Everyday Semiotics

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Austin, day one

So I flew out to Austin today to take part in this year's North American James Joyce Conference at the university here. It officially started today, though my love and I stayed south of campus to check out our temporary digs on South Congress Avenue and swim at Barton Springs. "SoCo" is quite the trendy strip, with a very /in/ lodge, the Hotel San Jose, where my love insisted we stay; Jo's coffee and grub stand nextdoor; and plenty of posh shops and restaurants. Looking to the left out the hotel entrace gives a nice view of the downtown, with the statehouse smack in the middle, flanked on the right by the blue giant, the Frost Bank Tower and One Congress Plaza and One American Center.

A whole day has gone by and I've heard but a few southern accents. Granted, I'm in a touristy section, but really...

So far the list of things I forgot to pack includes toothpaste and the cable that would have allowed me to connect camera to computer and share with you all the photos I took today and will take throughout the trip.

Our three-and-a-half-hour flight was taken up listening to two men behind us chattering incessantly about selling real estate. Sleep and reading, thanks to them, was impossible. A small blessing: toward the end of the flight they had stopped calculating the maximum man-hours it should take to sell a house and moved on to the refreshing topics of 401(k) plans, health insurance, and legacies. Once the pilot announced our imminent landing, one said, "Wow, that went by quick. Good conversation!" I could have murdered them.

At the Hotel San Jose, everything (except, as it happens, our room) is superlative: from the patio (where positively everyone is hanging out right now and some DJs were spinning away, first something like Herb Alpert but much hipper, and now some post-soul ambiance) to the (microscopic, bathwater-warm) pool. The drink of choice at San Jose seems to be some ungodly concoction involving Negra Modelo, tobasco and Worcestershire sauces, ground pepper, and who knows what else -- all in a glass whose rim is encrusted with lime juice and salt a la marguerita. It's perfectly terrible, but those in the know seem to have developed a taste for it. Luckily there's no shortage of Corona and even my beloved Paulaner Hefe-Weizen in these parts.

Barton Springs is apparently the swimming hole of choice in the city, and it was very well attended indeed by families, bikini-clad 20-somethings and buff dudes wading cum backwards hats and Oaklies. Positively everyone had tattoos, and at least one woman felt at ease enough to go topless (and here I thought I'd nixed plans for a trip to France). The springs in question are not hot but cold, and the water that emerges from it, filling the creek turned community pool, purportedly stays 68 degrees year round. Here pigeons are vastly outnumbered, and squirrels entirely replaced, by grackles -- birds whose call, to these virgin ears, sounds rather like an car alarm.

Tomorrow the conference begins in earnest with a program I haven't yet begun to peruse. I'll be delivering my own paper on Saturday morning in a panel titled "Joyce and Science." I'm looking forward to reconnecting with some acquaintances I made at the Joyce conference two years ago in Ithaca, N.Y., where I gave this paper. But presently I must figure out how I'm to catch a bus and travel the three miles or so from 1316 South Congress to the University of Texas campus.

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At 7:46 PM, Blogger kay-lo said...

I can trump your real estate guys with the itinerant preacher and the born-again guy who sat behind me quoting scripture to each other nonstop on one of my recent flights. I stuffed so much kleenex in my ears I had a hard time getting it all out.

Buy some tootpaste before your presentation.


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