June 19, 2007
Back in Texas, today is Juneteenth, and also Bobby Campbell's and Lisa Goldstein's birthday. I hope everyone has had a great day.
Last night (which means I should have mentioned all this in yesterday's log) while I was out on the wall having my little picnic dinner, I kept hearing music over in the Upper Barakka Gardens, not far away. Finally I wandered over that way and discovered some kind of hoohah in progress--men dressed up as knights or courtiers or some such (no, not in full armor, though they wore helmets and one guy had a breastplate and backplate on) (and maybe the helmets, breastplate and backplate were plastic--I couldn't tell), and there was another guy, dressed up as--I presume--the archbishop or head priest for the knights, because he was in full-length black with a rather Greek Orthodox-looking headpiece on and a long curling wig. Seems it was all in celebration of an international conference on health services to the aging, and I gathered that the prime minister may have been there. I talked to a couple of the attenders, both of whom were from Canada, and one of them, after we had only talked for a bit, asked, "Texas?" So I said, "Is it that obvious?" And she said--get this--"Well, at first I thought Louisiana." That's one I've never been told before! She went on to say that she decided against Louisiana and then said, "But East Texas, right?" And I told her that I grew up in Dallas, but had lived in West Texas a good bit. It's hard, of course, for one to really know what one sounds like to others, but that conversation was a surprise to me!
This morning I pretty well took it easy. The ankle looks worse (picture to follow, hehehe) but feels much better, so I could have gotten out and about more, but I wanted to sit at Caffé Café and do email, the Travel Log, etc. I like doing email and Internet in the morning, over a nice cup of tea. On my way from the Asti to the cafe, I noticed lights off in a lot of shops on Republic Street, and there was a fairly short blackout over much of the city. What was odd was how spotty it was, within one block. Most of the shops would be dark, but others would have lights. One of the banks was dark, but people were lined up at the ATM which had its lights on! So the power grid in Valletta must be really oddly put together. (Later in the day, when I was in Sliema, I heard that they had had a blackout too, but it was a day or two ago.)
After lunch back at the Asti, I rested a bit, then headed back to Upper Barakka where I read a bit (a historical page-turned, Monsoon by Wilbur Smith) and worked on a couple of drawings. One of them was quite ickish, but this one seemed all right. It's my "Impression of a Window" in the Asti breakfast room:
I went back to the hotel, loaded up a bottle of water, some "coffee biscuits" (tea cookies, more or less), and a couple of magazines and a CD which came with the Sunday paper. Then I headed down to the dock where the Sliema-Valletta ferry docks and took the ferry across to Sliema. I was scheduled to meet the French students Arnaud and Remi to visit one last time before I head for England. Before we met, I had time to do such things as stop by the park at Tigné Point to do some chin-ups and push-ups; buy a "Pocket Penguin" (skinny little paperbacks published in England to celebrate Penguin Books' 70th anniversary: the one I bought was a selection from a biography of Percy Bysshe Shelley); and sit at Stella's for a pot of tea and reading.
Arnaud, Remi and I had supper at one of the kiosks (Road Devil) on the Sliema seawall, visited and looked at the people passing by and at the water. We talked about the logistical problems with their getting over to Gozo for a day or two--because of the hours the buses run (and don't run) a day trip can be almost worthless unless you want to spring for renting a car. We also discussed their schedules. Remi gets to finish up his internship and return to France (and probably do some summer work) in just a couple of weeks, but Arnaud doesn't finish his internship until August 3. Fortunately his brother is coming to see him in just a few days, and then his girlfriend will come to visit at the end of the month, so he will have some good company in the 6 weeks he has remaining. Neither is being paid for his internship, but instead is being given room and board and--of course--the college credit for doing the program. Remi mentioned that one of the places he checked into working for here wanted him to pay to do the internship: I believe he said they wanted 10 Maltese lira a day for three months--not at all an insubstantial amount of money. He wisely turned that offer down. Getting to know them, especially Arnaud since we were at the same hotel for a month, has been one of the serendipities of the trip, and both tell me to come see Poitiers.
About sunset I left them so that I could get on the bus to Valletta and get back to the hotel, clean up and get some washing done (in the shower, you know). As I walked from the bus terminus to the hotel I stopped to take this photo for my old banking buddy Tim Pinon back in Texas. (He and his lovely wife Marty are currently traveling in New Mexico. I don't know if the boys are with them, or locked in a box somewhere.) I had tried earlier to take a daytime photo of the "signboard" out front, but didn't manage to get a decent shot--I cut off part of the name, and since the "sign" is carved into limestone, it didn't show up well anyway. So here is the whole shebang, more or less, the Maltese Stock Exchange:
And now, yes, the ankle. I know you are all dying to see the ankle again. If you're squeamish, don't scroll down any farther:
Will I go to Cospicua tomorrow and see the church there? It's supposed to be quite impressive. Will I spend the morning at Caffé Café and the afternoon sitting in the shade reading? Who knows? And you may have to wait a few days to find out. On Thursday I will be in transit to London, then getting to the hotel, then settling in, then I will have to find out where I can (surely!) wifi. Whether I get to that on Thursday or not is an open question. So, once again, if I drop out of contact for a day or two or three, you will know why. Should I try to get to Stonehenge for midsummer's day, or will I have already missed it?
And finally, your music tip for the day: take a listen to "Girl From Mill Valley", a piano-based instrumental by Jeff Beck.