Howdy, partners! The ALA Midwinter Meeting here in the shadow of the Alamo is winding down, and despite my best intentions this is only the first time I've sat down to post a blog entry about the conference (and I'm afraid this one isn't going to be all that long either!). Although the convention center offered an "Internet Cafe" with terminals offerings free internet access for those of us who are too poor to afford laptops or PDAs with wi-fi, not only were the Internet connections a little on the slow side -- note to corporate sponsor: you might not want to cheap out when offering what amounts to a whole lot of free advertising to thousands of information professionals, lest the next time I see your products I think about how it took five minutes for my Gmail account to load -- but the Cafe had few enough terminals to ensure that there was almost always a line to sit down and wait those five minutes for your email.
Aside from this minor inconvenience, the convention more or less rocked. It's hard not to have a good time in San Antonio, whose Paseo del Rio is packed with bars, restaurants, and even CVS pharmacies that sell beer and wine (God bless you, Texas!). Speaking of the CVS, while foraging for Southwestern-themed snack food I found that they sell Habanero flavored Doritos in this neck of the woods. Intrigued, I picked up a $.99 bag and found my mouth on fire after the third chip. Now this isn't "Flaming Hot" hot -- it's a heat so insidious that I had to drink an entire glass of ice water between each chip! Mind you, I did finish the bag, but that may have had more to do with the fact that I was drunk than anything else.
Yes, the drinking is fairly good down here in San Antonio. From prickly pear margaritas to Shiner Bock beer, I stuck with the local potent potables and was not disappointed. As for the food, let's just say I ate my fill, again trying to eat what I wouldn't be able to find back in the Hub of the Universe. After scamming free Tex-Mex on the Exhibitors' Floor on Friday night, I had breakfast at the legendary Mi Tierra restaurant and bakery, which was located only a couple of blocks away from my hotel in the Market Square area. Mi Tierra is a family-owned Mexican restaurant that makes its own chorizo and a veritable arsenal of baked goods, including sweet empanadas filled with lemon, sweet potato, and even pumpkin! The menu there is authentic Mexican food, with classics such as huevos rancheros and menudo served with warm, freshly-made corn or flour tortillas on the side instead of toast. That first morning I had the huevos rancheros and after just one bite knew I'd be returning for at least one more meal before I left.
Saturday night I did the requisite Tex-Mex on the Riverwalk thing and ate at Casa Rio, which has been in business for some sixty years in downtown San Antonio. The food there was definitely better than anything available in Boston -- the chicken enchiladas with green chile sauce were especially tasty! -- but even mediocre food is enhanced into haute cuisine when eaten outdoors along the river at night, when the myriad lights strung up along the waterfront and hanging in the trees reflect off of the inky black San Antonio River.
The next morning I was participating in a leadership symposium with an eight o'clock start time, so sadly I had to pass up Mi Tierra for a Continental breakfast at one of the convention hotels. Reparations were made, plus interest, by having lunch at a place called Boudro's, where the guacamole is hand-made by your server at the table (and even if you don't normally like guac, this is not your local chain restaurant's guacamole, with freshly-squeezed lime and orange juices, diced red onions, cilantro, sea salt, roasted plum tomatoes, and serrano chiles. Oh, man!). I ended up having Gulf Coast crabcakes with a Southwestern vegetable slaw on the side, and with all due respect to the people of Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia, Texans make one mean crabcake! A bright pink prickly pear maragarita topped off this delicious foray into noveau Texas cuisine, and the best part was that I didn't even have to pick up the check...
This morning I returned to Mi Tierra, opting this time for scrambled eggs with chorizo and a sweet potato empanada to go. After spending the day on a walking tour of San Antonio, visiting the Alamo and the famous Menger Hotel and following the River Walk north to see the recently-renovated San Antonio Public Library (one word: wow!) and visit the San Antonio Museum of Art, which I didn't realize was closed until I'd shlepped all the way up there a couple of miles outside of the downtown region. The museum is situated in the original Lone Star Brewery surrounded by a somewhat Mad Max neighborhood of industrial parks and abandoned property, so let's just say that it wasn't the most scenic walk in the world.
But a long walk was nice, especially since winter in New England rarely affords such luxuries. Desperately in need of refueling and a place a cool my heels, I decided to take a break from Mexican and Tex-Mex fare and honored San Antonio's rich German legacy by eating at Schilo's, a delicatessen from the early 1900's which although no longer owned by the original proprietors still delivers Teutonic comfort food with gusto. I had a kielbasa on a toasted roll with a deviled egg and a cup of the best split pea soup with ham that I'd ever eaten in my life, and was sorely tempted to try the blackberry cobbler despite the fact that I'd already shot my diet all to hell on this trip.
So that's San Antonio, folks. Aside from carousing with fellow employees and old classmates from Simmons College, I did however manage to get some library stuff in as well. On Saturday and Sunday I followed a mixed schedule, jumping back and forth between the two-day leadership symposium especially crafted for current and recently-graduate MLS students and several discussions and seminars that were job-related. The highlight of both programs weirdly enough was the current crisis in scholarly publication and the special challenges posed by copyright and authorship in this digital era of ours. It was interesting to hear this topic explored not only at the professional level, but to see it introduced to the up-and-coming generation of librarians as well. Truly this is a hot topic in academic research circles, and I will post more about it myself when I get back to Boston.
Oh, and the best part of ALA Midwinter? I scored a Geoffrey Chaucer bobblehead this morning from one of the vendors. How cool is that!