ky, but once we got through the town was salted, plowed, and essentially empty of vehicles.

a perfect backroad tour of southcentral ky: cave country, tumbledown shacks, cheap motels and abandoned storefronts. hart country looks especially hard hit: horse cave ("sleep in a wigwam!"), munfordville etc. but i love it, and so much better than sitting on an interstate. after 60-90 minutes of steady 40-50 mph making steady progress on 31W we paralleled I-65 and it appeared to be quite clear, so i hopped back on it and sailed pretty much straight into louisville, ice-covered as my little red honda was.

immediately checked into the seelbach and met up with my roomie scott p, who'd arrived from thunder bay a few hours earlier, very happy to see him after 8 years (not seen since MLA 2000 in DC). a number of conference goers were conspiring in makeshift panels throughout the mezzanine level attempting to make up for a whole day's worth of cancellations. conference honcho alan g was among them and said this was the modus operandi, to make up for cancellations where possible and add people into subsequent panels space permitting. he thought of including me in a panel the next day with himself and lynn k, which i was more than honored to do.

then back down in the lobby ran into ewa c out of knowhere, she was planning on dinner with phil m and wanted to know i we'd join them. of course. so we went for the nearby japanese steak and sushi house at her suggestion, good food and fine company. after which scott and i just went back and flaked out in the room, unpacked, read mags, watched the pres debate and crashed.

[more to come...]

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