“Happiness exists on earth, and it is won through prudent exercise of reason, knowledge of the harmony of the universe, and constant practice of generosity.” ~ Jose Marti
I had the best lunch date imaginable. Friend and colleague Esta Day Tovstiadi returned to the Bluegrass for a visit. She brought along the newest mister in the family, baby Nikoli. His eyes are piercing and he’s got the most genuine smile imaginable. He watched us curiously as we ate lunch, and when we smiled at him, he smiled back. Meanwhile his sister, Irina, put pizza in her eye. Her attachment to her dad, Kosta, reminded me so much of my attachment to my dad. Etsa and Kosta are currently living in Potsdam, New York near the Canadian border. I’m always excited to hear Esta’s life adventures but I hope one day she can return to the Bluegrass where I can, selfishly, watch her beautiful babies grow up to be as awesome as she is.
Met some of my gal pals – Jeanne Marie, Erin, and Deb – for an evening of readings at Apollo Pizza in Richmond. Silas House closed down the evening with a beautiful story about fishing with his aunt Sis whom he has written about many times. We also had the opportunity to hear readings by Indiana author Frank Bill and Kentuckian Rebecca Gayle Howell (below with Silas). She was just a delight to meet and I enjoyed her essay a great deal. One of my favorite parts of the evening, besides hanging with my homeys, was Silas calling the audience “literary citizens.” I fell in love with the term and I was especially proud to be among the ranks of the “literary citizens” tonight.
Ah, another great day in the office. The fabulous Ron Eller was the inaugural interviewee for the new UK Appalachian Center Oral History Project. If you’re unfamiliar with Dr. Eller, I’ll catch you up. He was Director of the UK Appalachian Center for 15 years, distinguished professor of History at UK and known “as a scholar of Appalachian history and the study of rural economic development and social change.” He has written dozens of articles, and his book “Miners, Millhands and Mountaineers: The Industrialization of the Appalachian South,” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1983. His latest book Uneven Ground: Appalachia Since 1945 has become a seminal tome for Appalachian Study, history, and social scholars.
When I meet people who have excelled in their profession, as Dr. Eller has, I will sometimes be super jovial in our meeting. (Hint: I’m not ordinarily super jovial) It’s very interesting to watch how people react -and respond- to someone who treats them as if they’re an old friend. They either get that deer in the headlight look and don’t say much, or they get it right away and I can feel the apprehension melt away. I was quite pleased to find Dr. Eller in the latter category. He’s a serious scholar whose work has inspired generations of other scholars, and he was a good steward of the Appalachian Center. His personality reflects his good works. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how proud I was of Kathryn Engle and Emma Kiser for their interview with Eller. It was an excellent interview and a superb launch to a project about one of the most important center’s to grace UK’s campus. Knowing so many of the former directors, and being Appalachian myself, I might be biased in my admiration of the Appalachian Center. I’m also right.
In case I haven’t mentioned that my house is being remodeled, my house is being remodeled. We started about four weeks ago. One evening, the ace electrician left behind his cool rastafari cap. I had a chuckle when I saw it and I knew immediately I was in good -calm- hands. Today, I came home to the Nacho Hippo hat. I’m not familiar with this cantina, but I’m bound to love it with a name like Nacho Hippo. There were several workers in the house today so I don’t know who patrons such a hip joint, but I laughed out loud, and once again, knew I was well cared for.
Shero had her first follow-up with the orthopedic surgeon today. Though she is far from healed, she is improving really well. Afterward, as we were waiting for her ride to arrive in the nearly perfect Friday morning weather, who should pull up in her own shuttle but recently retired colleague and friend Jo Staggs-Neal. As soon as I said I was waiting with my mom, Jo said, “Oh, your mom! I’ve seen her online [in the outhouse] a lot.” I introduced them and, well, they were instant friends. Jo held mom’s hand the entire time they talked, and that was a while because mom talked and talked and talked to Jo. I was touched by how sweet they were together. That Jo is a light in this world. I thought that the second I met her and I saw it on full display today. She made my day. I’m pretty sure she made mom’s, too.