Yesterday was the day the state high school girls basketball championship was played in Austin. The occasion prodded me to call Howard Waldrop in Austin and remind him of an anniversary.
Back in 2004 my duties working at the Winnsboro News, a weekly paper in Wood County, Texas, included covering the high school basketball games. The Lady Raiders advanced all the way through to win their regional championship, which meant they got to play in Austin - Texas state semi-final and championship games are always played in Austin.
I have always been a big fan and great admirer of Howard Waldrop, and it occurred to me do double dip - since the newspaper was paying for mt trip to Austin - and look him up, if I had the time.
As it happened the Winnsboro team won the semi-final game on Thursday, which meant I had a day layover - the championship would be played Saturday night - so I had all day Friday to myself.
I had looked up Howard's address on the internet, and Friday morning knocked on his door. What follows I have reprinted from Howard's introduction to "Fantastic Texas":
A few years ago there was a knock on the door.
I opened it. A very New-York-looking individual stood there.
“Are you Howard Waldrop?” he asked.
“Depends on whether you have a summons to serve me, or not.” I said.
He explained that his name was Lou Antonelli, he was a reporter/editor from East Texas and he was in town to cover the state basketball playoffs, where his town had both the Boy’s and Girl’s teams in it. And, oh yeah, he was trying to be a science fiction writer.
I invited him in, and offered him the only thing to drink in the house, water.
We had a nice talk. He’d come to E. Texas a few years before to run a newspaper, had one of his own for a while, worked for others and now was doing about 4 people’s jobs on another.
I got his address, he promised to write, and took back off to some sweaty gym to cover his town’s losses to a pack of gorillas, or something.
When he got back home, there was an acceptance letter from Gardner Dozois at Asimov’s for his first sf sale.
He thought coming to see me (the equivalent of Romans rubbing a red-haired fellow for luck) had something to do with it.
The following year Winnsboro made it to Austin again, but they lost in the semi-final game - which should have meant I would go back home immediately - but I had come down with such a serious case of the flu that I had to stay an extra day and take medicine just to feel well enough to drive.
Since I had no idea where the nearest pharmacy was, I asked for Howard's help, and he drove me to a Walgreens where I stocked up on medicine and comfort snacks.
When I got back home I went to see the doctor, who said "I've had a lot of cases of upper respiratory infections this winter, but you've got the flu. I don't know where you got it."
I changed jobs later that year, and so I don't have to make those trips to Austin to cover sporting events any more. When I saw that the state tourney was being held last night - and Winnsboro was playing again - I called Howard to remind him of how we first met in person.
Over the past seven years we've visited a number of times, but that was the first time we met in person.