After a good night's sleep, Jeff, Barbara and I went on an adventure: to pick up Deuce Richardson, the first time I've seen him since the first invasion. We drove about an hour or so out of town to meet him and his mother. We had a Dairy Queen snack, some sort of concoction called a Pecan Turtle Blizzard or some such. It was an interesting experience: generally the fast food in America tastes much better than the fast food in Scotland - at least the ones from the big chains are.
As we drove back, we met Ed Chaczyk, Jim Barron, Todd Vick and newcomer David at 36 West. I was very glad to see everyone, especially Jim, since I was concerned he wouldn't make it this year - but he did. We all went to the Howard House, where we met Arlene Stephenson, and Rusty & Sheila Burke. We wandered around the house as ever, noticing one or two new editions - such as John Irvine's Galahad
- around the place.
As we moseyed to the Pavillion we saw Indy again, and were soon joined by Mark Finn and Tim Arneson - and to my surprise, Joe Lansdale! It's funny to think of him coming here as just another Howard fan, considering he's a big writer in his own right, but there were other surprises in store...
All of us got lifts and rides to Humphrey Pete's for dinner. I was seated next to Deuce on my right and Howard history powerhouse Rob Roehm on my left, and we had a good chat about various things. For all his approachableness, I still feel a bit awed in the presence of the Big Guys like Rob, Paul Herman, Rusty Burke and Bill Cavalier. While being escorted to our table, a waitress offered to hang up my hat, which is the most Texan offer I've heard since coming here, and I couldn't resist. Rather than my usual Chicken Caesar, I decided to be a bit bolder, and ordered a Guacamole burger. Which is a burger with guacamole sauce on it. Of course. Our waitress was a lovely lass called Sally, who really went all out to ensure we were all happy and content with our meal. I try to be a generous tipper all the time, so it was easy for me to repay Sally's diligence and attention.
As I was walking out, I realised I had forgotten my hat. Disastrous. Luckily however, Mark Finn went ahead of me and explained to three lovely lassies that a gentleman from Scotland was among the group, so they recognized my brogue and gushed. All I can say is the Scottish accent is apparently far more attractive outside of Scotland than it is in Scotland. One of the lassies had even been to Scotland, where her uncle lives: I would've loved to have stayed and talked more, but I didn't want to keep Jeff & Deuce back. I got about halfway across the car park when Sally came rushing out hollerin' "Wait! Sir!" Turns out Jeff had left his hat behind: I dutifully retrieved it with thanks. Above and beyond the call of duty, well done Sally!
Our next drive was to the cemetery to see the Howards' grave. Again, it always seems strange to visit a cemetary during a celebration, and yet it shouldn't necessarily be so - after all, Howard has brought together people from all across the country, and world, even though he died before many of us were born. It seems appropriate to give thanks: even in death, people can affect the world long after they're gone. The cemetary had provided a canopy in case of rain, but since we're having uncommonly good weather we wheeled it aside for the photo. Melville made his pilgrimage too.
It was dark as Deuce, Jeff and I drove back to the Pavillion. I talked again with many old friends, but I had a particularly affecting conversation with Jim Barron about life, love and the pursuit of happiness. Jim & I have had very similar experiences fairly recently, so it was immensely touching to share them with each other. This is why I go to Howard Days.